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Michael Laitman, PhD

A Rabbi and a Group

Q: What is the connection between the rabbi and his group of disciples?

A: A group is a spiritual term that is always linked to a rabbi. We have all decided that we want, to a certain degree, to cleave to the Creator. That small desire of each and every one of us unites to form a collective desire, and that is called a “group.” It doesn’t matter if one of us is imbued with the idea this very minute, because we constantly change within. If that decision was taken once, it exists forever, because nothing is lost in the spiritual world. We may rise or fall with respect to our decision, but the decision itself remains intact.

A group is like a partnership. You can fall and have nothing left of the previous spiritual situation, but the group will continue to exist, and so will your share in it, regardless of your present state.

If one makes room for the other, then the group exists in a spiritual realm. You’ve invested your aspirations, your strength and your goal in the group, but how will you be able to receive help from the group when you need it?

You will receive help only if you are able to nullify your ego and submit to the opinion of the group in everything: the goal, the idea, the way to attain the idea, in all the values and the order of importance. Only then will you make your mark on the group and become like it, meaning as you have created it.

Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag writes about it in his article, "A Speech for the Completion of the Zohar". He says, “I ndeed the sufficient attainment of His Exaltedness that is enough to turn the bestowal to reception, as was mentioned above regarding the important personality, is not at all difficult, for everyone knows the greatness of the Creator who creates every thing and ends every thing without beginning or an end, whose sublimity is endless.

But the difficulty is in the fact that the value of the sublimity depends not on the individual, but on the environment. For example: even if we are filled with good qualities, if our environment does not regard us as such, we will always remain low-spirited and will not be able to take pride in our virtues, although we are well aware of their validity.

And to the contrary, if we are without any good qualities and were appreciated by those around us as having a great many fine qualities, we would be filled with pride, for the importance and the glorification is given entirely to the hands of the environment.

And when we see that our environment slights His Work and does not appreciate His Greatness, as it should, we cannot overpower the environment. Consequently, we, too, become unable to attain His Greatness, and we slight His worship as they do.

And since we have no basis for the attainment of His Greatness, it is obvious that we will not be able to work in order to bring contentment to our Maker, rather than for ourselves. That is because we haven’t the fuel for the effort, and for “You labored yet did not find, do not believe.”

Thus, we have no choice but to either work for ourselves, or not at all, for bringing contentment to our Maker will not serve as fuel for us under these conditions.

Now you can understand the words, “In the multitude of people is the king's glory ” for the value of the glory comes from the environment under two conditions:

  1. Appreciation from the environment.

  2. The size of the environment. Hence, “In the multitude of people is the king's glory.”

And because of the great difficulty in this matter, our sages advised us to ”Make for yourself a rabbi and buy for yourself a friend.” This means that we should choose for ourselves an important and famous person and make him our rabbi, from which we can come to the practice of Torah and Mitzvot in order to bring contentment to our Maker. For here, there are two easements to our rabbi:

  1. Since we think our rabbi is an important personality, we can bring him contentment, based on his greatness. That is because the bestowal has not been turned into reception, which is a natural fuel that can produce further acts of bestowal every time. And after we grow accustomed to giving to our rabbi, we can transfer this bestowal to the practice of Torah and Mitzvot for Her name, meaning toward the Creator, for the habit will have become second nature to us.

  2. The equivalence of form with the Creator does not do us any good if it is not forever, meaning until “He who knows all mysteries will testify that he shall not turn back to folly.” But since our rabbi is in this world and within the boundaries of time, the equivalence of form helps even if it is only temporary and afterwards we return to folly. Thus, every time we equalize our form with our rabbi, we temporarily cleave to him. Thus, we attain his knowledge and thoughts, depending on his attainment, as we have shown in the parable about the organ that was severed from the body and then put back on.

Hence, the disciple can use the rabbi’s attainment of the greatness of the Creator, which turns bestowal into reception and sufficient fuel for great devotion. Then the disciple, too, would be able to practice Torah and Mitzvot for Her name with his heart and soul, which is the remedy for the attainment of eternal adhesion with the Creator.

Now you can understand what our sages said: “The practice of Torah is preferred to the study of Torah.” As it is said, “Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who poured water on the hands of Elijah.” It does not say “learned,” but “poured.” That seems perplexing, for how can such simple acts be greater than the study of the wisdom and the knowledge?

However, the above makes it clear that serving the rabbi in the flesh with great devotion to bring him contentment brings us adhesion with our rabbi, meaning equivalence of form. And thus we receive the knowledge and thoughts of our rabbi, “mouth to mouth,” which is the adhesion of one spirit with another.

In this way, we attain our greatness sufficiently to turn bestowal to reception, and become a sufficient fuel for complete devotion, until we attain adhesion with the Creator.

Because studying Torah from our rabbi must be for ourselves, it does not induce adhesion and is considered “mouth to ear.” And the service of the rabbi induces in the disciple the thoughts of the rabbi, and the study is only the words of the rabbi. The service is better than the study, as the thought of the rabbi is greater than his words, and “mouth to mouth” excels over “mouth to ear.”

But all this is true if the service is in order to bring contentment to the rabbi. If, however, the service is for self, such a service cannot bring us to adhesion with our rabbi, and then studying with our rabbi is more important than serving him.

But just as we have said about the attainment of His Greatness (that the environment that does not regard Him highly weakens us and prevents us from attaining His Greatness), this is certainly also true regarding our rabbi: The environment that does not regard the rabbi highly prevents the disciple from attaining the greatness of one’s rabbi, as on should.

Hence our sages said, “Make for yourself a rabbi and buy for yourself a friend.” This means that we should make for ourselves a new environment that would help us attain the greatness of our rabbi, through the love of friends who value our rabbi. That is because the words of the friends who praise the rabbi give each of them the sensation of his greatness. Thus, bestowal to the rabbi becomes reception and a fuel that is sufficient to bring us to study Torah and Mitzvot for Her name.

And it is said about that, that the Torah is obtained in 48 virtues, and in the service and precision of our friends. For besides serving the rabbi, we also need the precision of our friends, meaning their influence to work on us to attain the greatness of our rabbi, as the attainment of the greatness depends solely on the environment, and a single person cannot in any way have any bearing on it, as we explained above.

Thus, there are two conditions for the attainment of the greatness:

  1. That we always listen to and accept the appreciation of the environment as they praise the Creator.

  2. That the environment will consist of many people, as it is written: “In the multitude of people is the king's glory.”

In order for the first condition to be accepted, each disciple must feel that he is the least powerful among all the friends. Then, the disciple will be able to be influenced by everyone’s appreciation of the greatness, for the great cannot receive from the small, much less be impressed with his words. Only the small is impressed with the appreciation of the great.

In order for the second condition to be accepted, every disciple must appraise the virtue of every friend and appreciate that person as though he were the greatest in the generation. Then the environment will have the impact that a great environment should, for the quality is more important than the quantity.

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