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A Righteous Who Is Happy, a Righteous Who Is Suffering

Article No. 38, Tav-Shin-Mem-Hey, 1984-195

The holy Zohar interprets the matter of “a righteous who is happy, a righteous who is unhappy (Ki Tetze, item 13): “One who is righteous and unhappy, it means that he is from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, since evil is with him. There is not a righteous who will not sin in this evil because it is with him. A wicked who is happy is one whose evil inclination has overcome his good inclination, and it was said about it, ‘He is happy,’ for the good is under the authority of the evil. And because the evil governs the good, he is wicked, for the one who prevails takes the name. If the good overcomes the bad, he is called “a righteous who is unhappy, for the evil is under his authority. If the evil prevails over the good, he is called a wicked who is happy,” thus far its words.

To understand the matter of good and evil in general, we need to know that since the root of the creatures extends from the Sefira of Malchut, and Malchut at her root is called “receiving in order to receive,” this is the root of all the evil that is in the creatures. This is so because that desire separates us from the root, for we learn that the thought of creation is to do good to His creations, and created a deficiency existence from absence, called “desire to receive delight and pleasure.”

But since in spirituality Dvekut [adhesion] and separation pertain to equivalence of form, and since the Creator is the giver and the creatures are the receivers, there is disparity of form between them, and that disparity of form separates us from the Creator. Thus, we cannot receive the delight and pleasure that He wants to give us, and which was the purpose of creation. For this reason, to receive the good, we need to qualify the Kelim [vessels] to work in order to bestow, and then we will receive the good.

It follows that our evil, for which we have no delight and pleasure, is nothing less and nothing more than the self-love within us. This is what interferes with our receiving the delight and pleasure, and this is what causes us death, as it separates us from the life of lives. This is why we are called “dead,” as our sages said, “The wicked, in their lives, are called ‘dead.’”

When we consider our evil, the way it speaks with us and wants to control us, with what force it comes to us to listen to its arguments, we should make four discernments here: 1) We can resemble and attribute to repentance from love (although repentance from love is a great matter, here we are speaking only with respect to the attribution). 2) To approximately resemble repentance from fear. 3) He cannot overcome and repent, but still remains broken and shattered because he cannot repent. 4) He is not impressed by his inability to overcome the evil and repent.

We will explain them one at a time. It is known that when one wants to go on the path of doing everything for the Creator, where in everything he does he thinks what benefit the Creator will derive from this, and does not think of his own benefit, then the body comes to him with arguments. It begins to slander this path, called “the path of bestowal and not for one’s self-benefit,” and argues the arguments of Pharaoh and the argument of the wicked, which are regarded as “mind and heart,” namely “who and what.”

When a person begins to listen to their arguments, he begins to wonder because he has never heard such strong arguments coming from his body as the ones he hears now. When he began the work he thought that each time he would advance further toward the goal, meaning that each time he would see that it is worthwhile to work for the Creator.

But suddenly he sees that where he should have had a greater desire to serve the Creator, he hears rejection from the body, which tells him now, “Why don’t you want to go the way the whole world goes, where you should be meticulous with the nitty gritty actions, and concerning the intention you should say, “May it be as though I intended.” “But now,” says the body, “I see that you are paying attention specifically to the intentions, meaning that you can aim that everything will be for the Creator and not for yourself. Can it be that you will be different? Don’t you want to be like everyone else, who say that this is the safest way? And the evidence of this is to look at everyone else, how they behave.”

At that time begins the work of overcoming. That is, he needs to overcome their arguments and not surrender to their demands. He must certainly give them clear answers to what they are making him see, that his desire to intend that all his works will be only to bestow and not for his own benefit is against reason, since reason mandates that since man was created with a will to receive delight and pleasure, and there is a natural demand to satisfy it—or else, why does he need life if not to enjoy it, to satisfy the body’s demands—and so it lets him understand that this makes perfect sense, and there is no excuse to answer its arguments.

The clear reply should be that we believe in the words of the sages, who taught us that we must go above mind and reason. That is, true faith is specifically above reason, and what the mind understands is not all true, since with respect to the Creator, we learn that “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor My ways your ways.”

Here begin discernments in the order of the work:

The first degree is when he tells his body, “All your arguments you’re telling me make sense, and I agree with you. However, you should know that since the real path, as I received it from faith in the sages, is above reason, but I did not have a chance to show that the way is really so, that I am going above reason. But now that you are coming to me with your arguments that we must go within reason, and slander the way of bestowal and faith, I am happy that you are coming to me with your slander because now I can show my thoughts, that the basis on which I built the work of the Creator is on the path of truth. That is, now I can say that I am going above reason. But before you came to me I did not have a chance to show my way.

“Therefore, I like your arguments because you did me a big favor by slandering before me. That is the slander I had heard from you caused me to repent, since now I must overcome with faith above reason. It turns out that the one who causes me to take upon me the burden of the kingdom of heaven in bestowal and above reason is specifically your slandering. Had you not come to me with complaints, I would not have needed to take upon myself the commandment of faith. But now I must repent.” Thus, he is not upset with the slander he had heard.

We can compare this to how we relate to repentance from love (although in truth, repentance from love and repentance from fear are two great degrees), as our sages said, “Repentance from love—sins become to him as merits.” We can also interpret here that sins became to him as merits.

We should understand how sins become merits. Sins means the a person is angry that sins came to him. Merits are when a person enjoys from having acquired merits. So how ca it be said that sins have become merits? What is the sin here that the body comes with its complaints about faith, which he took upon himself above reason? Also, how can there be a greater sin than one who slanders holy faith?

However, if he repents from love, meaning now that he repents and takes upon himself faith above reason with a clear mind, he decide to go specifically by the path of faith, since now he has two ways before him and he decides. Thus, he has room for choice. But before it came to him with slander, although he took upon himself faith above reason, it was not so evident that he has two ways before him. But now he is making a real choice, determining that he must go specifically with faith above reason.

It therefore follows that he is happy with the slander he has heard, and likes the slander that they spoke about faith, although it is sins. And since they caused him to have room for choice, so it becomes revealed to him that he really wants to walk on the path of faith above reason, it turns out that these sins are as important to him as merits, for without them he would not have room for choice.

It turns out that with the repentance he is making now, he is happy with the work that has come to him now, and this is regarded as repentance from love. That is, he loves the act of repentance he has now performed. At that time, his causes, which are the sins, are regarded by him as merits, meaning that he loves them as merits, for one does not go without the other. He has approximately the relation that light and Kli [vessel] have. That is, the deficiency that the sins caused him is called a Kli, and the repentance, that he has made the choice, is similar to the relation of the light. This is the first degree in the order of the work.

The second degree is that although he overcomes the slander that the body speaks about the path of truth, which is bestowal and faith, and he repents, meaning answers the body, “All I hear from you is only what you say, that the mind dictates, but I go according to what I heard, that the basis of the work of the Creator is faith above reason. That is, I do not go according to the dictates of the mind, but above the mind.” Therefore, this is real repentance.

However, he says he would be happier if he did not hear their slander because he was in danger of perhaps not being able to make the choice. It follows that this repentance is regarded as fear. That is, he fears the work of overcoming, for it is hard work, since when a person is tested it is very difficult to choose the good.

It follows that this repentance is related to repentance from fear, when sins become to him as mistakes. Because he has repented the sins, they become as mistakes, but not as merits, since merits mean that he is similar to merits. Thus, as a person longs for merits, he is happy with his work, with being given a chance to make choice. But when he fears slander, he himself is saying that this is not merits, but rather similar to mistakes.

It follows that although he has elevated the evil into Kedusha [holiness], meaning corrected the evil by repenting, that degree is lower than repentance from love, since he himself did not turn them into merits. Therefore, this is regarded as the second degree in the work.

The third degree we should discern in the work is that when the body comes to him with its known arguments, when it slanders the mind and heart, and he surrenders to them and cannot overcome them, he must descend from his degree. That is, where he previously thought that he was regarded as being among the servants of the Creator, now he sees that he is far from it, since before the body came to him with its known arguments, he thought that he was already fine, meaning that he had no desires for self-love and he is completely in order to bestow.

But now he sees that he cannot overcome its complaints. Although now he is not being actually tested—for now all the arguments are only in potential—he still sees that he surrenders to its arguments and cannot take upon himself faith above reason and say, “I want to walk only in a path of bestowal.”

Now a man sits and wonders at himself, how the situation has been overturned. It seems to him as though it is a repeating cycle, and he who always looked at his lowliness, has fallen in there himself and cannot come out of that place though he remembers how he always loathed those people and regarded them as small and childish, and always stayed away from them. Now he is there and cannot come out of there by himself.

Now he sees similarly to the story that is told about Rabbi Yonatan, who had an argument with a priest. The priest said that he could change nature, and Rabbi Yonatan said that it is impossible to change the nature that the Creator created. Only the Creator Himself can change it, but man himself cannot.

What did the priest do? He took a few cats and taught them to be waiters. He dressed them in waiters’ clothes, went to the king, and told him about his issue with Rabbi Yonatan. The priest prepared a meal and invited the king and the ministers. Before the meal, the priest reiterated the matter of being able to change into a second nature, and Rabbi Yonatan said that only the Creator can change it but not man.

Subsequently, the priest commanded and said, “Let us eat first, and then we will conclude our debate.” Promptly, the waiters, meaning the cats, walked in, dressed just like real waiters, and set the table. They brought the dishes to each and every one, and the priest and the king and ministers were in awe at the wondrous acts of the waiters. Now everyone saw that there is no point in arguing after the meal, and everyone were surprised at Rabbi Yonatan sitting so calmly, unimpressed with the act that proved unequivocally that man can change nature.

What did Rabbi Yonatan do then? It is said that once they finished the meal and the waiters stood and waited to serve the guests, Rabbi Yonatan took out a box of tobacco. When everyone thought he was going to smell tobacco, he opened the box and out came several mice. When the waiters saw the mice coming out of the box and running away, they promptly left the guests and chased the mice, as is in their nature. Then everyone saw that Rabbi Yonatan was right.

The same thing applies to us. When the body comes and begins its slandering, showing tangibly the taste of self-love, he promptly leaves the Torah, the work, and the Creator, and runs to obtain self-love, where the body shows him the pleasure of it. Then he sees that he is powerless to exit self-love.

It follows that here, in this situation—when he sees now how he is immersed in self-love because of our nature—it is regarded as having achieved a certain degree in the work. This means that he has reached the degree of truth, called “recognition of evil.” Now he knows that he must begin his work anew, for until now he was walking on the way and deceived himself, thinking that he was above everyone, but now he sees his real state.

Therefore, now he has a place of deficiency to pray to the Creator from the bottom of the heart, since now he sees how remote he is from the work of bestowal, that one cannot come out, but only the Creator can help with it. This is the third degree, which is lower than the two previous degrees.

The fourth degree is the lowest compared to the first three degrees. Sometimes the body comes to him with all its arguments and he listens but does not answer at all. However, he takes its arguments seriously and even sees that it is natural that he cannot perform acts of bestowal. And he remains in self-love as he is used to, without any excitement. He is very composed about it and forgets the place and state he had a moment ago, before the body came to him with its questions, when he thought that he was not like the rest of the people, whose work is built on self-love. Rather, now he feels that this is the way to work, the same as everyone works.

It follows that from all the questions that came to him—which must have been a herald from above in order to give him a chance to rise in his degree, either as the first discernments, which is similar to repentance from love, or as the second discernment, which is as repentance from fear, or as the third discernment, which is to have a deficiency, meaning when he could still pray to the Creator—now he sees that it is impossible that man will be able to help himself by himself.

Now he comes to a state where he believes and sees what our sages said (Sukkah, 52), “Rabbi Shimon Ben Lakish said, ‘Man’s inclination overpowers him each day and seeks to put him to death, as it was said, ‘The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death.’ Were it not for the Creator’s help, he would not have overcome it, as it was said, ‘God will not leave him in his hand, nor convict him when he is judged.’’”

He sees that the body really does seek to put him to death, meaning that it wants to separate him from the life of lives with its arguments. Now he sees that he cannot overcome it by himself, and he waits for the Creator to help him. It follows that the questions that came to him were not in vain. Rather, they gave him room to pray from the bottom of the heart. But in the fourth degree, when he takes everything casually, it is as though the questions came to him in vain, pointlessly.

However, we must know that for a person who has started to walk on the path of bestowal and faith, nothing goes in vain. Rather, after some days or hours, he comes to from his situation after hearing the slandering and sees something new: how a person can fall from a high degree to a degree that is the utter lowliness compared to the state that he was in. And still, he had no sense of it. Rather, he felt that as though nothing has happened, and he took it all very peacefully, agreeing to remain in his current state. He is calm and in a reasonable mood, where previously he thought that if he could not advance in spirituality he would rather die than live. He was always quivering and agitated about how to advance, and always looked at calm people who engage in Torah and Mitzvot dryly, without any thought or mind, but simply going by rote.

But now he doesn’t feel that he should receive support from anyone, or that he lacks a deficiency. Rather, it is simply natural that person wants to live in peace and not search for faults in himself, but sentence himself to a scale of merit. That is, he has many excuses for everything he thinks is a flaw. But mainly, he wants to live painlessly because he remembers that previously, when he did think about spirituality, he was full of suffering and was always worried. Now, thank God, he has no concerns over spirituality and lives like all other people.

But later, when some awakening comes to him from above, he becomes concerned with spirituality again. At that time he sees something new—man is not his own boss. Rather, he is in a catapult, tossed from above as they choose, and he is in the hands of those above. That is, at one time he is given thoughts that he should throw away all the corporeal matters that pertain to his own benefit. Another time he is tossed down into the corporeal world, meaning he forgets about all the spiritual matters.

It turns out that even the fourth degree is a degree, for he is given a chance to learn from this to see the truth, for by this he can come to cling to the Creator by seeing that he is dependent on the Creator. At that time he will awaken to ask of the Creator to help him out of self-love and achieve love for the Creator.

However, this is a long way. The order is as Baal HaSulam said, that one should say, “If I am not for me, who is for me?” One should say that everything depends on man, since the choice is given entirely to man, and he should not wait until an awakening comes to him from above.

But after the fact he should believe that it is all Private Providence, and man cannot add anything to His work. Rather, he must do as it is desired above, and he has no free choice. This is the best and shortest way, since one spares time and suffering, for one does not suffer due to the prolonging of time.

It follows that we find four discernments when a person begins to walk in the order of work of bestowal and faith:

1) When the body comes to him with its arguments of slander, he accepts them with love. He says, “Now I have a chance to keep the commandment of faith above reason, for otherwise I would be working only within reason.” This pertains to repentance from love, meaning that he loves this repentance.

2) When the body comes to him with its arguments of slander, although he overcomes them, he does not like this work, since it is hard work to overcome when he hears slander. This is similar to repentance from fear, when sins become to him as mistakes, as he would be happier if they did not come to him.

3) When the body comes to him with its slander, he surrenders under its arguments and hasn’t the strength to overcome. At that time he feels bad about himself because previously he thought that he was already regarded as being among the servants of the Creator, but now he sees that he has nothing. He regrets it, but he cannot help himself. It follows that the situation he is in pains him.

4) When the body comes to him with its slandering, he crumbles under its load, does everything the body tells him, and takes everything calmly. He promptly forgets that he was ever a servant of the Creator and feels good about himself, as though nothing has happened. Instead, he enjoys his situation because now he has no suffering from not thinking about the work of the Creator, and he wants to continue all his life in this state. Sometimes he doesn’t even think about that, meaning he doesn’t think at all about life’s purpose, but is simply happy as he is.

These four states can be compared to four degrees that our sages said:

  1. a righteous who is happy,
  2. a righteous who is suffering,
  3. a wicked who is suffering,
  4. a wicked who is happy.

Although our sages are referring to high degrees, with respect to the relation, we can still compare. We will call the first state, which is similar to repentance from love, “a righteous who is happy.” This means that he feels nothing as bad because the sins has become for him as merits.

We will call the second state, which is similar to repentance from fear, “a righteous who is suffering,” as The Zohar interprets above: “A righteous who is suffering—when the evil is under his authority.” That is, he controls it, for he has repented on the slander he had heard from his body. But since the sins have not become merits, it follows that he has sins but they are as mistakes, since the evil is under the authority of the good. It follows that he still has evil, but the good controls it.

The third state is when he surrenders under the evil when he hears slander from the body. He doesn’t have the strength to repent on the slander and accepts it. However, he regrets not being able to overcome it. We can call this “a wicked who is suffering.” Although he is wicked, meaning he is not repenting, he feels unpleasantness in this situation, which means that he is suffering from not having the strength to overcome.

The fourth state is when he accepts the slander calmly, and doesn’t even feel that he has just heard slander. We can call this “a wicked who is happy.” That is, although he is wicked, he is happy this way and does not feel any flaw about himself.

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