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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

What Are the Four Qualities of Those Who Go to the Seminary, in the Work?

Article No. 10, Tav-Shin-Mem-Het, 1987/88

Our sages said (Avot, Chapter 5:17), “There are four qualities among those who go to the seminary: He who goes but does not do has the reward of going in his hand. He who does but does not go has the reward of doing in his hand. He who goes and does is a Hassid. He who neither goes nor does is wicked.”

We should understand the following: 1) Why does he not say about one who goes and does that he has the reward of going and doing, but merely calls him a Hassid? 2) He says, “Four qualities among those who go to the seminary, and counts one who neither goes nor does as one of the qualities of those who go to the seminary. But he is not doing anything, so why does he count him as one of the qualities?

First we need to understand the reward for going and the reward for doing. It is known that it is forbidden to work for a reward, as our sages said, “Serve the Rav [great one] not to receive reward.” However, we should understand what is written (Avot 2:1), “Calculate the loss of a Mitzva [commandment/good deed] opposite its reward.” Thus, we do need to work for a reward, as it is written, “If you learned much Torah, you are given a great reward, and you can trust your landlord to pay for your work.”

We see that the whole world works for a reward. However, reward does not necessarily mean money, which is a return for the effort. Rather, anything that a person receives in return for his work, something he needs and which will make him happy, counts as a reward. For this reason, we see that a person might work and toil for money, but one might also pay money for respect. Sometimes, a person gives money and respect in order to get his life. In other words, a reward is that which a person needs, as it is written, “Man will give all that he has for his life.”

Thus, what is the reward we can receive in return for observing Torah and Mitzvot [plural of Mitzva]? It is Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator, as it is written, “What does the Lord your God ask of you? To cling unto Him.” It is written in the essay “A Speech for the Completion of The Zohar”: “It is known that the desired purpose of the work in Torah and Mitzvot is to cleave unto the Creator, as it is written, ‘and to cleave unto Him.’”

Dvekut means repentance. Since man was created with an inherent desire to receive for himself, which is called “separation” due to disparity of form, meaning that because of it, a person becomes far from Him, in order to achieve equivalence of form, called Dvekut, he must make great efforts in order to struggle with his nature, which is a desire to receive for himself and not to bestow. Also, the measure of bestowal that a person much achieve is “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” He must not leave any existence for himself, to the extent that a person cannot achieve equivalence of form by himself.

Instead, what one must do is only to be as “he who comes to purify.” In other words, a person should prepare a Kli [vessel] and a need for the Creator to help him. It is known that there is no light without a Kli. It follows that the measure of the labor is that a person must install within him a lack, that he is deficient of equivalence of form, called “repentance.” He yearns to repent, but he is unable to achieve it by himself.

Thus, for what does he pray and labor in order to be rewarded for his labor? Only for yearning for repentance, since through the exertion he puts in order to achieve repentance, it gradually installs in him a lack and need by which a person sees that he needs the help of the Creator. At that time, “He who comes to purify is aided” comes true. The Zohar asks, “With what is he aided?” It answers, “With a holy soul.” At that time he is rewarded with a soul, as in, “Man’s soul will teach him.”

By this we will understand what we asked, “Is it permitted to work and toil in order for the Creator to reward us, since they said, ‘Be as slaves serving the Rav [great one] in order not to be rewarded.’” However, we should understand why it is forbidden to receive reward. It is so because a person must work in order to achieve equivalence of form. If one asks for reward for his work, then he is under the authority of self-reception. This is the opposite of equivalence of form, and why it is forbidden to work for a reward.

But one who works and toils and prays for the Creator to reward his labor, what reward is he aiming for? The reward he wants is for the Creator to give him the strength to make all his thoughts and actions be only about bestowal upon the Creator, and not for his own sake. Thus, this reward he is asking brings him to equivalence of form, which is called “repentance,” when he returns to Dvekut with the Creator, from whom he parted.

This is similar to what he says in the book A Sage’s Fruit (Part 1, p 116): “It is known that the soul is a part of God above. Before it comes in a body, it is as adhered as a branch to the root.” It is also written there that “the purpose of the soul when it comes in the body is to be rewarded, while clothed in the body, with returning to its root and to clinging unto Him.”

We therefore see that a person should try to be rewarded for his work, and the reward is repentance. That is, we do not say that a person should aim while working in Torah and Mitzvot, that the work will be without an intention to be rewarded. On the contrary, a person must always have a clear goal before him, as it written in The Zohar, “Man’s prayer should be sufficiently explicit and clear.” In other words, a person must know what he needs, and he should try to obtain it through labor and prayer.

However, it is known that the prayer must come from the bottom of the heart. In other words, a person must clearly know that alone, he cannot achieve repentance, which is to adhere to the Creator in equivalence of form. This awareness comes to a person only when he has done everything he could do. Then it can be said that now he knows for certain that it is out of his hands, and only the Creator can help him.

Now we will explain what we asked concerning what our sages said about the four qualities among those who go to the seminary: 1) “He who goes but does not do has the reward of going in his hand.” In the work, this means that he is going on the way to achieve Dvekut with the Creator, called “the way of bestowal.” However, he sees that he is not doing anything with the aim to bestow.

He “has the reward of going in his hand,” meaning that the fact that he wants to walk on the path of truth is already considered a reward. In other words, he should thank the Creator for rewarding him with a desire to walk on the path of truth, while others, who engage in Torah and Mitzvot, do not have this desire. They settle for simply working, without considering their intention while engaging in Torah and Mitzvot, as is the general public.

2) “He who does but does not go has the reward of doing in his hand.” This means that he engages in Torah and Mitzvot in everything he can observe, in every detail and intricacy. However, he is not walking on the path that leads directly to Dvekut with the Creator. Instead, he settles for what he does without the intention. He “has the reward of doing in his hand.” Although he is not going, his reward is that he should be pleased because the Creator has given him a desire and yearning to observe Torah and Mitzvot. He does not see any merit in himself compared to other people, to whom the Creator did not give this desire and yearning, while he did receive from the Creator this desire. He believes that everything happens through private Providence.

For this reason, he gives many thanks to the Creator for being able to have a part in Torah and Mitzvot, while the rest of the people were not privileged with this. This is considered that he “has the reward of doing in his hand,” that he thanks the Creator. This degree applies to both the general public and to individuals. That is, those who are advancing on the individual path also have times when they do not want to be among those who are “going,” so they should be happy with “doing.”

3) “He who goes and does is a Hassid.” We asked, Why in the first two discernments, it is written that he has a reward in his hand, while here in the third discernments, it does not say that he has a reward in his hand, but rather that he is a Hassid?

We should interpret we must know that whether he “goes but does not do” or “does but does not go,” a person still has his own authority. That is, he has still not been rewarded with annulling his self-authority and inclusion in the Creator, which is called “repentance.” Our sages said, “The Torah exists only in he who puts himself to death over it.” We interpreted that he has annulled his self-authority and then he has only the singular authority, which is the authority of the Creator, while he himself does not even appear in reality.

Therefore, in a state of “going and doing,” it cannot be said that he has a reward in his hand, since he has no hand. That is, he has no self-authority of which we can say that there is he who can receive. This is why they said Hassid, meaning he is in a state where he says, “Mine is Yours, and Yours is Yours.” There can be reward between two authorities, similar to an employee working for an employer. The employer pays him for his work.

But if a son works for his father and the son is supported by his father, meaning he is still living in his father’s house and has no independence, then the son does not receive a salary from his father. However, when the son begins to think that he wants to be independent and not be dependent on his father, his father begins to pay him a salary for his work.

The same applies here in the work, when a person is rewarded with “going and doing” everything for the sake of the Creator. At that time, he has no self-authority, but rather he annuls himself before the Creator. This is called “ Dvekut and equivalence of form,” and it is called “repentance.” At that time, it cannot be said that he has a reward in his hand because he has no hand to buy, meaning his own authority. This is why they did not say, “reward in his hand,” but said that he is regarded as a Hassid.

Now we will explain what we asked when he says, “four qualities among those who go to the seminary,” and one of them is “he who neither goes nor does.” If he does not do anything, why is it regarded among the four qualities of those who go to the seminary?

It is known that when a person wants to work on the path to achieve Dvekut with the Creator, which is equivalence of form, the body objects to everything. He might come to a state where he feels that he has come to the worst lowliness, meaning he sees that he is “not going,” meaning he is not advancing in bestowal, and he is “not doing” either, meaning he is unable to do good deeds, and anything he does requires tremendous efforts.

That is, now he sees that he is worse than when he began to work on the path of bestowal. Previously, he was very happy when he was doing good deeds, and especially during prayer. But now he has come to such lowliness that it is very difficult for him to pray. That is, all the things he would do with joy before he began to work on bestowal, now he sees them as lowly.

Now he feels the meaning of “ Shechina [Divinity] in the dust,” meaning that all the sacred things have the form of dust, namely they taste like dust. Every little thing he does is unbearably hard because it has lost its value. Thus, now he sees that he has regressed, meaning he is neither going nor doing. It is about this that our sages said that he is wicked.

However, the question is, Why has he come to this state after all the efforts he has made because he wanted to walk on the path of truth? According to what Baal HaSulam said, the time of answering the prayer, for man to receive permission to enter the King’s palace so that He will bring him closer to Him and he will be rewarded with Dvekut with the Creator, is specifically when a person sees that, he is lost and powerless to do anything. At that time a person gives a real prayer, since he sees that he is simply wicked. That is, he has no grip on Kedusha [holiness/sanctity].

For this reason, when a person comes into a descent, he should not be startled and escape the campaign. On the contrary, this is the time to make a heartfelt prayer.

In this regard, we should interpret what our sages said ( Hulin 7b), “Israel are holy. Some want and do not have.” RASHI interprets that some want to please others with what he has but is unable to, and from him, I do not want to enjoy. “Some have and do not want.” RASHI interprets that he has the ability but does not want to delight others. “So said Rabbi Pinhas to Rabbi.”

The question is, Why is the one who has but does not want to give to others regarded as holy? The Tosfot explains, “He who has but does not want, even so they are called ‘holy,’ for he invites his friend to eat at his place because of shame.”

We should interpret “Israel are holy” in the work. There is he who wants to work in order to bestow but does not have. When he considers his actions, he sees that he is immersed in self-love and cannot do anything in order to bestow. He is called “holy” because he is walking on the path of truth. Although he sees that he is regressing, he still clings to the path of truth. In the end, he will touch the truth, meaning that he is truly in Dvekut with the Creator. Because the most important are the Kelim [vessels], called “desire,” and since he wants to achieve Dvekut, he will be rewarded.

It is as Baal HaSulam said about what is written, “Will give wisdom to the wise.” He asked, “It should have said, ‘Will give wisdom to the fools.’ However, ‘wise’ is he who desires wisdom. Then he has a Kli [vessel] in which to bestow. But fools have no desire for wisdom whatsoever, as it is written, ‘the fool has no desire for understanding.’”

It follows that one who wants to walk on the path of Kedusha is called holy. “Holy” means as it is written, “You will be holy,” which means that they retire from self-reception. For this reason, he is holy. This is the meaning of the words, “Israel are holy; there is he who wants but does not have.” And there are also those who have but do not want. This means that he has Mitzvot and good deeds, but he does not want to walk on the path that leads to “in order to bestow.” Instead, he settles for Lo Lishma [not for Her sake]. He, too, is called “holy,” since the act is fine and he has nothing to add in actions.

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