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Letter No. 66

March 27, 1963

Hello and all the best to my dear friend,

In Psachim (116b), “Begins with admonition and ends with praise.” Why admonition? Rav said, “In the beginning, our fathers were idol worshippers,” etc. And we also say in the Passover story, (Haggadah), “In the beginning our fathers were idol worshippers, and now the Creator has brought us closer to His work.”

To understand the matter, what we can learn from what they were before, we should interpret this in ethics. A person needs to know, when he engages in man’s exodus from the exile in Egypt (and we see that all the Mitzvot [commandments] are dependent on this matter, because in every thing we say: “In memory of the exodus from Egypt,” which means that it is impossible to keep a commandment to the fullest before a person comes out of the exile in Egypt. Although generally we have already come out of Egypt, but in person, each person must come out of this exile). It is impossible to come out of the exile in Egypt before entering the exile. Only then can it be said that we are coming out of the exile.

The author of the Haggadah tells us about this that we need to know that in the beginning our fathers were idol worshippers, meaning that they were in exile under the rule of idol worshippers, and only then the Creator brought our fathers closer. But if they did not feel that they were placed under the rule of idol worshippers, it could not be said that the Creator had brought them closer. Only when a person is remote from the Creator can it be said that the Creator is bringing him closer, because the absence should always come before the presence, for the absence is the Kli [vessel] and the presence is the light that fills the absence and the darkness.

Therefore, we have to know that we have to prepare ourselves thoroughly, meaning that a person should check himself meticulously and carefully, to see his real condition, what his faith in the Creator is like, if he has complete faith, meaning, is it truthful or superficial, meaning only going by rote, which means that he does it only out of habit and not because of his own desire.

And also whether his qualities are in order. That is, is he in the form of, “All of your actions will be for the Creator,” or God forbid to the contrary, meaning that everything he does is only with the intention to please himself? Our sages said about the verse, “And the grace of the nations is sin. All the good that they do, they do for themselves,” and they can not do anything for the Creator.

And if a person is placed under this rule, like the nations of the world, then he is in exile, and then he is regarded as an idol worshipper. And then there is room for prayer that the Creator will help him out of this exile. And then it can be said: Now, meaning once he is in exile and regarded as an idol worshipper, it can be said, “Now the Creator has brought us closer to His work,” meaning, to work in the work of the Creator, and to not work for the governance of idol worshipping.

This is called the “exodus from Egypt,” when all the works are for the Creator. For this reason we relate the commandments to the memory of the exodus from Egypt. Only then, once we have come out of the exile in Egypt, can we keep the commandments because of the Creator’s commandment and not for other reasons. This is the meaning of what the Tanah says, “Beginning with admonition and ending with praise.” This means that when a person wants to begin with the work of the Creator, he must begin with admonition, meaning, with how we are placed under the governance of idol worshippers. Then we can come to the degree of, “Now the Creator has brought us closer to His work.” And this is “ending with praise.”

The order of the work is in two ways, meaning in faith in the Creator, as well as in qualities, meaning that all of his work will be for the Creator. By that we should interpret what our sages said, “Our sages said, when Rabbi Elazar ben Parta and Rabbi Haninah ben Tardion were captured, Rabbi Elazar ben Parta said to Rabbi Haninah ben Tardion, “Happy are you for being caught for one thing. Woe to me for being caught for five things.” Rabbi Haninah said to him, “Happy are you for being caught for five things and you are saved. Woe unto me, for being caught for one thing and I am not saved. You engaged in Torah and in charity, or doing mercy, etc., as Rav Hunah said, ‘All who engage only in Torah is as one who has no God, as it was said, ‘and many days for Israel without a true God.’ What is without a true God? All who engage only in Torah is as one who has no God.’”

It is difficult to understand this excerpt. We should interpret that the main thing that a person should do in the world is to make all his works be for the Creator. And since man was created with a quality of delighting only himself, to the point that it is impossible for him to do anything unless he sees that some good will come out of it for himself, then how can one work for the Creator?

But the Creator has given us commandments between man and man, by which man accustoms himself to work in favor of his neighbor. By that he comes to a higher degree, to having the ability to work for the Creator as well. Otherwise, even though a person engages in Torah and Mitzvot, he cannot engage for the Creator. It therefore follows that if he engages only in Torah, and not in doing good, he cannot work in order to bestow because he lacks the quality of love of others. It therefore follows that although he engages in Torah and Mitzvot, if it is not for the Creator, it is as one who has no God, for if he truly had the sensation of Godliness, he would certainly be engaging in order to bestow. But if he had engaged in doing good, then he would have the quality of love of others, by which he would also come to love the Creator, and would have the ability to observe Torah and Mitzvot for the Creator.

It turns out that a person should have the power and force to overcome his qualities, to turn them into being in favor of others, for by that he will later be rewarded with working with those qualities for the Creator.

Because once a person has already been corrected in his qualities so he can work in favor of others, he can work on the matter of faith in the Creator, for then he is fit to be rewarded with faith, for then he already has equivalence of form, called, “Cleave onto his attributes,” as in, “As He is merciful, be you merciful.”

And may the Creator help us come out of the exile and be rewarded with the complete redemption soon in our days, amen.

May you rise in the degrees of blessing and success and happiness, and happy and kosher festival.

From your friend who wishes you and your family all the best,

Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag, son of Baal HaSulam.

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