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Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam)

Letter No. 57

1932, Jerusalem

To the famous and pious student ... may his candle burn:

I received your letter, and while you are sorry for what is not missing, you should be sorry for what is missing. This is the rule: Anything that depends on the Creator exists in abundance, but the vessels of reception can be impressed only by the lower ones, since it is their labor in Kedusha [holiness/sanctity] and purity for which He stands and waits. This is what we are concerned with—adding labor. One who adds to that and worries needlessly is only subtracting. Not only is it needless, it is also harmful.

Regarding the friend’s question that you ask, at the moment, I have no objection, and “Anyone who is prudent acts with knowledge.” Regarding the rest of the questions to which you seek my answers, I will give my one answer to all of them.

There is no happier situation in man’s world than when he finds himself despaired with his own strength. That is, he has already labored and done all that he could possibly imagine he could do, but found no remedy. It is then that he is fit for wholehearted prayer for His help because he knows for certain that his own work will not help him.

As long as he feels some strength of his own, his prayer will not be whole because the evil inclination rushes first and tells him, “First you must do what you can, and then you’ll be worthy of the Creator.”

It was said about it, “The Lord is high and the low will see.” Once a person has labored in all kinds of work, and has become disillusioned, he comes into real lowliness, knowing that he is the lowest of all the people, and there is nothing good about his body. At that time his prayer is whole, and he is granted by His generous hand.

The writing says about that, “And the children of Israel sighed because of the work ... and their cry went up.” It is so because at that time they came into a state of despair from the work. It is as one who pumps out in a punctured bucket. He pumps all day but doesn’t have a drop of water to quench his thirst.

So were the children of Israel in Egypt: Whatever they built was promptly swallowed in its place in the ground, as our sages said.

Similarly, one who has not been rewarded with His love, all that he has done in his work on purifying the soul the day before is as though completely burned the next day. And each day and each moment he must start anew as though he hasn’t done a thing in his entire life.

Then, “The children of Israel sighed because of the work,” for they evidently saw that they were unfit to ever produce something by their own work. This is why their sigh and prayer were whole, as they should be, and this is why “Their cry went up,” since the Creator hears the prayer, and only awaits a wholehearted prayer.

It follows from the above that anything, small or great, is only obtained by prayer. All our labor and work, to which we are obliged, are only to discover our lack of strength and our lowliness—that we are unfit for anything in and of ourselves—for then we can pour out a wholehearted prayer before Him.

We could argue about it, “So I can decide that I am unfit for anything, and why all the labor and exertion?” However, it is a natural law that there is none so wise as the experienced, and before a person tries to actually do all he can do, he is utterly incapable of arriving at true lowliness, to the real extent, as said above.

This is why we must toil in Kedusha and purity, as it is written, “Whatsoever you find that you are able to do by your strength, that do,” and understand that for it is true and profound.

I haven’t revealed this truth to you so you would not weaken and give up on the mercy. And although you don’t see anything, for even when the measure of labor is complete, it is the time of prayer. But until then, believe in our sages: “I did not labor and found, do not believe.”

When the measure is full, your prayer will be complete, and the Creator will grant generously, as our sages instructed us, “I labored and found, believe,” for one is unfit for a prayer prior to it, and the Creator hears a prayer.

Yehuda Leib

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