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The Measure of Practicing Mitzvot [Commandments]

Article No. 25, Tav-Shin-Mem-Vav, 1985-86

We were given 613 Mitzvot [commandments] to perform in practice. Even without the intention, if he merely aims that now he is performing one of the Mitzvot that the Creator has commanded us, if we settle for observing the Mitzva [sin. for commandments] without thinking about any intention, but only straightforward, then he has done his duty.

However, we should keep all the Mitzvot according to the conditions in each Mitzva. For example, a person may keep the Mitzva of Tzitzit [tassels—adornment consisting of cords fastened at one end], as it is written, “They shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments.” However, there are distinctions concerning the material from which the Talit [a prayer shawl that is worn during the morning Jewish services (on each edge of which there is a Tzitzit] is made, as well as the length and width of the Talit. Also, there are distinctions in the Tzitzit itself—the material from which it is made—wool, flax, or other materials—as well as the number of fringes, its length, and so forth.

The conditions in the Mitzva of Tzitzit should certainly be applied. Otherwise it is regarded as an incomplete practice of the Mitzva, and is a deficiency in the act. Also, there is adornment in the practice of Mitzvot, as our sages said about the verse, “This is my God and I will praise Him,” and there are many other precisions to make.

This matter applies to every performance of Mitzvot, whether Mitzvot from the Torah, from our sages, or Mitzvot that we keep because of customs, as our ages said, “Israel’s customs are Torah” (Minchot, 20b), “and our father’s customs are Torah.”

The extent of precisions, meaning how meticulous we should be with the Mitzvot, was given to us in the Mitzva not to eat leaven on Passover. An example of how meticulous we should be: This was given to us on Passover, since leaven implies the evil inclination. For this reason we have many restrictions and precisions. This was given to us as an example of how we should be careful not to come, God forbid, into actually transgressing. Therefore, we were given precisions that will make us stay away from the transgression itself, as well as keep the Mitzva itself.

However, the Baal Shem Tov said, “Let him not be too meticulous.” That is, one should not dedicate all his senses and time to precisions. Rather, as much as one can, one should keep the Mitzvot with all their details and precisions, but without excess. Perhaps this is why we do not apply the same strictness and precisions to all the Mitzvot as we do on Passover, for we need our energy for the intentions in the actions, too. Otherwise we will not have much time for intention.

This means that we must also think about the intention, as it is written, “I have created the evil inclination, I have created the Torah as a spice.” Thus, we must dedicate time and effort to the intention, too, meaning see to what extent the evil inclination is corrected through the Torah and Mitzvot. That is, we must criticize our desire, called “will to receive,” to see if we have become more distant from using the will to receive and moving away from it, and how much we have entered the work of bestowal. That is, we must constantly check ourselves so as to know for certain the measure of hatred we have acquired to hating our vessels of reception, and to craving vessels of bestowal.

Therefore, when one engages in some Mitzva, he must first know that he is keeping the Mitzva in a straightforward manner—that now he is not thinking of anything but the Mitzva he is performing, meaning to know that he is observing the commandment of the Creator and believe that the Creator has commanded us through Moses to keep His commandment. By keeping the 613 Mitzvot that He has given us, as well as through the Mitzvot of our sages, and by keeping the customs of Israel, which are also Torah, everything he does should be with the intention that he wants to delight the Creator. He was given a great privilege from above to be able to speak with the Creator. Therefore, when he blesses, both blesses on pleasures and blesses on Mitzvot, he should know and think a little bit to Whom he is giving the blessing, to Whom is he giving thanks.

One should depict that if he were allowed in to see the most important man in town, whom not everyone is permitted to approach, how would he feel when he entered and spoke to him? Or if he were permitted to come to the most important person in the country, what joy he would have. And also, if he imagines that he were allowed in to speak with the most important person in the world, who speaks only to a chosen few, how happy and elated he would be that he was given this great importance, which others are not so fortunate to have? We see that in our world, this gives us satisfaction and contentment in life.

Accordingly, the question is, “Why can’t we depict this calculation and depiction of importance we have for a person, if he is respected in corporeality, that we can speak to someone so importance, while spirituality, when we speak to the Creator, we do not have this feeling of sensing with whom we speak, so as to tell ourselves, “Look how many people in the world do not have the privilege of speaking to the King of the world? But to us, the Creator has given a thought and desire to come in and speak with Him.”

However, a person must believe in what our sages said, “If the Creator did not help him, he would not overcome it” (Kidushin, 30). Thus, we should say that now the Creator has approached us and helped us, so why are we not inspired by the Creator and our hearts are not rejoicing?

However, when one speaks words of Torah and prays to the Creator, or when one blesses, he should imagine that he is speaking to an honorable person, to the King of the world, and wish that it will help him. That is, after all the depictions, it is still not the same as speaking to an honorable person in corporeality and the feeling he has then, where he feels the importance without any work. But in spirituality, he must toil with various depictions until he feels some importance that he is speaking to the Creator.

However, the matter is very simple: In corporeality, he sees that people respect him. Hence, the individual is influenced by the importance that the public has, and takes upon himself to serve him because of the importance he has absorbed from the public in regard to that person.

But with respect to the Creator, a person cannot see the true measure of people’s appreciation of the Creator. Rather, everything is built on faith. Where one must believe is where labor begins, for then doubts are born and one must decide whether yes and no.

There is a lot of work in spirituality when a person must appreciate the Creator, and for this to relinquish several things that the body enjoys. He feels as painful when he relinquishes his pleasures, and all in order to win the Creator’s approval and be allowed to come in and speak with Him, so He will let him feel with Whom he speaks, meaning that the Creator will be revealed to him and will not be so concealed.

But if he could receive the importance of the Creator from other people, as it is in corporeality, he would have no work. However, there is a special thing about Kedusha [holiness], called “Shechina [Divinity] in exile” or “Shechina in the dust.” It shows us the unimportance, which is the opposite of importance.

Naturally, we cannot receive importance from the public because we see that the public has no appreciation or regard for spirituality, from which he can receive support to rely on and go with what he was given importance, so he can relinquish the worldly life, called “corporeal life,” in order to take upon himself to serve the Creator in order to bestow and not for his own sake.

This is so because he does not see that others appreciate spirituality enough to make it worthwhile to relinquish self-love. This is so because when he begins to look at other learners of Torah and observers of Mitzvot, he does not see them with enough importance to cause them to work in order to bestow. Naturally, he does not receive the importance of spirituality as he receives the importance of corporeality from the public.

In corporeality he sees that there is a public that appreciates someone. It does not matter who or what they appreciate, but he is influence by them. But in spirituality he does not see that anyone, not even individuals, who appreciates spirituality. So what can he do to acquire importance that will make it worthwhile for him to work in order to bestow?

It follows that man has a lot of work to exert to do what he can in order to obtain some importance, so he will understand that it is a great privilege that he has been rewarded with serving the Creator and keeping His Mitzvot in utter simplicity, meaning without any great intentions. Rather, one should simply feel happiness and vitality in keeping what the Creator has commanded us.

That is, he should think that now he is doing the King’s will, and the King enjoys my doing His will. One should believe above reason that the Creator has sent him his thoughts and desires, which caused him to observe the Mitzvot, and that it came to him as an awakening from above. That is, now the Creator is calling him: “Come to Me; I want to give you a service in My palace.” When one thinks this, the heart is elated and fills with joy, and then he feels high spirited.

It therefore follows that it does not matter what he does. It is all the same, as it is written, “Be careful with a slight Mitzva as with a serious one, for you do not know the reward for the Mitzvot.” It can be said that it does not matter which Mitzva of the Creator a person keeps because his only thought is to bring contentment to the Creator.

Therefore, a person can derive great joy from small actions, since the main thing is not the greatness of the Mitzva, but the measure and importance of the Giver of the Mitzva. That is, it is according to his appreciation of the King.

When a person reflects, he sees that he must satisfy the desire, to have fulfillment. However, there are those who work to satisfy their own desires, meaning what the heart demands. This is called “lust.” Conversely, there are those who need to satisfy the will of others, what they require of him, meaning to dress, and live in an apartment, as they require, etc. This falls under the category of honor. And there is also fulfilling the Creator’s wish, what He demands, which is keeping of Torah and Mitzvot.

However, one should ask oneself: “Is serving the Creator really so important to me that I feel such great importance? So why after all the calculations, I forget everything, enter the corporeal world, stop everything related to Kedusha, and take upon myself to fulfill others’ desires and not the Creator’s, although I said that the Creator’s will is so important, more important than to satisfy my own desire?

“When I worry about satisfying my own desire, it falls under the category of lust. When I try to satisfy others’ desires it falls under the category of honor. I want to satisfy those two out of self-love. But when I want to do the King’s will, that state is very important because at that time I exit self-love, called ‘beast,’ and enter the category of ‘man,’ as our sages said, ‘You are called ‘man,’ and the nations of the world are not.’”

Thus, as soon as one comes out of the state of Torah and prayer he says that even the smallest thing he does in Kedusha is so important to him that it makes him very happy that he has been rewarded with entering the domain of Kedusha, and what fool would want to come out of the state of emotional satisfaction and elation? He feels that he is the happiest man in the world because he had the great privilege of exiting the beastliness that he was in all the time.

All of a sudden he is summoned to come before the King and speak with Him. At that time he looks at himself, how he is always immersed in worldly lusts like all other beasts. But now he sees that he has become a real man. He becomes very critical of his surroundings, how lowly they are, to the point that he can barely stand to be near them and speak to them because he cannot stoop so low as to speak to people devoid of the spirit of Kedusha, who are so immersed in self-love that he can barely stand them.

After all this, after some time, even a moment later, after all the criticism he passed on his surroundings, he completely forgets about the spirituality he was in and enters the corporeal world with all the beastly lusts. He does not even remember when he came out, the moment when he came out of the spiritual state into the corporeal state he is in now.

Thus, the question is, “When he was in the spiritual state and was delighted with his situation, was this a lie? Was it only a dream? Or is it to the contrary, that the previous state is his real state, and what he feels now, that he is immersed in beastly lusts, is a dream?”

The truth is that a person must believe that when the Creator appears to him a little bit, he begins to feel the importance of the King and is drawn to Him and annuls as a candle before a torch. If he continues to appreciate the herald he has heard from above, and to the extent that he can regard it, to that extent his aspiration for spirituality grows and he begins to feel that he has emerged from the corporeal world and entered a world that is nothing but good.

But if he forgets to appreciate that call—that he has been called to come speak to the King, and begins to enjoy and instill the joy he has into his vessels of reception, and he is not cautious to thank and praise the Creator for bringing him closer to Him, he is promptly repelled and ejected from the King’s palace.

This happens so fast that he has no time to feel that he has been ejected. Only after some time he comes to, and sees that he has been thrown out. But when he is ejected from the King’s palace he remains unconscious, and therefore cannot feel the moment of ejection.

It is known that in corporality, too, if a person falls from a high floor to the ground, if you ask him how he fell he does not remember anything. All he knows is that now he is in the hospital, but he does not remember anything: who picked him up, who brought him to the hospital, everything is forgotten.

It is the same in spirituality. When he is ejected from the King’s palace he does not remember who ejected him, meaning what caused him to fall off his state where he was in utter completeness, full of joy with his situation. He also does not remember when he fell from his high state into the ground, so as to say “Up to that point I was fine, and at that moment I fell.” He cannot remember the moment when he fell from his state. But after some time he opens his eyes and begins to see that now he is in the corporeal world.

This recovery—the consciousness he has regained when he sees that now he is outside the palace—can happen after several hours or even after several days. Suddenly, he sees that he is immersed in worldly lusts, and that once he had a state of ascent.

Now let us return to the matter from which we began, namely the greatness of the quality of practicing Mitzvot and words of Torah and prayer in utter simplicity, without any intentions but to learn Torah, since the whole Torah is the names of the Creator, and whether he understands the connection he has—that he is learning—meaning the fact that he is learning with the person.

That is, one should not say, “What does this come to teach us?” Rather, every word he learns is a great thing for his soul. And although he does not understand it, he must believe in the sages, who have instructed us so.

It is likewise in the prayer. He should know and believe that each and every word that our sages have arranged for us was said with the spirit of holiness. For this reason, we must regard each and every word, meaning that he has the privilege that the Creator has given him the thought and desire to observe His commandments, and to thank the Creator for it. He should believe that everything he does in spirituality, while others did not merit this, is because the Creator has chosen him to serve Him.

A person should reflect on how the King is calling him and gives him some understanding to at least keep His commandments so that he will have some contact with the Creator. Likewise, one should depict the importance of the King as much as one can and derive from this joy and elation. This is the path of truth.

That is, we should believe in the importance of the Creator although the body is still not impressed to the extent that he is seemingly serving a flesh and blood King, since there the public revere the King and the individual is influenced by the public. But in spirituality a person cannot see that the public revere the King and the value of annulling before Him is hidden from him. Instead, we must believe that this is so. This is called “right line,” meaning without any intentions. Rather, even if he engages with the littlest understanding, he should regard it as though he is doing a great service.

It is as our sages said (Avot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1), “Be careful with a slight Mitzva as with a serious one, for you do not know the reward for the Mitzvot.” That is, it does not matter to us what service we do for the King, with which service we bring contentment to the King. Rather, we have one thought: that the Creator will be pleased with what I am doing.

Thus, it does not matter if this work is important or not, since I have no consideration of myself. It can be an unimportant work that not many people want, therefore he wants to do it because it is more needed than important work that many people want.

However, the question is, “Why can’t a person feel the light that shines in Torah and Mitzvot as soon as he begins the work?” Instead, he must believe that there is a hidden light there, which he cannot see. It would certainly be better if the importance about it were revealed to all, for then everyone could observe the Torah and Mitzvot.

Thus, why is there a concealment on Torah and Mitzvot to the point that each and every one must labor and toil, and perform all kinds of works in order to be able to say that the whole of the corporeal world is not worthwhile compared to Torah and Mitzvot, as our sages said ( Avot, Chapter 4, 22), “One hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than the whole of the life in the next world, and one hour of contentment in the next world is better than all the life of this world.”

However, we were given this concealment so as to have room for choice, meaning to have the ability to work in Torah and Mitzvot for the Creator, meaning in order to bestow. Otherwise, if the light that is hidden in Torah and Mitzvot were revealed, he would work only because of self-love. But then he would not be able to criticize himself and see if his aim is to bestow or for his own sake.

But because we were given the Torah and Mitzvot to keep during the concealment, we can keep them in utter simplicity, and say, “If my aim is to bestow, why should I mind what taste I feel?” Therefore, if one wants to be rewarded with anything, he must take upon himself to keep Torah and Mitzvot in utter simplicity.

Inapoi la pagina 1986 (ŞLAVEY HASULAM (TREPTELE SCĂRII) – link

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