Arvut (The Bond)
The people of Israel are responsible for one another.
17 (cont.) Only after each of the persons had been asked to take upon himself the fulfillment of the condition “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” i.e., to take care of others not less than he cared for himself, and once the whole nation had unanimously agreed and said: “We shall do and we shall hear,” they deserved to receive the method of correction.
Each one of Israel became responsible that nothing shall be missing from any other member of the nation. With this encompassing responsibility, each member of the nation became free of worrying for the needs of his own body, and could observe the precept of “Love thy neighbor as thyself” in the fullest extent and give each needy member everything he has, since he no longer cared for the existence of his own body, as he now knows that six hundred thousand loyal friends stand ready to provide for him.
Therefore, only after they had come out of Egypt, each one of them was certain that all his needs would be satisfied.
However, even if a handful of Israel betray and return to the filth of self-love without consideration of their friends, that same amount of need that is put in the hands of those few would burden Israel with the need to provide for themselves.
Thus, along with observing the commandment of the Nation of Israel to be responsible for one another, there is another negative side. We see that if a part of the nation does not want to maintain the bond,they cause the rest of the nation to remain immersed in their self-love without ever finding a way out of their filth.
18. Therefore, the bond (Arvut) resembles two people on a boat, wherein one of them suddenly begins to drill a hole in the bottom. His friend asked: “Why are you drilling?”, and he replied, “What business is it of yours? I’m drilling under me, not under you.” So the first man told him: “You fool, we shall both drown together!”
Similarly, those people who are immersed in self-love erect a wall between themselves and the correction of “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” which constitutes the ladder leading to the Creator, and all drown with them.
19. Rabbi Elazar, the son of Rabbi Shimon, clarifies this concept even further, by saying that it is not enough that all of Israel be responsible for one another, but that the whole world must be included in that bond.
Nevertheless, it is enough to start with one nation for the beginning of the correction of the world.
As the sages said, the Creator offered Kabbalah to every nation of the world, but they were immersed in self-love up to their necks and refused to accept the method of correction of egoism. It was impossible even to speak to them about giving it up.
The Creator did not find a nation that would be qualified to begin the correction of egoism save for the people of Israel, whose forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had made the corrections before the method was given to the entire nation. Due to the exaltedness of their souls they were able to attain the spiritual levels and merge with the Creator without the preliminary fulfillment of the practical aspect of altruistic actions, which they had no possibility of observing.
The exaltedness of their souls and their spiritual attainments influenced their descendants in such a way that every one of them took upon himself this sublime work, and all proclaimed as one: “We shall do and we shall hear.” Hence, they were (hereditarily) obliged to be the chosen people among all the nations.
Thus, only the sons of Israel accepted the condition of the bond (Arvut), while other nations took no part in it because reality itself dictated this course of events.
20. The end of the world’s correction will come when all join together in their aspiration for the Creator. He will then reveal Himself, as the sages said: “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord shall be one and His name one. And the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, and all the nations shall flow unto Him.”
The role of Israel toward the world resembles the role of our forefathers toward the Nation of Israel:
The corrections made by them helped their descendants to rise and become worthy of receiving the method of correction.
Similarly, the people of Israel are obliged to ascend spiritually and prepare all the other nations to accept this exalted work (“Love thy neighbor…”).
Every precept that each person of Israel performs with the intention “for the sake of the Creator” (pleasing Him without demanding any reward in return), serves as an impetus to the development of humankind, for it is not done all at once, but by gradual development until it reaches an amount that can bring all the world to the desired purity.
21. When Rabbi Elazar, the son of Rabbi Shimon, says that the world is judged by its majority, he referred to the role of the Nation of Israel to purify the world from egoism until they are worthy of taking upon themselves His work.
This degree of purity is the same one that the Nation of Israel reached to receive the method of correction. At this level, the corrections and altruistic love outweigh egoism.
Only then can they say as one: “We shall do and we shall hear!” as the sons of Israel did.
Each member of the Nation of Israel who makes a correction contributes his share in helping altruistic love to prevail over egoism.
Therefore, every correction performed by one of Israel makes the whole world righteous, for the final decision is impossible without his action.
Thus, Rabbi Elazar, the son of Rabbi Shimon, does not dispute the words of our sages that all of Israel is responsible for one another. He simply speaks of the future correction of the whole world, whereas our sages speak of the present, when only Israel received the method of correction.
22. Rabbi Elazar, the son of Rabbi Shimon, also speaks of the verse: “One sinner will lose much good,” because the person, who acts for the sake of the Creator, feels as inspired as the one who acts for his fellow man.
He is obliged to perform all these actions for the Creator’s sake, without any hope for self-love or reward for his effort. In this most exalted point, the love for the Creator merges with the love for one’s neighbor.
Even one such action of a single person draws the entire humankind toward altruistic love, and ultimately shifts the scale to the side of merit, because the decision depends on each and everyone.
Moreover, he who commits one sin, who cannot overcome and conquer his filthy self-love, shifts himself and the whole world to the wrong because with the revelation of the filth of self-love, the low nature of creation becomes stronger. Thus, the person is found to be subtracting a certain amount of good from the scale that his friend has put there. Thus, one person pulls the entire world backwards.
23. All of the above explains why the method of correction was given only after the Nation of Israel had been united.
The purpose of creation is for all people, regardless of the differences in their origin, down to the lowest degree of self-love that rules over all of mankind as the Egyptians who ruled over the people of Israel.
In this state of egoistical slavery there was no way to negotiate with any other nation except the people of Israel who had been enslaved in the savage kingdom of Egypt for four hundred terrible years, and persuade them to agree to take upon themselves, even as an empty promise, the exodus from the narrow framework of egoism into the wide world of love for one's fellow man. Suffering is known to force man to purify himself from egoism.
What's more, they received the notion of the purpose of creation and the inner preparation for it from their forefathers.
The nation was called Israel (in singular form) because all of them as one relinquished their self-love, and all of their aspirations were aimed at the fulfillment of the condition of “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” It was only after forming one nation (as one man, as one heart) that they could receive the Kabbalistic method.
24. Thus, because of the above indispensable conditions, Kabbalah was given solely to the Nation of Israel, to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for it was inconceivable that any foreigner would take part in it. The word “Kabbalah” means “reception”, or “received.”
Therefore, the Nation of Israel had been constructed as a sort of gateway by which the sparks of purification shine upon the whole of the human race. These sparks multiply daily until they reach the desired amount until they develop and come to understand the delight and peace that are in the core of love of one's fellow man. They will know then how to shift the balance to the right and will place themselves under its burden, and the wrong will be eradicated from the world.
25. From the above, it is clear that Kabbalah was not given to the forefathers because the precept of “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is the central, principal point, while all the other corrections are its parts. It cannot be observed by an individual but only through the consent of an entire nation. That is why it took until the exodus from Egypt to become worthy of observing it. Only when they had been asked if each member of the nation was willing to take it upon himself and agreed to it, were they given the Kabbalistic method of correction.
26. Yet how did the Creator ask the Nation of Israel and receive their consent to observe this precept?
The Creator said to the people of Israel: “Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own treasure from among all peoples, for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Then the entire nation replied as one: “We shall do all that the Creator destined for us!”
The meaning of the following words remains unclear:
What is “voice”?
What is “covenant”?
What is the essence of work? And
What is the essence of reward?
Must one make an effort in correction in order to become the chosen people, or is it given as an act of benevolence?
How can one accept this work without knowing all this?
What is the difference between “a kingdom of priests” and “a holy nation”?
27. "... And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests." As the priests have no property in this world and only serve the Creator, so too should the people, land and property of the Nation of Israel be devoted only to Him. Everyone should work to satisfy the needs of his fellow man so that no person will ever need to worry about himself.
This way, all man’s activities in this world are similar to the work of the sacrifice in the Temple because those who work for the purpose of feeding their neighbors are like the priests who make a sacrifice to the Creator. Furthermore, the precept of “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is much more important than the precept of sacrifice.
The words “a kingdom of priests” express the essence of the work of “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” of organizing society so that all the members are priests, and no one owns any other property than the Creator.
However, this means that the Creator is their only possession, that the have no other property, which includes all the corrections.
The correction of egoism is intended to unite many egoistical desires into one pure desire called “the people of Israel”, to receive the reward of “merging with the Creator,” which is the purpose of creation.
The words “a holy nation” point at the reward of “merging with the Creator.” We shall gain holiness in our aspiration for the Creator, as it is written, “You shall be … a holy nation, for I, your Creator, am holy.”
Therefore, the words “a holy nation” express the essence of the reward of merging with the Creator.
28. Now we fully understand that keeping the covenant means to be the chosen people: “You will serve as a remedy for me and sparks of purification of the body shall pass through you to all the nations of the world, uniting them into a single whole. Since the nations of the world are not yet ready for it, you shall become my chosen people for all the earth is Mine, meaning that all the nations of the world belong to Me and all will merge with Me.”
Therefore, I need one nation chosen from all other nations. I will rule over you and you will be to me “a kingdom of priests,” i.e., you will observe the precept of “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” the essence of Torah and all the Commandments.
“A holy nation” is a reward in its ultimate form, merging with the Creator, which includes all the rewards that can possibly be conceived.
29. Now we can fully grasp the essence of the work, as explained in the words, “a kingdom of priests”, which is the final definition of “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” It is conceivable that Moses could have withheld from the people the complete essence of the work at the high spiritual level of “a kingdom of priests,” lest Israel would not want to detach itself from material possessions and give all its possessions to the Creator.
The Rambam writes that it is forbidden to disclose the meaning of “the pure work” to women and children, which obliges one not to receive any reward, and wait until they grow wiser and will be able to grasp the true meaning of it.
Therefore, the Creator warned Moses to do no less than to offer them the true nature of the work, as expressed in the words “a kingdom of priests.”
Moses could have revealed the meaning of delight and exaltedness of merging with the Creator and thus persuade them to accept the work of the priests and detach themselves from the possessions of this world.
Thus, Moses was warned not to speak of the whole reward that is included in the words “a holy nation.” If he had told them about the wondrous things that are the essence of the reward, they would accept His work in order to attain it for themselves, which would be considered working for themselves, for self-love.
As a result, we see that regarding the essence of the work that is expressed in the words “a kingdom of priests”, he was told “no less”, and about the measure of the reward, expressed in the words “a holy nation”, he was told “no more”.