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Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam)

Letter No. 52

1928, London

To ... may his candle burn:

I received your letter and the note. ...interpreted for me the verse, “Seek the Lord while He is found; call upon Him while He is near.” This is perplexing. If the Creator is already with him, and He is already close, why is there still a need to seek and call upon Him? He explained that the writing speaks to those who have already been rewarded with constant closeness to the Creator. The prophet warns them that although it seems to them that there is nothing more to seek or to obtain, we should never think like that, for it is like cutting down the plantings. Rather, one should seek further and call upon the Creator for greater attainments.

Let me interpret this according to our way. Clearly, anyone who’s been rewarded with his Maker’s fondness, the Creator grants all his wishes, as do lovers and friends who complement each other’s wants, each according to the ability. And because that person has been rewarded with befriending the Creator, he necessarily consists of body and soul. Therefore, he is not ... for them room to display them before the Creator.

Still, “Love covers all transgressions,” and especially before Him there are no obscenities or transgressions, as it is written, “No filth with defile You; a fire that consumes fire will not burn You” (see, “Poem of Unification”). Therefore, through the genuine love between him and the Creator, it is inevitable that man will also reveal bodily desires before Him.

Clearly, the Creator will not fail in fulfilling His loved one’s every wish, both proper and improper, since the Creator’s capability is tied to His will. But once the Creator has satisfied his desire, that person himself seemingly regrets the excessive wishes he presented before the Creator, and we learned that from above there is giving and not taking, since the Creator has already sanctified him.

It therefore follows that the person must mend the abovementioned wrong, in two: 1) that he insulted the Creator’s honor by presenting bodily wishes before the King; 2) that he was not cautious in appreciating the gift of the King of all kings, whether great or small.

This is so because there are two values to each gift. The first value is the gift—whether it is great or small. The second value is the giver—whether he is important or unimportant.

Naturally, when an important person gives even a small thing, the gift has great value, according to the importance of the giver. It is as our sages said ... to be in the king’s palace, and must come out to be corrected. And once he goes outside, he loses all the attainments he has already been rewarded with attaining because the Creator’s gifts are united in “world, years, soul.” That is, there must be a chosen “soul,” a chosen “time,” and a chosen “place.” And since he has changed his location, his year and soul change, too, and then a person is in great bewilderment.

The prophet warns about that: “Seek the Lord while He is found,” meaning return and continue to attain all the matters of spirituality that he attained, for in matters that concern the soul, the Creator is found for all. It is written about that: when He is found, “Call upon Him when He is near,” being the bodily matters, which he has already attained because He is near.

The prophet warns that here it is forbidden to ask because it is an insult to the king to come to Him with bodily wishes. Rather, one must “call” Him only “by that name.” That is, when he presents his prayer before the Creator, one must mention all His benefits, which he has done to him before with benevolence, satisfying bodily wishes for him, so it is a given that He will satisfy the matters of the soul for him now.

This is the meaning of the words of our sages: “The heaven between me and you will make a way for a plea.” The words are profound. In these words, the rest of the Haftarah [final part of each Torah portion] is explained—that the foreigner concerns bodily matters, and the eunuch concerns matters of the soul, and the bright ones will understand.

The above interpretation is immensely profound; who will understand it? Therefore, I will explain by way of “seventy faces to the Torah”: When a person introspects and feels his poor state, he awakens to return to the Creator and pours out his prayer in great longing to cling to the Creator. He thinks that all those prayers and all that awakening are his own powers, and sits and expects the Creator’s salvation, whether small or great. When time passes and he sees no sign of welcome from the Creator, he falls into despair because the Creator does not want him, since after all those longing, He did not turn to him at all.

It is written about that: “Seek the Lord while He is found,” when the Creator presents Himself to you for asking. Then you will necessarily seek Him, too, for it is man’s way to move first. In other words, the Creator first gives you the heart to seek Him. When you know this, you will certainly grow stronger, as strong as you can ask, for the king is calling you.

So it says, “Call upon Him when He is near.” That is, when you call on the Creator to bring you closer to Him, know that He is already near you, for otherwise there is no doubt you would not be calling Him. This is also the meaning of the verse, “Before they call, I will answer,” meaning that if you are calling Him, then He has already turned to you to give you the awakening to call upon Him.

“While they speak, I listen,” meaning the measure of the Creator’s listening depends precisely on the measure of the longing that appears during the saying of the prayer. When one feels excessive longing, he should know at that time that the Creator is listening to him attentively.

Clearly, when he knows that, he pours his heart out even stronger, for there is no greater privilege than the King of the world being attentive to him. This is quite similar to what our sages said: “The Creator longs for the prayer of righteous” because the Creator’s desire for a person to draw near Him awakens great power and longing in the person to crave for the Creator, for “As in water of the face to the face, so the heart of man to man.”

It follows that the saying of the prayer and the hearing of the prayer go hand in hand until they accumulate to the full measure and he acquires everything. This is the meaning of “spirit draws spirit, and brings spirit.” Note these words, for they are the first foundations in the ways of the Creator.

You wrote and asked that I would accept you as a student. You also suspected that I am displeased with you because I already have enough students. But to tell you the truth, it is harder for me with you than with others because you are of a more eminent lineage. You must have heard that Rabbi Elimelech refused any students with eminent lineages, and the rav of Rufshitz pleaded with him and cried bitterly, but to no avail, until all scent of eminence has faded from him. This is what he said to him: “Why is it my fault that my father is so eminent?” Once he recognized the sincerity of his words, he accepted him.

Do not be surprised that in the eyes of landlords, it seems that the eminent one is closer to the Creator than an ordinary person, as he sees and observes the good deeds of his father from his youth, and the childhood rearing is set more firmly in the heart.

The thing is that in each and every movement in His work there are two opposites in the same subject, as I have elaborated in previous letters, as the receiver consists of body and soul, which are opposites. Therefore, in each attainment, great or small, He makes two opposite forms.

There are two concepts in the work of the Creator: 1) “prayer and plea”; 2) “praise and thanksgiving.” Naturally, both must be at their highest. To complete the prayer, a person must feel the Creator’s closeness to him as mandatory, like an organ that is hanging loosely, for then he can complain and pour out his heart before Him.

But opposite that, regarding the complete praise and thanksgiving, a person must feel the Creator’s closeness to him as an addition, a supplement, as something that does not belong to him at all, for “What is man that You should know him, the son of man that You should think of him?” Then he can certainly give praise and thanksgiving to His great name in wholeness for choosing him from among all those who are standing ready to serve the Creator.

It is great work for the complex man to be completed in both those opposites so they are set in his heart forever at once. The second discernment, to feel himself lowly and far, and the kindness of the Creator as a supplement, is a far harder concept than the first. For the most part, all those who are rejected fail only in the second concept.

By that you know that the one of eminent lineage is farther from the second concept than an ordinary person because he feels the Creator’s kindness toward him as mandatory.

Nonetheless, I have no such suspicion because I have already enslaved myself to the Creator, to serve Him in any way I can. No work is too heavy for me to do for His great name. On the contrary, I always love and relish at great exertions that bring Him contentment, and the evidence is that I chose the land of Israel as my workplace, where the ruling of the SAM is the greatest. And not only that, but in Jerusalem, where even the holy ARI was afraid to open his seminary. ...I also collected into my seminary all the eminent ones from Jerusalem ... by which you can know that I am not avoiding work. Thus, everything depends only on you; always remember that.

Time is short, and the good day is approaching, so I cannot elaborate for you on that. But if you believe me, you will also be rewarded with understanding me.

Yehuda Leib

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