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The Felons of Israel

Article No. 33, Tav-Shin-Mem-Hey, 1984-195

“Rish Lakish said, ‘The felons of Israel, the light of Hell does not govern them, much less from the altar of gold, etc., The felons of Israel are full of Mitzvot [commandments/good deeds] like a pomegranate, as it is written, ‘Your Temple is like a slice of a pomegranate.’ Do not pronounce it Rakatech [your Temple], but Reikanin [empty] in you are full of Mitzvot like a pomegranate, all the more so” (end of Hagigah [Masechet]).

Concerning the felons of Israel, we should understand with respect to whom they are called the “felons of Israel”: 1) Is it with respect to the Torah, 2) or with respect to the whole of Israel that they are regarded as the felons of Israel, 3) or with respect to the individual himself? That is, he sees and feels about himself that he is the felons of Israel. Superficially, it is difficult to see how one can be full of Mitzvot like a pomegranate, yet be regarded as the felons of Israel.

If we interpret this with respect to the person himself, we can say and interpret, “Although they are full of Mitzvot like a pomegranate,” he sees that he is still the felons of Israel. We should interpret Rimon [pomegranate] from the word Rama’ut [deceit]. That is, he sees that he is deceiving himself, meaning that although he is full of Mitzvot, namely sees that he has nothing more to add in quantity, and according to his efforts, he should certainly have been Israel by now, meaning Yashar-El [straight to the Creator], where everything is for the Creator. Yet, after his self-scrutiny, he sees that he is deceiving himself, that the main reason he engages in Torah and Mitzvot is self-love, and not in order to bestow contentment upon his Maker, which is called Yashar-El, meaning that all his work goes straight to the Creator.

Since he saw that all his work was only in order to receive, he saw that he was a felon with regard to Israel. That is, he does not want his work to be for above, called “in order to bestow upon the Creator.” Rather, all his work is on the basis of keeping everything below, which is regarded as a receiver because the receiver is regarded as being of inferior importance, and the giver is of superior importance.

This extends from the root. Since the Creator is the giver, He is regarded as “above.” The creature, who receives from the Creator, is regarded as being of inferior importance. Hence, if his work is in order to receive, he is regarded as wanting his work in Torah and Mitzvot to remain below, meaning in reception.

This is called “transgressing in the aspect of Israel,” for instead of serving the Creator, where he wants to work to bestow upon the Creator, he does the opposite—wanting the Creator to serve man. And since they said that nothing is given for free, but the reward is given according to the labor, as is done in the physical world, this is how he wants to labor. He works for the Creator on condition that the Creator will pay for his labor. Otherwise he will have no strength to make any move without reward.

However, how can one come to see the truth, that he is deceiving himself concerning the quality of the goal, and cannot do the holy work in truth? Our sages said in that regard that one cannot see the truth before one has light. That is, one sees that he is doing many Mitzvot, meaning that he is full of deeds and sees no place where he can do more deeds that will help him become “Israel,” meaning only to bestow, without any need for self-love. He does not see that he will ever achieve this by himself unless he has help from above, and it is impossible that man will be able to do this.

It follows that the Mitzvot he has done caused him to see the truth, that thus far he was fooling himself thinking that a person can obtain the force that changes to the intention to bestow by himself. Now he has come to realize that this is not the case.

Now we can interpret, “even the empty ones among you are full of Mitzvot like a pomegranate.” It means that even though they are full of Mitzvot, they feel that they are empty because they see that they are like a pomegranate, from the words, “I called to my lovers; they deceived me” (Lamentations, 1), meaning deceit, whose work in Torah and Mitzvot was only for their own benefit and not to benefit the Creator.

But who caused him to know this? It is precisely that he is full of Mitzvot. This caused him to see that he should not fool himself into thinking that he can become “Israel.” Instead, now he sees that he is the “felons of Israel.”

It turns out that it is impossible to obtain real knowledge of one’s degree in spirituality, unless he is full of Mitzvot. At that time he sees his state, that until now he was in deceit, and now he is in the degree of the “felons of Israel.” But without Mitzvot is regarded as being without light, and then one cannot see the truth, that he needs the Creator to help him become “Israel.”

However, we should know that saying that if he is full of Mitzvot then he sees that he is as a pomegranate comes with a stipulation: It is said specifically when he is a person who is seeking the truth. At that time it is said that one who seeks the truth still cannot see the truth before he is full of Mitzvot, but not before.

Hence, this requires two things: 1) On the one hand he needs to engage in Torah and Mitzvot as much as he can, without any criticism whether it is on the path of truth or not. Only after the fact can he criticize, but not while engaging in Torah and Mitzvot, for at that time he needs to feel himself in wholeness, as our sages said, “One should always engage in Torah and Mitzvot Lo Lishma [not for Her sake], because from Lo Lishma we come to Lishma [for Her sake.” Thus, for now it is unimportant how he is engaging because in any manner of engagement he is keeping the words of our sages. 2) After the fact he must criticize himself to see if his actions were for the Creator, or if something else was involved in it. From the two of them he can come to being “as a pomegranate,” according to what we explained above.

By this we will understand the words of our sages (Avoda Zara, p 17): “Our sages said, ‘When Rabbi Eilezer Ben Parta and Rabbi Hanina Ben Tardion were caught, … ‘Woe unto me for I was caught for one thing and I am not saved. You engaged in Torah and good deeds, and I engaged only in the Torah.’ It is as Rav Huna said, ‘Anyone who engages only in Torah is as one who has no God, as it was said, ‘and many days for Israel without a true God, without a teaching priest, and without Torah.’ What is ‘without a true God’? Rav Huna said, ‘Anyone who engages only in Torah, it is as though he has no God.’’”

We should understand why if he does not engage in good deeds he is as one who has no God. Another perplexity: why specifically the Mitzva [commandment] of good deeds? After all, there are other Mitzvot that need to be observed, so why specifically good deeds is akin to being without a true God? It is as though by good deeds it is possible to tell if the Torah he is learning is without a true God.

According to what we learn, all our work is in order to achieve equivalence of form, regarded as “as He is merciful, so you are merciful.” For this reason, during the study of Torah one must not criticize his Torah, meaning whose Torah he is learning, and then he can learn even Lo Lishma, which is also a Mitzva, as our sages said, “One should always engage in Torah and Mitzvot, even Lo Lishma [not for Her sake], since from Lo Lishma he will come to Lishma [for Her sake].”

This is so when he tests himself, his situation with regard to equivalence of form, how remote he has become from self-love, and how close he has become to love of others, which is the meaning of “cleaving to His qualities.” This is why he makes the precision that the main thing to know is to test himself through the quality of Hesed [mercy], how much he engages in it, exerting for it, and contemplating various tactics and tricks to achieve equivalence of form, or he will not reach the path of truth.

It follows that at that time he does not have a “true God,” for “true” means as is explained (The Study of the Ten Sefirot, Part 13), “The seventh correction of the thirteen corrections of Dikna is called ‘and truth.’” He interprets there in “Inner Reflection”: “At that time appears the quality of the Creator, who has created the world with the intention to do good to His creations, since at that time appears the Ohr Hochma [Light of Wisdom], which is the light of the purpose of creation, when everyone feels the delight and pleasure. At that time everyone says with clear cognizance that this, meaning the goal, is true.”

It follows that if he does not engage in good deeds, which is the power that can bring to love of others, by which he will acquire vessels of bestowal, as the upper abundance is drawn only into these vessels, and if he has no vessels of bestowal he cannot acquire the delight and pleasure that the Creator created in order to delight His creatures. It follows that in that state a person is regarded as being “without a true God.” That is the reality of His guidance, which is to do good to His creations, is God forbid untrue. This is called “without a true God.”

This can be obtained precisely by engaging in good deeds. However, without Torah, it is impossible to know one’s state, meaning where he is, since without light it is impossible to see anything. Rather, to see that he is a felon of Israel he needs to be full of Mitzvot, meaning both Mitzvot of learning Torah and the rest of the Mitzvot. The test is that after some time of engaging in Torah and Mitzvot he needs to examine, but not during his work.

Inapoi la pagina 1985 (ŞLAVEY HASULAM (TREPTELE SCĂRII) – link

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