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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

Make for Yourself a Rav and Buy Yourself a Friend (2)

Article No. 8, Tav-Shin-Mem-Hey, 1984-85

Considering what we discussed in article no. 1 (1984-5), we should elaborate a little:

We should discern between a) man and the Creator, b) a man and his friend, and c) a man and the rest of the people, who are not his friends, although there is a saying, “All of Israel are friends.”

At one time, we find that the words, “make for yourself a rav [teacher/important person] and buy yourself a friend,” are the path of correction, and another time, it is in the words, “And judge every person favorably” (Avot, Chapter 1). We should understand the difference between “make” and “buy,” and the meaning of judging favorably.

We should interpret “make” as coming to exclude from reason. This is because when reason cannot understand if something is worth doing or not, how can it determine what is good for me? Or vice versa, if reason considers them as equal, who will determine for a person what he should do? Thus, the act can decide.

We should know that there are two ways before us: to work in order to bestow or to work in order to receive. There are parts in man’s body that tell him, “You will succeed in life if you work in order to bestow, and this is the way you will enjoy life.” This is the argument of the good inclination, as our sages said, “If you do so, you will be happy for this world and happy for the next world.”

And the argument of the evil inclination is the opposite: It is better to work in order to receive. In that state, only the force called “action that is above reason” determines, not the intellect or emotion. This is why doing is called “above reason” and “above reasoning,” and this is the force called “faith that is against the intellect.”

“Buy” is within reason. Normally, people want to see what they want to buy, so the merchant shows them the goods and they negotiate whether or not it is worth the price that the merchant is asking. If they do not think it is worth it, they don’t buy. Thus, “buy” is within reason.

Now we will explain the matter of “rav” and the matter of “friend.” A friend is sometimes called “society,” when people come together and wish to bond. This can happen through equivalence of form, by everyone caring in love of others. By that, they unite and become one.

Therefore, when a society is established to become a single group, we see that people who consider creating such a society usually seek people who are alike in views and attributes, whom they can see as more or less equal. Otherwise, they will not accept them into the group that they want to establish. And after that begins the work of love of friends.

But if they had no equivalence with the goals of the society from the beginning, before they even entered the society, it cannot be expected that anything will come out of that bonding. Only if there was apparent equality among them before they entered the society can it be said that they can begin to exert in the work of love of others.

Between Man and the Creator

Between man and the Creator, the order begins with “Make for yourself a rav,” and afterwards, “Buy yourself a friend.” In other words, first one must believe above reason that the Creator is great, as written in The Zohar (p 185, Item 191 in the Sulam Commentary), “Fear, which is the rudiment, means that man should fear his Master because He is great and ruling.”

To the extent that one believes in the greatness of the Creator, who is called “Great,” he has the strength to give to the “buy,” meaning to buy through conceding self-love in order to achieve equivalence of form, called Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator. And this is called a Haver [friend]: one who is in Hibur [bonding/connection] with the Creator.

When buying corporeal things, we must relinquish money, honor, or simply make an effort to obtain it. Similarly, when a person wishes to buy bonding with the Creator, he must relinquish self-love, because otherwise he cannot achieve equivalence of form.

When one sees that he is unfit to make concessions to buy the equivalence of form, it is not because he was born with a weak character and hence cannot overcome his self-love. Rather, the fault is in “Make for yourself a rav,” meaning that he is not working on the faith, since he will be able to make concessions according to the importance of his faith in the greatness of the Creator.

Moreover, one should know that if he wishes to measure his degree of faith, he can see it in the degree of concessions he can make in self-love. Then, he’ll know his degree in the work of faith above reason. This applies between man and the Creator.

Between a Man and His Friend

Between a man and his friend, we should begin with “Buy yourself a friend,” and then “Make for yourself a rav.” This is so because when a person looks for a friend, he should first examine him to see if he is really worth bonding with. After all, we see that a special prayer has been set up concerning a friend, which we say after the blessings in the prayer, “May it please ... Keep us away from an evil person and from a bad friend.”

This means that before one takes a friend for himself, he must examine him in every possible way. At that time, he must use his reason. This is why it was not said, “Make yourself a friend,” since “making” implies above reason. Therefore, concerning a man and his friend, he should go with his reason and examine as much as he can if his friend is okay, as we pray each day, “Keep us away from an evil person and from a bad friend.”

And when he sees that it is worthwhile for him to bond with him, he must pay in order to bond with him, meaning make concessions in self-love, and in return receive the power of love of others. And then he can expect to be rewarded with love for the Creator, too.

After he has bonded with a group of people who wish to achieve the degree of love of the Creator, and he wishes to take from them the strength to work in order to bestow and be moved by their words about the necessity for obtaining the love of the Creator, he must regard each friend in the group as greater than himself.

It was written in the book, Matan Torah (The Giving of the Torah, p 143), that one is not impressed by the society or takes their appreciation of something unless he regards the society as greater than himself. This is the reason why each one must feel that he is the smallest of them all, since one who is great cannot receive from one who is smaller than himself, much less be impressed by his words. Rather, it is only the smaller one who is impressed through appreciating the greater one.

It follows that in the second stage, when everyone must learn from the others, there is the matter of “make for yourself a rav.” This is because to be able to say that his friend is greater than himself, he must use “making,” which is doing without reason, since only above reason can he say that his friend is at a higher degree than himself. Therefore, between a man and his friend, the order is to begin with keeping, “Buy yourself a friend,” and then, “Make for yourself a rav.”

Between a Man and Every Person

The Mishnah tells us, “Make for yourself a rav, buy for yourself a friend, and judge every person favorably” (Avot, Chapter 1).

We have explained that between a man and his friend the order is that first you go and buy yourself a friend—and we explained that buying is within reason—and then you must engage in “Make for yourself a rav.” And between man and the Creator, the order is to first “Make for yourself a rav,” and then “Buy yourself a friend.”

We should understand the meaning of saying that concerning every person, “Judge favorably.” Is this buying or making? According to the above, we should interpret the meaning of “And judge every person favorably” as “making,” not “buying.”

For example, assume there are many people in the congregation, and a small group among them decides that they want to unite in a society that engages in love of friends. And let us say, for instance, that there are 100 men in the congregation, and ten of them decide to unite. We should examine why those ten specific individuals decided to unite, and exclude others in the congregation. Is it because they find that those people are more virtuous than the rest of the people in the congregation, or because they are worse than the others and that they must take some action to ascend on the ladder of Torah and fear?

According to the above-mentioned, we can interpret that the reason those people agreed to unite into a single group that engages in love of friends is that each of them feels that they have one desire that can unite all their views, so as to receive the strength of love of others. There is a famous maxim by our sages, “As their faces differ, their views differ.” Thus, those who agreed among them to unite into a group understood that there isn’t such a great distance between them in the sense that they recognize the necessity to work in love of others. Therefore, each of them will be able to make concessions in favor of the others, and they can unite around that. But the rest of the people have no understanding of the necessity of work on love of others; hence, they cannot bond with them.

It therefore follows that when engaging in unity of love of friends, everyone examines the other, his reason and his attributes, to see if he qualifies or is worthy of joining the society that those people decided to allow inside. It is as we pray, “Keep us away from an evil person and from a bad friend,” within reason.

It turns out that he prides himself over the rest of the people in the congregation. How is this permitted? After all, it is against an explicit rule that says, “Rabbi Levitas, man of Yavne, would say, ‘Be very, very humble’” (Avot, Chapter 4).

Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Perachia says about that, “‘Judge every person favorably’ (Avot, Chapter 1) means that with regards to the rest of the people, he should go above reason, which is called “making,” that is, acting and not reasoning. This is so because his reason shows him that they are not as suitable as the people to whom he associated himself, and this is what everyone says to himself. Thus, everyone prides himself over the others. The advice for that is what he says, “And judge every person favorably.”

This means that with regard to the rest of the people at the congregation, he should judge them favorably and say that they truly are more important people than himself, and that it is his own fault that he cannot appreciate the greatness and importance of the public, called by our sages, “Every person.” Hence, within reason, he doesn’t see their greatness, and we said that between a man and his friend there should be “buying.” However, he must use the “making,” which is above reason. And this is called, “Judge every person favorably.”

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