99. He Did Not Say Wicked or Righteous
“Rabbi Hanina Bar Papa said, ‘That angel, appointed on conception, its name is Laila (night). It takes a drop and places it opposite the Creator, and says before Him: ‘Lord, what shall become of this drop, a hero or a weakling, a wise or a fool, a wealthy or an indigent?’ But he did not say ‘a wicked or a righteous’” (Nida 16b).
We should interpret according to the rule that a fool cannot be righteous, as our sages said, “One does not sin unless a spirit of folly has entered him.” It is even more so with one who is a fool all his days. Hence, one who is born a fool has no choice, since he has been sentenced to be a fool. Therefore, the saying, “he did not say ‘a wicked or a righteous’” is so that he would have a choice. But what is the benefit if he did not say a “a righteous or a fool”? After all, if he is sentenced to be a fool, it is the same as being sentenced to become a wicked!
We should also understand the words of our sages: “Rabbi Yochanan said, ‘The Creator saw that the righteous are few, He stood and planted them in each generation, as it is written, ‘for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and He hath set the world upon them.’’” And Rashi interprets: “‘He hath set the world upon them’ – He dispersed them in all the generations to be an infrastructure and existence and foundation for the sustenance of the world” (Yoma 38b).
“They are few” means that they are growing fewer. Hence, what did he do to propagate them? “He stood and planted them in each generation.” We should ask, “What is the benefit of planting them in each generation, by which they multiply?” We must understand the difference between all the righteous being in a single generation or being dispersed through all the generations, as Rashi interprets. Does being in many generations propagates the righteous?
To understand the above, we must expand and interpret our sages’ words, that the Creator sentences the drop to be a wise or a fool. This means that one who is born weak, without the strength to overcome his inclination, and is born with a weak desire and untalented, since during the preparation, when beginning in the work of God, one must be qualified to receive the Torah and the wisdom, as it is written, “will give wisdom to the wise,” he asked, “If they are already smart, why do they still need wisdom? It should have been ‘will give wisdom to the fools.’”
And he explains that a sage is one who longs for wisdom, although he still does not have wisdom. Rather, because one has a desire, and a desire is called a Kli, thus, those who have a desire and craving for wisdom, this is the Kli in which wisdom shines. It therefore follows that a fool means one without a desire for wisdom, and whose whole desire is only for one’s own needs. In terms of bestowal, a fool is completely incapable of achieving any bestowal whatsoever.
Therefore, one who is born with such qualities, how can he achieve the degree of a righteous? It follows that he does not have a choice. Therefore, what is the benefit from saying, “he did not say, ‘a righteous or a wicked’?” So he would have a choice. After all, since he was born weak and unwise, he is no longer capable of having a choice, since he is completely incapable of any overcoming and craving for His wisdom.
To understand that, meaning that there can be choice even for a fool, the Creator made a correction, which our sages call, “the Creator saw that the righteous were few; He stood and planted them in each generation.” And we asked, “What is the benefit of that?”
Now we will understand this matter. It is known that as it is forbidden to bond with the wicked even when one does not do as they do, as it is written, “nor sat in the seat of the scornful.” This means that the sin is primarily because he sits among the scornful, even though he sits and learns Torah and keeps Mitzvot. Otherwise, the prohibition would be due to the cancellation of Torah and Mitzvot. But rather, the sitting itself is forbidden, since man takes the thoughts and desires of those that he likes.
And vise versa: if one does not have any desire and craving for spirituality, if he is among people who have a desire for spirituality, if he likes these people, he, too, will take their strength to prevail, and their desires and aspirations, although by his own quality, he does not have these desires and cravings and the power to overcome. But according to the grace and the importance he ascribes to these people, he will receive new powers.
Now we can understand the above words: “The Creator saw that the righteous are few.” This means that not any person can become a righteous, for lack of the qualities for it, as it was written, that he is born a fool or a weakling; he, too, has a choice and his own qualities are no excuse. This is because the Creator planted the righteous in every generation.
Hence, a person has the choice of going to a place where there are righteous. One can accept their authority, and then he will receive all the powers that he lacks by the nature of his own qualities. He will receive it from the righteous. This is the benefit in “planted them in each generation,” so that each generation would have someone to turn to, to cleave to, and from whom to receive the strength needed to rise to the degree of a righteous. Thus, they, too, subsequently become righteous.
It follows that “he did not say ‘a wicked or a righteous’” means that he does have a choice: he can go and cleave to the righteous for guidance, and through them receive strength, by which they, too, can later become righteous.
However, if all the righteous were in the same generation, the fools would have no hope of approaching the Creator, and hence, would not have a choice. But by dispersing the righteous in each generation each person has the power of choice, to approach and draw near to the righteous that exist in every generation. Otherwise, one’s Torah must be a potion of death.
We can understand that from a corporeal example. When two people stand one opposite the other, the right hand side of the one is opposite the left hand side of the other, and the left hand side of the one is opposite one’s friend right hand side. There are two ways: the right – the way of the righteous, which is only to bestow, and the left – whose interest is only to receive for themselves, by which they are separated from the Creator, who is only to bestow. Thus, they are naturally separated from the Life of Lives.
This is why the wicked in their lives are called “dead.” It therefore follows that when one has not yet been awarded Dvekut (adhesion) with the Creator, they are two. Then, when one learns Torah, which separates him from Him, his Torah becomes a potion of death to him. This is because he remains separated, as he wants his Torah to clothe his body. This means that he wants the Torah to increase his body, and this makes his Torah the potion of death.
However, when a person becomes adhered to Him, a single authority is made, and that person unites in His uniqueness. Then, the right side of the person is the right side of the Creator, and then the body becomes a clothing for one’s soul.
The way to know if one is marching on the path of truth is that when one engages in bodily needs, one should see that he does not engage in them more than is necessary for the needs of one’s soul. And when one thinks that one has more than he needs to clothe for the needs of one’s soul, it is like a clothing that a person puts over one’s body. At that time he is meticulous to keep the clothing not longer and wider, but precisely dressing his body. Similarly, when engaging in one’s bodily needs, one should be meticulous to not have more than one needs for one’s soul, meaning to clothe one’s soul.
To come to adhesion with the Creator, not all who wish to take the Lord may come and take, since it is against man’s nature, who was created with a will to receive, which is self love. This is why we need the righteous of the generation.
When a person clings to a genuine Rav, whose only wish is to do good deeds, but one feels that he cannot do good deeds, that the aim will be to bestow contentment upon the Creator, by cleaving to a real Rav and wanting the Rav’s fondness, he does things that his Rav likes, and hates the things his Rav hates. Then he can have Dvekut with his Rav and receive his Rav’s powers, even that which he does not have from birth. This is the meaning of planting the righteous in each generation.
However, according to this, it is hard to see why plant the righteous in each generation. We said that it was for the fools and the weak. But he could have resolved to another counsel: to not create fools! Who made him say that this drop will be a weakling or a fool? He could have created everyone smart.
The answer is that the fools, too, are needed, since they are the carriers of the will to receive. They see that they have no counsel of their own by which to draw near to the Creator, so they are as those about whom it is written, “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men… for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” They have become ashes under the feet of the righteous, by which the righteous can acknowledge the good that the Lord has done for them, by creating them wise and strong, by which He has brought them closer to Him.
Hence, now they can give thanks and praise the Creator, since they see the lowly state they are in. And this is called “ashes under the feet of the righteous,” meaning that righteous walk by it, and thus give thanks to the Creator.
But we must know that the lower degrees are needed, too. The Katnut (smallness) of a degree is not considered superfluous, saying that it would be better if the degrees of Katnut were born immediately with the Gadlut (greatness).
It is like a physical body. There are certainly important organs, such as the mind, the eyes, etc., and there are organs that are not so important, such as the stomach, the intestines, and the fingers, and the toes. But we cannot say that an organ that performs a not-so-important task is redundant. Rather, everything is important. It is the same in spirituality: we need the fools and the weaklings, too.
Now we can understand what is written, that the Creator said, “Return unto Me, and I will return unto you.” It means that the Creator says, “Return,” and Israel say the opposite: “bring us back, Lord, and then we shall return.”
The meaning is that during the decline from the work, the Creator says “Return” first. This brings a person an ascent in the work of God, and one begins to cry, “Bring us back.” However, during the decline, one does not cry, “Bring us back.” On the contrary, he escapes the work.
Therefore, one should know that when he cries, “bring” us back, it stems from an awakening from Above, since the Creator previously said “Return,” by which one has ascension, and can say “bring us back.”
This is the meaning of, “And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said: ‘Rise up, O Lord, and let Thine enemies be scattered.” Setting forward [the Hebrew word is traveling] means when advancing in servitude of the Creator, which is a time of ascension. Then Moses said “Rise.” And when they rested he said “Return.” And during the rest from the work of God, we need the Creator to say, “Return,” meaning “Return unto Me,” meaning that the Creator gives the awakening. Hence, one should know when to say “rise” or “Return.”
This is the meaning of what is written in Parashat Akev, “And thou shalt remember all the way… to know what was in thy heart, whether thou would keep His commandments, or no.” “Would keep His commandments” is discerned as “Return.” “Or no” is discerned as “rise,” and we need both. And the Rav knows when to “rise” and when to “Return,” since the forty-two paths is a matter of ascents and descents that unfold in the work of God.