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Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam)

Letter No. 26

1927, London

To my soul mate, may his candle burn forever:

I received your last letter, from the fifth of Kislev [Hebrew month, roughly December], and regarding your surprise at the scarcity of my letters, I will tell you that I have many troubles, and I pray to the Creator to see me through.

I am surprised that you did not interpret the letters I sent to our friend regarding “the host cuts and the guest blesses,” as he wrote me that he didn’t understand it. It seems as though you have grown tired of longing to merit the burden of Torah and Mitzvot due to the ravages of time.

And what can I tell you from afar, when you cannot hear my voice or my words, but only stare at dry and lifeless letters until a living spirit is blown into them. This requires effort, and in your opinion, effort requires time.

It is written, “A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, all around on the edges of the robe. ... and its sound is heard when he enters the holy place.”

The Ephod [vestment] comes from the words Ei Po Delet [where is the door], since the Delet [door] is in the place of the opening, when it is closed. In corporeality, you can see the door just as you can see the opening. But in spirituality, you see only the opening. But you cannot see the opening unless with complete and pure faith. Then you see the door, and at that moment it turns into an opening because He is one and His name is “One.”

That power, to heed the word of the sages in this reality in Dalet, is called “faith,” as it is not established at once, but through education, adaptation, and through work. It is similar to the tutoring of a child, who would be like an unturned stone were it not for the tutor who rears him. This is why this work is generally called “a robe,” as it is an overcoat, “beyond” human conception, and in which there is a combination, as in the edges of the Kli, which is the place where the yeast and the filth are collected.

During the training period, he is in a state of “to and fro,” as are all those who seek the opening. And in the last moment of the march, when he is close to the opening, then, of all times, he grows weary and turns back. That march is called Zahav [gold], from the words Ze Hav [give me this], as it is written in the holy Zohar, that the walking is done through the craving and the longing for Dvekut [adhesion] with Him, and he longs and sings, Ze Hav, Ze Hav.

He is also called “a bell” because he doesn’t have the strength to open and he turns back, thus spending his time going in to and fro time and time again, looking for the opening. Also, he is called Rimon [pomegranate] because the Romemut [sublimity/exaltedness] of the above-the-intellect surrounds him from all sides. Hence, again he is called Rimon for otherwise he would fall entirely.

In time, great filth and great anxiety assemble “all around on the edges of the robe,” both in the form of the bell and in the form of a Rimon (which gathers) around the Ei Po Delet [where is the door], which has no edge...

But why did the Creator do so to His creations? It is because He must make the voice for the words, for the “mouth of God”[spelt the same as Po Delet] to appear when he comes to the holy place, as it is written, “when he enters the holy place.”

Go out and learn from the letters of this world, that there is a sound only in anxiety, as is sensed in the strings of a violin. Due to the tension of the strings, there is anxiety [tension] in the air, which is the sound, and nothing else. And likewise, each human ear contains a kind of twist in the ear that physicians call “a drum.” When another’s mouth strikes the air, the drum shivers differently from each strike, and this is the entire merit of the chosen creature, the speaking species. Because of it, “all things [are] under his feet.”

This is the meaning of “rejoice with trembling.” Our sages said, “Where there is joy, there shall be trembling there.” It is abstruse phrasing, for they should have said succinctly, “Joy and trembling will be together.”

However, this tells us that the joy has no place without trembling. It is as they said—that where there should be joy and gladness, there is trembling, which is the place of joy.

You can also try it with a clapper [metal striker inside a bell] that is tingling on the iron of a bowl, thus making a sound. If you place your hand on the bowl, the sound will stop at once because the sound coming out of the bowl is the trembling of the bowl, and by striking with the clapper and placing your hand, you strengthen the bowl and reduce the trembling, hence the sound stops.

Thus you see the sounds—that the sound and the trembling are the same. And yet, not all sounds are fit for pleasantness, which is in the quality of the prior form, meaning the trembling. For example, the sound of a thunder frightens and is unpleasant to the human ear because the trembling occupies a large amount of the striking force, and also lasts too long. Even if the striking force were less, it would still be unpleasant to the ear because it is too long.

Conversely, the sound of a violin is pleasant to the listener’s ear because it is proportional to the force that strikes, and is precisely proportional to the length of time. One who prolongs the time even a fraction of a minute will spoil the pleasantness.

It is all the more so with understanding the sounds for the word of God. It is precious, and clearly requires great precision in the force of the strike, divided into seven degrees. It is even more so with the time, to not spoil even a fraction of a minute, for there is pride there, as it is written, “You put my feet in stocks.” Then you will know that all the angels rise in song, and in a place of joy there was trembling first.

Hence, not all anxieties are good, but one who is anxious for the word of God collects all the anxieties to a place, and rushes the joy. This is the meaning of “Let the waters gather ... unto one place,” and not otherwise, God forbid.

Our sages said, “A violin was hanging above David’s bed. When the midnight hour came, a northern wind arrived and blew it, and it would play by itself.” One who is anxious for the word of God, the anxiety comes instead of the northern wind, meaning as the Rimon. By that, “the host cuts.”

The night divides, as in “A prayer makes half.” This is why he is laying in bed, which is the meaning of “He will never allow the righteous to fall.” It is as it is written about, “And he laid down in that place.” They explained, “There are Chaf-Bet [twenty-two] letters, which is a Chaf [also a spoon] that holds Bet [two] letters—the farthest points in the reality before us, as I have detailed in my letter.

Above his bed is the Rimon, as said above. And when the point below appears, the Creator goes out to stroll with the righteous in the Garden of Eden because the door is open and the holy Divinity says all her songs and praises. This is why David’s violin is playing by itself, without any composition except for the trembling of the northern wind.

And if matters are still not clear, go and study the alphabet—that the Bet, with which the world was created, lacked nothing but the Aleph of Anochi [I]. This is its crack in the northern wind of the Bet. This is why “Out of the north the evil will break forth,” which is a big breach.

Therefore, “Out of the north comes golden splendor.” It begins with bells, and when the two letters unite appears the mouth of the Creator. This is why the anxieties must be collected in one place, to be anxious only for the word of God, and then one prepares “a golden bell and a pomegranate, all around on the edges of the robe.”

Similarly, the upright will slowly be more than the broken, and will smell in the fear of God, and feel that “All that the landlord has troubled Himself with, He has troubled Himself only for me.” He will know and see seven parts of the wind trembling, meaning that in addition to the wind of the fear of God, there are six more winds hovering over the Creator’s Messiah, as it is written, “And the spirit shall rest ... the spirit of wisdom and understanding...”

Our sages said about the such, “The host cuts.” That is, although the host cuts, the guest blesses on the slice as though on a whole one. It is said about one who does not do so, “and robbers shall enter it and profane it,” as it is written, “Will he even take the queen with me in the house,” to come there with crassness, with more broken than is standing, arousing contempt and wrath.

This is the meaning of the chopped Vav [ Vav-Yod-Vav] of Pinehas’ Shalom [peace, farewell], as it stands with much that is broken before him, and the plague stopped. In his great sanctity that stands over the broken, the people reunited with Moses. His reward was that the Creator said to Moses, “And ... the covenant of everlasting priesthood,” for eternity, as it is written in The Zohar.

This clarifies to Abraham the “this memorial” of his, which is there, so that one will not regard the details of the matters in which he is caught up, as this is the counsel of the inclination and the Sitra Achra, but only in general, as I have sufficiently explained here. This is the meaning of “all of man’s works should be only with the aim to raise Divinity from the dust, from which the primordial serpent feeds.”

And what can I do to those who vow and lean toward the view of the masses, and suffice for the halved comfort they receive through them, as people say, “Trouble shared, trouble halved.” This is why they work and settle, to receive reward. But if their ways have risen once and for all above ten feet, they would see the door because it is a wide open opening. Then there would no longer be two opposites in the same place and at the same time, as it is above the Yod [ten]. is written, “Though He scoffs at the scoffers, and He gives grace to the poor” (Proverbs 3:34). I shall start with an allegory, and perhaps you’ll understand:

A great, benevolent king wished only to delight his countryfolk, because he did not need any work to be done for him. Rather, his only wish was to benefit his countryfolk.

However, he knew that there are levels in the recipients of his benefit—to the extent of their love for him and the measure of recognition of the value of his exaltedness. He wished to delight abundantly especially the worthy ones among his countryfolk, so the rest of the people would see that the king does not deny reward from those who love him dearly. Rather, in his goodness, he showers them with abundant delights that he has prepared for them. And in addition to the pleasures that he showers abundantly upon them, they have a special treat—they feel that they are the chosen ones from among the people. This, too, he desired to give to those who love him.

To keep from the people’s complaint, lest they will lie or mislead themselves, as well, saying that they, too, are among the king’s lovers, and still their reward is denied. And because of the king’s perfection, he kept himself from that, as well, and therefore devised tactics to execute his plans in full.

Finally, he found a wonderful idea: He sent out a decree to all the people in the country, none excluded, to come to work a whole year for the king. He dedicated a place in his palace for that purpose, and conditioned explicitly that it is forbidden to work outside the designated area, for it is abomination, and the king will not be pleased with it.

Their reward is in the place where they work. He prepared for them great feasts and every delicacy in the world whenever they wished. At the end of the year’s work, he will take all of them to the king’s own table, and they will be among those who see his face, the most eminent in the kingdom.

The proclamation went out, and every single one came to the king’s palace, which is surrounded by guards and a wall. They closed themselves in there for the year, and the work began.

They thought the king had prepared watchmen to oversee their work, to know who was serving him and who was not. But the king hid and there was no supervision. Everyone did as he saw fit, or so it seemed to them. However, they did not know about the wonderful tactic—that he placed a kind of bad powder in the delicacies and the sweets, and opposite that, he placed a healing powder in the house of work.

That clarified the supervision by itself: his lovers and those truly faithful to him—although they saw that there was no supervision in this place—kept the king’s commandments carefully because of their love for him. They did their work as they were told, and took care to work precisely in the designated area. Thus, they inhaled the healing powder into their bodies, and when mealtime came, they tasted the sweets and delicacies, and found in them a thousand flavors such as they have never tasted, nor ever sensed such sweetness.

Hence, they praised the king extensively, for they were dining at the king’s exalted table!

But the lowly, who did not understand at all the merit of the king, for which he should be loved with devoted and faithful love, did not keep the king’s commandment properly because they saw that there was no supervision. They slighted the area that was designated fro work, and each worked where he saw fit in the king’s domain. When mealtime came, once they had tasted the sweets, they felt a bitter taste because of the abovementioned dust. They cursed and despised the king and his despicable table, which he has prepared for them as reward for their work. They regarded the king as the greatest liar, who—instead of delicacies and finest delights—gave them these bitter and sour things.

Because of it, they began to devise for themselves foods from what was found in the city, to ease their hunger. Then there suffering was twofold, for their work had doubled, and they did not know the delight in the king’s palace that was before them.

The lesson is that the Torah is divided into two parts: a part for worshipping the Creator, such as Tefillin, Shofar, and studying Torah, and a part for working with people, such as robbery, theft, fraud, and slander.

Indeed, the part between man and man is the real work, and the part between man and the Creator is the reward and the delights spread out across the king’s table.

However, “All that the Lord has worked was for His sake,” so the part of working with people should be in the king’s place, too, meaning “to raise Divinity from the dust.” In that there is a healing dust to the potion of death that is cast between man and the Creator.

This is the meaning of “He gives grace to the poor,” in the Torah and Mitzvot between man and man, and between man and the Creator. “ those who love Me and keep My commandments,” to make them do all the work in the designated area. They are the ones with the grace of holiness, and “they will inherit twofold in their land,” for not only are they not working so hard for people, they are delighted all their lives by the grace of the Creator.

However, “He scoffs at the scoffers.” They say that the king’s palace is despicable, God forbid, because they experience holiness as a kind of mockery. Therefore, the wicked do not gain by their wickedness, so who would lose anything if he departs from them even when he hopes to be favored?

Yehuda Leib

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