Imagine that a friend of yours gives you a huge surprise one day and buys you a car for no real reason. Once the shock and excitement wear off, you may feel incredibly grateful, but most likely also a bit uneasy. What did you do to deserve such a gift? How could you ever repay them? Now imagine that the next week, they buy you another car. And the week after that, another car. You might start to feel guilty and undeserving. You might even start to resent them. Why are they giving you such expensive gifts without you asking? What are they expecting in return?
This phenomenon is something the kabbalists refer to as Bread of Shame. It is the act of receiving abundance without earning it. And we don’t just experience this with one another, but with the Creator as well. The Creator is a limitless source of sharing and wants to give to us endlessly. However, our souls don’t want to just receive the Light of the Creator, we want to actively earn it to avoid Bread of Shame.
But how do we do this? How much work do we have to do to remove the Bread of Shame so that we can receive the Light of the Creator? How could we possibly earn endless fulfillment? For that matter, how could we possibly pay back the Creator or somehow earn all that which we have already been blessed with in life?
The answer, according to Rav Ashlag in his writings on The Ten Luminous Emanations, is that it’s not actually about earning what we receive, but rather it’s about changing the source of our desire. It is impossible to ever earn endless abundance, because it is infinite. Instead, we must transform our Desire to Receive for the Self Alone into a Desire to Share. In other words, when we overcome our selfish nature, we actually open ourselves up to receiving more Light from the Creator. The interesting paradox here is that once we become people who only desire to share, then can we begin receiving.
This raises another question though: How do we share with the Creator, who needs nothing? Well, we know that the only thing the Creator wants is to share with us. This is what brings the Creator joy. When we realize this, we start to understand how receiving from the Creator can also be an act of sharing. If we transform our desire into one of sharing, we allow the Creator to bestow upon us blessings, not because it brings us joy, but because we want to give the Creator joy. We tell the Creator, “Give to me endlessly, because I want to give you the joy of giving to me.”
We know this concept inherently. When we do something for another person from a place of selfless love, it feels good. We get an immense amount of joy from the action. So we know, then, that we can give joy to other people by letting them share with us. The key is to think only of the joy it brings to others, not what we can get from someone or how we can personally benefit from it. If you saw how happy it made your friend to buy you new cars every week, and you focused only on the joy that brings to him, you would accept the cars out of your love for that friend, even if you didn’t want the cars in the first place. You would be able to transcend the feelings of guilt and resentment that come along with Bread of Shame.
Rav Ashlag teaches us that this is the type of transformation we all should strive towards. When humanity as a whole achieves this, then there is nothing that separates us from the Creator. Just like the Creator, our only desire becomes to share, even if the way we share is by receiving. Once we become people who only desire to share, then we begin receiving for the sake of giving the other person pleasure.
As an added bonus of this situation, we awaken more and more Desire to Receive through this process. Think about a young child. When they are first born, their only desire is for basic needs – food, love, comfort. As they learn to walk, talk, and play, their desire grows more complex. They want toys, to listen to their favorite songs, to go to the park. As they continue to grow up, they start to learn more. They have deeper conversations. They’re curious about the world.
As we grow in our spiritual journey, we are able to receive greater and greater sources of fulfillment as our capacity to receive grows. When we ask ourselves, “How else can I help the Creator to share with me endlessly?” we awaken new desires and find new ways for the Creator to provide to us.
It is only natural that we desire things for ourselves. We want money, a nice house, a family, a good job – all of the things we think will bring us happiness and fulfillment. But the lesson that Rav Ashlag teaches us here is that true fulfillment is not achieved by asking the Creator to give us things we want, but rather by asking ourselves how we can bring joy to the Creator and to one another.
When we become beings of the selfless Desire to Share, we unify with the Creator and we open ourselves up to limitless blessings.
*Adapted from Michael Berg's Ten Luminous Emanations Lesson 7.