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In the Haftorah of the portion Beha’alotcha, the reading from Zechariah, the prophet has a vision of the high priest, and it says the Satan – the global force that's trying to stop any individual from connecting to the Light of the Creator - was standing to his right. The right side represents the positive, the spiritual work, and the left side represents the negative, or selfishness. And while most of us know that the Satan is very much involved in selfishness and negative actions, we often forget that the Satan is there also for the positive actions.
"The right side represents the positive, the spiritual work..."
Rav Ashlag explains that if it said the Satan was sitting on the left side, it would mean that He was trying to get somebody to be selfish or do something negative. But that's not what it says in the prophecy. It says Satan is standing on the right side, in the spiritual work. So, what is the Satan doing in the spiritual work? Rav Ashlag says the Satan is telling us it is good enough to have been inspired by a concept we just learned, but that we don't need to go deeper into it.
So, I want to focus on what Rav Ashlag says surrounding the concept of klipot, which literally means “shells.” When a person has no great desire to learn deeply, it doesn’t come from us; there is this force, the Satan, that is involved in the spiritual work, telling us to study, but not to go too deep, telling us to take just a little bit in, because it's too much for us. It is not us telling ourselves that yes, some wisdom we learned helped a little bit, but we don't want to go further, because we don't want to change so much… that's Satan. It is the Negative Side, the klipot, saying not to go deeper.
Often, when we think about our spiritual work, for example the concept of devekut, complete unification with the Light of the Creator, it's a positive concept. But we have to be aware that the Satan is standing there, saying, “It's okay to study, but stop there. Don't delve deeper.” As such, if we don't understand that the spiritual work, specifically the study of Kabbalah and the Light of the Zohar, is where the Satan is going to come in and try to stop us, then we're never going to get anywhere. If we think that spirituality or the path of Kabbalah is one that can be a positive spiritual journey, that's not right, because the Satan is going to stand there and try to stop us in different ways. The specific way Rav Ashlag is speaking about here where the Satan tries to stop us is the klipa saying, “Go only so deep, and not further.” This is why so many people are okay having only a surface, basic understanding.
"There is a shell around the deeper knowledge."
Many are willing to take off the klipa, the shell, but not delve further to eat the fruit, and are therefore not connecting to the important part; they're only connecting to the klipa. And the negative actions of an individual give strength to all the klipot, and they then affect the individual by coming to him and saying, “You understand enough, you don't have to go any deeper,” therefore keeping them from truly delving into the knowledge and wisdom. This is a very important concept. It is not our choice when we don't go deeper; it's our Satan, our klipot. So, we have to begin with the understanding that all of us, on some level of our spiritual work and spiritual understanding, have those shells. And those shells aren't out of nowhere. Those shells, as Rav Ashlag explains, are the effects of our negative actions.
It says that when the Ari, Rav Isaac Luria, would study, he would sweat. And he said that when he was sweating, he was breaking a klipa, because he knew that he had to break all his own klipot in order to reach new levels of understanding. Therefore, no matter what we understand at this point, how much spiritual work we’ve done, or how much wisdom we think we gained, we need to know that there is a lot of truth and necessary delving deeper that we haven't done, because the Satan is standing there, saying, “Enough. Don't go further. Don't go to the knowledge that we need to get to.”
And therefore, it begins with this understanding that there is a shell around the deeper knowledge that we need to learn and the deeper work that we need to do. We need to beg, and the begging has to be based on the fact that we know there's a strong klipa blocking us from our deeper understanding and from our true spiritual work. Because if we have a true yearning and desire to break the klipot and create a path through our shell into the truth, into what our knowledge and spiritual work should really be, then we can get that deeper knowledge. It is a very important teaching on the way in which we need to focus our spiritual work.