Zohar Lech Lecha
This study is a little long but very important.
“וַיֵּרָא יְהוָה, אֶל-אַבְרָם, וַיֹּאמֶר, לְזַרְעֲךָ אֶתֵּן אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת; וַיִּבֶן שָׁם מִזְבֵּחַ, לַיהוָה הַנִּרְאֶה אֵלָיו”
“YHVH appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to YHVH who had appeared to him.”
Immediately after the Torah tells us that Abraham arrived to Shechem and achieved a new spiritual level, YHVH appeared to Abraham with a promise to give the land to his descendant.
“וַיַּעְתֵּק מִשָּׁם הָהָרָה, מִקֶּדֶם לְבֵית-אֵל–וַיֵּט אָהֳלֹה; בֵּית-אֵל מִיָּם, וְהָעַי מִקֶּדֶם, וַיִּבֶן-שָׁם מִזְבֵּחַ לַיהוָה, וַיִּקְרָא בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה”
“Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to YHVH and called upon the name of YHVH.”
Abram built two altars to YHVH. In Genesis 12:9 we read ‘he built an altar there to YHVH who had appeared to him’. This altar was for the honor and connection to YHVH as Abram saw his revelation in this world.
The second altar was built for the ‘name of YHVH’ as it says in Genesis 12:8 ‘he built an altar to YHVH and called upon the name of YHVH.’. This altar was for the concealed level of YHVH.
Abram was the chariot for Zeir Anpin and could connect to the light of Chassadim of Chokmah only when the light received continues down to Malchut. The first altar had the aspect of female, the receiver. The second one had the aspect of male, the channel that draws the light from Chokmah through Zeir Anpin to Malchut.
“וַיִּסַּע אַבְרָם הָלוֹךְ וְנָסוֹעַ הַנֶּגְבָּה”
“Then he moved on from place to place, going toward the south”
South is the direction of Chessed and Abram went up the levels to achieve complete and lasting connection to Chessed.
After Abram made the connection to Chessed in the Holy Land God brought him to, The Torah tells us;
“וַיְהִי רָעָב, בָּאָרֶץ; וַיֵּרֶד אַבְרָם מִצְרַיְמָה לָגוּר שָׁם, כִּי-כָבֵד הָרָעָב בָּאָרֶץ”
“Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.”
The Zohar reveals that is ‘famine’ was not for bread but for the words of God as explained next.
After Abraham made the connection Malchut wasn’t yet ready to receive the Holy light and its vessel needed a correction and that was the aspect of ‘famine’. He went down to Egypt that represented the lower level of Malchut. In Egypt he could connect to greater desires and expand the vessel of Malchut further in order to receive the holy light that became available to him as a chariot of Chessed.
Going up the spiritual levels brings greater ‘hunger’ for the light because we need to expand the vessel for the light of the next level. ‘Beginners’ on the spiritual path may see it as emptiness and or low state. It surprises them especially when they expect ‘rewards’ for their ‘good behavior’. The sages in ‘Ethics of the fathers’ (4:2), teach us;
“Ben Azzai would say: Run to pursue a minor mitzvah, and flee from a transgression. For a mitzvah brings another mitzvah, and a transgression brings another transgression. For the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah, and the reward of transgression is transgression.”
(Translation copied from Chabad.org )
The ‘rewards’ are opportunities of having greater potential/Light than before.
The reward of transgression is transgression because to go back on the righteous path we need to overcome the temptation to transgress again.
To keep growing we need to continue studying and following the ways of the Torah. Then we achieve greater levels of consciousness and understanding. As long as we are on the path, we are protected and guided like having a perfect GPS. Even the ‘lows’ that seem like ‘I am lost here’, become clear after we keep going forward on the righteous path.