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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

What Are the Two Discernments before Lishma?

Article No. 11, Tav-Shin-Mem-Het, 1987/88

The Zohar, Exodus, asks about the verse, “These are the names of the sons of Israel who are coming to Egypt with Jacob; they came each one with his household.” Why does it begin with Israel and end with Jacob? It explains there in relation to the upper degrees. We should understand the meaning of the two degrees during the period of preparation, too, before a person is rewarded with Lishma [for Her sake]: “Israel” implies wholeness, since Israel is Li-Rosh [a Rosh (head) unto me], and Jacob is a smaller degree.

The order is that a person begins the work of the Creator in Lo Lishma [not for Her sake]. At that time the work he does is in practice, meaning without the intention, which should be to bestow. Therefore, in the practice, a person sees that he is making good progress, and each day his possessions of Torah and Mitzvot [commandments/good deeds] increase. A person feels that he is in a state of ascent, since he sees that he is rising in degree, meaning he sees that he is accumulating more each time.

In that state he receives vitality in his work from the Surrounding Light, which shines for everyone, meaning the light that shines for the whole of Israel, as it is explained (in The Study of the Ten Sefirot, Part 1) that the Surrounding Light shines even for the vessels of reception. Conversely, the Inner Light shines specifically to the vessels of bestowal, since the first restriction, which was over Behina Dalet [Phase 4], not to receive light within it, caused the light to depart from the Kli [vessel], for the light was shining in the interior.

Concerning the Surrounding Light, it is explained in Panim Masbirot that “The fourth is the Surrounding Light itself, since now Ein Sof [infinity/no end] illuminates bestowal from its place in remoteness from the place. That is, since the point of desire of Behina Dalet has been diminished and contained no will to receive, she lost her vessel of reception and could not receive within her the light of Ein Sof as before, and the middle point became removed from the light. For this reason, we call this “Removal of place to Ein Sof.”

This means that the light of Ein Sof shines as surrounding even in places where the Kli is still unfit to receive in order to bestow. Rather, this is called “restricted illumination.” Conversely, the Inner Light shines abundant bestowal, as explained there.

For this reason, in the state of Lo Lishma, a person feels that he is regarded as Israel. But when a person wants to begin the work of bestowal, meaning to have Kelim to receive Inner Light, when he wants to emerge from self-love, then he comes into the exile in Egypt. That is, then a person sees how he is remote from Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator in equivalence of form. Instead, whether in mind or in heart, the Klipa [shell/peel] of Egypt governs.

In that state, he sees that he is far from being Israel. Instead, he is in a state of Jacob, a state of Katnut [smallness/infancy] from the words Akev [heel] and Sof [end]. In other words, he is in utter lowliness, seeing that each day, he is farther from the Creator and has no grip on Kedusha [holiness/sanctity].

This is called the “exile in Egypt.” This is the meaning of Pharaoh coming to a person and asking, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” That is, each time, thoughts of Pharaoh come and ask him this question, and a person has but one counsel, to cry out to the Creator to help him out of these thoughts, which are a concealment that hides the faith in the Creator. This is also called Metzar-Mi [narrow/distress-who], when Mitzraim [Egypt] ask, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” This is Metzar-Yam [narrow-sea].

In that state, he is always in doubt. This is the meaning of the words, “who are coming to Egypt,” meaning Metzar-Koh [narrow/distress-Creator]. “With Jacob” means that they have come to the degree of Akev [heal], the Sof [end] and conclusion of Kedusha [holiness/sanctity], which they felt in the Koh [Creator] when they had to take upon them the kingdom of heaven. They regretted not being able to do so because of the questions of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, who governed them with the “who” and “what” questions, which are regarded as “mind” and “heart,” meaning “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice,” and “What is this work for you?”

This is the meaning of the words, “From the narrow place, I called on Koh [the Lord].” The prayer is because they suffer troubles from the Egyptians, as it is written, “And they cried out to the Lord in their distress; He will save them from their afflictions.” It is known that Tzar [narrow/distressing] means narrow in Hassadim [mercies]. That is, they could not engage in bestowal. In other words, when they wanted to take upon themselves the kingdom of heaven—called Koh—in order to bestow, they felt narrowness [also troubles], that they could not do anything in Hesed [mercy].

The difference between bestowing and working in order to receive is great. When we want to use the vessels of reception, we can derive delight and pleasure from the fact that sparks of light, called “vessels of reception,” were placed in the Klipot [shells/peels] from the beginning, so that the world would exist. For this reason, when a person wants to use the vessels of reception, he has a place from which the pleasures called “slim light” extend and shine in the world so it may exist.

But when a person does not want to use the vessels of reception, but he has not obtained vessels of bestowal, he is in an uncomfortable state. He still does not have the place from which to draw delight and pleasure. Hence, when he wants to work in bestowal and receive delight and pleasure in vessels of bestowal, since he still does not have vessels of bestowal, when he feels the exile he cries out, “From the narrow place, I have called on Koh [the Lord]; answer me in the wide expanse, Koh.” “Wide” means expansive in Hassadim, when the Creator helps him with the quality of Hassadim, meaning gives him vessels of bestowal.

This is regarded as emerging from the exile in Egypt and entering redemption, in that now he can work in order to bestow because he already feels the importance of the greatness of the Creator, since he has vessels of bestowal, called “equivalence of form.” This is so because when the Creator gives him the expansion of the vessels of bestowal, the Tzimtzum [restriction] and concealment are removed from him, which he had through the power of the control of the Klipa of Egypt with their questions and dominations. Now, however, he receives the kingdom of heaven not as something “narrow,” as before, but “expansively.” This is the meaning of “Answer me in the wide expanse, Koh.” At that time it is regarded that he has been rewarded with work Lishma.

It follows that we should make two discernments in the work even before we achieve Lishma. The first is Israel, when he feels that he has wholeness, as in Li-Rosh [a head unto me]. This applies to the work of the general public, at which time he receives the general surrounding, which shines from afar. That is, even when a person is still remote from the Creator, meaning he is still immersed in his will to receive for himself, even in this Lo Lishma there are pleasures that are mixed together with his work. These are pleasures he receives from other people who respect and honor him, etc., which he receives from people because they know that he is serving the Creator. Here he receives the pleasure of “slim light,” which is given to corporeal pleasures, which are generally called “envy,” “lust,” and “honor.” Because of it, they feel themselves as whole, as Israel.

The second discernment is when he begins to enter the work of Lishma. At that time he begins to go down to the exile in Egypt, and the body begins to betray the person and does not let him do this work by asking all kinds of questions that cannot be answered within reason, while above reason, a person cannot always overcome it. At that time he begins to feel ascents and descents because each time, he is shown from above what is the work of bestowal and not for his own sake. Although every person understands this, when it comes from above, when he is given the understanding, he comes to feel it. This is when the work with “mortar and bricks” begins, when they feel the hardships of the enslavement of the exile.

According to the above, we should interpret “And the king of Egypt died.” This pertains to the work for their own sake, called the Klipa of the King of Egypt.” They have stopped working for him, meaning they felt that working for themselves, called “the control of the king of Egypt,” is regarded as death. Instead, they took upon themselves to work for the sake of the Creator, but then they had no power to work because the king of Egypt governed them.

It follows that they do not work for their own sake, yet cannot work for the sake of the Creator. This is the meaning of the verse, “And the children of Israel sighed from the work, and they cried out, and their cry rose up to God from the work.” That is, what is the meaning of “and they cried out”? It is that “their cry rose up” pertained to “God from the work.” That is, the fact that they wanted their work to be for the sake of God and not for their own sake, but could not do the work, this was their cry.

It is known that there is no light without a Kli. In other words, it is impossible to give something to someone by force, as it is known that there is no coercion in spirituality. Therefore, when a person is afflicted and suffers pain and suffering from not being able to emerge from self-love and work only for the sake of the Creator, he cries out to the Creator to help and give him what he wants. That is, if the Creator gives him this: the ability to revoke his own authority and annul before the authority of the Creator, for he wants only the singular authority to be in the world, namely the authority of the Creator; this is his only salvation. This is considered that he has a Kli and a need for the Creator’s help.

This is the meaning of the words, “And God heard their groaning.” That is, once they had a Kli, which is a desire and need to have the ability to work for the sake of the Creator, then comes the time when “God heard their groaning,” meaning that then the redemption began—delivering them from under the afflictions of Egypt.

However, it is known that we must walk on two lines, meaning on the right line, too. This means that a person must thank the Creator for letting him see what he was lacking. In other words, the fact that his suffering is from being remote from the love of the Creator, that these are his troubles and pains, whereas other people, the Creator does not give them this suffering, but their troubles and suffering are from being unable to satisfy their corporeal needs, which pertain to self-love, meaning that they are as beasts and have no idea of anything other than self-reception. For this they were in gladness and gratitude to the Creator.

However, this is hard work, since the left line cancels the right line. Hence, there is always new work to rebuild it. This is the meaning of the words, “And they made their lives bitter with hard work with mortar and with bricks.” Their work was with Homer [mortar], meaning on the left line, when they saw the gravity of their situation, how remote they were from the love of the Creator. Afterward, the work on the right line is to be in gladness because the Creator’s showed them the truth about the state that they are in. This is called Levenim [bricks].

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