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Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)

According to What Is Explained Concerning “Love Thy Friend”

According to what is explained concerning “Love thy friend as thyself,” all the details of the 612 Mitzvot are contained in this rule. It is as our sages say, “The rest is its commentary; go study.” This means that by keeping the 612 Mitzvot we will be rewarded with the rule, “Love thy friend,” and following, the love of God.

Thus, what does love of friends give us? It is written that by gathering a few friends together, since they each have but a small force of love of others, meaning they can carry out the love of others only in potential, when they implement it they remember that they have decided to relinquish self-love in favor of the love of others. But in fact, he sees that he cannot relinquish any pleasure of the will to receive in favor of another, not even a bit.

However, by assembling a few people who agree that they have to achieve love of others, when they annul themselves before one another, they are all intermingled. Thus, in each person there accumulates a great force, according to the size of the society. And then they can execute the love of others in actual fact.

Hence, what do the details of the 612 Mitzvot add to us, which we said are in order to keep the rule, since the rule is kept by love of friends? And we see that in reality there is love of friends among secular, too. They, too, gather in various circles in order to have love of friends. What then is the difference between religious and secular?

The verse says (Psalms 1), “nor sat in the seat of the scornful.” We must understand the prohibition on “seat of the scornful.” Is it due to slander or idle words? So the prohibition is not because of a “seat of scornful.” What then does the “seat of scornful” add to us?

The meaning is that when a few people come together for the purpose of love of friends, with the intention that each and every one will help his friend improve his corporeal state, each anticipates that by having more meetings they will profit from society and improve their corporeal state.

However, after all the meetings, everyone calculates and sees how much he has received from society for the self-love, what the will to receive has gained by that, since he invested time and effort to benefit society, so what has he gained by it? He could probably succeed more if he had been occupied with self-benefit, at least the part of his own efforts. But “I entered the society because I thought that through the society, I would be able to gain more than I could gain alone. But now I see that I have gained nothing.”

Then he regrets it and says, “I would be better off using my own little strength instead of giving my time to society. However, now that I have given my time to society, in order to gain more properties through help from the society, I finally realized that not only did I not gain anything from society, I even lost what I could have gained alone.”

When there is someone who wishes to say that love of friends should be engaged in for the purpose of bestowal, that everyone will work to benefit others, everyone laughs and mocks it. It seems to them like a kind of joke, and this is a seat of seculars. It is said about it, “but sin is a reproach to any people, and every grace that they do, they do for themselves.” Such a society detaches one from holiness. It casts one into the world of mockery, and this is the prohibition of the seat of the scornful.

Our sages said about such societies, “Disperse the wicked; better for them and better for the world.” In other words, it is better that they do not exist. However, it is the opposite with the righteous: “Assemble the righteous; better for them and better for the world.”

What is the meaning of “righteous”? It is those who want to keep the rule, “Love thy friend as thyself,” whose sole intention is to exit self-love and assume a different nature of love of others. And although it is a Mitzva that should be kept, and one can force oneself to keep it, love is nonetheless something that is given to the heart, and the heart disagrees with it by nature. What then can one do to make love of others touch the heart?

This is why we were given the 612 Mitzvot: they have the power to induce a sensation in the heart. However, since it is against nature, that sensation is too small to have the ability to keep love of friends de facto, even though he has a need for it. Hence, now he must seek advice regarding how to actually implement it.

The advice for one to be able to increase his strength in the rule, “Love thy friend,” is love of friends. If every one is nullified before his friend and mingles with him, they become one mass, where all the little parts that want the love of others unite in a collective force that consists of many parts. And when he has great strength, he can execute the love of others.

And then he can achieve the love of God. But the condition is that each will annul before the other. However, when he is separated from his friend, he cannot receive the share he should receive from his friend.

Thus, everyone should say that he is nothing compared to his friend. It is like writing numbers: If you first write “1” and then “0” it is ten times more. And when you write “00” it is a hundred times more. In other words, if his friend is number one, and the zero follows it, it is considered that he receives from his friend ten (10) times more. And if he says that he is double zero compared to his friend, he receives from his friend a hundred (100) times more.

However, if it is to the contrary, and he says that his friend is zero and he is one, then he is ten times less than his friend 0.1. And if he can say that he is one and he has two friends who are both zeros compared to him, then he is considered a hundred times less than them, meaning he is 0.01. Thus, his degree lessens according to the number of zeros he has from his friends.

Yet, even once he acquires that strength and can keep the love of others in actual fact, and feels his own gratification as bad for him, still, do not believe in yourself. There must be fear of falling into self-love in the middle of the work. In other words, should he be given a greater pleasure than he is used to receiving, although he can already work in order to bestow with small pleasures, and is willing to relinquish them, he lives in fear of great pleasures.

This is called “fear,” and this is the gate to receive the Light of faith, called “The inspiration of Divinity,” as it is written in The Sulam [15], “by the measure of fear is the measure of faith.”

Hence, we must remember that the matter of “Love thy friend as thyself” should be kept because it is a Mitzva, since the Creator commanded to engage in love of friends. And Rabbi Akiva only interprets this Mitzva that the Creator commanded. He intended to make this Mitzva into a rule by which all the Mitzvot would be kept because of the commandment of the Creator, and for self-gratification.

In other words, it is not that the Mitzvot should expand our will to receive, meaning that by keeping the Mitzvot we would be generously rewarded. Quite the contrary, by keeping the Mitzvot we will reach the reward of being able to annul our self-love and achieve the love of others, and subsequently the love of God.

Now we can understand what our sages said about the verse, “place them.” It comes from the word, “potion [16].” “If granted, it is a potion of life; if not granted, it is a potion of death.” Not granted means that one engages in Torah and Mitzvot to multiply self-love, so the body would acquire possessions in return for its work. If granted, one’s self-love is nullified and he aims to receive a reward that is the strength for love of others, by which he will reach the love of the Creator – that his only wish will be to give contentment to the Creator.

[15] Translator’s note: The Sulam (Ladder) commentary on The Book of Zohar.

[16] Translator’s note: In Hebrew the verb “to place” (Ve Samtem) is phonetically similar to the noun “potion” (Sam).

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