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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

Lend Ear, O Heaven

Article No. 2, Tav-Shin-Mem-Vav, 1985-86

“‘Lend ear, O heaven.’ Rabbi Yehuda started, ‘I opened for my beloved. ‘The voice of my beloved knocks.’ He says, ‘The voice of my beloved knocks’ is Moses, who admonished Israel in several arguments, in several quarrels, as it is written, ‘These are the words,’ ‘You have been rebellious,’ and ‘In Horev you provoked,’ as it is written, ‘knocks.’” (In the Sulam [Ladder commentary], items 1-2) “Although Moses admonished Israel, all his words were with love, as it is written, ‘For you are a holy nation to the Lord your God,’ and ‘The Lord your God has chosen you to be His people,’ ‘but because the Lord loved you,’ as it is written, ‘Open to me, my sister, my wife,’ affectionately.”

We should understand the words of the holy Zohar.

1) If he gives so many praises to the people of Israel, as it is written, “For you are a holy nation to the Lord your God,” and “The Lord your God has chosen you to be His people,” how can we speak of admonition? If they are a holy people, what else is missing in them?

2) What does that teach us for posterity, since they are two opposites in the same carrier? That is, either they are a holy nation, or they are not!

3) There is a rule: “Love covers all transgressions.” The writing says (Deuteronomy, 7:7), “The Lord did not desire you nor choose you because you were more numerous than all the nations, for you were the fewest of all peoples … but because of the Lord’s love for you.” Therefore, how is it possible to find transgressions in them, since “Love covers all transgressions”?

The thing is that it is known that there is the matter of two writings that deny one another until the third writing comes and decides. “Lines” in spirituality means that the quality of Hesed [mercy] is called “right line.” Hesed means that he only wants to do good to others and wants nothing in return. He longs for the love of the Creator and has no concern for himself. Rather, all his aspirations are only to bestow contentment upon his Maker, and for himself he is content with little. That is, he has no regard for what he has, namely good flavors in Torah, in prayer, or in Mitzvot [commandments], but is happy with his lot.

Here, in spirituality, when a person introspects and says that he believes in Private Providence, that everything comes from above, meaning that the Creator has given him a thought and desire to serve the Creator and engage in Torah and Mitzvot although he feels no flavor in Torah and Mitzvot. Still, he does not mind it and says that he is satisfied with being able to keep the commandment of the Creator. This, alone, is to him as though he has made a fortune. And even though he does not attain the greatness of the Creator, whatever he does have satisfies him and he believes it is a gift from Heaven that he was given the thought and desire.

He sees that others were not given this. Rather, all they aspire for is to attain corporeal things, meaning to be favored by people or delight the body with things that animals use, as well. But he, on the other hand, was given a thought and desire to serve the Creator, “and who am I that He has chosen me?” It is as we say, “Blessed are You, O Lord, who chooses His people, Israel, with love.”

It turns out that we bless the Creator for choosing us, meaning that we were given a thought and desire to keep Torah and Mitzvot. Therefore, when he looks at others, who haven’t that desire for Torah and Mitzvot that he has, he says that He has chosen him over others to serve Him. Although He has given him only a small service, without any intellect and reason, he says that even this service, the least of the least, is more than his own worth because when he looks at himself through the eyes of the greatness of God, he says that he does not deserve even this. Therefore, he is certainly as happy as though he has been rewarded with a service fit for great men.

The right line comes from the upper Sefirot. This discernment is called the Sefira [sin. of Sefirot] Hesed, pertaining to equivalence of form with the Creator—as He gives, so the lower one wishes to give to the upper ones. This is regarded as equivalence of form, where he does not regard what he has in vessels of reception. Rather, his only measurement of wholeness is his ability to bestow.

Even if he cannot bestow much, he settles for this because he examines his lowliness compared to the Giver, and compared to other people whom he sees as more virtuous than him. Still, he was given from above a thought and desire that they were not given, and he does not say about anything, “My power and the might of my hand.”

For this reason, he is always satisfied and has nothing to add to his work. Rather, he thanks and praises the Creator as much as he can, and thanks and praises Him in all kinds of praises. And even when he does not give the praise and gratitude that he thinks he should give to the Creator, he does not regret this because he says about himself, “Who am I to always speak to the King, as is suitable for important people, and not to lowly ones like me?” It follows that he is always in wholeness and has nothing to add.

And if he sometimes forgets about matters of work and his mind is immersed in worldly matters, and after some time he remembers about spirituality and sees that the whole time he was dealing with corporeal matters of this world, he still does not think about the time he was separated. Instead, he is happy that the Creator has summoned him from among all the people and told him, “Where are you?” He promptly begins to thank the Creator for reminding him that he should think about spirituality.

It follows that even in that state he does not think about deficiencies and regrets that he has completely forgotten about work-matters this whole time, but he is happy that at least now he can think about the work of the Creator. It follows that now, too, he is in a state of wholeness and will not come to a state where he is weakened from the work, but will always be in wholeness. This is called “right line,” Hesed, which is wholeness.

However, this depends on the extent to which a person believes in Private Providence, meaning that the Creator gives everything—the light, as well as the Kli [vessel]—meaning both man’s desire and deficiency for this, that he is not so adhered to the Creator, and also the feeling in his body of lack of keeping of Torah and Mitzvot. The Creator gives everything. The light is certainly something that the Creator must give because the flavor in Torah and Mitzvot certainly belongs to the Creator. It is as we say on the night of Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement], “For she is like clay in the hands of the potter. When He wishes He gives abundantly; when He wishes He gives sparingly. So are we in Your hands, Keeper of mercy.”

It follows that if a person sees that a desire to study awakens in him, even one hour a day, and when he is praying he sees that for a few minutes he knows he is praying and does not forget that he is wrapped in a Talit [prayer shawl] and Tefillin, and his heart thinks every thought in the world, and then he remembers for a few minutes that he is crowned in the Talit and Tefillin and that now he is in the middle of a prayer, and he begins to think to whom he is speaking during the prayer. He feels that he is not simply speaking, but is standing before the King, and he believes in “You hear the prayer of every mouth.” Although he sees that he has already prayed many times and his prayer was not answered, he still believes above reason that the Creator does hear the prayer, and the reason his prayer has not been granted is that he probably did not pray from the bottom of the heart. Therefore, he takes upon himself to pray more intently “and the Creator will certainly help me and grant my prayer.” Then he promptly begins to thank the Creator for reminding him that he is now crowned with Talit and Tefillin. He feels good since he looks at other people, how they are still asleep, while with me, “the Creator has awakened me in the middle of the prayer,” so he is joyful.

If a few more minutes pass and he forgets once more where he is, and thinks about the ox and the donkey, and he is suddenly awakened once again from above, it makes sense that he would complain that he has forgotten about the whole thing—that he is in the synagogue now. However, he does not want to hear about it. Rather, he is happy that he has been reminded. It follows that in this way he only looks at “do good,” meaning that he is happy that now he was able to do good and does not notice that until now he was roaming the world of separation.

He can feel all this to the extent that he recognizes his value, that he is not better than other people, and that they even have the spirit of heresy and no affinity to Judaism. He also sees that there are people who do not even pay attention to Judaism, but they live like all other animals, with no concern for any purpose in life. Rather, they think that their whole lives, which they regard as being at a higher level than that of animals, is that they are also concerned with respect, and they understand that sometimes it is better to relinquish lust in order to obtain respect. But as for Judaism is concerned, even if they were circumcised by their parents they themselves pay no attention to it because other things interest them more.

When he looks at them, he sees that he does not know why he has been privileged more than them with the Creator’s giving him a thought and desire to engage in Torah and Mitzvot even if only in action. That is, he sees that he is still far from achieving the degree of Lishma [for Her sake], but he says, “In any case, I have been privileged with Lo Lishma [not for Her sake], as our sages said, ‘From Lo Lishma we come to Lishma.’ Thus, at least I’m on the first stage of Kedusha [holiness].” He contemplates how happy he is that the Creator has ushered him into the first degree of Kedusha, called Lo Lishma, how much he should thank and praise the Creator, especially that if a person is rewarded and is given a thought of engaging in the secrets of Torah, although he does not understand a single word that is written there, it is still a great privilege that now he is adhered to the study of the internality of the Torah.

In other words, he believes that they speak only about Godliness and he has room to delve in his thought, since “everything I’m learning is of the holy names, so I must be very fortunate. Therefore, all I need to do is thank and praise the Creator. That is, the vitality of the whole world comes only from nonsense, while I have been rewarded with entering the first stage of Kedusha, called Lo Lishma.” This is regarded as “right line,” meaning wholeness, which requires no correction.

However, it is written, “right, and left, and between them a bride.” That is, we also need a left line. We really need to understand this: if he feels that he is in wholeness and can thank and praise the Creator all day and all night, what else does he need? However, he himself knows that it is Lo Lishma, and man’s purpose is to work for the Creator, and he says that he has not achieved this degree. So how can one rise in degrees if he does not feel deficient?

There is a rule that if a person is asking something from the Creator, it must be from the bottom of the heart. This means that one should feel the deficiency in the heart, and not as lip-service. This is so because when one is asking for luxuries, which you can live without, no one has mercy on that person when he yells and cries for not having something many others do not have. And although he yells and cries to be given it, it is uncommon that there will be people who will pity him. However, when one is yelling and crying for a deficiency that he has, but the rest of the world has that thing and he does not, then when he yells and cries out for people’s mercy, then he is heard, and anyone who can help tries to help him.

It is the same here in the work of the Creator. When he tries to find wholeness in the right line, although he knows he has to try to make all his works be for the Creator, he also knows that man must keep what is written, “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalms 1). He does not observe this but he is trying with all his might to feel wholeness in the right line. At that time, although he knows he still has no wholeness, he still cannot ask the Creator to give him strength to be able to keep “And in His law he mediates day and night,” and cry out to the Creator to help him achieve Lishma, unless as luxuries and not as necessities.

This is so for the abovementioned reason that when one asks for something and yells and cries for not having it, but other people in his town also do not have it, he cannot say that this is a necessity, but rather a luxury, and one does not cry or beg for luxuries. But here, when he is walking on the right line and sees that what he has, other people do not have, since only a tiny portion of the world has what he has in spirituality, then how can he say that his demand of the Creator to bring him close so he can engage Lishma? This is a luxury, and one cannot ask for luxuries from the bottom of the heart, meaning that that deficiency will teach the depth of the heart. He himself is saying that what he has is already a great thing, so how can he ask the Creator to have mercy on him concerning a luxury, to give him the strength to engage Lishma, meaning in order to bestow contentment upon his Maker?

It follows that it is impossible for one to ask the Creator to guide him how to walk on the path of truth, since he does not have such a need, for we say about luxuries, meaning about something that others do not have, “troubled shared is troubled halved.” Therefore, he has no chance of ever achieving recognition of evil, that the fact that he cannot engage in Torah and Mitzvot for the Creator is bad. It follows that he accepts the state of Lo Lishma, and although this way is called a “path of falsehood,” and not the “true path,” he will never feel that he is marching on the path of falsehood, as it is written in the “introduction of The Book of Zohar” (item 175).

Therefore, one must also walk on the left line. However, one must allocate only a small amount of time for scrutinizing the left line. Most of the time he should be in the right line, since only those who have an inner attraction to achieve Lishma are allowed to walk on the left line, too. However, those who feel that they are not among workers, who think that they cannot overcome their desires, they must not walk on the left line. For this reason, even those with an internal attraction to achieve Lishma, although they can walk on the left line, they need to be careful not to walk on the left line for more than a short period of time, and only at a set time. And not at any time but according to the time each one allots himself to scrutinize the left line.

The schedule should be that either one sets one’s daily schedule, or a weekly schedule, or a monthly one. It is each according to his feeling, but he should not change the schedule he had decided on in the middle. If he wants to change in the middle because the body comes to him and lets him understand that “it is more like you to have a different schedule than the one you have arranged for yourself,” then he must tell his body, “I have my schedule. When I make another schedule, meaning if I have made a schedule for the whole week, when the week is over I will begin to make a new schedule, then you can come to me and tell me to make another schedule than the one I want to make. But I cannot change the schedule in the middle.

However, we should know the meaning of the left line, since there are many discernments in the left line. There is a left line that is complete darkness. This is called “Malchut being the quality of judgment and rising in each and every Sefira and becoming darkness.” That is, no light shines there. There is also a left line called “Hochma without Hassadim.” This is also called “darkness,” but the darkness there is only with respect to the light. With respect to the Kelim, his Kelim have already entered Kedusha, meaning that he can aim when he uses the vessels of reception in order to bestow, as well.

It follows that that left line is a great degree. It is called “darkness” due to the plentiful abundance that appears then. As long as he hasn’t a clothing of Hassadim, he is forbidden to use that light because while using he might fall into receiving in order to receive due to the plentiful abundance that he cannot overcome and receive in order to bestow. This is why we need the left line; this is why the left line is very important.

First we need to know that there is no time or space in spirituality. Therefore, what is the meaning of right and left lines?

The thing is that anything that does not require correction is called “right line,” and something that requires correction is called “left line.” We find this matter concerning the placing of Tefillin. Our sages said (Minchot 37), “Rabbi Yosi Hachorem: ‘How do we know that we place on the left? He learned it where Rav Natan learned it: Rav Ashi said that it is written, ‘from your hand,’ with a blunt Hey. RASHI interpreted that writing with a blunt Hey implies female, left, as he said that she is as powerless as a female.”

This means that “left” is regarded as weak and powerless, and that it must be given strength. This is why we see that wherever we want to give an example of something that requires correction we call it “left.” This is why after the left line we need the middle line, which corrects the left line. And this is why we call that which needs correction by the name, “left,” so as to know that now we need to make corrections.

The corrections that correct the left are called “middle,” since the line shows the deficiencies in the right, meaning that the right itself does not show any deficiency until the left line comes. That is, by his engagement in the left line he sees that there are deficiencies in the right. Once he has entered the left he loses the wholeness he had in the right, therefore now he is in a state of deficiency.

However, there are many discernments we should make in the deficiency that the left line shows, meaning what is the reason that there is a deficiency in the left. That is, the left says that there is a deficiency in the right. But sometimes we do not see any deficiency in the left line, and then who is showing that there is a deficiency in the left line, too, once the left has shown that there is a deficiency in the right? Thus, the way of the left must be wholeness. Hence, what is the reason that there is a deficiency in the left, for which he calls it, “left”? there are many discernments about this; it is all according to the issue because in any situation, a person finds a different reason and it is impossible to determine the reason. Rather, it is all on a case-by-case basis.

The left in the beginning of the work is criticism on the right—if it is right to remain in falsehood because we were given Torah and Mitzvot because we have the bad, called “self-love,” meaning to care for nothing, but rather every means is acceptable in order to obtain the goal of satisfying our will to receive with every possible satisfaction. It is called “bad” because it obstructs us from achieving Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator and exiting self-love, as the animate mind necessitates. Rather, the goal is to be rewarded with Dvekut with the Creator, after which he will receive the delight and pleasure that exist in the thought of creation, called “His desire to do good to His creations.” With this one can please the Creator because by this the Creator completes His goal from potential to actual—for the creatures to feel the delight and pleasure He has contemplated in their favor.

Since this will to receive, regarded is self-love, is all that obstructs this, it is called “bad.” To exit this bad He has given us Torah and Mitzvot, to reach the degree called “servant of the Creator.” It is not that he is working for himself, but rather to achieve the degree of Lishma.

In the right, he delights with the wholeness of Lo Lishma, which means that he is walking on the path of falsehood and wants to stay there. But although he knows he is in the degree of Lo Lishma, why is it considered that he wants to stay in Lo Lishma?

This follows the rule that one cannot ask the Creator from the bottom of the heart about a deficiency for a luxury, but rather only for a necessity. Since he is already happy that he is in Lo Lishma, even after all of his excuses he has—that it is good to be happy even in Lo Lishma, he nonetheless can no longer feel a deficiency to need this necessarily. Rather, this will be as luxury for him if we can engage in Torah and Mitzvot Lishma. Thus, he must stay in the right line.

Therefore, he should work with attention and criticism on the right line, meaning to see the deficiencies in the right line. Because of it, to the extent that he feels the deficiencies, meaning that the deficiencies he sees mean nothing because man’s impression with the deficiencies depends on the extent to which it touches his heart to feel the deficiency as incomplete and his inclination toward the truth and his loathing of lies, so if that deficiency touches the heart, meaning that the situation he is in pains him, then the previous state of right line, when he had wholeness, is inverted in him to suffering. At that time he can pray to the Creator from the bottom of the heart because now the Lishma is as important to him as life because through it he clings to the life of lives. But when he was attached to the right line, the Lishma was a luxury in his eyes, meaning that he could live without it, too, but one who wants to improve his life and be above others has to try to achieve the degree of Lishma.

When one sees that he does not regard Lishma as luxuries, meaning to be above others, but that now he feels that he is the worst of them because he sees how far he is from the Creator and from the quality of truth, more than the rest of the people, although he does not see them going on the path of Lishma, it does not change anything that he sees no one going on the path of Lishma because with matters that concern the heart, one is not impressed by others. Although it is said, “trouble shared is troubled halved,” these maxims do not change his situation.

By way of allegory, if a person has a toothache and is crying and yelling, and he is told, “Why are you yelling? Can’t you see that there are other people here, at the dentist’s clinic, whose teeth are hurting just as yours?” We see that he does not stop crying because of his toothache. The fact that there are other people like him changes nothing for him. If he is really in pain, he cannot look at others so as to find relief for his own pain, if he is really hurting.

Similarly, if a person has really come to feel that he is far from the truth, he will not be comforted by the fact that everyone is taking the path of falsehood. Rather, day and night he longs to come out of that state. At that time a person acquires the need to achieve Lishma because he can no longer tolerate the falsehood.

But since that Kli [vessel] is not made all at once, meaning that the desire that the person receives from the left line is not made at once, but that desire forms in him gradually until it reaches the complete measure, and before this he still cannot achieve Lishma, since there is no light without a Kli, it means that he cannot be awarded Lishma before he desires it, and that desire grows within him slowly. Penny after penny joins into a great amount, meaning it is filled into a complete desire, and then the Lishma can dress in that desire because he already has a complete Kli, meaning a complete desire to be rewarded with Lishma.

However, we must know that when he is on the left line, meaning when he criticizes himself, he is in separation. This is so because he feels that he is immersed in self-love and does not care about being able to do something for the Creator. In that state he cannot exist because man can live only from the positive and not from the negative.

Therefore, a person must enter the right line once again, meaning keep Torah and Mitzvot Lo Lishma and say that there is wholeness in it, as we have explained above. We need to know the fundamental rule that there is a difference between Ohr Pnimi [Inner Light] and Ohr Makif [Surrounding Light]. Ohr Pnimi means that the light shines inside the Kelim [vessels]. This means that the light dresses in the Kli because there is equivalence between the light and the Kli, and the Kli can already receive the light in order to bestow. But Ohr Makif means illumination from afar. This means that although the Kli is still far from the light, since the Kli is on order to receive and the light is pure bestowal, yet, the light shines from afar, as in, surrounding the Kelim.

This is why when we engage in Torah and Mitzvot Lo Lishma we still receive illumination in the form of Ohr Makif. It follows that through Lo Lishma we already have contact with the upper light, although it is illumination from afar. This is why it is called “positive,” and a person can receive vitality from this and exist. By appreciating the Lo Lishma, he appreciates the service of the Creator in general, that it is worthwhile to engage in Torah and Mitzvot in any manner. Baal HaSulam said that in truth, one cannot appreciate the value of keeping Torah and Mitzvot in Lo Lishma, for in the end there is nothing to add in actions. Rather, he keeps the commandment of the Creator and this is why this is regarded as the first stage in the work, of which our sages said, “From Lo Lishma we come to Lishma.” For this reason, man should receive vitality and wholeness from the right line, at which time he receives the light of the Creator as Surrounding Light.

Afterwards he must criticize his actions once again, his engagement in the right line, and once again to shift to the right line. By this the two lines grow in him. However, these two lines contradict one another and they are called “two writings that deny one another until the third writing comes and decides between them.”

Yet, we should know that the Creator gives the third line, called the “middle line,” as our sages said, “There are three partners in man: the Creator, his father, and his mother. His father sows the white; his mother sows the red; and the Creator places a spirit and a soul in him.” According to the above, it turns out that two lines belong to the lower one, and the middle line belongs to the Creator. This means that the two lines cause him to be able to pray from the bottom of the heart to the Creator to help him out of self-love and achieve Dvekut with the Creator, since when a person prays from the bottom of the heart, his prayer is answered.

However, we should know that there are many aspects to the three lines.

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