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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

Letter No. 27

December 18, 1956, Manchester

To the friends, may they live forever,

It has been a very long time since I received letters from you, except for… and a short letter from…

We must renew our work each day, meaning forget the past. That is, if we did not succeed before, we must start anew. It is like a merchant: If he had a business that did not succeed, he closes that business and promptly starts a new one, hopeful that although he did not succeed in the previous business, he will certainly succeed in the new one.

So are we. Although in the past we did not succeed, in the future we are certain to succeed. But we will not stay idle because without doing any business it is impossible to succeed. Rather, we must believe that it will certainly be drawn upon us and we will be rewarded with the light of His law, which is the true law, that truth will protect us and we will draw the light of His law, and will be granted with clinging to His name forever.

Our sages said, “Rabbi Yohanan said, ‘Jacob our father did not die. He asks, ‘Was it in vain that the mummifiers mummified and the undertakers buried?’’ Rather, I call the verse, ‘Fear not, O Jacob My servant,’ declares the Lord, ‘And do not dread, O Israel, for I will save you from afar, and your descendants from the land of their captivity.’’ As his descendants are alive, so he is alive.” RASHI interprets that only among the living can you speak of captivity, but with regard to the dead, you cannot speak of captivity (Taanit 5b).

The interpreters asked:

1) The question still stands. The Maharsha interprets that the body dies and the soul exists, so why did specifically Jacob not die? He explains that since Abraham and Isaac died in the land of Israel, but Jacob died abroad, and so we need to be told that Jacob, too, did not die.

I will interpret this according to our way, and this will reconcile the famous question about the verse, “So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, ‘Your father charged before he died, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, ‘Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers.’’’”

This is perplexing:

2) Where do we find that Jacob commanded such a thing before his death? And there is also the question of the Midrash about the verse, “And he called his son, Joseph,” and commanded him the burial.

3) Why did he not command Reuben, who was the elder, or Judah, who was a king?

And the interpreters asked:

4) About Jacob telling Joseph—“deal with me with mercy and truth,” meaning mercies performed with the dead—no reward and recompense is given for the mercy. But afterwards he says to Joseph, “But I gave you one portion more than to your brothers.” RASHI interprets that since you exert and trouble yourself with my burial, it is no longer true mercy.

Another perplexity:

5) Joseph said to him, “I will do as you say.” The “I” is redundant (in Hebrew the word “I” is repeated twice in this verse). He should have said, “I will do as you say” (with a single “I”).

To understand the above we must understand the quality of truth, which is the quality of Jacob. It is written, “Let truth be given to Jacob.” Baal HaSulam interpreted the matter of truth (presented in the Sulam, in the “Introduction of the Book of Zohar,” item 175), that two factions of angels slandered Creation, and two advocated it.

The angels of truth said that the world is all lies, meaning that the world is called “will to receive,” and truth is the desire to bestow contentment upon one’s maker, which is Dvekut (adhesion). How can they achieve this? The angels of mercy said, “He does mercy,” and through the mercy they will achieve Dvekut. See there the whole matter of “And cast the earth to the ground,” meaning that from Lo Lishma (not for Her sake) we will be rewarded with Lishma (for Her sake) and will achieve the quality of truth.

Jacob, who is the quality of truth, commanded before his death, meaning gave a will to Joseph to do true mercy, meaning that by that he will be awarded the quality of truth, meaning that he will be entirely to bestow. This was so to all of his sons, but he commanded specifically Joseph, meaning that after his death Joseph will not get even for the selling of Joseph by his brothers.

And although Joseph sees that his brothers blemished by selling, he must still engage only with the quality of truth, meaning to bestow, and correcting the flaw is for the Creator alone. This matter of correction was later corrected with the ten slain of the kingship (as explained in several places).

Joseph replied, “I will do as you say,” meaning that my self will be as you say—that I will walk only in the way of bestowal. This reconciles why he said specifically to Joseph, and why he used specifically the word “I.”

This also explains the second question we asked, “Where do we find that Jacob commanded Joseph before his death, meaning that before his death he said specifically to Joseph to follow the path of truth, which is only to bestow, and therefore you must not get even for the sale?”

And also, once Joseph has taken it upon himself and said, “I will do as you say,” meaning bestow, by later telling him, “I gave you one portion more than to your brothers,” he does not spoil the truth by receiving the gift now, since now he is regarded as receiving in order to bestow, for he has no need for himself, but all his actions are in Torah and Mitzvot in order to bestow.

This explains the fourth question: After the acceptance of the truth, he could reward him, but it would still be considered pure bestowal. This is why Rabbi Yohanan said that Jacob did not die. It means that the quality of Jacob did not die because he bequeathed his quality to his sons. This is why Rabbi Yohanan said specifically Jacob, since truth is the most important; if there is truth, one is rewarded with Abraham and Isaac, who are Hassadim and Gevurot.

It follows from all the above that Jacob did not die, but his law, the law of truth, will shine for us and we will be rewarded with following in his footsteps and with growing stronger with more exertion. We must not heed the our own view landlords, who bring us sparks of despair, but say as our sages say, “The Son of David comes only inadvertently.” That is, redemption, called “the Son of David,” comes specifically by distracting the mind of landlords.

This is the meaning of RASHI’s interpretation that life is only in captivity, meaning that only when one is regarded as “alive” does he feel that he is captive and must break free from the prison. But when a person is dead, he does not feel that he is captive.

Jacob’s quality will shine for us out of captivity, as it is written, “And your descendants from the land of their captivity,” meaning that all the desires for work are captive. This is also the meaning of “Fear not, my servant Jacob … for I will save you from afar.” Although they were in utter remoteness from the Creator, the Creator promises us that He will save us, as our sages said, “If the Creator does not help him, he will not prevail over it.”

Therefore, we must understand how our helper is mighty, as it is written, “The Lord is a man of war.” And as for the salvation of the mighty one, he does not mind whether he should help a lot or little. But rather, “I will save you from afar.” Even when we are in utter remoteness, He will save us.

Let us hope that from this day forth, meaning each and every moment, we will be rewarded with eternal wholeness and to cling to the truth.

From your friend, Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag

Son of Baal HaSulam

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