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What Are “Blessing” and “Curse” in the Work?

Article No. 27, Tav-Shin-Mem-Zayin, 1986-87

It is written, “Behold, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing, that you hear the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today, and the curse, if you do not hear the commandments.”

Here, we need to understand the following: 1) Why does he begin with singular form [in Hebrew], “Behold,” and then speaks in plural form [in Hebrew], “before you”? 2) Why is it written, “today”? 3) “A blessing and a curse.” It is written, “The bad and the good do not come from the mouth of the upper one” (Lamentations 3). Hence, why is it written, “I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse”? 4) We see that in the corporeal world there is a place where the blessing is present, and a place where the blessing is absent, but there is also no curse there, and there is a place where the curse is present. It follows that there is a middle between a blessing and a curse. But here it says, “I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse,” meaning that there is nothing between them but either a blessing or a curse.

The interpreters of the Torah ask these questions. To understand all the above, we must reiterate what we have said thus far. We should examine what it is we have to know in order to know what we must do while we are in this world.

It is known that we should be cognizant of two purposes: 1) the purpose of the Creator, which we learn is to bestow upon His creations, 2) the purpose of the creatures, which is to do good to the Creator.

We should know that the purpose of the Creator is just fine. We must believe that He leads the world in benevolence, but our purpose—to do good to the Creator—is far away from us. Since our goal is the complete opposite of the Creator’s goal, and since the purpose of the Creator must be fulfilled, namely that the creatures will receive delight and pleasure as the Creator wants it, His installing in us a desire and yearning to receive pleasure is fixed and cannot be revoked. This means that a person cannot exist in the world if he cannot enjoy life. It makes no difference what he enjoys, but without pleasure, it is impossible to live.

Therefore, when we begin to work on our goal, which is to do good to the Creator, and not use our will to receive, which is what the Creator gave us by nature, we have no strength to go against nature. For this reason, when we begin to work in bestowal, we think that we can revoke nature, but in the end we realize that we cannot.

He has no other counsel but prayer. It is as our sages said, “He who comes to purify is aided.” Only through help from above can he achieve the goal of the created beings to equalize in form with the Creator. That is, as the Creator wants to do good to His creations, the creatures should want to bestow upon the Creator, which is called “doing good to the Creator.”

The order of the work should be that we must believe above reason in the importance and greatness of the Creator. When we feel the greatness of the King, by nature, we annul before the King. We do not need to exert on this, since we see that by nature, the Creator has given the small one the power to annul before the greater one, since when the smaller one serves the greater one, it feels pleasure in this. It follows that the pleasure it feels while serving the great one does not contradict the nature of the creature, called “will to receive pleasure,” since it receives pleasure while working for the great one.

It is known from the allegory that a famous ADMOR [distinguished rabbi] comes and many people greet him at the airport. He gives his suitcase to someone to take it to the taxi. If the rabbi were to give the suitcase to a porter, who does not recognize the greatness of the rabbi, the rabbi would have to pay the porter. Sometimes the porter would even argue over the wages and would want more money than the rabbi gave him. However, if the rabbi were to give his suitcase to one of his followers and would want to pay him, he would not accept it, since there is a rule that one cannot do anything unless he feels pleasure in it. While doing it, work without pleasure is called “labor.” That is, the person would not do this if he did not know he would be paid for the effort.

It turns out that if he is serving the great one, and it is inherent in nature that there is pleasure when serving the great one, it follows that he does not need a reward because this is his reward. That is, he is receiving reward, called “pleasure,” while serving. It follows that all we need in order to be able to work in order to bestow is the recognition of His greatness, and then the body will naturally annul before Him.

However, since there was a concealment on His light for the purpose of correction, so that the will to receive will work in order to bestow, for this purpose we were given the work of faith, to believe in the greatness of the Creator and depict His greatness every time so we will be able to work in order to bestow and receive nothing in return.

It follows that the person asks the Creator to remove the concealment from himself. This brings up the question, How can one pray to the Creator to remove the concealment from himself, since it was given for our benefit, so that the shame would be corrected? Thus, how can we pray that the concealment will be taken away from us?

The answer is that the concealment was placed because man is born with a desire to receive for his own sake, and there is no greater pleasure than being in the King’s palace. Yet, when receiving pleasure, it will be for our own sake, and this is called “disparity of form.”

For this reason, there was a concealment, meaning that before a person is rewarded with vessels of bestowal, so he can receive in order to bestow, a person feels only Tzimtzum [restriction] and concealment of the face. For this reason, although man has not been rewarded with vessels of bestowal, and all his work is currently in order to be able to bestow in order to bestow, and he does not want to receive anything for his own sake, he cannot do so because the body is enslaved to self-love.

For this reason, he asks the Creator to remove the concealment from himself, not in order to enable him to enjoy His light. On the contrary, he wants the Creator to remove from him the concealment of the face so he will be able to bestow upon the Creator. It follows that the intention that he wants the Creator to give him is the ability only to bestow.

His intention is not that the Creator will open his eyes and give him the revelation of the face in order to derive pleasure for his own benefit. This is called “disparity of form.” Rather, he wants the opposite from the Creator—to have equivalence of form, meaning to have the power to bestow upon the Creator, called “equivalence of form.”

Once a person has been rewarded with vessels of bestowal. and can act in order to bestow upon the Creator, comes the work with vessels of reception. That is, he says to the Creator, “Now I want to receive delight because Your will is to do good to His creations. For this reason, I want to do Your will, which You want to give to us.”

It is as we interpreted Midrash Rabbah, Beresheet, concerning the Creator’s reply to the angels who complained about the creation of man. He said, “What is this like? It is like a king who has a tower filled abundantly but no guests.” For this reason, a person wants to receive the delight and pleasure from the Creator, so as to delight the King, as said above (Article No. 26, Tav-Shin-Mem-Zayin).

By this we can explain the third question, about the verse, “I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse.” It is written, “The bad and the good do not come from the mouth of the upper one.” But according to what we learned, the purpose of creation is to do good to His creations. Thus, there is no good and bad in this purpose; it is all good! Hence, from where do those two discernments of good and bad come?

This extends from the point of Tzimtzum, which is the root of the judgment. Malchut de Ein Sof, which received the light in the vessel of reception, desired equivalence of form, as there is in the light. For this reason, she performed the Tzimtzum, not wanting to receive any longer with this Kli[vessel]. It follows that Malchut has made all the boundaries between light and darkness, and this is why we attribute the Tzimtzum to the lower one.

It is written (in the commentary Panim Masbirot) that “No force from the Emanator is revealed as a boundary. This light that comes to them is called Ohr Pnimi [Inner Light], yet it is a restricted illumination because of the point itself.”

In other words, the boundary on receiving only in order to bestow is the point itself, which is regarded as Malchut, called “a vessel to receive for herself.” She made the good, meaning to receive in order to bestow, as well as the bad, not to receive in order to receive. And because that which is a will in the upper one becomes a binding law in the lower one, for this reason, one who wants to receive in order to receive has a sensation of bad and separation from the Life of Lives.

It follows that the reason for the good and bad was made by the lower one. That is, the lower one made a reality of good and gad. It is as was said above, that by Malchut desiring equivalence of form, from here extends good and bad in the world. This means that if the lower ones follow the path of the Tzimtzum and want only to work in order to bestow, they will have delight and pleasure. But if they do not follow this line, examining everything so it is precisely in order to bestow, they will have darkness and not light.

It follows that from the upper one, meaning the abundance that emerged from the upper one, it was all good. There was no place for bad there, as it is written (beginning of the book Tree of Life), “Before the Tzimtzum, there was He is one and His name One.” That is, there was still no issue of distance between the light, called “He,” and the Kli, called “His name.” Only after the Tzimtzum did the will to receive become different in form.

By this we will also understand the fourth question, where it is written “blessing and curse,” which means that there is no middle between them. In corporeality, we see that there is a place where there is a blessing, or a place where there is a curse. But there is also a place where there are neither blessing nor curse. For the most part, a person who trades or goes to live in some city does not insist that it will be specifically a place of blessing, since normally, if it is not a place of curse, that place is regarded as a place where he can live. Here, however, the verse, “I set before you a blessing and a curse” implies that there is nothing in between.

The answer is that the good who does good, who is called “Life,” if we give vessels of bestowal, it is possible to adhere to the “Life of Lives.” It follows that only in this way can one be rewarded with the delight and pleasure called “blessing.” But if a person has only vessels of reception, he must be separated from the Life of Lives and he has no Kelim in which to receive the delight and pleasure. It follows that he is in the dark and has no light or spiritual life, and no curse is worse than this.

But in the corporeal world, we see that there is a middle between blessing and curse, since the order of the work is that when a person wants to commence in the work of the Creator, to work for the sake of the Creator, he must begin with an in between. That is, he wants to exit the curse and enter the blessing.

But since by nature, he is in a state of “curse,” meaning that there was a Tzimtzum and concealment on the will to receive with which man was born, so the light of life will not shine there, he wants to come out of there. For this reason, there must be something in between, called Lo Lishma [not for Her sake]. This means that the things he does are acts of bestowal—both between man and God, and between man and man. However, he still does not have the intention to bestow.

Since from Lo Lishma we come to Lishma [for Her sake], this is called “middle,” between a curse and a blessing. Since all that is missing in order to be rewarded with the blessing is the aim to bestow, and since this world is called the “world of action,” meaning the “place of work,” hence, according to the order of the work there is a middle.

But from the perspective of the goal, there are no two things but only one thing. This means that either he is rewarded with the goal, called “blessing,” or he is not rewarded with the goal. It follows that he remains inside the curse, which is death, as it is written, “The wicked, in their lives, are called ‘dead.’” Therefore, there is no middle here, but either a curse or a blessing in that he is rewarded with Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator.

According to the above we can understand the first question we asked, Why does it begin with singular form, “behold,” and then says “before you,” in plural form? It is because there is a matter of a giver here, who is the Creator, and a receiver, who are the people of Israel, and it is known that from the perspective of the Creator there are no degrees, as it is written, “I the Lord do not change,” but all the changes are only in the receivers.

Therefore, when speaking from the perspective of the giver, He says, “I am placing before you one thing,” since from the perspective of the giver, the light of doing good to His creations is called by the name, “one simple light,” He therefore speaks to the entire collective and says, “I am placing one thing before you.” But when speaking from the perspective of the receiver, there are many degrees in the receivers, as our sages said, “As their faces differ, their views differ” (Berachot 58).

For this reason, when speaking to the receivers, He said, “Behold,” in singular form, since each individual has his unique vision. This is the reason for the singular form, “Behold,” which means that each one should see for himself and should not rely on the vision of one’s friend. It is as the ARI wrote, that one cannot correct that which one’s friend corrects, but each one has his own correction.

Therefore, the word “Behold” refers to the receivers, who each receive a unique vision. And when speaking from the perspective of the giver, He gives the same thing to everyone. This is why the words, “I am setting before you,” speak to the entire collective.

Now we will understand what we asked, What does it imply to us when it says, “Which I am setting before you today”? It means that this matter of blessing and curse applies each and every day, that each and every day there are special corrections, as the ARI says (the writings of the ARI, book, Gate of Intentions, in the beginning of “Intentions for Shabbat”), “Moreover, in the weekdays themselves there is a big difference between the prayer on one day from the prayer on the next day. There is not one prayer, since the day when the world was created to the end of the world, that will be similar to another in any way.” This is why he says the word “today,” as it applies to each and every day.

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