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What Is Do Not Add and Do Not Take Away in the Work?

Article No. 28, Tav-Shin-Mem-Zayin, 1986-87

It is written (Deuteronomy 4:2), “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, to keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”

The interpreters ask, we can understand that the Torah should say, “Do not add,” that you should not even think of adding, since it can be said that it is good to add because this will increase the glory of heaven. Yet, for what purpose do the words “and do not take away from it” come, saying that should not lessen? It is simple: If the Creator has given us Torah and Mitzvot [commandments], we must certainly observe them and not breach the Mitzvot of the Creator.

In the literal, there are many answers. But what does this teach us in the work? Also, we should understand why indeed we are forbidden to add. It makes sense that it is good to add to the Mitzvot, especially since in the work, the order is that a person adds each time.

It is known that there is a matter of one line in the order of the work, and there are two lines, called “right” and “left,” and there is a middle line, as is explained in previous articles. We will reiterate it here as needed.

We should also know that there is a rule, meaning one rule, which applies to everyone, to the whole of Israel, and there are also individuals in Israel. That is, there are people who cannot be like the general public, meaning behave in regard to Torah and Mitzvot like the general public. Instead, they understand and feel that the work of the general public and its aspirations—what the general public aspires to achieve through the work in Torah and Mitzvot—do not satisfy them. Instead, they have other aspirations and goals than the general public.

Still concerning observing Torah and Mitzvot, it is said, “You will have one law [Torah]” (Numbers 15:29), there is no difference between a complete righteous and an ordinary person. However, this is so with regard to actions, meaning that they should aim to keep the commandments of the Creator as He has commanded us through Moses, and this is called “the intention of the work of Mitzvot,” and in this, everyone is equal.

But regarding the intention, meaning what one intends while observing the Torah and Mitzvot, meaning what he wants in return for his work, when he relinquishes other things and dedicates his time and all his energy to observe Torah and Mitzvot, in this there are already discernments, which in general are called Lo Lishma [not for Her sake], or that his intention is Lishma [for Her sake]. For the individual, there are many discernments in Lo Lishma and many discernments in Lishma.

Concerning Lo Lishma, the rule is that everyone begins in Lo Lishma. Afterward, there are individuals who emerge from Lo Lishma and come to the degree of Lishma. At that time they should be discerned by way of lines. That is, all those who, as long as they agree with Lo Lishma, there is a matter of correction in them. This is considered that they cannot see the true path of the work. Instead, they must feel that they are walking on the path of truth. Otherwise, they will not be able to keep observing Torah and Mitzvot, since naturally, a person needs to benefit from his work. If Lo Lishma is not the truth, but what is truth, it is that Lo Lishma is very important. But since they will not think of Lo Lishma, there is a correction that they think that they are working Lishma, so they will value their actions, for how can one benefit from a lie?

Baal HaSulam said that we should believe that to the extent that a person imagines that Lishma is very important, he should believe that Lo Lishma is even more important than he appreciates the Lishma, and that the importance of Lishma is beyond man’s ability to grasp.

In the work of the general public, there is only one line, meaning the action. This is one way. That is, he should know that with each and every act he does he is advancing, and many pennies make a great amount. It is as the allegory we said about it, that a person receives a rent from a factory that he has rented to someone. Each year he receives a certain sum, so he is certain that with each passing year, his fortune is growing.

It is likewise in the work of the general public. For example, if a person reaches the age of twenty, he has seven years of wealth of Torah and Mitzvot. If he has reached the age of forty, he knows that he has the wealth of twenty-seven years, and so on. It follows that he has nothing to worry about because his reward is secured. And so it is, since a reward is received for Lo Lishma, as well. But this is called “one line” or “one way,” and there are no contradictions here in the path of the work on which he is going.

However, when a person wants to break away from the path of the general public and enter the work of Lishma, we should discern two lines: 1) “right,” which is called “wholeness,” where there are no lacks. This can be in one of two ways. The first way that there is on the right is that he reflects and says, “Everything is in private Providence and man has no choice for himself.” If that is the case, he calculates and sees how many people there are in the world to whom the Creator did not give a thought and desire to observe the commandments of the Creator, while he did receive from the Creator a thought and desire to have some grip on Torah and Mitzvot. Although he sees that there are people who have been rewarded with higher degrees in quantity and quality, when he looks back he sees that there are people who have no grip on spirituality. Instead, their entire lives are about what they can find in corporeal lusts. They do not feel more than any animal, nor think of any purpose, that the world was created for some purpose. Instead, they settle for being able to satisfy the same wishes they had had as children. If they can satisfy those wishes, they consider themselves happy.

Yet, he sees that the Creator has given him mind and reason not to live like an animal, but to know that he is human, that being human means being at a higher level than animals, meaning having contact with the Creator—the ability to keep the commandments of the Creator. He believes that he is speaking to the Creator both in the blessing for the prayer and in the blessing for pleasure. He prays to Him for this little bit of grip that he has on spirituality, he walks about happy, and feels joy in life. He feels that he is not like other people, whose goal in life is only that of children, without any spiritual notion. This is called “right,” since he feels himself as a complete person who lacks nothing.

The second manner that is found on the right is as Baal HaSulam said, that one should believe above reason as though he has been rewarded with complete faith, that thus he should depict to himself, as though he already feels in his organs that the Creator leads the whole world as good and doing good, meaning that the whole world receives from him only benefits, and he is one of them. How elated he should feel at that time, when he is going above reason, as though he has a world filled abundantly, and he has only to thank and praise the Creator for awarding him with achieving the delight and pleasure. This, too, is called “right.”

This right line gives to a person that only here he has a place where he can thank the Creator for benefitting him, and only in this way he is regarded as whole and blessed because he lacks nothing. At that time he can be adhered to the Creator, since “the blessed clings to the blessed.”

From this a person can receive vitality because a person cannot live on negativity. It follows that through the right line he receives vitality in the work of the Creator because only from wholeness can one receive joy, and life without joy is not considered life.

There is another merit to the right line: By thanking the Creator for bringing him closer, although a person has only a small grip on spirituality, if he is grateful for a small thing, it causes the goal of serving the Creator to receive greater importance in his eyes each time. And since the Shechina[Divinity] is in exile, or as it is written, “the Shechina is in the dust,” meaning that spiritual work is unimportant, only corporeal things matter and a person appreciates them, and man is influenced by the public, hence, corporeality is more important than spirituality for him, as well. By walking on the right line, meaning by thanking the Creator for every single grip he has on spirituality, it increases his importance of spirituality.

Baal HaSulam said that by seeing above how a person appreciates everything that is spiritual, and the evidence of this is that he is thankful for everything, it causes some illumination from above to be given to him, since it is apparent that he will know how to keep it. It is as our sages said, “Who is a fool? He who loses what he is given.” The rule is that anything that is not so important is not kept from being lost. For this reason, an illumination from above is not given if a person does not know how to keep it. When they see that that person appreciates every little thing in Kedusha[holiness/sanctity], he will certainly keep what he is given. It follows that the person’s exertion to praise and thank the Creator for giving him the mind and reason to draw a little nearer to Kedushacauses him to be given some illumination from above.

However, one should also walk on the left line. Right and left are regarded as “two lines that deny one another.” The left is called “something that requires correction.” The left line entails criticism, when a person should see his true state in spirituality, if he is truly on the path of a desire to bestow or is deceiving himself, or is he altogether oblivious.

It is known that the most important is to achieve Dvekut with the Creator, which means thinking only about things that yield equivalence of form, and not the contrary. That is, he criticizes the order of his work, if he has already advanced in his work toward achieving the goal, or to the contrary, meaning that he is regressing and should think what he must do in order for his actions to be complete. In other words, he must see his powers in the work, whether he has the power to overcome, and if not, what should he do.

At that time he sees that only the Creator can save him from his state, so he can emerge from self-love and work only for the sake of the Creator. This means that he sees that only the Creator Himself can help him, as it is written, “I the Lord your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery.” This means that the people of Israel were enslaved to the discernment of Egypt, which is the will to receive for oneself, and they were slaves to the Egyptians and had no possessions in Kedusha because the Egyptians, meaning self-love, took everything.

This is called “The wicked, in their lives, are called ‘dead,’” for “the poor is as important as the dead” because the Sitra Achra [other side] took all their possessions. Nothing went into the domain of Kedusha until the King of all Kings appeared to them and redeemed them. This matter is always valid, meaning that whenever a person is in exile and prays to the Creator to deliver him from exile, the Creator delivers him.

This is the meaning of “He who comes to purify is aided.” However, alone, a person cannot come out of exile and enslavement to self-love. It follows that the left line is a place where he should pray to the Creator to deliver him from exile. Otherwise, without a left line, he can never know that he is in self-love because while in the right line, it is impossible to see any flaws, so there is nothing to correct.

Now we can understand the order that we have in the prayer, of chants, singing, and praising, and the meaning of prayer and request. Our sages said (Berachot 32), “One should always praise the Creator and then pray.”

The question is, If a person wants to ask something from the Creator, he should first establish the praise of the Creator: why he should do this. We can understand that when we ask a favor from flesh and blood, it can be said that first he needs to show him that he regards him as important. It is as though he is bribing him, giving him pleasure, and afterwards asks him to do him a favor, as though the giver will return a favor to the receiver like the receiver did a favor to the giver by giving him the contentment of praising him. But with regard to the Creator, can such a thing be said?

As we explained concerning the need for the two lines, right and left, we should understand that when a person wants to come into the holy work, he must first know what it is about, meaning whom he wants to serve. That is, first he must appreciate the greatness and importance of the King whom he wishes to accept him as a slave, to be as “slaves serving the great one not in order to receive reward.” Who is it who gives him the desire to serve the King without any reward? Only the greatness and importance of the King gives him the fuel to want to work without any reward.

Therefore, the order is that he begins to walk on the right line, and then all his work is to imagine the importance of the King and thank Him for giving him the desire and thought to take part in spirituality. It could be anything, even if he is given a small thing, to have a little bit of a grip on spirituality, he regards it as great and important, as said in the clarification of the right line. It is the same with the second interpretation of the right line, as it is written in the name of Baal HaSulam, that “right” means “turn to the right.”

This means that he must believe above reason and imagine that he has already been rewarded with faith in the Creator that is felt in his organs, and he sees and feels that the Creator leads the entire world as the good who does good. Although when he looks within reason he sees the opposite, he should still work above reason and it should appear to him as though he can already feel in his organs that so it really is, that the Creator leads the world as the good who does good.

Here he acquires the importance of the goal, and from here he derives life, meaning joy at being near to the Creator. Then a person can say that the Creator is good and does good, and feel that he has the strength to tell the Creator, “You have chosen us from among all nations, You have loved us and wanted us,” since he has a reason to thank the Creator. And to the extent that he feels the importance of spirituality, so he establishes the praise of the Creator.

Once man has come to feel the importance of spirituality, which is called “One should always establish the praise of the Creator,” then is the time when he must shift to the left line. He must criticize how he truly feels within reason the importance of the King, if he is truly willing to work only for the sake of the Creator.

When he sees within reason that he is bare and destitute, that state when he sees the importance of spirituality, but only above reason, that calculation can create in him deficiency and pain for being in utter lowliness. Then he can make a heartfelt prayer for what he lacks.

But if he does not have the right line even though he has prayed to the Creator to help him, it is as though he is asking the King to do him a favor and save him and have mercy on him. Since the King is merciful, he is asking Him for money to buy himself some bread. But a person does not know that he is in prison among those who have been sentenced to death, and now he has a chance to ask the King to save his life, meaning pardon him, and the King will pardon him and give him a chance to live a life of happiness, and he asks the Creator to have mercy on him and give him bread, and he settles for this, it is because he has been incarcerated for so long that he has forgotten everything, that there is a world where he can lead a happy life.

This is the benefit from first establishing the praise of the Creator and then praying. The reason is that once he knows the importance of spirituality, that it is “for they are our lives and the length of our days,” hence, when he prays, he knows what he needs and for what he must ask the Creator’s mercy on him and to give him life. It is so because while he was on the right line, he felt that corporeal life is as “the wicked, in their lives, are called ‘dead.’”

By this we will understand what we asked, Why should one establish the praise of the Creator and then pray? This is appropriate for a flesh and blood, whom we must first appease and praise, which makes the giver compassionate and giving, as the pleading person told him, that the giver has good qualities. But why do we need to establish the praise of the Creator before we pray?

According to the above, this is simple. It is in order for him to know what he is missing, for then he will know for what to ask the Creator’s help. This is similar to the allegory I once said, that a person was very ill, and a party of physicians came to examine him and diagnose his illness. The patient showed the doctors a tiny sore on his finger and told them he was in pain, but they did not want to look at it. He asked them, “Why aren’t you looking at what I’m telling you, and no one wants to look at it?” They replied to him, “You are in mortal danger, between life and death, and you want us to look at something so trivial?”

It is likewise with us. When a person has no idea what he is missing and he asks for something small like that sore, when in truth he is in the domain of Tuma’a [impurity], as in, “The wicked, in their lives, are called ‘dead,’” how can they regard him from above when he is in the domain of the dead? He needs to ask to be given life, as it is written, “Mention us to life.” But although we say, “Mention us to life,” which life do we expect? This is the question!

However, once a person has begun to walk on the right line, he begins to know what he is missing. That is, afterward, when he shifts to the left line, he has an example from the right. Yet, this, too, is not acquired at once, but is constant work, as it is written in the prayer for every day, that we must first establish the praise of the Creator and then pray.

Yet, the two lines must be balanced, meaning that one will not be greater than the other. Instead, he must always walk as in the corporeal allegory, on two legs—the right leg and the left leg. It cannot be said that he should walk on one leg more than on the other, and walking on only one leg is altogether impossible. Therefore, those who want to walk on the path of truth and achieve Dvekut with the Creator, must walk on both the right and the left, but not walk on one leg more than on the other.

Now we should interpret what we asked, What is the meaning of “Do not add and do not take away from it”? We asked, How does it pertain to the work that we should not add in the work? And on the other hand, it is perplexing: “Do not add” can be said when the Torah tells us, “Do not add.” But why the commandment, “Do not take away”? How can we think that it is permissible to take away from the 613 Mitzvot, but the Torah should tell us that we are forbidden to take away?

According to the order of the work, we should interpret this in regard to the two lines. It means that it is forbidden to add on the right path. Instead, a person who wants to walk on the path of truth must dedicate a certain amount of time to the right path, and then he must walk on the left line. It is in this regard that the commandment not to add comes—on one way more than on the other, nor take away from the lines. That is, one should not say, “Today I want to walk on the right line,” or to the contrary, “Today I want to walk on the left line.” It is about this that the commandment, “Do not add and do not take away,” comes. Rather, as our sages said, “One should always establish the praise of the Creator and then pray.”

The right path is called “wholeness.” At that time a person can be very grateful to the Creator. Afterward, he must shift to the left line. On the left path is the time to see his real state, as it seems to him within reason. Then, he has room to pray, since prayer pertains precisely to a place of lack, and the greater the lack, the more heartfelt is the prayer.

This is the meaning of what is written, “From the depth I called You, O Lord.” Therefore, the two lines must be equal “until the third writing comes and decides between them.” Then, after the work in two lines, he is rewarded with Dvekut with the Creator. This is called the “third writing.” That is, the two lines pertain to man’s work, but the middle line pertains to the Creator. This means that by walking in two lines, from those two, a place is made where the Creator can place His blessing. This is called “until the third writing comes and decides between them.”

Now we can interpret what The Zohar says (Pinhas, Item 321), “‘Their leg is a straight leg.’ The authors of the Mishnah said that one who prays should correct one’s legs in one’s prayer, as the ministering angels, so that his legs will be straight.”

We should understand why if the legs are not straight, his prayer cannot be accepted. It means that his legs imply something, that for this reason, when he prays, he feels deficient and comes to the Creator to satisfy his lack, his legs must be straight.

According to the above, we can understand the meaning of his “legs.” The “right leg” is the right line or the right path. This is the place to praise and thank the Creator. The left leg refers to the left line and the left path, and the prayer cannot be accepted before both lines are straight and not that one is bigger than the other.

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