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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

But the More They Afflicted Them

Article No. 16, 1984-5

It is written, “But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel” (Exodus 1:12). The meaning of the words, “But the more they afflicted them” is that they will multiply and spread to that same extent that they are afflicted. It seems as though it is a condition—that there cannot be multiplication and spreading in the work before there is a basis of affliction first.

But to understand the above written, we must know our tenet, meaning know what is our essence. As it is explained in the introductions, it is only our will to receive. And certainly, when the will to receive fulfills its wish, that fulfillment is not considered work, since work means what one is rewarded for.

In other words, work is actions that man would avoid, and he does them only because he has no choice, since he wishes to receive some reward. The reward is considered the thing that he craves, and his only desire and wish is for that thing. True craving means that this thing touches his heart so deeply that he says, “I’d rather die than to live if I cannot obtain it.” It follows that if he has no affliction or pain for not having what he craves, it is not considered a craving. And his craving is measured by the extent of his suffering.

It therefore follows that if one wishes to receive some satisfaction, there must first be a lack. This is so because there is no light without a Kli [vessel], and no one can fill it with anything if there is no deficiency. For example, one cannot eat without appetite or enjoy rest without fatigue.

Hence, one is not suffering because the Egyptians in his body are afflicting him unless he does not want to obey them and wishes to go by a way that displeases them. The root of reception in man is called “self-love,” and this is regarded as “Egypt.” There are many nations, which are generally called “the seventy nations,” that are the opposite of Kedusha [holiness], which are the seven Sefirot, where each Sefira [singular of Sefirot] consists of ten, hence the number seventy nations. And also, each nation has its own unique desire.

The Klipa [shell] of Egypt is a general Klipa. It is where the sparks of Kedusha fell, which the people of Israel—who were in Egypt—had to correct. Thus, first there must be pain and affliction for not being able to exit their governance, as it is written, “And the children of Israel sighed because of the labor, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God because of the labor. And God heard their groaning.”

We should be precise about the words “because of the labor” being written twice. We should explain that all the sighs were from the labor, meaning that they could not work for the Creator. Indeed, their suffering was from not being able to make the work that they were doing be for the Creator, due to the Klipa of Egypt. This is why it is written, “Because of the labor” twice.

1) All the sighs were not because they were lacking anything. They lacked only one thing, meaning they did not wish for any luxuries or payment. Their only lack, for which they felt pain and suffering, was that of not being able to do anything for the Creator. In other words, they wished that they would have a desire to give contentment to the Creator and not to themselves, but they couldn’t, and this afflicted them. This is called “wanting to have some grip in spirituality.”

2) The second “Because of the labor” comes to teach that, “And their cry came up unto God,” that God heard their groaning, was because their only request was work. This comes to imply to the other “Because of the labor.” It turns out that the whole exile that they felt was only because they were under the rule of the Klipa of Egypt and they could not do anything to make it only in order to bestow.

It is written in The Zohar (Exodus, Item 381 in the Sulam Commentary), “Rabbi Yehuda said, ‘Come and see that this is so, as Rabbi Yehoshua of Sakhnin said, ‘As long as their minister was given dominion over Israel, the cry of Israel was not heard. When their minister fell, it writes, ‘The king of Egypt died,’ and promptly, ‘And the children of Israel sighed because of the labor, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God because of the labor.’ But until then they were not answered in their cry.’’”

For this reason, we can say that if it is not time to dethrone Egypt’s minister, there is no room for choice or for them to repent and to be able to be redeemed from exile. He says (Exodus, Item 380 in the Sulam Commentary), “‘In those many days.’ ‘Many’ refers to Israel’s stay in Egypt, that is, that the end has come. And since their exile has been completed, what does it say? ‘The king of Egypt died.’ What does that mean? It means that the minister of Egypt was lowered from his status and fell from his pride. This is why the writing says about him, ‘The king of Egypt died,’ since decline is regarded for him as dying. As when the king of Egypt—who was their minister—fell, the Creator remembered Israel and heard their groaning.”

The Zohar asks this question about the verse, “In your distress, when all these things come upon you” (Deuteronomy 4). It means that before everything takes place, it is impossible to achieve perfection. It turns out that you give an excuse, a pretext that all the things that one should go through can be experienced through suffering, and this is measured by neither time nor quantity of affliction, but by the measure of feeling (see in The Zohar).

We can understand it through an allegory. If a person should make one kilogram worth of labor, which is a thousand grams of suffering, the reward comes for that as well. As our sages said, “The reward matches the pain.” This means that the labor that one should exert before he receives the reward is because there is no light without a Kli, since there is no fulfillment without a deficiency. And the labor that one gives is the qualification for reception of the need, so that afterwards he will be able to receive the filling in it.

Let us say that that person can give the thousand grams of deficiency intermittently, which are discernments in quantity and quality. A person can exert for ten minutes a day, meaning regret his remoteness from the Creator, or he can regret his remoteness from the Creator ten minutes a week, or ten minutes a month.

It is similar with the quality of his suffering when he remembers that he is remote from the Creator. Although it pains him, it is not so terrible and there are things that pain him more, things that he craves. It turns out that in quality, too, one should contemplate. Thus, a person has a choice, although he must experience the whole process of labor and affliction through the end, until he comes to a state of, “And you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice.”

Thus, man has a choice to shorten the time of the process of affliction due to the prolonging of time, which, as we said, is called “quantity,” and to add in quality, which is the sensation of suffering at being remote from the Creator.

But we should know that there is a big difference between quantity and quality in the manner of the work. When considering quantity of time, a person can arrange his schedule, meaning the amount of time he allocates to himself, even by coercion. This means that even though the body does not wish to sit for the whole time of the lesson that he decided on, he must sit for several minutes or hours and regret being remote from the Creator. If he has a strong desire and he is not of weak character, he can sit and keep the schedule he arranged for himself, since this is an act, and with actions a person can do things by coercion.

But with quality, this is very difficult because one cannot force oneself to feel differently than he does. If he comes to examine his feelings of pain and suffering at being remote from the Creator, he sometimes comes to a state where he does not care. At that time, he does not know what to do because he cannot change how he feels, and then he is perplexed.

This causes the prolonging of the exile because it is hard for us to give the necessary quantity, much less the quality. And when he begins to scrutinize the quality of the deficiency, he sees that he feels no pain, that he is seemingly unconscious, unfeeling. And although remoteness from the Creator means not having life, it doesn’t pain him that he has no life. Then he has no other choice but to pray to the Creator to give him some life, so he will feel that he is dangerously ill and needs to cure the soul.

And sometimes one comes to a state where he is in such a decline that he doesn’t even have the strength to pray for it. Rather, he is in a state of complete indifference. This is called “being in a state of still,” meaning he is completely motionless.

In that state, only his society can help him. In other words, if he comes among friends and does not criticize them in any way, testing if they, too, have the same obstructions and thoughts but have overcome them, or they just take no interest in introspection and this is why they can engage in Torah and Mitzvot, how can he be like them?

At that time, he cannot receive any assistance from society because he has no Dvekut [adhesion] with them at all, as they are too small to be his friends. Thus, naturally, he is not affected by them whatsoever.

But if he comes among his friends not with his head high, thinking that he is wise and the friends are fools—but rather tosses his pride away and follows the rule, “Poverty follows the poor,” not only is he in a state of decline and feels no need for spirituality, he also receives thoughts of pride, meaning that he is wiser than all his society.

Now let us return to the first question, regarding what The Zohar says, “And since their exile has been completed,” what does it say, “The king of Egypt died,” since he regards dethroning as death. And since the king of Egypt—who is their minister—fell, the Creator remembered Israel and heard their prayer. It turns out that there is a pretext that no prayer will help before it is due time. Thus, there is nothing that can be done, because the Creator will not hear their prayer.

With the above words we can understand the matters as they are. This is the same issue that our sages described about the verse, “I the Lord will hasten it in its time.” If they are rewarded, “I will hasten it.” If they are not rewarded, “In its time.” In other words, when the time comes, an awakening from the Creator will come, and through it Israel will repent. It turns out that the choice is in regards to time, as he says in the “Introduction to The Book of Zohar” (Item 16).

It follows from all the above that one should not consider the time of redemption—that it is written that before that, their prayer was not accepted—because this relates to the time of quantity and quality of suffering, that there is a certain time at which suffering will be completed. However, we can shorten the time. The whole quantity and quality by which the suffering will appear can be shortened in a way that all the suffering will come in a short time, but all the suffering will have appeared there.

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