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What Is a Light Commandment?
Article No. 26, Tav-Shin-Mem-Zayin, 1986-87
It is written, “And it shall come to pass that because you listen, the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant which He has sworn to your forefathers, and He will love you and bless you.” RASHI interprets, “And it shall come to pass that because you listen” to mean that if the Mitzvot[commandments] are light [easy/unimportant], which a person tramples with his heels, “you will listen.” “[God] will keep” means He will keep with you His promise, thus far his words.
We should understand why it is written that if the Mitzvot are light, which a person tramples with his heels, you will hear, meaning that the Creator can give what He has promised to the forefathers. But if they do not observe the light Mitzvot, will the Creator not be able to give what He has promised us?
We cannot say that it means that even light Mitzvot should be observed. It should have said simply that if one Mitzva [commandment] of the 613 Mitzvot is missing, you will not receive what He has promised to the forefathers. However, the words “light Mitzvot” imply that because they are light Mitzvot, the Creator cannot give the delight and pleasure.
Therefore, we should understand why specifically the light Mitzvot are the reason, as though they prevent the giving of delight and pleasure to the creatures.
Our sages said (Avot, Chapter 2), “Be careful with a light Mitzva as with a grave one, for you do not know the reward for the Mitzvot.” We should also understand what is a “light Mitzva” and what is a “grave Mitzva,” as well as the reason for which we should be careful with a light Mitzva as with a grave one. It is implied here that we should be careful with a light Mitzva as with a grave one only because we do not know the reward for the Mitzvot. But if we did know the reward for the Mitzvot, would it be permitted to make distinctions in the caution? Can we say this?
In order to understand the above, we should first know the meaning of the 613 Mitzvot that we were given to observe, and for whose sake they were given. Our sages said (Avot, Chapter 1), “Rabbi Hananiah Ben Akashia says, ‘The Creator wanted to cleanse Israel, therefore He gave them plentiful Torah and Mitzvot.’”
In the essay “Preface to the Wisdom of Kabbalah” (Item 1), he explains that cleansing Israel comes from the words “merit” and “purification.” This means that through the Torah and Mitzvot we can achieve Hizdakchut [cleansing/purification]. He explains there what we need to cleanse. He says that since we are born by nature with a desire to receive for our own sake, which separates us from the Creator because in spirituality, disparity of form causes remoteness and separation, and having equivalence of form, which is called “the power of bestowal,” is against our nature, it is therefore difficult to work in order to bestow. For this reason, He has given us Torah and Mitzvot, by which we will be able to receive the power to overcome and will be able to work in order to bestow.
Accordingly, we should interpret “The Creator wanted to cleanse Israel” to mean that through the cleansing they will be fit to receive the delight and pleasure that He wished to give us, but we did not have the suitable Kelim [vessels] for the abundance. It follows that the Torah and Mitzvot were given to us as qualification by which we will purify ourselves and will be able to receive the delight and pleasure.
It follows that observing Torah and Mitzvot is for our sake. That is, by this we will be able to receive the delight and pleasure. Hence, when can a person receive the delight and pleasure? Specifically when he can work without reward. That is, specifically when he is not concerned with his own benefit and everything he does is only for the sake of the Creator, then he is fit to receive the good, since he already has equivalence of form. Then, it is considered that he has Kelim in which the abundance can be without being spoiled. This is regarded as Kelim that are cleansed from self-love, and are corrected with the desire to bestow. For this reason, they have equivalence with the abundance, which comes only because His desire is to bestow, and in such Kelim the abundance can be.
Apparently, it means that one who wants to receive delight and pleasure, enjoy the world, and lead a happy life should obtain vessels of bestowal in order to later receive delight and pleasure. Accordingly, we should say that he bestows so as to later receive. This is similar to bestowing in order to receive, which is called Lo Lishma [not for Her sake].
The answer is that indeed, a person should crave to adhere to the Creator, meaning to come to feel in his organs that any pleasure he wants to receive will be on the path of truth. The truth is that a person should come to a state where he can say wholeheartedly, “Blessed is our God, who has created us for His glory.”
This means that a person thanks the Creator for creating him for the glory of the Creator, meaning to increase the glory of the Creator in the world, meaning that everyone will see His greatness in the world.
It is written about it (Midrash Rabbah, Beresheet), “When the Creator wanted to create the man, the angels said to Him: ‘What is man that You should remember him, and the son of man that You should care for him? Why do You need this trouble?’ What is this like? Like a king who had a tower filled abundantly, but no guests. What pleasure has the king with the abundance? Promptly, they said to Him: ‘Do that which pleases You.’”
We need to understand what the argument between the Creator and the angels teaches us, as though the Creator had to have their consent to man’s creation. We should interpret that the argument with the angels comes to teach us about the purpose of man’s creation, meaning for which purpose man was created. The Creator said to them, “What is your question, Who is man, that You should remember him?”
That is, the angels asked Him, What could man receive from Your creating the world for the purpose of delighting His creations, and by this imprinted in him the desire to receive delight and pleasure? He will be in disparity of form from You, without any Dvekut [adhesion] or connection with You, so how will he be able to receive the delight and pleasure? To this comes the Creator’s reply that man should work in order to bestow and not in order to receive, as you think.
However, they will say, “But the King has created the tower filled abundantly, and what pleasure has He if He has no guests?” Over this allegory, man will receive the delight and pleasure, meaning that man relinquishes his own benefit and does not want to receive anything. Rather, he wants to bestow in order to bestow. But since the King derives no pleasure from creating a tower filled abundantly, for this reason they want to receive the delight and pleasure.
By this we will understand what we asked, that it seems to mean that man works in order to obtain vessels of bestowal in order to be able to receive the delight and pleasure. It seems that it is as though he is bestowing in order to receive, which is called Lo Lishma.
The answer is that after a person has achieved the degree of Lishma [for Her sake], meaning that he has no need to receive the delight and pleasure for himself because he has been rewarded with Lishma, then comes the allegory about the Creator’s reply to the angels, that it is like a king who has a tower filled abundantly but no guests, so what pleasure has the king from having made the tower filled abundantly?
With this intention, a person comes to receive the delight and pleasure. This is called “receiving the delight and pleasure in order to bestow.” In order for the Creator to enjoy, having made the tower filled abundantly, and so He may have guests, the person tries to be among the guests receiving the delight and pleasure, since this will please the Creator.
This is called that we must say, “Blessed is our God, who has created us for His glory.” That is, the fact that we receive from Him delight and pleasure is with the intention that we will be able to tell the glory of the Creator to everyone by their receiving of the purpose of creation, which is His desire to do good to His creations. This is called “the revelation of His Godliness to His creations,” and this is why he wants to receive the delight and pleasure.
It therefore follows that the lower one has no intention to receive reward for his work. Instead, all he asks of the Creator is to help Him so he can bring contentment to the Creator. In other words, since the whole body objects to this view that he should do nothing for his own benefit, but only that which pleases the Creator, he insists on this and asks the Creator to help him defeat his own body, so he will have the power to overcome self-love.
According to the above, we should interpret what our sages said, “Be careful with a light Mitzva as with a grave one, for you do not know the reward for the Mitzvot.” We said that this implies that we are looking at the reward because they said that you do not know their reward, and therefore should be careful with a light Mitzva as with a grave one. But then, they said, “Be as slaves serving the great one not in order to receive reward.” Thus, what does it mean that you do not know the reward for the Mitzvot?
We should interpret that the purpose of the creatures is to achieve Dvekut with the Creator, meaning to do everything in order to bring contentment to the Creator. This is why they said that you do not know, meaning that you do not want to know the reward for the Mitzvot because you are working without reward. Hence, what is the difference between a light Mitzva and a grave one? In any case, you do not want to work for a reward, but for free.
However, how can one know if he is truly working in order to bestow? For this, our sages gave us a place where we can discern: If we can be careful with a light Mitzva as with a grave one, and tell ourselves that we are working without reward and all our works are in order to bestow upon the Creator, then we are careful even with the slight thing as though it were a great thing.
Say, for example, that a person knows for certain that when he speaks inside the synagogue it is not an offense, for he would certainly not transgress in public, where everyone can see that he is committing so many offenses in one hour. But in truth, speaking inside the synagogue during service is an offense, but a person does not regard it as such. This is regarded as a person trampling with his heels because he does not feel that this is such a great offense that he should be careful with it.
Yet, if a person calculates and says, “I do not care if this is a great or small offense,” that is, if I were working for a reward, then I would distinguish between a light Mitzva and a grave one. But I am working without reward, but only in order to serve the King, so why should I mind whether I am observing a light Mitzva or a grave one? On the contrary, I want to be careful with a light Mitzva as with a grave one in order to know about myself that I am working only for the Creator. By this, I can know if I am considering the reward or the service of the King. If a person can exert the same efforts with a light Mitzva as on a grave one, he can be certain that his actions are just fine.
But if he sees that he cannot exert the same efforts on light Mitzvot as he exerts on grave Mitzvot, it is a sign that his intention is only the reward, and not the actions that he wants to please the Creator. Rather, it is all for his own benefit.
The allegory I have given, about the person who speaks during service at the synagogue, does not mean that this is a light or a grave Mitzva. I only used this as an example because it is common to slight this custom. But what is a light Mitzva or a grave one is a personal matter, and each one determines for himself what is grave and what is light.
According to the above we can understand what we asked, that it implies that the Creator cannot give what He promised to the forefathers, as it is written, “The Lord your God will keep with you the covenant which He has sworn to your forefathers, and He will love you and bless you,” for they will not be observing the light Mitzvot, which a person tramples with his heels.
The answer is that in order to be able to receive the delight and pleasure that He promised to the forefathers, this light must have suitable Kelim [vessels] for this, meaning vessels of bestowal. Therefore, if we have the vessels of bestowal, He will be able to give us the delight and pleasure. But if the creatures have only Kelim for reception for themselves, there is no place where the light of the Creator can be because of the disparity of form.
This is the meaning of what is written, “And it shall come to pass that because you listen.” That is, the light Mitzvot, which a person tramples with his heels, you will hear as though they were the gravest of the grave. But this can be only when a person does not consider the reward, and therefore does not mind whether it is a light Mitzva or a grave one, since he is serving the teacher not in order to receive reward, but only to bestow. Therefore, he does not mind what he is doing for the King, as long as he is giving contentment to the King. It follows that specifically with light Mitzvot it is apparent that a person is working for the sake of the Creator.
Accordingly, the meaning of the condition of the heel is not that specifically if you listen to the Mitzvotthat a person tramples with his heels, He will give the delight and pleasure. Rather, the meaning is that the Creator has given us a sign concerning observance of Torah and Mitzvot, that we said that it is that by the merit of Torah and Mitzvot we will be able to obtain the vessels of bestowal, with which we will be able to receive the abundance. The text comes to teach us that if we observe the light Mitzvot, which a person tramples with his heels, it is a sign that we are walking on a path toward obtaining the vessels of bestowal.
It is not so with one who chooses between the Mitzvot. What is he choosing? Where he can get more; this is what he chooses. This indicates that his intention by observing Torah and Mitzvot is not to be rewarded with vessels of bestowal. Rather, he engages in Torah and Mitzvot Lo Lishma, but for the sake of receiving reward. This is why he examines each and every Mitzva, where is there a greater reward.
For example, we see that our sages said, “Circumcision is great, for it is equal to all the Mitzvot in the Torah” (Nedarim 32), “Good deeds are greater than charity” (Sukkah 49), and there are many other examples from our sages.
It follows that when a person says, “I want to do this in order to please the Creator,” and he has no consideration of the reward, here is a place where the Creator can give all the blessings, since here is a place that is called “vessels of bestowal.” This is regarded as what is written, “Every place where I mention My name, I will come to you and bless you.”
The question is, it should have said, “Where you mention.” However, it means that if the Creator can say that this place is His, since a person has given this place to the Creator and has cancelled his own authority, this is why the Creator can “mention,” meaning say that the person is saying, “This place is the Creator’s.”
Inapoi la pagina 1987 (ŞLAVEY HASULAM (TREPTELE SCĂRII) – link