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What Is the Advantage in the Work More than in the Reward?
Article No. 05, Tav-Shin-Mem-Zayin, 1986-87
RASHI interprets the verse, “And the Lord appeared to him”: “He opened the tent door to see if there were any passers by to let them into his house. At midday, the Creator took out the sun from its sheath, not to trouble him with guests. And since He saw him regretting that guests were not coming, He brought him angels in the similitude of people.”
We should understand 1) why he says, “And since He saw him regretting that guests were not coming, He brought him angels in the similitude of people.” Did the Creator not know in advance that he would regret not having guests? Thus, why did He take out the sun from its sheath? 2) Did the Creator have no other way to send him guests other than by deceit, meaning that he deceived him into thinking that they were people? After all, He could easily put the sun back in its sheath and people would be able to come to him as guests.
Our sages said (in the Midrash) that Abraham said, “Before I was circumcised, passers by would come to me. Now that I have been circumcised they are not coming to me.” The Creator said to him: “Before you were circumcised, uncircumcised would come to you. Now, I and My entourage come to you.”
This, too, is perplexing: 1) What is the answer to the question he asked, “Why are guests not coming now?” So He told him: “Before, uncircumcised would come to you. Now, I and My entourage.” But He did not reply why guests were not coming. 2) What is the question, “Why are they not coming?” It is simple: because it is midday. This is why guests cannot come. 3) In general, what is the reply that the Creator gave him, as if now you are in a greater and more important state than before, when uncircumcised would come? After all, our sages said, “Greeting guests is greater than greeting the Shechina [Divinity].” Accordingly, Abraham’s complaint is just, since Abraham understood that once he had circumcised himself, he must certainly reach a higher degree, but he sees that it is not so. Rather, he suffered a descent; he had lost a great thing, meaning greeting guests.
However, we should understand why greeting guests is greater than greeting the Shechina. Our sages said (Shavuot 35b), “Rav Yehuda said, ‘Rav said, ‘Greeting guests is greater than greeting the Shechina.’’” “Greater” means it is more important.
However, in the reality of this world we see that the important things in the world are only in a chosen few and not in ordinary people. It is only a handful of people. But things that are less valuable are found in more people than important things. Accordingly, the rule should have been that many people will be rewarded with greeting the Shechina, and a few with greeting guests.
However, in reality we see the opposite: There are more people who are greeting guests than people who have been rewarded with greeting the Shechina. It is so much so that we cannot even know how many there are in the world who have been rewarded with greeting the Shechina. Moreover, we must believe that there is such a thing in the world, that they have been rewarded with greeting the Shechina, although we do not know who they are. But our sages said (Sukkah 45), “There is not a generation without thirty-six righteous.” But who knows them?
Instead, we must believe that they exist in the world, and it was said about them that greeting guests is more important than greeting the Shechina. But according to reason, it should have been the opposite, as it is in reality, that important things are more difficult to find than things that are not so important.
Likewise, we should understand what our sages said (Berachot 8a), “He who enjoys his labor is greater than fear of heaven.” This implies that one who enjoys his labor has no fear of heaven. And if the intention is that one who enjoys his labor has fear of heaven, why is it so remarkable? Of course one who has fear of heaven—and in addition has the merit of enjoying his labor—is more important. However, we should say that the intention is that one who has only one thing—only labor—is more important than fear of heaven. We need to understand this, too, for it is contrary to reality.
We see that in reality, many people enjoy their labor. However, we do not see many people with fear of heaven. And if those who enjoy their labor were more important than those who have fear of heaven, there should have been many more people with fear of heaven, and people who enjoy their labor should have been a small part of the public.
To understand the above said, we will interpret this according to the work, as this path brings one to enter the King’s palace, and it is called “the path of Torah.” This pertains specifically to servants of the Creator and not to the view of landlords, as we have said in previous articles.
However, we should understand what is the work that He has given to man, and in which he must toil, as our sages said (Megillah 6b), “I labored and did not find, do not believe. I did not labor and found, do not believe. I labored and found, believe.” However, we should understand why we need this labor.
We should interpret once again what we said in the previous articles, that it is known that the purpose of creation was that the Creator created creation because of His desire to do good to His creations. It is as they said (Beresheet Rabbah, Chapter 8) concerning man’s creation: “The angels said to Him: ‘What is man that You remember him, and the son of man that You should visit him? Why do You need this trouble?’ The Creator said to them, ‘Then what are sheep and oxen for?’ What is this like? It is like a King who had a tower filled with great abundance, but no guests. What pleasure has the king that he has abundance? Promptly, they said to Him, ‘O Lord, our Lord, how great is Your name in all the earth! Do that which pleases You.’”
However, accordingly, why are the creatures not receiving the delight and pleasure that He wanted to give to the creatures? The answer is known—He has given us Torah and Mitzvot [commandments] so we will not have the bread of shame, for by observing Torah and Mitzvot we will be able to receive the delight and pleasure and we will not feel in it the bread of shame.
However, accordingly, this is perplexing, since there is a clear Mishnah [treatise] (Avot, Chapter 1, 3) that says as follows, “He would say, ‘Be not as slaves who are serving the rav in order to receive reward. Rather, be as slaves who are serving the rav in order not to receive reward.’” Thus, how is it permitted to labor and exert in Torah and Mitzvot so we can receive reward for the labor, for only in this way we will receive the delight and pleasure without shame?
According to what is explained in the “Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot,” the meaning is that since we have been imprinted with a desire to receive pleasure, which is called “self-love,” and we have no understanding of love of others, but when we are told that we must do something for another our body promptly asks, “What will we get out of working for others?” For this reason, when we are told to observe Torah and Mitzvot, our body asks, “What is this work for you?” That is, what will we gain from this? We have to exert in Torah and Mitzvot for this. Therefore, it is told that by this it will be happy in this world and will also have the next world. That is, it is impossible to work without reward. It follows that we teach the general public to observe Torah and Mitzvot in order to receive reward; otherwise, no one will want to engage in Torah and Mitzvot.
Maimonides (Hilchot Teshuva, Chapter 10) writes, “Our sages said, ‘One should always engage in Torah, even if Lo Lishma [not for Her sake], since from Lo Lishma he will come to Lishma [for Her sake]. Therefore, when teaching little ones, women, and uneducated people, they are taught to work only out of fear and in order to receive reward. Until they gain knowledge and acquire much wisdom, they are taught that secret little-by-little and are accustomed to the matter calmly.’”
Thus, it is clear from the words of Maimonides that there is a difference between the general public and individuals. That is, it is possible to reveal the path of the Creator only to individuals, meaning the path to the Creator’s palace, meaning the way by which they can achieve Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator, as it is written, “And to cleave unto Him,” meaning that he achieves equivalence of form. This is the meaning of what our sages said, “As He is merciful, so you are merciful.”
This is the difference between the view of Torah and the view of landlords. The view of a landlord is that in everything he does, he knows that he must profit and receive all the profits into his own authority, meaning he feels that he has his own authority and that he controls his possessions.
Conversely, the view of Torah is that he has no authority of his own. It is as our sages said (Berachot63), “Rish Lakish said, ‘How do we know that words of Torah come true only in one who puts himself to death over it? It was said, ‘This is the Torah [law], should a man die in a tent.’’”
However, we should understand the words of our sages in what they said, “The Torah exists only in one who puts himself to death over it.”
1) Why do I need this death? Why should one put himself to death in order for the Torah to exist in him?
2) What is the measure of death that we need for this? It cannot be said that it is actual death, for it is written, “For they are our lives and the length of our days,” which is the opposite of death.
3) We also cannot say that needing much time to study Torah and to understand it is called “death.” After all, we see that even those who exert only in secular studies and not in holy words, but rather want to get a PhD in some science, they, too, sit day and night and study. And we also see that there are those who have already received their PhD, and still continue to study to become professors. Also, there are people who have already become professors but do not stop studying. They want to put all their energy and vigor into research and become world famous scientists. Still, it is not said about them that the wisdom does not exist in them, but that they must die, as our sages said that the Torah does not exist. This means that secular studies do not have such conditions. Thus, what is the meaning of “The Torah exists only in one who puts himself to death over it”? What is this death?
4) We should also understand what our sages said, “The Torah exists only…” what is this existence? If we interpret that existence means that he should know and remember what he has learned, that this is regarded as the Torah existing, should one put himself to death over this? It follows that one who was born talented, with an acute mind and perfect memory, memorizing everything that he has learned, there remains the question why he needs to put himself to death so the Torah will exist in him.
To understand the above, we should reiterate what we have begun to clarify regarding the purpose of creation, which is in order to benefit His creations. As he explains there (“Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot”), since all the creatures are called “creatures” because something new was created here, which did not exist prior to the creation of the worlds, namely a lack and craving to receive delight and pleasure, since the measure of delight from the pleasure depends on the measure of craving and coveting of the matter, to that extent he can enjoy. Likewise, one who is not hungry cannot enjoy the meal he is given.
However, here, through the desire to receive pleasure that was imprinted in the creatures, it caused separation and disparity of form between the Creator and the creatures, and it is known that disparity of form separates into two in spirituality. To the extent of the difference between them, they also become remote from one another. For this reason, the creatures were separated from the Creator and became two authorities, where man says that he, too, is the host and not the guest, and has his own authority.
However, we should know that this will to receive is the evil that exists in the world, as is explained there (“Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot”). That is, all the thefts, murders, and wars in the world, as well as all the bad qualities such as anger and pride derive from this will to receive, which wants with all its might to satisfy its self-love. Wherever it sees that it can derive pleasure, it is immediately ready and willing to be filled with it.
Even laziness, when a person does nothing, is also due to self-love. Now he chooses to do nothing because now he feels that the body craves to receive pleasure from rest. For this reason, he relinquishes other pleasures because at the moment, it sees and thinks that it will give him more pleasure than other things. That is, lazy means that he derives excessive pleasure from rest. However, all these fall into self-love, which is the evil from which the entire world suffers.
In order to correct this evil, which is called “evil inclination” and causes us separation, and for which we cannot receive the delight and pleasure that the Creator wants to give us, it is if we exit self-love and cancel our own authority, and our desire will be only to bestow contentment upon the Creator. This is called “cancelling the authority,” since we are not concerned with our own pleasure and contentment, but desire only to benefit the Creator and not ourselves.
At that time a person comes to feel with what he can delight the Creator. That is, what a person can say that will bring contentment to the Creator, since nothing is missing in the King’s palace. At that time a person finds one thing that he can say will bring contentment to the Creator, since the purpose of creation was to delight His creatures. For this reason, a person searches how to derive pleasure, in order to delight the Creator.
By wanting to give contentment to the Creator, he elicits a new thing: He really does enjoy. Otherwise, it is regarded as lying. That is, he makes room for the Creator to carry out His will, His desire for the creatures to enjoy. And if he does not enjoy and says that he is enjoying then he is lying to the Creator. In truth, he really does receive delight and pleasure, but the whole difference is in the intention, meaning that the pleasure he receives is because the Creator wants it. For himself, even though he desires and craves pleasures, he overcomes his desire, goes against it, and does not want to receive. This is called “receiving in order to bestow.”
By this we see that although in terms of the act they are the same, meaning that both enjoy, there is still a difference in the intention. One who enjoys because of self-love follows the counsel of the evil inclination, and one who, due to self-love, relinquishes the pleasure and enjoys because of the commandment of the Creator, that He desires to do good, and this is why he receives the pleasure, that person is regarded as following the counsel of the good inclination.
Similarly, we find in the words of our sages (Nazir 13): “Rabbah Bar Hana said, ‘Rabbi Yohanan said, ‘Why is it written, ‘For the ways of the Lord are straight, the righteous will walk and the transgressors will fail?’ There is an allegory of two people who were roasting their lambs. One did it for the purpose of Mitzva [commandment/good deed] and the other for crass eating. The one who ate it for a Mitzvais ‘the righteous will walk.’ The one who ate for crass eating is ‘the transgressors will fail.’ Rish Lakish said to him, ‘Do you call this one wicked? True, it is not a first rate Mitzva, but he did indeed perform the Pesach offering.’’’”
This means that there is a difference in the intention, although in the act, they are the same. Rish Lakish says “He is not regarded as wicked because in any case, he did perform a Mitzva, but it is not first rate.” We can interpret this that specifically concerning Mitzva we say that it is regarded as a Mitzva, but not a first rate one. This is why our sages said (Nazir 23b), “Rav Yehuda said, ‘Rav said, ‘One should always engage in Torah and Mitzvot even Lo Lishma [not for Her sake], because from Lo Lishma he will come to Lishma [for Her sake].’”
However, concerning permission, there is certainly a difference between receiving the pleasure because it is the commandment of the Creator, who wants to do good to His creations. Otherwise, meaning due to self-love, he would relinquish the pleasure. It follows that the main thing is the intention. But concerning a Mitzva, we say that even if he does not have the intention it is still considered a Mitzva. (It is as said above, that concerning the general public, they are taught to observe Torah and Mitzvot Lo Lishma, as Maimonides says.)
Accordingly, we should interpret the matter of a person having to put himself to death. We asked, “What is the meaning of death?” Now we will understand that death means annulment of one’s own authority. He says that there is no authority in the world but the Creator’s. This is called “singular authority.” This is the meaning of our saying, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one,” meaning that there is only one authority in the world, and he cancels his self-love.
By this we can interpret what the ARI says, that we must take upon ourselves devotion while saying the Shema Israel, that the intention is to annul self-love. Afterward, we can say, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might,” since his own reality does not exist with respect to himself because all this thoughts are for the Creator. This is called “putting himself to death over it.”
Now we can understand why the Torah exists only in one who puts himself to death over it. We asked, “What does it mean to observe the Torah, that without putting oneself to death over it the Torah cannot exist?” We should interpret that observing refers to what the Torah has promised us, meaning as it is written, “For they are our lives and the length of our days,” and as it is written, “They are more desirable than gold, than much fine gold, and sweeter than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb,” and other such promises that the Torah has promised us.
This is as was said above, that all those things are included in the purpose of creation, called “His desire to do good to His creations.” All this cannot come to the creatures for the above reason, which is the matter of disparity of form from the Creator, who desires to bestow, while the creatures want to receive into their own domain, which is called “separation” in spirituality, and from which derives the matter of the bread of shame.
Therefore, there must be concealment, meaning that the upper abundance included in the purpose of creation cannot shine. The reason is to give room for choice. It follows from this that we see in the world concealment of the face. This is what King David said (Psalms 73), “Behold, these wicked and those who are always at ease have obtained riches.”
However, when a person has already come to a state of “putting himself to death over it,” meaning that he puts his self to death, which is self-love, and he has no concern for himself but worries only about increasing the glory of heaven above, as it is written, “May His great name grow and be sanctified.” At that time, when one wants to bestow contentment upon the Creator, it is regarded as “and to cleave unto Him; as He is merciful, so you are merciful.” At that time we can be rewarded with all those things that the Torah has promised us; then they come true.
By this we can understand the words of our sages, who said, “The Torah exists only in one who puts himself to death over it.” It follows that the meaning of “The Torah exists only,” which He promised us, is only after he has put his self to death over it.
Now we will explain what we asked about what our sages said, “I labored and did not find.” We asked, “Why do I need this labor?” However, there is a famous question about this, since finding comes only when there is no preparation. That is, it just happened to a person that he found something, but without preparation. But here in the Torah there is a condition before the finding, that it takes great labor to obtain the find. Accordingly, it should have said, “I labored and acquired.”
Baal HaSulam interpreted that it means that if a person has labors in Torah first, he is rewarded with the Creator’s favor and the Creator gives him the Torah as a gift. This is the meaning of “I labored and found.”
By the above-said we can understand why the Creator does not want to give the Torah as a gift before a person has labored. And also, what is the labor? The answer is as it is said (“Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot”), that since man was created with a will to receive for himself, he therefore becomes separated from the Creator. In order to adhere to the Creator he must be in equivalence of form, “As He is merciful, so you are merciful.” Otherwise, if he receives true pleasure from the Torah, he will be farther from the Creator.
Therefore, when one wants to come into a state where “All your actions are for the Creator,” the will to receive in the body resists it. This is the real labor that the creatures have because they must go against the nature with which they were born. It follows that the labor is that we need to go against nature. But why do we need the labor? It is in order to come to “and to cleave unto Him,” so there will be one authority.
It follows that we should discern between the general public and individuals. That is, the general public is taught and educated to work Lo Lishma, which is in order to receive reward. They are called “servants who serve the rav in order to receive reward.”
But the individuals are told, “Be as servants who are serving the rav not in order to receive reward, and let the fear of heaven be upon you.” The Zohar interprets (“Introduction of the Book of Zohar,” Item 191), “Fear, which is the most important, is that one should fear one’s Master because He is great and ruling.” It teaches us that “There are three manners in the fear of God, only one of which is considered real fear: 1) Fear of the Creator and keeping His Mitzvot so his sons may live and he will be kept from bodily punishment or a punishment to one’s money. This is a fear of punishments in this world. 2) When fearing punishments of Hell, as well.
“Those two are not real fear, for he does not keep the fear because of the commandment of the Creator, but because of his own benefit. It follows that his own benefit is the root, and fear is a derived branch of his own benefit.
“3) Rather, the fear that is the most important is for one to fear one’s Master because He is great,” because He is the root.
It therefore follows that the labor applies primarily to people who wish to go by the path of individuals, which is the view of Torah, which is about annulment of plural authority, and want there to be only one authority.
That is, the general public, as said in the words of The Zohar, want the reward of both this world and the next world. But individuals, who annul their authorities and care only about delighting the Creator, their whole intention is the work and the labor, and not the reward, for they want to serve the rav not in order to receive reward. It follows that neither this world nor the next world matter to them; their sole desire is the work.
When they are craving work, they are certain that they are not deceiving themselves that they are working for the Creator. But the minute they are looking at the reward, although he can say that he aims for the Creator, who knows if this is really so? Therefore, the only precious thing they have is room for work in order not to receive reward at all.
According to the above, we can understand the words of our sages, who said in the Midrash that Abraham said, “‘Before I was circumcised, passers by would come to me. Now that I have been circumcised they are not coming to me.’ The Creator said to him: ‘Before you were circumcised, uncircumcised would come to you. Now, I and My entourage come to you.’”
We asked, What is the answer to his question why he cannot keep the Mitzva of greeting guests? The answer is that now he has a higher degree, which is greeting the Shechina [Divinity]. This is why He said to him: “Now, I and My entourage come to you.”
But previously he had a higher degree, which is greeting guests, and hospitality is greater than greeting the Shechina. Thus, what is the Creator’s answer?
However, we should understand this, too. This is the opposite of common sense, since normally, it is a great privilege to people if an important person comes to them. According to the person’s importance, so is the value of the preparation to greet him, such as if the greatest man in his town should come to him, or the greatest in the country, or the greatest in the world.
But here we are saying that he was rewarded with greeting the Shechina, which is something that cannot even be evaluated. We cannot even know what it means to greet the Shechina, as is explained in all the books, that a person cannot attain it unless he has been granted with it. And who is granted with it, certainly the greatest righteous in the generation. And we cannot even attain who are those righteous, unless by faith, when we believe that there are such people. It was said about this that greeting guests is greater than this.
Certainly, there are answers to this in the literal meaning, but we will interpret this in the work. There is the matter of labor in the Torah and knowing the Torah. Labor in the Torah is that since man wants to serve the Creator not in order to receive reward, he looks only at the labor. If he begins to think about knowing the Torah it will seem like he is expecting a reward, for we must believe that no reward is greater than knowing the Torah, as it is written in The Zohar, “For the whole of the Torah is the names of the Creator.” Also, a complete man is one who has been rewarded with “The Torah and the Creator and Israel are one.” Therefore, indeed, greeting the Shechina is very important because the purpose is for man to achieve this degree.
But to come to greet the Shechina requires prior preparation, for one to be fit for it. In the words of our sages, this is called “As He is merciful, so you are merciful.” This is the interpretation of the verse, “and to cleave unto Him, cleave unto His attributes.” It means, as explained in the book Matan Torah [The Giving of the Torah], that only by a person working in love of others can he achieve Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator. There are many names to this: “Instilling of the Shechina,” “attainment the Torah,” “greeting the Shechina,” etc.
The main preparation, which is called “labor,” is that one must prepare oneself to annul one’s authority, meaning one’s self. We can call this hospitality [greeting guests], meaning that he cancels the view of landlords and craves the view of Torah, which is called “annulling of authority.” Naturally, he becomes the guest of the Creator, who is the Host of the entire world.
And since there are ups and downs about it, meaning that many times the body makes him see that he, too, is a host, meaning that he is allowed to do what he wants and he is not subjugated to the Host, who is the Creator. Naturally, he wants to do whatever he wants. But later, a person overcomes the body’s thoughts and desires and accepts that he is the guest and the Creator is the Host, and a person has no authority; he is only a passing guest in this world.
This matter, namely these ascents and descents, repeat themselves. It follows that from time to time a person always lets guests into his body. That is, a person always walks around with thoughts that he is the guest. We can call this “greeting guests,” where each time he lets into his body thoughts of guests. However, this is a great labor because it is against the body’s nature.
Afterward, he is rewarded with the reward called “greeting the Shechina.” For this reason, in order for one not to deceive himself that he is not concerned about the reward, called “in order to receive reward,” but wants to work not in order to receive reward, for this reason a person’s greatness is seen if he says, “greeting guests is greater than greeting the Shechina.” Then, a clear awareness is carved and becomes evident in a person that he is not looking at the reward, but at the work and labor, that he has something with which to serve the Creator, and this is all he wants.
We can understand it through an allegory: Two men who were great friends loved each other dearly. Once, one of them needed 5,000 dollars urgently. He said to his friend: “I need a big favor from you, to lend me this sum, and I know that you don’t have that kind of money, but I know that you have relatives and friends, and you can borrow from twenty people—from each one $250 dollars, and then you will have the money I need. In two weeks, God willing, I’ll pay you back.”
That person did not know what to do. Now he had to go to twenty people to borrow money from them with the promise he would pay them back in two weeks. “What if he does not have the money to pay back in time as he has promised me? What will I do? How will I be able to look in their faces, since I did not keep my promise to them?”
Afterward, he thinks differently: “He is my friends and certainly loves me, for if he did not know for certain that he will be able to pay back in time he would not make me feel bad.” After that he gets another thought: “It’s true that he would not ask for the loan if he did not know for certain that he would have the money to give me, but perhaps he made a mistake, meaning that the places from which the thought he would get this sum, his calculation was not very accurate, so what will happen if he does not pay me in time?” Subsequently, another thought comes to him: “Since he loves me as much as I love him, I have to say that he has thought several times before asking me for the loan.” These thoughts continue back and forth.
In the end he decides above reason, meaning although his reason leaves him in doubt if he will meet the payback time, but he goes with faith above reason and tells himself: “Since we have love of friends, I want to do my friend a favor, for by this I can show the love I have for him.”
But when he gave him the $5,000 dollars, his friend took out of his pocket two checks that he had to receive from the government, one to be paid in a week, and the other in two weeks. In that state, the person faced a dilemma:
1) He tells his friend, “Why didn’t you show me the two checks when you asked me for the loan? Only now that I have brought you the money you are showing me?” The friend asks, “What is the difference?” So he tells him, “I haven’t been able to sleep for two nights thinking what will I do if you cannot pay back in time? Now it is as though a load has been taken off my back because now I’m sure I can be a decent person in the eyes of those twenty people from whom I borrowed.”
2) He tells him: “Why did you show me these checks? If you hadn’t shown them to me now, I would have two whole weeks to work on love of friends above reason, and I would have a great gain in love of friends, which I regard as a great thing. By showing me the checks now, it’s as though you have robbed me of work.”
By the above allegory we can understand the words of the Midrash, that after Abraham was rewarded with making a covenant with the Creator, as it is written, “And made the covenant with Him,” he was rewarded with greeting the Shechina, and then he was rewarded with permanent faith in the Creator, without ascents and descents. He saw the reward for his work and felt that now he could not labor. He thought that now all his work was in order to receive, which is self-love, and longed for work, since here he could know for certain that his intention was not to receive reward, but that he wants to work not in order to receive reward. But now, after he was circumcised, he has no ascents or descents and no room for overcoming in the work.
Therefore, he complained to the Creator and said to Him: “Before I was circumcised, passers by would come to me.” That is, previously, I saw that I was transgressing the words of Torah and not keeping them as one should keep the law of the Creator, but then I overcame. “Returning” [“passers by” is written in Hebrew as passing and returning] means that I have repented. Afterward, they pass by again, meaning that I had another descent from my state. Subsequently, I overcame my state and repented, which is called “returning,” and so on and so forth.
It follows that I feel that I am doing something for You. But now that I have been circumcised and rewarded with making a covenant with You, I am not doing anything for You, but I long to do some service for You, so I will be able to say that it is not in order to receive reward. But this has vanished from me. This means that Abraham had a just argument.
However, the Creator replied to him: “Before you were circumcised, uncircumcised would come to you.” Nonetheless, you were uncircumcised. Even though you had some ascents in the work, you were still uncircumcised. But now you have been rewarded with greeting the Shechina. This is why the Creator said to him: “Now, I and My entourage come to you. So why are you angry at Me?”
Now we should know the truth, meaning whose argument is more truthful. The answer is that both are true, as said in the allegory. That is, the lender, after the borrower showed him the two $5,000 checks, since the borrower did not want his friend to be tormented by the possibility that he might not be able to pay him in time.
And the lender is angry at his friend because he had lost room for work. That is, had his friend not shown him from where he could pay, he would have work the whole two weeks—working in himself that he needs to adhere to love of friends and believe in my friend that he thought several times before asking me something, so that it would not pain me in any way. At the same time, the body always brings him evidence to the contrary, since it wants to install in my heart hatred of friends. Naturally, I would have ascents and descents. But then I would enjoy working with myself.
But now, by wanting to do me a favor, I lost. We see from this allegory that both are correct. That is, by each one claiming that he wanted to show his love, the love is established forever.
It is the same here: The Creator showed Abraham the love by coming to him by making the covenant between them, as it is written, “And made the covenant with him.” Likewise, by complaining to the Creator, Abraham showed his love for Him, that he wanted to serve Him not in order to receive reward, and that this is why Abraham longed for work called “hospitality,” as we explained concerning greeting guests.
Now we will clarify what we asked about what RASHI interpreted, “At midday, the Creator brought out the sun from its sheath, not to trouble him with guests. And since He saw him regretting that guests were not coming, He brought him angels in the similitude of people.” We asked, “Did the Creator not know that he would regret not having guests? If so, why did He take the sun out from its sheath?” We also asked, “Why did He have to send him angels in the similitude of people, for it seems as though there is deception here? He could have simply put the sun back in its sheath, so people could be able to come to Him.”
We should understand the meaning of taking the sun out from its sheath in the work. The light of the Creator is called “day” or “sun.” A “sheath” is like the sheath that covers a sword. When he wants to say that the light of the Creator is covered, he says that the sun is covered in the sheath and is unfelt.
During the work, meaning before a person exits his self-love, he must work in concealment. That is, although he still does not feel any taste in Torah or prayer, he should exert in Torah and prayer, and not say, “When I feel the taste of Torah and prayer I will pray and study.” Rather, if a person does not think of himself, but wants to serve the King, then he does not care what taste he feels. Instead, he should say, “Now I am keeping the commandment of the Creator and I want to bring Him contentment by keeping His commandments, and not consider myself, but only consider what will bring the Creator more contentment.”
However, when the Creator sees that he is already fit to receive everything in order to bestow, a person is rewarded with the revelation of the face of the Creator. This is called “taking the sun out from its sheath,” when the concealment of the face of the Creator is removed from him, and instead His face becomes revealed.
It is as our sages said (Avot, Chapter 6), “Rabbi Meir says, ‘Anyone who engages in Torah Lishma is rewarded with many things and the secrets of Torah are revealed to him.’” This means that if he engages Lishma, meaning not for his own benefit, but his intention in keeping the Torah and Mitzvotis only for the Creator, by this he becomes fit to receive the abundance because there is equivalence of form here, called Dvekut, meaning that as the Creator wants to bestow upon the creatures, man wants to bestow upon the Creator.
At that time, the concealment is removed from his place because the concealment was only due to the correction of the bread of shame. But now that he has come to a degree where he wants to bestow, there is no more room for shame because everything he receives now is not for his own benefit, but because the Creator wants it. Thus, naturally, he is rewarded with greeting the Shechina. This is called “taking the sun out from its sheath,” meaning taking out the upper abundance from the concealment it had been in until now.
According to the above, there is no room for asking why the Creator took the sun out from its sheath if the Creator knew in advance that Abraham would regret not having guests, called “passers by,” meaning ascents and descents, since He did not place the sun in its sheath. That is, He made the concealment only so that man could come to aim to bestow upon the Creator.
That is, even though he does not see any reward in this work he is doing, to achieve Torah Lishma, and not to receive reward, but now that Abraham has achieved this there is certainly no room for concealment. Instead, the concealment is removed from the place that belongs to the Creator, as it is written, “In every place where I mention My name, I will come to you and bless you” (Exodus 20:21).
The question is about “where I mention.” It should have said that if a person mentions the name of the Creator, “I will come to you and bless you.” What is, “I will mention”? It means that the Creator will mention His own name.
We should interpret that if a person annuls himself as we explained about the view of Torah, meaning follows “puts himself to death over it,” which is annulment of the authority so there is only the singular authority here—that of the Creator—then the Creator can say, “In every place where I mention.” Why can I mention My name? It is because man has canceled that place for the Creator. At that time, “I will come to you and bless you” comes true. For this reason, he comes to a state where the Creator took the sun out from its sheath, which is the greeting of the Shechina.
Naturally, there is no room here for the question about the Creator saw that he regretted, He placed the sun back in its sheath, since this contradicts the goal. The purpose of creation is as is written, “And let them make Me a Temple that I may dwell among them,” and not depart. As long as there is a place of equivalence of form, meaning a desire to bestow, the Creator, too, brings Himself to that place. Only in a place of sin—when falling to the vessels of reception in order to receive due to some sin—the abundance departs due to the iniquities. This is called “the ruin of the Temple.”
This is why He could not give him a state of greeting guests, for that state is still not Kedusha[holiness], for there are ascents and descents there. Instead, He sent him angels, which is complete Kedusha, for it could no longer be differently, as he has already made the everlasting covenant with the Creator. However, in the similitude of people, meaning that he must discover the situation, that it is only a façade, meaning that he will be able to criticize himself—whether he is aiming for the reward, namely greeting the Shechina, or craving to serve the rav not in order to receive reward.
At that time, if he delights in having been rewarded with guests, although he later discovers that they are angels, but his criticism of himself—that he wanted to see if he was deceiving himself and was thinking of the reward and not of the work—he already received from being happy that he could greet guests again, meaning have room for work. At that time it was clear to him that he was working not in order to receive reward.
It is as Baal HaSulam explained people’s question about the verse, “And He said, ‘Do not reach out your hand to the youth, and do not do anything to him, for now I know that you are God fearing.’” The question is, “Did the Creator not know this before the test?”
He said that the meaning of “for now I know” is that you know that you are God fearing. That is, Abraham wanted to know if he was on the path of only for the Creator and he himself did not merit a name. For this reason, the Creator sent him a test, so that Abraham would know that he can endure the test, for then he would not fear extending upper abundance downward, for now it was clear to him that he will not blemish the upper abundance because he saw that his only wish was to bestow, and nothing for himself, which is called “receiving in order to bestow.”
According to the above, we should interpret what we asked about what our sages said, “Greater is one who enjoys his labor more than fear of heaven.” We asked, “How can this be?”
It is known that there is labor in the Torah and there is the study of Torah. Study of Torah is called that which the Torah teaches us—to keep the commandments of the Creator in act and in intention. It is as we see that there are two blessings: 1) “Blessed are you, O Lord … to engage in words of Torah”; 2) “Blessed are you, O Lord, who teaches Torah to His people, Israel.”
This means that if we thank the Creator for allowing us to engage in words of Torah, it pertains to the labor—that we can engage, which is the engagement in Torah. Also, we thank the Creator for studying Torah, meaning that we have been rewarded with the Creator teaching us. This is called “knowledge of the Torah”—what the Torah teaches us.
We need both labor and knowledge. This is the meaning of what we learn, that there is no light without a Kli [vessel], meaning that there is no filling without a lack. Similarly, a person cannot enjoy rest if he did not previously have toil and labor.
However, here, in the work of the Creator, there are two discernments in the lack: The first is that he craves pleasures. This is the first discernment in the Kli, called “deficiency,” meaning that he feels deficient of this pleasure. The second is that there is a condition to satisfying his deficiency: He must pay for the pleasure. For example, in corporeality, if a person walks into a store and sees something nice that he wants to buy, it follows that now a desire for this something has awakened in him.
The second deficiency is that there is a lack that he wants to receive the object, but he is not given without something in return. Rather, he must pay the owner, and then he is given the object. The fact that he must pay is regarded as labor. This is regarded as a deficiency, since a person thinks that if he were given without pay then he would not be deficient, meaning he would not have the money to pay for the object, which is the reward required of him, and would not be able to give.
It turns out that now he has two deficiencies: 1) He wants that thing. 2) He cannot pay for it.
Thus, the craving for it caused an even greater deficiency because now he knows that he cannot give what is asked in return for the object. It turns out that here, in the work of the Creator, one whose soul yearns to cling to the Creator, a deficiency is born in him. But who causes him that lack of craving for the Creator? This comes from above.
This is called an “awakening from above,” when a person is summoned to enter Kedusha, as it is written, “You will be holy, for I the Lord am holy.” All of a sudden, a person begins to feel that he is far from the Creator, meaning where previously he used tobe preoccupied with other needs, and now he sees that all he needs is spirituality.
Afterward, he begins to think, “What is the real reason that I do not have spirituality?” At that time he comes to a resolution that it is only due to absence of equivalence of form, as in, “as He is merciful, so you are merciful.”
It follows that the first deficiency is that he feels that he is deficient of spirituality. This is the first deficiency. Now he needs to work on equivalence of form but he sees that he cannot, and this is the second deficiency. It is as our sages said, “Man’s inclination overcomes him every day, and if the Creator did not help him, he would not be able to overcome it” (Sukkah 52).
However, this second lack, too, comes from above. That is, the Creator has deliberately made man unable to overcome it (for the reason we already discussed) unless with His help. It follows that that deficiency comes from above, as well. It turns out that the labor is primarily in the second lack, which is regarded as not being able to pay the price required for studying Torah.
That is, there is a high price to being rewarded with the Torah, namely equivalence of form, so there will not be the bread of shame. This is the meaning of what we interpreted concerning the words of our sages, “The Torah exists only in one who puts himself to death over it,” and this is the real labor. It is for this deficiency that the filling comes and fills this lack. This is the greeting of the Shechina, or the secrets of Torah, etc.
Especially, here begins the real division between labor and the reward, meaning that some want to labor without reward, and want to be among the workers who serve the Rav in order not to be rewarded, or who work in order to receive reward, meaning the reward for the labor. That is, they look at what they can gain by the labor, which is called Torah, in the sense that the whole Torah is the names of the Creator. This is called “And you will know that I am the Lord your God.”
It is as our sages said (Berachot 38a), “When I take you out I will do something so you will know that I am the One who brought you out of Egypt” (as said in Article No. 13, Tav-Shin-Mem-Vav). I said there that the intention is that the Creator, besides delivering them from the Klipa [shell/peel] of Egypt, made it so they would be rewarded with knowing the Creator, as in, “The Torah, Israel, and the Creator are one.”
We need to understand the difference between labor in the Torah and knowing the Torah, meaning that he wants only to serve the Rav not in order to be rewarded, without the pay, called “knowledge of the Torah.” Since the Creator’s wish is to reveal the Torah, as it is written, “The Lord desires, for His righteousness He will extol and magnify the Torah,” at that time a person says, “I agree to labor several hours in the Torah so that I may know the Torah. And when there is a desire to reward me for my labor, I agree that the reward will be given to another. That is, I will labor in the Torah, and another will receive the reward, meaning the knowledge of the Torah that should be revealed by the labor that he has given.”
This is true labor because he wants only the labor and not the reward, although the reward is very important to him. Still, he gives it up because he wants to serve the Rav not in order to receive reward. And because the Creator’s wish is that the Torah will be revealed to His creatures, he wants his friend to be rewarded with the knowledge of the Torah, while he wants to continue exerting in the Torah. This is a true exertion because he craves the knowledge of the Torah, as is evident from the fact that only he is making the effort, and not his friend. However, because he wants his work to be for the Creator, he wants to stay in a state of labor.
However, there are people who walk on the path of “Be as servants serving the Rav in order to receive reward.” Because of this, their wish is only the knowledge of the Torah and not the labor. According to what our sages said (Midrash Rabbah, portion, “This Is the Blessing”), “The Creator said to Israel, ‘All the wisdom and all the Torah are easy. Anyone who fears Me and carries out the words of Torah, all the wisdom and all the Torah are in his heart.’”
In order to attain the reward without labor, and since though fear of heaven it is possible to receive the wisdom and the Torah easily, without any effort—as said in the Midrash—they want to be fearing heaven, in order to receive the reward, called “wisdom” and “Torah.” It follows that his fear of heaven is founded on self-love, meaning he is serving the Creator in order to receive reward, called Lo Lishma, but in order to receive reward. This is called “the view of landlords.” It is as Maimonides says, “Until they gain much knowledge and grow wiser, they are taught to engage in Torah and Mitzvot Lo Lishma, but in order to receive reward.”
Now we can interpret what we asked about what our sages said, “He who enjoys his labor is greater than fear of heaven.” We asked, “How can such a thing be?” According to the above, we can interpret that fear of heaven means that he wants to receive the wisdom and the Torah easily and effortlessly. That is, he expects the reward, not the labor. He does not want to serve the Rav not in order to be rewarded. Rather, he wants the reward and not the service, called “labor.” This is called Lo Lishma, which is in order to receive reward.
It is not so with one who enjoys his labor, which is the labor in the Torah, and does not think of the reward, but rather that through the labor he will be rewarded with a Kli, which is a place where the Shechina can clothe because there is equivalence of form between the light and the Kli, and he wants only to bring contentment to his Maker and not to himself, as said above (concerning having guests being greater than greeting the Shechina). Of course, this degree of one who enjoys his labor is greater than fear of heaven. In fear of heaven, his intention is Lo Lishma, but one who enjoys his labor thinks only Lishma, meaning he has no other aim but to bestow.
However, we could ask about the Midrash that says that the Creator said to Israel, “The whole wisdom and the whole Torah are easy: Anyone who fears Me, all the wisdom and all the Torah are in his heart.” According to the above, this is called Lo Lishma, so how can he be granted wisdom and Torah? The Creator says that through the fear they can be rewarded with wisdom and Torah.
We can interpret this the same as when I asked about the question people ask about the verse (Numbers 31:1-3): “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Avenge the vengeance for the sons of Israel on the Midianites…’ And Moses spoke to the people, saying, ‘…Go against Midian to execute the Lord’s vengeance on Midian.’”
The question is, why did Moses change what the Creator had told him? The Creator said, “Avenge the vengeance for the sons of Israel,” and Moses said to the people, “the Lord’s vengeance on Midian.”
The thing is that the Creator created the world with the aim of benefiting His creatures, meaning that the creatures will receive delight and pleasure. In order not to have unpleasantness, called “bread of shame,” about the pleasures that the creatures will receive, there was a correction that the receivers will not receive the delight and pleasure from the Creator except on condition that they can receive in order to bestow. This is called Dvekut, equivalence of form.
This is as our sages said (Hagigah 7): “As I for free, so you are for free.” That is, as I want to give you delight and pleasure without any reward, but I rather want you to have contentment, likewise, you are for free, meaning the work you do for Me will be for free, without any reward for your work. This is called equivalence of form.
For this reason, we can interpret that the Creator says to Israel, “It is easy: All the wisdom and all the Torah are in his heart.” However, man should say, “I do not want to the pleasure You want to give me,” which is as it is called, “For this is your life and the length of your days,” and “They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.” He gives all of this up although his soul craves these good things. Still, since all those things come into vessels of self-love, and self-love separates him from the Creator due to disparity of form, and he wants equivalence of form, therefore he gives them up.
However, precisely those who want equivalence of form and to be among those who serve the rav not in order to be rewarded, they are the people who have a Kli in which to instill the upper light. There are several names to this: “Instilling of the Shechina,” “greeting the Shechina,” “the secrets of Torah,” or “the light of Torah,” for then the purpose of creation to do good to His creations will come true.
According to the above, we can interpret what our sages said about the verse, “Greater is one who enjoys his labor more than fear of heaven.” It is written about fear of heaven, “Happy is he who fears the Lord,” while concerning one who enjoys his labor, it is written, “If you eat from the labor of your own hands, happy and delighted are you, happy in this world and delighted in the next world.” Concerning fear of heaven, it is not written about it, “and delighted are you.”
We should interpret this world as the time of work, while the next world is called “the time of reward” that he is destined to receive after the work, as it is written, “To do them today and receive the reward for them tomorrow.” Therefore, concerning fear of heaven, the reward is the main thing for him, that he will later be rewarded easily with wisdom and Torah, which is called “the next world.” This is the good he expects to be awarded later. This is why it is written about it once, since it is written about it only “happy are you,” meaning the reward in the next world, this is what he expects. This world is called “the time of labor.” He is not happy in this, and each day he stands and waits, “When will I be rewarded with the reward called ‘wisdom’ and ‘Torah’?”
But one who enjoys his labor is happy during the work, as this is all he wants. He wants to serve the Rav not in order to be rewarded. It follows that he enjoys in this world, called “to do them today,” and he is also rewarded with the next world, called “to receive the reward for them tomorrow.”
Accordingly, we can interpret what we asked about what our sages said, “I have labored and found.” Labor [finding] is without any preparation. It should have said, “I labored and acquired,” meaning that the labor was a preparation for acquiring, but finding is something that comes absentmindedly. According to the above, it may be so since while the labor is the goal because he wants to serve the rav not in order to be rewarded, and as I said above, he agrees that knowledge in the Torah—that will be revealed after his labor—his friend will be rewarded with it, and since the Torah is revealed only after the labor, which is regarded as light and Kli, meaning deficiency and filling. But now that he is giving the Kli and the lack, he agrees that his friend will be rewarded with the filling.
It therefore turns out that during the work he is not thinking about the reward at all. Thus, his labor was not preparation for finding, which is knowing the Torah, for this was not the intention while he was working. Rather, he longed to be among the servants who are serving the rav not in order to be rewarded. Accordingly, the labor was not a preparation for the acquisition. Also, the Torah is called “possession” (Avot, Chapter 6). This is why they said, “I labored and found,” since he was rewarded with knowing the Torah, which came to him absentmindedly, without any preparation for it, hence it is called “finding.”
According to the above, which we said about Abraham, that even after he was rewarded with greeting the Shechina he still longed to have guests because he wanted it to be clear that his intention was not the reward but to serve the rav not in order to receive reward. Now we will understand what Baal HaSulam explained about people’s question about the verse, “And Israel feared,” and then “and they believed,” which would mean that they would not believe before they saw. He explained that it means that even after they were rewarded with seeing, they craved faith.
And as said above, the advantage in work over expectation for reward is evident.
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