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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

Ancestral Merit

Article No. 11, Tav-Shin-Mem-Dalet, 1984

A dispute is introduced regarding ancestral merit (Shabbat, p 55): “Shmuel said, ‘Ancestral merit has ended.’ Rabbi Yohanan said, ‘Ancestral merit pardons.’” In the Midrash (Midrash Rabah, Vayikra, 37), “Rav Aha said, ‘Ancestral merit exists forever and is forever mentioned.’” And there, in the Tosfot, it is said, “Rabeinu Tam says that ancestral merit has ended, but ancestral covenant has not ended.” To Rabbi Yohanan it seems that there is no dispute between Shmuel and Rabbi Yohanan: Shmuel said that it ended for the wicked but not for the righteous, and Rabbi Yohanan is referring to the righteous.

According to the above, we can interpret what is being asked about the choice: “If there is ancestral merit, then there is no choice here, since ancestral merit causes a person to be righteous. And according to the words of the Tosfot, in the name of the ARI, who says that ancestral merit is only for the righteous, it follows that initially one has choice, so as to be righteous, and subsequently one can enjoy the ancestral merit.

From the essay Matan Torah [“The Giving of the Torah”] (item 19), it appears that thanks to ancestral merit we have the power to make the choice, and were it not for ancestral merit we would not be able to make the choice. In reality, we see that even though we have ancestral merit, we still do not see that everyone has the strength to make the choice. Rather, everyone finds it difficult. However, the ancestral merit assists us in making the choice.

This means that choosing applies where there are two equal things, and I must decide. But when one side is more difficult than the other, it cannot be said that I must decide, since I naturally lean toward the stronger side. Therefore, thanks to ancestral merit they are two equal forces and we can decide. This is called that we were given the strength to make the choice.

To understand these mattes we should look at what is written in the essay, “The Giving of the Torah” (item 19): “Therefore, the Creator did not find a nation or a tongue qualified to receive the Torah, except for the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whose ancestral merit reflected upon them, as our sages said, ‘The Patriarchs observed the whole Torah even before it was given.’ This means that because of the exaltedness of their souls, they had the ability to attain all the ways of the Creator with respect to the spirituality of the Torah, which stems from their Dvekut [adhesion] with Him, without first needing the ladder of the practical part of the Torah, which they had no possibility of observing at all (as written in item 16). Undoubtedly, both the physical purity and the mental exaltedness of our holy fathers greatly influenced their sons and their sons’ sons.”

It therefore follows that thanks to ancestral merit we can make the choice. Otherwise, it would be impossible.

However, we need great mercy even once we have ancestral merit, so we can make the choice, meaning abandon self-love and take upon ourselves love of others, and that all our aspirations will be only to bestow contentment upon the Creator. And even with all the powers of Torah and Mitzvot [commandments], that we will be able to defeat the evil in us and turn it into good.

However, we should understand why he says “Ancestral merit has ended.” The question is, “What existed prior to the end of ancestral merit?” And if so, there was no need for choice then, since he had ancestral merit. However, we should say that a person’s request that He will help him come close to Him—to the true service of the Creator—is the prayer itself. His request that He will help him with ancestral merit is itself considered a “choice.” The choice is that he is doing what he can, and this is already regarded as a choice.

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