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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

What Is the Difference between General and Individual in the Work of the Creator?

Article No. 33, Tav-Shin-Mem-Het, 1987/88

Our sages wrote (Makot 24), “Habakkuk came and established them on one: As it was said, ‘And a righteous lives by his faith.’” This means that the fact that we must observe all of the Torah and Mitzvot [commandments/good deeds] is in order to achieve this element, which is faith. That is, what is required of a person, that he must achieve wholeness, is to come to faith in the Creator. This means that once he has achieved faith, he is a complete person.

We must understand this matter. There is the matter that a person must engage in the correction of creation, since because man was created with a nature of wanting to receive for himself, which is opposite in form from the Creator, for the Creator is the giver and through disparity of form, man became separated from the Creator, so how does having faith help him if he is still separated from the Creator? Also, why did they say, “Habakkuk came and established them on one: ‘And a righteous lives by his faith’”? which implies that if he has faith then he has wholeness.

The answer is that we must know that there is an important matter here, which is a key issue that requires much attention so that we can accept this as the gate by which man can be rewarded with complete faith. Otherwise, he will have only partial faith. It is written in the “Introduction to The Study of the Ten Sefirot” (Item 14): “Rather, it is partial faith. Thus, one allots oneself out of the measure of his faith in the Creator only one hour a day to practice Torah and work. …The third does not neglect even a single moment. …Thus, only the faith of the last one is whole.” In order for a person to be rewarded with complete faith, he must first emerge from self-love, or he will not be able to be granted with complete faith. Otherwise, he will not be given from above the possibility to have complete faith.

However, this is for man’s benefit. It is as it is written in the Sulam (“Introduction of The Book of Zohar,” [with the Sulam (Ladder) Commentary], Item 138): “It is a law that the creature cannot receive disclosed evil from the Creator, for it is a flaw in the glory of the Creator for the creature to perceive Him as an evildoer, as it is unbecoming of the Complete Operator. Hence, when one feels bad, denial of the Creator’s guidance lies upon him to that extent, and the Operator is concealed from him.”

Therefore, before a person can receive the delight and pleasure from the Creator, he cannot achieve faith. The condition that must be met in order to be given the delight and pleasure is vessels of bestowal. On the vessels of reception, there was a correction not to use them, for by them one becomes distant from the Creator due to the disparity of form between them. It follows before faith, a person must be rewarded with the correction of the Kelim [vessels], called “correction of creation.”

It is as Baal HaSulam wrote there: “Know that this is the whole difference between this world, before the correction, and the end of correction. Before the end of correction, Malchut is called ‘the tree of good and evil,’ since the Malchut is the guidance of the Creator in this world. As long as the receivers have not been completed so they can receive His whole benevolence, which He had contemplated in our favor in the thought of creation (meaning that while our vessels of reception have not been corrected to work in order to bestow, He cannot give us the delight and pleasure because it will all go to the Klipot [shells/peels]), the guidance must be in the form of good and bad, and reward and punishment. It is so because our vessels of reception are still tainted with self-reception, which is very restrictive in its quality, and also separates us from the Creator. Thus, the complete benefit, in the great measure He had contemplated for us, is absent.”

Accordingly, we see that indeed, this element, which is faith, is the most important. We asked, How can it be said that faith is wholeness, since we also need the correction of creation, called “obtaining vessels of bestowal?” Otherwise, the abundance cannot come to the lower ones because of the disparity of form. The answer is that in general, we must observe Torah and Mitzvot in order to obtain vessels of bestowal. It is as our sages said, “I have created the evil inclination; I have created the Torah as a spice, for the light in it reforms him.”

It follows that the first discernment in the order of the work is to reform the evil, called “will to receive for oneself,” meaning that he will have the strength to use everything in order to bestow. However, we should discern here that in order to come to know that the will to receive is called “evil,” we need Torah and Mitzvot. Before a person realizes that the receiver is called “evil,” how can he be reformed? It is as we said in previous essays, that our sages said, “Why is the Torah called Tushia [gumption/resourcefulness]? It is because it Mateshet [drains/exhausts] man’s strength.” We asked, but they said, “If his head aches, let him engage in Torah. If his belly aches, let him engage in Torah, as was said, ‘It is a healing to all his flesh’” (Iruvin 54).

According to what Baal HaSulam said, the Torah is called a “potion.” That is, sometimes it is a potion of life, and sometimes it is a potion of death. He said that a medical potion heals those who are sick. But if a healthy person took medical potions he would become sick. That is, when the Torah comes to one who has a need, it can heal him. Accordingly, we should interpret that first a person must learn Torah, in order to see that he is sick.

This is why they said that the Torah exhausts a person’s strength. That is, through the Torah, he can come to see that the “man” in him is weak and has no strength to overcome. At that time he sees that he is sick in spirituality. Through the Torah, he comes to the recognition of evil, as The Zohar says about the verse, “Or make his sin known to him,” which means that the Torah notifies him that he has sinned.

If the Torah does not notify him, a person cannot know or feel that receiving for oneself is called “bad” due to the disparity of form between him and the Creator. Knowing that disparity of form causes separation has to come from above, through the Torah. Hence, we should say that the order is that 1) he observes Torah and Mitzvot in order to achieve recognition of evil, and 2) he observes Torah and Mitzvot because “the light in it reforms him.” This is the time when he receives strength from above, called “desire to bestow,” which is regarded as equivalence of form. 3) Faith, which is the meaning of “Habakkuk came and established them on one: ‘A righteous lives by his faith.’” It follows that everything we do in Torah and Mitzvot in general is in order to achieve this element, which his faith. At that time he can receive complete faith. It follows that all of his work is only in order to achieve this.

However, before these three above discernments, there is a discernment that applies to the whole of Israel. This is the first discernment when a person’s education in Torah and Mitzvot begins: It is that the whole world must know for what purpose they should observe the Torah and Mitzvot—to receive reward. And if they do not observe, they will suffer punishment. This is the common order, as Maimonides says, “When teaching children, women, and uneducated people, they are taught to work only out of fear and in order to receive reward. Until they gain knowledge and acquire much wisdom, they are taught that secret little by little” (Maimonides, Hilchot Teshuva, Chapter 10).

It follows that the order of the work is that 1) the whole of Israel are taught to observe Torah and Mitzvot with all its details and intricacies with an intention of self-love. They must not be taught that they must work Lishma [for Her sake], which is in order to bestow. Rather, they must work and toil only in order to receive for their own benefit.

We should know that work for self-love means to be rewarded with the next world by observing Torah and Mitzvot. If that person has real energy to work for self-benefit, he will be ready to do anything. That is, if he is energetic and wants to be rewarded with the next world, he will be willing to do work that is above reason, which a person’s reason cannot understand. It is as it is written (Deuteronomy 12:30), “Beware, do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?’You shall not do so, for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.”

RASHI brings the interpretation of our sages: “Including their fathers and mothers. Rabbi Akiva said, ‘I saw a foreigner who tied his father before his dog and ate him.’ The author of the book Siftei Chachamim interprets, ‘He means to say idolatry. ‘He ate him’ means that he burned him in fire.’”

However, we must know that although a man is willing to work for his own benefit and do the hardest work if he believes that he will be guaranteed the next world, even if they are told to burn their sons and daughters and their parents, there are among them with energy and strength for this work, since they are still inside the Kli [vessel] of self-love. It follows that this is still not regarded as “above reason.” In other words, we can understand that it is inherent in nature that a person is willing to do anything for the will to receive for himself.

We also find that during the ruin of the Temple, it is written (Lamentations 4:10), “Compassionate women cooked their own children; they became food for them.” The Holy Alsheich interprets “food for them” to mean that “only they themselves ate their children’s flesh. This is the meaning of ‘for them,’ only the mothers alone ate, and did not share it with their remaining children, even though they, too, were hungry.”

This shows us what a person can do for self-love when there is no Kedusha [holiness/sanctity] but rather the ruin of Kedusha, and only the will to receive for themselves rules: “Compassionate women cooked their own children.”

We have two examples: 1) For the will to receive, in return for burning children and parents, the next world, or in order to receive this world, for which “Compassionate women cooked their own children.” It follows that a person can do anything in order to satisfy the will to receive—the nature in which man is born.

But when beginning to work on the path of the individual, meaning to be rewarded with Dvekut with the Creator, meaning when we must emerge from self-love, a person cannot do even the smallest work. That is, if a person is told, “Do the same thing you are doing, but place over it the aim to bestow upon the Creator without any reward. This is very hard to do because it is against nature, called “will to receive for oneself.”

That is, the same work, meaning the same practical labor that a person does, without needing to add any effort but simply aim to do this for the sake of the Creator, leaves him powerless. It seems to him as though a high mountain stands in front of him and he cannot move the mountain one bit. He feels as though his whole world has been ruined, and all because it is against our nature.

In that state, when a person wants to reach the truth and do the work of the individual, he is notified from above that he is in a state of lowliness, since he sees that he cannot do anything for the sake of the Creator. That state is called “recognition of evil.” This is called “the first state in the work of the individual,” which is recognition of evil.

Afterward begins phase two, when he must observe Torah and Mitzvot so that the light in it will reform him, since through the light he will receive vessels of bestowal, meaning that he will have passion to bestow upon the Creator and from this he will enjoy.

After that comes phase three, which is complete faith, as was said above, that “Habakkuk came and established them on one: ‘And a righteous lives by his faith.’” This is the element [also “individual”] that a person must achieve. When he has faith, he will be rewarded with the delight and pleasure in His providence, as The Good Who Does Good.

We could ask about what is written in the Sulam [Ladder Commentary on The Zohar]: “It is a law that the creature cannot receive disclosed evil from the Creator, for it is a flaw in the glory of the Creator for the creature to perceive Him as an evildoer. Hence, when one feels bad, the Operator is concealed from him.” Why should the Creator mind if a person perceives him as an evildoer? Does the Creator seek respect from the created beings, to respect Him for His sake? He does not need things that pertain to flesh and blood.

Rather, it is for man’s sake. The flaw that we speak of in spirituality, such as that he casts a flaw in Kedusha, the Sitra Achra [other side] is there at the root of the soul of a person who has caused the flaw above. That is, we must believe that the name of the Creator is The Good Who Does Good.

It follows that when a person feels that he is in a bad state, he cannot justify Providence and say that the Creator is behaving toward him as The Good Who Does Good. It follows that a person receives the flaw that he has flawed in the Holy Name, which is The Good Who Does Good. And when a person receives good from above, he is happy and can say wholeheartedly, “Blessed is He who said, ‘Let there be the world.’”

But when a person feels bad, he cannot say, “Blessed is He who said, ‘Let there be the world.’” Instead, a person says what Job said (Job 3), “And Job answered and said, ‘Let the day on which I was born perish, and the night which said, ‘A boy is conceived.’ That day shall be darkness.’” For this reason, this is a correction because at that time, when a person does not believe that the Creator has caused him all the hardships, he does not slander the Creator.

By extension, in corporeality, we sometimes see a person whose son works for a salary that is not enough to sustain him. When he began to work, he was still a bachelor and the salary then was good. But now, he cannot sustain himself on this salary. The father speaks to his son: “Since you see that the employer is not giving you a raise, go look for a job that pays better.” But the son replies, “I am already used to the employer and the coworkers; I cannot leave that place.”

What does the father do? He goes to the employer and tells him of the situation with his son. The employer replies that he cannot give him a raise, but he can send him to where he will be better paid. At that time, the father asks of him: “Tell my son that you have no work for him, so he will go elsewhere. I spoke to him several times about leaving the job where he is not paid well and go where they pay a better salary, but I will tell you the truth, he told me that he likes you and his coworkers and this is why he does not want to leave this place. Therefore, if you fire him, he will have no choice but to go elsewhere. But I am asking you, don’t tell him that I’ve been here and asked you not to let him work for you. Otherwise, he will say that he has a father who is cruel to his son. That is, he cannot understand that by trying to get him fired, it is for his best. That is, when he hears from his employer that I asked that he would be fired, what would he say, ‘May the Lord bless my father, who is trying so hard only for my sake’? There is no doubt, he will be very angry at his father.”

So it is in spirituality—that the Creator sends a person a state of descent. That is, from a situation where he received sustenance, although his father understood that it was not sufficient sustenance and he could earn more, the son did not understand it. For this reason, the Creator sends him a descent, which is akin to being fired from work. At that time, he is angry with the Creator for sending harm his way, since he knows that prior to this, he was in a state of ascent in spirituality, but the Creator threw him, so of course he is angry with the Creator. This is regarded as “He who doubts the Shechina [Divinity], his punishment is very grave.” Therefore, when there is a correction that he does not find the evildoer, he has no one at whom to be angry. It follows that not knowing who is the one doing all these things is to his best.

He said there, “One who exerts not to part from faith in Him, although he tastes a bad taste in Providence, is rewarded. If he does not exert, he will be punished because he has parted from faith in Him. Thus, although He alone did, does, and will do all the deeds, this still remains hidden from those who feel good and bad.”

We see that one who can exert and say that the Creator is sending him the bad, and it is for his best, he remains in faith, to the extent that he can say that the Creator has sent him the state he is in for his own benefit. This is not regarded as “doing harm.” Thus, he remains in faith.

Conversely, if he cannot say that the Creator has sent him this for his sake, but that it is to his detriment, that state is called that the Creator does harm. For this reason, He must hide from him the Operator. This is regarded as losing the faith, and it is regarded as a punishment.

It follows that were it not for the ascents and descents, a person would not be able to feel that he is deficient. That is, he would not feel that he needs heaven’s mercy, that it is not within man’s power to emerge from self-love and make his wish only to bring contentment to his Maker. Rather, all his work can be only for his own sake, and in self-benefit, he has the power to do things that a person cannot imagine. Or, as it was at the time of the ruin of the Temple, when compassionate women cooked their own children, as they served their gods, burning their sons and daughters.

But to work for the Creator, meaning not wanting any return for their work, even merely an intention over the acts of reception, a person cannot do this. That is, if one wants to eat for the sake of the Creator and not for his own sake, although the act is reception of pleasure, what he should intend is out of his hands. Only the Creator can help here. This is the difference between the general work, which belongs to the general public, and the work of the individual.

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