You are here: Kabbalah Library Home / Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The Rabash) / Writings of Rabash / Shlavey HaSulam (Rungs of the Ladder) / 1990 / What It Means that the Generations of the Righteous are Good Deeds, in the Work
Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

What It Means that the Generations of the Righteous are Good Deeds, in the Work

Article No. 4, Tav-Shin-Nun, 1989/90

Our sages said about the verse, “These are the generations of Noah; Noah was a righteous man,” “To teach you that the generations of the righteous are primarily good deeds.” We should understand this, since our sages said (Nedarim 64), “One who has no sons is considered dead, as it is written, ‘Give me sons, or else I die.’” It therefore follows that righteous, who have good deeds, are still considered dead. Can this be said about righteous?

In the work, father and son are called “cause and consequence.” In other words, the potential is called “father,” and what is later revealed in practice is called “son.” The potential is like a drop in the father’s brain, and the emergent result is called “birth,” and a “son,” which emerges from potential to actual.

For this reason, when a person thinks of doing something, he must first think what he wants to do that will give him pleasure from the act, since it is known that man likes rest. The reason for this is that our root is in a state of complete rest, so the creatures, too, desire rest and do not make a single move unless it brings them more pleasure than they have in the state of rest.

For this reason, righteous, meaning people who want to be at the degree of righteous are called righteous, although they have not achieved the degree of righteous. It is as Baal HaSulam interpreted about the verse, “Will bring wisdom to the wise.” The question is, Should it not have said, “Will bring wisdom to the fools”? Why does it say “to the wise”? Indeed, one who seeks wisdom is already called “wise,” whereas a fool does not want wisdom, as it is written, “The fool does not desire wisdom.”

It follows that one who wants to be righteous arranges for himself in his mind what he must do, meaning what he should crave. Our sages said “good deeds,” meaning that he thinks how he can come to a state where he can do good deeds. That is, when he has good deeds in his hand, he will know that he is righteous, as our sages said (Berachot 61), “Rabba said, ‘One should know in one’s heart whether he is righteous or wicked.’” For this reason, a person arranges for himself in his mind, regarded as the “potential,” what he must do in order to come to a state where everything he does is a good deed.

However, we must know what is a good deed, by which to know that he is righteous. We should interpret that good deeds are interpreted in the Torah and in the prayer, as well as in the performance of Mitzvot [commandments/good deeds]. We should interpret that a good deed is when a person feels good during the act. For example, when a person wants to stand and pray to the Creator, the person wants to feel as though he is standing before the King, for then all of one’s heart and mind are given to the King. Because of the greatness and importance of the King, it is impossible that he would be distracted from the King.

Thus, there are two things here: 1) There is no room where another thought, which does not concern the King, may enter. At that time, it is as though there is no one in the world but he and the King, due to the fear of the greatness of the King. 2) At that time, he feels that he is in a state of good feeling because he has the privilege of speaking with the King.

Likewise, when he comes to observe some Mitzva [singular of Mitzvot], he thinks that the Mitzva he will perform will be a good Mitzva. That is, while performing the Mitzva, he should feel that now he is going to bring contentment to the King. For this reason, a person should feel, while performing the Mitzva, that he has the privilege of delighting the King, meaning that now the King enjoys his observing of the King’s commandment. This is called “a good deed.”

When he feels this way and has no other thought during the performing of the Mitzva, since he engages in the commandments of the King, therefore, his entire thought is that he wonders if the King will truly enjoy what he is doing now. This is what he regards as “good deeds.”

Also, when he learns Torah, he prepares for the learning of Torah, meaning he first thinks what Torah he is about to learn—does he intend to enjoy the wisdom in the Torah or is it to have the strength to awaken in himself that this is the Torah of the Creator, that the whole of the Torah is the names of the Creator, and that he still has not been rewarded with understanding and seeing the connection between the Torah and the Creator. Yet, at least he wants to believe what our sages said, “The Torah and Israel and the Creator are one,” and this is what he regards as good deeds.

It follows that one who wants to be righteous, while preparing and reflecting that he wants to do things that will be good, he is called “righteous.” That is, he wants to engender through the preparation he has in his mind, which is called a “father who begets sons,” which are good deeds.

It is written, “Noah was a righteous man,” which is called “These are the generations of Noah,” meaning the good deeds, which are the generations of the righteous. The verse “Noah was a righteous man” means that he was rewarded with good deeds. That is, during the act, he felt that his actions were truly good, and felt contentment while performing his actions and felt the good that is in them. Because the acts are good, he was rewarded with the delight and pleasure clothed in the performance of Mitzvot.

According to the above, we can understand what our sages said, “One who has no sons is considered dead.” We asked, From this, from Noah, it seems that only one who has good deeds is considered righteous. But it is written, “One who has no sons is considered dead,” which means that even righteous, if they have no sons, are considered dead. According to the above-said, where sons are called “good deeds,” the meaning of “One who has no sons is considered dead” is that he has no good deeds and is considered dead because the righteous in their lives are called “dead,” since they are separated from the Life of Lives.

However, why does man need to do good deeds? That is, what causes him to want to be righteous? Also, why must one leave all the needs he has been accustomed to do for the sake of the body? He was used to enjoying eating and drinking, and handsome clothes, and so forth, and although he hears from books and from authors that there is the matter of the soul, that a person should acquire the matters of the soul, after he has been given with a body, a person begins to ask, What is a soul, for which he must toil in order to obtain? At that time, the body asks, “What will I gain from having a soul?” Moreover, it asks, “What is a soul, that I should merit attaining it?”

To this comes the answer that a person is told, “There is no soul without a body.” This is why man was given a body, which is like a machine, and with the machine he can go and come to all the places he wants. Therefore, we must preserve the machine and give it everything it needs, such as oil, water, and fuel. Only after you give the machine everything it needs, it will do what it must and bring the person to the places where he needs to go. Certainly, the person does not take a machine and gives it everything it needs and then leaves it and does not drive it.

Likewise, a person must think about the body. The body is like a machine whose role is to bring a person where he needs. When a person understands that the body is an instrument by which to obtain a soul, and this is why man was created with the body. This is similar to what is presented in the book A Sage’s Fruit (Part 1, p 117), “By this you will understand that before a soul comes into the body, it is but a tiny dot, though attached to the root as a branch to a tree. This dot is called the ‘root of the soul and its world.’ Had it not entered this world in a body, it would have had only its own world, meaning its own part in the root. However, the more it comes to walk in the paths of the Creator, which are the 613 ways of the Torah that return to being the actual names of the Creator, the more its stature grows, according to the level of the names it has attained, except it must increase its stature 620 times more than how it previously was in the root.”

It therefore follows that if we believe in the sages, there is room to contemplate why we were born in this world with a body that includes within it many base lusts. Also, how can we say that this body, for all its lowliness, was created for a sublime matter, which the soul could not attain before she descended into the lowly body—620 times more than what she had prior to clothing in a body?

In this regard, we must work with faith, to believe in the sages that this is so. However, it is not necessarily for this that we need faith in the sages. Rather, for every single step, we must believe that such is the way to go in this world with our bodies as they were arranged for us. Otherwise, we stumble on our way as we walk on the path of the Creator.

However, concerning faith, we also need true guides, who arrange for us how and in what way to walk in the path of the Creator, since many times a person gives all his might to something that is not the main thing in the work. As a result, he is left with no time or energy to make the effort in the right place, meaning in the most important thing he needs in order to be completed in the rungs of holiness.

Since it is impossible to learn only from books, since one person is not like another, for each has different tendencies, as the ARI says, “One person is not like another, and one day is not like another, and the Helbona [resin] will correct what the Levona [incense] will not correct,” therefore, each person needs his own precise order, and the order of the work of one person does not suit another’s. For this reason, each one must go with the order that suits specifically him.

It is as presented in the “Introduction to the Book, Panim Masbirot” (Item 3), “We distinguish four divisions in the speaking species.For this purpose, the Creator instilled three inclinations in the masses, called ‘envy,’ ‘lust,’ and ‘honor.’ Due to them, the masses develop degree by degree to elicit a face of a whole man.”

We should interpret the still, vegetative, animate, and speaking according to the four degrees, where neither understands the other. In other words, each one understands how a person should behave in this world, and no one can understand the other.

For example, the still is the first phase. This kind understands only lust. Sometimes, we see two neighbors living next to one another, and the wife of one husband, who is at the second degree, the vegetative, which pertains to respect and control, goes over to the wife of the still husband and sees how the neighbor sits with his family next to the table and eats with the family, and tells his family what his workday was like and how he is resting now and enjoys sitting together with his family and eating.

When the wife of the vegetative returns home, she waits for her husband to return from the store to have dinner with the family. But when the husband comes, he says, “I have no time to eat with you now because I am invited to some meeting for the public benefit.” His wife asks, “Why does your neighbor come from the store and sits and eats with the family, and does not run anywhere, but sits at ease and joyfully with the family, while you have no consideration for your family, and your mind is only given to other people? I do not even know if you know them, but you are giving the time that our family deserves and you regard others more than us!”

Then, he replies to her that his neighbor has no feeling for others. He is like a hen with its chicks, strolling with them and tending only to her chicks. “Likewise, our neighbor has no more brains than a chicken. Would you like me to be like him? Would you want a husband who is like a chicken?”

That woman returns to the neighbor and asks him, “Why are you eating with your family after work and behave like a chicken instead of being like my husband?” He replies, “I am not crazy like your husband, giving my precious time that I need for rest and to be happy with my family to other people.” Certainly, both are correct, but no one understands the other.

It is likewise between the second state to the third state. Let us take as an example two neighbors. One woman visits the other and sees that the neighbor’s son gets up at eight in the morning and goes to work. In the evening, he comes and behaves fine, just like all other people. Afterward, he goes to meetings to do something there for the benefit of the public, and then he returns and goes to sleep, as usual, like all other people.

When that woman returns home she asks her son, “Why do I often see that I fix you dinner, and when I get up in the morning I see that the light is still on and dinner is still in front of you, untouched, while you are sitting by your books? Why does my neighbor’s son behave like a human being?”

The son replies, “I love knowledge, so I think that it is worthwhile to give up everything and acquire knowledge. Conversely, the neighbor’s son has no connection to knowledge; he is like a beast, working for the public needs, meaning in whatever way is convenient for beasts like him. That is, without knowledge, I see myself as similar to a beast. But the neighbor’s son, who belongs to the quality of the beast, how can he understand that a person without knowledge is called ‘a beast’?”

When that woman tells her neighbor that her son says about her son that he is a beast, that son tells his mother, “I am not crazy sinking my head into knowledge. Who and what will it give me? No one will want to speak with me, and everyone will say that I have no idea about worldly matters. Conversely, when I work for the needs of the public and go to meetings, where smart people gather to do something for the public benefit, many people will respect me since I am not tending to my own needs but to the public benefit. The neighbor’s son, on the other hand, cares only for his own needs, this is why he delves in the books.”

It follows that each one says that the way he is walking is the path of truth, and neither understands the other.

This is even more so with the speaking level. Those who are from the animate level cannot understand the speaking level. That is, those who engage in the work of the Creator seem to the smart people who delve in books their entire lives and say that brains is what counts and only reason determines, while those who engage in the work of the Creator say that we must go above reason, they laugh at them and say, “Without reason, we are as beasts. How can they say that we must go above reason?” It follows that one does not understand the other.

This is called “the generation of Babylon,” when one does not understand the other’s language.

Accordingly, how can a person emerge from the tendencies that he is used to since birth? Intellectually, it is impossible to understand how it is possible that a person will think other than his inclinations. And there (in the introduction, Item 3) he says, “Because of this, we were given corrections, by which man must toil and labor. Otherwise, all creations would have been in a state of rest, since the root of the creatures, which is the Creator, is in a state of complete rest, and every branch wants to resemble its root.”

These corrections, called “envy,” “lust,” and “honor,” bring man out of the world (Avot, Chapter 4:28). He says there that through the envy and respect, it is possible to change the inclinations to lust into the degree of vegetative, where he begins to work for the sake of others for the purpose of Lo Lishma [not for Her sake]. Likewise, through envy, he can shift to the level of knowledge, as our sages said, “Authors’ envy increases knowledge.” And likewise, through Lo Lishma they can also shift from the animate level to the speaking.

Yet, how does the Lo Lishma help if one does not have the real inclination to the degree to which he enters? Our sages said about this, with respect to the Torah, “The light in it reforms him.” It turns out that through Lo Lishma, we come to Lishma [for Her sake]. This is why they said, “One should always learn Lo Lishma, as from Lo Lishma we come to Lishma.”

However, we must know that these four divisions, which are still, vegetative, animate, and speaking, apply to the same person. The person himself shifts from state to state, as he writes there, “Yet, those who remain without any Segula [remedy/virtue/power], it is because they do not have a strong desire. Hence, all three above-mentioned tendencies work within them in a mixture. At times they are lustful, at times jealous, and at times craving honors. Yet, their desire shatters into pieces and they are as children craving anything they see, but they will obtain nothing. For this reason, their value is like the straw and bran that remain after the flour.”

Now we can understand how a person has three states during the work: 1) the permanent state, 2) the state of ascent, and 3) the state of descent.

That is, when a person wants to emerge from his permanent state, it is known that there is a fixed routine that a person observes Torah and Mitzvot like the general public. This means that we are careful to observe Torah and Mitzvot in practice, meaning that they do not pay attention to the aim to bestow. This is called Lo Lishma. At that time, he can generally be in this state permanently, since he sees that each day he is progressing in Torah and Mitzvot. This is so because he looks only at the act, to see whether or not it is fine, and he is more or less meticulous about observing. For this reason, each day he acquires Torah and Mitzvot. And there is a rule: Where a person succeeds, he enjoys and can continue. For this reason, this state is called the “permanent state.”

Conversely, the second state is the time of ascent. This means that a person heard from authors and books that there is the issue of the flavors of Torah and Mitzvot that a person should attain by observing Torah and Mitzvot, that he should work on Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator, that one must attain Godliness, which is the main thing required from the Torah and Mitzvot. The books say that in the end, every person will be rewarded with this degree.

This person begins to ascend the degrees of holiness and begins to feel that now he is in a different world, as though the state he was in compared to his current state is like the difference between day and night. However, he is not accustomed to walking in this path and falls into a descent.

When his ascents and descents increase, he sometimes despairs and says, “This path is not for me,” but he cannot return to the permanent state he had. In truth, a person should learn from all three states. It is as our sages said, “I have learned much from my teachers, more from my friends, and most from my disciples.” “My teachers” are the states of ascent, “my disciples” are the states of descent, and “my friends” are the permanent state.

In other words, a person should use the state of descent. That is, during the ascent, he should reflect on the thoughts and desires he had then. In other words, the learning is done primarily at the time of ascent, meaning the time of Gadlut [adulthood/greatness], which is called “my teachers,” for only during an ascent does a person have the brains to think.

Then, when he begins to learn from the state of descent, this is considered that he is learning from his disciples, which is below the routine that he was used to regularly. When a person learns from that state, he learns a lot, since now he can praise and thank the Creator for delivering him from the trash and the garbage where he was lying like the rest of the animals, whose food is only the waste that people throw into the trash, and animals such as cats come and nourish themselves on this waste. Now, during the ascent, he can praise and thank the Creator for this.

Baal HaSulam said that according to the praise and gratitude that is given to the Creator, to that extent he ascends. It does not matter what he has. What matters is how much he is impressed by the nearing to the Creator. To the extent of the gratitude that a person gives, to that extent he ascends in degree.

Also, he should learn from his friend’s state. That is, during the ascent, he should reflect and scrutinize on what understanding his work was built then.

It follows that if a person learns from his current state during the ascent, this is regarded as not learning much. But when he learns from the state of “his friend,” he learns more than from the state of ascent. “And [I learned] most from my disciples” means the time of descent. This is called “and most from my disciples.”

However, we must not forget that all the learning is specifically during the ascent. It follows that if he does not learn from the above-mentioned states during the ascent, it is considered that he did not learn much. For this reason, during the descent, a person must not decide anything, but only pray to the Creator to deliver him from the lowliness and believe that the Creator hears a prayer.

Back to top
Site location tree