Throughout our study of the Zohar, we often hear that the Light of the Creator is drawn down from the Upper Worlds. In Ten Luminous Emanations, Rav Ashlag explains that the Light of the Creator is not the same as physical Light, and therefore, it is not descending in a literal, physical way. Rather, when we speak of the Light coming down, it refers to the process the Light goes through in order for us to receive it. This understanding is an important lesson about the role our spiritual transformation plays in experiencing the Light of the Creator.
"The Light can only enter a vessel that is of similar form to it."
Rav Ashlag teaches that, as the Light makes its way to us, it becomes coarser and coarser, meaning there are more veils upon it. When we say the Light is going from the Upper Worlds to the lower, we mean that it is becoming more veiled. The more purified level is considered “higher” and the coarser, veiled Light is considered “lower”. So, when we refer to Light coming down from the Upper Worlds, we mean that a lesser degree of the Light is being revealed.
The veils that are placed upon the Light correspond directly to our Desire to Receive for the Self Alone. The more Desire to Receive for the Self Alone that we have, the more veiled the Light must become in order for us to receive it. The Light of the Creator can only enter a vessel that is of similar form to it. Therefore, the more selfish we are, the darker the Light has to become in order to match our level of Desire. To the exact degree that a person is removed from the Light of the Creator, the more layers have to be added to the Light.
When we discuss transforming our selfish Desire to Receive for the Self Alone into a Desire to Share, we are talking about expanding our vessel so that we can receive a purer version of the Light. The purer our vessel is, the purer the Light we can receive. In other words, the less Desire to Receive for the Self Alone that we have, the less veiled the Light needs to be for us to experience it.
We can understand why, for instance, everyone’s experience of Shabbat is different. Though the Light of Shabbat is the same for everyone, we each experience it differently based on our level of Desire to Receive for the Self Alone. The Light of Shabbat is a tremendous amount of Light, greater than even the most righteous person can receive. It has to be clothed before we can receive it. A person who has more Desire to Receive for the Self Alone will experience a much more veiled, diminished version of the Light.
"There isn’t a lack of Light."
When someone prays but doesn’t feel the Light, it is not necessarily that they aren’t connecting to the Light. More likely, they are making a connection to the Light, but by the time it goes through all the layers it needs to go through to get to them, they only feel a small amount of it. Likewise, there isn’t a lack of Light, but that person is so far removed from it, the Light has to become darker and darker to come into their vessel. This is true of any spiritual connection a person makes.
There is a famous story about the Maggid of Mezritch. It is said that, whenever he would teach, as soon as he would say the first word, the Rabbi Zusha Hanipol would hear it and run out. The other students would get upset, because he would go crazy every time the Maggid of Mezritch said the first word. But the Maggid of Mezritch tells them that the Light Rav Zusha Hanipol receives is so pure, because he has so little Desire to Receive for the Self Alone and so receives the Light right away. For the other students that have more Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, the Light has to go through a process first of becoming veiled before they could handle it.
As we dive into our spiritual work and begin transforming ourselves into more selfless, sharing beings, we also expand our vessel. We hope as we grow and diminish our Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, we are able to make it so that the Light does not have to be so veiled before we can receive it. Through this, we can experience a purer version of the Light of the Creator.
*Adapted from Michael Berg’s Ten Luminous Emanations, lesson 43.