For the Torah’s Sake (“Lishma”) must be the goal of the study of Kabbalah; if not, one falls into the trap of the Sitra Achra – the will to receive for the self alone

moses receiving the tablets of law by marc chagall

In his article, “Matan Torah” (“The Giving of the Torah)”, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi Ashlag, (“Baal HaSulam”), the greatest kabbalist of our time, wrote that we attain everything according to our sensations. Rav Ashlag teaches that the attainment of the light of the Torah can only happen in a person’s sensations, as only the sensations determine the reality of the creatures.

The attainment of the Torah is therefore the attainment of the sensations where the learning of the Torah brings one closer to the love of God.

When one keeps Torah and mitzvot (commandments) to purify the will to receive called self-love or egoism, one will be able to attain these sensations. Thus one knows that one walks on the path of truth, where Lo Lishma (working for oneself) will bring him to Lishma (for Her Name), if one keeps this goal before one’s eyes at all times, Rav Ashlag says. But if not, one will be drawn to work for oneself or the body, as the body always draws to its root which is the will to receive for itself.

This is the reason that people who study false kabbalah in false kabbalah cults get in trouble, and why to them the Torah becomes the ‘potion of death’, because they don’t keep this goal of attaining Lishma before their eyes at all times. Many of them probably wouldn’t even have heard of the notion of Lishma, because the false kabbalah cults make sure that such authentic kabbalistic teachings are kept from them so that they could continue to be exploited. They end up doing the work of Torah in order to receive something in return – be it money, power, fame, honour, good health, long life, or belonging to a community of friends or a group, or even spiritual attainment (“to receive the Light of the Creator”), which the false kabbalah cults tell them is their just reward for doing the work.

But in truth, the false kabbalah cult member merely fell for the trap of the will to receive for itself, as their own will to receive ended up wanting these false rewards for studying Torah and kabbalah, and remained in that desire, instead of wishing for and working to attain through faith in the Creator and the Spirit of the Messiah the ultimate goal, which is to study Torah to come to Lishma, or to provide contentment to the Creator ALONE.


torah kabbalah study

The Giving of the Torah

The issue of the giving of the Torah that occurred on Mount Sinai does not mean that the Torah was given once and then the giving was stopped. Rather, there is no absence in spirituality, since spirituality is an eternal matter, unending. But since, from the perspective of the giver, we are unfit to receive the Torah, we say that the cessation is by the Upper One.

However, then, at the foot of Mount Sinai, the whole of Israel were ready to receive the Torah, as it is written, “there Israel encamped before the mount, as one man in one heart.” At that time, the whole public was prepared; they had but one intention, which is a single thought about the reception of the Torah.

However, there are no changes from the perspective of the Giver—He always gives. It is written in the name of the Baal Shem Tov that every day must one hear the ten commandments on Mount Sinai.

The Torah is called the “potion of life” and the “potion of death.” We must understand how two opposites can be said about a single subject.

We must know that we cannot attain any reality as it is in itself. Rather, we attain everything according to our sensations. And reality, as it is in itself, is of no interest to us at all. Hence, we do not attain the Torah as it is in itself, but only attain our sensations. Thus, all of our impressions follow only our sensations.

Therefore, when a person is studying Torah, and the Torah removes him from the love of God, this Torah is certainly considered “the potion of death.” Conversely, if this Torah that he is learning brings him closer to the love of God, it is certainly considered “the potion of life.”

But the Torah in itself, the existence of the Torah in and of itself, without consideration of the lower one who must attain it, is considered “a Light without a Kli,” where there is no attainment whatsoever. Hence, when we speak of the Torah, it refers to the sensations that a person receives from the Torah, and only they determine the reality for the creatures.

When one works for oneself, it is called Lo Lishma (not for Her Name). But from Lo Lishma we arrive at Lishma (for Her Name). Hence, if one has not yet been rewarded with the reception of the Torah, one hopes to be rewarded with the reception of the Torah in the following year. But when one has been awarded the wholeness of Lishma, one has nothing more to do in this world, since he has already corrected everything to being in the wholeness of Lishma.

For this reason, each and every year there is the time of reception of the Torah, since that time is ready for an awakening from below. This is because it is the awakening of the time when the Light of the giving of the Torah was revealed in the lower ones. Hence, there is an awakening from Above, which gives strength to the lower ones to be able to perform the qualifying act to receive the Torah, as then, when they were ready to receive the Torah.


Therefore, if one marches on a path where the Lo Lishma will bring him the Lishma, he marches on the path of truth. Then one should hope that he will eventually be rewarded with achieving Lishma, and will be awarded the reception of the Torah.

Yet, caution is required, to constantly keep the goal before one’s eyes, or he will march on an opposite line, as the root of the body is reception for itself. Thus, it always draws to its root, which is reception in order to receive, the opposite of the Torah, called “the tree of life.” This is why the body considers the Torah “the potion of death.”

From “Matan Torah” (“The Giving of the Torah”) by Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag, “Baal HaSulam”


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