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Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam)

Lishma Is an Awakening from Above

It is not in one’s hands to understand how to be rewarded with Lishma (for Her Name). This is because the human mind cannot grasp how such a thing can be in the world. This is because one is only permitted to grasp that if one engages in Torah and Mitzvot, he will attain something. There must be self-gratification there, for otherwise, one is unable to do anything.

Instead, Lishma is an illumination that comes from Above, and only one who tastes it can know and understand. It is written about that, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Thus, we must understand why should one seek advice and counsel on how to achieve Lishma. After all, no counsel will help him, and if God does not give him the other nature, called “the Will to Bestow,” no labor will help one to attain the matter of Lishma.

The answer is, as our sages said (Avot, 2:21), “It is not for you to complete the work, and you are not free to idle away from it.” This means that one must give the awakening from below, since this is discerned as a prayer.

A prayer is considered a deficiency, and without a deficiency there is no fulfillment. Hence, when one has a need for Lishma, the fulfillment comes from Above, and the answer to the prayer comes from Above, meaning one receives fulfillment for one’s need. It follows that one’s work is needed to receive the Lishma from the Creator only in the form of a deficiency and a Kli (Vessel). Yet, one can never attain the fulfillment alone; it is rather a gift from the Creator.

However, the prayer must be a whole prayer, from the bottom of the heart. This means that one knows for certain that there is no one in the world who can help him but the Creator Himself.

Yet, how does one know that there is no one to help him but the Creator Himself? One can acquire that awareness precisely if he has exerted all the powers at his disposal to attain Lishma, and it did not help him. Thus, one must do every possible thing in the world to be rewarded with “for the Creator.” Then one can pray from the bottom of one’s heart, and then the Creator will hear his prayer.

However, one must know that when exerting to attain Lishma, one should take it upon himself to want to work entirely to bestow, completely, meaning only to bestow and to not receive anything. Only then does one begin to see that the organs do not agree to this idea.

From this, one can come to a clear awareness that he has no other counsel but to pour out his complaint before the Creator to help him so the body will agree to enslave itself to the Creator unconditionally, since one sees that he cannot persuade his body to annul its self entirely. It turns out that precisely when one sees that there is no reason to hope that his body will agree to work for the Creator by itself, one’s prayer can be from the bottom of the heart, and then his prayer is accepted.

We must know that by attaining Lishma, one puts the evil inclination to death. The evil inclination is the will to receive, and acquiring the will to bestow cancels the will to receive from being able to do anything. This is considered putting it to death, since it removes it from its office; and it has nothing more to do since one no longer uses it. And when the evil inclination is revoked from its function, it is considered that one has put it to death.

And when one contemplates, “What profit hath man of all his labor… under the sun,” he will see that it is not so difficult to enslave himself to His Name, for two reasons:

  1. In any case, willingly or unwillingly, one must exert in this world, and what has one left of all the efforts he has made?

  2. However, if one works Lishma, he receives pleasure during the work, as well.

This follows the proverb of the Sayer of Dubna about the verse, “Thou hast not called upon Me, O Jacob, neither hast thou wearied thyself about Me, O Israel.” He said that it is like a rich man who departed the train with a small bag. He placed it where all the merchants place their baggage and the porters take the packages and bring them to the hotel where the merchants stay. The porter had thought that the merchant would certainly take a small bag by himself and there was no need for a porter for that, so the porter took a big package to the hotel.

The merchant wanted to pay him a small fee, as he usually pays for this small bag. But the porter did not want to take it, and said, “I put in the depository of the hotel a big bag; I could barely carry it, and it exhausted me, and you want to pay me so little for it?”

The lesson is that when one comes and says that he exerted extensively in keeping Torah and Mitzvot, the Creator tells him, “Thou hast not called upon Me, O Jacob.” In other words, it is not my baggage that you took; this bag belongs to someone else. If you are saying you had great efforts in Torah and Mitzvot, you must have had a different landlord for whom you were working, so go to him to pay you.

This is the meaning of, “neither hast thou wearied thyself about Me, O Israel.” In other words, one who works for the Creator has no labor whatsoever, but, on the contrary, pleasure and elated spirit.

But one who works for other goals cannot come to the Creator with complaints that the Creator does not give him vitality in the work, since he did not work for the Creator, for the Creator to pay him for his work. Instead, one can complain to those people that he had worked for, to administer him pleasure and vitality.

And since there are many goals in Lo Lishma (not for Her Name), one should demand of the goal for which he had worked that the goal would reward him, namely give him pleasure and vitality. It is said about them, “They that make them shall be like them, every one that trusts them.”

However, according to that, it is perplexing. After all, we see that even when one takes upon oneself the burden of the Kingdom of Heaven without any other intention, he still feels no liveliness, to say that this liveliness compels him to assume the burden of the Kingdom of Heaven. And the reason one does assume the burden is only because of faith above reason.

In other words, one does it by way of coercive overcoming, unwillingly. Thus, we might ask, “Why does one feel exertion in this work, with the body constantly seeking a time when it can be rid of this work, as one does not feel any liveliness in the work?” And when one works in concealment, and has only the purpose of working in order to bestow, why does the Creator not impart him with flavor and vitality in the work?

The answer is that we must know that this is a great correction. Were it not for that, if Light and liveliness had illuminated as soon as one began to take upon himself the burden of the Kingdom of Heaven, one would have immediate liveliness in the work. In other words, the will to receive would consent to this work as well.

And why would it agree? Certainly, because it wishes to satisfy its craving, meaning it would work for its own benefit. Had that been so, it would never be possible to achieve Lishma, since one would be compelled to work for one’s own benefit, as one would feel greater pleasure in the work of God than in corporeal desires. Thus, one would have to remain in Lo Lishma, since thus he would have had satisfaction in the work. And where there is satisfaction, one cannot do anything, as without profit, one cannot work. It follows that if one received satisfaction in this work of Lo Lishma, one would have to remain in that state.

This would be similar to what people say, that when people chase a thief to catch him, the thief, too, runs and yells, “Catch the thief.” Then, it is impossible to tell who is the real thief, to catch him and retake the theft.

However, when the thief, the will to receive, does not feel any flavor or liveliness in the work of accepting the burden of the Kingdom of Heaven, if, in that state, one works with faith above reason, coercively, and the body becomes accustomed to this work against the desire of one’s will to receive, then one has the means by which to come to a work that will be with the purpose of bringing contentment to one’s Maker.

This is so because the primary requirement from a person is to achieve Dvekut (Adhesion) with the Creator through one’s work, which is discerned as equivalence of form, where all of one’s actions are in order to bestow.

It is as the verse says, “Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.” The meaning of “Then” is “before,” that in the beginning of one’s work, there was no pleasure. Instead, one’s work was coercive.

However, afterwards, when one has already accustomed oneself to work in order to bestow, and to not examine oneself—if he is feeling a good taste in the work—but believes that he is working to bring contentment to his Maker through his work. And one should believe that the Creator accepts the labor of the lower ones regardless of how and how much is the form of their work. In everything, the Creator examines only the intention, and that this brings contentment to the Creator. Then one is granted with “delight thyself in the Lord.”

Even during the work of God he will feel delight and pleasure, as now one really does work for the Creator, since the effort he had made during the coercive work qualifies one to be able to truly work for the Creator. You find that then, the pleasure that one receives relates to the Creator as well, meaning specifically for the Creator.

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