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Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam)

Letter No. 45


To the honorable students, may the Creator be upon them.

As I prepare myself to return to my home, I so long to find you ready and willing to hear the word of the Creator properly.

Currently, I feel shame for... and for... who were among the best and the highest of the friends, and now, who knows? Perhaps ... may his candle burn is drawing nearer to me more than they, and if he is rewarded with complete confidence, he will rise and live, as it is written, “You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the blocked, You let me know.” That is, by obtaining confidence, all the wisdom of the worlds, upper and lower, is bundled and revealed. Only a pure heart needs this wisdom, for it already loathes self-love and it is entirely dedicated to His name.

Therefore, he did well not being impressed at all by ... and ... slighting him because his lack of sophistication. Rather, let his heart be haughty in the ways of the Creator, and small and great are there.

What else can I do for... who wishes to learn everything from me, except for the matter of lowliness, for he is thoroughly displeased with this engagement, and he is confident that he is better and more comely than the blind and dry people, and all the more so than his brother, who has an ugly face, and he is certain that I, too, thank him because he was not shy of writing me. It seemed to me that for his sake, he should dedicate considerable time to this engagement.

And yet, my intention is not as the lowest of the low, meaning as the lowly, who seek lowliness, for that one is even worse than pride itself because who will swear on a stone that it is a stone? Certainly, there is he who thinks that it is gold. However, he should know and believe that all creations are as “clay in the hands of a potter—when He wishes, He makes longer, and when He wishes, He makes shorter.

Also, he should not be angry at the wicked, but rather have mercy on them no less than he has mercy on himself. As long as he has not been rewarded with the higher mercy, how will he know what to detect and anger over? On the contrary, the mercy on them increases even more because they are robbed without consolation.

Like a father whose two sons are sick, where one has the funds to purchase medicines, one hasn’t the funds. Clearly, the father’s heart has more mercy on the son without the funds for medicines, for the one with the funds for medicine will be cured if he seeks out cures, and if he does not, it is as though he has committed suicide. But the other son, the mercies of the father and of all who see him cut through heart.

Therefore, why do you so slight your brother, who has an ugly face, and you are angry with the world for respecting him more than you? In my view, he is more worthy of respect than you are, and he is simple. So is the nature of the world, and although he did not see, his fortune saw, and this is easy to understand.

Last week, I learned from ... that he has resolved to resign from my engagement, that I had burdened him with too much, and to come to me, to London, without asking my permission, for how will he ask me? Does this relate to me? Also, even a small child running from school knows that to sit next to his rav’s table, with great contentment, and to entertain himself with the secrets of Torah and high secrets, is far more agreeable than to engage in the ways of his rav, in lowly and contemptible matters. From those, one can only come to great troubles, for lack of ability to pray even as a simpleton.

I reply without questions, for one who deals with me in this way at this time, when he is thirsty and longing, I greatly benefit him. Moreover, let his deeds be with me when I am rewarded with bringing him under the wings of Divinity, for then he can think, has the Creator spoke only with Moses? The Creator will speak with me, as well. I, too, have a set table, to furnish all the upper worlds, and how can I annul myself now before the bodily engagements of my rav and the questions he had taken?

The honor and fear of equalizing with the Creator relates primarily to that time, when he has already been rewarded with Divinity being clothed within his heart forever, for you should believe that your rav’s bodily matters are truly engagements of the soul. This is why our sages said, “It did not say, ‘studied,’ but ‘poured,’ indicating that serving is greater than learning.”

A student should be in true annulment toward the rav, in the full sense of the word, for then he unites with him and he performs salvations in his favor. A student cannot cling to his rav’s soul, as it is above his attainment, and as it is written, “My God.”

As ..., may his candle burn, wrote me, he believes that the body of a righteous is as great as the soul of another. While he did not hear what he himself said, for he finished with ... he still agreed with my trip to America. Had he heard what he had said, he wouldn’t have agreed so easily. However, it is true that the body of a true righteous is as great as the soul with which the righteous, the saints of the Upper One, are rewarded. So may you be rewarded with clinging to my body, and then you will certainly see your world in your life. This is why our sages praised the service, as it is closer to Dvekut [adhesion] of the student with the rav.

It is hard for me to understand..., for how can it be that after all the troubles I went through for his sake—composing the handsome and comely composition, namely my book, The Light of the Face, with various adornments for him, on fine paper and with a clear type font, a complete introduction, and a general preface, index, and a list of acronyms. These have become the two great lights, properly illuminating and explaining.

Also, almost each week I write him a long and elaborate letter, sometimes even two in the same week, as best as my fingers can produce. I cannot suspect that he is not a good guest, that he will not say, “All that the landlord has troubled himself with, he has troubled himself only for me.” And yet, I find him sitting surrounded by the holy wall, for had he not sat outside the wall, he would certainly not equalize himself with his inclination, conducting this sapless custom.

I also fear that alongside that custom of his, he says to himself that he is adhered and connected to me more than all the friends, for the heart’s aim follows the words, and the Creator seeks the heart. And since the point in his heart is clung to me, he needs nothing more than to repeat the actions. These are needed and appropriate, but for those of little knowledge, who have no other way. For a decorated (handsome) Jew such as him, a good heart bests them all, so he no longer needs to display any actions with qualification or advantage.

It is true that I have not yet heard from all the friends any impressions of my book, The Light of the Face, except for ..., who for every section that I sent wrote me praises and accolades galore from the bottom of his heart. I am therefore certain that this will help him ... and he can more or less feel the value of the man and his work. This is why his heart is a human heart, which is at least behooved to be impressed, as I have already written in the interpretation of the verse, “My dear son, Ephraim.” Yakir [dear] is like Yaccir [know/recognize], and Yaccir [know/recognize] is like Yakir [dear], meaning they are interdependent and are as one.

Remember what ... wrote me, admitting without shame that he understood that whole letter well, except for the issue of Yakir and Yaccir, that he must insert an elephant through the eye of the needle [study hard]. He attributed it to the possibility that he needs more forewords and knowledge of the righteous. This is why he was able to write to me in the last letter that there is a hidden lock on my books, which he does not know or understand.

What could I reply to him? I therefore determined that what the mind does not do, time will do, and it will become clear to him that recognition is according to the appreciation. That is, the inspiration by and annulment toward the real good. This is what raises and sustains the exaltedness and preciousness, and then the recognition is accumulated in him, followed by the raising of the preciousness. Thus they rise in the rungs of sanctity until they are rewarded with satisfying the deficiency and correcting the wrong up to the real and complete unification.

In that letter, I wrote that Yaccir is like Yakir on the 310, but they are one and the same, as it is written, “And they believed in the Lord and in Moses His servant.” It is also written, “One who doubts his rav, it is as though he doubts Divinity,” since the upper will [desire] is equal in matters that are measured and come in truly the same amount.

And what can I say to you, natives of the land, who believe that I am abroad and you are in the land of Israel!

The holy Torah will testify on my behalf, in what Moses commands us in the portion, Masaei [Journeys]: Command the children of Israel ... for you are coming unto the land.” In these verses he points out and clearly marks the borders of the land, in a way that anyone who comes to the land of Israel will no longer have any doubt.

He decrees and says, “It shall be to you the side of the Negev...” “Negev” comes from the word Negiva [wiping], for “The salvation of the Lord is as a wet garden.” Therefore, the departure from His light is called “Negev.” “It shall be” implies joy, indicating the salvation of the Creator, which includes the letter, “It shall be to you the side of the Negev,” meaning that they knew that the side of the Negev was considered a recognized side and boundary.

It is written, “And you will soon perish,” meaning from Zin desert, by Edom.” “Zin” comes from the words Tzinim and Pachim, which our sages said are not in heaven, but rather by Edom, for as soon as Edom is involved, the Creator says, “I and he cannot dwell in the world.”

This is why he says, “And it shall be to you the boundary of Negev.” “Boundary” is the end, where the above-mentioned wiping ends, “From the end of the Dead Sea eastward” means as soon as you begin to touch the edge of the kingdom of heaven. “Eastward” is like “as before,” the wiping will promptly end and the abundance of the goals of His might will begin to appear before you.

It adds further, “And your border shall turn from Negev.” That is, because the beginning of sunrise was after the “wiping,” and “in its boundary,” the narrow turns outward and twists to the north of the world diagonally, as RASHI interpreted, to The Ascent of Akrabim [scorpions]. In other words, this is why scorpions are coming up before you.

“And pass along to Tzina [Tzin].” Terrible Tzina [chill] spreads through most of the bones, bursting forth from Zin desert on the east, for he is Tzin, and she is Tzina. It is translated (into Aramaic), “from the south to the ascent” of Akrabim.

“And pass along to Tzin,” as our sages said, “Even if a serpent is wrapped around his leg he will not stop.” But according to everyone, a scorpion does stop. Therefore, “And his outcomes shall be from the south to Rekam Ge’ah [Kadesh-Barnea],” because envy consumes like fire in front of the scorpions, until he must come to Kadesh-Barnea, which is Rekam Ge’ah.

In other words, his thoughts take on a clothing of pride extraordinarily until “And it shall go forth to Hatzar-Addar,” for although he boasted with a mantle of hair and will not cause to sin, like those who are first to the kingship, he still feels he is standing in the court, standing outside. This is why that place is called Hatzar [court] Addar, meaning that they contradict one another.

“And pass along to Atzmonah,” Atzm-on-ah. He is Etzem, and he is Atzmon, and she is Atzmonah, for the place causes, and it becomes like a hard, unbreakable Etzem [bone/object]. Likewise, the elephant does not have joints in its bones and cannot turn back its head. When it wants to look back, it must turn itself entirely, from head to tail, as is known to those who know the nature of animals.

He concludes and says, “And the border shall turn (for you) from Azmon to the brook of Egypt,” meaning that Atzmonah returned to being Atzmon. This is why he returned to the brook of Egypt, of which the Creator said, “You shall not return that way henceforth.” However, it is still not the actual exile in Egypt, but rather the edge of that exile.

“And its exit shall be at the sea.” That is, once it was taken and alloted in the brook of Egypt, it is rewarded from there with the coming forth of wisdom, to roam in the sea of wisdom. RASHI interpreted it: “That strip that protruded to the north was from Kadesh-Barnea to Atzmon, and from there on the narrow grew shorter ... to the brook of Egypt.”

Interpreting his words: It is written in the name of the ARI in The Brightness of the Firmament, and I believe in Gate to Introductions, as well, that the world was initially created with a Bet []. It is known that there is a point in the middle of the Bet, which is Hochma [wisdom], and the north side is open (see RASHI, Beresheet). Afterwards, that point of Hochma in the Bet expanded like the Vav and returned to the north of the Bet, like that, , and became a blocked [final] Mem.

This is the meaning of the words of our sages, “But it could be created in one utterance”; that Mem is one utterance.

However, Hochma would have been unable to expand because that is a blocked letter in all four directions, so the Hochma was restricted once again as a point in the middle of the Bet [], like the Vav.

At that time the Hochma expanded to be given as a reward for the righteous, which is why “the world was created with ten utterances, to avenge the wicked who are destroying the world, which was created in ten utterances.”

Because the border turned from Atzmon to the brook of Egypt, it is written, “I saw the wicked buried, and they came.” It is also written, “I was at ease and He shattered me. And He has grasped me by the neck and broken me to pieces. And He set me up as His target.”

It is all because of the abovementioned strip, where the Yod expanded into a Vav to the north of the Bet, and the border was necessarily made shorter for the brook of Egypt. This is why all the enemies of Israel are lost there, and the children of Israel come to the sea to draw the fountains of wisdom [ Hochma] to renew the world as before, meaning to “give good reward to the righteous, who establish the world, which was created in ten utterances.”

The writing ends, “As for the western border, you shall have the Great Sea.” This is the primary source for being granted with the great Hochma, called “the Great Sea.” From there begins the drawing of the air of the land of Israel, which the Creator has sworn to give to us.

To rush us toward that thing, the text repeats and says, “This border shall be your west border.” That is, all the exits from the sea of wisdom are only that border, meaning the Great Sea, the sea of the land of Israel, Mochin de Gadlut! It is impossible to be rewarded with them unless they have traversed all ten borders. This is the meaning of “And changed my wages ten times,” after which one is rewarded with settling in the land of Israel, a land flowing with milk and honey, and good, broad, and pleasant land.

Behold, I have given you horses. If you can place riders on them, you will come to settle in a good, broad, and pleasant land for all eternity. Until then, do not say that I have journeyed from the land of Israel. Rather, you are negligent at that, and do not properly long to sit in it together with me.

Because I read the portion to you, I will conclude with the prophet: “Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob and all the families of the house of Israel. ... Who say to a tree, ‘You are my father,’ and to a stone, ‘You gave birth to me.’ For they have turned their back to Me, ...and where are your gods, which you have made for yourself? Let them arise if they can save you in the time of your trouble...”

Is it even conceivable that our holy sages at the time of the Temple and the prophecy were fools, calling the tree and the stone, “Mother and Father”? Only fools who make others fools could think so about our fathers.

Rather, the tree is the tree of life, and the stone is the tree of knowledge. That is, what is revealed to a person, it is tested and tried that it is the counsel of the Creator, since through those tree and counsel he extends the light of the upper life, called “the tree of life.” What is hidden from human concepts and tactics—and which is still doubtful whether it is a good tree or a bad one in the eyes of his Master, to be favored by Him—is called “the tree of knowledge of good and evil,” or Even [stone], from the word Avin [I will understand], meaning I will observe and see if it is a good counsel or a bad one.

One who sits and regrets for a long time is also called Meducha [mortar/issue], as our sages implied, “Prophet Hagai sat on this Meducha.” It is called Meducha because it is ready for the fools to grid and crush their bones there, as it is written, “If you pound a fool in a mortar with a pestle ... his foolishness will not depart from him.”

We should ask, “How is the fool placed under the pestle in the mortar in fervent devotion, yet he does not depart from his folly whatsoever? Also, although he sees for himself that the fool is killed like moth, he will not depart from his filth? But the fool finds for himself a reason even while sitting inside the mortar, and seems to find contentment in it.

We need not be surprised at it, for it was said about such matters, “Do not judge your friend until you are in his shoes.” This is why this god is called “gods of stone,” or a “figured stone,” for it does not reward its worshippers whatsoever, who worship it devotedly, and they have no one to save them in their time of trouble.

Opposite the gods of stone are those who worship the tree, who settle for the slight illumination they can salvage for themselves. As the hand of the Creator is too short to save them in their time of trouble, and they do not move from the tree that they see because it seems to them that the landlord, too, cannot save his vessels from there because that tree is already tried and tested by them as the father of life. Thus, they forget, or pretend to forget that holiness is increasing, not decreasing.

This is a sign of sanctification and sanctity, as it is written, “Do not say, ‘The first days were better than these,’ for it is not from wisdom that you ask this,” as those who serve another god are infertile and do not bear fruit, and wane and diminish like the fruit of the festival. They will die without wisdom, and are always feeling that ‘the first days were better than these.’”

This is what the prophet complained about them, for after all their days in the abovementioned foreign works, as the disgrace of a thief who has been found, “they say to a tree, ‘You are my father.’” That is, as though saved from a fire, they delight in their lot, for that tree is to them like the father of life. “...and to a stone, ‘You gave birth to me.’”

And once they have received their lot, the prophet compares them to people laid between the mortar and the pestle. The prophet asks further, “And where are your gods which you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you in the time of your trouble.” That is, “Think how much those gods have given you and how much they have saved you from your troubles.”

He continues and asks about them saying, “According to the number of your cities are your gods, O Judah.” That is, in each awakening, these invocators were stubborn and confident compared to the abovementioned sides—the tree or the stone. Finally, all the kings of the east and the west could not disrupt the works from you, and each city becomes Godly to you, like the word of God.

Do write me and clarify how much you understand of this long letter, and how much you do not. Specifically, detail at length all ten boundaries that I have depicted for you, and interpret for me more than I have written in it, for I have written succinctly.

And most of all, do not be ashamed to let me know all that you do not understand, and all your interpretations, for then I will respond to the grain, to the wine and to the oil,” and not one of your words shall be returned empty handed.


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