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What Is the Substance of Slander and Against Whom Is It?
Article No. 10, Tav-Shin-Mem-Zayin, 1986-87
It is written in The Zohar (Metzora, Item 4), “Come and see, with the slander that the serpent said to the woman, he caused the woman and the man to be sentenced to death, them, and the whole world. It is written about slander, ‘And their tongue, a sharp sword.’ For this reason, ‘Beware the sword,’ meaning slander. ‘Wrath brings the punishments of the sword.’ What is, ‘Wrath brings the punishments of the sword’? It is the sword for the Creator, as we learned that the Creator has a sword with which He judges the wicked. It is written about it, ‘The Lord has a sword full of blood,’ ‘And My sword shall eat flesh,’ which is the Malchut from the side of Din [judgment] in her. Hence, ‘Beware the sword, for wrath brings the punishments of the sword, that you may know there is judgment.’
“It writes Din, but it means, ‘That you may know that thus it is judged,’ that anyone with a sword in his tongue who speaks slander, the sword that consumes everything is ready for him—the Malchut in the form of the Din in her. It is written about it, ‘This shall be the law of the leper.’ Malchut, which is called ‘this,’ sentences the leper because he slandered, for afflictions come for slander.” Thus far its words.
This needs to be understood, since The Zohar says that for anyone with a sword in his tongue, meaning who slanders, the sword that consumes everything is ready for him—the Malchut in the form of Din in her. And we learn this from what is written about the serpent, who slandered the woman. However, there the slander was about the Creator; how is this a proof between man and man, that it should be so grave as to cause death, as it explains about the verse, “And their tongue, a sharp sword,” about slander between man and man?
In other words, there is the same measure and severity of iniquity of slander between man and man as in slander between man and the Creator. Is it possible that one who slanders his friend will be similar to one who slanders the Creator?
When slandering the Creator, we can understand that it causes death, since by slandering the Creator he becomes separate from the Creator. For this reason, since he is separated from the Life of Lives, he is considered dead. But why should it cause death when the slander is between man and man?
The Zohar says that afflictions come for slander. Our sages said (Arachin 15b), “In the West they say: The talk of a third kills three: It kills the one who tells, the one who receives, and the one about whom it is said.” RASHI interprets “The talk of a third” as gossip, which is the third between man and man, revealing to him a secret. Also there, Rabbi Yohanan said in the name of Rabbi Yosi Ben Zimra: “Anyone who slanders, it is as though he denies the tenet.” And Rav Chisda said, “Mr. Ukva said, ‘Anyone who slanders, the Creator says, ‘He and I cannot dwell in the world.’’”
Also, we should understand the severity of the prohibition on slander, to the point that it is as though one has denied the tenet, or according to what Mr. Ukva says, that the Creator says, “He and I cannot dwell in the world.” It means that if we say, for example, that if Reuben said something bad to Shimon about Levi, that he did something bad, the Creator cannot dwell in the world, due to Reuben’s slander about Levi. But with other transgressions that Reuben might have committed, the Creator can dwell in the world with him. Thus, if this is such a grave matter, then we should understand what makes slander so bad.
We will interpret this in the work. In the essay “The Giving of the Torah,” he explains the great importance of the commandment, “Love thy friend as thyself.” “Rabbi Akiva says, ‘This is the great rule of the Torah.’ This statement of our sages demands explanation. The word Klal (collective/rule) indicates a sum of details that, when put together, form the above collective. Thus, when he says about the commandment, ‘Love thy friend as thyself,’ that it is a great Klal in the Torah, we must understand that the rest of the 612 commandments in the Torah, with all their interpretations, are no more or no less than the sum of the details inserted and contained in that single commandment, ‘Love thy friend as thyself.’
“This is quite perplexing, because you can say this regarding Mitzvot [commandments] between man and man, but how can that single Mitzva [commandment] contain all the Mitzvot between man and God, which are the essence and the vast majority of its laws?
“He also writes there about a convert who came before Hillel (Shabbat 31) and told him: ‘Teach me the whole of the Torah while I am standing on one leg.’ And he replied: ‘That which you hate, do not do unto your friend (the translation of ‘Love thy friend as thyself’), and the rest is commentary; go study.’
“Here before us is a clear law, that in all 612 commandments and in all the writings in the Torah there is none that is preferred to the commandment, ‘Love thy friend as thyself’ … since he specifically says, ‘the rest is commentary; go study.’ This means that the rest of the Torah is interpretations of that one commandment, that the commandment to love your friend as yourself could not be completed were it not for them.”
We should understand why, when the convert told him in the holy tongue [Hebrew], “Teach me the whole of the Torah while I am standing on one leg,” Hillel did not reply to him in the holy tongue, but replied to him in the language of translation [Aramaic] and told him, “That which you hate, do not do unto your friend.”
We should also understand that in the Torah, it is written, “Love thy friend as thyself,” which is a positive Mitzva [commandment to perform some action], but Hillel spoke in a negative term [commandment to avoid some action], for he told him, “That which you hate, do not do unto your friend,” which is negative phrasing.
In the essay “The Giving of the Torah,” he explains the greatness and importance of the rule, “Love thy friend as thyself,” since the purpose of creation is to do good to His creations, and for the creatures to feel delight and pleasure without any lacks. There is a rule that any branch wishes to resemble its root. Since our root is the Creator, who created all the creatures, He has no deficiencies or needs to receive anything from anyone.
Therefore, when the creatures receive from someone, they, too, feel ashamed of their benefactors. Thus, for the creatures not to be ashamed while receiving delight and pleasure from the Creator, the matter of Tzimtzum [restriction] was set up in the upper worlds. This causes the upper abundance to be hidden from us, so we do not feel the good that He has hidden in the Torah and Mitzvot that the Creator has given us.
We are made to believe that the corporeal pleasures that we see before us, feeling its virtue and benefit, and the whole world, meaning that all the creatures in this world devotedly chase after pleasures to obtain them. Still, there is but a tiny light in them, a very small illumination compared to what can be obtained by keeping Torah and Mitzvot. It is written about it in The Zohar that the Kedusha [holiness] sustains the Klipot [shells]. This means that if Kedusha did not give sustenance to the Klipot,they would not be able to exist.
There is a reason why the Klipot should exist, since in the end, everything will be corrected and will enter the Kedusha. This was given for the creatures to correct, for by having the concept of time for them, there can be two topics within the same topic, even though they are in contrast. It is written about it (“Introduction to The Book of Zohar,” Item 25), “For this reason, there are two systems, ‘Kedusha [holiness],’ and the ‘Impure ABYA,’ which are opposite to one another. Thus, how can the Kedusha correct them?”
This is not so with man, who is created in this world. Since there is a matter of time, they (two systems) are in one person, but one at a time. And then there is a way for Kedusha to correct the impurity. This is so because until thirteen years of age, a person attains the will to receive that is in the system of impurity. Afterward, through engagement in Torah, he begins to obtain Nefesh de [of] Kedusha, and then he is sustained by the system of the worlds of Kedusha.
Yet, all the abundance that the Klipot have, which they receive from the Kedusha, is but a tiny light that fell because of the breaking of the vessels and through the sin of the tree of knowledge, by which the impure ABYA were made. And yet, we should believe, imagine, and observe how all the creatures chase that tiny light with all their might, and none of them says, “I will settle for what I have acquired.” Instead, each always wishes to add to what he has, as our sages said, “One who has one hundred wants two hundred.”
And the reason why there was no wholeness in them is because there was no wholeness in them to begin with. But in spirituality, the upper light is dressed in everything spiritual. Hence, when a person attains some illumination of spirituality, he cannot tell if it is a small or a great degree, since in the spiritual, even the degree of Nefesh de Nefesh, which is a part of the Kedusha—and like the rest of Kedusha, it is wholeness—there is wholeness in even a part of it. This is so because the discernments of “great” or “small” in the upper light are according to the value of the receiver.
In other words, it depends on the level to which the receiver is capable of obtaining the greatness and importance of the light. But there is no change at all in the light itself, as it is written, “I the Lord (HaVaYaH), do not change” (as explained in the “Preface to the Wisdom of Kabbalah,” Item 63).
Accordingly, the question arises, “Why does the whole world chase the tiny light that shines in corporeal pleasures, while for spiritual pleasures, which hold the majority of delight and pleasure, we do not see anyone wishing to make such great efforts, as they make for corporeality?” However, corporeal pleasures are in the impure ABYA. There were no restriction or concealment on them, and purposely so, or the world would not exist, since it is impossible to live without pleasure.
Also, it extends from the purpose of creation to do good to His creations. Hence, without pleasure there is no existence to the world. It turns out that the pleasures had to be disclosed in them. This is not so with additions, meaning with receiving delight and pleasure for more than sustaining the body, which is the real pleasure. On that, there were restriction and concealment so they would not see the light of life that is clothed in Torah and Mitzvot, before a person accustoms himself to working in order to bestow, called “equivalence of form.” This is so because had the light that is clothed in Torah and Mitzvot been revealed, there would be no room for choice.
In other words, where the light is revealed, the pleasure that one would feel in keeping Torah and Mitzvot would be in the form of self-reception. Thus, he would not be able to say that he is keeping Torah and Mitzvot because of the commandment of the Creator. Rather, he would have to keep Torah and Mitzvot because of the pleasure that he feels in them. While a person feels pleasure in some transgressions, he can calculate that the pleasure is only a tiny light compared to the real taste in Torah and Mitzvot and how it is difficult to overcome the lust, and that the greater the desire, the harder it is to endure the test.
It turns out that while the immensity of the pleasure in Torah and Mitzvot is revealed, a person cannot say, “I am doing this Mitzva [commandment] because it is the Creator’s will,” meaning that he wants to give pleasure to the Creator by keeping His Mitzvot [commandments]. After all, without the Creator’s commandment, he would still keep Torah and Mitzvot because of self-love, and not because he wants to give to the Creator.
This is the reason for the placement of the restriction and the concealment on Torah and Mitzvot. And this is why the whole world chases corporeal pleasures, while having no energy for the pleasures in Torah and Mitzvot because the pleasure is not revealed for the above-mentioned reason.
It therefore follows that regarding faith, we must assume the importance there is in Torah and Mitzvot, and, in general, believe in the Creator—that He watches over the creatures. This means that one cannot say that he is not keeping Torah and Mitzvot because he does not feel the Creator’s guidance, how He gives abundance to the creatures, since here, too, he must believe, even though he does not feel it.
This is so because if he felt that His guidance is benevolent, there would be no question of faith there anymore. But why did the Creator make it so we would serve Him with faith? Would it not be better if we could serve in a state of knowing?
The answer is—as Baal HaSulam said it—that one shouldn’t think that the fact that the Creator wants us to serve Him with faith is because He cannot shine to us in the form of knowing. Rather, the Creator knows that faith is a more successful way for us to reach the goal, called “Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator,” which is equivalence of form. By that, we will have the power to receive the good while being without the “bread of shame,” meaning without shame. This is so because the only reason we will want to receive delight and pleasure from the Creator is that we will know that the Creator will derive pleasure from it. And since we wish to bestow upon the Creator, we wish to receive delight and pleasure from Him.
Thus, we see that the main work we must do, to achieve the purpose for which the world was created—to do good to His creations—is to qualify ourselves to acquire vessels of bestowal. This is the correction for making the King’s gift complete, so they will feel no shame upon reception of the pleasures. And all the evil in us removes us from the good that we are destined to receive.
We were given the remedy of Torah and Mitzvot so as to achieve those Kelim. This is the meaning of what our sages said (Kidushin 30), “The Creator says, ‘I have created the evil inclination; I have created for it the spice of Torah,’ by which he will lose all the sparks of self-love within him and will be rewarded with his desire being only to bestow contentment upon his Maker.”
In the essay “The Giving of the Torah” (Item 13), he says, “There are two parts in the Torah: 1) Mitzvot [commandments] between man and God, 2) Mitzvot between man and man. And both aim for the same thing—to bring the creature to the final goal of Dvekut with Him.
“Furthermore, even the practical side in both of them is really one and the same. … Toward those who keep Torah and Mitzvot Lishma, there is no difference between the two parts of the Torah, even on the practical side. This is because before one accomplishes it, one is compelled to feel any act of bestowal—either toward another person or toward the Creator—as emptiness beyond conception…
“Since this is the case, it is reasonable to think that the part of the Torah that deals with man’s relationship with his friend is better capable of bringing one to the desired goal. This is because the work in Mitzvot between man and God is fixed and specific and is not demanding, one becomes easily accustomed to it, and everything that is done out of habit is no longer useful. But the Mitzvotbetween man and man are changing and irregular, and demands surround him wherever he may turn. Hence, their cure is much more certain and their aim is closer.”
Now we understand why Rabbi Akiva said about the verse, “Love thy friend as thyself,” that it is “the great rule of the Torah.” It is because the important thing is to be rewarded with Dvekut with the Creator, which is called “a vessel of bestowal,” meaning equivalence of form. This is why the remedy of Torah and Mitzvot was given, so that through it we would be able to exit self-love and reach love of others, as stage one is the love between a person and his friend, and then we can achieve the love of the Creator.
Now we can understand what we asked above, why when the convert came to Hillel and told him, “Teach me the whole of the Torah while I am standing on one leg,” Hillel did not reply to him in the holy tongue, as he asked, “Teach me the whole of the Torah while I am standing on one leg,” but replied to him in the language of translation [Aramaic], “That which you hate, do not do unto your friend” (the translation of “Love thy friend as thyself”). And there is more to understand, since in the Torah, it is written, “Love thy friend as thyself,” which is a positive Mitzva [commandment to perform some action], while he replied to the convert in a negative tongue, “Do not do,” since he told him, “That which you hate, do not do unto your friend.”
According to what he explains about the importance of the Mitzva, “Love thy friend as thyself,” in his explanation of the words of Rabbi Akiva, who said that “Love thy friend as thyself” is the great rule of the Torah, that specifically this Mitzva has the power to bring one the remedy for reaching the love of the Creator, for this reason, when the convert came to Hillel and told him, “Teach me the whole of the Torah while I’m standing on one leg,” he wished to tell him the rule, “Love thy friend as thyself,” as it is written in the Torah. However, he wished to explain to him the grave iniquity called “slander,” which is even graver than the Mitzva, “Love thy friend as thyself.”
The Mitzva, “Love thy friend as thyself” gives one the power to overcome and exit self-love. By exiting self-love, he can achieve the love of the Creator.
It follows that if he does not engage in the Mitzva, “Love thy friend as thyself,” he is in a state of “sit and do nothing.” He did not progress in coming out of the domination of self-love, but did not regress, either. In other words, although he did not give love to others, he also did not relapse and did nothing to evoke hatred of others.
Yet, if he slanders his friend, by that, he relapses. Not only does he not engage in love of others, he does the opposite—engages in actions that cause hatred of others by slandering his friend. Naturally, one does not slander one he loves, for it separates the hearts. Therefore, we do not wish to slander one that we love so as not to spoil the love between us, since slander inflicts hatred.
It therefore follows that the severity of the iniquity of slander is that love of others yields love of the Creator, and hatred of others yields hatred of the Creator, and there is nothing worse in the world than that which yields hatred of the Creator. But when a person sins with other transgressions and cannot overcome his will to receive because he is immersed in self-love, it still does not make him hate the Creator. This is why it is written about the rest of the transgressions, “I am the Lord, who dwells with them in the midst of their impurity.” But in regards to slander, by this action he becomes hateful of the Creator, as it is the very opposite act of love of others.
Now we can understand the words of Rabbi Yohanan in the name of Rabbi Yosi Ben Zimra: “Anyone who slanders, it is as though he denies the tenet.” Can it be that slander would make one deny the tenet? However, since it causes him to hate the Creator, he denies the very purpose of creation—to do good. And we see that one who does good to another and gives him more delight and pleasure each time, certainly loves him. But when a person slanders, it makes him hate the Creator. Thus, this person denies the very purpose of creation—to do good.
Now we can also understand what we asked about what Rav Hasda said in the name of Mr. Ukva: “Anyone who slanders, the Creator says, ‘He and I cannot dwell in the world.’” Is it possible that slander could cause the Creator not to dwell in the world with him?
As we said above, one who slanders becomes hateful of the Creator. As in corporeality, a person can be in a house with many people and yet be indifferent to whether they are good people or not. But when he sees his hater there, he immediately runs away from there, for he cannot be in a single room with a hater. Similarly, we say that one who becomes hateful of the Creator, the Creator cannot be with him in the world.
We could ask, “But one who steals something from his friend also causes his friend to hate, since when the one from whom it was stolen finds out that he stole, he will see that he is his hater?” Or, we could say that even if he never knows who stole from him, the thief himself—instead of engaging in love of others—engages in an opposite act, in hatred of others, by which he becomes more immersed in self-love. And yet, they do not say that stealing is as bad as slander. Also, it means that robbing is not as grave as slander, too.
The answer should be that one who engages in stealing or robbing does not rob or steal because of hatred. The reason is that he has love for money or for important artifacts, and this is why he steals or robs, not because of hate. But with slander, it is not because of some fancy, but only out of hatred.
It is as Rish Lakish said (Arachin 15), “Rish Lakish said, ‘Why is it written, ‘If the serpent bites without whispering, there is no advantage to the one with the tongue?’ In the future, all the animals will come to the serpent and tell him, ‘The lion preys and eats; a wolf preys and eats. But you, what pleasure have you?’ He tells them, ‘And what is the advantage of the one with the tongue?’’”
RASHI interprets, “‘A lion preys and eats,’ all who harm people derive pleasure. The lion preys and eats. He eats of what is alive. And if a wolf preys, it kills first and then eats. It has pleasure. But you, what is your pleasure in biting people? The serpent replied, ‘And what is the advantage of the one with the tongue? One who slanders, what joy does he have? Similarly, when I bite, I get no pleasure.’”
With the above said, we can see that there is a difference between harming people because one derives pleasure, such as the lion and the wolf, who have no desire to harm because they hate people, but because of desire, since they take pleasure in people. Thus, the reason why they harm others is only out of desire.
This is not so with slander. One does not receive any reward for it, but it is an act that causes hatred of people. And according to the rule, “Love thy friend as thyself,” where from love of man one comes to love of the Creator, it follows that from hatred of people one can come to hatred of the Creator.
Similarly, we find these words (Berachot 17a): “‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all they that do them.’ It did not say, ‘That do,’ but ‘That do them,’ they who do Lishma [for Her sake] and not they who do Lo Lishma [not for Her sake]. And anyone who does Lo Lishma, it is better for him to not be born. In the Tosfot, he asks, ‘And if the sayer should say, ‘Rav Yehuda said, ‘Rav said, ‘One should always engage in Torah and Mitzvot, even in Lo Lishma, for out of Lo Lishma he will come to Lishma.’’’’ We should say, ‘Here we are dealing with one who is learning only in order to annoy his friends, and there it was about one who is learning in order to be respected.’”
We should understand the answer of the Tosfot, when he says that we should distinguish between Lo Lishma in order to annoy and Lo Lishma in order to be respected, meaning to call him “a rabbi” and so on. We should understand it according to the rule that Rabbi Akiva said, “Love thy friend as thyself is the great rule of the Torah.” By what he explains in the essay “The Giving of the Torah,” it is because through this Mitzva [commandment] he will acquire love of others, and from this he will later come to love of the Creator.
It therefore follows that one should try to exit self-love, and then he will be able to engage in Torah and Mitzvot Lishma, meaning in order to bestow and not for his own benefit. This is done by keeping Torah and Mitzvot. Thus, as long as he does not exit self-love, he cannot engage in Lishma. And although he engages in self-love, there is power in keeping Torah and Mitzvot in order to exit self-love and from that to subsequently come to love of the Creator, at which time he will do everything in order to bestow.
Achieving Lishma is possible only when he engages in Torah and Mitzvot in order to be respected. That is, he is learning but he still cannot work for the sake of others, since he hasn’t acquired the quality of love of others. Hence, engagement in Torah and Mitzvot will help him achieve the quality of love of others.
But when he learns in order to annoy, which is an opposite act from love of others, keeping Torah and Mitzvot for the hatred of others, in order to annoy, how can two opposites be in the same carrier? Meaning, it is said that the Torah assists in achieving love of others when one performs an act of bestowal—although the intention is to receive a prerogative, the Torah assists him toward the intention of obtaining the desire to bestow, as well. But here he engages in the very opposite, in hatred of others. How can this cause love of others?
It is as we said about the distinction between a thief or a robber, and a slanderer. Thieves and robbers love money, gold, and other important things. They have no personal dealings with the individual himself. In other words, thieves and robbers have no thought or consideration of the person himself, but their thoughts are focused on where they can get more money more easily, and with greater difficulty for the police to expose them as the thieves or robbers. But they never think of the person himself.
With slander, however, one has no consideration of the act itself when he slanders. Rather, his only thought is to humiliate his friend in the eyes of people. Thus, the only thought is one of hatred. It is a rule that one does not slander one he loves. Hence, it is specifically slander that causes hatred of others, which subsequently leads to hatred of the Creator. For this reason, slander is a very grave iniquity, which actually brings destruction of the world.
Now we will explain the measure of slander—how and how much is considered slander, whether a word or a sentence that is said about one’s friend is already considered slander. We find this measure in Hillel’s answer to the convert, “That which you hate, do not do unto your friend.” This means that with any word that you want to say about your friends, observe and consider if you would hate it if this was said about you. In other words, if you would derive no pleasure from these words, “Do not do unto your friend.”
Thus, when one wishes to say something about one’s friend, he should immediately think, “If this were said about me, would I hate that word?” “Do not do unto your friend,” as Hillel said to the convert. From here we should learn the measure of slander that is forbidden to say.
And with the above said, we can understand why Hillel spoke to the convert in the language of translation and not in the holy tongue [Hebrew], just as to the convert, who told him [in Hebrew], “Teach me the whole of the Torah while I am standing on one leg.” Instead, he spoke in the language of translation, meaning that what he told him was, “That which you hate, do not do unto your friend” [in Aramaic], the translation of “Love thy friend as thyself.”
First, we should understand what the language of translation implies to us. The Ari said (The Study of the Ten Sefirot, Part 15, p 1765), “‘And the Lord God caused a deep sleep’ is translation in Gematria [Tardema (sleep) = Targum (translation)], and it is considered Achoraim [posterior].” This means that the holy tongue [Hebrew] is called Panim [anterior] and the translation [Aramaic] is called Achoraim [posterior].
Panim means something that illuminates or something whole. Achor [back] means something that is not illuminating or is incomplete. In the holy tongue, which is called Panim, it writes, “Love thy friend as thyself,” which is wholeness, since through love of man one achieves the love of the Creator, which is the completion of the goal, for one should achieve Dvekut [adhesion], as it is written, “And to cleave unto Him.”
But the translation of “Love thy friend as thyself” that Hillel told him, “That which you hate, do not do unto your friend,” we should say that it relates to slander, which is about negation, that slander is forbidden because it brings hatred, and from this, one might come to hatred of the Creator. However, this is still not considered wholeness because by not slandering, one still does not achieve love of others, and from love of others he will reach wholeness, called Dvekut with the Creator.
However, this is why slander is worse, since not only does he not engage in love of others, he does the opposite—engages in hatred of others. For this reason, when teaching the general public to begin the work, they are first taught how to not spoil and harm the public. This is called “avoiding.” Otherwise, you are harming the public by doing things to harm.
This is why Hillel said to the convert who came to him only the translation of “Love thy friend as thyself”: 1) Because it is more harmful when slandering, for it causes hatred, which is the opposite of love of others. 2) Because it is easier to keep, for this is only in “sit and do not do.” But “Love thy friend” is “Rise up and do,” when one should take action to sustain the love of friends.
However, afterwards there are exceptions: people who each wish to be a servant of the Creator personally. A person is told that the matter of “Love thy friend,” which is the rule that Rabbi Akiva said—as above-mentioned, that love of others can bring him to achieve love of the Creator—is the main goal: that one will have vessels of bestowal and that in these vessels he will be able to receive delight and pleasure, which is the purpose of creation, to do good to His creation.
Two methods in education extend from this:
- Focusing the learning on not slandering because this is the worst iniquity.
- Focusing the education on “Love thy friend,” since this will bring man to love others, and from love of others he will come to love of the Creator, and from love of the Creator he can then receive the purpose of creation—to do good to His creations. This is because he will already have the suitable vessels for receiving the upper abundance, as he will have vessels of bestowal, which he has obtained by love of others. And then there will be no room for slander.
Concerning slander, The Zohar says that the serpent’s slandering to the woman caused death to the world. It says there that the sword that consumes everything is ready for anyone with a sword in his tongue, meaning who slanders. And The Zohar concludes, “As it is written, ‘This will be the law of the leper,’ as for afflictions come for slander.” It follows that he began with death and ended with afflictions, which means that only afflictions come and not death.
Certainly, there are explanations for the literal meaning. But in the work, we should interpret that afflictions and death are one and the same. In other words, the purpose of the work is to achieve Dvekut with the Creator, to adhere to the Life of Lives. By this we will have suitable vessels for reception of the delight and pleasure that is found in the purpose of creation, to do good to His creations. Through slander, he becomes a hater of the Creator, and there is no greater separation than this. Certainly, by that he becomes separated from the Life of Lives.
It follows that where he should have received delight and pleasure from the Creator, he receives the opposite. In other words, instead of pleasure, it becomes affliction [in Hebrew “pleasure” and “affliction” contain the same letters]. This is the meaning that through slander, afflictions come instead of pleasures. This is the meaning of “The wicked, in their lives, are called ‘dead,’” since they are separated from the Life of Lives. It follows that in the work, death and afflictions are the same.
In other words, if one adheres to the Life of Lives, he receives abundance from Him. And if it is to the contrary and he becomes separated from Him, then he is full of afflictions where he should have been filled with pleasures.
With the above-said, we can interpret what they said (Arachin 15), “In the West they say: The talk of a third kills three: It kills the one who tells, the one who receives, and the one about whom it is said.” We know the words of our sages, “The Torah, Israel, and the Creator are one.” It means, as explained in the book A Sage’s Fruit (Part One, p 65), that Israel is one who wishes to adhere to the Creator. He achieves this through the 613 Mitzvot [commandments] of the Torah, at which time he is rewarded with the Torah, which is the names of the Creator. And then everything becomes one. It turns out that one who slanders causes the killing of three: 1) the one who tells, 2) the one who receives, 3) the one about whom it is said.
The three discernments are to be made between man and man.
However, between man and the Creator there is also the matter of slander, as mentioned concerning “The Torah, Israel, and the Creator are one.” When a person comes and looks in the Torah, he sees all those good things that the Creator has promised us in keeping the Torah. For example, it is written, “For this is your life,” and it is also written, “They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb,” and other such verses. If a person is not rewarded and does not feel it, this is called “slandering the Creator.”
It follows that three discernments should be made here: 1) the slanderer, 2) the Torah, 3) the Creator.
When a person looks in the Torah, if he is not rewarded, he does not see the delight and pleasure clothed in the holy Torah, and stops learning the Torah because he says he found no meaning in it. Thus, in speaking of the Torah, he is slandering the Creator.
It follows that he blemishes three things: the Torah, Israel, and the Creator. Where one should exert to make the unification of “Are one”—that they will all shine, meaning that the discernment of Israel will obtain the unification that the whole Torah is the names of the Creator—he causes separation in that, through slander.
A person must believe above reason that what the Torah promises us is true, and the only fault is in us—that we are still unfit to receive the delight and pleasure, called “the hidden light” or “the flavors of Torah and Mitzvot,” as it is written in The Zohar that the whole Torah is the names of the Creator.
To achieve this, we need vessels of bestowal—to have equivalence of form between the light and the Kli [vessel]. Achieving vessels of bestowal is done by love of friends. It is as Rabbi Akiva said, “Love thy friend as thyself is the great rule of the Torah,” for through it we achieve love of others, and through love of others we arrive at love of the Creator and the love of Torah. The Torah is called “a gift,” and gifts are given to loved ones. The opposite of this is slander, which causes hatred of people and hatred of the Creator, as we said above.
Now we can understand what our sages said about slander, “The talk of a third kills three: It kills the one who tells, the one who receives, and the one about whom it is said.” RASHI interprets that out of hatred they provoke one another and kill each other. We can understand that this applies between man and man; but how does this apply between man and the Creator?
When a person looks in the Torah and tells the Torah that he does not see or feel the delight and pleasure that the Creator said that He is giving to the people of Israel, he is slandering the Creator. There are three things here: the telling person, the receiver, meaning the Torah, and the one of whom it is said, meaning the Creator. Since when a person engages in love of others, he obtains the love of the Creator and the love of Torah, in that state, the Creator imparts upon him life, as it is written, “For with You is the source of life.” This is from the side of Dvekut [adhesion], as it is written, “And you who cleave.”
In that state, one is rewarded with the law of life. But through slander, the life from the Creator, which he should have received, is withheld from him. Thus, 1) the life from the Torah—where he should have sensed the Torah of life—is withheld from him, 2) he himself becomes lifeless, which is considered that he is killed, and 3) life stops in three places. And through the love of others, life flows from two places and he is the receiver of the life.
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