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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

Concerning Above Reason

Article No. 21, 1985-86

Concerning above reason, we should use this tool both between friends and between an individual and the Creator. However, there is a difference between them. Between an individual and the Creator, this tool must remain forever. In other words, one must never underestimate this tool, called, “faith above reason.” But between friends, if he can see his friend’s virtue within reason, it is all the better.

And yet, the nature of the body is to the contrary—it always sees his friend’s fault and not his virtues. This is why our sages said, “Judge every person favorably.” In other words, although within reason you see that your friend is wrong, you should still try to judge him favorably. And this can be above reason. That is, although logically he cannot justify him, above reason he can justify him nonetheless.

However, if he can justify him within reason, this is certainly better. If, for example, he sees that the friends are at a higher degree than his own, he sees within reason how he is in utter lowliness compared to the friends, that all the friends keep the schedule of arriving at the seminary, and take greater interest in all that is happening among the friends, to help anyone in any way they can, and immediately implement every advice for the work from the teachers in actual fact, etc., it certainly affects him and gives him strength to overcome his laziness, both when he needs to wake up before dawn and when he is awakened.

Also, during the lesson, his body is more interested in the lessons, since otherwise he will lag behind his friends. Also, with anything that concerns Kedusha [holiness], he must take it more seriously because the body cannot tolerate lowliness. Moreover, when his body looks at the friends, it sees within reason that they are all working for the Creator, and then his body, too, lets him work for the Creator.

And the reason why the body helps him shift to in order to bestow is as mentioned—the body is unwilling to tolerate lowliness. Instead, everybody has pride, and he is unwilling to accept a situation where his friend is greater than him. Thus, when he sees that his friends are at a higher level than his own, this causes him to ascend in every way.

This is the meaning of what our sages said, “Counters’ envy increases wisdom.” In other words, when all the friends look at the society as being at a high level, both in thoughts and in actions, it is natural that each and every one must raise his degree to a higher level than he has by the qualities of his own body.

This means that even if innately he has no craving for great desires or is not intensely attracted to honor, still, through envy, he can acquire additional powers that he doesn’t have in his own nature. Instead, the force of the quality of envy in him has procreated new powers within him, which exist in the society. And through them, he has received those new qualities, meaning powers that were not installed in him by his progenitors. Thus, now he has new qualities that society has procreated in him.

It turns out that a person has qualities that his parents bequeathed to their children, and he has qualities that he acquired from the society, which is a new possession. And this comes to him only through bonding with the society and the envy that he feels toward the friends when he sees that they have better qualities than his own. It motivates him to acquire their good qualities, which he doesn’t have and of which he is jealous.

Thus, through the society, he gains new qualities that he adopts by seeing that they are at a higher degree than his, and he is envious of them. This is the reason why now he can be greater than when he didn’t have a society, since he acquires new powers through the society.

However, this can be said if he truly sees the friends at a higher degree than his own. But at the same time, the evil inclination shows him the lowliness of the society and makes him think, “On the contrary, this society that you wish to bond with is not for you. They are many degrees below your own. Thus, from such a society, not only will you gain nothing, but rather, even the inborn forces that you have, which are small, are larger than those within this society.

Thus, you should in fact stay away from them. And if you do want to bond with them, at least see that they all obey you, meaning follow your understanding of how the society should behave: how they sit when they gather, how they study, and how they pray. In other words, either they are all serious, and God forbid that they should even smile or ever discuss the friends’ worldly matters—if they make a living or how they make a living, easily or with difficulties, if he has a job where he doesn’t suffer or has a difficult landlord who gives him a hard time, or if his coworkers don’t mock him for being orthodox, etc.

All those matters are of no importance and it is a waste thinking about them, for they are only corporeal matters. He, on the other hand, came to partake in an assembly of Israel for a noble purpose, which is to be a true servant of the Creator.”

It follows that when he wishes to forget about his corporeality—when in fact, his corporeality deeply concerns him and he lets it go and does not want to remember—the friends come and begin to discuss their friends’ corporeality. And he does not care about his friends’ corporeality, since now he wants spirituality, “So why are the friends suddenly messing up my mind with mundane stuff which is of no concern to me at all? Is this why I want to forget about my corporeality, to make time to think about the friends’ corporeality, can this be?” Thus, “You’d better listen to me and stay away from them,” his body tells him, “And you will certainly be more successful. Why mess up your mind with such nonsense?”

Therefore, when the body shows him the inferiority of his friends, what can he answer his body when it comes with arguments of a righteous one? In other words, the body doesn’t advise him to turn away from the society because the body is suggesting that he be wicked. On the contrary, the body tells him, “By staying away from the society, you will be righteous and you will think only about your spirituality, and when necessary, of your corporeality, as well.”

Therefore, if a person believes that without a society it is impossible to advance and achieve love of the Creator, since this is the springboard for exiting self-love and entering love of the Creator, he has no other choice but to go above reason. He should tell his body, “The fact that you see that they are not really at the degree of craving to attain the love of the Creator as you desire it—meaning, since you are my body, I see in you that you are holier than the rest of the bodies of the friends, since you wish to be a servant of the Creator.

“I see that you are advising me to leave the friends because their bodies already display their inferiority and they haven’t the strength to conceal their improper traits, since people normally hide the evil in them from one another so that others will respect them because they have prominent qualities. But here, their evil is so great that they are unable to overcome the evil and hide it so that others will not see them. Thus, from my perspective, they are certainly ignoble.

“However, without a society I will not gain anything, despite all my good qualities. Thus, above reason, I will keep what our sages said (Avot, Chapter 4), ‘Be very, very humble.’ In other words, I must go above reason and believe that they are standing at a higher degree than mine. And then, to the extent of my faith, I will be able to receive encouragement and strength from the society and receive from them what the society can give.”

It follows that the only reason he is accepting the love of friends above reason is because of necessity, for lack of other options, but within reason he sees that he is right.

However, it is precisely here, meaning concerning friends, that within reason is more important than the degree of above reason. This is so because in truth, when a person wishes to bring himself closer to Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator, through the work that he wishes to do only in order to bestow, the evil begins to appear in him. And the matter of recognition of evil is not an intellectual matter. Rather, it is a sensation in the heart.

This means that he should feel about himself that he is worse and lower than the whole world. And if he hasn’t come to feel it, but thinks that there is someone who is still worse than him, then he probably has not obtained recognition of evil. In other words, the evil is still hidden in his heart and still hasn’t been disclosed in him.

This is so because it is possible to see evil only when he has some good. For example, it is impossible to detect any dirt in the house if it is dark. But when you turn on a lamp, you can see that there is dirt there.

Also, if one does not do good deeds, does not engage in Torah and prayer, and wish to draw near the Creator, he has no light to illuminate his heart and to allow him to see the evil in his heart. It turns out that the reason why he is still not seeing that there is more evil in his heart than in all of the friends is that he needs more good. For this reason, he thinks that he is more virtuous than his friends.

It therefore turns out that his seeing that his friends are worse than he comes from his lack of the light that will shine for him, so he will see the evil in himself. Thus, the whole matter of evil that is in man is not in finding the evil, since everyone has this evil, called “will to receive in order to receive,” which is self-love. Instead, the difference is entirely in the disclosure of the evil. In other words, not every person sees and feels that self-love is bad and harmful, since a person doesn’t see that engagement in satisfying his will to receive, called “self-love,” will harm him.

Yet, when he begins to do the holy work on the path of truth, meaning when he wishes to achieve Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator, so all his actions will be for the Creator, by that he receives a little more light that shines for him each time, and then he begins to feel self-love as a bad thing.

It is a gradual process. Each time he sees that this is what obstructs him from achieving Dvekut with the Creator, he sees more clearly each time how it—the will to receive—is his real enemy, just as King Solomon referred to the evil inclination as “an enemy.” It is written about it, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him bread, for you will heap burning coals on his head.”

We therefore see that in truth, a person should feel that he is worse than others because this is indeed the truth. And we should also understand what our sages said, “Counters’ envy increases wisdom.” This is precisely within reason. But above reason, his friend’s merit is not evident enough to say that he is envious of his friend, so it would cause him to work and toil because his friend compels him, due to envy.

Baal HaSulam interpreted a phrase by Rabbi Yohanan, “The Creator saw that righteous were few. He stood and planted them in each and every generation,” as it is said, “For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and He has set the world upon them.” RASHI interprets, “Spread them through all the generations,” to be a basis, sustenance, and a foundation for the existence of the world (Yoma 78b). “Few” means that they were growing fewer. Hence, what did He do? “He stood and planted them in each and every generation.” Thus, by planting them in each generation, they would multiply.

We should understand how they would multiply if He planted them in each and every generation. We should understand the difference between all the righteous being in a single generation, and being scattered through all the generations, as is understood from the words of RASHI’s commentary, that by spreading them throughout the generations the righteous would increase.

He, Baal HaSulam, said, “By having righteous in each generation, there will be room for people who do not have the innate qualities to achieve Dvekut with the Creator. However, by bonding with the righteous that will be in each generation, through adhering to them, they will learn from their actions and will be able to acquire new qualities through the righteous that will be in each generation. This is why He spread the righteous in each generation, so that in this way the righteous will increase.”

And as was said, the same can be obtained by adhesion of friends—new qualities by which they will be qualified to achieve Dvekut with the Creator. And all this can be said while he sees the merits of the friends. At that time, it is relevant to say that he should learn from their actions. But when he sees that he is better qualified than they are, there is nothing he can receive from the friends.

This is why they said that when the evil inclination comes and shows him the lowliness of the friends, he should go above reason. But certainly, it would be better and more successful if he could see within reason that the friends are at a higher degree than his own. With that we can understand the prayer that Rabbi Elimelech had written for us, “ Let our hearts see the virtues of our friends, and not their faults.”

However, between an individual and the Creator, it is a whole other matter. In other words, above reason is better. This means that if he takes upon himself faith above reason, his work is in the right direction. This is not so within reason, although a person’s intellect grasps differently. In other words, every person knows and understands that if he didn’t have to believe, but His Providence were revealed throughout the world, meaning to all the creatures, the whole world would certainly engage in Torah and Mitzvot, and there would be no place for secular people. Rather, everyone would be orthodox.

However, His Providence is not revealed to the lower ones. Instead, they must believe. Yet, faith is a difficult thing, since the Creator gave us intellect and reason to see each thing according to our own eyes. We consider everything that concerns human relations according to our best judgment, and there is nothing that will give us distinctions except our minds, as our sages said, “A judge has only what his eyes see” (Baba Batra 131). It follows that we conduct all our matters within reason, not above reason.

And for this reason, when a person begins with the work of the Creator and he is told that he must assume faith above reason, he begins to think: “But I see that the Creator gave us reason so as to understand everything according to the intellect, meaning according to the way our minds grasp. Thus, how can I take upon myself something that is against my mind?” It is a very difficult thing for the body to understand that it is in its interest to do the work of holiness in above reason.

Above reason applies to both mind and heart. This is why not every person can enter the work of holiness in the form of bestowal, which is work above reason. Therefore, when teaching the rest of the world the work of the Creator, the order is as Maimonides said, that they begin in Lo Lishma [not for Her name] until they gain knowledge and acquire much wisdom, and then they are told that the essence of the work is in order to bestow, which is called, “work for the Creator.”

However, we should understand why above reason is better. The contrary seems to make more sense—that if serving the Creator were clothed within reason, more people would come and want to be servants of the Creator. Baal HaSulam said about it that one should not think that when the Creator gives us His work in the form of above reason, it is a low degree. Rather, we should believe that it is a very high degree, for only by that does one have a chance to be able to work in order to bestow. Otherwise, he would have to fall into in order to receive.

Therefore, although more people would be serving if the work had been within reason, they would never be able to achieve Dvekut with the Creator, which is the work in order to bestow. Hence, although there would be an increase in quantity, in terms of quality, it would be impossible for man to be able to receive the delight and pleasure that the Creator wishes to give to the creatures, according to His desire—to do good to His creations.

Thus, for the delight and pleasure that the creatures will receive to be flawless, meaning to avoid having the bread of shame, there was the correction of the Tzimtzum [restriction]—that the upper abundance would not shine unless it was where there is equivalence of form. This is considered that the creatures receive the abundance in vessels of bestowal. And when there are no vessels of bestowal in the creatures, they must remain in the dark, which is called, “they will die without wisdom.”

However, we should know that although there is the light of Torah in Lo Lishma, as well, of which our sages said, “One should always engage in Torah and Mitzvot in Lo Lishma because from Lo Lishma we come to Lishma, since the light in it reforms him,” afterwards, one must reach Lishma. In other words, he should come to work above reason in mind and heart.

But between a man and his friend, if he can work in love of friends within reason, meaning if he tries to see the friends as being at a higher level of holiness than himself, this is certainly better. In other words, if he sees within reason that the friends are closer to Dvekut with the Creator than him, it is certainly better than if he had to believe above reason.

Thus, in truth, he sees that he is at a higher degree than the friends. Within reason, he always sees the friends as low. However, he believes above reason that he should say—because it is a Mitzva [commandment/good deed]—that he should believe that it is not as he sees it. Certainly, if he can see within reason that the friends are at degrees of holiness, it is all the better.

Similarly, we can interpret the verse (Samuel, 16:7), “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for it is not as man sees, for man looks to the eyes, but the Lord looks to the heart.’”

We therefore see that when the Creator sent Samuel to anoint one of the sons of Yishai [Jesse], Samuel understood by what he saw in his eyes that Eliav, son of Yishai, was fit to be the king of Israel instead of King Saul, but the Creator disagreed with his perception. In the end, they brought David, who was herding the cattle, and David was red-headed with fair eyes and good appearance, “And the Lord said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is he.’”

What does that teach us? There are two things that we see here:

1) From the perspective of Samuel, he understands Eliav’s virtues—according to his mind—as being fit to be king over Israel. But the Creator told him, “No, do not follow your own reason,” since when concerning the Creator, reason is worthless. Rather, since the Creator wanted to enthrone a king, this is called “between an individual and the Creator,” where there is no room for reason, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are My ways your ways.” Rather, what did the Creator tell him? “For it is not as man sees, for man looks to the eyes, and the Lord looks to the heart.”

According to the above, we can interpret that “For man looks to the eyes” is good between a person and his friend. In that case, it is good if one can go within reason, that it is in accord with what one sees.

This is not so with, “And the Lord looks to the heart.” In other words, concerning matters of the Creator, it is above reason and one must not look according to his own eyes, but above reason. Thus, two discernments must be made here: 1) Between a person and the Creator, above reason is better; 2) between a person and his friend, within reason is better.

This is why the Creator told him, “Do not look at his appearance,” since following his eyes is good between a man and his friend. If you can see the friend’s merits within reason, it is all the better. But this is not so here, when I want to anoint him as king. This operation belongs to Me. I want him as king. This is called “between a person and the Creator.” Here, the proper work is above reason, since precisely in this way it is possible to achieve reception in order to bestow. Otherwise, he will fall into receiving in order to receive, which causes separation and remoteness from Kedusha [holiness].

However, here arises a question, after one has decided to go above reason and not look at all the questions that the body begins to ask. When he begins to work on the path of bestowal and faith above reason, and overcomes the obstacles—the questions that the body brings him from the world over—and closes his eyes and doesn’t wish to look at anything that contradicts the mind and heart, but has decided to go only above reason, after this decision, sometimes he suddenly brings great excuses that the body must agree with.

Thus, he sees that now he is going within reason. But what can he do when now he sees, through the excuses he received from above, that he tells himself, “What can I do now that I have no place where I can work above reason? I see now that everything I do in order to bestow is how it should be.”

Thus, he no longer has any questions about serving the Creator, which force him to work above reason. But since the work is primarily above reason, what can he do when he is in such a state?

Baal HaSulam said that when a person is rewarded with some disclosure from above and now he feels that it is worthwhile being a servant of the Creator, it follows that thus far he had work in the form of above reason: the body disagreed with this work and he always had to overcome, and needed the Creator to give him strength above reason. But now he no longer needs the help of the Creator, since now he feels that he has a basis on which to build his structure. In other words, he already has support on which to rely.

Thus, now he is blemishing the faith that he was using before, since now he can already say, “Thank God I am rid of the burden of faith, which was a burden and load to me.” But now I already have a basis within reason because now I have received some awakening from above so that the body agrees that it is worthwhile to keep Torah and Mitzvot. It turns out that by that he is blemishing the faith.

And Baal HaSulam said that at that time, one must say, “Now I see that the real way is actually to go above reason. And the evidence of that is the fact that now I have been rewarded with some illumination from above, only because I have taken it upon myself to go above reason. This is why I was rewarded with the Creator bringing me a little closer to Him and giving me some awakening from above.”

And this illumination that he has now received gives him an answer to all the questions. It turns out that this testifies to the above reason. Thus, what should I do now so I will continue with above reason? There is only to reinforce and to start looking for ways to dress his work in above reason.

It turns out that by that, he did not blemish his faith at all, since he was walking in it before he was rewarded with any illumination from above, since even now he is not receiving the illumination as a foundation on which to build the structure of his work. Rather, he is taking the illumination as a testimony that he is on the right track, that he is in faith above reason. Only in this form of work does the Creator bring a person closer to Him and gives him room to draw nearer to Him, since this nearing will not let him fall into the vessels of reception, which are called “within reason,” since the Creator sees that he is trying to go only above reason.

It follows from all the above that concerning above reason, there is a difference between a person-and-the-Creator and a person-and-his-friend. Between a person and his friend, if he can see the friends’ merits within reason it is better. But if within reason he sees only the friends’ faults, he has no choice but to go above reason and say, “What I see, hear, and feel is all wrong and untrue. It is impossible that I was mistaken about the friends I have chosen to bond with, meaning that I miscalculated.

“That is, I thought that I would grow richer in spirituality through them, since they had possessions that I did not. Hence, if I were to bond with them, I could rise to a higher degree than I thought. But now I see that in fact, I am discerning otherwise. And I heard that Baal HaSulam said that the only thing that can help a person out of self-love and be rewarded with the love of the Creator is the love of friends. Hence, I have no choice but to bond with those friends, although in my view, I would be better off staying away from them and avoid bonding with them.

“However, I have no choice and I must believe above reason that indeed, all the friends are at a high degree, but I cannot see their virtue with my eyes.” This is the reason why he must believe above reason. But when he sees the merit of the friends within reason, he can certainly derive great benefits from the friends. But what can he do? He has no choice.

However, it is a different order between a person and the Creator. In a place where one can go above reason, it is better. Therefore, where one can be assisted from within reason, being rewarded with some illumination from above, then he can say, “Now I see that it is worthwhile being a servant of the Creator because I feel a good taste in the work.”

It follows that he took this feeling—that he finds meaning in the work—as a basis and foundation upon which to build his Judaism. And now that he understands with his reason that it is worthwhile to keep Torah and Mitzvot, his whole foundation is built on this condition. This means that when he finds meaning in the work, he should obey the voice of the Creator. Thus, if he does not find meaning in the work, he cannot keep the Mitzvot of the Creator.

It is known that assuming the kingdom of heaven must be done “With all your heart and with all your soul.” In other words, even if He takes one’s soul from him, meaning even if he has no livelihood, not even Nefesh, he is still committed to being a servant of the Creator and to not present any conditions before the Creator, telling Him, “If you do as I wish, according to what I understand that I need—meaning that I feel a lack in this, and if You satisfy my need—I promise to be a servant of the Creator. But if You do not satisfy all my wishes—those I understand that I need—I cannot take upon myself everything that You command me through Moses.”

However, one should assume the burden of the kingdom of heaven without any conditions, meaning even above reason. Moreover, one must say, “Our having to work above reason is not because the Creator cannot give us reason.” Rather, we must believe that it is all to our benefit. It turns out that between a person and the Creator we should try to keep it above reason, and if he receives some reason, he should do as mentioned above.

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