by Reb Gutman Locks
Sruli: We all have selves that we are trying to transcend.
Gutman: How about trying to elevate it instead?
Sruli: Isn’t that the same thing as elevating it? Bittul haYesh. [Nullifying the being]
Gutman: The result will be the same but the avodah (work) will be different.
Sruli: Can you clarify the difference?
Transcend means “to rise above,” or “to go beyond.” Nullify means “to void,” or “to invalidate.” When you try to go beyond something you are trying to get away from something lower. When your focus is to invalidate something, that thing is undesirable in your eyes, or you would not be trying to get rid of it. In these cases, at least half of your attention will be on something that you do not want.
But if your focus is on elevating the lower self, you will be spending your time trying to pick yourself up by doing holy deeds. Here, your attention is entirely on searching for the holy actions you can take.
These can be seen to be two stages. The first stage is the recognition of the lower self’s animal nature, and your decision to stop that animal from ruling your life. At this stage you recognize its grossness, and you try to prevent it from exercising its will. This is the nullification of the self.
The second stage focuses on elevating that animal by aligning its desires with the Torah, and you do this by having the lower self do only good deeds. Here, your job is to occupy the animal with good deeds. This is the elevation of the self. Here, the self is no longer considered to be an undesirable animal, but rather a servant of the Creator.
My suggestion is to move from the negative, disdaining the self stage, to the exalted, elevating the self stage. Although both are for the good, the negative stage is a battle, and the elevating stage is a joy.