A Kabbalistic Approach to Spiritual Growth: Part 31- Developing Talent While Squelching Ego

The only way for us to express our potential of grace and beauty, and insure that it comes from the side of holiness and not from the side of illusion, is to rid ourselves of conceit. The “illusory grace” of those who have not submitted to God is self-indulgence and self-glorification. It only solidifies ego, reinforces a state of separation from God, and thus becomes a force of destruction. But those who have conquered pride and achieved a state of true submission to God are “holy warriors”–instead of being a force for destruction, they are a force for good and for service to God. King David is considered the epitome of such a person. His lack of conceit enabled him to fight the wars of God, make preparations for the construction of the Temple, and rule as King over Israel.

A pendulum provides a helpful analogy. If it first swings toward lowliness and submission of self, then its equal and opposite swing toward prominence becomes the natural consequence of the earlier swing toward humility. It does not express ego, but rather a concern for God’s eminence, and a willingness to fight the powers of evil that oppose His will.

It follows that if we don’t first clear out conceit, then any attempt to cultivate our talents will not bring forth the peace and grace that should accompany such growth, but instead, the weeds of competition and insecurity.

Be that as it may, all this concern for beauty seems superficial. Why place such emphasis on externalities? Isn’t beauty just an occasional and nonessential fringe benefit on the road toward meaningful purpose in life? The answer should be understood as a deep parable:

Even the fulfillment of a meaningful purpose in life is only a means toward the ultimate end of creating a dwelling place for God in our lives. Like a groom must desire his bride, so God must desire Israel. What is the quality that arouses God’s passions, so to speak? Only the beauty that reflects a state of true submission. The Torah states, “Why has God chosen Israel as his people? Because (they) are the least of all the nations.” The great 11th century Biblical commentator Rashi further explains that “they submit themselves to His will, and humble themselves before Him.” This creates the state of grace that draws forth an arousal and a unification from God above.

Grace is defined as a state of balance that reveals the unity above and beyond itself through the symmetrical arrangement of positive and negative elements. The educator is an artist whose medium is personality. His success is measured by the aura of grace surrounding his students that indicates a sense of inner peace. He must maintain a very delicate balance, fostering a strong identity and individuality that will motivate the student to develop his or her unique talents, yet suppressing any hint of conceit and self-indulgence in the student. He must keep in mind at all times that an overdeveloped sense of self can degenerate into arrogance, while and overemphasis on submissiveness can squelch motivation. The educator must bring these two contradictory elements into a state of balance, thereby revealing the Divine grace hidden within each student’s soul.

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