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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

Make for Yourself a Rav and Buy Yourself a Friend 1

Article No. 1, 1984-85

In the Mishnah (Avot, 1), Yehoshua Ben Perachia says, “Make for yourself a rav [great/teacher], buy yourself a friend, and judge every person favorably.” We see that there are three things here: 1) Make for yourself a rav; 2) buy yourself a friend; 3) judge every person favorably.

This means that besides making for himself a rav, there is something more that he must do in relation to the collective. In other words, engaging in love of friends is not enough. Additionally, he should be considerate toward every person and judge them favorably.

We must understand the difference in wording between “make,” “buy,” and “favorably.” Making is a practical thing. This means that there is no mind involved here, only action. In other words, even if one does not agree with the thing he wishes to do, but on the contrary, the mind makes him see that it is not a worthwhile deed, this is called doing, meaning sheer force, with no brains, since it is against his reason.

Accordingly, we should interpret in relation to the work, that the fact that one needs to assume the kingdom of heaven is called “an act.” It is like putting the yoke on an ox so it would plow the ground. Although the ox does not wish to take this work on itself, we force it nonetheless.

Similarly, with the kingdom of heaven we should also force and enslave ourselves because it is the Creator’s commandment, without any rhyme or reason. This is so because man must accept the kingdom of heaven not because the body feels that some benefit will come to it as a result, but in order to give contentment to the Creator.

But how can the body agree to it? This is the reason why the work must be above reason. It is called Make for yourself a rav, since there should be the kingdom of heaven because “He is great and ruling.”

It is written in The Zohar (“Introduction of The Book of Zohar”), ‘”Fear is the most important, for man to fear the Upper One because He is great and ruling, the essence and the root of all the worlds, and all are of no consequence compared to Him.’ Thus, one should fear the Creator because He is great and rules over everything. He is great because He is the root from which all the worlds expand, and His greatness is seen by His actions. And He rules over everything because all the worlds that He created, both upper and lower, are regarded as nothing compared to Him for they add nothing to His essence.”

Therefore, the order of the work is for one to begin with “Make for yourself a rav,” and take upon himself the burden of the kingdom of heaven above logic and above reason. This is called “doing,” meaning action only, despite the body’s disapproval. Afterwards, “Buy yourself a friend.” Buying is just as when a person wishes to buy something; he must let go of something that he has already acquired. He gives what he’s had for some time and in return purchases a new object.

It is similar with the work of God. For one to achieve Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator, which is equivalence of form, as in, “As He is merciful, you be merciful, too,” he must concede many things that he has in order to buy bonding with the Creator. This is the meaning of “Buy yourself a friend.”

Before a person makes for himself a rav, meaning the kingdom of heaven, how can he buy himself a friend, meaning bond with the rav? After all, he has no rav yet. Only after he has made for himself a rav is there a point in demanding that the body to make concessions to buy the bonding, that he wishes to give contentment to the Creator.

Moreover, we should understand that he has the strength to observe “buy yourself a friend” to the same extent as the greatness of the rav. This is so because he is willing to make concessions so as to bond with the rav to the very same extent that he feels the importance of the rav, since then he understands that obtaining Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator is worth any effort.

It turns out that if one sees that he cannot overcome the body because he thinks that he is not strong enough and was born with a weak nature, it is not so. The reason is that he is not feeling the greatness of the rav. In other words, he still does not have the importance of the kingdom of heaven, so he has no strength to overcome for something that is not very important. But for an important thing, anyone can concede important things that he loves and receive what he needs.

For example, if a person is very tired and goes to sleep at around 11 pm, if he is awakened at 3 am, of course he will say that he has no energy to get up to study because he’s very tired. And if he feels a little weak or has a slight temperature, the body will certainly have no power to rise at the time he is accustomed to rising.

But if a person is very tired, feeling sick, and goes to sleep at midnight, but is awakened at 1 am and is told, “There is a fire in the yard; it’s about to come into your room. Quick, get up and you’ll save your life in return for the effort you are making,” he will not make any excuses about being tired, mindless, or sick. Rather, even if he is very sick, he will make every effort to save his life. Evidently, because he will obtain an important thing, the body has the energy to do what it can to get what he wants.

Therefore, while working on “Make for yourself a rav,” a person believes that it is, “For they are our lives and the length of our days.” To the extent that he feels that this is his life, the body has enough strength to overcome all the obstacles, as written in the allegory. For this reason, in all of man’s works, in studying or in praying, he should focus all his work on obtaining the greatness and importance of the rav. Much work and many prayers should be made on that alone.

In the words of The Zohar, this is called “Raising Divinity from the dust,” which means raising the kingdom of heaven, which is lowered to the dust. In other words, one does not place an important thing on the ground, while something that is unimportant is tossed to the ground. And since the kingdom of heaven, called “Divinity,” is “Lowered to the very bottom,” it is said in the books that before every spiritual action one must pray to “raise Divinity from the dust.” This means that we should pray that we will regard the kingdom of heaven as important and that it will be worthwhile exerting for it and raising it to its importance.

Now we can understand what we say in the Rosh Hashanah [New Year’s Eve] prayer, “Give glory to Your people.” This seems quite perplexing. How is it permitted to pray for honor? Our sages said, “Be very, very humble,” so how can we pray for the Creator to give us glory?

We should interpret that we pray that the Creator will give the glory of God to Your people, since we have no glory of God, but “The city of God is lowered to the very bottom,” called “Divinity in the dust.” Also, we do not have the real importance in the matter of “Make for yourself a rav.” Hence, on Rosh Hashanah, the time when we take upon ourselves the kingdom of heaven, we ask of the Creator to give the glory of God to Your people, for the people of Israel to feel the glory of the Creator. And then we will be able to keep the Torah and Mitzvot [commandments] in full.

Hence, we should say, “Give the glory of God to Your people,” meaning that He will give the glory of God to the people of Israel. This does not mean that He will give the glory of Israel to the people of Israel, but that the Creator will give the glory of God to the people of Israel, for this is all we need to feel the importance and greatness of Dvekut with the Creator. If we have this importance, each person will be able to make efforts and there will be no one in the world saying he has no strength to save his life, so he wishes to remain a beast, if he feels that life is a very important thing because he can enjoy life.

But if a person does not feel that life has meaning, many people choose to die. This is so because no person can experience suffering in his life because it is against the purpose of creation, since the purpose of creation was to do good to His creations, meaning that they would enjoy life. Hence, when one sees that he cannot be happy now, or at least later, he commits suicide because he does not have the goal of life.

It follows that all we lack is, “Make for yourself a rav, to sense the greatness of the Creator. Then, everyone will be able to achieve the goal, which is to adhere to Him.

And we should also interpret the words of Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Perachia—who says three things: 1) Make for yourself a rav. 2) Buy yourself a friend. 3) Judge every person favorably—in regards to love of friends.

It would make sense to think that friendship relates to two persons of the same level in skills and qualities, since then they find it easy to communicate, and they unite as one. And then, “They helped everyone his friend,” like two people who make a partnership and each invests equal energy, resources, and work. Then the profits, too, are divided equally among them.

However, if one is superior to the other, meaning he invests more money or more expertise or more energy than the other, the division of profits is unequal, too. This is called “one-third partnership” or a “one-quarter partnership.” Thus, it is not considered a real partnership because one is of higher status than the other.

It turns out that real friendship—when each makes the necessary payment to buy his friend—is precisely when both are of equal status, and then both pay equally. It is like a corporeal business, where both of them give everything equally, or there cannot be a real partnership. Hence, “Buy yourself a friend,” since there can be bonding—when each buys his friend—only when they are equal.

But on the other hand, it is impossible to learn from one another if one does not see that his friend is greater than him. But if the other one is greater, he cannot be his friend, but his rav [teacher/great], while he is considered a student. At that time, he can learn knowledge or virtues from him.

This is why it is said, “Make for yourself a rav and buy yourself a friend”; both have to exist. In other words, each should regard the other as a friend, and then there is room for buying. This means that each must pay with concessions to the other, like a father concedes his rest, works for his son, spends money for his son, and all is because of the love.

However, there it is natural love. The Creator gave natural love for raising children so there would be persistence to the world. If, for instance, the father would raise the children because it is a Mitzva [commandment], his children would have food, clothing, and other things that are necessary for children to the extent that a person is committed to keep all the Mitzvot [plural of Mitzva]. At times he would keep the Mitzvot, and at times he would only do the very minimum, and his children could starve to death.

This is why the Creator gave parents natural love for their children, so there would be persistence to the world. This is not so with love of friends. Here everyone must make great efforts by himself to create the love of friends in his heart.

It is the same with “And buy yourself a friend.” Once he understands, at least intellectually, that he needs help and he cannot do the holy work, to the extent that he understands it in his mind, he begins to buy, to make concessions for his friend’s sake.

This is so because he understands that the work is primarily in bestowing upon the Creator. However, it is against his nature because man is born with a desire to receive only for his own benefit. Hence, we were given the cure by which to go from self-love to love of others, and by that he can arrive at the love of the Creator.

Therefore, he can find a friend at his level. But afterwards, making the friend a rav, meaning for him to feel that his friend is at a higher degree than him, is something that one cannot see, that his friend is like a rav and he is like a student. But if he does not regard his friend as a rav, how will he learn from him? This is called “Make,” meaning a mindless action. In other words, he must accept, above reason, that his friend is greater than him, and this is called “Make,” meaning acting above reason.

In the essay, “A Speech for the Completion of The Zohar,” it is written, “To receive the first condition, each student must feel the smallest among all the friends. In that state, one can receive the appreciation of the greatness of the great one.” Thus, he is explicitly stating that everyone should see himself as the smallest among the students.

And yet, how can one see oneself as the smallest of the students? Here, only above reason is pertinent. This is called “Make for yourself a rav,” meaning that each of them is considered a rav compared to him, and he is regarded as merely a student.

This is a great exertion, since there is a rule that the other’s deficiencies are always visible while his own faults are always hidden. And yet, he must regard the other as being virtuous, and that it is worthwhile for him to accept what he says or does, to learn from the other’s actions.

But the body does not agree to it because whenever one must learn from another, meaning if he has high regard for the other, the other commits him to labor, and the body revokes the views and actions of the other. Because the body wants to rest, it is better for it and more convenient to rule out his friend’s views and actions so he will not have to make an effort.

This is why it is called, “Make for yourself a rav.” It means that for the friend to be your rav, you have to make it. In other words, it is not by reason, since the reason asserts otherwise, and sometimes even shows him the opposite, that he can be the rav and the other his student. This is why it is called “Make,” meaning doing and not reasoning.

3) “And judge every person favorably.”

After we said, “Buy yourself a friend,” there remains the question, “What about the rest of the people?” For example, if a person chooses a few friends from his congregation and leaves the others and does not bond with them, the question is, “How should he treat them?” After all, they are not his friends, and why didn’t he choose them? We should probably say that he did not find virtues in them to make it worth his while to bond with them, meaning he does not appreciate them.

Thus, how should he treat the rest of the people in his congregation? And the same applies for the rest of the people who are not from among the people of the congregation. How should he treat them? Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Perachia says about it, “Judge every person favorably,” meaning one should judge everyone favorably.

This means that the fact that he does not find qualities in them is not their fault. Rather, it is not in his power to be able to see the merits of the general public. For this reason, he sees according to the qualities of his own soul. This is true according to his attainment, but not according to the truth. In other words, there is such a thing as truth in itself, regardless of the one who attains.

There is truth that each attains according to his attainment, meaning that truth changes according to the ones who attain. Meaning, it is subject to change according to the changing states in the one who attains.

But the actual truth did not change in its essence. This is why each person can attain the same thing differently. Therefore, in the eyes of the public, it could be that the public is just fine, but he sees differently, according to his own quality.

This is why he says, “And judge every person favorably,” meaning he should judge all the others besides his friends favorably—that they are all worthy in and of themselves and he has no complaints whatsoever concerning their conduct. But for himself, he cannot learn anything from them because he has no equivalence with them.

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