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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

Why Are Four Questions Asked Specifically on Passover Night?

Article No. 22, 1988/89

As we see, when does one ask questions? When he is lacking. He is asking, “Why do I need to suffer from not having what I think I need?” He comes to the Creator with complaints and demands and asks, “Why do I need to suffer?” But when a person has abundance, what questions are there to ask when he feels that he is free, that he is not enslaved by anything, or feels that wha he doesn’t have pains him, giving him room to ask, “Why”?

Therefore, we should understand why we ask questions specifically on Passover night, which is the festival of freedom? Also, they are called “four questions,” meaning four times “Why,” precisely when he is not lacking anything.

According to what the Ari says, Passover night is more complete than the eve of Shabbat. He says that on the eve of Shabbat there is an ascent of Malchut to Mochin de Neshama, but on Passover night, there is an ascent of Malchut to Mochin de Haya, such as on the day of Shabbat (see, Shaar HaKavanot). Thus, we should understand why we ask questions specifically at a time of wholeness. Certainly, there are many answers to that, and we will interpret it in the work.

It is known that the work we were given in Torah and Mitzvot [commandments] is so that through them we will correct ourselves and be worthy of receiving delight and pleasure, since this is the reason why man was created, as it is known that the purpose of creation is to do good to His creations. However, to avoid the shame upon reception of the pleasures, since every branch wishes to resemble its root, and since the root bestows upon the creatures, there is disparity of form between the giver and the receiver. And this causes us the shame.

Therefore, to correct it, a Tzimtzum [restriction] and concealment were placed on the upper Providence. Thus, through the Tzimtzum and concealment, a place was made in which we are so far from the Creator that it causes us to have very little understanding of His guidance over His creations. It is written about it in the “Introduction to The Study of the Ten Sefirot” (Items 42-43), where he says that if Providence were revealed, and for instance, one who ate something forbidden instantly choked, and one who performed a Mitzva [commandment] immediately discovered a wonderful delight in it, similar to the greatest pleasures in our corporeal world, what fool would even think of tasting something forbidden when he knew he would immediately lose his life for it, or wait to receive a great corporeal pleasure when it came into his hand? Thus, the Tzimtzum and concealment that were made to correct the shame cause us all the labor and remoteness from the Creator.

It follows that the Tzimtzum and concealment were made to benefit the lower one. Thus, there is no point in asking about Providence, “Why is the Creator treating us as it seems to us, for we don’t see the good and we suffer in exile, poverty, and so on?” In other words, everyone complains about why the Creator He behaves with undisclosed guidance toward us, which is only for the better.

For this reason, it is forbidden to slander His guidance—the way He behaves with the creatures. Instead, we must believe with faith above reason that it should be precisely as we see it. And concerning what we feel, we should walk in the ways of Torah, as the sages have instructed us how to behave with all those feelings that we feel, and to say about them with faith above reason, “They have eyes and do not see,” as is written in the article from 1943.

It is known that there is a prohibition on slander. However, it is commonly thought that slander, which is so bad, is between people. But in truth, slander is primarily between man and the Creator, as it is written (Shemot Rabbah, Chapter 3, 12), “Moses caught the act of the serpent, who slandered his Creator, as it is said, ‘For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be as God,knowing good and evil.’”

With the above-said, we can see why slander is worse than other things. It is because slander is primarily from the serpent, who slandered the Creator and told him, “The Creator commanded you not to eat from the tree of knowledge, but to keep it in concealment and in hiding.” The serpent told him about that, “You shouldn’t obey what He told you, that the tree of knowledge should remain hidden from the lower ones.” Instead, his argument was that everything should be open.

That was the serpent’s slander. It follows that he spoke about Providence, that the Creator’s conduct with the creatures of undisclosed guidance was wrong. But in truth, the concealment is only so that the creatures will be able to receive the delight and pleasure without shame. And this can only be when the creatures receive everything for the Creator, meaning that the whole reception will be only in order to bestow.

It follows that the serpent’s slander is not a part. Rather, he was speaking about the entire correction that was executed on Malchut so that the lower ones, who extend from her, would be able to achieve Dvekut [adhesion], called “equivalence of form,” by which there would be the correction that enables them to receive the delight and pleasure without any unpleasantness, called “shame.”

Because of this correction, we were given the Torah and Mitzvot by which to be able to come out of self-love, which is separation from the Creator, and achieve equivalence of form. It is as our sages said, “I have created the evil inclination; I have created the spice of Torah.” And according to the serpent’s slander, there will be open Providence, meaning everything will be disclosed, even though the Creator explicitly told Adam, “But of the tree of knowledge you shall not eat.” Instead, this discernment must be covered and only at the end of correction will it be possible to illuminate this discernment.

And about that, too, the serpent told him not to obey the Creator. In other words, the Creator didn’t do it in Adam’s favor, that the Creator’s guidance over the creatures—the Good who does good—will be undisclosed, but for other reasons. It turns out that the serpent’s slander was a general thing, meaning he said that all the corrections that we should do by the power of Torah and Mitzvot are not for the purpose of man.

This is the reason why slander is the most severe of all prohibitions, since it encompasses the whole of the Torah. In other words, with this slander, all the corrections that were made should not be made. Thus, since it is so grave between man and the Creator, the prohibition between a person and his friend is a grave matter, too, as we said about “love thy friend as thyself,” which Rabbi Akiva said was the great rule of the Torah.

It follows that one who slanders acts the opposite of the rule, “Love thy friend as thyself.” Hence, slander between a person and his friend is also a rule. This is why it is such a grave prohibition.

With the above, we can interpret what our sages said (Sanhedrin 38), “Rav Yehuda said, ‘Rav said, ‘Adam Ha Rishonwas heretical.’ And RASHI explains, ‘‘Was heretical’ means that he leaned toward idolatry.’’”

This is very difficult to understand. Adam HaRishon spoke to the Creator. How can one who speaks to the Creator be heretical—that his heart will lean toward idolatry? After all, the Creator spoke to him, so how can he be mistaken to the point that his heart leaned toward idol worship?

As we said above, the Creator told him that the tree of knowledge should be in concealment and must not be disclosed before the end of correction. When the serpent came to him and told him not to obey the Creator, that this great pleasure was found in the tree of knowledge, which the Creator hid from him, he took to heart the serpent’s slander. This is called that he “was heretical.”

RASHI interpreted that his heart leaned toward idolatry, meaning that his heart leaned toward what the serpent was telling him—that it would be better if there were open Providence in the world, as the serpent advised him. This is called a “heretic,” one who does not like His governance. This means that he was thinking according to the serpent’s advice, that if the tree of knowledge were revealed and there were open Providence, many would engage in the holy work. It would be for the above reason that everyone would keep Torah and Mitzvot because it would all be clothed in reason, within reason, and not that everything must be above reason.

In other words, the tree of knowledge means that everything is revealed within reason, and on that was the commandment to refrain from eating. That is, our work toward the Creator should be above reason and not within reason, although it is reasonable to think that if everything were clothed within reason, the servants of the Creator would proliferate.

This is the meaning of the serpent’s slander, who spoke badly about Providence. Since the Creator made the work of the Creator above reason, it doesn’t mean that the Creator could make everything within reason. Instead, we must believe, although we don’t understand, that this guidance is the best.

And so did Baal HaSulam say—that the Creator chose the way of faith above reason because the Creator knows it is the most successful way for the lower ones to reach the goal called “Dvekut with the Creator,” which is equivalence of form, called “receiving in order to bestow.”

And although the sin of the tree of knowledge relates to high degrees—the light of the end of correction—as explained in the “Introduction to the Book, Panim Meirot uMasbirot,” with regards to our work—we should interpret that one who slanders Providence, saying that he doesn’t want to believe that His guidance over the creatures is benevolent, and that it is so to believe above reason.

However, a person says, “If there were open Providence, if I could see with my mind that the Creator bestows benevolently upon all creations, and if it were within reason, only in this way would I be able to keep Torah and Mitzvot.” This came because of the sin of the tree of knowledge—that a man wants to go specifically within reason and to not believe above reason. Hence, when he doesn’t believe that it is in benevolence, he is slandering the Creator. This is rooted in the time when the serpent slandered to Adam HaRishon against the Creator.

And a person wanting to go within reason is called “the sin of the tree of knowledge.” This sin appears in two ways, in two questions that extend from it: 1) Pharaoh’s question, who asked, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” meaning it is hard for him to believe anything that contradicts reason. And another thing extends from it, a second question, “Why should one work to benefit the Creator and not himself?” In other words, he is asking, “What will I gain by working for the Creator and not for me?”

With the above said we can understand what we see, that even after man has overcome and said that he is taking upon himself to walk on the path of truth, and begins to believe in faith in the sages, reason dictates that each day he should advance and move forward. Yet, one sees that it is actually the complete opposite—each day he is regressing. Thus, reason makes him say, “This work of going in bestowal is not for me. Rather, it is work for a chosen few.” He understands that he’d be better off escaping the campaign.

And what is he told? That he should once again go with faith above reason and disregard what reason compels him to do. And as it is written in the essay, “Faith in His Rav” (1943), one cannot see his true state. Instead, he should go above reason, and only in this way can we reach the goal and be rewarded with Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator.

However, we should understand what it gives us to feel within reason that we are regressing instead of progressing. In other words, for what purpose does one need to feel that he is in decline? What is the benefit in that? We see that in a state of ascent, when one has a desire for spirituality and regards mundane pleasures—which the whole world chases so as to obtain these pleasures—as though they were created needlessly, meaning that it would be better if the Creator created all creations enjoying spiritual things.

Thus, regarding thoughts of declines, what does one gain by the fact that after each ascent, he comes to a descent? As a result, a person always asks, “How many are the ascents and descents and why are they needed anyway? It would be better if I could stay in the state of ascent.”

But the answer is that it is impossible to appreciate anything without knowing its importance. In other words, there is a rule that the joy that a person takes in something depends on the importance of the matter. Sometimes a person is given something important, and if he could appreciate it, he could receive great pleasure from it. But since he doesn’t know the value of the thing, that person cannot enjoy it, except to the extent that he understands its importance.

For example, a person buys an object, a book, which is not so beautiful on the outside, and later that book is reprinted and costs more, but since he didn’t have much money, he bought this book. And the seller, too, was not aware of the importance of the book and sold it to him for a low price. But sometime later, a man comes to his house, sees the book, and says, “Since this book was printed 300 years ago, this book is worth a fortune, as there are only three such books in the world.” Now that he hears about the great value of the book, he begins to enjoy the book.

The lesson is that we don’t have the knowledge to appreciate the ascent. That is, we don’t have the knowledge to understand the value of a single minute of having the power to believe in the Creator, and to have some sensation of the greatness of the Creator, that in a state of ascent we have the desire to annul before Him without any rhyme and reason, like a candle before a torch. Naturally, we cannot enjoy the fact that the Creator has brought us closer and has given us some nearness, from which we should derive the joy and elation that it should bring us. However, since we haven’t the importance to regard it, we can only enjoy according the importance, as explained in the allegory.

This is why we were given descents, to be able to learn the importance of the ascents, as it is written, “As the advantage of the light from the darkness.” Specifically through descents, one can come to know and to appreciate ascents, and then he can enjoy the ascents and come to feel that “They are our lives and the length of our days.” But when one doesn’t know the need for faith because he thinks that engaging in Torah and keeping Mitzvot is enough for him to be among the servants of the Creator, he is not given descents from above so as to appreciate the ascents.

Their work is on the outside. They have no intention of entering the inside. In other words, their aim is not to be completely annulled before the Kedusha [holiness]—where holy means “retired and separated from himself,” as it is written, “You will be holy for I am holy,”—at which time there will be only the authority of the Creator because the lower one wishes to annul before the root, and all he sees is that it is worthwhile to live only to benefit the Creator.

For a person to be in a state where he wants to live only in order to give contentment to the Creator, he must provide himself with great faith in the greatness of the Creator, to make it worthwhile to annul himself for the benefit of the Creator. And the faith that he has acquired during the upbringing is not enough for him. For the faith that he has acquired during the upbringing, he can already work and keep the Torah and Mitzvot in all its details and precisions. This is because he doesn’t have to annul himself before the Creator. Instead, he asks of the Creator that since he is keeping the Torah and Mitzvot that the Creator commanded us through Moses, for this the Creator will grant all his wishes.

He believes in reward and punishment, and certainly, as our sages said (Avot, Chapter 2, 21), “If you studied much Torah, trust your landlord to pay you the reward for your work.” Hence, since the basis that compels him to keep Torah and Mitzvot depends on the reward, not on the giver of the reward, he doesn’t have to engage in the greatness of the faith of the Creator, but only in the greatness or smallness of the reward. Then, there is no question of ascents and descents, believing in the greatness and importance of the Creator. Rather, the only thing that is pertinent is that he engages in Torah and Mitzvot or that he grows weaker in observance because he doesn’t always believe in the reward.

This causes those who engage in Torah and Mitzvot in order to receive reward—that sometimes they are among people who do not believe in reward and punishment—to be able to influence a person with their thoughts, which causes him to even stray completely from Judaism. Hence, they must not come in contact with people who are free in their views, since they bring them alien thoughts about faith in reward and punishment. But on the whole, those who engage in Lo Lishma do not experience ups and downs, meaning there is no need for the presence of descents.

But those who wish to work because of the importance of the Creator, who always need to increase the faith in the importance and the greatness of the Creator, that only the importance and the greatness of the Creator obligates them to keep Torah and Mitzvot in order to achieve Dvekut with the Creator, those people must always assume and value the greatness of the Creator. They must always assess that if they have some grip on spirituality, it is because the Creator is bringing them closer, while they themselves are completely powerless unless they see that they will derive from it some benefit for themselves. It follows that the main work is to annul himself. Yet, this is against nature; only by His salvation can they reach it.

Thus, during the ascent, a person thinks that it is a natural thing already, and that he doesn’t need the Creator’s help at all. Hence, a correction was made, called “descents,” that one is always shown the measure of his strength—what he can do by himself and how he sees it. But when he is tossed off from his state, where he thought he was already a human and not like the beasts that work for themselves, suddenly he cannot even feel that they wish to throw him down into this baseness, in which he discovers himself afterwards.

And yet, during the decline, he doesn’t see that he is beginning to decline. Rather, when he descends, he remains unconscious. And after being down for some time, he also gets help from above and he is told, “You should know that now you’re in decline.” And before he is told that he is unconscious, he doesn’t know a thing. However, one should believe that this, too, is so, since knowing doesn’t come by itself. Instead, one should know that these descents were given to him to learn how it is possible to appreciate the state of ascent. But during the decline, one cannot learn anything from it.

However, during the ascent he can make a true judgment and say, “Now I am in a state of faith, and this came to me from the Creator. Otherwise, I would immediately fall into a state of self-love.” If he does not make this calculation and thank the Creator for bringing him closer, he is immediately thrown. It turns out that it is impossible to obtain real pleasure from nearing the Creator unless he can appreciate it, as said above, “As the advantage of the light from the darkness.”

It follows that for the creatures to receive the delight and pleasure and feel it, those descents were all necessary. They are called “exile,” and this is called “Divinity in the exile” or “Divinity in the dust.” And only by that will one have the Kelim [vessels] to feel the delight and pleasure.

With the above-said, we can understand why specifically at the time of freedom, which is Passover night, the complete wholeness, as the Ari says, that Malchut has the same Gadlut, since Malchut has Mochin de Haya, and so it is on Passover night.

The answer is that precisely during an ascent, when one thinks of descents they have the power to bring out the importance of the ascents. Otherwise, it is akin to one who is given something that is worth a fortune and he uses and enjoys it as if its worth was a few pennies.

Thus, specifically at the time of freedom, it is possible to ask the questions. That is, it is not about the question, but we need the questions in order to understand the answers, as Baal HaSulam said about what is written, “Speak now in the ears of the people, and let them ask every man of his neighbor.” RASHI interprets that he warned them that that righteous will say, “And they shall serve them, and they shall afflict them,” and it will come true in them, and “Afterwards they will come out with great possessions” will not come true in them. And there is a question, “If the Creator wished to give great possessions to the people of Israel, couldn’t the Creator give them? Did he have to tell the people of Israel to be fraudulent and take vessels of silver and vessels of gold from the Egyptians?”

The answer is that when the Creator told Abraham, “To give this land unto you to inherit it,” Abraham asked, “By what will I know that I shall inherit it?” “And he said unto Abram, ‘Know for certain that your seed will be a stranger in a land that is not theirs ... and afterwards they will come out with great possessions.’” And he asked, “What do we see in the Creator’s reply to Abram's question, ‘By what will I know…,’ that by being in a land that is not theirs, meaning in exile, Abram could be certain that they would inherit the land?”

He said that since there is no light without a Kli [vessel], meaning no filling without a lack, and Abram said to the Creator that he didn’t see that they would need such great lights, called “the land of Israel.” For this reason, the Creator told him that by being in exile and by asking the Creator to deliver them from exile, how will He deliver them? Only with great lights, since “The light in it reforms him.” Thus, then they will have the need for the great lights.

And he explained about it that this is why the Creator said that they will borrow Kelim [vessels] from the Egyptians—meaning take the hardness of the Egyptians, though as a loan—to receive the lights, and then return the Kelim to them. In other words, they took the hardness in order to understand the answers. It is as was said above that it is impossible to understand the light if not from within the darkness. This is why all the questions come specifically at the time of freedom.

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