Who Changes, Us or the Creator?

In Kabbalah, the word “Creator” does not describe someone who is looking down at us from the heavens, serving out reward or punishment according to the way we behave. Rather, the Creator is an unchanging force of absolute love and bestowal that enlivens the whole of Creation, including us.

But if the Creator is unchanging, how does Kabbalah explain that sometimes we feel as if He is kind to us, and other times cruel? Kabbalah explains that we feel these changes because we change. Namely, the changes we feel reflect our harmony or disharmony with the Creator, and the more we resemble the Creator, the more we feel ourselves to be in harmony with Him.

In a way, this resembles the relationship between parents and their child. The parents want the child to act in a certain way for his own good, but if the child does not want to act that way, he feels that his parents are being mean to him. But as the child grows up, he begins to understand his parents more and to agree with them on things that he disagreed with before. Eventually he becomes a parent himself, and suddenly sees that his parents always treated him with love and kindness.

In other words, the parents always remain the same, and only the child’s feelings and understanding undergo change. Like the unchanging Creator, the parents always want the same thing for the child—to benefit him, but the child’s ability to understand and justify the parents depend on his maturity and resemblance to them.

In the same way, Kabbalah explains that the way we experience our relationship with the Creator depends on how we change. Religion, on the other hand, says that it’s the Creator who changes His attitude toward us. This means that in practical terms, these two approaches are completely opposite: When using the method of Kabbalah, a person knows that if he changes himself, he will perceive the same Creator differently, whereas religion asserts that by making certain actions, one makes the Creator change with regard to him.

From Kabbalah’s perspective, this is like asking the force of gravity to change its “attitude.” Obviously, this is futile. “But,” one may ask, “Is Kabbalah saying that we shouldn’t hope for things to improve when they’re not going well?” Quite the opposite: Kabbalah doesn’t say that we should passively sit with our hands folded in our lap when unfortunate things happen to us. Rather, it offers a method by which we can improve our lives actively, rather than asking or waiting for a higher power to do it for us.

Kabbalah directs man to first learn who the Creator is and what His qualities are. It then enables a person to change himself in order to resemble the Creator, and thereby experience harmony with Him. Then, just like a child who grows up and becomes a parent realizes that his parents were always kind, we will attain the same status as the Creator, and realize that He always treated us benevolently.

So a “prayer” in Kabbalah, is when one asks for a change to take place within him, because he knows that this is the way to change his relationship with the unchanging Creator.