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Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam)

Letter No. 9

1923, Jerusalem

To my friend, may his candle burn:

I can no longer restrain myself regarding all that is between us, so I shall attempt open and sincere admonition. I need to know the value of a word of truth in our land, for so is always my way—to study all the workings of creation in utter precision and to know its merit, whether it is good or bad. This is the only place my fathers left for me as a boundary, and I have already found precious things and secrets in these passing, trifle images. It is with good reason that this lot has been set up before me, and they are lovely letters for the sentence of every wisdom and every knowledge, and were created only for combinations of wisdom.

First, we shall judge the quality of laziness in this world. ...On the whole, it is not such a negative and contemptible quality. The evidence is that our sages already said, “Sit and do nothing—better.” And although common sense and several writings contradict this rule, still, to make the proper precision I shall show that “Both are words of the living God,” and all will be settled peacefully.

It is clarified beyond any doubt that there is no other work in the world but His work, and all the other works besides His—even for the souls, if it concerns only oneself—would be better if they did not come into the world, as they turn matters upside down, for a receiver does not become a giver. This is an unbreakable law, and “If he had been there, he would not have been redeemed.”

Thus, we should not discuss a work or a worker whose doer is in the form of reception, since this is utter vanity, and there is no doubt that it would be better to “Sit and do nothing,” for he is doing harm by his work, either to himself or to others. Its benefit is utterly absent, as we said above.

I do not care at all if part of you finds this ruling uncomfortable, and even openly protesting my words, for so is the nature of every truth—it does not require the consent of any woman-born, great or small, and anyone who has been rewarded with thorough knowledge of the Torah is very opinionated.

Therefore, following this great and famous truth—that one who curses in his work “is a friend of a destroyer”—I feel nor mercy or concern for the idle, to seek advice for them, due to the great rule, “Sit and do nothing—better.” In any case, if they cherish the word of God and truly wish to worship their maker, to glorify His works, there is no doubt that the spirit of idleness will not be with them, since the spirit of the Creator robes with strength and might, from which idleness is blown as straw by the wind. However, if it turns out that they have unity along with this spirit of idleness, there is no doubt that at that time their minds are not dedicated only to the Creator, and then “Sit and do nothing” is certainly better.

I have much to say about this matter, but what can I do that time causes you to misunderstand my words, for you are not accustomed to my novelties in the Torah, which are said in utter simplicity. It requires a very high level to be able to lower one’s level so much, and to elevate them. And yet, I cannot change my way, as I see in it the will of God.

Although you have heard from me many words of Torah said in simplicity, and I also troubled myself extensively to make you understand all my ways and all my wishes in the work of the Creator, I wish to say—regarding that profession—that with the Creator’s help, I added to my teachers in the generation before me, and the Creator permitted me, and you are my witness.

And yet, because our study of this matter had been short, approximately ... ... since the second day of the portion, BeHaalotcha [When You Mount], until the portion, Shemot [Exodus], for your situation in the week ... did not permit me to speak with you more of my novelties in the Torah, and I also stopped entirely the way that I teach for reasons that I keep to myself, and even prior to that I let you know about it with some explanation.

But since the time was very short, this is why you have not become accustomed to my way and my ways were not immersed in you at all. For this reason, you have inserted many changes in my teaching ... ... for which you have lost much time. ... ...

You said explicitly that you would help me with all your might and power to scrutinize the ways of my teaching and its expansion in the world, but you sit and wait for the right time to come when you can partake with me in this matter. You promised it wholeheartedly, resolutely, and ceremoniously, without a shred of doubt, that who knows if you will be rewarded with the above-said.

And now what can you say of all your promises to me ... and I know your tactic and ploy, which you have devised, to wash your whole body all at once in endless water.

I also know the answer that is readily available for you, regarding my question—that you are still unfit to display knowledge and to ruin or build, much less bond with me in work, while you yourself have insufficient grip on it.

And yet, it is the inclination in you, and you inherently contradict yourself. That is, you answer another question without humility, but to the contrary. Thus, how can you grip both ends of the rope?

...I say to you that there is no shame here whatsoever, no smallness, and no greatness, only the work of the devil that has succeeded in interfering with every good thing that appears in his way. After all, why should you mind if I perceive your smallness too much? Is it my praise that you crave? I rather know that your heart is purer than such litter.

Also, why should you mind if I understand the exact measure of your greatness as it is within your heart? Do you not fear my mocking you for your obstinacy?

And why this shame to speak before a friend such as me with boasting words? And also, all our sages have traversed this road, disclosing their secrets either to a special teacher or to a special and true friend, whether high or low, just as they came in their hearts.

The ways of the path of truth are not impressed at all by the truth, be it bitter or sweet. And most important, each scrutiny is as though accepted at the time, for the mind must be “clean,” and under no circumstances biased due to one’s bitterness. And the heart, too, must be righteous in its place, justifying the Creator even if He is not depicted.

And as there is no measure to the Creator’s merit and Almightiness, there is no measure to the lowliness of a woman-born (and to his weakness), unless that creation, for all its lowliness, is willing to accept a word of truth without any biasness, for its afflicted body. Instead, it is always as in the verse, “The clean and the righteous do not slay,” so it marches on the rungs of sanctity and purity until ... ... ... “What is this work for you?”

I evidently see that you will fall in this pit, whether less or more. This is the final Satan, which I find in my fruitful work for my generation. With God’s blessing, I have been found agreeable in the eyes of my Creator, to reveal to me the full lowliness of the generation, and all sorts of easy and faithful corrections, to bring each soul back to its root as quickly as possible.

But what can I do in the day of calling, for you will have to answer the wicked’s question, “What is this work for you?” Although the answer is clarified in the Haggadah [Passover story], “If he had been there, he would not have been redeemed,” for there is no need for fools, worshippers of vanity, still, no one is chosen for His work unless his heart is wholly with the Creator, to work the work of the burden devotedly, all day and all night, always, endlessly, only to bring a shred of contentment to one’s Maker. Thus, why should this wicked one mingle and deliberate with such lovers of the Creator?

And yet, my brother, this is not an intellectual question. It is clear and it is true, and no reflection or doubt is left in the matter. But precisely because of it, it is a question to which there is no answer, for it is the question of a murky and turbid matter, and it is only a demand on the part of the material body to return to the idols of his father, in whose work he shares, or even truer—he is the worker and all the pleasure is his. And since the asker is but a mindless matter and body, the power of the mind is weak in answering any answers to it, for it has no ears and it is “Like the deaf asp that stops its ear.”

I know the great advantage with which the Creator has granted me over the my contemporaries, for I have searched a long, long time why I have been chosen by God’s will. And after all the lowliness emitted from the wicked son, which is the Klipa [shell] that rules in my time, and after I have witnessed its true measure, I realize the Creator’s kindness with me, to distract my heart today and always from hearing the abovementioned question of the wicked.

I find myself committed and obligated as today and as always to be as an ox to the burden and as a donkey to the load, all day and all night, I will not rest from searching for some place where I can bring some contentment to my Maker. Even in this day that I am in, I am pleased to work under a great burden even seventy years, without any knowledge of its success (even my whole life), except that it is certainly the way that I have been commanded walk in all His ways and to cleave unto Him, which I have heard initially.

At the same time, I cannot excuse myself at all by any notion or contemplation from doing any work for His sake because of my lowliness. I crave and think all day about the sublimity of the work of God, in such sublimity that I cannot even write about it.

It is true that as I discussed these matters with my contemporaries, I saw that they have a sort of code of law in which they delve to find their measure of the work of God for all their needs. But I have never seen that code of law, that it allots conditions and amount to the Creator’s wish from His creations, which He has created, concerning the rungs of Dvekut [adhesion] with Him.

By and large, I have received face to face that small and great are equal before Him, and all creations are ready for the instilling of His Divinity in their hearts, and the measure of instilling depends on the Creator’s will, and not on him, at all. I therefore wonder—it is a grave disgrace for a woman-born, whoever he may be, to place a limit, or a seeming limit, on the quality of the Creator’s will.

My words are utterly simple, yet I have yet to see in my generation anyone who is—in his own eyes—such a simple man as to understand the value of my words as they are, for they cannot lower their bodies so.

And once I have come to this, I will reveal to you all their secrets in the chambers of their figures. If you understand ... that it all came to them because of the question of a wicked man, “What is this work for you?” for they always need blindness toward that wicked man.

... ... ... But they are people, and why did they not turn their work nonetheless to that profession? What does the owner of the vineyard receive from his vineyard? And still, they were worshipping their Creator intellectually, whether He would pour upon them spirit from on high to see fruits in their work, or not. But they would not be excluded from among the worshippers of the Creator nonetheless.

When they are compared to beasts, carrying the material emotions, such as worshipping God with their will, without wanting to understand that they will lose all the substance along with anything they can acquire, and their memory shall be severed from the earth forever.

And yet, my brother, I have spoken to you at length regarding these matters face to face when we were together, and it is impossible to elaborate so in writing. Yet, I am certain that if you properly scrutinize these words that I have written in this letter, you are certain to find many issues with which you will be displeased, and which I wrote for you deliberately, as I believe that perhaps you will understand henceforth.

Do let me know every detail and every root where you do not completely agree with me, for my heart is wholly with yours, and you ... ... and the Creator is my witness that if I could feed you of heaven’s milk above, I would not spare labor or exertion.

Yehuda Leib

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