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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

Letter No. 34

Eve of Rosh Hashanah [Jewish New Year’s Eve], September 14, 1947

To the friends, may they live forever.

After I have come close to you in the imaginary corporeal place, let us hope for bringing the hearts closer, as for a long time now we have not had correspondence, and the physical act brings unity, as it is said in Rosh Hashanah prayer [Hebrew New Year’s Eve service], “And they shall all become one society.” In that state, it will be easier “To do Your will wholeheartedly.”

This is so because while there is not just one society, it is difficult to work wholeheartedly. Instead, part of the heart remains for its own benefit and not for the benefit of the Creator. It is said about it in Midrash Tanhuma, “‘You stand today,’ as the day at times shines and at times darkens, so it is with you. When it is dark for you, the light of the world will shine for you, as it is said, ‘And the Lord shall be unto you an everlasting light.’ When? When you are all one society, as it is written, ‘Alive everyone of you this day.’

Usually, if someone takes a pile of branches, can he break them all at once? But if taken one at a time, even a baby can break them. Similarly, you find that Israel will not be redeemed until they are all one society, as it is said, ‘In those days and at that time, says the Lord, the children of Israel shall come, they and the sons of Judah together.’ Thus, when they are united, they receive the face of Divinity.”

I presented the words of the Midrash so that you don’t think that the issue of a group, which is love of friends, relates to Hassidism. Rather, it is the teaching of our sages, who saw how necessary was the uniting of hearts into a single group for the reception of the face of Divinity.

Although there is always one of the friends who stands out and yells, “Join your hands for a single group!” and always attributes the negligence to the friends, I still cannot exclude him from among the friends who are negligent in the matter, and this should suffice for the understanding.

Primarily, let us hope that in the new year, Shin-Tav-Het-Yod [“May you live” but also the year in the Hebrew calendar, counted in letters (1949-50)], the Creator will give us eternal life, as it is written, “For God has appointed me another seed instead of Abel,” etc., and “May you live” shall come true.

The meaning of Rosh Hashanah [New Year’s Eve] is a new beginning, when a person begins to build a new structure. It is as our sages said, “One should always consider oneself half sinful, half righteous. If he performs a single Mitzva [good deed/commandment], happy is he, for he has sentenced himself and the whole world to the side of merit. If he commits one transgression, woe unto him for he has sentenced himself and the whole world to the side of fault.”

We should understand what it means that one should always consider oneself fifty-fifty. 1) If he performs one Mitzva and sentences to the side of merit, how can he be said to be fifty-fifty again? After all, he has already sentenced and already has a majority of merits. Conversely, if he committed one transgression, how can it later be said that he is fifty-fifty? 2) How can it be said that he is fifty-fifty when one knows about himself that he is full of sins and transgression? At the same time, one is compelled to confess, “We are guilty, we have betrayed,” and “For the sin.”

The thing is that our sages are letting us understand the order of the work. There is no issue of a court and judgment above, here. Only when one comes before the court above are his transgressions and merits sentenced.

Rather, here our sages are teaching us that one should always begin the work and choose the good and loathe the bad. This is so because choice is pertinent precisely in something that is fifty-fifty, for then he has the power to choose. But when one of the sides already has the majority, he can no longer decide because man follows the majority and then it is irrelevant to speak of choice.

This brings up the question, “How can he deceive himself and say that he is fifty-fifty when in fact he knows that he is full of sins?” However, we should know that the matter of choice that one is given is permanent and always existing, as in, “He who is greater than his friend, his inclination is greater than him.” According to this rule, if one has many sins, then he has a small inclination, which is not greater than the good inclination, but is precisely fifty-fifty, so he will be able to decide.

And since the transgressions come through the evil inclination and the Mitzvot [good deeds/commandments] come through the good inclination, as RASHI interpreted, “You have created righteous through the good inclination; You have created wicked through the evil inclination,” hence our sages said, “One should always consider oneself half sinful half righteous.” In other words, regarding the choice, it is always, and if the transgressions are from ... then the evil inclination diminishes. Thus, he is fifty-fifty.

Similarly, if he performs a single Mitzva and has already sentenced to the side of merit, he is promptly given great evil inclination, as it is written, “He who is greater than his friend, his inclination is greater.” Thus, now he has fifty-fifty, so he will be able to sentence to the side of merit.

Therefore, on Rosh Hashanah, one begins one’s work anew. Additionally, the days of the ten penitential days are called “days of forgiving and atonement of sins,” so a man will have every opportunity to join in the work of the Creator once more, even though he’s been so remote from the work.

And the essence of the work is prayer, since only by prayer can one exit the public domain and enter the domain of the Single one. This is so because when it comes to prayers, great and small are equal. Moreover, one who feels one’s lowness can offer a more genuine prayer from the bottom of the heart, for he knows about himself that he cannot deliver himself from the strait on his own. Then, he can say that actually, those who were created with special talents and qualities of subtlety can do something on their own, whereas those without the special gifts and good qualities need heaven’s mercy. Thus, only this person can offer an honest prayer.

However, one should be careful not to escape the campaign, since it is the conduct of the inclination that where one can offer a true prayer, it brings him sparks of despair and provides him with evidence, conclusions, and inferences that his prayer will be useless. Finally, a person becomes incapable of believing in “For You hear the prayer of every mouth.” Our sages said, “The Creator longs for the prayer of righteous.” This is so because a prayer is the primary tool for the inspiration of Divinity because it is considered a prayer for the poor.

And prayer applies even to the greatest of the greatest. Without it, one cannot achieve a state of “standing” in the work. This is the meaning of, “For the poor shall never cease from the land.” We should understand why the Creator promised us this—that it is necessary to always have the poor. Wouldn’t it be better if there was no such thing in Israel?

However, in the above interpretation, “poor” means a place for prayer, and if there is no place of deficiency, there is no place for prayer. Thus, is there no place for prayer once one is rewarded with greatness? In that regard, the Creator promises us, “The poor shall never cease,” meaning there will always be a place where it is possible to find a need so that one can rise to a higher degree.

This is the meaning of, “Poverty befits Israel like a red strap for a white horse.” This means that even if he is already a Jew in utter greatness, still, poverty is befitting, for it is a place of deficiency so that he will be able to offer a prayer.

This is the issue presented in the Gemarah (Berachot 9b): “Rabby Ela said to Ulla, ‘When you go up there,give my greeting to my brother, Rabbi Berona, in the presence of the whole group, for he is a great man and rejoices in Mitzvot [commandments/good deeds]. Once he succeeded in joining redemption with prayer,and a smile did not leave his lips the whole day.’” In other words, his being a great man is when he is already in a state of redemption, redeemed from all the deficiencies, with nothing more to do. In that state, he has work finding some fault in himself so as to pray for it. And when he was “Joining redemption with prayer,” he promptly found a place for prayer and had endless joy, as it is written, “For the poor shall never cease from the land.”

It follows from all the above that the most important thing is the prayer. Be strong in prayer and believe in, “You hear the prayer of every mouth.”

May we be inscribed in the book of life.

Your friend, Baruch Shalom HaLevi

Son of Baal HaSulam

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