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Man Is Rewarded with Righteousness and Peace through the Torah

Article No. 03, Tav-Shin-Mem-Vav, 1985-86

In The Zohar (Lech Lecha, item 1), Rabbi Aba explains why Abraham was rewarded with the Creator telling him Lech Lecha [Go forth] more than all his contemporaries. It writes, “Rabbi Aba started and said, ‘Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted, who are far from righteousness.’ ‘Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted’ means how hard are the hearts of the wicked. They see the trails and ways of Torah and do not look at them. Their hearts are hard since they do not return to their Master in repentance. This is why they are called, ‘Stubborn-hearted who are far from righteousness,’ meaning far from the Torah, and hence far from righteousness.”

Rabbi Hizkiya said, “They are far from the Creator. And because they are far from the Creator they are called stubborn-hearted.” The meaning of the verse is “far from righteousness.” Why? It is because they do not wish to approach the Creator, for they are stubborn-hearted. And because of it, they are far from righteousness.

Because they are far from righteousness, they are far from peace, meaning they have no peace, as it is written, “‘There is no peace,’ said the Lord to the wicked.” What is the reason? It is because they are far from righteousness, hence they have no peace.

We should understand why when Rabbi Aba says that being far from righteousness means that they are far from the Torah, and therefore far from righteousness. On the one hand, he says that righteousness is called Torah, and then he says that by moving away from the Torah they move away from righteousness. This implies that the Torah is the reason for righteousness, but we do not see any connection between Torah and righteousness.

We see that the nations of the world have no Torah, as our sages said, “He says His words to Jacob,” and still they give Tzedakah [righteousness/almsgiving].” Does giving Tzedakah requires believing in the Creator and keeping the Torah and Mitzvot [commandments], and only then can one give Tzedakah? Rather, he says that they are far from Tzedakah because they are far from the Torah.

He also said that because they are far from the Torah, they are far from Tzedakah. This implies that the Torah is the reason by which we can keep Tzedakah. That is, the most important thing for us is to achieve Tzedakah. How can we achieve such a high degree? Through the Torah.

Thus, we should understand the greatness and importance of Tzedakah, which means that the Torah is a lower degree than Tzedakah because through the Torah we can achieve Tzedakah. We need to understand this.

Also, it is difficult to understand the words of Rabbi Hizkiya in what he adds to the words of Rabbi Aba and says, “Who are the stubborn-hearted? Those who do not want to approach the Creator. And because they do not want to approach the Creator they are far from Tzedakah.” How can we understand this? Does this mean that through approaching the Creator they will be rewarded with a higher degree, which is Tzedakah?

We should also understand why Rabbi Hizkiya says, “Since they are far from Tzedakah, they are far from peace.” This is even more perplexing because once he has clarified for us the importance of Tzedakah, meaning in Rabbi Aba’s view, Tzedakah is more important than Torah, and in Rabbi Hizkiya’s view, Tzedakah is greater than approaching the Creator. Now he comes and says that if they do not have the degree of Tzedakah, they cannot achieve the degree of peace.

Thus, we should understand what is the degree of peace. It is implied that after all the work he will achieve the degree of peace. That is, the first degree is either Torah or approaching the Creator, the second is Tzedakah, and the third is peace. This requires clarification.

We find that Tzedakah is called “faith,” as it is written about Abraham, “And he believed in the Lord, and He regarded it for him as righteousness.” Thus, because faith is regarded as Tzedakah, we can already know the importance of Tzedakah. It is not as it seems literally. Rather, Tzedakah implies faith.

What is faith? It is regarded as Tzedakah? We see that one who gives Tzedakah [almsgiving] to the poor does not expect the poor to repay him in some way for the almsgiving he has given him. It is especially so with concealed almsgiving; he certainly does not plan to receive anything in return. Therefore, Tzedakah means that he is doing something without any reward.

But since the faith we should take upon ourselves must be without anything in return, it means that we must believe in the greatness of the Creator, which holy Zohar calls, “For He is great and ruling.” He is to have no thought that he is taking upon himself the burden of the kingdom of heaven and by this he will receive from Him some reward. Rather, he is working entirely in order to bestow. This is why faith is called Tzedakah, to interpret for us the form that the faith we are taking on ourselves should have.

However, we must pay attention to how we achieve such faith, which is in order to bestow. Our nature is only to receive and not to bestow. Therefore, what can one do in order to achieve bestowal? He is telling us that it is done precisely through the Torah, as our sages said (Kidushin 30), “I have created the evil inclination, I have created for it the Torah as a spice.”

In the “Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot” (item 11) he says, “However, we find and see in the words of the sages of the Talmud that they have made the path of Torah easier for us more than the sages of the Mishnah. This is because they said, ‘One should always engage in Torah and Mitzvot, even Lo Lishma, and from Lo Lishma he will come to Lishma.’ That is, the light in it reforms him. Thus, they have provided us with a new means instead of the penance presented in the above-mentioned Mishnah, Avot: the ‘Light in the Torah.’ It bears sufficient power to reform one and bring him to engage in Torah and Mitzvot Lishma

By this we will understand the words of Rabbi Aba, who said that “far from Tzedakah” means that they are moving away from the Torah, hence they are far from Tzedakah. We asked, “Is the Torah the reason for achieving Tzedakah? Is it impossible to give Tzedakah without Torah?” The thing is that Tzedakah refers to faith. It is impossible achieve real faith before one has equivalence of form with the Creator, meaning that all of one’s actions are only in order to bestow contentment upon the Creator.

He says in the “Introduction of the Book of Zohar” (item 138): “It is a law that the creature cannot receive disclosed evil from the Creator, for it is a flaw in the glory of the Creator for the creature to perceive Him as an evildoer. Hence, when one feels bad, to the same extent, denial of the Creator’s guidance lies upon him, and the Operator is concealed from him.”

The reason is that before a person is rewarded with vessels of bestowal he is unfit to receive the delight and pleasure form Him. It follows that he feels bad and therefore cannot be awarded real faith before he has corrected the evil in him, called “receiving in order to receive.”

It follows that through the Torah, which reforms him, meaning that by receiving vessels of bestowal he will be rewarded with faith, which is called Tzedakah, which is “faith because He is great and ruling,” and not that the basis of his faith is in order to receive some reward.

Now we will understand what we asked about the words of Rabbi Hizkiya, where he explains the meaning of “stubborn-hearted.” He explains that because they move away from the Creator, they move away from Tzedakah. We asked, “Can approaching the Creator be a reason that we will have the ability to do Tzedakah? What is the connection between them?” It is written in the Sulam[commentary on The Zohar], “Rabbi Hizkiya does not dispute Rabbi Aba. Rather, he interprets more than him.” We asked, “But Rabbi Hizkiya’s explanation is even more difficult to understand!”

According to what we explained above, Rabbi Hizkiya explains more what it means that they are called “stubborn-hearted,” for which they are far from Tzedakah, since regarding what Rabbi Aba says, that they have moved away from the Torah, they think that they simply need to learn Torah and by this they will be rewarded with Tzedakah, called “faith.” However, Rabbi Aba’s intention is that through Torah they will achieve equivalence of form, called “vessels of bestowal,” since they cannot achieve real faith before they have vessels of bestowal, as it is written in the Sulam (“Introduction of the Book of Zohar”).

This is why Rabbi Hizkiya elaborates more and says more simply that “stubborn-hearted” are those who move away from the Creator. That is, they do not want to approach the Creator because they are stubborn-hearted, therefore they are far from Tzedakah. This is as we said above, that it is impossible to be rewarded with faith, which is Tzedakah, before we are rewarded with nearing the Creator, called equivalence of form, which are vessels of bestowal.

Perhaps that reason why Rabbi Aba does not interpret the same as Rabbi Hizkiya is that Rabbi Aba wants to tell us two things at once, meaning the reason and the advice. The reason why they have no faith is that they have no vessels of bestowal. The advice for this is to engage in Torah, where by the light of Torah they will be awarded equivalence of form, regarded as all their actions being only to bestow. At that time they will be rewarded with Tzedakah, which is real faith.

And concerning Rabbi Hizkiya addition that through Tzedakah they will be rewarded with peace, we asked, “If Tzedakah is such a great thing, which refers to faith, then what is peace? It implies that peace is even more important!”

We should interpret that peace is the completion of the work. Before one is rewarded with vessels of bestowal he has no room for faith. Once he has vessels of bestowal and has been rewarded with faith, he obtains the purpose of creation, which is to do good to His creations. This means that then he feels the delight and pleasure that the Creator has created to do good to His creations. At that time one is rewarded with peace.

But before one has been rewarded with Tzedakah, which is faith, on the basis of vessels of bestowal, he does not have the Kelim to obtain the delight and pleasure, since the good is lacking the correction of not being the bread of shame, for which there was the correction of Tzimtzum Aleph[first restriction]. Only once the creatures have that correction, called “vessels of bestowal,” there will be a place where the light of the Creator, which is to benefit His creations, can be present.

Prior to this he is in strife with the Creator, as he says in the Sulam (“Introduction of the Book of Zohar,” item 175): “Peace, too, complained that he was all strife because he cannot engage in Mitzvot[commandments] in order to bestow, but with a mixture of self-pleasing.” By this he is always in strife with the Creator, since he thinks he is a complete righteous and does not feel his faults at all. That is, he does not feel that his entire engagement in Torah and Mitzvot is Lo Lishma [not for Her sake], and he is angry at the Creator for not rewarding him as much as a complete righteous should be rewarded.

Thus, we see that before one is rewarded with Tzedakah, which is faith in the Creator on the basis of vessels of bestowal, which brings one to approach the Creator, it is impossible to have peace. It follows that the end of the work, when the goal is achieved, is when we achieve the degree of peace. That peace cannot be achieved before we go through the preliminary stages, which are approaching the Creator, then faith, called Tzedakah, and finally the goal, which is called “peace.”

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