Inapoi la pagina 1988 (ŞLAVEY HASULAM (TREPTELE SCĂRII) – link
What Is “There Is No Blessing in an Empty Place” in the Work?
Article No. 15, Tav-Shin-Mem-Het, 1987-88
It is written in The Zohar (Truma, Item 525): “This table stands in the Temple to have food on it, and to extract food from it. Hence, it should not be empty even for a moment. The other table, that of the Sitra Achra [other side], is a table of emptiness, since there is no blessing above in a place of deficit and lack. This is the table before the Creator. The table on which a man blesses before the Creator should also not be empty because there is no blessing in an empty place.”
We should understand why there cannot be a blessing in an empty place, and what this means in the holy work, that a person who wants to receive a blessing from the Creator must try to have something, for only in this manner can the Creator give him a blessing.
Our sages said, “The cursed does not cling to the blessed.” For this reason, Abraham did not want to take the daughter of Eliezer, Abraham’s slave. Therefore, when a person prays to the Creator to give him what he asks of Him, and when a person prays an honest prayer, from the bottom of the heart, the person certainly feels deficient. He feels that he is more deficient than the entire world. Otherwise, if there are other people who are as deficient as he, this is no longer regarded as a prayer from the bottom of the heart, after the rule, “a shared trouble—half a comfort.”
Hence, his lack is no longer complete because it is only half a lack, since half of what he lacked is complemented by the others. For this reason, he has only half a Kli [vessel] to receive the filling, the part that the others cannot give him since they do not have it. Hence, he has no more than half a need to receive filling.
For this reason, the prayer that a person asks the Creator to grant him his wish should be from the bottom of the heart. This means that since the heart is called “desire,” if the desire does not come from the bottom of the heart, since he does not have the real need to receive the filling, his prayer is therefore not accepted.
For this reason, a person must see himself as the worst in the world, and the matter of “a shared trouble—half a comfort” will not pertain to him because he is worse than everyone, as it is known that satisfaction in life concerns specifically a time when he lacks what others have. He may be earning more than others, and even have more important things than his environment, yet, he may still be dissatisfied with it.
Women feel this more. If they lack something, even if they have much more than their friends, they feel deficient. A woman might say, “I’d rather die,” and take no comfort in having more things than her friends. If the lack touches her heart, she says she feels more miserable than the entire world.
The reason is that when a person feels a real lack, it does not comfort him that others also do not have it. The suffering of not satisfying the desire determines, and can even bring a person to commit suicide. Only this is regarded as a real deficiency.
Here, in the work, if he sees that there is someone who is similar to him with regard to the desire for spirituality, he can become satisfied by way of “a shared trouble—half a comfort.” For this reason, he might fall into despair because he accepts the situation because then he says that it is impossible to obtain this thing that he understands he lacks, for after several attempts when he began the work but failed, he promptly decides that it is difficult and not for him. And the reason why he decides promptly is that the desire for that thing has weakened in him because he received a filling for half the lack in the form of “a shared trouble—half a comfort.”
This is similar to a person who loses something and is searching for it. There is a rule concerning how much time he must dedicate to searching for the object: It depends on the value of the object. If the object is very valuable, he will dedicate a lot of time to look for it. If it is less so, he will dedicate less time.
It is likewise here in the work. If it is very important to him to work in order to bestow, he does not give up immediately, but persists and searches for ways to come to this. This is not so if he sees that there are other people who do not engage in Torah and Mitzvot [commandments] with the intention to achieve Lishma [for Her sake], but settle for observing the Torah and Mitzvot as Maimonides says, that the secret of having to work Lishma is not to be revealed to everyone, and they feel that by observing the Torah and Mitzvot as they were brought up, they are happy with it and do not search for other ways, and this is what pleases them.
This is the reason that even if they receive some awakening that they must search for the real intention in Torah and Mitzvot, that desire is not so important to them. Hence, they searched several times for the way to walk in the path of bestowal, and since they do not find it easily and have no real lack, they begin to walk in the path of Lishma, and then leave it and follow the masses.
However, we should understand the words of Maimonides when he says, “Until they gain knowledge and acquire much wisdom, they are taught that secret bit by bit.” We should understand what it means when he says that they are taught that secret. What secret are they revealed when they are told that they must work Lishma? Who does not know that we must serve the Creator as it is written, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might”?
We say this four times a day: in the readings, Shema de Korbanot, Shema de Yotzer Ohr, Shema de Arvit, and Shema al Hamita [four times the Shema text is read during the day]. Even children say the Shema reading. Thus, everyone knows that we must work for the sake of the Creator, so what is the secret that is revealed to them, which there was no need to reveal to them before “they gain knowledge and acquire much wisdom”?
We should also understand the measure of “gain knowledge.” How do you measure their knowledge so as to know that now it is possible to reveal to them the secret of Lishma, which was not so before? And also, what does it mean, “and gain much wisdom”? We should understand what is “wisdom” and what is “much wisdom.”
We should interpret that wisdom and knowledge are what they received from the teachers in the beginning of the study, when they were taught in Lo Lishma [not for Her sake]. That is, by believing in the Creator and in the sages, they will be rewarded, and if they do not, they will be punished. It follows that they understand that by observing the Torah and Mitzvot and loving the Creator “with all your heart,” He will reward us, and the reward will be that we will receive reward for observing everything He has commanded us. In other words, in order not to feel shame upon receiving the pleasure, He has given us commandments to follow, and He pays us for the effort. In this way, they will not receive something for free, but rather a payment for the effort of working for Him. In this way, there will be no matter of shame.
Now we can understand what are “knowledge” and “wisdom.” It is what they received in the beginning of their learning, when they could not understand more than the reward accepted in Kelim[vessels] of self-love. That is, they still did not have the wisdom and knowledge to understand that it is worthwhile to do something in that which is not for one’s own benefit, since they did not see what the will to receive for oneself would gain from this. However, they did understand that it is worthwhile to observe Torah and Mitzvot because they would have wisdom. They believed that they would receive reward, which is the wisdom and knowledge that they have gained—that it is worthwhile to observe Torah and Mitzvot for self-benefit.
It therefore follows that “much wisdom” means that they can understand by receiving the knowledge to understand something new. This is called “until they gain knowledge and acquire much wisdom.” In other words, now they see that it is worthwhile to work for the Creator and not for themselves. But prior to this, they did not have the wisdom or knowledge to understand that it was possible not to work for self-benefit.
It follows that the prohibition on revealing the secret of Lishma at the beginning of the learning does not mean that it is forbidden, but that it is impossible, since they would not be able to understand this. Therefore, they must be given a reason for which it is worthwhile to work.
Hence, when “they gain knowledge and acquire much wisdom,” they can hear the secret that they were forbidden to hear before. That is, even if they had been told that the real work is the work of bestowal, it would have remained a secret to them because they would not be able to understand it whatsoever.
Rather, after they “gain knowledge, they are taught that secret bit by bit.” “Bit by bit” means that they begin to understand that it is worthwhile to work for the sake of the Creator and not for one’s own sake. For this reason, we should interpret “until they gain knowledge” as pertaining to the view of Torah, which is the opposite of the view of landlords. The view of landlords is to work so that all the profits will be in his own domain. That is, he wants to be the landlord of all the work he does, meaning do everything for his own benefit.
Its opposite is the view of Torah, as our sages said, “The Torah exists only in one who puts himself to death over it.” We interpreted that this means that he must put his self to death, meaning the will to receive for himself, and cling to Him, which our sages interpreted as “Cling onto His attributes; as He is merciful, so you are merciful.”
In other words, a person must achieve a level of annulment of the desire for self-love, and his only aim is to love the Creator. That is, everything he does should be only with the aim to bestow.
This is the meaning of what is written, “until they gain knowledge and acquire much wisdom,” when they can already hear the secret of the work of bestowal, and because they can understand that this work is real work because they want to work for the Creator and not for themselves.
Now we will explain what we asked, How do we know that they already have much wisdom, as he said, “Until they gain knowledge and acquire much wisdom”? As Baal HaSulam said, this knowledge and wisdom come to them from above, as awakening from above.
Yet, how do we know this? The answer is that since these people received an awakening from above, they cannot live in peace, but search from place to place for who will be able to guide them toward achieving the work of bestowal. By searching for a way to go forward, and having no satisfaction in their regular work, it is a sign that he has received knowledge and awakening from above. That person, when he is told that there is the matter of having to work for the sake of the Creator, will be able to understand this secret, since he already has the discernment, “until they gain knowledge.” Hence, since he has the knowledge to understand, it is no longer a secret, for a secret is as long as we do not know, contrary to when we do know.
However, Maimonides says, “And they are taught that secret bit by bit.” We should interpret that we cannot understand at once that the essence of the work is to engage in order to bestow. Rather, there are ups and downs in this understanding because this work is against nature. For this reason, once a person understands that we must work Lishma, the body overcomes him and argues that we must work for our own sake and not for the sake of the Creator. This is the meaning of “bit by bit.” That is, this awareness, that he should know once and for all, does not come at once, but one at a time.
In order to be rewarded with working in order to bestow, a person cannot achieve this by himself. Rather, this requires help from the Creator. Our sages said about this, “He who comes to purify is aided.” This means that one who wishes to purify himself from vessels of reception and work in bestowal, receives assistance from the Creator. However, one who seeks help from the Creator, his prayer should be from the bottom of the heart. That is, the lack he feels, that he cannot do something for the sake of the Creator, but only for his own sake, this is the desire of the entire heart, and he has no need whatsoever for the Creator to help him, except for this, since he feels that if he cannot work for the sake of the Creator but only for himself, he does not consider this “life.”
By such a feeling, he feels that he is the worst and lowliest man in the world. Although he sees that there are people in the world who are respected for having much Torah and many good deeds, although he does not see that they are working Lishma, yet, they feel no deficiency in themselves. Hence, he can say to the Creator that He must help him achieve Lishma because he is the worst in the world.
The reason he needs to feel that his state is worse and he suffers more than the entire world, is that otherwise he will not have a complete Kli for the Creator to fill. This is called “the bottom of the heart.” Since the Creator is complete, when He gives to a man inside his Kli, that Kli should also be complete, meaning a complete desire without any mixture with another desire.
Therefore, when a person sees that there are others who do not engage Lishma, yet do not feel that they are in such a bad state, and “a troubled shared—half a comfort,” they complement half his lack with their filling. Then, he does not need the Creator to help on only half a lack. It follows that he has only half a Kli, but the Creator gives His filling only in a complete Kli, meaning on a complete lack.
For this reason, when he sees that there are people who have less life than he does, and he sees that they can live although they do not have such a need for the work of bestowal, and in any case he is not worse than they are, for this reason, his lack is filled by the others. But if he sees that he is worse than they, in that he cannot deceive himself and say that he is doing something for the sake of the Creator, it follows that only then he is unable to receive assistance from others. Hence, he feels that he has a real lack, meaning that he is suffering more than everyone from not being able to work in order to bestow.
According to the above, we should interpret what our sages said (Avot, Chapter 1), “Be not as slaves serving the great one in order to receive reward.” We should interpret that when you come to pray to the Creator to grant your wishes, your desire should not be to receive reward, meaning half a filling, that you pray that He will satisfy only half your lack, since half of the lack has already been filled by the others, as in “A trouble shared—half a comfort,” since he does not feel that his state is the worst in the world.
But when he sees that his state is worse than the entire world, he does not receive any filling from the public. Naturally, when he prays that the Creator will grant his wish, he has a complete Kli with a lack. This is not so when he receives a reward from others, for Pras [reward] comes from the verse, “ Paras [cut in half] at dawn and Paras at twilight.”
Now we can interpret what we asked if there is no blessing on an empty place, this is because the cursed does not cling to the blessed. For this reason, he cannot receive filling for his prayer, since the blessing cannot come into a place of curse, as in the words of The Zohar.
According to what we explained, the prayer is not regarded as a real prayer unless he feels that he is the worst person in the world, and that there is no one else in the world who suffers like he does from the evil within him. It follows that he is called “cursed,” and how can he receive filling for his lack, since “the blessed does not cling to the cursed.”
The answer is that “cursed” is regarded as the opposite of Kedusha [holiness/sanctity]. Kedusha is blessing and life, and in a lack, there is nothing that can have some life in it, since the poor has nothing from which to receive vitality, as our sages said, “The poor is regarded as dead.” For this reason, they said in The Zohar that a table on which a person blesses before the Creator must also not be empty, since there is no blessing in an empty place.
However, when a person reflects on whether he is truly as he feels, that the fact that he cannot do anything for the sake of the Creator is truly a state of evil and lowliness, that there could not be worse than him. If so, the question is, What is the merit that he has, in that he was rewarded with seeing the truth, while others were not rewarded, but rather think they are complete?
Although they, too, feel that they still do not have real wholeness, they still feel that they are standing above the general public, since they have Torah and work, except they need to add a little more in quantity. But in quality, although they understand that there is more to add, it is not so bad; there are worse people. They believe that there is always more to add, but they can do without the addition to what they have.
Thus, why does that person feel that he really has nothing? Who revealed to him this secret that we must work Lishma and that he is still far from it? For this reason, he suffers and feels that he is poor, that he has nothing, and many times he thinks he would be better off dead.
He sees that he is no better than others, but what is the reason that he was rewarded with seeing the truth? He says that knowing this must have come to him from above, and not from his own powers. Hence, now he sees that the Creator is more considerate with him than with others. It follows that on this, that He has revealed to him from above the truth, which is what Maimonides says, that this secret is not revealed until they gain knowledge and acquire much wisdom, now a person sees that from above, the secret of having to work Lishma has been revealed to him.
Now he prays that the Creator will bring him closer and will give him the assistance, as our sages said, “He who comes to purify is aided.” That is, he already has something and he is no longer regarded as having an empty table, for the fact that he came to purify, meaning knowing that he feels the need for the work Lishma, is itself regarded as a blessing, meaning that a person has been rewarded with knowing the truth.
About this, about knowing this, a person should thank the Creator. This is called “a blessing.” On this there can be a blessing from above, for it is not an empty thing—that the person has been rewarded with knowing that we must walk on the path of bestowal. This means that the fact that he wants to walk on the path of bestowal, he does not feel this as luxury, as an addition to the work. Rather, he feels this as the core. That is, the essence of man’s work is that we were given Torah and Mitzvot to cleanse Israel with them. He does not see any progress in this cleansing. On the contrary, each time, he sees how far he is from the work of bestowal, and sees that now he is more immersed in self-love.
It therefore follows that now he has in his prayer a life that he has received from above, and for which he must thank the Creator. This is regarded that he already has a blessing, and the upper blessing has something on which to be. This is no longer regarded as an empty thing. It can be said about this, “Serve the Lord with gladness.”
This raises the question, How can one be glad when he should pray from the bottom of the heart? which means that he has nothing, so how can he be glad? The answer is that he believes that his praying to the Creator will bring him closer to working for the sake of the Creator, and that this is the essence of man’s work, and he received this from above. This awareness can make it possible to be in gladness that he has been rewarded with understanding the truth of what he lacks and for what to pray.
Now we see that man should receive life from the present, from what he has now. This is regarded as the table on which a person blesses before the Creator is not empty, as said in The Zohar. That is, he has something from which to receive life, as it is written, life and blessing. And what he asks is that he wants to receive and enjoy the future. That is, a person receives vitality from what he can be glad about now, and this is regarded as living from the present.
That is, when can we say that he has nourishment from the present? If he knows how to appreciate the fact that the Creator has given him the knowledge of the truth. At that time he sees that the Creator is indeed considerate with him and watches over him to see that he walks in the path of truth. If he can believe this then he has nourishment, he nourishes himself from the fact that he has life. And a person can see his measure of faith according to the gratitude he gives to the Creator for this. This means that if he cannot thank the Creator for the lack that the Creator has shown him, it is for lack of faith that the Creator watches over him with Private Providence.
You could ask, If he can be glad and believe that the Creator guides him in Private Providence, why should he pray to the Creator? Moreover, if he thanks the Creator for the lack, how can he then pray from the bottom of the heart and say that he is suffering from being far from the Creator? One contradicts the other. If he has joy in the present and receives vitality from this, what should he ask about the future, that the Creator will grant his wishes?
The answer is that we say that the fact that a person is happy stems from the fact that he has come to know the truth that on the path of bestowal, which is the essence of our work, he has not even begun. Therefore, it pains him that he is remote. And if he does not suffer from his remoteness from the Creator and he is still immersed in self-love, what kind of truth is this, that we can thank the Creator for revealing the truth to us—that we are at the bottom of the pit, the place of Klipot[shells/peels] and the Sitra Achra [other side]. By knowing this, the Creator saves him from death.
If he agrees to remain separated from the Creator and derives satisfaction from this, then he is still in a state of “secret,” for Lo Lishma is called “the potion of death,” since he wants to remain in that state. It follows that even the gratitude he gives to the Creator is not the truth, since he still does not know the secret that the wicked in their lives are called “dead” because they are separated from the Life of Lives and want to remain in Lo Lishma.
Rather, precisely to the extent that he asks about the future, that the Creator will deliver him from the governance of self-love, that now the Creator has told him the secret that the essence of the work is Lishma, and he suffers from this and wants the Creator to help him as soon as possible, then it can be said that he is happy that the Creator has revealed to him the truth. Hence, we should understand these two opposites in one subject: One is in the present, that he has achieved the recognition of evil, and from this state he must escape, and the satisfaction of the deficiency is in the future.
It follows that the blessing in the beginning is because he has come to know the truth, and from this he must derive joy in the present. This is called “serve the Lord with gladness.” Afterward, there is a blessing, meaning in the future, that he will receive the filling, that the Creator will give him the assistance, as our sages said, “He who comes to purify is aided.” This is what it means that when a person comes to pray, he should not be in a state of cursed, but be in a state of blessed.
Accordingly, we should interpret what our sages said, “One should always establish the praise of the Creator and then pray” (Berachot 32). That is, before the prayer, he should see that he is not an empty Kli, but that he has blessing from receiving from the Creator the awareness of the truth—that we must work for the sake of the Creator and not for our own sake. He thanks the Creator for letting him know for what to pray.
It is written, “establish the praise of the Creator.” Which praise should he say? The answer is that it is for the Creator revealing to him the truth he did not have, and that he will not deceive himself that he is fine, like the general public thinks. Instead, the Creator has revealed to him that he is missing an essential thing, and if he prays for it, meaning if he knows the great need to know what he really lacks, as he understands now, then he has a Kli that the Creator can fill, since now he is giving a prayer from the bottom of the heart. This is called “a complete Kli.”
A person needs to know that in fact, he does not need anything but the ability to be able to do everything for the sake of the Creator, since only then he will be able to receive the delight and pleasure, since the Creator created the world only for this purpose—to do good to His creations.
According to the above, we can interpret the words of The Zohar where it says, “The other table, that of the Sitra Achra, is a table of emptiness.” As we explained concerning the table of Kedusha, which The Zohar calls “The table on which a man blesses before the Creator should not be empty because there is no blessing in an empty place,” this is so because the cursed does not cling to the blessed. The table is a place on which we receive the blessing of the Creator. Hence, Kedusha means that he believes that the Creator has given him the knowledge what to ask.
This is a great blessing when we know the reason for the illness. This is not so with the Sitra Achra. That is, when a person asks the Creator to grant his wishes and send him a blessing, but does not believe that the Creator has given him room to pray, this is the Sitra Achra, which is unlike Kedusha.
Inapoi la pagina 1988 (ŞLAVEY HASULAM (TREPTELE SCĂRII) – link