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Concerning the Debate between Jacob and Laban

Article No. 11, Tav-Shin-Mem-Hey, 1984-195

We see that the debate between Jacob and Laban was different from the debate between Jacob and Esau. With Jacob and Laban, it is written, (Genesis, 31): “And Laban replied and said to Jacob: ‘The daughters are my daughters, and the sons are my sons, and the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine.’” With Jacob and Esau, it is written (Genesis, 33), “And Esau said, ‘I have plenty, my brother; let what you have be yours.’”

We should understand why Laban claimed that everything was his and Esau said to the contrary, “Let what you have be yours.”

Baal HaSulam explained it in this way: It is known that there is the grip of the Klipot [shells/peels], and there is the suckling of the Klipot. He said that a grip means that the Klipa [sin. of Klipot] grips him and does not let him do anything in Kedusha [holiness].

For example, when a person needs to rise before dawn and go to the synagogue to engage in Torah, the Klipa comes and tells him, “Why are you tormenting yourself? You’re tired; it’s cold outside,” and other such arguments of the inclination that it is not worthwhile to get up and engage in work. He replies to it, “As you say, but it is worthwhile to engage in this world in order to be rewarded with the next world.” Then the evil inclination replies to him: “You think that you will have the next world in return for your labor in this world. This is possible if a person engages in Torah and Mitzvot[commandments] for the Creator. But I know that you are doing everything not for the Creator. Therefore, whom are you serving? Only me.” With this allegory we can understand his words. This is the meaning of the grip of the Klipa, which does not let him engage in Torah and Mitzvot.

This was Laban’s argument: “The daughters are my daughters … and all that you see is mine.” That is, you are working for me and not for the Creator, so you cannot hope to have the next world. Hence, why trouble yourself for nothing? With this force she grips a person and he cannot exit her influence and do anything against her will. This was Laban’s argument, because he thought that with this argument he would have the strength to grip him and he would be unable to engage in Torah and Mitzvot.

But once he overcame Laban’s argument and said, “Not true, I do engage for the Creator, but I must believe that you were sent to me with all the just arguments only to veer me off from Kedusha. But I want simply to serve the Creator, and you have no grip on my Torah and Mitzvot. This is why I overcome your and go and engage in Torah and Mitzvot, and you have no foothold in me at all.”

At that time the Klipa approaches in a different way. She tells him, “Look, is there anyone else like you, who can overcome the evil inclination? Look at the lowliness of the rest of the people; they have no power to overcome, while you, thank God, are a strongest among men. It is certainly not good for you to join them.” At that time all his engagement falls into the Klipa because she admits him into pride.

At that time, one should overcome and tell the Klipa: “Not true, I am no better than other people. Everything I did in Torah and Mitzvot was not for the Creator; it was all for you, so now I am in a state that is as our sages said, ‘He who learns Torah Lo Lishma [not for Her sake] would be better off if his placenta had been turned inside out on him.’ So now I am worse than the rest of the people.’” This was Jacob’s argument when he said to Esau, “‘Take my gift,’ and I want to begin to engage in Torah and Mitzvot anew, and until now it is as though I never did anything for the Creator.”

But what does it say? “And Esau said, ‘I have plenty, my brother; let what you have be yours.’” He did not want to receive from him until after several efforts and great exertion. Then, “And he took from him,” as it is written, “He pleaded with him and he took.”

It follows that here, meaning after the fact, the matter was overturned. Laban’s argument, who said, “All that you see is mine,” means that everything belongs to the Klipa. Here Jacob claims that he has sent everything to him as a gift. That is, he is saying that it is a possession of the Klipa. But what Jacob claimed with Laban was that the act comes first. Jacob argued that everything belongs to the Kedusha, and not to the Klipa. Now Esau is claiming it, as it is written, “let what you have be yours.”

Concerning the verse, “The camp that is left will escape,” RASHI interpreted that he had prepared himself for three things: for a gift, for a prayer, and for war. That is, two things belong to Esau, gift and war, and one thing belongs to the Creator, a prayer.

In the work we should interpret that all three things refer to the Creator. It is as Baal HaSulam said about the verse, “Behold, there is a place with Me, and you shall stand on the rock” (Exodus, 33), that Moses said to the Creator, “Show me Your glory.” To that came the reply, “And the Lord said, ‘Behold, there is a place with Me.’” He interprets ETY [with Me] to be an acronym for Emuna [faith], Tefillah [prayer], Yegia [labor].

He said that to be rewarded with the glory of the Creator one must believe in the Creator, then pray to the Creator to bring him closer to Him. Afterwards one must labor to subdue his inclination and want to annul himself for the sake of the Creator. After these three actions he is rewarded with the glory of the Creator. This is the reply that the Creator gave to Moses concerning what Moses said to the Creator, “Show me Your glory.”

In the same way we should interpret what RASHI interpreted, that he prepared himself for a gift, for a prayer, and for war. “For war” means the war of the inclination; a prayer means that the Creator will bring him closer, so as to achieve his completeness—the degree he should achieve. A gift means faith, for one who believes in someone, this is regarded as giving, as it is written about Abraham, “And he believed in the Lord and He regarded it to him as righteousness” (Genesis, 15). RASHI interpreted that the Creator regarded it for Abram as a merit and righteousness for the faith that he had had in Him.

It therefore follows that all three things—gift, prayer, and war—are with the intention that with these three things he will defeat Esau. Also, all of these three things are between man and the Creator. We should not say that only prayer is between man and the Creator, but gift and war refer to Esau. Rather, he attributes everything to the Creator.

But the main thing we should know is what is the discernment of Esau we must correct. It is known that opposite Kedusha there is Klipa. In general, it is called “the Klipa of Esau.” However, there are many degrees in the Klipa, and each discernment has its own name. Kedusha, too, has many discernments, and each discernment has its own name.

In general, Kedusha is called Sefirot and Partzufim [pl. of Partzuf], and worlds. And in general, Kedusha means “in order to bestow,” while Tuma’a [impurity] means “in order to receive,” which is self-love.

When a person observes Torah and Mitzvot in order to receive this world or the next world in return, these two discernments are considered Lo Lishma. Only one who observes Torah and Mitzvot because “He is Great and ruling,” meaning because of the greatness and importance of the Creator, this is called Lishma (see The Book of Zohar, item 190). This is called “in order to bestow and not to receive any reward for his work,” and it is called “pure work.”

Work in order to bestow can only be to the extent that one values the receiver of one’s work. At that time one has the motivation. But if one cannot increase the importance of the one he serves, he has no energy to work. This is so because we see that in nature, the little one annuls itself before the great one as a candle before a torch. However, all the great work is to extol the receiver of the work, meaning to recognize His importance. If he has nothing with which to revere Him within reason, then our work is as Baal HaSulam said when he interpreted the verse, “Here is a place with Me,” that the Aleph of ETY [with Me] implies faith above reason.

It follows that the essence of man’s work is to work above reason, to appreciate the Creator. In general, all the creatures feel the Kedusha as Shechina [Divinity] in the dust. This is why it is said in all the books that every person should aim, prior to engaging in Torah and Mitzvot, to raise the Shechina from the dust. There is no point working on the little one annulling itself before the great one, for this is natural for the little one to annul before a great one. Rather, man’s work is only to exert to recognize the greatness and importance of the Creator.

In fact, a person understands that he needs to work for everything he feels he needs, except for the greatness and importance of the Creator. Here, we do not understand that this is all we need.

We can interpret this with regard to the verse, “The righteous has perished and no one notices.” The Creator is called “righteous,” as it is written, “The Lord is the righteous.” He has lost His importance and no one notices that we need to work in order to acquire His importance.

When a person feels somewhat elated, he understands that it is only worthwhile to work for spirituality. We should say that the reason is that he feels the importance of spirituality to the extent that it is worthwhile to exert for spirituality and not for corporeality because at that time corporeality loses its value for him, and spirituality is valued.

Therefore, at that time he decides that only spirituality is worth working for, and not corporeality. It turns out that all the ascents and descents do not refer to man, but to the Kedusha. That is, sometimes the value of Kedusha is high, meaning it has become more important to him, and sometimes the value of Kedusha is down and so unappreciated that it is not worthwhile to even think about it.

Concerning the little one annulling before the great one, we found that it is said (Yalkut Hadash, Chapter 1) that after the Creator promoted Abraham’s reputation, since everyone saw Abraham’s greatness, Pharaoh gave Sarah a girl who was his daughter, to be a servant in Abraham’s house. Although a servant is a very inferior degree, since at that time servants and maids had no rights of humans at all. They were as beasts. Still, he gave away his daughter to be Sarah’s maid and appeased her by saying, “My daughter, it is better for you to be a servant in Blessed Abraham’s house than to be a queen in my house.”

The difference between a person doing the holy work for a reward or because he wants to serve the king because of His importance and greatness is that if one is working in corporeality to obtain a corporeal reward, we see that if a person has a way to be rewarded without working so many hours, if such a thing is possible he promptly chooses this way, since man loves rest and relinquishes the pleasure of rest in order to be paid.

Therefore, if he can find a way not to have to labor, he regards this as happiness. But one who works because of the greatness of the King, and his pleasure is his great privilege of serving the king, it cannot be said that he will not work and still be paid, since his reward is the service of the king. This is a clear sign by which one sees the true purpose of his work—whether it is for a reward or because of the greatness of the Creator.

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