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What Are the Two Actions During a Descent?

Article No. 32, Tav-Shin-Mem-Het, 1987-88

Our sages wrote in Hulin (p 7b), “Rabbi Hanina said, ‘A person does not lift his finger from below unless he is called upon from above, as it was said, ‘Man’s steps are from the Lord, and how can man understand his way?’” We should understand what our sages tell us by this in the work, so we will know that a person does not lift his finger below unless he is called upon from above.

To explain this, we must always remember the purpose of creation and the correction of creation, which are two contradictory things. The purpose of creation is for the creatures to receive delight and pleasure from the Creator, as was said, that His desire is to do good to His creations. The correction of creation is the complete opposite—to do good to the Creator. This means that the purpose of creation is for the sake of the creatures, while the correction of creation is that the creatures will always think only about the benefit of the Creator. As long as the creatures have not achieved this degree—when they do not need anything for themselves and the only reason they want to live is to benefit the Creator through their actions—and they want to live for their own benefit, the creatures cannot receive the delight and pleasure that the Creator contemplated giving them.

In the work Lishma [for Her sake], reward and punishment are measured by the extent to which they want to bestow upon the Creator. That is, when they want to bestow upon the Creator, they consider it “reward.” And when they see that all they want is their own benefit, and they are utterly unable to crave to work for the sake of the Creator, they regard this as a punishment.

It follows that when a person feels that he is in a state of descent, when he has no yearning or desire whatsoever to bestow upon the Creator, there are two manners in this: 1) He does not feel any suffering or pain from this state—from coming to a state of lowliness. Rather, he accepts the situation and begins to seek satisfaction in things that he had already determined were trash, unfit for human consumption. But now he sees that he cannot derive vitality from spiritual matters because the taste of spirituality has been flawed in him, so in the meantime he wants to live and derive satisfaction from corporeality. He says, “I’m waiting for a time when I can work without overcoming. That is, when I am given an awakening from above, I will return to work. In the meantime, I want to remain in the state I am in.”

2) When he feels he is in a state of descent, he feels pain and deficiency at having fallen from a state where he thought he was rewarded with being like a man. That is, the nourishments that sustained him and from which he derived all his vitality were only from things that are not related to animals. He thought that soon he would be granted admission into the King’s palace and would be rewarded with the flavors of Torah and Mitzvot [commandments/good deeds]. But without awareness or preparation, he sees that he is in a bottomless pit, which he never thought existed.

That is, after he has come to clear knowledge that he knows his purpose in life, now he sees himself in the company of cats, standing by garbage bins and eating the trash that people threw, since people cannot enjoy this, as it is unfit for human consumption. But now he himself is enjoying this trash, which he himself, when he was in a state of “man,” said that such a life is trash. But now he himself is eating the waste that he threw. Hence, when he looks at his lowliness, it invokes in him pain and suffering at the state he has come to.

However, sometimes a person adds insult to injury. That is, not only has he come to a state of lowliness, but at that time he falls into despair and says that he cannot believe that the Creator hears the prayer of every mouth. Instead, at that time he says, “Since I’ve already been at the highest level several times, and since I have fallen into this state several times, I must conclude that this work is not for me. As I see it, this matter is endless and could continue for the rest of my life. Therefore, why should I afflict myself in vain thinking that perhaps the Creator will finally hear me? After all, every person learns from the past, from what has been registered in him and from what he has been through.” This despair pushes him from the work and he wants to escape the campaign.

However, a person must believe two things, for only by this can he progress in the work: 1) All the descents that foreign thoughts he has in the work did not come from himself. Rather, they all come from the Creator. That is, the Creator sent him these states, and there is no other force in the world. It is as Baal HaSulam said, that a person must believe that there is no other force in the world, and everything comes from the Creator (see Shamati, No. 1, “There Is None Else Besides Him”).

Indeed, we should understand why the Creator sends these states, since this is very unusual, for our sages said, “He who comes to purify is aided.” But here we see the opposite: Where he should have been given help and to see that each day he is progressing, he sees that he is regressing. That is, each time, he sees how immersed he is in self-love. Instead of coming closer each day toward the desire to bestow, he sees each day that he is nearing self-love.

In other words, before he began the work of bestowal, he did not taste such flavors and pleasures in self-love. He thought that whenever he wanted, he could immediately revoke his will to receive for himself, and he could work without any reward for himself. But now, he sees that he cannot make even a single step without the permission of his receiver. He has come to a state that our sages describe as “A wicked is under the authority of his heart.” Conversely, “a righteous, his heart is under his authority.” “Heart” means desire. That is, he is in exile, the will to receive for himself has absolute control over him, and he is utterly powerless to go against his heart, which is called “will to receive.” This is the meaning of the words, “A wicked is under the authority of his heart.”

Yet, the question is, Who is considered “wicked,” that we can say that he is under the authority of his heart? It is precisely when a person has come to a state where he sees that he condemns his Maker, when he cannot observe Torah and Mitzvot in order to bestow, and sees that he is immersed in self-love. When his heart tells him, “Do what I tell you,” he mindlessly follows, and does not even have time to contemplate what he is doing. Our sages call this: “A person does not sin unless a spirit of folly has entered him.” Only after the fact, he looks at himself and sees what folly he has done. Only then, in that state, he sees what our sages said, “A wicked is under the authority of his heart.”

The answer to the question, Why did the Creator send him the states of lowliness? is so that a person will see the truth, meaning what the will to receive is willing to do in order to increase self-love, that it has no regard for anything, and whatever can bring it pleasure, it is willing to do.

It follows that the Creator helps him each time to see his real state. That is, it was concealed in his heart and he did not see his illness. Hence, the help of the Creator came and revealed to him the severity of the illness. In other words, we need not believe that the will to receive is a bad thing. Instead, now he sees it for himself. This is similar to a person seeing that something is wrong with him, and he goes to the hospital for tests and X-rays. The tests show him that he suffers from certain illnesses, such as a heart disease, and also in the lungs. The family members come to the hospital management with complaints saying, “We brought a person with a little fever, and not dangerous illnesses, and you, meaning your doctors and the X-ray, inflicted fatal diseases on our son.”

It is likewise with us. Our will to receive was not so bad as to be dangerous. When we came to work here, we were told that pretty soon we would achieve the wholeness that we thought about the evil in us. But suddenly, after tests and examinations that you do, we see that the evil in us is very dangerous, that it can kill you and cause you to lose your spiritual life.

As it is in corporeality, we should thank the hospital for diagnosing the illnesses, meaning the evil in the body. Likewise, we should thank the Creator for revealing to us the danger of the evil in us, which is really mortal danger that could cost us our spiritual life. And certainly, we should thank the Creator for assisting us in discovering the illness we are suffering from, since previously, we thought that we were only slightly unwell, but the Creator revealed to us the truth. It follows that we did progress toward seeing the truth, meaning the real form of the evil in us.

By this we can interpret what we asked, What is the meaning of “A person does not lift his finger from below unless he is called upon from above,” in the work? A “finger” means that a person sees within reason, as it is written, “Each and every one shows with his finger,” or from the words, “pointing with the finger.” “Lifting” means a lack from below. That is, a person who feels deficient, that his importance is low, meaning that he is far from the Creator, does not feel this awareness unless he is called upon from above.

There are two interpretations to “above”: 1) “He is called upon from above” means that it came to him from private Providence. That is, it cannot be said that since he did not guard himself from “lifting” [the finger], meaning that he was not careful with guarding the body, we were given laws by which man should guard himself from harm, so the body will not suffer some damage, but he was not careful so his body received a flaw, which is called “lifting.”

Yet, even if he did watch himself with a hundred types of care, it would not help at all because so it was sentenced about him “from above.” It is as RASHI interpreted, “‘called upon,’ he is sentenced.” That is, it is a sentence from above and it is not the person’s fault. Yet, we could ask, Why was he sentenced to this from above?

2) “From above” means that it is of high importance. That is, the person received a flaw in his work that he did within reason, which is called “lifting his finger from below.” In other words, now he sees that he is in a state of lowliness, meaning he sees that he is bare and destitute in matters of work on the path of truth.

This brings up the question, Did seeing his lowliness come to him for not observing Torah and Mitzvot, or is it the other way around—because he began work more enthusiastically, which brought him to a state of descent, called “lifting his finger from below”? We should say that it came because he put more effort into the work. According to the rule, a Mitzva [commandment/good deed] induces a Mitzva, he should have seen that he was in a state of “above,” so why is he in a state of “below”?

The answer is that he is “called upon from above.” That is, he has been sentenced from above to be admitted into a place of high importance. For this reason, he has been shown the real state of the evil in him, so he would know what to pray for. There is certainly a difference when we see in corporeality that a person comes to ask someone for a loan, to lend him money, or when someone comes to another to ask for a favor and speak on his behalf so he will not be thrown in prison, or when someone is sentenced to death, and he asks the one person who can save him from death. There are big differences among the pleas.

In spirituality, we understand these matters with regard to the Kli [vessel]. In spirituality, a prayer is regarded as a Kli. According to the rule, “There is no light without a Kli,” there is a difference between a person praying to the Creator to help him so he can receive wholeness, meaning that in truth, he observes Torah and Mitzvot and engages in charity, but he understands from rumors he had heard that there is more wholeness than his observing of Torah and Mitzvot, both in quantity and quality. He believes in the verse, “There is not a righteous man on Earth who does good and did not sin,” therefore he asks of the Creator to help him. It follows that he needs only one small thing.

For example, when someone comes to get a loan from someone, he is told that he can get it elsewhere, too. That is, we do not pay much attention when it comes to the lending. Therefore, normally, when a person refuses to lend, he leaves him.

This is not so when a person is sentenced to death, and there is one person who can save his life. If that person refuses to do him the favor of saving him, he will not leave him and say that he will go to another person to save him from death, since only the king himself can pardon him. For this reason, we do not leave the king, and we seek out every possibility for the king to give him the absolution.

Similarly, in spirituality, we need a real Kli, meaning a real need for the Creator to give us the filling. For this reason, when we are shown from above our true state, that we are truly bare and destitute, we can place the filling in that Kli, since a person has realized that he is lacking spiritual life, called “complete faith,” and he has no grip on spirituality. In other words, he cannot say that he is doing something for the Creator, but it is all for his own benefit. This means that the entire structure of Kedusha [holiness/sanctity] is ruined in him, and everything he does is only lip-service. This is called a “real prayer,” since he has no one to turn to, and only the Creator Himself can help him, as was said in the exodus from Egypt, that it was done by the Creator Himself, as it is written, “I the Lord your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt.”

This is similar to a person who was sentenced to death, and only the king can pardon him. It follows that when a person feels that he is in a state of “wicked,” and “wicked in their lives are called ‘dead,’” this is considered that he has been sentenced to death. However, when a person asks the Creator to give him his life as a present, this is considered that he has a Kli that can receive the filling, since the person is not asking the Creator for luxuries, but simply for his spiritual life.

Thus, on one hand, a person should say, “If I am not for me, who is for me?” That is, he should choose by himself. This means that anything he thinks that he can do, anything he thinks will help him emerge from self-love, he should do. On the other hand, a person should say that everything comes from above, as was said, “A person does not lift his finger from below unless he is called upon from above.” Once a person has come to the recognition of the evil in him, which is risking his life, this is called an “act.” But he should attribute this act to the Creator, too.

Afterward, he should pray for the action. That is, a person must attribute both the lack and the filling to the Creator. That is, once a person has begun the work of bestowal and worked devotedly to achieve the truth, the Creator sends him a sensation of his lack. A person can feel this only after he has made great efforts to achieve the quality of bestowal. At that time, he is notified that he is remote from Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator, which is called “life.” It is written about it, “And you who cling to the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day.”

At that time, when he prays, it is regarded as a prayer for lack of life, and not as praying for things that one can live without. Instead, he simply asks for life, called “complete faith in the Creator.”

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