We receive in order to give and give in order to receive; this is the cosmic law. If you have received, then God will put you into a position where you must give to others. And if you give, then God will make sure that you receive, even against all odds and without any effort on your part.

The Baal Shem Tov teaches that you must give to others if you want to receive, because this builds a pathway along which the Divine emanation may flow. In fact, if one receives Divine blessing (shefa) but does not pass this abundance on to others, the Divine blessing will stop coming, since there will no longer be a pathway for it to follow.[1]

We can understand this teaching from a different perspective as well. If we have a job to do in the world, then God will give us the necessary means to fulfill it. This can be a question of monetary funds, learned skills, spiritual attributes or people to help us, whatever specific elements our work requires. However, these gifts are not unconditional or irrevocable. If we turn away from the task that God has given to us and use His gifts for our own selfish purposes, then God will take His gifts away and give them to someone else who is willing to do the work. God’s work will be accomplished; the only question is who will be His instrument.

There are many different ways that we can give to others. Some individuals follow the overt path of public roles like teachers, counselors, medical practitioners or aid workers. Others labor on the inner side, pouring out energy to further God’s Plan. Still others go about the world as little lighthouses, quietly giving of their spiritual vitality to whomever they come in contact with. These “lighthouses” may have no conscious knowledge of what they are doing. They may not even consider themselves to be spiritual or religious, but the work of the give and take of energies will be invisibly going on all the same.

A vast network of interactions is continually taking place across the universe. Energy, light and power are flowing back and forth between all of creation in a never-ending exchange of being. This interchange is the basis of all life and is the means by which the world lives, breathes and evolves. Higher is giving to the lower, and the lower is striving toward the higher in a constant fulfillment of the Divine command to seek the path of evolution and growth.

The law of spiritual reciprocity also functions in the supernal realm. The Lord of the World receives from a Divine Source higher up in the spiritual worlds, Who in turn, receives from a Source that is even further evolved in the Kingdom of Heaven. Each Source on High raises that which is below it up into its greater consciousness. In this manner, the Divine impetus towards the unification of all existence is realized.

Central to this work is the law of sacrifice. The law of sacrifice states that each kingdom sacrifices its life for the kingdom above it. The mineral kingdom gives its life to nourish the vegetable kingdom, the vegetable kingdom gives its life for the animal kingdom, the animal kingdom feeds the human kingdom and the human kingdom gives its life for the service and glory of the Divine kingdom.

The time sequence of this give and take is not always readily apparent. Time works at a different pace for the Kingdom of Heaven; the greater picture is the focus of their vantage point. Therefore, an act of giving in one direction may not receive the return gesture until many years later, in a different time and a different place.

The nature of the giving may also be quite different. One person may give of his physical talents, while another may return with a giving of the heart. No matter what the specific elements of the give and take may be, there will always be a karmic balance. This is the fundamental basis of the law and the nature of its spiritual beauty.

There is a section of a prayer by Saint Francis that defines the ideal approach to this cosmic law:

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console,

To be understood as to understand,

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive. [2]

If we work with this attitude, then our efforts will be fruitful and have God’s blessing. If all our acts arise from a place of giving without thought of return, then our actions will be clear of the taint of mixed motive that usually slows down their progress and wears their power thin. If we ask nothing for ourselves, then our actions will be charged with the full power of God’s Will, bear fruit in full measure and endure over time.

Such a state of living is very hard to achieve. Mixed motive is universal, even if our motives are comparatively good. It is only through God’s grace that we can achieve this state of pure intention. It is only through the hard work of learning to “know oneself” that we can attain the clarity of mind necessary to understand our inner workings. From this place of self-understanding we can then begin the process of learning to act above, beyond and outside ourselves.

Pure intention also requires a certain level of inner awakening. Only after we have experienced the underlying unity of all creation can we truly begin to feel love and compassion for others. Once this all-pervading unity has become a living reality in our consciousness, we will come to see others as part of ourselves. Then, in this Self-love, we will serve and act with selflessness.

From Seeking the Divine Presence, copyright 2009, by Yoel Glick


Acknowledgements    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Yaacov Yosef of Polonya, Toldot Yaacov Yosef, Torah portion Ki Tisah
  2. Lord Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace, prayer attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi