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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

Judges and Officers

Article No. 34, Tav-Shin-Mem-Vav, 1985-86

The writing says, “You shall place for yourself judges and officers in all your gates which the Lord your God is giving you.” To understand the above according to the rule that the Torah is eternity and applies to all generations, we should interpret the above verse in our generation, too. For this reason, each word requires its own explanation: 1) What are “judges”? 2) What are “officers”? 3) “You shall place for yourself” is singular form. This means that each and every person must place judges and officers. Can it be that each person should do so? 4) “In all your gates.” We need to understand how “gates” are related to our time. And also, what does “In all your gates” imply? It means that if there is a gate we should promptly try to place judges and officers there. 5) Especially, what does it imply that he says, “Which the Lord your God is giving you”? What does it imply? Is there anyone else besides the Creator who is giving to the people of Israel?

To understand the above, we first need to mention what we said in the previous articles: 1) The purpose of creation from the perspective of the Creator. 2) The purpose of our work in keeping Torah and Mitzvot [commandments], meaning to which degree we should reach by observing Torah and Mitzvot.

It is known that the purpose of creation is to do good to His creations, meaning that the creatures will receive from Him the delight and pleasure according to His ability, without any limitations. However, because He wanted His works to be complete, meaning that there will not be the bread of shame, there was a Tzimtzum [restriction] and concealment. This means that there is no disclosure of light in Kelim [vessels] that work in order to receive. Only once the Kli [vessel] called “will to receive” has been corrected to work in order to bestow, then according to his ability to aim to bestow, to that extent the abundance appears. Prior to this they see the opposite of disclosure—feeling only concealment.

It therefore follows that here, meaning after the Tzimtzum took place, the work of the lower ones begins. The goal should be that all our thoughts and actions will be with only one intention—to bestow.

However, this brings up the question, “How can there be such a thing?” That is, since man is born a wild ass, from where will he take the strength to be able to come of the nature in which he was created?

For this purpose, we were given work in observing Torah and Mitzvot. That is, man should aim while observing Torah and Mitzvot, that it will bring him the power to agree to turn all his passions and ambitions to be only about how and with what he might bestow contentment upon his Maker.

Before he began the work of bestowal he thought that this matter of observing Torah and Mitzvot will bring him success and blessing so he can delight his body, meaning that by observing Torah and Mitzvot the body will have this world and the next world. This was his foundation, on which he built a foundation for himself, for that foundation to be the reason compelling him to observe Torah and Mitzvot in all its details, and he had the power to overcome the laziness in his body and prevail in order to obtain the reward.

It is like people who work in corporeality in order to make a living. The body resists working in corporeality, too, since the body would prefer to rest, but the corporeal pay that he sees, which is to his body’s benefit, gives him the strength to overcome. Likewise, when the reward for the work is reward for one’s body, he has the strength to overcome all the obstacles on his way. Because the reward he hopes for is only for his own needs, the body does not object to it.

That is, although the body enjoys the rest, when it is told, “Give up your rest and you will have pleasure in a way that the pleasure you will receive through the work will be greater than the rest, or that the pleasure you will receive by giving up rest is more necessary than the pleasure you find in rest, since through these pleasures you will be able to exist in the world, otherwise you will be unable to exist.” On all these matters the body has the strength to overcome and give up small pleasures in order to obtain greater reward than his work. That is, the reward pays for his concessions, which he demands of his body to make, in order to be happier than he is feeling now, before he has relinquished the pleasures.

But when the body is told, “Work in bestowal,” meaning that by observing Torah and Mitzvot it will be rewarded with delighting the Creator, namely that a person is told, “Give up your self-love,” what will be the reward? That the Creator will enjoy the work of observing Torah and Mitzvot. At that time, the body promptly comes and asks the argument of “who” and “what.” That is, “What will I gain by the Creator enjoying my work? And how can you work without reward?” This is the “Who” argument,” which does not want to work. The body says, “I am willing to work like everyone else, but not on these terms. That is, if I give up my self-love and do everything so the Creator will enjoy, what will be my gain from this work?”

When a person overcomes all the arguments of the body, and thinks that he already has the strength to overcome the body’s nature, meaning that now he feels that he can focus his thoughts only in order to bestow, suddenly the body comes to him with new complaints: “It’s fine that you want to work for the Creator and not the way everyone else works, in order to receive reward. However, it would be good if, since you have already exerted for a while, you would receive strength from above so you could walk in the way of bestowal. But as you see, you’ve given much work and didn’t move one bit. So you can see for yourself that you cannot walk in this path. You are wasting your energy, working for nothing. Get off this path, escape the campaign.”

If a person overcomes all these arguments of the body, the body comes and reveals to him new things, for which a person has no answer. By this it wants to detach him from his work. The body tells him: “It is known that when a person begins to learn some science, he advances each time. If he is talented he advances faster; and if he is less talented he advances slower. And when a person sees that he is not advancing at all in the science, he is told, ‘This science is not for you. You need to learn some profession; you are unfit to learn sciences.’ We see that this is customary and reasonable.”

But here the body argues, “You see according to the efforts you have made in the work of bestowal, that not only did you not move one step ahead, it is to the contrary.” That is, before he began the work of bestowal he was not so immersed in self-love. But now that he has made efforts to overcome self-love, he has received a greater desire and feels that now he is more immersed in self-love.

It follows that here, in this work, we see that we are going backwards and not forward. He sees this clearly and actually feels it. That is, previously, before he began to overcome self-love, he thought that this was quite easy to give up self-love in order to be rewarded with spirituality. He always thought, “How can I find a way that I can walk and by which to obtain some spirituality?” However, he never thought that he should worry about emerging from self-love, for this is something not advisable to think about. Rather, all the concerns were about finding the right way that leads to entering the King’s palace and meriting the purpose for which man was created.

But now he has come to a state that he had never dreamed of, meaning that self-love would be a stumbling block interfering with reaching the truth. He always thought that he was willing to sacrifice himself in order to reach the truth, but now he sees that he went ten degrees backwards, meaning that he is unwilling to make any concessions on his self-love for the sake of Kedusha [holiness/sanctity].

When the body comes to him with such arguments, he “falls under his load.” At that time he comes to a state of despair and idleness, and wants to escape the campaign, since now he sees that all the arguments of the body are true arguments.

But the truth is as we said many times. As Baal HaSulam said, there is the matter of advancing toward the truth. That is, before one begins the work of bestowal, he is far from the truth, meaning from feeling the measure of his evil. But later, when he has exerted in overcoming self-love, he advances toward the truth. That is, each time he sees more of how immersed he is in evil, from head to toe.

However, we should understand why we need all this. That is, why is it that before he began the work of bestowal he did not have such a great measure of feeling the evil, but once he has exerted to overcome, the evil has become more clearly sensed in him. Why was everything that should be revealed later not revealed right away, but rather appeared in stages, bit-by-bit?

The thing is that the order of overcoming is gradual. It is as one who practices weightlifting. He begins, say, with lifting 50 kilograms, and gradually adds because through exercises he can keep adding. It is the same in serving the Creator, and this is why we are not given a great taste for self-love in the beginning, since we will probably not be able to overcome. We are giving additional taste of pleasure in self-love according to our work. That is, to the extent that they see that he can overcome, he is given more taste of pleasure in self-love, so he will be able to overcome. By this we will understand what our sages said (Sukkah, 52), “One who is greater than his friend, his desire is greater than him.”

This brings up the question, “Why is this so?” According to the above-mentioned, it is simple. This is also the order in corporeality: We move from light to heavy. Therefore, before one begins to work in overcoming, he is not given great force of self-love, which he will not be able to overcome because he has not begun the work of overcoming. Therefore, he does not feel a great taste in self-love.

But when he begins to overcome, he is given greater pleasure and importance in self-love so he will have what to overcome. When he overcomes a certain measure of self-love, he is given an even greater measure of importance of self-love. In this way he gradually accustoms himself to overcome pleasures so he can say that everything he is receiving is only in order to bestow.

It follows that self-love becomes to him increasingly difficult to overcome because each time, his will to receive is given more importance so he will have a place to work on overcoming. However, we must understand why we must be given from above more importance and more pleasure to make it difficult to overcome. Concerning this overcoming the corporeality, it would be better if we were not given great importance, but the importance we felt about self-love in the beginning of our work would be enough for us to overcome corporeality and we could promptly begin the spiritual work. But why should I do this work for free, overcoming self-love in corporeal matters? Although each time we have greater overcoming, why do we need to work in self-love, which concerns corporeality?

However, it is a great correction. It is known that the numerous pleasures we feel in corporeal pleasures are only a “thin light” compared to what is found in spiritual pleasures. It therefore follows that even after one has passed the test of overcoming corporeal pleasures, which he can correct only in order to bestow, this test is sufficient only on small pleasures that he can overcome and not receive on condition that he can aim in order to bestow. However, this is not so with great pleasures, and one cannot be given spiritual pleasures which he is bound to take in order to receive.

Therefore, first he must go through the work in corporeal pleasures. There, he is given greater flavors each time then when he began the work. Before he began the work he could taste the taste of pleasure as is ordinarily given to corporeal pleasures. But one who has begun the work of bestowal and wants to be rewarded with spirituality is given more taste in corporeality than the usual. This is so deliberately, so he will become accustomed to greater pleasures than there are in corporeal pleasures. This is a preparation to be immunized in the work of overcoming the great pleasures found in spirituality.

Now we can see that those who want to work the holy work are given additions. That is, they are given additional flavor in self-love. This is not so for people who have no interest in walking in the path of bestowal. It is as our sages said, “Anyone who is greater than his friend, his desire is greater than him.” It is so in order to accustom them to the work of overcoming, since for the manifold pleasures found in spiritual pleasures, his usual overcoming of corporeal pleasures will not be enough because the pleasure is in them as a constant, while they are given each time more importance in order to become accustomed to overcoming more each time.

Now we can understand what we asked about the verse where it is written, “You shall place for yourself judges and officers in all your gates.” How does placing judges and officers apply to the current time? However, when a person wants to begin the work of the Creator we should make two discernments: 1) Potential. That is, first he makes for himself a plan of what he should, and what he shouldn’t do, meaning a scrutiny of good and bad. Doing this in potential is called “judge,” who says what must be done. 2) Afterwards we must execute what was in potential. The execution is called “officer.”

Since matters of work are not a one-time thing, but rather each day he must exert in the work, hence, the text uses plural form, meaning “judges and officers.”

Saying, “You shall place for yourself,” in singular form, comes to tell us that this work pertains to each and every individual.

This is why it says, “in all your gates.” We should interpret it literally, meaning that a gate is the place of entrance. This means that whenever a person wants to begin the work of the Creator, he must arrange the work in two manners: in potential and in actuality, which are “judges” and “officers.”

However, regarding his saying, “In all your gates,” we should interpret according to what we see—that there are two kinds of life in our world: 1) corporeal life, 2) spiritual life.

It follows from this that we have two gates: 1) a gate that is similar to a prison gate. This is similar to what is written (in the prayer, “Thank,” that we say on the eve of Shabbat in the afternoon prayer): “Dwellers of darkness and the shadow of death; prisoners of poverty and iron.” The Metzudat David [David’s Fortress interpretation] interprets there: “People who sit in a place of darkness are tied by tormenting ties and by chains of iron.” 2) A gate that is similar to the King’s gate, as it is written, “And Mordechai sat by the King’s gate.”

At each gate there are guards who are standing guard, but each of the guards acts in the opposite way. That is, the prison guards see that none of the prisoners escape the prison, while the guards at the King’s gate see that no one comes through the King’s gate.

The thing is that those who are immersed in self-love and have no understanding or feeling of anything more than corporeal pleasures are regarded as being in prison, and the guards do not let them out. By what force do they guard them and not let them out? The moment a guard sees that he wants to exit self-love and begin the work of bestowal he adds to them more pleasure in self-love. By this they tie them with iron chains so they will not want to leave there.

After all the overcoming, when the guards see that the prisoners want to escape self-love and begin to come into the love of the Creator, they promptly give them more flavor and more importance, to the extent that no one ever thought that it was so worthwhile to remain in self-love as they feel now, that self-love is not such a simple matter, as it is written, “Anyone who is greater than his friend, his desire is greater than him.” By this the guards have the power to see that no one escapes from the prison.

But the role of the guards who are standing at the King’s gate is not to let anyone through the King’s gate. What is the power by which they can overcome those who want to come into the King’s palace? It is as it is written in the “Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot” (item 133), “It is like a king who wished to select for himself the most loyal of his subjects in the country and bring them in to work inside his palace. What did he do? He issued a decree that anyone who wished, young or old, would come to his palace to engage in the works inside his palace. However, he appointed many of his servants to guard the palace gate, and ordered them to cunningly deflect all those nearing his palace. Naturally, all the people in the country began to run to the king’s palace. But the diligent guards cunningly rejected them. Many of them overpowered them and came near the palace gate, but the guards at the gate were the most diligent, and if someone approached the gate, they diverted him and turned him away with great craftiness, until he despaired and returned as he had come. And so they came and went. Only the heroes among them, whose patience endured, defeated the guards and opened the gate. They were instantly awarded seeing the king’s face, who appointed each of them to his right place.”

It therefore follows that the gates standing at the King’s gate deflect with all kinds of arguments that “It is not for you” to enter the King’s palace. To each one they make up reasons so these people will understand that it is not worthwhile for them to toil in vain. Especially, through all kinds of arguments, they have the power to deflect them and turn them from the campaign of holy work. This is the meaning of “in all your gates,” meaning the prison gate and the King’s gate.

Now we will explain the end of the verse where he ends, “which the Lord your God is giving you.” We asked, “What does it come to tell us?” It is known that everything comes from the Creator. However, as we explained above, a person who wants to be saved from all those arguments of the guards has only one counsel: faith above reason. This means that everything that the guards say is true. However, the Creator is merciful and gracious, and hears the prayer of every mouth. He gives the power to overcome all the obstacles.

However, there is a rule that one must say, “If I am not for me, who is for me?” That is, a person must not wait for the Creator to help him overcome. Rather, he must overcome by himself and do everything he can do, and only ask that the Creator will help him overcome, meaning help him. If a person tries in any way he can, then he must ask the Creator that his effort will bear fruit. However, a person must not say that the Creator will work for him, but that the Creator will help him in his work to succeed in acquiring the good.

It therefore follows that since man is the worker and the Creator only helps him, a person reflects on why he has been rewarded nearness to the Creator more than others. It is because other people could not exert so much in work above reason and not look at the argument of the body as he constantly prevailed in his work and never looked at his thoughts of despair with which the body wanted to fail him.

It follows that then a person can say, “My strength and the might of my hand have gotten me these riches.” In that regard, the verse says that he must know that “the Lord your God is giving you,” that it is indeed only God’s gift. That is, the fact that you had the strength to place judges and officers in all your gates was but a gift from God.

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