The Agenda of the Assembly (2)

Article No. 17, Tav-Shin-Mem-Vav, 1985-86

In Masechet Berachot (p 32), our sages wrote, “Rabbi Shamlai said, ‘One should always praise the Creator, and then pray.’ From where do we have that? From Moses, as it is written, ‘And I pleaded.’” Baal HaSulam interpreted that when one wishes to ask for a favor from another, he must know, a) if he has what he asks of him, because if he doesn’t, there is no point in asking, and b) that he has a kind heart. This is so because he may have what he asks, but not the kind of heart that would give.

Hence, first one needs to praise the Creator, meaning believe that the Creator has everything that one is asking for, and that the Creator is merciful and grants everyone his wish for the best.

It turns out that when the friends gather in one place, the assembly is certainly for a purpose, since when one allocates part of his time—which he would use for his own needs, relinquishing his engagements, and partaking in an assembly—he wishes to acquire something. Thus, it is important to try that when each of the friends goes home, he should see what he came to the assembly with, and what he has acquired now that he is going home.

Sometimes during the assembly of friends, everyone feels good during the meeting. At that time, it does not occur to them to contemplate with which possession they will go home, meaning what I have in my hand, which I acquired at the assembly of friends and did not have before I came to the society. And then he sees that he has nothing.

This is similar to what is written (Deuteronomy 23:25), “When you come into your friend’s vineyard, you may eat grapes until you have satiated your soul, but do not put any in your vessels.” We should interpret it that when the friends gather, this is called “Your friend’s vineyard,” when you sit and eat and drink together, talking about this and that, and the body enjoys during the action. This is similar to, “You may eat grapes until you have satiated your soul.”

But when you go home and wish to see what you have in your Kelim [vessels], to take some livelihood home, when we leave the gathering and wish to examine what we have in our Kelim after all the partying, we see that, “But do not put any in your vessels.” In other words, there is nothing in the Kelim with which to revive the soul after the assembly.

However, when one exerts, he should make certain that it is not without reward. It is as we say in the prayer, “And came unto Zion,” “Lest we touch in vain.” Rather, when one goes to an assembly, he should acquire nourishments there so that when he goes home he will be able to see if he has something to put in the Kelim. Then he will have the nourishments to feed himself until the next meeting. And until that time, he will have from what has been prepared, meaning from what he has acquired during the assembly of friends.

Therefore, first one must praise the importance of the gathering, and then see what to acquire from that activity. It is as our sages said, “One should always praise the Creator, and then pray.” In other words, the beginning of the assembly, meaning the beginning of the discussions, which is the beginning of the assembly, should be about praising the society. Each and every one must try to provide reasons and explanations for their merit and importance. They should speak of nothing but the praise of society.

Finally, its praise should be disclosed by all the friends. Then they should say, “Now we are through with Stage One of the assembly of friends, and Stage Two begins.” Then each will state his mind about the actions we can take so that each and every one will be able to acquire the love of friends, what each person can do to acquire love in his heart for each and every one in the society.

And once Stage Two is completed—suggestions regarding what can be done in favor of society—begins Stage Three. This concerns carrying out of the friends’ decisions about what should be done.

And regarding the praise of society, in Matan Torah (The Giving of the Torah), p 137, he introduces the matter of love of friends, that by bonding with the friends he can obtain the greatness of the Creator. The whole world is immersed in self-love, and he wishes to go by the path of bestowal. But this is against the common view because this is the nature we were born with due to the purpose of creation, which is, as was said, “His will to do good to His creatures.”

And all our power to resist it, to act to the contrary—that not only do we not want to receive for ourselves, but we rather want to give, which is considered that all our actions will be only in order to bestow contentment upon our Maker—is because it is within the nature of bestowal that when one gives to an important person he enjoys it. It turns out that without pleasure, one cannot do anything because it is against nature.

However, we can replace the pleasure. This means that instead of receiving pleasure from an act of reception, we will wish to receive pleasure from an act of bestowal. This is called “equivalence of form.” We should say that as the Creator enjoys giving to the creatures, we should enjoy giving to the Creator.

Otherwise, meaning if we have no joy or pleasure while we give to the Creator, we are blemishing the equivalence of form. It is as our sages said, “There was no joy before Him as on the day when heaven and earth were created.” There was no joy before the Creator since the day the world was created like the joy that He is destined to rejoice with the righteous in the future (The Zohar, 1, 115).

Therefore, if we have no joy while we are keeping the commandments of the Creator, then if one aims in order to bestow, it is not considered equivalence of form because one can only be glad where there is pleasure. It turns out that if he has no delight or pleasure in giving to the Creator, it is still not regarded as equivalence of form, that he has room to receive the upper abundance, since he is still lacking the pleasure that the Creator has while giving to the creatures.

It therefore follows that the whole basis upon which we can receive delight and pleasure, and which is permitted for us to enjoy—and is even mandatory—is to enjoy an act of bestowal. Thus, there is one point we should work on— appreciation of spirituality. This is expressed in paying attention to whom I turn, with whom I speak, whose commandments I am keeping, and whose laws I am learning, meaning in seeking advice concerning how to appreciate the Giver of the Torah.

And before one obtains some illumination from above by himself, he should seek out like-minded people who are also seeking to enhance the importance of any contact with the Creator in whatever way. And when many people support it, everyone can receive assistance from his friend.

We should know that “Two is the least plural.” This means that if two friends sit together and contemplate how to enhance the importance of the Creator, they already have the strength to receive enhancement of the greatness of the Creator in the form of awakening from below. And for this act, the awakening from above follows, and they begin to have some sensation of the greatness of the Creator.

According to what is written, “In the multitude of people is the King's glory,” it follows that the greater the number of the collective, the more effective is the power of the collective. In other words, they produce a stronger atmosphere of greatness and importance of the Creator. At that time, each person’s body feels that he regards anything that he wishes to do for holiness—meaning to bestow upon the Creator—as a great fortune, that he has been privileged with being among people who have been rewarded with serving the King. At that time, every little thing he does fills him with joy and pleasure that now he has something with which to serve the King.

To the extent that the society regards the greatness of the Creator with their thoughts during the assembly, each according to his degree originates the importance of the Creator in him. Thus, he can walk all day in the world of gladness and joy, meaning he enjoys every little thing that he does concerning the work of the Creator. This is so because if he remembers that he should contemplate spirituality for even a minute, he immediately says, “I am already grateful and praising and glorifying the Creator,” since he believes that now the Creator has called him and wishes to speak with him.

And when a person imagines that the King is calling him and tells him that he wants to play with him, what joy would he experience then, and what high spirits would he have? Certainly, in that uplifted state, he would not think any trifle thoughts. He would only be a little embarrassed at not knowing the King’s laws and manners—how to behave when the King speaks to him.

But he considers what he does know how to do for the King as a great fortune, since he nonetheless knows some rules by which to keep the King’s commandments, which he learned at school when he was young. And now that he has grown and wishes to serve the King, he will certainly miss the knowledge of the King’s laws.

It turns out that his concern is that he does not know what gives the King more pleasure, which act or which intention. And other than that, he lives in a world that is all good. While gathering for the assembly, this is what the society should think, and to speak of the greatness of society, as it is written, “One should always praise the Creator, and then pray.”

It is the same with the society. When we wish to demand something of the society, and this is called “praying,” we must first establish the merit of the society, and then “pray,” meaning demand of the society to give us what we want from it.

Thus, first we need to see what the society has, which possessions they have, which we can receive from them by bonding with them. Perhaps we do not need the possession that the society has, but moreover, we run as far away from it as possible.

Accordingly, when one comes to the assembly of friends, he should always see whether or not the friends have the goal that he craves, that each of them has some grip on that goal. And he thinks that by everyone bonding together for one goal, each will have his own share, as well as the shares of the whole of society. It follows that each member of the society will have the same strength as the whole of society together.

Each one should seriously consider the purpose of the gathering—that it should bring about a sensation, following the assembly of friends, that each one has something in his hand which he can put in his vessels, and that he is not in the form of, “But do not put any in your vessels.” Each one should consider that if he does not sit especially attentive during the assembly, not only does he himself lose, but he also corrupts the whole of society.

This is similar to what is written in the Midrash (Vayikra Rabba, Chapter 4): “Two people went inside a boat. One of them began to drill beneath him making a hole in the boat. He told him, ‘Why are you drilling?’ And he replied, ‘Why should you care; I am drilling under me, not under you?’ So he replied, ‘You fool! Both of us will drown together with the boat!’”

And after they speak of the importance and necessity of the society, there begins the order of correction—how and with what can we reinforce the society to become one bloc, as it is written, “And there Israel camped before the mount” (Exodus 19), and it was explained, “as one man and one heart.” The order should be that anyone with a suggestion that can improve the love of friends, it should be discussed, but it must be accepted by all the friends, so there is no issue of coercion here.

Thus far we discussed the connection between man and man, which is to bring us the connection between man and God, as it is written in Matan Torah(The Giving of the Torah), p 137. It follows that as they speak of the importance of love of friends, and that its whole importance is that it leads us to the love of the Creator, they should also think that the love of friends should bring us into the importance of the love of the Creator.

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