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Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam)

5. Lishma Is an Awakening from Above, and Why Do We Need an Awakening from Below

I heard in 1945

In order to attain Lishma, it is not in one’s hands to understand, as it is not for the human mind to grasp how such a thing can be in the world. This is because one is only permitted to grasp, that if one engages in Torah and Mitzvot, he will attain something. There must be self-gratification there; otherwise, one is unable to do anything.

Instead, this is an illumination that comes from Above, and only one who tastes it can know and understand. It is written about that, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Thus, we must understand why one should seek advice and counsels regarding how to achieve Lishma. After all, no counsels will help him, and if God does not give him the other nature, called “the Will to Bestow,” no labor will help one to attain the matter of Lishma.

The answer is, as our sages said (Avot, 2:21), “It is not for you to complete the work, and you are not free to idle away from it.” This means that one must give the awakening from below, since this is discerned as a prayer.

A prayer is considered a deficiency, and without deficiency there is no fulfillment. Hence, when one has a need for Lishma, the fulfillment comes from Above, and the answer to the prayer comes from Above, meaning one receives fulfillment for one’s need. It follows, that one’s work is needed to receive the Lishma from the Creator only in the form of a lack and a Kli (Vessel). Yet, one can never attain the fulfillment alone; it is rather a gift from God.

However, the prayer must be a whole prayer, that is, from the bottom of the heart. It means that one knows one hundred percent that there is no one in the world who can help him but the Creator Himself.

Yet, how does one know that, that there is no one to help him but the Creator Himself? One can acquire that awareness precisely if he has exerted all the powers at his disposal and it did not help him. Thus, one must do every possible thing in the world to attain “for the Creator.” Then one can pray from the bottom of one’s heart, and then the Creator hears his prayer.

However, one must know, when exerting to attain the Lishma, to take upon himself to want to work entirely to bestow, completely, meaning only to bestow and to not receive anything. Only then does one begin to see that the organs do not agree to this idea.

From that one can come to clear awareness that he has no other counsel but to pour out his complaint before the Lord to help him so that the body will agree to enslave itself to the Creator unconditionally, as one sees that he cannot persuade his body to annul his self entirely. It turns out that precisely when one sees that there is no reason to hope that his body will agree to work for the Creator by itself, one’s prayer can be from the bottom of the heart, and then his prayer is accepted.

We must know that by attaining Lishma, one puts the evil inclination to death. The evil inclination is the will to receive, and acquiring the will to bestow cancels the will to receive from being able to do anything. This is considered putting it to death. Since it has been removed from its office, and it has nothing more to do since it is no longer in use, when it is revoked from its function, this is considered putting it to death.

When one contemplates “What profit hath man of all his labor wherein he labors under the sun,” one sees that it is not so difficult to enslave oneself to His Name, for two reasons:

  1. Anyhow, meaning, whether willingly or unwillingly, one must exert in this world, and what has one left of all the efforts he has made?

  2. However, if one works Lishma, one receives pleasure during the work itself too.

According to the proverb of the Sayer of Dubna, who spoke about the verse, “thou hast not called upon Me, O Jacob, neither hast thou wearied thyself about Me, O Israel.” He said that it is like some rich man who departed the train and had a small bag. He placed it where all the merchants place their baggage and the porters take the packages and bring them to the hotel where the merchants stay. The porter had thought that the merchant would certainly have taken a small bag by himself and there is no need for a porter for that, so he took a big package.

The merchant wanted to pay him a small fee, as he usually pays, but the porter did not want to take it. He said: “I put in the depositary of the hotel a big bag; it exhausted me and I barely carried your bag, and you want to pay me so little for it?”

The lesson is that when one comes and says that he has exerted extensively in keeping Torah and Mitzvot, the Creator tells him, “thou hast not called upon Me, O Jacob.” In other words, it is not my baggage that you took, but this bag belongs to someone else. Since you say that you had much effort in Torah and Mitzvot, you must have had a different landlord for whom you were working; so go to him and he will pay you.

This is the meaning of, “neither hast thou wearied thyself about Me, O Israel.” This means that he who works for the Creator has no labor, but on the contrary, pleasure and elated spirit.

However, one who works for other purposes cannot come to the Creator with complaints that the Creator does not give him vitality in the work, since he did not work for the Creator, for the Lord to pay for his work. Instead, one can complain to those people that he had worked for to administer him pleasure and vitality.

And since there are many purposes in Lo Lishma, one should demand of the goal for which he had worked to give him the reward, namely pleasure and vitality. It is said about them, “They that make them shall be like unto them; yea, every one that trusts in them.”

However, according to that, it is perplexing. After all, we see that even when one takes upon oneself the burden of the Kingdom of Heaven without any other intention, he still does not feel any liveliness, to say that this liveliness compels him to take upon himself the burden of the Kingdom of Heaven. And the reason one does take upon oneself that burden is only because of faith above reason.

In other words, one does it by way of coercive overcoming, unwillingly. Thus, we might ask: Why does one feel exertion in this work, with the body constantly seeking for a time when it can be rid of this work, as one does not feel any liveliness in the work? According to the above, when one works in humbleness, and has only the purpose of working in order to bestow, why does the Creator not impart him taste and vitality in the work?

The answer is that we must know that this matter is a great correction. Were it not for that, meaning if Light and liveliness had illuminated instantaneously when one began to take upon himself the burden of the Kingdom of Heaven, one would have had liveliness in the work. In other words, the will to receive, too, would have consented to this work.

In that state he would certainly agree because he wants to satiate his desire, meaning he would work for its own benefit. Had that been the case, it would never have been possible to achieve Lishma.

This is so because one would be compelled to work for one’s own benefit, as one would feel greater pleasure in the work of God than in corporeal desires. Thus, one would have to remain in Lo Lishma,since thus he would have had satisfaction in the work. Where there is satisfaction, one cannot do anything, as without profit, one cannot work. It follows that if one received satisfaction in this work of Lo Lishma, one would have to remain in that state.

This would be similar to what people say, that when there are people chasing a thief to catch him, the thief, too, runs and yells, “Catch the thief.” Then, it is impossible to recognize who is the real thief so as to catch him and take the theft out of his hand.

However, when the thief, meaning the will to receive, does not feel any flavor and liveliness in the work of accepting the burden of the Kingdom of Heaven, if in that state one works with faith above reason, coercively, and the body becomes accustomed to this work against the desire of one’s will to receive, then one has the means by which to come to a work that will be with the purpose of bringing contentment to one’s Maker.

This is so because the primary requirement from a person is to come to Dvekut (Adhesion) with the Creator through one’s work, which is discerned as equivalence of form, where all of one’s deeds are in order to bestow.

It is as the verse says, “Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.” The meaning of “Then” is that first, in the beginning of one’s work, he did not have pleasure. Instead, one’s work was coercive.

However, afterwards, when one has already accustomed oneself to work in order to bestow, and not examine oneself – if he is feeling a good taste in the work – but believes that he is working to bring contentment to his Maker through his work, one should believe that the Creator accepts the labor of the lower ones regardless of how and how much is the form of their work. In everything, the Creator examines the intention, and that brings contentment to the Creator. Then one is imparted, “Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.”

Even during the work of God he will feel delight and pleasure, as now one really does work for the Creator because the effort he made during the coercive work qualifies one to be able to work for the Creator in earnest. You find that then, too, the pleasure that one receives relates to the Creator, meaning specifically for the Creator.

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