Bear in mind that in prayer you proceed from chamber to chamber. When an alien thought comes [to your mind] you are expelled, because you are judged in every chamber whether you are worthy to enter. (Zohar II:245b). If you are not praying with fervor, start to pray intensely…
Thus, if you are not praying with fervor, start to pray intensely. When you pray passionately, consider the nature of the [alien] thought: if it relates to evil love, such as sensuous lust, bring it to its [ultimate] source, which is the love of G‑d.
An alien thought may be cast into one's mind by Divine Providence, which of itself means expulsion from the chamber, as he lacked proper concentration or did not pray with fervor (see the Baal Shem Tov's teaching in Maggid Devarav Leya'akov, sect. 84, and Keter Shem Tov, sect. 287). Thus, it should stir you to strengthen yourself, to pray intensely.
The alien thought may be cast into your mind in context of "a descent for the sake of an ascent" in order that you sublimate that thought (see Ibid., sect. 207). This is, though, a hazardous task which requires a degree of spiritual perfection. Thus you can undertake this task only when you pray with fervor.
There are only seven types of thought. They correspond to the "seven days of Creation".
The "seven days of Creation" signify the lower seven sefirot, i.e., the attributes of chesed, gevura, tiferet, netzach, hod, yesod and malchut. Just as these attributes are to be found in the realm of divinity and holiness, so, too, they are to be found in the realm of impurity and evil. Everything in Creation contains sparks of the sefirot, either of the sefirot in holiness or of the sefirot in impurity.
In man, the middot are reflected in corresponding soul-faculties, in two parallel categories; the seven emotive attributes of man's divine soul relate strictly to holiness (chesed - love of G‑d, gevura - fear or awe of G‑d, and so forth); and the seven emotive attributes of man's animal soul which relate to his physical reality and pursuits, thus to the realm of that which is not holy or even evil (i.e., chesed - love of material objects or sin, gevura - fear of material objects, or its consequences like anger, and so forth).
[Note: The numbering of the days of Creation (Genesis 1) is introduced with the phrase "It was evening and it was morning." (Gen. 1:5)]
Each [of these] has an "evening" [in Hebrew, "erev"] and a "morning" [in Hebrew, "boker"]. "Erev" is an expression of mixture [in Hebrew, "ta'aruvot", spelled with the same root-letters as "erev"], i.e., having an alien thought [mixed in]; and "boker" is an expression of visitation [in Hebrew, "bikur", spelled with the same root-letters as "boker", i.e., visiting G‑d.
"'It was evening' refers to the deeds of the wicked; 'it was morning' refers to the deeds of the righteous." (Bereishit Rabba 3:8)
The [seven types of thought] are then "love of G‑d" and "love of sin"; "fear of G‑d" and "bad fear", such as hatred; "[good] glorification" of glorifying G‑d and "bad [glorification]" of self-glorification; and likewise with endurance/victory [in Hebrew, "nitzu'ach"], thanksgiving/praise in Hebrew, "hodayah"], foundations [in Hebrew, "yesodot"] i.e., the sense of bonding. Each of these [seven] is compounded of ten [aspects]. With every bad thought one gives vitality, Heaven forbid, to the "seven nations".
Each of the sefirot subdivides into ten levels of inter-relationships with the other sefirot. Chesed thus compounds chochma of chesed, bina of chesed, daat of chesed, chesed of chesed, and so forth; and likewise with all the others. (Tikunei Zohar 47:84a and 69:116b)
The author does not mention here the attribute of malchut. It would relate to accepting the sovereignty of G‑d on the good side, and submission to evil or impurity on the bad side.
[Evil thoughts, and sins in general, are not just failures on the part of man. They have a cosmic effect of strengthening (infusing vitality into) the seven attributes of the realm of kelipa. The "seven nations" of the early inhabitants of the Holy Land signify these seven attributes of the realm of impurity.] …how much more should I love G‑d!
Midrash Hane'elam (Zohar 1:86b) thus states:
[When G‑d created]
the world, it was wavering to and fro. The Holy One, blessed is He, then said that Abraham - i.e., the attribute of love
- will come forth into the world. But there will also be the issue of Ishmael,
i.e., [the attribute of]
"bad love." A thought of "bad love", therefore, gives vitality to Ishmael and the nine
[aspects] that go with him. There is also Isaac, i.e., the attribute of "[good]
fear;" and [correspondingly]
Esau [the attribute of]
"bad fear," i.e., murder. A thought of "bad fear," therefore, gives vitality to Esau and the nine
[aspects] that go with him, Heaven forbid.
Thus if you happen to think of a "bad love", say to yourself: "What have I done?
I have taken a part of the World of Thought and brought it to a place of filth!" This will cause you to be subdued and come to the [level] of dust, thus bringing the thought to the attribute of "ayin" (Hebrew for "naught", i.e. self-negation). Then you will come to the World of Love by reminding yourself: "If I love this object, as, for example, a woman, who is but a 'putrid drop' (Avot 3:1), how much more should I love G‑d!" (In other words, one forsakes the incidental and insignificant and pursues the primary and essential.)
[The realization of wrong-doing leads to subduing and negating the ego ("I am as dust and ashes" - Gen. 18:27), the level of "ayin". In the supernal realm of "ayin", all breaches can be corrected, and all sparks ascend to holiness (see Maggid Devarav Leya'akov, sect. 98 and 232).] Take heed not to coarsen that delight…
Likewise, when you hear words of jest which cause you to be mirthful, think that it is but a part of the World of Love. Also, when you see or eat something that gives you pleasure, think that it is but a part of the World of Delight. Thus take heed not to coarsen that delight, and "then you will find pleasure al (lit.: over) G‑d" (Isaiah 58:14), i.e., beyond the level of the name Havayah, as it were. Your whole being, therefore, should be directed to that pleasure in the context of it being part of the World of Delight. Thus you may sit and eat here, yet be in the World of Delight. The pleasure that you caused yourself, therefore, will bring delight unto G‑d in all worlds.
Likewise, when you see something of which you are afraid, i.e. negative gevura, say to yourself: "Why should I be afraid of this? It is but a human like myself - let alone if it is but an animal or beast! As the awesome G‑d, blessed be He, is vested in that being
[enabling it to exist], how much more should I fear [G‑d]
[This does not mean that one is to ignore danger, for it is halachically forbidden to expose oneself to danger and to rely on miracles (Pesachim 64b; Taanit 20b; Zohar 111b; Maimonides, Hilchot Rotze'ach Ushmirat Hanefesh 11:4ff.; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 116:5). Thus one must avoid danger and make every effort to escape it. The Baal Shem Tov deals with sublimation: when something mundane arouses fear in man, he should utilize that opportunity to consider the ultimate source of fear and generate within himself the fear of G‑d. One is to consider that the present - unintended - confrontation of danger is by Divine Providence, thus think of G‑d, even while using the divinely endowed gift of intelligence to observe the Divine precept to save himself.]
The same applies to glorification (related to the sefira of tiferet).When people praise you, or you sense pride in the midst of prayer, or people exalt you for your concentrated study, bring yourself to a sense of awe - i.e., shame - before G‑d.
In context of "nitzu'ach" ("victory", related to the sefira of netzach), overcome that trait or have your understanding lead you to a sense of "Divine victory". Do the same with the aspect of "hodaya" ("thankgiving", related to the sefira of hod) and also with "yesodot" (related to "bonding", connected to the sefira of yesod) i.e., to be bound up with G‑d alone.
Translation and commentary by Eliezer Shore from Toldot Yaakov Yosef