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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

Letter No. 8

May 26, 1955, Tel-Aviv, on the 48th day of the Omer Count, a day before Shavuot

Hello and all the best to my friends,

In response to your letter, I must tell you that for now, I have nothing to add in writing. Rather, as it is written, “Speak to the children of Israel and they will journey.” Concerning journeys, you know that it refers to going from state A to state B, that this is the meaning of changing places, as Baal HaSulam said in an interpretation to the verse, “Day to day expresses speech.” He wrote there that it is impossible to have another day without having a state of night in between, meaning that there is a break in the middle. Otherwise, it is called “a long day” and not “day after day.” But the order of the work is precisely day after day. “And night to night reveals knowledge” means that there is a day in between, thus far his words.

This is the order of the journeys. Therefore, do not be afraid of any states, but only, as we said above, “journey,” go forward. Each time, a new current must be streamed, as ... wrote me in his last letter, the verse, “They are new every morning; great is Your faith.”

Incidentally, I am disclosing my thoughts and will to you although it is not usually my way. And yet, I wish to disclose before you what I thought about the people of Tiberias, to know how they regard us, amiably or rudely. In this letter, I will write to you how I picture and what I see of the people of Tiberias. And even though I did not describe the essence of Tiberias, still, I will write my thoughts to you.

Currently, I am becoming a little more relieved from my personal and general problems, and I am taking some time off to raise my head and behold the spectacle that is unfolding there. It is as though I see three kinds of people there, three images and forms clothed in three different types of bodies.

1) A large share, the vast majority, I do not think considers us unfavorably or favorably, or that they respect or disrespect us. In all honesty, I think we are beneath attention in their eyes. In other words, they neither think nor even feel us. It is as though we don’t exist with them together in the world, on earth.

Even if they happen to hear that there is such a thing as students of the Rav Ashlag, it is of no interest to them. They are preoccupied with their own provision all day long—in their passions, or pursuit of respect, or in their spirituality. They have no need to consider such trifling matters as us—this tiny group of people—especially since they heard that there is a dispute within this tiny group.

“Scraps do not satisfy the lion.” That is, the tiny group is too small and insignificant in their eyes to provide them with satiation and mental satisfaction if they let us into their minds to decide if we are good or bad. This is how inferior we are in their eyes—completely beneath scrutiny, unworthy of a moment’s notice. And even though I think that this lion has all kinds of schemes in regard to us, there is actually nothing of the kind.

2) The second kind is those who respect us and in whom we already take up space in the world. They regard us as worthy people, respectable, and of certain stature. They do us the big favor of allocating time for us in their minds and in their thoughts during their free time. They take interest in us and note our stance and our activities to see if we are truly virtuous and with integrity, to criticize us with an air of criticism if they find anything in us.

When they think about it, they see that at the end of the day, this is a group of people who have gathered in a certain place, under a certain leader, to be together. With superhuman courage they face up to all those who rise against them. Indeed, they are brave men with a strong spirit, and they are determined not to retreat one inch. They are first-class fighters, fighting the war against the inclination to their last drop of blood, and their only wish is to win the battle for the glory of His name.

However, along with all those contemplations, when they begin to consider themselves—according to their prejudices and their self-interests regarding desires and pursuit of honors—they must unanimously agree and unite against us. Thus, they wholeheartedly and unequivocally resolve that it is better for them not to unite with us. This is so, although among themselves they are very remote and so different from one another that they can never agree on anything. They might even hate each other to such an extent that they cannot bear being in the same room with one another, and all wish to kill each other. Still, against us they all unite.

And since they are biased because of the will to receive in them, and “Bribe blinds the eyes of the wise,” they promptly see the opposite of what they thought of us. And after all the praises and virtues that they found in us—that each of us is praiseworthy and honorable—once they have made their resolution, they quickly execute the verdict passionately and zealously, since we spoil their reputation with our views. Thus, on the one hand, they see that truth is on our side; on the other hand, our way is burdensome to them.

To excuse themselves, they have no other choice but to destroy us and obliterate our name from the face of the earth. They toil and strain for that, to disperse us to every direction, and they plot and conspire how to fail us and place stumbling blocks on our way, using all sorts of means—legitimate and illegitimate alike, even if these means contradict the human spirit and the spirit of Torah. They do not care because they see that there will be no persistence to their will if we have any domination and expansion of our goal to wholehearted and honest people, for then we will have the power to show them the truth.

And this is bad for them, for it is better for them to do what their hearts wish and at the same time be “the face of the generation”—influential and spiritual leaders. For this, they conspire plots of ruin and destruction for our future and say, “The sooner the better; it is better to degrade them while they are still small, so not a trace of them remains.”

Still, we should be very grateful to them for respecting us and for appreciating our view by at least admitting that there is something to be revoked. In other words, they do not ignore us as though we were dust, but at least we are sort of real to them. This is unlike the first kind of people, who give us no thought and believe that what happens around us is not worth any attention. They are also not impressed by our weakness of thinking that they are following our actions, which is why we avoid taking certain actions, lest they find them displeasing, and that this often causes us to escape the campaign for fear of the first kind of people.

To be honest, none of them pays us any attention or any thought. Perhaps it is as it is written, “You will flee when no one is pursuing you.” Therefore, we should be glad about such people as the second kind, for at least they joke, mock, despise, and slander us. In other words, at least we have a reality in the world and it is not so easy for them to resolve to obliterate our name from the face of the earth.

3) The third kind are people who wish for our well being and our favor. However, they are very few, as in “Two is a plural.” And I call them by initials, BShMA, meaning B..., Sh..., M..., and A... In the holy tongue [Hebrew], they are called Bosem [perfume], and in translation [Aramaic], BoSMA, for translation is considered Achoraim [posterior]. In other words, they should be rewarded with the light of Panim [anterior light], that all their actions will be in Kedusha [holiness], which is called “the holy tongue.”

And what should I do when I see that I wish to describe and to picture our loved ones who are in Tiberias? At that time, I feel that Tiberias is a bustling city, and the above-mentioned third kind that are clothed in two bodies are mingled in a whirlpool, roaming among all the wishes and whims that are clothed in other bodies, meaning the first and second kinds. And then it is hard for me to find them because it is as though they are in a big stack of straw and hay, and how can one find two precious pearls, two wheats, which vanish in the vast majority? And although the rule is that even one person out of a thousand counts, they should still endure and cry out as a crane, which are truly lively creatures.

From this we can understand the allegory that our sages present, that the straw and hay and wheat deliberate for whom the field was sown. The argument of the straw and the hay seems so correct that they cannot be persuaded, and at times there is fear that the wheat will surrender under the rule of the straw and the hay. The straw and the hay argue, “We are the majority, and you, wheat, are as nothing compared to our numbers. We are of higher status and we were born before you came into the world. In other words, while you were still nonexistent, we were already grown and handsome, and our greatness could be seen by all. From afar, we dazzle the eye with the beauty that we give to the whole field. But you, wheat, are so tiny and indistinguishable that only through special attention can one see you, when one comes near. This must be due to your incompetence. But we give a place and a shelter for people who are weary and lost on the road, and have no place to rest their heads. We take them in our midst and cover them from winds and from evil beasts so they will not be seen. But who can enjoy you?”

But when it was time to harvest, everyone knew for whom the field was sown, since the straw and the hay are only fit for being animal food; they have no hope of being greater than their current measure of greatness. Wheat, however, after a few corrections, when it is broken, sifted, mixed with wine and oil, and placed in the oven, is placed on a table of kings and is worthy of serving as an offering to the Lord. And all the merit that can be attributed to the straw and the hay is their service to the wheat, which they nurtured and fed.

In other words, they took nourishment from the earth and transferred the nourishment to the wheat. It was a burden and a load to them that the wheat was riding the backs of the straw and the hay, and their value is the same as a servant who serves the king or a maid who serves her mistress.

But prior to harvest time, before the conclusion, it was impossible to clarify the truthfulness and sincerity of reality itself. Rather, each was to his own, arguing according to his own sensation. And being considerate with the truth without noticing if this might cause some lowness and unpleasantness is not such a simple task, except when one can analyze each element into many details until the truthfulness and justness of the matter are brought to light. And this requires being rewarded from above with not being trapped in the net of self-love and being carried away in the flow of the collective.

From all the above-said, it is hard for me to find you when you are on your own, without any mixture of desires and views, since everyone is hiding you, as described in the wheat allegory.

However, I have found a tactic similar to the harvest-time that was mentioned earlier. Only at night, after midnight, when the night-breeze blows and scatters the stack of straw and hay, and everyone lies flat over the field like carcasses, that is, sleeping in their beds, the two wheats break free and pour out their hearts before their Father in heaven. They enter the flame of the fire of Torah until the morning light, when it is prayer time. At that time, their souls come out as they speak the words of the living God. I believe that this is the right time for entertaining with the precious pearls that glow as flames of fire to be mingled with the whole of Israel with the help of the Rock of his Redeemer, and may the Creator give.

Let me write a few more words concerning love. It is known that there is no light without a Kli [vessel], meaning that each pleasure must have a clothing in which the light of pleasure might clothe. For example, when a person wishes to gain some respect, to be honored in the eyes of people, his first move is his clothes. In other words, he must dress in honorable attire, as our sages said, “Rabbi Yohanan called his garments ‘My honorers.’”

Thus, one must give a certain measure of toil until he obtains the honorable garment, and even after he has acquired the garment, he must keep it from any harm and damage. That is, each day he must dust it, and if it is stained or becomes dirty, he must clean it and iron it.

But most important, he must keep it from the most dangerous saboteur—the clothes moth! In Yiddish, it is called “a Mol,” which is a tiny mosquito that can’t be seen. The first amendment is that it must not come in contact with old clothes. And there is also a wonderful remedy called “naphthalene,” which keeps it from the damagers, called “Mols.” And when he has this garment, he is ready to receive the light of the pleasure that is clothed in honorable apparel.

It is similar with love. To be rewarded with the light of love, one must find clothing in which the light might clothe. And the same rules of keeping apply to that apparel: avoiding the “dust” of slander, and especially the sabotaging mosquito known as Mol [in Yiddish, Moil means “mouth,” so there is a pun here], which are people of good appearance, who speak beautifully. You’d think that they have already “circumcised” themselves in the covenants of forbidden couplings and slander, and from the uncircumcised heart, but deep within them is the saboteur that can harm you, and you cannot guard yourselves from it because it is all handsome and beautiful.

This is why this mosquito is so tiny that without special attention it is impossible to detect this harm-doer, which comes from those circumcised ones who can spoil this precious garment. Indeed, it is known that this mol does more damage to wool [Hebrew: TzeMeR] garments, meaning the letters MeReTz [Hebrew: energy], which spoil the energy for the work. And Yatush [mosquito] comes from VaYitosh [and he forsake] the God who made him,” or in Aramaic, “And he ceased worshipping the God that he served.”

Ordinarily, one who has a precious wool garment must avoid contact with old clothes. In other words, he must avoid contact with “old adherents” who spoil the energy because they are no longer competent for the work, so all their words are only to lessen the energy. And even one with strong garments of love, who is like a tree—meaning he is self-asserted—that mol should still be watched. If that mol gets into the wood, it can do harm, too, as we see that wood decays and disintegrates because a mol enters it.

And the only medicine is Naphthalene, from the word, Naftoley, which Onkelos interprets as Tefilah [prayer], meaning to pray to the Creator that this damager will not be permitted into his garment.

One should be careful with an honorable garment, for if there are rooster feathers on it, they should be removed. Also, one mustn’t enter a place where there are rooster feathers while wearing these clothes. In a garment of the light of love it is interpreted as Notzot [feathers], from the word Nitzim [quarreling], as in cockfights. This refers to the singing and chanting of people who are still in exile from the path of truth and are enslaved to self-love. All the singing and the praise that they show during their Torah and prayer only inflict quarrels in your soul until you begin to make war in your views—on whose side is truth and justice. This spoils and ruins your garment, which can inhabit love. Therefore, you must be careful and avoid places where there are rooster feathers, so that afterwards you will not have to work on cleaning yourselves up from those feathers.

We can see that for people who strain to acquire the light of honors, if they do not keep their clothes properly when they go outside, the external ones immediately cling to their clothes when they see that it is not proper clothing, suitable for honoring people. In other words, people will see that he is accepting their authority over him and that he is so enslaved to those people who are standing outside, he is compelled to make great efforts to obtain the clothes but also to keep them. Even the mode, meaning the design and manner of wearing, must be precisely according to the liking of those people under whom he stands. Thus, it is precisely those from whom he wishes to receive respect that he must worship with great toil to be favored by them, so they will impart upon him the light of the pleasure that is dressed in clothes of honors.

And if, God forbid, he did not serve them sufficiently, this could yield unpleasant outcomes. That is, not only will they not give him the respect he wants from them, but on the contrary, they will all degrade him, humiliate him, and make him feel low and inferior. And that sensation of inferiority will first make him sad, then idle, and then he will feel that the whole world has grown dark on him until he sees no hope for obtaining pleasure in life. Then, he finds only one counsel—to go home, lie in his bed, and plead bitterly that his prayer will be granted—meaning that the angel of sleep, which is one sixtieth of death, will impart him with the light of the pleasure of sleep. This is the only pleasure he can hope for.

And if, alas, the angel of sleep has no mercy on him and he finds no remedy for himself, then, for the bitterness of his soul, he has no other choice but to take pleasure in a cure that is popular among the desperate who seek relief for their sadness. They fight with the inclination that wishes for one’s persistence, overcome it, and extend pleasure from the angel called “suicide.” That is, they feel that only this angel can deliver them from their melancholy. Evidently, it is impossible to obtain pleasures from the angel just mentioned without terrible torments and a mighty and awful emotional struggle.

Hence, “The eyes of the wise are in his head,” and he knows and sees ahead of time what he can acquire and what he might obtain if he doesn’t keep the laws and conditions of his contemporaries. That is, he must surrender and assume everything that the external people demand of him, or they will promptly punish him in this world. In other words, reward and punishment are revealed in this world and do not require faith above reason.

From this we can deduce the boundless care and watchfulness, and the great and special attention required to obtain the clothing that clothes the light of love—a garment that is made of such a fine and delicate fabric—lest the outer ones grip and ruin this precious garment, which has literally been bought by so much sweat and blood.

And now let me to clarify to you how and in what way I begin to obtain that clothing of love: The order of making a proper garment is to first, weave a piece of cloth. In other words, we take threads and place them together in a warp and weft manner (crisscross). Through the warp and weft, a piece of clothing is woven.

Therefore, I take a thread of warp into a thread of weft. A Nima [Aramaic: “thread” as well as “say”] comes from the words “Say a word about it.” Shti [weft] comes from the word Tashi [forgetfulness], as in “You forgot the Rock who begot you.” In other words, I begin to act with the power of my memory and soon remember that my friends spoke unfavorably about me, that these words made them do bad things to me, and this saying [also “warp”] wears out the friendship, the camaraderie, and the brotherhood.

Afterwards, a thread of Erev [weft] comes to my mind, meaning I heard that my friend spoke favorably about me, which made him do good things, which are Arevim [pleasant] and sweet to my taste. That is, I hear and see that my friend has left all his engagements and thinks and acts only in my favor so that I will have pleasant pleasures. And these two threads create a mixture in me, and I don’t know which way to decide, saying, “Is truth on the side of the warp or on the side of the weft?”

It is known that everything that exists in our world is in a form of positive and negative—right and left, true and false, light and dark, Israel and the nations, holy and secular, impurity and purity, and bad and good. This is so because it is impossible to detect a good taste without tasting the bitter taste of the bad. This is the meaning of what our sages said, “To avenge the wicked and to give a good reward to the righteous.”

The word Para [avenge] comes from the verse, “ Para [let loose] the hair on the head of the woman.” In other words, it is possible to receive help from the wicked in order to discover the real flavor and sensation of the good reward of the righteous.

For this reason, when weaving the garment, I stand bewildered and await the verdict that will eject the poverty of mind that is clothed within me. And since I am now engaged in weaving a garment of love, to place the light of pleasure there, I am already biased and an interested party. For this reason, I decide according to the words of the weft, as the Torah implied to us that “Bribe blinds the eyes of the wise.”

Thus, I no longer care if the truth is what it is; rather, I care about the goal that I desire at this minute, during the weaving of the garment of love. In that state, I have a deciding line in the middle, meaning the goal is the very thing that always decides between right and left.

And once I have acquired this above-mentioned clothing, sparks of love promptly begin to shine within me. The heart begins to long to unite with my friends, and it seems to me that my eyes see my friends, my ears hear their voices, my mouth speaks to them, the hands embrace, the feet dance in a circle, in love and joy together with them, and I transcend my corporeal boundaries. I forget the vast distance between my friends and me, and the outstretched land for many miles will not stand between us.

It is as though my friends are standing right within my heart and see all that is happening there, and I become ashamed of my petty acts against my friends. Then, I simply exit the corporeal vessels and it seems to me that there is no reality in the world except my friends and I. After that, even the “I” is cancelled and is immersed, mingled in my friends, until I stand and declare that there is no reality in the world—only the friends.

I must be brief because the holiday is approaching.

Your friend, Baruch Shalom HaLevi

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