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Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam)

59. About the Rod and the Serpent

I heard on Adar 13, February 23, 1948

“And Moses answered and said: ‘But, behold, they will not believe me,’” etc. “And the Lord said unto him: ‘What is that in thy hand?’ And he said: ‘A rod.’ And He said: ‘Cast it on the ground…’ and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it” (Exodus 4).

We must understand that there are not more than two degrees, either Kedusha (Sanctity) or Sitra Achra (Other Side). There is no intermediary state, but the same rod itself becomes a serpent, if thrown to the ground.

In order to understand that, we will precede with the words of our sages, that He had put His Shechina (Divinity) on trees and rocks. Trees and rocks are called things of inferior importance, and specifically in this manner He placed His Shechina. This is the meaning of the question, “What is that in thy hand?”

A hand means attainment, from the words, “and if a hand attains.” A rod means that all one’s attainments are built on the discernment of inferior importance, which is faith above reason.

(This is because faith is regarded as having inferior importance, and as lowness. One appreciates the things that clothe within reason. However, if one’s mind does not attain it, but resists one’s mind, then one should say that the faith is of superior importance to one’s mind. It follows that at that time one lowers one’s mind, and says that what he understands within reason, that he resists the path of the Creator, that faith is more important than his mind. This is because all the concepts that contradict the path of the Creator are worthless concepts.

Rather, “that have eyes, and see not, that have ears, and hear not.” It means that one annuls everything that one hears and sees, and this is called going above reason. And thus it seems to a person as lowness and smallness.

However, with the Creator, faith is not considered lowness. This is because one who has no other counsel and must take the path of faith considers faith as lowness. However, the Creator could have placed His Shechina on something other than trees and rocks.

Yet, He chose this way, called faith, specifically. He must have chosen it because it is better and more successful. You find that for Him faith is not regarded as inferior importance. Quite the contrary, this path has many merits, but it appears low to the eyes of the creatures.)

If the rod is thrown to the ground and one wants to work with a higher discernment, meaning within reason, degrading the above reason, and this work seems low, one’s Torah and the work immediately become a serpent. This is the meaning of the primordial serpent, and this is the meaning of, “Any one who is proud, the Creator tells him: ‘He and I cannot dwell in the same abode.’”

The reason is, as we have said, that He has placed His Shechina on trees and rocks. Hence, if one throws the discernment of the rod to the ground, and raises oneself to work with a higher attribute, this is already a serpent. There is no middle; it is either a serpent, or Kedusha, since all the Torah and the work that one had from the discernment of a rod, all has now entered the discernment of serpent.

It is known that the Sitra Achra has no Lights. Hence, in corporeality too, the will to receive has only deficiencies, but not fulfillments of the deficiencies. And the vessel of reception remains forever in deficit, without fulfillment, because one who has one hundred, wants two hundred etc., and one does not die with half one’s wish in one’s hand.

This extends from the Upper Roots. The root of the Klipa (Shell) is the vessel of reception, and they have no correction in the six thousand years. The Tzimtzum (Restriction) is placed upon them, and hence, they do not have Lights and abundance.

This is why they entice one to draw Light to their degree. And the Lights that one receives by being adhered with Kedusha, since abundance shines in Kedusha, when they seduce one to draw abundance to their state, they receive that Light. Thus, they have dominion over a person, meaning they give him satisfaction in the state he is in so that he will not move away.

Hence, one cannot move forward through this dominion because one has no need for a higher degree. Since one has no need, one cannot move from one’s place, even a slight movement.

In that state one is unable to discern if one is advancing in Kedusha or the other way around. This is because the Sitra Achra gives one power to work more strongly, since now one is within reason, and can therefore work not in a state of lowness. It follows that thus one would remain in the authority of the Sitra Achra.

In order for one to not remain in the authority of the Sitra Achra, the Creator had made a correction where if one leaves the discernment of the rod, one immediately falls into the discernment of the serpent. One immediately falls into a state of failures and has no power to strengthen, unless one accepts the discernment of faith, called lowness, once more.

It follows that the failures themselves cause one to take upon himself the discernment of rod once more, which is the discernment of faith above reason. This is the meaning of what Moses had said, “But, behold, they will not believe me.” It means that they will not want to take upon themselves the path of working in faith above reason.

In that state the Creator had told him, “What is that in thy hand? A rod.” “Cast it on the ground,” and then, “it became a serpent.” It means that there is no intermediary state between the rod and the serpent. It is rather to know if one is in Kedusha, or in the Sitra Achra.

It turns out that in any case, they do not have any choice other than to assume the discernment of faith above reason, called “a rod.” This rod should be in the hand; the rod should not be thrown. This is the meaning of the verse, “The rod of Aaron was budded.”

It means that all the budding one had in serving the Creator was based specifically on Aaron’s rod. This means that He wanted to give us a sign to know if we are walking on the path of truth, or not. He gave us as sign to know only the basis of the work, meaning what basis one is working on. If one’s basis is the rod, it is Kedusha, and if the basis is within reason, this is not the way to achieve Kedusha.

However, in the work itself, meaning in the Torah and in the prayer, there is no distinction between one who serves Him and one who does not serve Him. This is because it is the opposite there: if the basis is within reason, meaning based on knowing and receiving, the body gives fuel for work, and one can pray and study more persistently and more enthusiastically, since it is based on within reason.

However, when one takes the path of Kedusha, whose basis is bestowal and faith, one requires great preparation so that Kedusha will shine for him. Without the preparation, the body does not give one the strength for work, and one must always exert extensively, since man’s root is reception and within reason.

Hence, if one’s work is based on earthliness, one can always be alright. However, if one’s basis for the work is on the discernment of bestowal and above reason, one needs perpetual efforts so as not to fall into one’s root of reception and within reason.

One must not be neglectful for a minute, otherwise one will fall into one’s root of earthliness, called “dust,” as it is written, “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” And that was after the sin of the Tree of Knowledge.

One examines if one is advancing in Kedusha or to the contrary, since another god is sterile and does not bear fruit. The Holy Zohar gives us that sign, that specifically on the basis of faith, called “a rod,” is one imparted “be fruitful and multiply” in the Torah. This is the meaning of “the rod of Aaron was budded”: the budding and growing come specifically through the rod.

Therefore, as one rises from one’s bed daily and washes oneself to purify one’s body from the filth of the body, so one should wash oneself from the filth of the Klipa, to examine oneself if one’s discernment of rod is in completeness.

This should be a perpetual examination, and if one is distracted from it, one immediately falls to the authority of the Sitra Achra, called self-reception. One becomes immediately enslaved to them, as it is known that the Light creates the Kli, hence, as much as one works in order to receive, to that extent one needs only a desire to receive for oneself, and becomes remote from matters concerning bestowal.

Now we can understand the words of our sages, “Be very very humble.” What is that fuss that it says, “very very”? It is because one becomes needy of the creatures, by having been honored once. At first one receives the honor not because he wanted to enjoy the honor, but for other reasons, such as the glory of the Torah, etc.. One is certain of this scrutiny since one knows about himself that he has no desire for honor whatsoever.

It follows that it is reasonable to think that one is permitted to receive the honor. However, it is still forbidden to receive because the Light makes the vessel. Hence, after one has received the honor, one becomes needy of the honor, and one is already in its dominion, and it is hard to break free from the honor.

As a result, one acquires one’s own reality and it is now hard to annul before the Creator, since through the honor one has become a separate entity, and in order to obtain Dvekut (Adhesion) one must annul one’s reality completely. Hence the “very, very.” “Very” is that it is forbidden to receive honor for oneself, and the other “very” is that even when one’s intention is not for self, it is still forbidden to receive.

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