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Three Times in the Work

Article No. 24, Tav-Shin-Mem-Hey, 1984-195

A person should discern three times in his work:

  1. past,
  2. present,
  3. future.

“Past” is when he begins with the work of the Creator. At that time he must look at the past, meaning the reason why he now wants to take upon himself the burden of the kingdom of heaven. That is, he must scrutinize the reason—if this reason is sufficient for him to begin with the work of the Creator to the point of “And you shall reflect on Him day and night,” when he has nothing to think of but the Torah because he has come to a resolution that nothing is worth contemplating but the Torah.

This must be because he feels he is in big trouble, and he has nothing in the world worth living for, and he finds nothing but Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator. But to be rewarded with Dvekut with the Creator, one must exit self-love. And to exit self-love he believes in the words of our sages: “I have created the evil inclination; I have created the Torah as a spice.”

This is the reason that compels him to contemplate the Torah day and night, for otherwise he cannot exit self-love. It follows that the reason for the Torah is Dvekut with the Creator. And the reason that obligates him to be rewarded with Dvekut with the Creator must always be renewed, since there are many opposers to this reason. Each time the body comes with new questions and wants to question that reason. At one time it tells him this is difficult; another time it tells him this is not for him, and brings him sparks of despair; and sometimes it brings foreign thoughts into his mind and heart.

Therefore, we must look at the past, meaning we must always examine at the reason that gave him the initial awakening for it. That is, perhaps there were other reasons that have made him begin the work of the Creator, meaning that his initial reason was not in order to achieve Dvekut with the Creator, but perhaps it was another reason. Afterwards, because “from Lo Lishma [not for Her sake] we come to Lishma [for Her sake],” the second reason was in order to achieve Dvekut with the Creator.

It could also be to the contrary, that the first reason was to achieve Dvekut with the Creator, and then, for various reasons, he acquired other reasons that obligated him to take upon himself the burden of Torah and Mitzvot [commandments]. It follows from all the above that we must always examine the reason that compels us to walk in the work of the Creator. This is regarded as having to learn from the past, referring to the reasons that surround all the ways of his work. That is, the reason is regarded as the goal: according to the greatness and importance of the goal, to that extent a person can exert.

However, there is a difference in what is regarded as “importance.” With regard to importance, it depends what a person regards as important. Usually, people appreciate things that yield self-gratification, meaning only what concerns self-love. But if the goal is to bestow, it is unnatural that one should regard this as important.

For this reason, if the reason is not a real reason, he cannot go all the way, meaning achieve Dvekut. This is so because when he sees that he will not have self-gratification, he promptly escapes the campaign because the reason for which he took upon himself to keep Torah and Mitzvot was not so as to bestow, but for his own benefit.

For this reason, when he does not feel self-gratification during the work, he is compelled to be negligent in the work, since he sees that he does not feel that this will be a reward for him because the whole basis of his work was in Lo Lishma. However, from Lo Lishma we come to Lishma, so the order is that he is shown what Lishma feels like, meaning not for his own benefit but for the benefit of the Creator, and then he promptly escapes the campaign.

Hence, one must always scrutinize one’s goal, meaning his reason. He must always remember that the goal is to bestow upon the Creator. Then, when he is shown the feeling of bestowal, he does not become confused but knowns that it is difficult because it is against his nature.

Only now, once he sees that it is difficult to work in order to bestow, there is room for prayer from the bottom of the heart because he sees that he cannot do anything except pray to the Creator to give him that strength. For this reason we must always study the past, meaning to have a real reason that compels us to engage in the work of holiness.

“Present” is a discernment that a person feels during the work. A person should do the work of holiness on several aspects. It is as our sages said (Avot, Chapter 1, Discourse 2), “He would say, ‘The world stands on three things—on the Torah, on work, and on good deeds.’”

“World” means “man,” for every person is a small world in and of itself, as it is written in the holy Zohar. In order for man to exist, meaning for man to exist in the world, and feel and attain the Creator as benevolent, he needs the three above mentioned things, since man was created with the evil inclination, which is the desire to receive only for himself.

There was a Tzimtzum [restriction] on that will to receive, meaning concealment of the upper abundance, so the delight and pleasure are not felt before a person achieves equivalence of form, when all his actions are only in order to bestow. For this reason, we need the Torah, as our sages said (Kidushin, 30b), “I have created the evil inclination; I have created for it the Torah as a spice.”

Work is required because work is prayer. A prayer is work in the heart. That is, since the root of man’s heart is the will to receive, and he needs the opposite, meaning that it will work only to bestow and not receive, it follows that he has a lot of work in inverting it.

And since this is against nature, he must pray to the Creator to help him come out of his nature and enter what is discerned as above nature. This is called a “miracle,” and only the Creator can perform miracles. That is, for man to be able to exit self-love is a miraculous act.

RASHI interprets “good deeds” to mean “lending his money to the poor. This is greater than charity because he is not ashamed. Moreover, good deeds applies to rich and poor, to the living and to the dead, to one’s body and to one’s money.” But charity is as was said, “Good deeds is greater than charity,” and as was said, “And the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him,” “For I said, ‘A world of mercy shall be built,’ to teach you that the world exists for mercy.”

Because mercy is the exit from self-love to love of the Creator, as Rabbi Akiva said, “Love your neighbor as yourself, this is the great rule of Torah,” in the “present,” we should see that the three above discernments operate in him in the present. At that time he should also include the past in the present, meaning the goal for which he is making all the efforts.

“Future”: He needs to see the future, what can be attained until he achieves his wholeness, since it is known that Ohr Pnimi [Inner Light] means what illuminates in the present, and Ohr Makif [Surrounding Light] is what he should receive in the future.

Usually, when a person makes a deal and invests a lot of money, it is certainly in order to make a lot of money. Accordingly, we understand that if he bought a lot of goods it was in order to make a lot of money by selling the goods right away. That is, the merchant bought goods in the fair. When he brought the goods, and his town’s people saw he brought a lot of goods, they all thought that he would soon rent many shops in order to sell the goods right away. But then they saw that he put all the goods in warehouses and did not want to sell the goods. Yet, everyone saw that although he did not sell the goods, he was as happy as if he had made a fortune. The people close to the merchant could not understand him. They asked, “Why the happy face? After all, you did not sell a thing, and you did not make any money, so why are you so happy?”

He told them: “I bought a lot of goods cheaply because their prices dropped, and all the merchant were reluctant to buy them. I bought them because I know by calculation that two years from now they will be in great demand for they will be rare. At that time this will make me rich. So when I consider my future, I am happy, though at the moment, I have not made any profit.”

Therefore, we see that if the future shines in the present, although he still has nothing in the present, it is of no consequence. Rather, he can be happy about the future as about the present. However, this is so precisely if the future shines in the present. In the language of Kabbalah, it is considered that he enjoys the Ohr Makif, meaning that he enjoys the light that will come in the future.

That is, if he sees that there is a valid way to achieve the goal, although he has not achieved wholeness, if the confidence of the goal illuminates for him he can enjoy in the present as though the Ohr Makif shines for him now in the Kelim.

Baal HaSulam said similarly about the words of our sages, “Righteous say psalms about the future,” meaning that the righteous can say psalms about what is destined to come to them later. That is, they believe that in the end they will be rewarded with wholeness, and based on that they say psalms, even though they have no yet attained wholeness.

This matter is brought in The Zohar (Vayelech, item 47): “Rabbi Elazar said, ‘Israel are destined to say psalms from below upward and from above downward, and tie the knot of faith, as it is written, ‘Then Israel shall sing this singing.’ It does not say, ‘sang,’ but ‘Shall sing,’ meaning in the future.’” It follows that man should receive illumination from Ohr Makif, which is from the future, after the present, and needs to draw it into the present.

This is why all three times—past, present, and future—are included in the present. However, the counsel of the evil inclination is always to the contrary, meaning to divide the three times so they do not illuminate together. Therefore, we must always go against the evil inclination and say, “What it says is certainly not in our favor, as it is not its role to assist us in the work.”

For example, it is written in article no. 11 (Tav-Shin-Mem-Hey) that when the evil inclination says to a person, “Why are you exerting so long is prayer and Torah? After all, your aim is not for the Creator. I can understand why other people exert in Torah and prayer, since their intention is for the Creator, but this is not so with you.” At that time we should reply to it: “On the contrary, I do work for the Creator, and I do not want to listen to you,” since it wishes to obstruct him in the work, meaning cause not to engage in Torah and Mitzvot.

Afterwards it comes and argues, “You are righteous, and your intention is only for the Creator. You are not like other people.” At that time one should say to it: “On the contrary, all my work is not for the Creator, and I know that everything you say is not for my benefit,” since it wishes to fail him with the transgression of pride, which is the worst thing of all, as our sages said, “Anyone who is proud, the Creator says, ‘He and I cannot dwell in the same abode.’” Therefore, one cannot determine which way to go—on the path of lowliness or on the path of greatness. It is all done on a case by case basis.

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