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What Is Half a Shekel in the Work – 1
Article No. 12, Tav-Shin-Mem-Zayin, 1986-87
The verse says, “When you take a census of the children of Israel to number them, each one of them shall give a ransom for his soul to the Lord, when you number them, and there shall be no plague among them when you count them. This is what they shall give: half a shekel in the shekel of holiness. The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than half a shekel, to make atonement for your souls.”
In order to understand this in the work, we must first present what our sages said (Nida 31b), “Our sages said, ‘There are three partners in a person: the Creator, his father, and his mother. His father sows the white; his mother sows the red, and the Creator places in him a spirit and a soul.’” It is known that all of our work is only to achieve Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator, called “equivalence of form,” since we were born with a desire to receive delight and pleasure for self-love. This is the opposite of the Creator, whose wish is to bestow upon His creatures.
It is also known that disparity of form creates separation. When the creatures are separated from the Life of Lives, they are called “dead.” For this reason, there was a correction that is known as Tzimtzum [restriction] and concealment, to such an extent that we must work on faith, to believe in the Creator and in reward and punishment. However, all the concealments are only so as to have the ability to engage in Torah and Mitzvot [commandments] in order to bestow and not for our own sake.
If the delight and pleasure were revealed, and Providence were revealed—that the Creator behaves benevolently with Hiscreatures as good and as doing good, it would be utterly impossible for the creatures to work and observe Torah and Mitzvot in order to bestow. Instead, they would have to work in order to receive, for they would have no way to overcome the pleasures they would feel in Torah and Mitzvot.
But once the concealment has been established, and the delight and pleasure in Torah and Mitzvotare not revealed, in order for the world to exist, so they would have some vitality and feel pleasure in their lives, we were given light and pleasure clothed in corporeal pleasures, as The Zohar says. But we must believe that this is only a very thin light, called “thin light,” which was given to the Klipot[shells/peels] so they can exist and sustain man before he is rewarded with receiving other Kelim[vessels], called “vessels of bestowal,” for only in those Kelim is it possible for the upper light to appear.
Therefore, the beginning of man’s work is to believe above reason concerning everything he sees and feels, that it is only a concealment that was placed deliberately for man’s sake. But the truth is not as he sees and feels, so he should tell himself: “The have eyes and do not see, ears, anddo not hear.”
This means that only through this work, by overcoming the mind and heart, can he be rewarded with vessels of bestowal, for specifically with these Kelim he can see and feel the Creator’s guidance as benevolent.
However, what can one do when he sees that it is not easy to overcome self-love, and to have the ability to come to the degree of bestowal in mind and heart? In that state, when a person begins to feel that there is evil in him, and he wants to exit the evil’s control, but feels that he cannot exit its control and that it is not so easy, but probably requires great exertion to obtain vessels of bestowal, he is willing to exert but does not know in what way he can arrange his way so as to clearly know that this is the right way that will bring him to the King’s palace, meaning to be rewarded with Dvekutwith the Creator, as it is written (Deuteronomy 30), “To love the Lord your God, to hear unto His voice, and to cling unto Him, for He is your life.”
The order is that first he must divide his work into two opposite ways. That is, there is a way where one must walk on a path of wholeness, and although he sees that he is full of flaws, there is still happiness: He is happy that he is not deficient. It is as our sages said, “Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot” (Avot 4:1). This depends on the extent to which he appreciates the importance of the King.
That is, he examines the measure of his desire to cling to the Creator, meaning that it is worthwhile to relinquish himself and annul before Him. This is as it is written in the book Matan Torah (The Giving of the Torah) (p 129), where he presents the following allegory: “The soul is an illumination that extends from His essence. This illumination has parted from the Creator by the Creator clothing it in a desire to receive, for that thought of creation to delight His creatures created in every soul a desire to receive pleasure. Yet, the disparity of form of the will to receive separated that illumination from His essence and made it a separate part from Him.”
When a person believes this, that his soul comes from His essence, but was separated from the Creator and became an authority of its own with creation, meaning through the will to receive installed in her, he gives the following allegory about it: “Now the soul is just like an organ that was cut off and separated from the body. Although prior to the separation, the organ and the rest of the body were one, exchanging thoughts and feelings, after the organ was cut off from the body they became two authorities. Now one does not know the thoughts of the other. This is all the more so once the soul clothed in a body of this world—all the ties it had prior to her separating from His essence have stopped.”
Therefore, when a person sees how important is his engagement in Torah and Mitzvot—that the Creator has given to us to observe His commandments, for by keeping what He has commanded to us we have the privilege of keeping contact with the Creator. And although he still does not feel this privilege, for lack of importance, since we see that in corporeality, when a person enjoys his life, how much time during the day does he enjoy the corporeality? He is limited in receiving pleasure. Instead, he has certain times when he enjoys, such as when he eats and drinks and sleeps and sees nice things or listens to singing and good music. However, he cannot eat, drink, look, and listen all day long. Rather, he settles for what he has and feels wholeness in the corporeal life, and does not say, “If I cannot enjoy all those things today, I give them up.” The reason is the importance of corporeality.
It therefore follows that if a person pays attention to the importance of the King, he will have complete satisfaction in being given the Torah and Mitzvot to observe as much as he can. Even if, for example, he has the privilege of speaking with a great king with whom not anyone is permitted to come and speak. Rather, it requires much persuasion among the king’s confidants to let him speak a few words with the king. How elated that person would be when he sees that many people are not permitted to approach the king, or are even told that the king is here in town and there are people who can speak with the king.
He sees that there are people in the world who do not know that there is a King in the world, and only a very small group of people in the world were given the thought and desire to believe that there is a King in the world. Even those who were informed about the King do not know that it is possible to speak with Him. But that person was given knowledge from above that he can come in and speak with the King, meaning that he can believe.
We can understand this with an allegory. A person who comes to drink water is told, “Go, come in and speak with the King. Tell him, ‘I thank You for letting me drink,’ and say the blessing ‘Blessed are You, O Lord…’” In other words, he thanks and says to Him: “I thank You for ‘everything that is made by His word.’” It follows that if he believes that he is speaking with the King, as it is written, “The whole earth is full of His glory,” what elation a person feels when he believes that he is speaking with the King for only a moment.
The excitement from standing and speaking with the King for even a moment should give complete satisfaction so he will have vitality and joy throughout the day. Although he does not see the King, we were given the belief that “the whole earth is full of His glory,” and we were also given the belief that “You hear the prayer of every mouth.”
Baal HaSulam said about that, “every mouth,” means even the mouth of the lowliest person. The Creator hears everyone! It follows that according to one’s faith when he is speaking with the Creator, meaning whether he thanks Him or asks Him for something, the Creator hears everything. That person, if he walks in this path, can be happy all day long because he feels contentment from speaking to the King.
Especially during the prayer, it does not even matter if he does not know the meaning of the words because his praying and uttering what is written in the prayer book, a person should know that this is the order that the ministers of the King have arranged, that when entering the King’s place, these are the words to be said. Therefore, it makes no difference if he knows what he is saying or not, for it is not man who has made this prayer or this thanksgiving, for this is the order for everyone, as anyone who comes in to speak to the King, they arranged it and not he.
Indeed, what a person asks is not written in the prayers or in the thanksgivings that he says. Rather, the prayers that a person says are written and inscribed in man’s heart. That is, a person asks not what is written in the prayer book, but what is written in his own heart. It therefore follows that although everyone prays with the same prayer book, each one demands and prays that He will satisfy the deficiency in his heart.
It is as it is written in the blessing for the new month: “Life, that the Lord will fulfill our heart’s wishes for the best.” This means that after all the prayers we say in the blessing for the new month, which our sages have set up, we conclude with our own prayer, meaning what the heart prays, and say that the Creator will fulfill our heart’s wishes for the best.
We should understand why we say that the Lord will fulfill our heart’s wishes for the best. Why do we add “our heart’s wishes for the best”? We understand that man’s heart, what he asks and prays for, comes from his heart. But who knows if the heart yearns for good things? The heart could ask for bad things. For this reason, we were given the addition “our heart’s wishes for the best.” Conversely, when our sages established the prayers, their heart was completely with the Creator. Certainly, all their prayers are good prayers. But we are not so, hence we must add “for the best.”
It therefore follows that one should rejoice in having been rewarded with speaking a few words with the King. This is called “right line,” meaning the path of the right, which is called “wholeness.” This means that he does not feel in himself any lack.
By this we can interpret what our sages said, “There are three partners in a person: His father sows the white.” His father is called “male,” meaning complete. But the mother is called “female,” deficient. This is why they said, “His father sows the white,” from the color “white,” meaning that it is spotless there, completely white, without any deficiency.
This is as our sages said (Yotze 16), “Every turn you turn will be only through the right.” This means that the order of the beginning of the work should be in the right, meaning in wholeness, when a person sees no deficiency in himself. Naturally, at that time it is possible to praise the King for giving him wholeness, and then it can be said, “the blessed cling to the Blessed.”
But when a person feels deficient, our sages said “The cursed does not cling to the blessed.” For this reason, in such a state he is separated. Therefore, a man must walk on the right line, called “wholeness,” from which a person receives life, when he is adhered to some extent to the Life of Lives. But a person, as long as he lives, can see whether his deeds are good or bad and correct them.
If a person dies, meaning has no vitality, nothing from which to receive life, he cannot correct his actions because at that time he is considered dead. And with all of his vitality, it is possible that if he could escape the life he is in while in this world, and die a physical death, or at least, if he could take a sleeping pill so he could sleep for at least three months, if he were to see such a sleeping pill and could receive vitality from it, but what can he do if in the meantime he wants nothing but to sleep? And if he must do something, when he remembers that soon he will have time to sleep, from this he receives his vitality for the time being.
For this reason, a person must make the first basis in his work the walk on the right line, the line of wholeness, without any deficiency in mind or heart. Baal HaSulam said about what is written in the Book of Esther, “And Mordechai knew all that was done, and Mordechai tore up his clothes and wore sack and ashes and went out and cried a great and bitter cry, and came up to the king’s gate, for it is forbidden to come into the king wearing sackcloth.”
The Even Ezra interprets there that it is the way of the degrading of the kingship. He said a commentary on this, that when a person engages in Torah and Mitzvot, or when he prays, it is regarded as standing at the King’s gate. At that time, if a person looks at himself and wants to see if he is OK, meaning if he is not transgressing the King’s commandment, through this act the King is degraded, by Him seeing that there are people, of whom he is one, who do not want to recognize the greatness of the King. They do not want to take upon themselves the King’s authority. On the contrary, they have the power to say that they do not recognize the King’s kingship.
Rather, the King’s glory is that everyone recognizes the importance of the King and everyone wants to serve Him with their hearts and souls. It is beautiful to see how they are all standing and praising the King, how He cares about the well-being of all the people in the country. This is the meaning of “It is forbidden to come into the King’s gate wearing sackcloth,” which is a dirty garment.
Rather, when coming into the King’s gate, one should be dressed with clothes that befit sitting at the King’s gate. Otherwise, when he is sitting wearing sackcloth, it is a sign that he is not happy with the King, but is rather sitting and mourning what he is missing in life and has no peace of mind. It follows that he sits and mourns, and he is in contempt of the King for the King not having mercy on him and not satisfying his wish.
Instead, when one engages in Torah and Mitzvot, he should believe above reason that what he has is very important, and that he is unworthy of more, but should be content with little and be happy with his lot, that despite the small amount that He has given him, he has a grip on spirituality, meaning small in quality and small in quantity.
From everything, a person should be happy, meaning with any extent of grip on spirituality that he may have. He believes that he was given this from above, that this, too, is not “my strength and the might of my hand.” Naturally, he can adhere to the Creator to the extent called “the blessed clings to the blessed.”
This is the meaning of what our sages said (Shabbat 30), “The Shechina [Divinity] is present only through the joy of Mitzva [good deed/commandment],” as it was said, “And now, take me a musician, and he was as a playing musician and the hand of the Lord shall be upon him.” Rav Yehuda said, “So it is with words of the law.” That is, Dvekut [adhesion] must be equivalence of form. It follows that when a person feels that he is cursed, there is no place for Dvekut. We should interpret why Rav Yehuda said, “So it is with the words of the law.” It is known that Halacha [law] is called Hakalah [the bride], which pertains to the acceptance of the Kingdom of Heaven. That is, the acceptance of the Kingdom of Heaven, which is above reason, is called “the joy of Mitzva.”
And there is a higher degree, called “the instilling of the Shechina,” and it all comes through joy. Otherwise, it turns out that it is specifically the blessed who cling to the blessed. But if he feels that he is cursed, he cannot cling to the blessed. Naturally, in that state he remains lifeless.
It therefore follows that when we say, “Blessed are You, O Lord, who hears a prayer,” it means that we are thanking the Creator for hearing the prayer. But when a person is deficient, for otherwise he has no room for prayer, he is in a state of “cursed.” Thus, how can he have Dvekut with the Creator during the prayer? Moreover, if he is deficient, what is he thanking Him for?
The answer to this is that by believing that He hears the prayer, we already have joy because He will certainly save us. It follows he already has joy about the prayer, for even when he is confident, he must work above reason that the Creator will help him and he will be able to immediately be rewarded with Dvekut, since the confidence itself gives him wholeness and he is already called “blessed,” and as said above, the blessed cling to the blessed.
However, precisely when a person asks the Creator to bring him closer, the evil inclination comes and lets him understand that the Creator is not hearing his prayer. It does not let him trust in the Creator’s help, and brings him several proofs and says, “Look back and see how many times you have already prayed and thought that the Creator was helping you, only to later remain bare and destitute? This happens to you every time, and each time you say, ‘Now the Creator is certainly hearing me and I’ll be permanently adhered to spirituality.’ You tell me, what happens afterwards? You fell again into the place of lowliness and sank into greater self-love than before you prayed. Therefore, why are you now so sure that now the Creator will hear you that you are already so thankful to the Creator that you say, ‘Blessed are You, O Lord, Who hears a prayer’?”
What can a person reply to the body when it brings him evidence from the past that his prayer was not granted? Based on what does a person want to tell it that this is not so, but that I believe above reason that now I am certain that the Creator will answer my prayer?
The answer is that since the whole foundation is built on above reason, and man must observe this Mitzva, therefore, the evidence from the past that you are bringing me—that my prayer was not granted and this is why there is no reason to trust in the Creator that my prayer will be accepted this time—you bring me evidence from the past in order to weaken my power of faith.
But I am telling you that specifically now I can say that I believe and trust above reason because you bring evidence only from within reason. I thank you very much for the questions you are asking me and for the proofs, for you are giving me a place on which to build the above reason. Therefore, now I am continuing with great joy for the opportunity to observe the Mitzva of faith and confidence above reason.
It therefore follows that from the same place where the body comes to weaken him from the joy that he has from the prayer, and his confidence that the Creator will now answer his prayer, a person needs to bring the power for faith above reason. That is, on the place of reason there is now an opportunity to place the above reason. If the reason did not bring him the opposite, how could he say that he is going above it?
Therefore, a person must always say that each time, he is given descents from above so as to have room to go above reason, so in any case, the body cannot weaken the faith and confidence that he has during the prayer when the body resists his thanking the Creator and saying, “Blessed are You, O Lord, Who hears a prayer.” The body argues, “How do you know that the Creator will answer your prayer that you are thanking Him?”
It cannot be said that he is thankful to the Creator for answering others. He thanks Him for this and says to Him: “Blessed are You,” when a person normally blesses for what he has obtained by himself, and not that he is thankful for others. And in general, how does one know what is in the heart of one’s friend?
Rather, a person thanks the Creator for himself, and also says to the body, “Thank you for coming to me with correct arguments, since now I have room to work above reason.” This is called “right line,” “wholeness,” and this is the main road on which a person must walk. From here a person draws vitality, for then he is on the degree of “blessed.” This is called “The blessed clings to the blessed.”
However, a person cannot walk on one leg, called “right leg,” which is wholeness. He also needs another leg, which is the left leg. “Left” means something that requires correction, where there is a deficiency that needs to be corrected. It is as our sages said (Sotah 47), “Our sages said, ‘The left should always reject, and the right brings closer.’”
We should interpret this according to our way that “right” is when he works in a way of “the right brings closer,” meaning that it brings him closer to Kedusha [sanctity/holiness]. He looks and sees how he is close to spirituality, and with every portion, when he sees that he is close to Kedusha, even if by a tiny grip, he is happy and thanks the Creator for it, and does not look at the negative.
“The left rejects” is when he is walking on the left leg. At that time he is looking only at the rejections, how much he is rejected and removed from Kedusha in both quantity and quality. This means that these two ways are completely opposite to one another, from one end to the other. For this reason, right is called Hesed [mercy], as it is known that the right line is mercy, and it is also called “day,” as it is written, “In the day, the Lord commands His mercy.”
The thing is that one who walks on the “right” looks only at the mercy that the Creator is doing with everyone, and how he himself is receiving mercy from the Creator. He thanks the Creator for all the receptions of mercy, and naturally lives in a day that is all good, for when he feels the mercies that the Creator is doing with him, he rejoices and has something for which to thank the Creator.
However, when he wants to walk on the left leg, too, concerning the “left,” we learned that the left rejects. This means that when he criticizes his actions—if something requires correction—this is the time to see only rejections: how he is repelled from spirituality and all his thoughts, words, and actions are immersed in self-love. He does not see any possibility that he will be able to exit the body’s control, which controls him with all its might.
Moreover, as soon as he begins to think that it is not worthwhile to remain in a state of reception, the body promptly comes to him with stronger arguments than the body usually said when he did not want to obey it but wanted to work in order to bestow, since now the body has become shrewder and asks more poignant questions.
He asks himself: “How come before I started to work harder and with greater effort in the holy work the body was not that clever, and now that I have begun to do the holy work I understood that the good side of a person should be smarter and more clever, and more energetic because I have engaged in holy work?”
According to the rule, “A Mitzva [good deed/commandment] induces a Mitzva,” I understood that the body grows weaker. That is, the arguments it had thus far ceased and it had no strength to argue because the Kedusha was strengthened by the good deeds that I was doing all the time in holy work. But now I see the opposite: The body has become smarter and presents stronger and more sensible arguments.
But what despairs him most is that it says it would be better for him to stop this work called “working in order to bestow,” and be like the rest of the people, without looking to be extraordinary, meaning to return to the normal state. That is, it is enough for us to observe Torah and Mitzvot without intentions, and we need to give all our energy to observing Torah and Mitzvot more meticulously, since this is easier than the aim to bestow.
Especially, I see that compared to those who want to be extraordinary, ordinary people engage more meticulously with Torah and Mitzvot than other people, and this awards them titles. One is called “righteous,” another is called Hassid [pious], and another is called “A very important person.” So why should he walk into the path of for the Creator instead of for his own benefit?
In that state, a person needs great mercy in order not to escape the campaign. One has no way out of this situation unless through faith above reason, and to say that the body has now become very clever because it is given from above a sensation of what is reason so it will now be possible for him to go above reason.
“Reason” means reason that comes from an external mind. Externality is the original will to receive, in which there is no bestowal. The “inner reason” is reason that dresses in the inner Kelim [vessels], which is Bina, whose origin is bestowal and who has no reception in her whatsoever. For this reason, the external mind does not understand that there is a reality of a desire to bestow. Hence, when a person awakens to do something in order to bestow, it immediately stands against him like an experienced warrior and begins to subdue a person with great craftiness.
Do not be surprised, since the verse says that the evil inclination is called an “old and foolish king.” So why do we say that it is clever? We should ask a different question about this: “How can it be said that an angel, who is spiritual, is a fool, as it is written in The Zohar about the verse, ‘For He will command His angels to you to guard you in all your ways’?” It interprets “His angels” to mean two angels: the good inclination and the evil inclination. If the evil inclination is called an “angel,” how can it be a fool? We must interpret that an angel is named after the action, as it is written (Judges 13), “And the angel of the Lord said unto him, ‘Why do you ask for my name, for it is wondrous?’”
This means that the name of the angel changes according to the mission it was sent to do. It follows that the action determines its name.
Accordingly, we should say that the evil inclination is called a “fool” because it tries to make man do foolish things, and they make people fools with great cleverness. Therefore, when a person begins to overcome and does not want to listen to it, it must show the person more cleverly that it is right. And when a person overcomes the arguments of the evil inclination, the evil inclination must come to him with even cleverer arguments, so that one cannot defeat it unless through faith above reason and to say that reason is meaningless and that he is going above reason.
However, if a person overcomes the external reason, which is making just arguments, he gains that each time, his faith grows to a higher degree than what he had prior to the coming of the evil inclination with its reasoning that it is not worthwhile to exit self-love. Because the reason of the evil inclination grows each time, one has no other choice—if he wants to remain in Kedusha—but to draw upon himself greater faith. That is, each time he becomes more needy of the Creator to help him be saved from his evil. This means that one should not pray that the foreign thoughts will die but that they will repent.
This is done specifically by receiving help from above in the form of faith above reason. It follows that he is not asking the Creator that the thoughts will die so he will not have to overcome the thoughts, but rather to settle for the faith he has in the Creator, that to the extent of the faith he has before the evil inclination came with its correct arguments, and which could not be answered without the help of the Creator, he receives the strength to go above reason.
But one who is not walking on the path of truth, whose work is based entirely on a foundation of mind and heart, asks the Creator to take these thoughts away from him so they will not disrupt his work. It follows that he remains in his degree and cannot advance, since he has no need to advance. Instead, he wants to remain in the current state permanently, this is all he expects, and he has no need for greatness.
Although he wants higher degrees than the rest of the people, meaning, if he is a wise disciple and knows that there are people who are not nearly at his level, and of course he wants to be at the top in the work, for this reason he wants to rise to a higher level than where he feels he is right now. However, this is all in excess; it is not necessity. One who prays for surplus, his prayer cannot be from the bottom of the heart because he knows that his situation is not so bad. He sees that there are people who are worse than he, and he needs it only as a surplus.
The rule is that “There is no light without a Kli [vessel],” and a Kli means a lack and a need that he must satisfy. Surplus, however, is not regarded as a lack in spirituality, and for this reason a person stays where he is and cannot move at all.
However, it is not so for one who wishes to walk on the path of truth, who wants to work in mind and heart. When the body comes to him and begins to attack him over why he wants to veer off from the common way, that everyone works in order to receive, and after each time he overcomes it, it comes to him with stronger arguments, in that state he does not ask the Creator to take away its arguments, but rather asks the Creator to repent on all those arguments that the wicked one is presenting, meaning that the Creator will give him the strength to go above reason.
It follows that his asking the Creator to give him more strength is not because of surplus, but simply that he wants to be a Jew who believes in the Creator, and it brings him thoughts that slander the path of the Creator and everything related to Kedusha. That is, whenever he wants to do something in order to bestow, it immediately comes to him with the arguments of the wicked, who mock the servants of the Creator, as it is written, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory, for why should the nations say…”
Therefore, the reason that each time he wants greater powers from above is necessity: He is asking for help to be saved from death, to enter life, for “The wicked in their lives are called ‘dead.’” And since it wants to put him in the camp of the wicked with its arguments, it follows that he is not asking the Creator’s help so He will give him luxuries, but simply for his soul, so he will not be wicked.
It therefore follows that a person always benefits from the questions of the wicked by giving him a need to ask the Creator to grant his heart’s wishes favorably, meaning to be good and not bad. Such a prayer is called a “prayer from the bottom of the heart.” It is received above immediately since it is regarded as a “prayer of the poor,” as it is written in The Zohar about the verse, “A prayer for the poor when he is weak,” where it says that the prayer of the poor delays all the prayers since its prayer is received before all other prayers.
The reason is that to him, this is not luxury, but he simply wants to live and not be as one who is dead, for the wicked in their lives are called “dead.” This is the meaning of what is written, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him in truth.”
We should interpret that the Lord is near to save those who seek, who want to walk on the path of truth called “for the sake of the Creator.”
That is, they see that they cannot overcome self-love and work in order to bestow, and ask the Creator to help them overcome the body. That is, they ask the Creator for only one thing—to be able to do something for the Creator, to be able to say wholeheartedly, “Blessed is our God, who has created us for His glory,” and not for the sake of the body.
Now we can understand what our sages said, “There are three partners in a person: the Creator, his father, and his mother. His father gives the white.”
“White” is called the “right line,” which is regarded as white, meaning that there is no stain or flaw there, but only wholeness. However, as said above, the wholeness is from the perspective of importance. That is, he sees that he has faults, but how does he know that he has faults? It comes from his mother, who is called “left line,” meaning that she is in the form of “the left rejects,” which is regarded as Nukva [female], a deficiency.
When he examines his spiritual state, he sees that he does not have all the desirable intentions, meaning that they will all be in order to bestow. Rather, he sees how he is immersed in self-love. Moreover, he sees that it is impossible for a person to come out of this control, but only the Creator can deliver him from exile, as it was in the redemption from Egypt. It is written about it, “I the Lord,” and our sages explained, “I and not a messenger.” That is, only the Creator can deliver the enslavement of self-love, called “the land of Egypt,” for Eretz [land] comes from the [Hebrew] word Ratzon [desire]. In other words, the will to receive wants only to restrain the Kedusha, and this is called “the land of Egypt.”
For this reason, once he has started with the right line, which is wholeness, and he should certainly thank and praise the King for giving him wholeness in the importance, as it is written, “Therefore, we must thank You and praise and be grateful to Your name. Happy are we; how fortunate we are. We are happy when we rise and in the evening in synagogues and in seminaries” (prior to reading the “Shema of Offerings”).
Afterward, we move to the left line, called “deficiency.” Meaning, it is called “mother,” female, who indicates lacks, meaning the real measure of his rejection from the desire to bestow. That is, he sees how each time he wants to place the intention to bestow on the act, the body repels him and he cannot overcome it.
In that state, there is room for prayer to the Creator to help him overcome. Subsequently, he returns to the right line and says that he has wholeness and a great privilege, at least with regard to actions. Although the service he is doing for the King is out of an intention for self-love, called Lo Lishma [not for Her sake], this service is still very important to him because whatever the case may be, he is serving the King in his actions.
And since the King is important to him, he can be happy with the small grip that he has on Kedusha. It follows that through the left line, he now receives a way to overcome in the right, and say that he is happy that he can appreciate the little grip he has on Kedusha. That is, before he came to the left line, he thought that he really did have wholeness, but it was incomplete wholeness. Therefore, naturally, I have something for which to praise the King. But now that the left line has let him see that he is remote from wholeness, it follows that now he should be sad and not happy. Still, he braces himself and says, “Since the King is very important, therefore, although I have only a small grip on spirituality, it is still important to me.”
It therefore follows that the left line always causes him to observe the greatness and importance of the Creator, or he will have nothing with which to praise the King, for there is nothing more important in spirituality than to have something for which to be thankful. Hence, the right line causes the left line to grow bigger in him each time, and the left line forces the right line to grow, and by this, the lines grow. When they come to a certain measure that it is clear that these two lines are opposite from one another, the Creator gives the soul, and then he comes out from the exile. This is called “He who comes to purify is aided,” as in the words of The Zohar, that he is given a soul, and this is the help he receives from the Creator.
Now we will explain what we asked about the half shekel and what it implies to us in the work. We should interpret “When you count the heads.” When one wants to be a head in Kedusha and not a tail, it is as we say on the eve of the new year [Rosh Hashanah], “May we be the head and not the tail.” A tail means that he himself has no opinion, but he follows the majority without any criticism over what he does, meaning that he wants to be independent and understand for himself the purpose of his actions. Certainly, after the work, we receive reward. But what reward does he expect in return for his work? Is it true what he has heard from his tutors, who explained to him that it is better to relinquish rest—both bodily rest and the rest of the intellect—and engage in Torah and Mitzvot, for by this he will receive reward? Why is this a reward? They gave him many examples of reward, that it is certainly worthwhile to make an effort in order to be rewarded with this reward. Or, there is a higher and more sublime reward. They showed him examples of reward only suitable to his being a beginner in the work. If he were shown a higher reward than the one they said to him, he would not understand the benefit of the reward due to the smallness of his mind. Therefore, now he must scrutinize and see if this is really the reward that he had heard from them, or should he go and ask what is really the reward he should receive in return for his work?
Moreover, now he wants to know what is really the exertion that he needs to make, and what is this matter of exertion, meaning if observing Torah and Mitzvot in practice is enough in and of itself or is an intention required, too. That is, do I also need to know why I am doing the act, and not because I am doing these actions because I see that there are others who are doing, and they are the leaders of the people so I want to do as they do. Rather, I want to know if it is possible to know the aim of Torah and Mitzvot, or is there no one in the world who has a clue what are Torah and Mitzvot, more understanding, more feeling than little children when they assume the burden of Torah and Mitzvot. That is, although the children grow up, become famous in the greatness of the Torah, this is only with respect to the revealed Torah. That is, they have more knowledge of how and in what way the revealed actions should be done. But in the actual greatness of Torah and Mitzvot they add nothing.
This means that all the greatness is only in the externality of the Torah and Mitzvot, but to have something internal, no one in the world has a clue.
Or, perhaps there are people for whom the internality that is in the Torah and Mitzvot was added. He wants to know its interior, meaning what special intention there is in each and every Mitzva[commandment]. He heard or saw what is written in The Zohar (presented in the Sulam commentary, Part 1), which says that the Mitzvot in the Torah are called in The Zohar by the name “613 deposits,” and they are also called “613 counsels.” The difference between them is that in everything there is anterior and posterior. A preparation for something is called “posterior,” and attainment of the matter is called “anterior.”
Likewise, in Torah and Mitzvot there is “we will do” and “we will hear,” as our sages wrote (Shabbat88), “Doers of His word, to listen to the voice of His words. In the beginning, they do, and afterwards, they hear. The Mitzvot are called by the name ‘613 counsels,’ and they are the posterior. When one is rewarded with hearing the voice of His word, the 613 Mitzvot become deposits, from the word ‘deposit.’ This is so because there are 613 Mitzvot, and in each Mitzva the light of a special degree is deposited, corresponding to a unique organ in the 613 organs and tendons of the soul and the body.”
By this we can interpret “When you count the heads of the children of Israel.” That is, when you awaken to be the head and not the tail, as was written above, the children of Israel, when he wants to understand what is Yashar-El [straight to the Creator] by their numbers, meaning the Mitzvot as deposits. It is written about it, “Each of them shall give a ransom for his soul when you count them.” Counting means calculating, counting how much he knows about the intention of Torah and Mitzvot, and the measure of his nearing the Creator by observing Torah and Mitzvot. At that time he can fall into despair and escape from the war. This is called a “flaw.” To correct this, the children of Israel were blessed first, and then Israel are blessed once more in the end, and there was no flaw in them. It is as it is written (Ki Tissa, Item 2), “Come and see; they established that there is no blessing above for something that is counted. It follows that in the beginning, Israel are blessed when receiving the ransom. Afterward, Israel are blessed again.”
(And in Item 3) It asks, “Why is a plague [also “flaw”] appearing because of the count?” It replies, “It is because there is no blessing in what is counted. And since the blessing disappears, the Sitra Achrais on it.” We should understand why there is no blessing on something that is counted. According to what we explained above, that the blessed cling to the blessed, for this reason, when a person begins to enter the left line, to examine if he already understands everything with his reason, meaning if he already feels that he is progressing in the work, and if he really has faith and confidence that the Creator will help him be rewarded with spirituality and will not remain in his lowliness, during the criticism, opposite thoughts and calculations come to him, from what he would like to see. That is, when he begins to contemplate if the effort he has made in order to be rewarded with some spirituality is worthwhile, and if he is walking on the path of truth, then he can see the truth better than the rest of the people. He sees his real situation, that he is actually far from Kedusha, and he begins to doubt the beginning. That is, he has exerted in vain because now he sees according to his reason that it is a shame to waste time for nothing.
In other words, before he began to walk on the path of truth, he had better thoughts about spirituality. He was not so materialistic, meaning he did not find such good tastes in corporeal things. But now that he has begun the work of bestowal, he has received more lust for corporeal lusts because he finds more pleasure in them.
It follows that according to this calculation, he doubts the beginning. That is, now he has greater regret for his current work, called “bestowal,” that he has left the previous work. He was satisfied with actions and felt utterly complete because he knew that the act was the most important, and there is no need to reflect on the intention. He also had assistance from our sages, who said, “It is not the learning that is the most important, but the act,” and in actions, he was complete. Naturally, he did everything gladly because he felt that he was a complete person. Should the Creator punish him, he understands that perhaps he deserves the punishment because he did not put a lot of efforts into the commandment, “Reprove your neighbor,” as our sages said, “Anyone who can protest and does not protest is punished for it” (Shabbat 54). It is only in this that he feels that he has been lazy with this Mitzva.
This is what he always thought. But now that he has begun to work on the way of in order to bestow, he sees the evil that exists in him more than ever. Therefore, why should he continue in this way. For this reason, now he is in a state of “cursed,” and “The cursed does not cling to the blessed.” It follows that now he is regarded as dead because he has parted from the Life of Lives, and this is regarded as death, called “plague.”
By this we can interpret the reason why there is no blessing in something that is counted, and “since the blessing disappears, the Sitra Achra is on it” and it can harm. Something that counted is regarded as a person beginning to count the gains he has made in spirituality. At that time he sees the opposite; he feels that he has only lost. The Sitra Achra always brings him proof that it is better for him to escape the campaign and he regrets every day that he has exerted in vain, for this path is not for him. It therefore follows that the person cannot do anything in the right way. It follows that on the left line, called “counting,” there is danger of death.
If one can be in one line, meaning walking on the path he walked on before he chose to work in order to bestow, when he knew that only actions were required, and not intentions, for a person is not demanded from above to work with intentions, unless he can observe the Mitzvot, this is really wholeness for him and he need not think about intentions. However, from this he will never reach the truth, for the truth is that every act should be for the sake of the Creator.
It is likewise, in a state of counting, when he is going to calculate if he has gained from the exertion he has put thus far into the work of the Creator, and wants to see the truth. There is great danger here because when he sees that he is not progressing in the work, he might regress from the work and come to a state called “pondering the beginning.”
For this reason, The Zohar says that there was a correction there “that they did not count before all of that ransom was collected and counted. It follows that first, Israel are blessed when receiving the ransom, and then Israel are blessed again. It follows that Israel were blessed in the beginning and in the end, and there was no plague in them.”
By what is said in the words of The Zohar, we can understand the advice that we can give when wanting to walk on the path toward being rewarded with Dvekut with the Creator. According to the rule that there is no light without a Kli because there is no filling without a lack, and a lack means a need, and the need must be from the bottom of the heart, to feel what he needs as necessity and not as luxury, when a person feels a lack, he is in a state of “cursed,” and the cursed does not cling to the blessed. In a state of blessed, a person feels that he has wholeness and no lacks at all. Otherwise, he is not regarded as whole. But if he is in wholeness and has no lack, then he has no need—called a Kli—for the Creator to satisfy.
To this comes the answer that Israel were blessed before the count and after the count, and for this reason there could not be a plague in Israel. The thing is that blessing means that the order of man’s admission to the work begins with the right. That is, he should appreciate the service he is giving to the Creator by observing the commandments of the Creator. To the extent that he appreciates the greatness of the Creator, he rejoices in being rewarded with doing what the Creator commanded.
This matter of appreciating the great one is in our nature. We see that it is regarded as a great honor, if there is someone who is the greatest in the generation and people regard him as an important person. Everyone wants to serve him.
However, the satisfaction in the service depends on the greatness and importance that the world attributes to this great person. It follows that when one feels and depicts to himself that he is serving the Creator, he feels that he is blessed, and then comes the rule that the blessed clings to the blessed.
It follows that in such a state a person feels himself as the happiest in the world. This is the time when he needs to thank the Creator for giving him the little service that he served Him. It follows that in that state he is adhered to the Creator because there is joy in him, as our sages said, “The Shechina [Divinity] is present only out of joy.” Yet, at the same time, he still does not have a Kli so as to have a need for the Creator to truly bring him closer, meaning that his intention will be only to bestow, called Lishma [for Her sake]. And in order to achieve Lishma, a person must have a desire and need. But on the right line, where he feels wholeness, there is no place for a lack.
Therefore, he must switch to the left line, regarded as counting and calculating, to see with his own mind if he really wants to be a servant of the Creator and not serving himself. That is, in everything he does, he has no other thought but his own benefit. At that time, he sees the truth, meaning the left rejects. He sees that he is unable to do anything for the Creator.
To the extent that he felt wholeness in the right and felt good about himself, delighted that he was serving the Creator, to that extent he feels bad about himself when he sees that he is in a state of remoteness from the work of the Creator. That is, now everything is black, to the point where he has no hope of emerging from this control. At that time he can pray, and then he is in a state called “cursed,” “dead,” “wicked,” for he sees that he cannot work for the sake of the Creator.
In order not to have a flaw, since regarding something that is counted, there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and does not sin, he always finds flaws. He must shift to the right line, and then he needs additional overcoming in greatness of the Creator so as to be able to say that he is happy that he has some grip on the work of the Creator, since it is a very important thing to serve the King. For this reason, although it is a tiny grip, still, with respect to importance, I regarded it as a great thing. The fact that the grip on Kedusha has now become smaller is because of the left line, for he saw that he was in utter lowliness. Hence, now it is difficult for him to say the opposite—that he has wholeness. But the truth is that when he says he has wholeness, it is only because of the importance of the greatness of the King, according to the rule that when something is of very high quality, even a small amount of the great quality is more important than a great amount of the low quality.
It therefore turns out that each time, he must increase the right by way of above reason, and always say that as much as he assumes the greatness and importance of the Creator, and that it is worthwhile to be thankful for a small amount, he should glorify and praise the King even more for letting him serve Him just a little. It is as it is written (in The Soul of Every Living Being), “We do not thank You enough, the Lord our God.”
It turns out that by returning to the right line, where there is work in wholeness, called “blessed,” and then returning once again to counting and calculating, and then above reason once again, where there is no place for intellectual calculations, this is called “blessing before the count, and blessing after the count.” This is the correction that there will be no flaw in them, that he will not remain in lowliness and will despair and escape the campaign forever.
This is the meaning of “half a shekel in the shekel of holiness.” It means that the work of holiness, to weigh the work, to give half the work called “right,” which is blessed, as ransom to the Creator, saying that now he is working entirely for the Creator and he has no lack in him, so naturally, I can praise and thank the Creator, and I feel that I am blessed, clinging to the blessed, this is the ransom that he will not remain in the lowliness of the left, called “cursed” and is regarded as separation from the Creator.
The other half of the work is in the left. This is as The Zohar says, that there must be a blessing prior to the counting. This means that before a person walks on the left line, called “counting,” he must be in a state of “right,” called “blessed.” Afterward it is repeated, and naturally there will be no flaw when they count them, meaning when he wants to be rewarded with the Mitzvot being for him as 613 deposits. This is the meaning of what is written, “The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel.”
“Rich” means “right”—one who is walking on the path of wholeness without lacking anything. Rather, he is delighted with whatever he has. This is why it is said, “The rich shall not pay more than half a shekel.” That is, that he will not walk on the right all the time, but should also shift to the left, called “counting” and “calculating.”
“The poor shall not pay less.” “Poor” means that he has nothing, for when he begins to count and calculate his work, whether it is for the sake of the Creator or for his own sake, he sees that he has nothing with which to say that he is doing this for the sake of the Creator. This is why it is said that the poor shall not pay much less than half. That is, he must shift to the right, which is blessing and wholeness. However, the work should be balanced. These two lines should be equal so that each of them will increase the other.
This is the meaning of what is written, “to atone for your souls.” Specifically by those two, which are opposite to one another, atonement comes, the soul comes out of the control of the exile, where the nations of the world control Israel with the power of self-love. By this they will be rewarded with a head of Kedusha, and will not be as a tail.
This is the meaning of what is written, “There are three partners in a person … His father sows the white.” That is, from the right side, called “his father,” “male,” and male is regarded as wholeness, and wholeness is regarded as white, without any dirt. The mother is called Nukva [female]. She sows the red. Here we see a place of danger that we must correct.
Afterward, the Creator gives the soul, since out of the two above lines emerges a Kli suitable to receive the flow of abundance. At that time we can say that it is regarded as “He who comes to purify.” This comes after he walks on the two above-mentioned two lines, and then “He is aided with a holy soul.”
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