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Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam)

Letter No. 23

1927, London

To my soul mate ... may his candle burn forever:

...Concerning the comparison of your matter to the cascading of the worlds, of which your friends do not approve, it is because they learned from me that first you need to understand the upper worlds, for so is the order—from above downward first, then from below upward. It is so because a corporeal fountain can give birth only to corporeality, and wherever it looks, it only materializes. Conversely, a spiritual fountain emits only spiritual images, and any place on which it looks is blessed.

Even the corporeal images, when they sense their source, return to being truly spiritual, not compared to, or like, but truly become complete spirituality, as it is written, “It is changed as clay under the seal, and all things stand as a garment.”

What you are asking of me, to repeat to you the matter of unifications because you were not rewarded with receiving them from authors, I wonder, how would you receive them from books?

I saw your allegories and poetic phrases that begin, “I shall carry my adages and say, ‘words that are gauged by the Omer [count].’” Indeed, you gauge your words with the Omer, but exert further to bless the blessing of the Omer for “an omer is the tenth part of an ephah [measuring unit, as well as “where”].” Ephah means great bewilderment, as you write, “ Ephah is the right [just] side, and Asirit [one tenth] comes from the word Asurot [forbidden],” for there is a mother to the tradition and there is a mother to the Pentateuch, as in “The king is held captive by your tresses.”

That measure indicates that through faith and confidence, the heart’s bewilderment is arrested too, meaning not even a trace of bewilderment remains. This is the measure of the Omer. And yet, we should bless, and this I did not find in your letter.

It is said, “The greedy man curses and spurns the Lord.” That is, a prayer does half, and anyone who prays for himself is incomplete, but halved, for the whole one has nothing to pray for. This is why our sages warned us not to work in order to receive reward, but for wholeness. This is a sublime secrete, and only those who have no awakening for themselves will understand it.

This is why our sages said, “The host cuts and the guest blesses.” Meaning, one must not lie to himself that the landlord is giving him wholeness. Rather, he must feel the truth as it is, in utter precision. This is why it was said, “The host cuts,” yet the guest must bless.

“Guest” comes from the words “and smelled in the fear of the Lord.” And because he receives what the host gives him at the cutting, as though it was complete, he is blessing anyway. And the measure of his blessing is as the measure of his joy with the gift, which is possible for him only through “His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.”

This is what our sages said, “If he stole a measure of wheat, ground it, kneaded it, baked it, and separated it, how will he bless? He doesn’t bless, but curses.” This is very deep, for one who steals does not thank the robbed one because the robbed one did not give him a thing. Rather, he took from him by force, against his will.

The cutting and the reward that a person deserves all stem from the first iniquity, since “a transgression leads to transgression.” “In the beginning it is as cobweb, and in the end it is as cart-ropes.” Everything follows the beginning.

And yet, although he believes that all the deficiencies and cuts were done by the Creator, he still cannot think so about the first iniquity, as it is certain that harm will not come from the Upper One. It follows that he truly is a thief, as though he snatched from the Creator against His will.

“The tree of knowledge was wheat,” as it is written, “One who robs a measure of wheat.” Se’ah [measure] is as “In Se’ahse’ah [full measure], when You send her away, You will contend with her.” Wheat is the first iniquity. Therefore, although “she ground and baked”—meaning they became cart-ropes, and then he separated the Challah from it, from the word Hulin [secular], “It is entirely for the Creator,” implying the exaltedness and separation above reason—he is still not blessing, but curing, as it is a Mitzva that comes through transgression. For were it not for the first iniquity, this great Mitzva wouldn’t have happened.

All this is because he is a thief, and he does not see that a righteous pardons and gives, hence he does not bless wholeheartedly and does not make repentance from love, for then sins would become as merits to him. He would recognize that the measure of wheat is the Creator’s gift, and not his own power and the might of his hand.

This is why our sages said, “The host cuts,” and not “the guest,” meaning the measure of wheat is also the Creator’s gift, to “Keep His covenant and to remember His commandments to do them.” When the guest grows strong enough to believe that everything that the host has troubled Himself was only for him, he blesses Him wholeheartedly. It turns out that that cutting in itself is truly a whole thing, after the blessing of the Creator from above downward.

But first, he must gain strength in his fountain of blessings from below upward. That is, he is called “a guest” for he can gain strength and exert by the scent, as it is written, “and smelled in the fear of the Lord,” and as it is written, “One who steals from his father and mother and says, ‘it is not a crime,’ is a friend to a destroyer.” In other words, the first iniquity is rooted in his body because of his father and mother, hence the person became a thief by saying that he is as abovementioned, and it is not the gift of the Creator. This is why he is regarded as stealing from his father and mother, and then adding sin to crime because he says, “It is not a crime.” That is, he grows fond of the Mitzva of destroying, God forbid.

This is the meaning of the blessing of the Omer, that one needs to feel the Creator’s gift even in the measure of wheat, meaning by the scent. At that time his joy will be whole in all his work, and by that the reward becomes whole again, and “The Lord knows the way of the righteous.”

Yehuda Leib, son of my teacher and Rabbi Simcha, may his candle burn

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