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Kabbalah & Mysticism

The Influence of Man’s Actions in the World

Man's actions in the physical world set the mechanisms of the upper worlds in motion, generating blessing, success and the fulfillment of your heart’s desires

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While not everything depends on man, and many forces are superior to him, man still possesses tremendous powers. He is like “a ladder rooted to the ground with its head in the heavens”, and he possesses the ability to instigate and achieve.

Mystical sources explain that when Hashem created the universe, physical substance didn’t rise directly from complete void. Instead, Hashem first bestowed a purely spiritual universe out of which another, slightly less spiritual one, developed. And then another universe was created that was even less spiritual, from which another was created, and so on and so forth… until the material world could appear.

In the language of the mystics this phenomenon is called Hishtalshelut HaOlamot – the progressive development of the worlds. The tip of the letter Yud is the first sparkling appearance of the universe, from which the world of Atzilut then developed (the letter yud), and from that the world of Briah (the letter heh), and the world of Yetzirah developed from that (the letter vav), continuing with the world of Asiyah — until the material world presented itself at the lower end of the world of Asiyah, which is where we are, with our physical bodies (the letter heh).

The worlds are not positioned one beneath the other, like stories of a building. Rather, each is contained within the other —  a universe within a universe — like layered onion skins, and like a soul within a body. It is as if each universe encompasses the one descending directly from it, and also pervades it — the way a soul inhabits the body.

They are all interconnected, and each world descends from another.

We find, therefore, that the soul of man — and the Jewish soul in particular — is rooted and connected to the upper, spiritual worlds. (The gentile only possesses a nefesh, which is rooted solely to the world of Asiyah. The Jew, on the other hand, has a nefesh, ruach, neshama, chaya and yechida, whose roots reach the worlds of Asiyah, Yetzirah, Briah, Atzilut and even to the upper world of א"ק, which corresponds with the tip of the letter Yud.

Every action that a man takes here, has immediate impact on all the upper worlds, right through to the root source of his soul.

That is why the Torah states: “For in the image of G-d He made man” (Bereishit 9;6) — Man is created in the likeness of his Creator. Not in the external, physical sense of the word — Hashem has no body, and no likeness of a body — but in his capabilities. Man can act and create. He can trigger new realities in the upper, spiritual worlds through his actions and speech — and even through his thoughts. As a result — changes that are either negative or positive occur here, too, in the physical world. And this is the secret of what it says in the Torah (Vayikra 26;3): “if you follow My statutes and observe My commandments… I will give you rains in their time… and I will grant peace in the land.”

Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin expanded on this idea in his sefer Nefesh HaChaim (1;7). Here is an excerpt from this work:
 
Just as all the details of the bodily organs’ tendencies and movements are dictated by the living soul that is in it, according to the movements of its life force and its tendencies.” In other words — the body moves and fluctuates according to the movements of the soul. “And the same applies to all the inclinations of the forces and the worlds, and the orders of the Merkava, their perfection, their construction and their destruction, ch”v —It is only according to the effects that arise from man’s actions in the lower worlds.”

We act down here — but are also active and influential up there.

In other words, the principle of doing good so that good will rebound on you — commonly referred to as : “What goes around comes around…” — is accurate, but it is brought into effect through a completely different mechanism than that which the gentiles attribute it to. It isn’t that man “radiates his willpower and his will is reflected back to him and becomes reality”. This is an illusionary fallacy. Instead “What goes around comes around” — because Hashem created the world in such a way that man has the power to act and influence reality for the good.

The Gemara (Berachot 60a) brings a story in connection to the verse: For the thing I have feared has befallen me, and what I dreaded is coming upon me (Iyov 3;24), elaborating upon the concept that the mere perception of fear can lead to its fruition. The Gemara relates there how “Yehuda bar Nathan was walking behind Rav Himnuna, (Rav Himnuna) groaned. He told him: ‘Does the Rav wish to bring suffering upon himself? As it says — For the thing I have feared has befallen me, and what I have dreaded is coming upon me.’”

This happens because fear demonstrates a lack of trust in Hashem. The person who doesn’t place his trust in The King is left to manage through his own devices. And exclusion from the King’s special protection leaves a person vulnerable to all those things he is so fearful of. Not because of some esoteric magnetic force that a person may possess, with which he attracts good or evil in utter disregard to his actions.

In a certain sense man dictates to Hashem, from here in this world, what actions to take and what kind of bounty to shower upon the world. This is the secret portrayed in the verse: “Tenu oz l’Elokim al Yisrael gaávato”Attribute strength to G-d, over Israel is His pride (Tehillim 68:35). The simple interpretation of this verse is — Give praise to the Lord! But, literally, “oz” means power. Give power to the Lord.

How can we grant the Creator of the universe power? How is this possible?

Hashem is revealing here a powerful secret: “It is true that I decide what happens. But when I created you, in a certain sense I passed the reins to you. I want to grant you only good — but what happens is up to you! Give me — through your actions — the power to do as I wish, to shower you with goodness.

With your actions down here you shall, so to speak, set the mechanisms of the upper world in motion and then you will see these influences come back to you in the form of blessing and success, and the fulfillment of your heart’s desires — for the good!”

Adapted from ‘Man and His Universe’ by Rabbi Zamir Cohen. Coming to you soon in English