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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

Letter No. 69

February 17, 1964

Hello and all the best to my friend, the dearest of men,

Our sages said, “It is written, ‘Do not reply to a fool according to his folly lest you will be like him.’ It is also written, ‘Reply to a fool according to his folly lest he will be wise in his own eyes.’ This is not an issue: one concerns matters of Torah, and one concerns worldly matters.” RASHI interpreted, “Concerning matters of Torah, it is permitted to answer him according to his folly” (Shabbat, 30b). We should understand the prohibition to reply concerning worldly matters; what is there to fear? It seems as though it should have been the opposite, that in spiritual matters we should fear because it is not good to argue with a fool, but why should it be forbidden to answer him in worldly matters?

We should also understand what our sages said about the verse, “Let me know Your ways.” “He said to Him: ‘Master of the world, why is there a righteous who is happy, and a righteous who is suffering, a wicked who is happy, and a wicked who is suffering?’ He said to him: ‘Moses, a righteous who is happy—a righteous, son of righteous; a righteous who is suffering—a righteous, son of wicked; a wicked who is happy—a wicked, son of righteous; a wicked who is suffering—a wicked, son of wicked’” (Berachot, 7a).

In its literal meaning, this is difficult to understand. We see that there are also wicked, son of wicked, who is happy, and a righteous, son of righteous, who is suffering.

However, we should interpret that this does not refer to matters of providence as they seem to us, for it is written about this: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways My ways.” Rather, saying, “Let me know Your ways” refers to the ways of the work of the Creator.

It is known that the purpose of creation is to do good to His creations. That is, as long as one has not achieved a state where he is happy in the world, he should know that he has not achieved the purpose for which man was created. Another rule that we should know is that in matters of work, father and son are cause and consequence. That is, the previous state causes the next state, where the first state is called “father,” and the second state is called “son.”

By this we will understand all the abovementioned. An ordinary person, who does not engage in Torah and Mitzvot [commandments], if he sees a righteous man engaging in Torah and comes and asks the righteous, “What is this work for you?” there is no doubt he is coming to mock the righteous for engaging in Torah and Mitzvot. He certainly does not want the righteous to give him a real answer, which will obligate him to engage in the work of the Creator, too, for this is not his intention. Therefore, do not reply to him, for he himself does not want you to reply. This is called a “wicked.”

One who is in such a state, meaning that the wicked in the world install such thoughts in his mind, do not reply to him. That is, one must not heed such thoughts. This is called “wicked, son of wicked.” This is the meaning of “suffering,” if such thoughts come into one’s mind. “Do not reply” means that one must not answer such questions, as it is written, “lest you will be like him.” This is why he is regarded as “suffering” because it is utterly bad and no good will come out of it.

But there is also one who engages in Torah and Mitzvot, and when he begins to engage only Lishma [for Her sake], and not with any intention for his own good, the question, “What is this work for you,” comes to him, meaning what will you get out of working only for the Creator. That person—whose intention for it to be for the Creator is what caused him these thoughts—is “happy,” since this is a sign that he truly wants to engage for the Creator, as this is why his body does not agree to walk with him on this path.

Therefore, that person craves for the righteous to answer him clearly, so he will know what to reply to his body and will have something with which to convince it. Therefore, “reply to him.” This is regarded as being permitted to reply in matters of Torah, since he really does want an answer.

In such a state, one is called “wicked, son of righteous,” since the argument of the wicked, “What is this work,” comes to him from engaging in Torah and Mitzvot. It turns out that he is regarded as righteous, and the righteous deeds that he wants to be for the Creator engender in him the question, “What is this work?” This is why he is a “wicked, son of righteous.” He is “happy” because it is a sign that he is walking on the path of truth.

This is the meaning of what our sages said, “Man’s inclination overpowers him each day and seeks to put him to death. Were it not for the help of the Creator, he would not have prevailed over it.” Only the Creator can help a person be able to intend for the sake of the Creator. When the Creator helps him, he becomes a righteous and is rewarded with permanent faith in the Creator. In the words of our sages, this is called, “One who learns Torah Lishma [for Her sake],” meaning that his only aim is the sake of the Creator.

However, this does not achieve the purpose of creation, as it is written, “If you are right, what will you give Him?” since the Creator has no need for us to work for Him, since the correction of working Lishma was given only to avoid the bread of shame. Therefore, on the one hand, that state is considered “righteous, son of wicked,” since the previous state, before the Creator helped him, was wicked, but once the Creator has helped him he has become a righteous. This is why he is called “righteous, son of wicked.” However, he is still “suffering” because he has still not achieved the purpose of his creation.

Subsequently, he comes to a state called “Torah,” where the secrets of Torah are revealed to him and the whole world is worthwhile for him. The Torah is called a “gift,” as our sages said about the verse, “From Matanah [Heb: gift] to Nahliel,” since it is the gift of the Creator. That is, once a person has been awarded faith, he can be awarded the next state.

The next state is called “Torah.” The difference between faith and Torah is that we know we have two matters in the ways of the Creator: 1) work, 2) Torah. The difference between Torah and work is that work means that a person does not enjoy what he is doing, and does it only to be rewarded. And since one needs to work not in order to be rewarded, his work is called Tzedakah [righteousness/charity]. This is why the first state, which is faith, is called “righteousness,” as it is written, “And he believed in the Lord and He regarded it for him as righteousness.”

Conversely, the Torah is called a “gift” because he enjoys it. Otherwise it is not regarded as a gift, for when one receives a gift from one’s friend, he does not ask him for a reward for receiving the gift from him.

Thus, when one is rewarded with the Torah, it is considered that he has reached his purpose, and is therefore “happy.” And because in the previous state he had faith, which is regarded as righteous, he is considered a righteous, son of righteous. This is the meaning of “righteous who is happy,” as he has achieved the purpose of creation and already feels the benevolence to His creations. In that state he is called a “good guest,” as our sages said, “What does a good guest say? ‘All that the Landlord has toiled, He has toiled only for me.’”

May the Creator help us be granted with what we must, and with complete redemption.

From your friend who wishes you and your family all the best,

Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag,

Son of Baal HaSulam

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