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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

Letter No. 45

January 22, 1959, Tel-Aviv

Hello and all the best to my dear friend,

I hereby reply to the letter you sent on the 25th of November. You asked two questions regarding the primordial serpent: 1) Why was it punished, for we find nowhere that it was warned not to incite? 2) What is the punishment, “On your belly you will walk,” with regard to the evil inclination?

It is written in Lips of the Wise about the verse (Genesis, 3:14), that the serpent was punished only because a mishap occurred through it, for it was not commanded not to incite. This means that the punishment is not that it deserves to be denied its power because it sinned, but for a different reason: so that others will not fail through it. It therefore follows that it was not punished because it was not commanded not to incite.

In regard to “On your belly you will walk,” we should interpret that there are three degrees in holiness, called Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama. Nefesh comes from the word, Nefisha (rest/pause), when the vitality is so small that one cannot move at all. Ruach is already a measure where there is ability to move toward correction of the qualities, called Hesed, the right hand, and Gevura, the left hand, meaning he can use his hands with vitality of holiness.

Neshama means that he already has the intellect and mind of holiness, meaning that he has already been awarded the reason of holiness. This is regarded as having a Neshama.

The order of reception of spiritual light is as it is in corporeality. We see that when a baby is born, its vitality is so small that it cannot move by itself, but others must assist it. All it can do is lay down. Laying means that the head is not higher in virtue than the body, but rather the head is at the same level as the feet. This is called Nefesh in spirituality.

When the baby grows, by receiving more strength, its vitality is sufficient for it to be able to sit. Sitting indicates that it can move its hands, and by that the head grows. This is discerned as distinguishing between the level of the head from that of the body.

When he grows more, meaning when he has already obtained intellect in his head, his vitality is so great that it spreads to its lets, as well. At that time there is a big difference between the level of the body and that of the legs.

It follows that there are three degrees. However, this is so specifically in the speaking—that the head is on top, the body is lower, and the legs are the lower still—since he has intellect and thought, and in that he is higher than the animate degree. But in animals, the head and the body are on the same level, indicating that their heads are not more important than their bodies. Hence, we discern only two degrees in them, which are Nefesh or Ruach.

When they use their legs, it shows that they have great strength, which is that their body is higher than the legs. But when they have no legs it means that their vitality is very small, they were not given the vitality power of two degrees, but that the head and legs are equal.

By that we can interpret, “On your belly you will walk.” That is, the Ruach was taken away from it, its mobility, and with that power it could incite Eve into eating from the tree of knowledge. When its legs were taken away from it and it walks on its body, called “belly,” it means that its vitality is very small. This is called Nefesh, immobility, lacking sufficient vitality to move. By this it will not be able to harm the world so much.

Nefesh is called “female light” receiving what she is given. She cannot receive vitality on her own, but only what she receives through the bad deeds of others, and from this comes her vitality. Therefore, when a person commits transgressions and imparts upon her vitality, she has the power to make one sin.

This is the meaning of “On your belly you will walk,” meaning that now it has nothing more than Nefesh of Klipa (shell). This is why it cannot do much harm to man. But when it is given power, it grows stronger.

This is the meaning of “transgression induces transgression,” since its power has increased. Therefore, now that a person has become stronger in Torah and Mitzvot (commandments), it is possible to defeat it and attain the real perfection.

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