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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

What Is, “There Is No Blessing in That Which Is Counted,” in the Work?

Article No. 18, Tav-Shin-Mem-Tet, 1988/89

It is written in The Zohar (Ki Tissa, Item 2): “Come and see: It was established that there is no blessing above on that which is counted. And if you say, ‘How were Israel counted?’ He took from them ransom for their souls, and they established that they did not calculate until all the ransom was collected and reached the number. It follows that in the beginning, Israel are blessed when receiving the ransom. Afterward, they count the ransom and bless Israel once more. It turns out that Israel were blessed in the beginning and in the end, and there was no plague in them. He asks, ‘Why does a plague appear because of the count?’ He answers, ‘It is because there is no blessing in that which is counted. And since the blessing has departed, the Sitra Achra [other side] is on it and can do harm.’”

We should understand the following: 1) If there is no blessing in that which is counted, what is the difference if we count people or the ransom instead of the people, since in the end, we know the number of people? Thus, how does it help if we swap the ransom because finally, we know their number? 2) Why is the ransom specifically a half shekel and not a full or a quarter shekel? What does half mean to us? 3) Why does the verse say, “The rich will not give more and the poor will not give less”? Is there anyone who does not know that if we need to know a certain number and swap, so that instead of counting people, we count something else, it must be the same thing for everyone, or it will not be possible to know the count? What does this come to teach us? 4) How does it benefit us if we are blessed in the beginning and in the end if there is counting in the middle? Do the blessings spoil the counting if there cannot be a blessing in that which is counted?

To understand all this in the work, we must pay attention to the purpose that we must achieve. It is known that every purpose that we want to achieve requires labor. Without labor, nothing can be accomplished. Thus, in the work of the Creator, what is the purpose of that we want to achieve and for which we labor?

The answer is, achieving Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator, which is called “equivalence of form.” That is, as the goal of the Creator in creating the world was to do good to His creations, our goal should be to do good to the Creator. In other words, man should do things to please the Creator. This is called “equivalence of form.”

This means that when the two forms come as one, the purpose of the Creator dresses in the purpose of the created beings. It follows that His will to do good to His creations, which is the purpose of creation, dresses in the desire to bestow contentment upon his Maker, and this is called “receiving in order to bestow.” It follows that we should say that our reward for the labor is the obtainment of the goal, much like corporeal matters, when we exert, and in return achieve the goal that we aspire for, for nothing is given without an effort.

It follows that when a person wants to walk on the path of truth in order to achieve his goal, called “Dvekut with the Creator,” where all his actions are in order to bestow, he must put in labor, which is called “suffering.” This means that a person has to go against his nature, meaning that man was created with Kelim [vessels] to delight himself, and he must walk on the path that will lead to pleasing the Creator and not for his own sake.

However, the body resists it. There are wars over this. Once, the desire to bestow prevails, and once, the will to receive triumphs. Yet, we must know that all the powers we will have so we can go against the will to receive, we must receive from the Torah. It is as our sages said, “I have created the evil inclination; I have created the Torah as a spice.”

That is, what is the reward one expects when he engages in Torah and labors in the Torah? It is to aim to be rewarded with the desire to bestow upon the Creator. This is considered that he is learning Torah in order to achieve Lishma [for Her sake], called “in order to bestow.” This is regarded as “cling unto His attributes.”

Accordingly, there are two manners in labor in the Torah: 1) He labors in the study of Torah in order to thereby obtain self-benefit, such as in order to be called “Rabbi” or for payment of money. 2) He labors in the Torah in order to obtain the power to go against self-benefit. It follows that here there is a different discernment to make in the labor. That is, a person must make great efforts in order to have the strength to labor in the Torah for this intention which is against the body. Moreover, the body resists him as much as it can and does not want to give him energy to exert in the Torah with this intention. But in Lo Lishma [not for Her sake], the body sees that if it gets what it wants to receive in return, the body gives him fuel to work so he can exert in Torah and Mitzvot [commandments/good deeds], since the reward it expects to receive does not go against the body. Hence, the body can give him energy to work.

Therefore, when a person sees that he can obtain self-benefit through labor, he has the power to do things and make great efforts, and there is no weakness in his work. This is how “women, little ones, and uneducated people” are first educated, since it is possible to convince a person to engage in Torah and Mitzvot only through Lo Lishma.

However, when a person should replace the goal, meaning where in the beginning of his work in Torah and Mitzvot, his goal—which he wanted to achieve through the labor—was self-benefit, now he replaces the goal. That is, where he thought, “When will I achieve the goal for my will to receive so I can enjoy?” now he yearns for the goal and says, “When will I be able to delight the Creator and relinquish self-benefit?”

Since this purpose is against nature, he needs more faith in the Creator, since he must always exert to obtain the greatness of the Creator. That is, to the extent that he believes in the greatness of the Creator, to that extent he can work with this intention. For this reason, it is upon a person to pray each day that the Creator will open his eyes so he will recognize the greatness and importance of the Creator, so he has fuel to labor with the aim to bestow.

There are two discernments to make in this: 1) to have a desire to bestow contentment upon his Maker, that this will be his only aspiration, 2) to do things with the aim that the actions will bring him a desire to do things in order to please the Creator. In other words, he must work and toil extensively to obtain light and Kli [vessel]. Light means that he received from the Creator a desire where he craves all day to bring contentment to the Creator. A Kli is a desire, meaning that he wants to bestow upon the Creator. Those two, he should receive from the Creator, meaning both the light and the Kli.

However, a person should demand this, and it is written about this, “Zion, no one requires her.” Our sages said, “This means that she ought to be sought,” meaning that there must be a demand on the part of the lower ones that the Creator will give them both the light and the Kli.

Accordingly, we should interpret what is written (in the Musaf [supplemental] prayer of Rosh Hashanah): “The far will hear and come, and will give You a crown of kingship.” It is known that the order of the work is as it is written, “We will do and we will hear.” “Doing” pertains to the created beings. This is called “which God has created to do.” That is, the part of doing pertains to us, and by this we will be rewarded with hearing, which is what the Creator lets us hear. But of themselves, the creatures cannot take upon themselves the work for the Creator, which is only for the Creator, without interference of self-benefit.

Yet, the hearing comes from the Creator, as it was at the time of the giving of the Torah, when the people of Israel heard from the Creator “I,” and “You shall not have.” But preceding this was a preparation to receive the Torah, as our sages said (Shabbat 87) that there was the matter of limiting and abstaining, as it is written, “And you shall dedicate today and tomorrow.” Subsequently, they were rewarded with hearing the Torah.

By this we should interpret, “The far will hear and come,” meaning the fact that they are far, that there is a Torah [law] of life, which is called as it is written, “For with You is a source of life,” which is Dvekut with the Creator, but man is far from it. This distancing comes also from the Creator, since it is possible to be far from something only when a person clearly knows that there is a reality but he, for some reason, is far from it.

Hence, first a person must have faith in the Creator, and then he can say that he feels far from the Creator. It follows that this feeling that he is far must give him a feeling that the Creator watches over the world, and there is judgment and a judge, except he feels this from afar. Otherwise, who will tell him that he is far from the Creator?

For this reason, when a person feels far from the Creator, the Creator alerts him to this by appearing to a person from afar. This means that when the Creator is hidden from him, a person cannot be in a state of remoteness, for who tells him that he is far? However, by the Creator appearing to him a little bit, the feeling comes to him that he is far.

This is the meaning of “The far will hear,” meaning that the Creator sends them hearing so they will feel that they are far and will come near, meaning demand of the Creator to bring them closer so they can achieve equivalence of form, which is vessels of bestowal. However, a person can obtain these Kelim only through help from above. This is called “a light that dresses in a Kli,” meaning in the desire for this power.

This is as it is written (Psalms 127), “Unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labor in it in vain.” The meaning of “Unless the Lord builds a house” is that the heart becomes a building of Kedusha [holiness]. “Labor in it in vain” means that the labor is futile. “Its builders” are those who want to build a structure of Kedusha. They must know and believe that without His help, for He both gives the Kli, the desire and yearning to bestow, as well as the light, which is the power that a person receives so he can work in order to bestow. He gives everything, but a person must first act. That is, before the work, a person must say, “If I am not for me, who is for me.” Afterward, he should say, “Unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labor in it in vain.”

As it was prior to the giving of the Torah, meaning in order for the people of Israel to be able to hear the Torah that was given on Mt. Sinai, there was preparation on the part of the people of Israel, who were given limitation and abstention. This is considered preparation on the part of the lower one. Afterward, it is possible to receive the Torah from the Creator.

However, during the preparation, before a person is rewarded with a Kli called “a need to be able to work so that all his actions are in order to bestow,” that need ascends and descends in him. At times he yearns for the Creator to give him the power to be able to do everything for the sake of the Creator and asks the Creator to help him. At times, he later suffers a descent, meaning that he feels no need to bring contentment to the Creator. Rather, he craves only counsels and tactics to satisfy himself with pleasures for the will to receive for himself.

If, during the descent, a thought concerning spirituality comes to him—that he must work in order to bestow—he begins to think about the Creator, why the Creator forbade working for self-benefit and why should the Creator mind if a person does work for his own benefit.

At that time he doubts the Torah and Mitzvot altogether, why He wants to afflict us and has given us laws that are hard to observe? If He really is a merciful father, why has He made us observe His Mitzvot through many prohibitions? etc. Sometimes, during an ascent, he also thinks about the Creator and why He has given us commandments of interest, such as “Keep your souls.”

That is, the fact that man must eat, drink, and so forth, for what purpose did the Creator create these things? Does the existence of these things make a person smarter and more heaven-fearing? Therefore, the person asks, Why are corporeal pleasures needed? since he sees no spiritual benefit from it.

Thus, a person ascends and descends. At times he does not understand why corporeal pleasures were given to us in the first place, since now he understands that man’s main purpose is to adhere to the Creator, so why were these corporeal pleasures created?

During the descent, it is the complete opposite. He asks himself, Why were many things prohibited to us? and in general, Why is it forbidden to work for self-benefit and we are as though compelled to work for the sake of the Creator, and if not, then we must suffer in this world and in the next?

This is the order of the work during the preparation period. That is, before a person is rewarded with permanent faith, he is in the catapult, thrown from end to end, and seeing that he has no freedom of choice. Rather, what they want above is what they do with him, while he is like clay in the hands of a potter without any say about himself.

The person should believe that all the states he goes through are for his sake. That is, specifically through the ups and downs he will achieve the desirable completion, as it is written, “A king who puts to death, and brings to life, and brings forth salvation.” Through the descents, which are regarded as death in the work, and “brings to life,” which is regarded as an ascent in the work, specifically by this He “brings forth salvation,” meaning that man achieves wholeness.

Now we can understand what we asked, Why do we need to count Israel in the first place? That is, who needs to know the number when counting is a dangerous matter, as it is written, “There is no blessing in that which is counted.” And also, what difference does the correction they were given—of giving ransom—make if in the end, we know the number of Israel? Also, what does it add to us if we bless in the beginning and in the end of the count?

In the work, when speaking of everything within one person, we should know what is the counting of Israel. The work to achieve Lishma, meaning to bestow, begins on the right line, called “wholeness.” This is regarded as a man on whom there is blessing. From this, a person should be happy and praise and thank the Creator for rewarding him with some grip on Kedusha, however much he has, since he knows that this, too, he does not deserve.

This is regarded as being content with little. Thus, he has no reason to count him, to see how many qualities of Israel he has, meaning what percentage of his work can he say is Yashar-El, meaning how much effort he is willing to make for the Kedusha, called “for the sake of the Creator.” This is not interesting at all because he says, “Whatever grip I have in Torah and Mitzvot is more important than all the pleasures in the world.”

We could ask about this, If this is so important, why does he settle for little? To this he answers himself, “I probably do not deserve to be given by the Creator a bigger share than I have, and I also see that there are people who do not have even this.” It follows that he is a person in whom there is blessing since he has something with which to be happy, and he sees that the rest of the people are joyful and happy over nonsense, while the Creator has given him the intellect and understanding to grasp that he should rejoice with the Creator.

This is considered that before he comes to count the Yashar-El in him, meaning what he has inside the heart, he first blesses Israel. That is, he says that the Israel in him is blessed, meaning that he has a reason for gladness since he is blessed, and he is content with the little that he has.

Afterward, Israel are counted, meaning he shifts to the quality of the left and begins to introspect how much Torah and fear of heaven he has. At that time, he sees that he is full of faults, and then there can be a plague, meaning that he might come into despair and escape the campaign and say that this work of bestowal is not for him. Yet, he can no longer work in one line because he can no longer fool himself and say that this is real work, since the left keeps telling him what is the work of truth.

This is the meaning of “There is no blessing in that which is counted,” since he always has deficiencies, as it is written, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does good and sins not.” It follows that according to the rule that where there is a lack, there is a grip to the Klipot [shells/peels], meaning that the Klipa [singular for Klipot] shows him that this is not for him. With these complaints, she kills him, meaning that whatever he had in spirituality, she takes away from him and he remains in the form of “The wicked in their lives are called ‘dead.’”

This is the meaning of what is written, that anything that is counted holds no blessing, since it is always deficient and in every lack there is a grip to the Klipot. This is called a “plague,” as it is written, “And there will be no plague in them when you count them.” That is, through the ransom, there will not be death because of the counting. This means that when working in the left line, meaning although we are walking on the left line and there can be a plague, through the ransom, there will be no plague in them.

For this reason, we were given the advice that the deficiency must be visible to the Klipot: “And they shall each give the ransom for his soul when you count them.” That is, they should not regard the deficiencies they find when a person calculates what percentage are included in the quality of Israel.

Rather, they should calculate how many corrections they must do in order to have ransom for their souls to the Creator, meaning that they will not look at the deficiencies, but at the correction of the deficiencies, by which their soul, which was in the Klipot, will emerge from them and cling to the Creator. This is called “And they gave each one the ransom for his soul,” counting the corrections they must perform.

Thus, they can only see corrections, as our sages said (Yevamot 38), “A bill that is about to be collected is deemed collected.” It follows that when looking at the corrections, it is as though he has already performed them and there is no place of deficiency here.

This is the meaning of the verse, “This is what everyone who is numbered shall give.” We should interpret that seeing the deficiencies is regarded as “everyone who is numbered.” “Half a shekel” means as it is written (A Sage’s Fruit, Vol. 1, p 95), “A prayer makes half.” It is the conduct of one who prays for himself that he has no wholeness but only half, since one who is whole has nothing to pray for. Hence our sages warned us not to work in order to receive reward, but for wholeness.

This means that what a person gives is regarded as half, meaning the Kli, which is the will to receive for himself, which has drifted from the Creator and we must pray that this Kli will connect to the Creator, who is called “the light.” When the light shines in the Kli, it is considered wholeness. This is the meaning of “a prayer makes half,” where “half” means the Kli, for there is no light without a Kli.

Therefore, when he prays and feels his lack, there is room to fill the lack. It follows that the words “this they will give,” mean the Kli, which is half, called “awakening from below,” as was said, that the prayer for the deficiency is already considered a correction.

For example, one person gave his coat to the cleaner to remove stains. He tells the owner of the laundromat, “I’m counting the number of corrections you should make so that I will know how much to pay you.” He asks the owner of the laundromat to fix and remove the stains. But then, it cannot be said that a person despairs when he sees that he has many stains, since he is not counting the stains so as to see how many deficiencies are in his coat. Rather, he counts how many corrections he must do.

It follows that now he is not thinking of his deficiencies, but about the corrections. Naturally, it cannot be said that there is a plague in them (the stains), meaning that he should escape the campaign and say that the work on the path of truth does not pertain to him.

It follows that it is a great correction that we count the ransom and not the deficiencies in people. This is as our sages said, “A bill that is about to be collected is deemed collected.” That is, when we engage in corrections, it is as though it is already corrected because now he is looking at the corrections and not at the deficiencies.

In addition to the abovementioned correction of the ransom, called “ransom for his soul to the Creator,” meaning when we speak of corrections, that there will be Dvekut with the Creator, we must bless before the count. This means that we must walk on the right line, called “blessing,” meaning that he is a person who has no lacks. Afterward, we shift to the left, called “counting,” and then again to the right, which is called “blessing.” This is the meaning of what is written, that through blessing in the beginning and in the end, the count will come true and there will be no plague in them, but rather by this they will achieve real wholeness.

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