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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

Letter No. 29

January 17, 1957, Manchester

To the friends, may they live forever,

Some time ago, I wrote you a letter but still received no reply if it has reached you. And except for … you are all slacking in your letters to me. This must be a matter of “an act that time causes,” and I’ll say no more.

Concerning Rosh Hashanah (beginning of the year) for the trees, which is on the 15th of Shevat, in the Masechet (Talmud tractate) of Rosh Hashanah (p 14), “On the first of Shevat, what is the reason? Rabbi Hoshia said, ‘it is because most of the rains of the year have passed.’” It was written in the Tosfot that the above reason is also according to Beit Hillel, who concur with the 15th of Shevat, since by then the majority of the rainy days have passed, and it is the time of crouching (the last third of the rainy season), and the resin is abundant in the trees, and the fruits have ripened.

In the Masechet of Rosh Hashanah (p 11), it is said, “One who comes out on a Nissan (Hebrew month) day and sees blooming trees and says, ‘Blessed is He who did not deprive His world of anything, and created in it good creations and good trees with which to delight people.’”

We should understand:

1) What does, “He did not deprive His world,” Mean? Are blooming trees a proof that nothing is missing?

2) “Created good creations”—what proof is this that creations are good?

3) The connection between man and tree;

4) It is known that if the majority of the rainy days have passed it is the sign of the beginning of the year. This reason is both according to Beit Shamai and according to Beit Hillel.

First we need to understand the meaning of Rosh Hashanah in the work. It is known that Rosh Hashanah is the time of judgment, when people are sentenced favorably or to the contrary. Rosh (head) is regarded a root from which the branches emerge. The branches always extend according to the essence of the root, for a root of oranges will not bring out branches of apples.

According to the root and the Rosh that a person establishes for himself at first, so he continues his life. The root is the foundation upon which the whole construction is built.

The judgment that a person is judged in the beginning of the year means that the person himself is the judge and the executer, since the person himself is the judge, the arbiter, the plaintiff, and the witness. It is as our sages said, “There is a judgment below; there is no judgment above.”

“Rains” mean vitality and pleasure by which the tree bears fruits. Man’s main work is during the winter days, on the long nights of Tevet. From Tishrey—which is the general beginning of the year—to Shevat, the majority of the rainy days have passed, meaning that a person has already received vitality and pleasure from Torah and work. At that time a person sentences himself if he should continue throughout the year only with Torah and work, or to the contrary.

“If he has one advocating angel over him out of a thousand, to testify to one’s integrity,” meaning if he has merit, then a person is notified his integrity, meaning that he will walk on the right path. At that time “out of a thousand,” as in “I will teach you wisdom.” Then, after the deliberation, he is acquitted in the judgment, meaning that he has taken upon himself to henceforth he engage only in pure things, called “bestowal,” both for the Creator and for people.

But this is true only if merits are the majority, meaning that until now the majority of vitality he has received was from matters of bestowal. At that time he decides that it is worth continuing, and then it is considered that he has been declared innocent.

But if he did not receive the majority of vitality from spiritual matters, but derived all of his vitality from corporeal matters, and if he has merit, called an “advocating angel,” then he is also declared innocent. That is, he decides to continue for the rest of the year only with matters of bestowal.

If the majority are iniquities, meaning that after all the works and labors, he still received the majority of vitality from matters of the will to receive for himself—the root of all iniquities and sins—then he is declared guilty.

That is, he takes upon himself to henceforth proceed only as the do the rest of the world, meaning with matters that are only for reception for oneself. This is man’s guilt, since matters that are in reception for oneself detain a person from achieving one’s eternal perfection and be awarded the sublime pleasures. This is regarded as “condemning oneself,” when one decides to continue the rest of his days only with matters that are condemning for the soul.

This is why the Tosfot write, “since by then the majority of the rain-days have passed,” etc., “and the resin is abundant in the trees, and the fruits have ripened.” That is, if he has passed the majority of the long nights of the winter days in Torah and work, and the resin is abundant in the trees, and he knows and feels that a fire is burning in his heart, as in “Her flames are flames of fire, the fire of the Lord,” he decides to continue on this path. This is the meaning of “and the fruits have ripened,” meaning that henceforth he will be rewarded with fruits.

For this reason, the 15th of Shevat is called “the beginning of the year” (Rosh Hashanah), when a person has already calculated whether to continue in the work or to the contrary, for by now he knows from which discernment he can draw life—from matters of self-reception or matters of bestowing contentment upon his maker. He knows that all his work is only to obtain the desire to bestow, since the Creator has prepared for us desire to receive the pleasures at the time of creation, for He desires to do good to His creations and created the will to receive.

Creation, too, would have remained a desire to receive, meaning that if we received the abundance of spirituality and eternity in our will to receive, the pleasures would have been incomplete from the perspective of the branch that wishes to resemble the root. This is why there is the bread of shame. This would leave Creation deficient.

For this reason, the Creator has prepared for us a correction called Tzimtzum (restriction). That is, where there is will to receive, a person feels concealment, as it is written in the introduction to the Sulam (Ladder commentary), that although the life that is clothed in the body extends existence from existence, its original root is still not apparent due to the Tzimtzum.

And through adapting to Torah and work we are rewarded with the correction called “reception in order to bestow,” by which we are rewarded with Dvekut (adhesion) with Him. It follows that by this, everything becomes completed. This is the meaning of “who did not deprive His world of anything,” referring to the correction of bestowal, as will be written below.

Now we will explain the connection between trees and people, which our sages connected. It is written, “For man is the tree of the field.” That is, all the works applied to trees in order to make them fit for bearing fruit apply also to man. Until a person is ready to bear fruit, he must endure all the works applied to trees.

The fruits are man’s final goal, and once, at a 15th of Shevat meal, Baal HaSulam explained why there is the matter of eating fruits. He said that it is because this is the whole difference between Kedusha (holiness) and Sitra Achra (other side), as it is written in The Zohar: “Another god is infertile and does not bear fruit,” as he interprets in the Sulam. That is, their source runs dry and they wither until they are completely shut. But those who advance in Kedusha are rewarded with blessing in their works, “Which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither” (“Introduction to the Book of Zohar,” item 23).

This is why the people of Israel make an indication of it, to show that the main thing is the fruits. And the fruits of holiness are by being rewarded with the revelation of His Godliness, and he becomes as a never ending fountain, advancing from degree to degree until he is rewarded and says, “He will be glorified in me, for He desires me, and He will be to me a gazelle’s crown.”

The works that apply to trees were also given to man, to qualify him. In Sheviit (Chapter 2, 42) he brings there things that are required for tending to trees, and from this we learn concerning man’s work.

Fertilizing—providing them with fertilizer. Likewise, man needs to add fertilizer to himself, which is waste—indecent qualities in a person. However, one should not bring the fertilizer from outside, as is done with trees, but should bring the fertilizer from concealment to disclosure, meaning into his senses, so he will feel the measure of the lowliness of his indecent qualities. Otherwise one cannot correct one’s actions.

Hoeing—digging at the base of the trees. Likewise, man should dig and search his purpose, namely what is the purpose for which he has come into this world.

Removing calluses—cutting off the calluses, which are flaws that appear in the tree. A callus is something that is outside one’s body. There are several things that a person does and which are seen outward, by people. That is, during the prayer, or when he speaks words of piousness to his friend, by which his friend sees his work that is outside his body. These must be cut out and cancelled. Instead, “Be humble with the Lord your God.”

That is, when a person performs some work for the Creator, the sign is if he seeks to conceal it from people. This is a mark that his aim is true. If not, it is to the contrary—he is craving only to disclose to people, and he is purifying the body outwards with poor excuses. But when he is aiming for the Creator, he naturally wants to cover the matter.

Removing the leaves from the tree to make it easier on it. Likewise, man has leaves which precede the fruits, meaning that the fruits emerge on the leaves. This is the meaning of coming from Lo Lishma (not for her sake) to Lishma (for her sake). The Lo Lishma is called “leaves,” and the fruits are the Lishma.

However, these leaves should be removed in order to make it easier on the tree to achieve Lishma. Otherwise, if one does not remove the Lo Lishma he will remain in the state of Lo Lishma. Afterwards, when rewarded with Lishma, it is written, “Its leave will not wither.” Rather, all the works that were in Lo Lishma eventually enter Kedusha (holiness).

And there is a higher interpretation, as it is written in the Sulam (“Introduction to the Book of Zohar,” item 2), that “leaves” are the forces of judgment in the Masach (screen), meaning the Tzimtzum that was on the will to receive that no abundance would illuminate, but that there would be darkness. By this the Masach is born. It follows that the force of the judgment of the departure of the light brings him to make a Masach by which he receives the strength to receive in order to bestow.

Also, during the preparation, prior to being awarded entrance to the Creator’s palace, one should grow accustomed to the powers of overcoming the desires for self-reception. The way is to begin with small things, which do not give him that much delight and pleasure and are easier to relinquish and say about them, “Were it not a Mitzva to engage in these matters, I wouldn’t do them.”

Afterwards he adds until he accustoms himself to relinquish even the most important things for him. Even with things that touch his soul he can say that were it not a Mitzva, he would not engage in them. All this is required for him to be strong and trained in war, and then he is awarded entrance to the Creator’s palace to be among God’s servants.

The force that compels him to keep himself from all the things, so he will not be immersed in desires of self-reception, is the force of judgment, which rules and keeps him from failing in the above. This is so because when he has self-interest, the vitality and abundance promptly depart from him. Therefore, he determines and decides and keeps the Masach that he will receive specifically in order to bestow.

It is likewise in the manners of preparation: the abovementioned force of judgment shows its power and its actions are apparent until one decides once and for all to never breach the laws of Torah. But until one arrives at that final resolution, as an unbreakable law, one is in a state of “back and forth,” regarded as a catapult, until one comes to fear the punishment of the abovementioned force of judgment.

Allegorically, even when one feels elated and thinks that he will never fall, if he fails with self interest, in mind or in heart, the power of judgment promptly rules over him and the spiritual vitality departs from him. That is, he is denied of all the desire and fancy that he had in Torah and work, and he falls into the authority of the Sitra Achra, who governs him. He has no tactic or strength to overcome her and he follows her like sheep to the slaughter. She forces him to crave and derive vitality from the lowest desires of reception in reality, meaning such base things that ordinary God fearing people will never want.

The reason for this is that he was used to receiving spiritual vitality, and he finds nothing tasteful about the ordinary trivialities of this world. So until he receives some reward instead of the spiritual vitality that he possessed—when he derived emotional satisfaction from them—he craves the lowest of the worldly matters, perhaps there he will be able to satisfy his soul.

At that time, he is suspicious of every transgression in the Torah, since the power of judgment pushes him into the Sitra Achra, and the desire to receive sees to filling oneself with pleasure so he will have vitality to fill up for the Sitra Achra, called “the root of the will to receive for oneself alone.” For this reason, he descends to the place of lowliness, perhaps there he will find what he seeks.

But it is questionable whether he finds what he is seeking. And yet, he pokes through the trash like chickens pecking through the trash. At the beginning of the fall he still remembers the spiritual state that he had, meaning that a Reshimo (recollection) still remains in him. At that time he still knows that now he is considered dead, meaning doing all the lowly things, whether in thought or in action, too, in a place where he feels no shame from people.

And yet, he knows that this is not man’s purpose, and it is lowliness. He intellectually understands that he must overcome this time of descent, although he knows and sees and feels, he is lying like the dead, hopeless, and tied with ropes of Aviut (lit. thickness/will to receive) under the authority of the Sitra Achra.

The memory that he remembers seems to him like a good dream that he will never be able to dream again. This is what he knows and feels (he is absolutely certain that it is impossible to continue the spiritual state that he had then). In other words, he does not have the strength of devotion and faith above reason as before. For this reason, this Reshimo brings him nothing but suffering because he is utterly incapable of escaping his current state.

And because it is human nature to forget the suffering, for it is our nature to forget the dead, meaning that if he remembers his spiritual time, he sees that now he is dead, so he comes into an even greater descent. That is, he forgets his good state and believes that he has always been in the current state of self-reception, and never desired the work of the Creator, meaning that the words, “And you who cling,” were certainly not said about him. Instead, all his vitality comes only from corporeal matters.

And if he sometimes remembers that he had a spiritual state, he excuses himself that even then it was probably not genuine, but an imitation. And most importantly, he does not need to come out of that state.

But if he finally thinks, “What shall become of the correction of the soul?” He excuses himself that he will correct it in the next life, but not now. And then he comes into an even greater descent, meaning that he forgets to think for even one moment about everything that is happening with him. Instead, he is without any calculations, flowing with the currents of the world and having fun like everyone else.

This is the meaning of “descending and inciting” a person toward self-reception. And “ascending and slandering” means that he has broken the laws of Torah and takes his soul, and remains without any vitality.

This continues until he is pitied from heaven and is made to somehow fall into a good environment of books or authors, and he suddenly begins to feel again “the voice of my beloved is knocking.”

Sometimes it can be to the contrary, that he comes into a more base environment, and by observing their lowliness he suddenly begins to feel the herald, “Return, O [mischievous] sons.” Then he promptly musters strength and is reminded of the ways and laws he had received and heard, and he becomes elated once again and promptly exits all the lowliness and is revived.

At that time he already feels that he has the power to overcome by powers of devotion, and he begins to choose the good once more, and loathe the bad. Only then is he the judge of choice and good counsels and upright conducts, and has the strength to go forward.

But during the death, meaning when his dead is lying before him, no condolences are accepted, as it is written, “The dead are free,” for when a person dies he becomes free of Mitzvot and no advice can help him.

And if he fails with self interest once more, the quality of judgment hits him once again and he is placed in the catapult until the living, meaning the time when he is alive “will put it into his heart” to beware and guard himself with all kinds of caution so he does not fall again into the authority of the Sitra Achra.

That fear from the force of judgment continues until it is carved in his heart that he will determine his conduct steadfast, as it is written, “And he saw the Kenite, and took up his discourse and said, ‘Your seat is firm.’” RASHI interpreted (that wicked Balaam said), “I wonder from where you have been granted this, for you were with him in the counsel, ‘Let us deal wisely with them,’ and now you have settled in the firm and strong of Israel.”

In other words, the Sitra Achra comes to him with the argument, “What is the matter with you? You always walked with me concerning matters of self reception, and now you have set up your state firm to not move an inch from your spiritual place.” This is called “fear of punishment,” when he observes the laws of Torah for fear of punishment of the power of judgment.

This is the meaning of removing, as in “He asks it and he answers it,” meaning ascents and descents. Through the questions and answers one determines the real form of the work of the Creator.

Dusting—the exposed roots are covered with dust.

The “root” is regarded as “thought,” which is the root of the action. If the thoughts are reveled, meaning that one looks in every place and spies on every place, both on the ways and conducts one has received from one’s teachers, whether they are true, then one needs to struggle with these thoughts, as in “And a man strove with him”—said about Esau’s minister—and accept them above reason.

This is the meaning of “and be dusting in the dust of their feet.” This means that although you have spies who say, “We will not go up,” and although their spies, meaning the thoughts of the students, bring up dust, meaning that it seems to them that their teachers’ words are as valuable as dust, he should still take his teachers’ words above reason.

Here I will offer an example: Baal HaSulam promised us that by walking in his path and following his guidance we will be rewarded with His eternity, to cling unto Him, and to enter the King’s palace. Although we all feel that we have not the properly pure qualities to be the King’s servant. Still, “The Lord is near to the broken hearted,” since all the indecent qualities that are inherently within us, the Creator has planted them in us and has created us with all the lowliness.

Baal HaSulam said, “The Lord is high and the low will see,” since the Creator loves the truth. For this reason, the Creator brings near those who are truly low. Sometimes we come to a state of despair and feel that we will rise from our current condition, meaning during the contemplation. It was said about this, “dusting,” meaning that we must fight these thoughts.

Smoking under the tree—to kill the worms that grow in it. It is written about the manna, “[they] left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul.” Baal HaSulam interpreted the manna to mean faith. It is known that each day we must renew the faith.

This is the meaning of “gather each day,” meaning even if it is still day for him, he should renew the foundation of the work, meaning the purpose of the work. One has to know that his being in a state of “day” is only the result of faith, since if one follows the path of faith he is rewarded with the clothing of Shechina (Divinity), each according to his measure of faith.

This means that the day is not his goal, but he can use the day in order to testify to faith. That is, he will say, “Now I see that I have been walking in the path of faith because the result I have is that of a day. It follows that I must grow stronger in the root.”

Similarly, Baal HaSulam interpreted “the shepherds of Abraham’s cattle”—that he gives nourishments to Abraham’s possessions, meaning the quality of faith, as his quality is the “father of faith.” But, receive the quality of faith as the goal and the essence. Otherwise he will be regarded as “bowing to the sun.”

While the foundation is only faith, one is in a state of poverty and lowliness, as it is written, “and I am a worm.” In other words, Anochi (me/selfish), regarded as faith, causes him to feel that he is a worm because his whole work is above reason, and because he is above reason he cannot feel pride.

But if he does not renew the faith, but rather, as it is written, “[they] left,” and he toys with his day and makes it the essence, then “it bred worms.” Where he should have been a “worm,” he “bred” (in Hebrew Yaram means both “bred” and “was haughty”), meaning was proud, since he felt he was higher than everyone.

All this is because he works within reason. From this he comes to “bred,” meaning pride, and his pride spreads afar until it comes to the measure of “and became foul,” as army men say, “pride smells from afar.”

The advice for this is as the Mishnah tells us, “smoking.” The smoke comes by burning, meaning that each day he burns his work from yesterday and only today he begins to get in to the joy of a holy war—to bring out the land of Israel from under the authority of reception and admit the point into a state where he feels that the wings of the Shechina (Divinity) cover him, as it is written, “Who shields him all the day, and he dwells between His shoulders.”

In other words, precisely when assuming the path of faith, regarded as a burden that is carried on the shoulders, one is rewarded with the Shechina. It is as Baal HaSulam said, that each day we must give to the Creator everything that he has been through, whether Mitzvot or transgressions, and begin anew. This is also the meaning of “smoking,” for the smoke blocks the eyes, called “the mind’s eyes,” which is one’s within reason.

Stoning means removing the stones. These are the understandings that he has within reason, which belong to the stony heart. That is, when he feels day, and feels zest and emotions in the work, he says, “Now I see that it is worthwhile to be a servant of the Creator because I find pleasure and vitality in it.” It follows that he already has support, meaning that from all those supports he gets many stones and has a whole building within reason.

These are truly stumbling blocks. It is as Pharaoh said, “See upon the birth stool; if it is a boy, then you shall put him to death.” That is, where you have pleasure, called “stones,” do not receive it into the stony heart, called “reception.” “If it is a boy,” meaning that bestowal has awakened to you from that, as in “the shepherds of Abraham’s cattle,” then “put him to death,” meaning destroy these thoughts.

“But if it is a girl,” meaning Nukva (female), receiving everything into the will to receive, whether in mind or in heart, “then she shall live.” This is what Pharaoh advised to receive as vitality and foundation. But the path of Torah is to remove these views and thoughts.

Cutting out means chopping off and cutting out the dry branches from the tree. This is, everyone one has acquired from the environment by habit, commandments, and dray laws, should be cut off, meaning forget the laws of overseas. It is so because the land of Israel is called Lishma, and what one takes from the environment is only Lo Lishma.

Trimming, means that when there are many fresh twigs it is customary to cut off some of them and put them aside. That is, even the laws and wisdoms that are truly moist, if they are too many, meaning that his knowledge is more than his works,” then he must not use a lot of knowledge and scrutiny because the majority appears primarily in actions, for each act testifies to the quality of its operator.

We learn from all the above that people are akin to trees. This is the meaning of “One who comes out on a Nissan (Hebrew month) day and sees a blooming trees,” meaning that the trees have already begun to show their strength, meaning that it is already apparent that they want to impart fruits to man’s benefit. To benefit means to bestow, as it is written, “My heart overflows with a goodly matter, meaning “I say, ‘My works are for the king,’” which is good.

And since the trees are blooming, namely giving, they are called “good trees.” Clearly, at that time there are also good people, meaning that they, too, do things in order to bestow contentment upon their maker. Otherwise the trees, too, would not be imparting their fruits, as our sages said, “The whole world is nourished for Hanina, my son.” Because there are righteous, who are giving, they act so that the trees will give.

This is the meaning of “did not deprive His world of anything.” It means that He has prepared for us the engagement in Torah and Mitzvot by which we will achieve perfection, called “reception in order to bestow.” It follows that besides creating the will to receive, He has promptly prepared the correction of the bread of shame so there would be completeness in the benefit.

Thus, one must give oneself an account each day, renew his work in overcoming, and forget the past. Instead, he should be very confident that from this day forth he will succeed in achieving permanent and eternal Dvekut (adhesion).

May the Creator help us with all our troubles and redeem our souls, and we will be saved in corporeality and spirituality, Amen may this be so.

Your friend, Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag

Son of Baal HaSulam

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