Rabbi Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag’s primary innovation was to base the entire reality of the essence of creation on one principle, namely the desire to receive. The ‘desire to receive’ means a deficiency that was not included in the Creator, and is actually considered the creation ex nihilo. Since the Creator is prior to all things, complete unto Himself, and does not need anything to complete Him, He clearly would not have the deficiency that is the desire to receive, and this is the true meaning of creation ex nihilo.
The desire to receive is thus the essential characteristic of the new creation, and everything other than this desire to receive is considered something from something, that is, a reality that derives from His own blessed essence, which is nothing new.
And this is how Rabbi Ashlag expressed it in his article On Freedom, in the section called “The Desire to Receive -Ex Nihilo”:
“Regarding the lights and vessels in all the spiritual worlds, it was explained to us (in Panim Masbirot on Etz Hayim, Branch 1) that the novelty of creation, inasmuch as it is considered to be ex nihilo, refers to only one thing, namely the desire to receive. All other components of creation were not new at all, whereas they were not something from nothing but were something from something. That is, they proceeded directly from His blessed essence Itself, as the light that streams from the sun, which is not new, for it is but that which is part and parcel of the sun that diffuses and emanates, unlike the aforesaid desire to receive, which is absolutely new. Thus, before creation, there was no such reality, since He, may He be blessed, harbors no degree whatsoever of the desire to receive, whereas He preceded everything. From whom, then, could He possibly receive? We may regard this desire to receive, which He, may He be blessed, created ex nihilo, as absolutely original, unlike the rest, which cannot be considered new and may therefore be called created. Therefore, all the vessels and all the entities, those of the spiritual realms and those of the physical realms, are defined as spiritual or physical matter, whose nature is the desire to receive.”
So the desire to receive should be main object of contemplation, for on it rests the entire foundation of our service of God and our reason for coming into this world.
The reason God created His world was in order to benefit His creations, and since this was the aim of creation, it was imperative that He create a huge desire to receive whatever He planned to give, because the extent of each and every delight and benefit is measured by the extent of the desire to receive it. Therefore, the greater the desire to receive, the greater the delight, and the smaller the desire to receive, the smaller, to that exact degree, is the delight in receiving. So it follows that the very plan of creation necessitated creating an enormous desire to receive in the souls, which would correspond to the greatest possible delight with which He wanted to delight the souls, since great delight and a great desire to receive are equally proportionate. And However, the abundance that created beings yearn to receive is drawn from the Creator, from His essence and His everlastingness, and is something from something, and was not created.
The desire to receive and the abundance it includes proceed downward through four worlds – atzilut, beriah, yetzirah and assiyah. The meaning of such ‘descending’ is the extent of the yearning to receive the abundance, and the final place of descent, is this world, the world of assiyah, when the two are separated, when the yearning to receive is the body, and the abundance is the light of life within it.
Since the nature of the Creator is the Will to give, so it is thus also the blessed root of the soul. So the descent spoken of above is considered as a distancing of the souls from their blessed root, which is the desire to bestow. This disparity of form, between the desire to receive of the created being and the desire to bestow of the Creator, is the separation and distance that came into being between them. This is why the will to receive is not capable of connecting to its Creator, since they are opposites in their character and activities, since the character of the Creator is only to bestow, while the character of the created being is only to receive for itself, and therefore, the created being cannot receive the abundance that the Creator wants to bestow upon him.
In order that there be a connection between the giver and the receiver, there must be a parity of form between them, which refers to a likeness of deeds. Just as He acts solely in order to benefit others, so you should also act only in order to benefit others. When the created being makes his will similar to the will to bestow, whose entire goal is only to benefit others, then will he also be able to receive God’s abundance, not for his own profit but in order to please his Creator, since the Creator wants people to receive from Him. This receiving, which is considered as a form of complete beneficence, is the necessary condition for spirituality, as Rabbi Ashlag says “that the giver and the receiver must liken their forms,'” (Talmud Eser Sefirot, The Inner Light, Part 5, Section 37). …The desire to receive is common to all spiritual and physical entities, and takes its form only when manifested in action, according to the way it is realized in reality, whether by giving to others or the contrary, that is, receiving only for oneself. That is, our understanding of all the mineral, herbal, animal or verbal realms that exist is dependent on how they are manifest in reality, that is, how they are revealed to us in sensory reality, and not at all by their essence, and not by metaphysical concepts or inferences. As Kabbalah says whatever is not in the realm of experience, cannot be defined by name or word. We do not even know ourselves other than through our actions and our relationship to others, since we can have no grasp of the essence of anything, including ourselves.
Therefore, our entire perception of the desire to receive is clearly dependent on how it appears to us in the actuality of our daily lives, and we understand it only in the form of action derived from our essence, but not the essence itself.
And when it becomes clear to us that will is determined in reality only by the revelation of its activities and deeds as, as explained above, we realize that the will is variable, and just, in its descent, when it encloths itself in a physical form when acting only on its own behalf. Thus it is also able to divest itself of this coarse form and assume a spiritual form when acting for the benefit of others. It should be understood that this is the entire distinction between spiritual and physical, namely that one who acts on behalf of others with all his heart and all his soul and all his might, is manifesting spiritual reality. In contrast, one who acts solely to receive for himself alone and does not give to others at all is manifesting physical reality.
It is now clear to us that what distinguishes between the physical and the spiritual is only the form which the desire-to-receive assumes and employs, and understand properly what is devotion to God, for we define this commandment as parity of form, since it is only the form of our actions and our deeds that distinguishes between the spiritual and the physical.
As for considering the desire to receive as the root of evil, it is only so when the desire to receive assumes the form of receiving for oneself alone that it becomes disconnected from others and, of course, from the Creator.
We have already demonstrated that the desire to receive, which is imprinted in the soul, is a direct function of the great delight the Creator wishes to bestow upon us. However, we have also demonstrated clearly that the opposite form, that is, the desire to receive only for oneself, causes a break in spirituality, and then the created being is not capable of receiving God’s abundance. In order to remedy this, restore the connection between the created being and its Creator, so the created being will be able to receive this abundance, the created being must check his desire to receive and transform it into the form of bestowing, so that he loses all desire to receive for himself, of acquisition, and works only in order to give to others, wishing to resemble the Creator, who is the desire to give.
In accordance with the extent of giving to others and of resisting to receive for himself, one’s desire to receive becomes able to assume the form of bestowing and of likening his own form to that of his Creator, which is the desire to give, and then, everything one receives is only for the sake of pleasing the Creator.
This matter of giving to others is an application of the commandment to “love others as yourself,” the general commandment which includes all others, the whole essence of which is to elevate man to the second nature of giving to others, as explained in the article “the Giving of the Torah”.: