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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

Letter No. 9

August 5, 1955, London

To the friends, may they live forever,

“‘And it shall come to pass that because,’ Mitzvot (commandments) that one tramples with one’s feet” (Yalkut [Collection]).

Baal HaSulam interpreted that it means faith, which a person slights and tramples with his feet.

To understand this more clearly, let us clarify what our sages said (Tanhuma), and these are their words: “And it shall come to pass that because,” meaning that the verse, ‘Why should I fear in days of adversity, the iniquity of my foes surrounds me” (Ps 49). Blessed be the name of the Creator, who has given Torah to Israel, in whom there are 613 Mitzvot (commandments), in which there are light trifle ones and serious ones. Because there are light Mitzvot among them, with which people are not meticulous, but rather cast under their feet, meaning that they are light, hence David feared the Day of Judgment and said, “Lord, I do not fear the serious Mitzvot in the Torah, for they are serious. What I fear are the light Mitzvot, lest I have broken one of them—whether I observed or did not observe—for it was light. And you said, ‘Be careful with a light Mitzva (commandment) as with a serious one.’” This is why he said, “Why should I fear in days of adversity,” and it is written, “Your servant is also cautious with them because of the majority,” thus far their words.

We should ask, “It is known that it is easier to keep light Mitzvot than serious Mitzvot, where easy means they are easy to do, and serious means that it is hard to do. Therefore, why is he afraid that he has broken Mitzvot that are easy to do more than Mitzvot that are hard to do?” Afterwards, the Midrash explains that it is because he feared the light matters. This is why he ends with “Your servant is also cautious with them because of the majority,” that he needed vigilance and care in order to keep the light matters more than the serious ones.

We should understand that concerning light and serious, the world determines what it regards as light and what it regards as serious. And since the world clings to externality, the world knows that what we should watch most are the actions, for they are apparent to all. That is, each one can weigh and measure how many deeds he has done during the day, and how many hours he engaged in the study of Torah. And when his friend sees that another is performing several Mitzvot and sits several hours studying Torah, he respects and appreciates him. And when, God forbid, he does not see that his friend is doing good deeds, he sees that his friend is in a lowly state, far from the Torah and work, since he can see only what is apparent. This is why actions are regarded as serious Mitzvot.

It seems true that they are serious because the whole matter of Kedusha (holiness) is in “We shall do and we shall hear,” for the most important is the act, as only the act brings one to hearing, which is called Lishma (for her sake), since from Lo Lishma (not for her sake) we come to Lishma, and without actions it is impossible to achieve any degree.

For this reason, people determined that the most important is the act, and this is the most serious. For this they have determined that the thought, meaning the intention, is regarded as light and lowly, meaning unworthy of time and effort, for the most important is the act.

And although it is true that the most important is the act, it is only for the purpose of Segula (remedy/virtue/power). That is, the prime advice for achieving Lishma is the act, but because of it people have left the desired goal, which is to work for the Creator, for engagement in Torah and Mitzvot has the power to purify the body so as to achieve Lishma. However, they have left the purpose and the goal, and turned the work into purpose, and this is what they regard as very serious.

They have made the thought, which is the intention for it to be Lishma, into a “light” matter. This means that only one who engages in Torah and Mitzvot—and does not take interest in having the intention Lishma—is regarded by them as a light transgression, unworthy of troubling oneself. Even if one exerts oneself, no one will see how much he has toiled in order to be respected, for the majority follows only the way of Lo Lishma.

In order for the world to follow the way of Lo Lishma in the beginning of the work, it was necessary that they would not see the truth, meaning that they would not notice it at all, for it is a trifling and is not worth the toil. Otherwise, if one would see the seriousness of the matter right at the beginning of the work, as our sages said, “He who learns Lo Lishma would be better off to have been miscarried,” who would want to begin the work?

And since there is no other way to enter Lishma other than specifically coming from Lo Lishma to Lishma, there was a need to hide the truth and say that the act is the most serious, and the thought mattered little.

The meaning of “light” should be interpreted to mean “slightness,” that it is not very important, whereas “serious” means something important. We should also understand that it is from the world fleeting, contemptible, and shameful. That is, when a person begins to work on this intention in the work, he finds it contemptible because the main goal should be to be rewarded with faith, and it is man’s nature to value the intellect and not what is above the intellect.

By this we should interpret the Midrash that David said, “What I fear are the light Mitzvot, lest I have broken one of them—whether I observed or did not observe—for it was light. And you said, ‘Be careful with a light Mitzva (commandment) as with a serious one.’” We should understand what “whether I observed or did not observe” means. Should he not know if he observed? Why does he not remember?

As said above, the lightness is on the intention of Lishma. In that respect, he cannot know for certain if the intention was for the Creator, since with serious Mitzvot, meaning with actions, I know that I was careful because there is the majority’s opinion that actions must be observed.

But there is no majority opinion over the intention because the world is not careful to make the aim for the Creator. This is why he feared that his intention might not be appropriate. And in that regard the Midrash concludes, “Your servant is also cautious with them because of the majority.” That is, through fear—he feared of being drawn after the collective, who believe that it is not such a great iniquity if the intention is not right, but rather “I have made me keeping and vigilance on “because,” on the intention, since the view of the majority is that it is regarded as “because”—he was therefore rewarded with Lishma permanently over all the works, so that even past deeds will be corrected in him.

This is the meaning of, “‘And it shall come to pass that because’ are commandments that one tramples with one’s feet,” meaning that the view of the majority is that it is not such a great prohibition and iniquity to be careful with keeping the intention Lishma. It is about this work that man becomes “transgressed and repeated,” and this is called “trampling with one’s feet,” and he does not notice it because the view of the majority assists him.

However, we should know that it is the correction of the world that he will not see the truth, for not every person is capable of walking on the path of truth, as our sages said, “one comes out to teach.” For this reason, one is not shown one’s true state in the ways of the Lord, meaning to be able to engage in Torah and Mitzvot, and think that one’s intention is only for the Creator, as our sages said, “one does not see one’s own fault.” This is why one always sentences oneself to a scale of merit.

But one who is accustomed to the work and wishes to see the truth in order to walk in it, and his wish is only to correct his actions, then according to his desire for the truth, exactly to that extent is he shown his true level from above—how far he is from the work of Lishma. From this he is compelled to be in lowliness because he (sees) the bad in him more than all of his contemporaries, since the whole world does not see the truth, how they are placed under the governance of evil and have not begun the work for the Creator. But he does see that he cannot do anything for the Creator and therefore feels that he is separated from the Creator.

He feels as though he is dead because he is separated from The Life of Lives. And because he feels the taste of death, he is in utter lowliness, since there is none who is lower than the dead. At that time he cries out, “I am better off dead than alive,” for at least he would not blemish the Torah and Mitzvot, meaning use holy things for his own good, as then he would feel that he is using the holy names for secular needs.

For this reason, to the extent that he is walking on the path of truth he naturally becomes lowly. Hence, one who is proud, it is a sign that he has not yet been rewarded with seeing the truth, and there is certainly no greater lowliness than this because he is submerged from head to toe under the governance of falsehood.

Some smarties pride themselves on seeing the truth. That is, even though they see about themselves that they are entirely dedicated to the governance of evil and are powerless to do anything for the Creator, and see that they are worse than their contemporaries, they still take pride in it and say, “We have the virtue of seeing the truth, while others do not see the truth of how they are placed under the governance of evil. They rejoice and delight in the work of Torah and Mitzvot even though it is not really for the Creator, whereas I see the truth.” This is why they are proud of it and feel no lowliness.

However, this is similar to a group of sick people who were admitted into the hospital, and the doctors determined that they all had cancer, God forbid. The doctor disclosed this to one person and said, “Know, my son, what I can do for you, since you have cancer.” That man was anxious as it is because he knew his days were numbered and he was sentenced to death, and all he could do was pray to the Creator. But the other people, to whom the doctor did not disclose that they had cancer, rejoiced and enjoyed themselves, and the minute the illness stopped disturbing them they thought that they would soon leave the hospital and go home to have a feast with their friends because they felt that they were completely healthy.

In such a case, the man who knows he has cancer will not even consider being proud and say that he is more important than they are, meaning that he has more vitality and joy because he knows that he has cancer. We evidently see that one who knows he has this illness cares for nothing and takes interest in nothing because he has but one concern—how to make the cancer go away from him.

He cannot partake in the joy of the rest of the patients, who do not know they have this illness and the reason why the doctor has released them from the hospital is not that they are healthy, but because the doctor has no cure for them. But they think that the reason they were released from the hospital is that they are healthy.

It is the same in the work of the Creator. Anyone who sees that the evil within him is in full force, and has been disclosed the truth from above—that there is no cure for his illness and only the Creator can help him, as our sages said, “Man’s inclination overcomes him everyday, and were it not for the Creator, he would not have been able to overcome it—cannot be proud of having been disclosed the truth, contrary to others, as in the just mentioned allegory.

It follows that the lowliness that one feels testifies to the extent to which he is walking on the path of truth. Only then, when seeing the truth, is there room for real prayer from the bottom of the heart, for only then can he say, “Lord, if You do not help me, I see no tactic that can help me exit self love and be rewarded with powers of bestowal and faith in the Creator.”

Therefore, the order is that one must begin the work in Lo Lishma and then try to be rewarded with walking on the path of truth and to achieve Lishma.

This is the matter that is said about Jacob, and as RASHI interpreted, that he prepared himself for a gift, for prayer, and for war. We should ask by intimation: “Why should Jacob give a present to the Esau within him, and why should one give a present to the evil within him?”

As said above, the beginning of the work is in Lo Lishma. That is, when beginning to work the holy work, we promise the body that this work will give it many good things, that the body will enjoy by engaging in Torah and Mitzvot. We tell it that it will achieve Lo Lishma in general, meaning that each body has different passions: one craves money, another craves respect, etc., and this is called a “present.” Afterwards comes a prayer, when beginning to pray to the Creator to reveal to him the truth and to see his real situation—how remote he is from the work of Lishma. At that time begins a war, meaning that we do not want to give the body any reward for its work in Torah and Mitzvot.

Finally, one is pitied from above and is given the present of having faith and being granted with being the King’s servant, feeling that this is all that is worth living for—to able to say as our sages said, “One hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than all of the life in the next world.”

What follows from all the above is the act, and this is called a “serious matter,” and it is called Lo Lishma. Afterwards one should be careful with light matters, meaning with the intention Lishma. The sign of it is lowliness because one who sees one’s lowliness sees that he is treading the path leading to the work Lishma. This gives one room for real prayer from the bottom of the heart, when he sees that no one will help him but the Creator himself, as Baal HaSulam interpreted concerning the redemption from Egypt, “I, and not a messenger,” for everyone saw that only the Creator Himself redeemed them from the governance of evil.

And when rewarded with the work Lishma there is certainly nothing to be proud of because then one sees that it is only God’s gift, and not “my power and the might of my hand,” and there is no foreign hand that can help him. Therefore, he feels his lowliness—how serving the king is an immeasurable pleasure, and without His help he would not agree to it. Indeed, there is no greater lowliness than this.

May the Creator help us be rewarded with serving the king on the path of truth.

Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag

Son of my father, Baal HaSulam

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