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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

What “There Is No Blessing in That which Is Counted” Means in the Work

Article No. 31, 1989/90

It is written in The Zohar (Bamidbar p 4, and Item 13 in the Sulam Commentary), “Come and see, they said that there is no blessing of above on something that is counted. But should you say, ‘How were Israel counted? How was ransom taken from them?’ First, they would bless Israel, then count the ransom, and then bless Israel again. Thus, Israel were blessed in the beginning and in the end, and there was no death among them. He asks, ‘Why is there death because of the counting?’ He replies, ‘It is because there is no blessing in counting, and when the blessing is gone, the Sitra Achra is on him.’” Thus far its words.

RASHI brings the reason why He counts Israel. He says, “Out of fondness for them, He counts them every hour.” This means that RASHI wishes to explain that if we say that there is danger in something that is counted, that there could be death there, why did the Creator count Israel and place them in a place of danger? This is why RASHI explains, “Out of fondness for them, He counts them every hour, despite the danger in it. But for the love that He has for Israel, and for His wish to know their number, He said that He would count Israel.”

Outwardly, it is hard to understand it, meaning to say that since the Creator wants to know their number, He said that they need to be counted through a correction so there will not be a hindrance among them, so He will count them through ransom. We should understand how it is possible to say that because the Creator wishes to know their number, they need to be counted and give the amount of Israel, and then the Creator knows, for otherwise He doesn’t know the number of the children of Israel in advance but needs the creatures to inform Him. Can this be? Also, we must understand what a blessing is in the work, what a count is in the work, and why it causes death when there is no blessing on the count. And we should also understand why there cannot be a blessing on something that is counted.

It is known that there are two matters in the work of the Creator: 1) the purpose of creation; 2) the correction of creation. The purpose of creation means that the creatures receive delight and pleasure, as it is written, “His will to do good to His creations.” The correction of creation is for the creatures to walk on the path of the Creator, meaning equivalence of form. Therefore, as the Creator gives to His creations, the creatures, too, should give to the Creator. Otherwise, there is disparity of form, and in spirituality, disparity of form causes separation, meaning causes separation from the Life of Lives.

It is written about it in The Zohar (presented in Talmud Eser Sefirot p 19, Item 17), “Hence, the wicked, in their lives they are called ‘dead,’ since out of their disparity of form—being completely at the other end from their root, where they have nothing in the form of bestowal—they are severed from Him, and they actually die.” However, it was already said about them in The Zohar, “‘All the grace that they do, they do for themselves,’ meaning that their aim is primarily for themselves and for their own glory.”

In other words, what we ascribe to the Creator, meaning everything that the Creator does, is in a state of wholeness. This means that the Creator wishes for the creatures to receive delight and pleasure, hence He created in them a desire to receive and a great craving for delights. By that, He is certain that they will want to receive pleasure. But the correction of creation, the Kli [vessel] and the desire that the creatures should make—the desire with which they will be able to receive delight and pleasure—this desire is called “the will to bestow.” Obtaining that desire happens gradually because the lower one doesn’t have the strength to go against the will of the upper one—the will to receive for oneself, which the Creator created.

Thus, we see that there are two kinds of Kelim [vessels]:

1) Vessels of reception. However, a correction is placed on them, meaning that on the vessels of reception there is the opposite intention from the Kli. In other words, a person is actually receiving, but in the intention, he is now giving. It follows that the aim is the very opposite of the act, and the light that is received in those Kelim is now called “receiving in order to bestow.”

The name of this light is Hochma [wisdom], and this is the light of the purpose of creation. Also, it is sometimes referred to as “mitigation of the Dinim [judgments].” That is, there were Dinim on the vessel of reception, meaning that there was a Din [judgment] that it is forbidden to use this Kli because it creates disparity of form and separation, and now it has been mitigated. And what is the mitigation? It is placing on the Kli the intention called “in order to bestow.”

This means that before one places the aim to bestow on the will to receive, that desire caused him bitterness. Anything spiritual that he wanted to touch tasted bitter because there were concealment and restriction on the will to receive for himself, so it was impossible to taste a good flavor in spirituality. In other words, anything holy felt remote, inaccessible, and impossible for the will to receive to enjoy. This is called “bitter.”

However, if he places the aim to bestow over this desire, he sees and feels that there is sweetness in everything in holiness. But in matters that do not belong to holiness, he must turn away from them, meaning that he cannot tolerate them.

It follows that after he corrects himself so he can now aim in order to bestow, we should discern a light and a Kli here, which consists of Aviut [thickness] and Masach [screen]. The Aviut is called Dinim, where there are restriction and concealment, and the light doesn’t shine there. This is why Aviut is called “darkness.”

In other words, wanting to receive for himself is called “being Av [thick],” and wanting to bestow is called Zach [pure/clean/immaculate]. Afterwards, when he places the will to bestow over this Av, the Din is mitigated and what was previously dark becomes a place where the light shines in the Kli. This is called “mitigation of the Dinim.”

2) We should also note that there are vessels of bestowal in a person, things that a person gives to his friend so his friend will enjoy. The giving itself is called “bestowal.” A man who is Zach is one who tries to make people happy, to make them feel good. On these Kelim, it cannot be said that there is Din in these actions, meaning that there is a judgment that prohibits using Kelim that wish to bestow.

However, here, too, there is a matter of intention, meaning whether he is sincere. That is, when he gives, is his aim that others will enjoy it without a care for himself, for he cares only about others? This discernment is called “bestowing in order to bestow,” when the act and the aim are both in order to bestow.

Sometimes, everything he does is for the good of others, but the aim is to obtain respect or similar things. It is as TheZohar writes about the wicked, that all the good that they do, they do for their own benefit, “All the good that they do, they do for themselves.” And here, there is no Din from the side of the Kli, meaning no deficiency. In other words, in terms of the act, there is nothing to correct.

However, in the intention there needs to be a correction. That is, from the perspective of the aim, there is no difference whether the act is bestowal or the act is reception. Both actions need corrections—that the aim, too, will be in order to bestow.

This is so because the work is primarily in the heart. That is, a person should reach the degree of love of the Creator, as it is written, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” Everything we do in Torah and Mitzvot [commandments] is to correct the heart. It is written about it (“Introduction to the Book, Panim Meirot uMasbirot,” Item 10), “Come and see the words of the sage, Rabbi Even Ezra ... ‘Know that all the Mitzvot that are written in the Torah or the conventions that the fathers have established ... are all in order to correct the heart, ‘For the Lord searches all hearts.’”

With the above said, we can generally detect the two matters—the purpose of creation, to do good to His creations, this light is called Hochma, and “seeing,” which means that he sees what he has in his hand, meaning he can already count how much he has obtained, since the purpose of creation is to do good, and then one should feel and attain what he has in his hand.

For example, let us say that there are two brothers, one of whom is rich and lives in the United States, and the other is poor and lives in Israel. The rich brother deposits a million dollars in the bank under the name of the poorer brother. However, he did not let the poor brother know about it, nor did the bank inform the poor brother that he has money in his name. So this brother remains poor because he doesn’t know about it.

It is the same here with the purpose of creation to do good to His creations. If they don’t know and don’t feel the delight and pleasure, what kind of benefit is it? This is why this light is called Hochma [wisdom] and “seeing,” and it is named “light of Panim [face/anterior], as in, “A man’s wisdom illuminates his face.”

In the work, this is called “something that is counted,” meaning something that is received in the vessels of reception. This means that if he receives it, he will see what he has received and will count what he has.

It is also called “a gift.” Usually, when someone gives his friend a gift, he wants his friend to count and appreciate the value of the present for the simple reason that he gives the present to his friend because he wants to show his love for him. According to the value of the gift, a person can appreciate the measure of the love. It follows that if one is not looking at the gift to see the greatness of the gift, he is blemishing the measure of the love.

Therefore, when a person receives a gift, if he doesn’t see or doesn’t try to see the importance of the gift, he blemishes the measure of love that the giver wants to show by it. For instance, our sages said, “Buy yourself a friend.” And that person wants to buy his friend by sending him gifts. If that person doesn’t see and appreciate the greatness and importance of the gift that he receives from him, how can he come to a state of “Buy yourself a friend”? It follows that in the gift, one should count and measure what he has received from his friend.

Therefore, if the creatures cannot count and measure what the Creator gave them, then the purpose of the Creator doesn’t reach a state where the creatures attain that He created creation with the aim to do good to His creations.

This is called, “light of Hochma,” and this light is received in the vessels of reception. However, one must also use it with the correction that was placed on the vessels of reception, called “receiving in order to bestow.” This means that one should put an aim to bestow on the vessel of reception. And if he doesn’t place the aim to bestow, he becomes separated from the Life of Lives, since disparity of form causes separation. Thus, by becoming a receiver, it causes him spiritual death, as was said above, “The wicked, in their lives they are called ‘dead.’”

However, the light that is received in the vessels of bestowal is called, “light of Hassadim [mercy].” Hesed [mercy/grace] means that he is giving, like a person who performs an act of mercy or grace toward his friend. This is called “covered Hassadim,” meaning that the Hassadim—what he receives in vessels of bestowal, meaning what he gives—the light has the same value as the Kli.

In other words, it is known that there is charity and there is a gift. With a gift, we explained above that a person must see what he received and not simply receive a gift from his friend. If a person says, “It doesn’t matter what he gave me,” he is blemishing his friend’s gift. Thus, the purpose for which he sent him the gift is not realized. The gift was meant to buy him a friend, as was said above, “Buy yourself a friend,” but if he doesn’t see the importance of the gift, then he cannot buy him as a friend. Hence, he must count and measure the gift.

But when a person sends charity to his friend, the giver should try—if he truly wants to give charity—for the receiver of the charity to not know who sent him the charity. And the receiver of the charity will also be very happy if he knew that the giver of the charity did not know to whom he gave.

Similarly, sometimes people collect donations for an important person and they don’t want the receiver of the charity to be shamed. Those who collect the money say, “We are collecting for someone anonymously.” Thus, with charity, when neither of them knows—the giver and the receiver—it is considered true charity, and there is no unpleasantness on the part of the receiver.

It follows that in Hesed, we speak from the perspective of the giver, meaning the lower one, and then a person is in a state where he acts above reason. In other words, he gives, but he doesn’t know to whom, but he believes that everything he is giving goes to its purpose. This is called “charity in concealment.”

Charity is considered Hassadim, that he gives. That is, we speak of a time when a person is working with the vessels of bestowal, meaning we are only speaking of a person who is giving to the Creator. This is called “a blessing,” like a person blessing another, speaking to him in a favorable manner, meaning blesses [greets] him. He doesn’t actually give to him, but it is still considered that he blesses him verbally, and this is already regarded as a blessing in the heart. In other words, what he cannot give in actual fact, he gives with the heart, and he shows him verbally what he has in his heart.

It follows that blessing means giving, bestowal. That is, at that time, he engages in vessels of bestowal. This means that a blessing is when he wants his friend to have more than he can actually give. Hence, when a person engages in bestowal, he wants to give contentment to the Maker, so he says to the Creator, “More than the good deeds that I can give You, I bless You that I will be able to give You more than good deeds.” In other words, one should always bless the Creator, which means that he wants to be able to give more contentment to the Creator than he is actually giving Him.

This is why there is no issue of counting on a blessing, since vessels of bestowal are called “charity,” and charity should be giving in concealment, meaning that the giver doesn’t know to whom he is giving and the receiver doesn’t know from whom he is receiving. Thus, there is no issue of counting here, for counting brings the excitement and bond of love, as is said regarding a gift.

In the gift, our sages said, it is completely the opposite: “He who gives a present to his friend must let him know.” This is so because the result of the gift should be love, which connects the two, unlike charity, where he must be entirely to bestow. This means that in charity, it is best if one does not know the other, to avoid any counting.

Therefore, when speaking in the work, charity means vessels of bestowal, when the Kli wishes to do Hesed, and the light that is poured into the Kli is called “light of Hassadim.” This is called “the correction of creation,” when everything is in order to bestow.

But the purpose of creation is for the Kelim to receive delight and pleasure, and here they must certainly see what they are receiving because one speaks about the purpose of creation, that it is benevolent, according to what he receives. If he cannot count what he received, it means that he still did not receive in a way that the delight and pleasure are felt in him. Thus, he still cannot say that now he sees that he received from the Creator only delight and pleasure. This is why light of Hochma—the purpose of creation—is also called “seeing,” since the purpose of creation is considered seeing.

But it is to the contrary with the correction of creation. It is called “covered Hassadim,” meaning that he still doesn’t see everything that he is receiving and it is still covered from him. In the work, it is called “desiring mercy [Hesed],” meaning only to bestow. It is of no interest to him if he is receiving anything from above. It is considered that he is content with his share, meaning that he is happy that he can do something in the work of the Creator.

In other words, he is content with his share of being able to say that he is doing something that is not for the needs of his material body, as our sages said, “He who walks and does not do, the reward for walking is in his hand” (Avot, Chapter 5, 14).

The interpreters explain, “The reward for walking is in his hand.” Even though he isn’t doing, he still has the reward of walking, for even going to the seminary is a Mitzva [commandment/good deed] in itself, since there he is in an atmosphere of Torah. It follows that it should be noted if a person engages in vessels of bestowal—called Hesed, where there is no issue of counting because he wants to work in charity—it is regarded as “the correction of creation.”

With the above said, we will understand what we asked, why they said, “Out of fondness for them, He counts them every hour.” We asked, “If the Creator wants to know the number of Israel, does He have to wait until Israel counts and then submit the sum to the Creator, and only then He will know Israel’s number?

Indeed, “Out of fondness for them” means that He sees that they are doing everything in order to bestow. This means that they have already made the correction of creation, and this is why He wants to give them the purpose of creation, which is light of Hochma, called “light of seeing.” In other words, they should already be counting what they have because this light is received in vessels of reception.

However, they should receive in order to bestow, and according to the rule that the act follows the aim while one is engaged in acts of reception of pleasure, the act of reception might cause the aim not to be in order to bestow but in order to receive. And reception for oneself causes separation from the Life of Lives, which is considered death, as it is written, “The wicked, in their lives they are called ‘dead.’”

It was written, “Why does death increase because of the counting?” The answer is that since something that is counted is called “light of Hochma,” which is received in vessels of reception, the act might govern the aim and he will not be able to aim in order to bestow. Thus, naturally, it will be death.

And it was written, “He replies, ‘It is because there is no blessing in counting, and when the blessing is gone, the Sitra Achra is on him.’” In other words, there is the matter of the middle line, when Hochma shines in the vessels of reception, which is called “left.” They need correction so that one is not drawn after the act of reception. In that state, the light of Hassadim—which works with the vessels of bestowal—must be drawn, and we have said above that acts of bestowal affect the thought to be like the act.

This is the keeping over the light of Hochma that is received in the Kelim of the left line, which requires correction. However, one cannot be rewarded with the light of Hochma before one has been rewarded with the degree of Lishma, meaning that everything one does is Lishma. In other words, the order of the work is that first, one is rewarded with Katnut, considered that he can only aim the vessels of bestowal to be in order to bestow. Afterwards, one is rewarded with Gadlut, which means that he can aim in order to bestow in vessels of reception, too, where the light of Hochma shines the light of the purpose of creation.

It follows that before one is rewarded with the light in the count, one must be rewarded with the light of Hassadim, called “blessing,” meaning that he blesses the Creator and doesn’t want to receive anything from Him. Instead, he is all about bestowal and doesn’t want to receive anything for himself. Afterwards, he is rewarded with the light of Hochma, which is a light of counting. This means that this light comes in vessels of reception, at which time the light in the counting requires keeping so it will not be drawn after the act. Because it is an act of reception, a light of blessing must be drawn once more, meaning light of Hassadim, which is the keeping.

Now we can interpret what we asked:

1) Did the Creator want to know the number of the children of Israel, and is this why He wished to count the children of Israel, so that the people of Israel would tell Him the number, and the Creator didn’t know by Himself? The answer is that since He loves them, He wanted the people of Israel to know their number. In other words, the Creator wants them to obtain the light of Hochma. It follows that He wants to know, that they will know and attain the light there is in counting, meaning that they themselves will count and see what they have attained, for this is called “the light of seeing,” which comes to the vessels of reception. He doesn’t need to know for Himself, but so that the people of Israel will know.

2) Why is there death where there is no blessing? The answer is that something that is counted is light of Hochma, which comes into vessels of reception. When using vessels of reception, one might be drawn after the act of reception and thus be separated from the Life of Lives. This is called “death,” and this is why keeping is required. The keeping is the blessing, meaning extension of light of Hassadim, which is an act of bestowal that keeps the act of reception from straying from the aim to bestow.

3) Why is there a need for a blessing before and after? The order of the work begins with a need to achieve Lishma [for Her name]. Our sages said about it, “He who studies Torah Lishma, the secrets of Torah are revealed to him.” Also, Lishma means that all his actions are in order to bestow, which is called “blessing.” When he gives, this is the meaning of blessing, meaning oral blessing. That is, since he cannot add in action, he tries to give a blessing with the mouth, which indicates that what he is giving is with all his heart. This is called “light of Hassadim.”

Thus, the order is as follows:

1. A blessing before, which is called “right line,” Hesed.

2. He is rewarded with the secrets of Torah, which is called Hochma [wisdom], which is a gift, as it is known that Torah is called “a gift” that is received in vessels of reception. For this reason, it is called “a count.” In other words, he is looking to see what he received so as to know how to thank Him.

This is called “left line,” since here is a place where he can come into death, called “separation,” such as there was in the death of the seven kings in the world of Nekudim. For this reason, there is a need to extend Hassadim, and these Hassadim are the keeping so there will not be death in them, meaning separation from the Life of Lives.

This is why it is written that there is a need for a blessing at the end. It follows that Israel were blessed in the beginning and in the end, and there was no death in them.

In general, it is called “correction of lines,” which are called “correction of the world,” since by that there is persistence to the world.

4. What is a blessing in the work? It is light of Hassadim, when a person is in a state of giving.

5. What is counting in the work? It is the light that comes in vessels of reception. At that time, one needs to see what he has received and count them. This is considered “a gift.”

6. Why is there no blessing in something that is counted? Something that is counted means the light and abundance that come into vessels of reception, and blessing is the abundance that comes into vessels of bestowal, and they are opposites. In The Zohar, it is considered that the two lines are in dispute, since the right line, called Hesed, is only to bestow and doesn’t wish to use the vessels of reception; but the left line is the opposite—it wishes to use specifically the vessels of reception, since it says, “But the purpose of creation is to receive!” However, there should be a correction to be in order to bestow. For this reason, afterwards there comes the middle line, which makes peace between them. And this is the reason why there is a need for a blessing in the beginning, and a blessing at the end.

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