The Spiritual Work of Our Generation

The Spiritual Work of Our Generation: what is selflessness?

Redefining What You Are… Spiritual Work for Our Generation
original text
Lowliness: the Inner Experience of Kingdom
making an empty vessel
can lowliness actually get anything done?
how can lowliness fix me and my life?
Putting Lowliness in a Historical Context
are there emotions after lowliness?
what is selflessness?
holographic thinking: selflessness and lowliness together


The first sentence of the original text was:

Lowliness , as in the verse, "I am lowly in my own eyes," and Selflessness, as in the verse, "And we are naught," are what comprise theBeing of a rectified individual.

We have spent a number of weeks discussing what “lowliness” is, we now turn to “selflessness,” called bitul, in Hebrew.

Selflessness is the experiential form of the sefirah of wisdom, meaning that the more a person’s wisdom is expressed, the less he experiences his ego. As the intensity of the feeling of one’s own ego diminishes it is replaced by an acute awareness of the omnipresence of the Almighty.

The verse quoted “And we are naught,” was said by Moses when faced with the unfounded criticism that the Children of Israel directed towards him and his brother, Aaron. Moses’ response was a revelation of his overpowering awareness of the Almighty, an awareness which precluded his own sense of self. Thus, when faced with the criticism, he did not feel that the rebuke was being addressed at him (or Aaron), but rather at the Almighty.

A person who truly attains selflessness emanates an awareness of the Almighty to all that surround him and come in contact with him. It is almost as if he or she has become a placeholder, a symbolic pointer, to the omnipresent holiness of the Almighty.

Selflessness is prone to misdirection by imagination. It is easy for a person to imagine that he is selfless, to imagine that he is aware of the omnipresence of the Almighty. In fact, false images of G-d, in this sense, actually lead to the aggrandizement of one’s ego with all the negative effects that it entails. The power of imagination is what man shares with the beasts, and indeed is initially identified as a faculty of the animal soul. Only after much refinement can the imagination correctly envision the presence of the Almighty.

The envisioning of God both internally (within each and every Jew) and externally, in the world, is directly connected to the Divine commandment to build Him a sanctuary. This connection appears in the verse: “They shall make Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell within them.”1 The first time this commandment was performed was by Moses who instructed the Children of Israel in the desert to construct the Mishkan, the desert Tabernacle. The second, more complete instance was performed by King David and his son, King Solomon with the construction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem .

Like the sanctuary, lowliness (King David’s special quality) and selflessness (Moses’ special quality) function together in order to create a dwelling place for G-d within each and every one of our hearts. But, the revelation of G-d is different in each case. Moses’ desert Tabernacle revealed the Almighty’s singular and unique unity. David and Solomon’s Temple served to reveal that there is no G-d—no object of worship—other than the Almighty. Indeed, because it begins from the fallen state of feeling one’s ego, lowliness focuses one’s service of G-d, as it governs the way that the ego relates to the Almighty. Selflessness though, by completely nullifying any sense of self, focuses one’s consciousness of G-d as unique and singular.


1. Exodus 25:8.

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