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How to Recognize One Who Serves God from One Who Does Not Serve Him

Article No. 29, Tav-Shin-Mem-Het, 1987-88

Our sages write in [MasechetKetubot: “Rabbi Hiya Bar Ashi said, ‘Rav said, ‘All infertile trees in the land of Israel are destined to bear fruit, as was said, ‘For the tree has borne its fruit, the fig tree and the vine have yielded strength.’’’”

The MAHARSHA interprets that “Although it is an infertile tree, which by nature is unfit for yielding fruit, it will still bear fruit.” We should understand what this teaches us in the work.

The Sulam [Baal HaSulam commentary on The Zohar], in its commentary on the “Essay about Letters” (“Introduction of The Book of Zohar,” Item 23) writes, “It is known that God has made them one opposite the other. As there are four worlds ABYA de [of] Kedusha [holiness/sanctity], there are four worlds ABYA de Tuma’a [impurity] opposite them. Hence, in the world of Assiya there is no distinction between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him. Accordingly, how can we tell good from evil? However, there is one, very important scrutiny, which is that another god is barren and does not bear fruit. Hence, those who fail in him and walk by the path of ABYA de Tuma’a, their source dries out and they have no blessing of spiritual fruits. Thus, they wither away until they shut completely. The opposite is those who adhere to Kedusha. Their works are blessed, ‘As a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.’ This is the only scrutiny in the world of Assiya to know if he is in Kedusha or to the contrary.”

We should understand the meaning of “fruits” in spirituality. The word “fruits” is used to mean “profits,” similar to saying, “I struck a big deal but it is yet to bear fruit.” It means that he is still not making profit out of it. In work matters, we should interpret that when a person begins to take on the burden of Torah and Mitzvot [commandments/good deeds], the understanding he has about fear of heaven and the importance of the Mitzvot, and especially the importance of the Torah, when he is at the age of twenty or thirty, he does not know much about the work of the Creator, meaning what is fear of heaven and what is the feeling in Torah and Mitzvot.

Although he sees that he has already acquired the possession of several years of engagement in Torah and Mitzvot, he has not progressed in the understanding that he had since he became obliged to engage in Torah and Mitzvot. That is, he thought that as he grows up, he would probably have different intentions than when he first began the work of the Creator. However, he has remained in the same intention and he agrees to the general view that says about him, when they see that he observes Torah and Mitzvot in all its details and intricacies, they respect him and exalt him and honor him for his work in Torah and Mitzvot.

Therefore, he is in a state of “The whole world tells you that you are righteous.” For this reason, he can never achieve wholeness, called “serving the Creator.” He remains “a servant of himself.” That is, all the work he does is for his own benefit. This is called “not serving Him.” Instead, he is working for himself and not for the Creator.

In work matters, it is impossible to become a servant of the Creator before we come to a state of “not serving Him,” for they are two degrees and it is impossible to rise to a higher level before one is on the lower level. Rather, first one enters the degree called “not serving Him.” That is, a person must come to feel that as long as he is working for his own benefit, it is called “not serving Him.”

Also, “not serving Him” does not mean that he sees that he is in a state of Lo Lishma [not for Her sake], which is called in the work, “not serving Him.” He accepts the situation regardless of the excuses he has for this, since the reasons do not change the situation. Therefore, if he agrees to remain in that state, it is regarded as still not being in a state of “not serving Him.”

When he sees that he is in a state of “not serving Him,” he seeks advice to emerge from it, both by books and by authors. It pains him that he is in such lowliness and so immersed in self-love that he cannot emerge from this control, and he fears that he will stay this way forever. This is called being in a state of “not serving Him.”

However, we should ask, How should one name the situation where he sees that he is in a state of “not serving Him”? That is, when a person comes to that state where he sees that he is immersed in self-love, and all the beastly lusts awaken in him—such that he has never dreamed of—in a state of “not serving Him,” such thoughts and desires awaken that according to the work he has invested, which he exerted in order to be rewarded with Kedusha [holiness/sanctity] and for which he should have at least seen that although he has not been rewarded with Kedusha, he should have seen himself liberated from beastly lusts.

Otherwise, he asks, Our sages said, “The reward matches the pain,” meaning that a person is rewarded according to the effort he has made. Yet, now he sees that he made the effort, but what reward did he receive? That he has become worse. Before he began the work of bestowal, he knew that he was a servant of the Creator. Although he knew even then that there are higher degrees, meaning those who work Lishma [for Her sake], he knew that work Lishma was meant for a chosen few. At that time he was certain that although he was not counted among the chosen few, he was regarded as a servant of the Creator like the rest of his environment. But now that he wants to work for the sake of the Creator, he is regressing. That is, he feels that he is worse than before. This brings up the question, Where is what our sages said, “The reward matches the pain”?

The truth is, as Baal HaSulam said, that because he has invested much effort to be rewarded with a little bit of Kedusha, by this he was rewarded with attaining the quality of truth. That is, he was rewarded from above with awareness of his true state—how the evil within him, meaning the will to receive for himself is so worldly and remote from the Creator. This means that before he began the work, he could not understand the lowliness of his state whatsoever.

Rather, as we said in previous articles, The Zohar interprets the verse, “if his sin is made known to him,” that the Creator tells him that he has sinned, or the Torah notifies him that he has sinned. For himself, a person cannot see the evil in him, since a person is close to himself and is biased, and it is written that “bribe blinds the eyes of the wise,” and the blind do not see. For this reason, a person cannot see the evil in him by himself. Instead, he is notified from above, which, in the words of The Zohar, is regarded as the Torah or the Creator notifying him. Both are made clear to us by one matter, meaning that it comes from above and not from himself, since recognition of evil is knowledge from above.

By this we can interpret what people ask: On one hand, our sages said (Nida 30b), “He is sworn, ‘Be righteous and do not be wicked, and even if the whole world tells you that you are righteous, be wicked in your own eyes.’” They ask, But the Mishnah (Avot, Chapter 2) says, “Do not be wicked in your own eyes,” so how come they say, “Be wicked in your own eyes”?

There are many answers to this. According to the above said, recognition of evil comes from above, and a person cannot come to the recognition of evil unless he has exerted in Torah and Mitzvot in order to come to work for the sake of the Creator. At that time he is shown from above the evil, and only then can he see that he is wicked. Naturally, in such a state, when he is shown from above that he is wicked, although judging by his actions, he seems righteous to the world, since no one can know what another has been shown from above.

It was said about this: “Even if the whole world tells you that you are righteous,” since they do not know you, meaning your intentions, you should still know the truth. For this reason, they said, “Be wicked in your own eyes.” “In your own eyes” means not as the world regards your externality. Rather, “in your own eyes” means the form of the intention, which none can see but you. This is called “in your own eyes.” Then, you will see that you are wicked, as it is written, “Be wicked in your own eyes.”

However, as said above, a person cannot see the truth, that he is wicked, until he has made great efforts in Torah and Mitzvot in order to achieve the truth. At that time he is shown from above the truth that he is in a state of “not serving Him.” But by himself, without help from above, a person cannot see that he is wicked. This is the meaning of what is written, “Do not be wicked in your own eyes.” This means that from his own perspective, a person cannot be wicked. Rather, this requires help from above.

For this reason, a person must ask the Creator to let him know the truth about his state in spirituality, where he is, meaning if he is among those who are called “servants of the Creator,” or among those who are called “not serving Him.” But by himself, a person cannot know. This is why they said, “Do not be wicked in your own eyes.”

Now we will explain what we asked, How should one name the situation he is in, if he sees that he really is in a state of “not serving Him,” meaning if he is not moving at all in the work but is regressing and his work has been in vain, without any profits? He should believe in what our sages said, “The reward is matches the pain,” but he evidently sees that it would be better if he did not begin this work of bestowal in the first place. He sees that he is only descending in the work, and not ascending. Accordingly, the state of “not serving Him” should have been named “a descent.”

However, according to what we said, that it is impossible to achieve a higher degree prior to attaining a lower one, regarded as “not serving Him,” it follows that that state is not regarded as a “state of descent,” but rather as a “state of ascent,” for such is the way: The lower degree is the reason and the cause of the upper degree. Therefore, this descent, when he feels that he is in a state of descent, causes him to ascend to a higher degree.

That is, “the reward matches the pain.” In other words, to the extent that he suffers from being in a state of “not serving Him,” it causes him to seek counsel and advice to emerge from that state and ascend to a higher degree, called “serving the Creator.” For this reason, that state is called “a time of ascent,” and it is called “a state of progress toward the goal.” However, even at a time of “not serving Him” there are ups and downs, and these descents are also regarded as ascents.

Explanation: A descent causes a person to see the state of the bad in him—to what he might come, meaning to what lowliness it might bring a person. That is, during an ascent, when a person has passion for Torah and prayer, and he thinks that now he is among the servants of the Creator and he no longer needs the Creator to help him out of his evil inclination since he feels good taste in the work, he looks at the times he was in descent and is ashamed of himself. It pains him very much if he remembers his descents.

But suddenly he falls “from the rooftop to the deep pit.” That is, he feels from a state of thinking that he was already in heaven into seeing that he is already in a deep pit. Moreover, he does not remember how he fell into the pit and for what reason. Once he falls into the pit, he is there unconscious, meaning he does not feel how he has fallen into the pit. However, after some time he recovers and begins to feel that he is in the pit. The recovery time may take a minute, or an hour, or a day or two days, or a month, until he regains consciousness and sees the lowliness that he was in.

Afterward, he is given once more from above a desire and craving for the work. Once more, he is in a state of ascent, and this is the time that he can enjoy the descent. That is, during the ascent he can know the benefits from experiencing the descent, since according to what is said, the punishments given to a person are not as with a flesh and blood king, who avenges the person not following the king’s orders. Rather, here there is a matter of correction. Thus, what benefit can he say that he has from the descents?

The answer is that the descent was not given to man so he would learn from the descent while he is in descent. During the descent he is unconscious. That is, he does not feel that he is in descent, since at that time there is no living being to feel some lack in vitality of Kedusha, since he has lost the awareness that there is spirituality in anyone in the world, and all his thoughts are only about life in self-love.

That is, since it is known that without life, it is impossible to live, therefore, each one chooses the right clothing from which to elicit life, which is called “pleasure,” since there is no life without pleasure. When a person cannot find pleasure in his life, he immediately chooses death, which is called “committing suicide.”

Therefore, during the descent, when he finds pleasure in some clothing, it does not matter to him what is the clothing, but how much pleasure he can derive from this clothing. This is called that at that time he does not think about spirituality, since the pleasure he receives makes him forget everything else, for he is completely preoccupied with continuing to obtain the pleasures in the dresses that suit his spirit at the time. In this he is immersed. At that time, he has no thoughts that there is such a reality called “service of the Creator,” since a descent is called “death.” That is, the little bit of spirituality when he was somewhat adhered to Kedusha has departed from him. For this reason, at that time he is regarded as “dead,” without vitality of Kedusha.

However, afterward, he wakes up and begins to see that he is devoid of spiritual life. His awakening from the descent is called “the revival of the dead,” when he begins to feel that he is deficient of life. Conversely, one who is dead does not feel that he is deficient of life so as to want to be awarded life.

Yet, the question is, Who revived him? The answer to this is “A King who puts to death and brings to life.” And why do we need this? The answer is “and brings forth salvation.” This means that by the Creator giving him a descent, called “putting to death,” on the one hand, and on the other hand, by giving an ascent, called “and brings to life,” by this comes salvation, as it is written, “and brings forth salvation.”

Thus, when does one learn and profit from the descent? Certainly not during the descent, for then he is dead. However, afterward, when the Creator revives him, meaning gives him an ascent, this is the time to learn what happened to him during the descent, meaning in what lowliness he was, what he craved and what he expected—that if he were to have it, he would feel like a complete human being. At that time he sees that his entire life of being in descent was nothing short of the life of an animal.

Let us take, for example, when trash is thrown in the garbage. When the cats in the area feel that there is some leftovers of an animal that was thrown in the trash, they find it and eat it. With the strength from eating, each of them runs to its place to obtain other pleasures. If a person observes during the ascent, he understands that it is not worthwhile to occupy his mind and heart in beastly lusts. In his current eyes, it is complete trash. When he looks at such a life, it makes him so nauseous that he wants to vomit.

It follows that the great benefit from this descent is that he sees his own lowliness, to what state he might come, and that only the Creator has brought him out of that lowliness. This is the time to see the greatness of the Creator, that He can bring a person “out of the miry clay,” where he could drown and remain forever in the hands of the Sitra Achra [other side], and only the Creator has brought him out of there.

Accordingly, we can see that during the ascent, a person should read everything that is written about the time of descent. From this reading he will know how to ask the Creator for his soul so He will not throw him once again into the trash. Also, he will know how to thank the Creator for raising him from the bottomless pit, as it was said, “A king who puts to death and brings to life, and brings forth salvation.” That is, salvation grows out of the descents and ascents.

Thus, after he has completed the first stage, called “not serving Him,” begins the time of being “a servant of the Creator.” That is, once he has tried every advice and tactic to exit the state of “not serving Him,” he receives help from above, as it is written in The Zohar, “He who comes to purify is aided,” by giving him “a holy soul.” By this he emerges from the governance of self-love and can work only in order to bestow.

Thus, how can a person come to be a servant of the Creator? By being rewarded with a soul from above. This is regarded that now he is bearing fruit. And what is the fruit? It is that he has been rewarded with a soul. This is the fruit. In other words, a person must know that before he was rewarded with fruits, called “a soul,” he cannot be a servant of the Creator. Rather, he must be serving himself, which is called “not serving Him,” for the above reason that a person cannot go against the nature in which he was born, which is self-love. Rather, only the Creator can make this miracle.

By this we should interpret what our sages said, “All infertile trees in the land of Israel are destined to bear fruit.” That is, once a person has been rewarded with Eretz Yashar-El [Land of Israel], by being rewarded with a soul, everything becomes corrected, meaning even the quality of “infertile trees,” which do not bear fruit. This refers to the time of “not serving Him”—that it also receives correction, as in “sins become to him as merits.”

In other words, it is impossible to be a servant of the Creator before one feels that he is in a state of “not serving Him.” That is, through the descents and ascents he had while in a state of self-love, these ascents and descents were stages and degrees so he would be able to climb up to the place of wholeness, and then everything enters Kedusha because all those things helped him achieve wholeness.

Now we can understand that “infertile trees,” which are naturally unfit to bear fruit, will still bear fruit. That is, when a person is in Lo Lishma, that state is far from bearing fruit, meaning with being rewarded with understanding in work and Torah, regarded as being rewarded with entering the King’s palace. But in a state of Lo Lishma, it is to the contrary: He moves himself away from Dvekut[adhesion] with the Creator. Still, after he has been rewarded with entering the land of Israel, all the Lo Lishma, called “infertile trees,” will bear fruit, meaning that the upper light, called “a soul,” will be on those Kelim, as well, since everything comes into Kedusha.

Inapoi la pagina 1988 (ŞLAVEY HASULAM (TREPTELE SCĂRII) – link

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