by Reb Akiva @ the path of the mystical blog
“Souls of a lowly nature and origin, coming from the lower levels of the ten sephirot of asiyah, cannot discover G-dliness by contemplation except with difficulty and forcefulness…” (Likutei Amarim 42)
As each generation has moved farther from Har Sinai, the levels of the soul have come from lower levels – lower and lower descending through the ranks of sephirot within levels of sephirot. As we say during Sefiras HaOmer describing the sephirah of the day “Gevurah she’b’Chesed”, gevurah within the level of chesed, each of these graduations is further graduated – for example netzach of gevurah of chesed, for levels of the souls connection or root. (For more on this see Sha’ar HaGilgulim by the Ari.) Different levels also relate to the different spiritual worlds.
We are taught by the tzaddikim and told by the mekubalim that we are at the lowest of levels in our time. The 49th level does not necessarily mean the Jewish people have sunk to a low level of observance, but their natural connection above is on a much lower level. At such a level worldly involvement becomes more natural and spiritual involvement much more challenging. Physical achievements become easy, spiritual achievements take major effort.
Nevertheless, with forceful effort – when his thought greatly exerts itself with much vigor, toil and intense concentration, immersing in contemplation of the greatness of G-d for a considerable time, there will certainly come to him the ‘lower fear of G-d’.
The lower fear of G-d is recognition of the Creator with fear of punishment. As the Creator of the world is clearly so immense and powerful, clearly His will must be followed or the consequences can be unpleasant.
The higher fear is awe, trembling at the greatness of G-d and unable to even consider going in a way that would contradict such greatness.
We live in a time where the higher level fear is unusual and very difficult to achieve. We suffer for it’s lack.