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When Should One Use Pride in the Work?

Article No. 6, Tav-Shin-Nun, 1989-90

It is written (2 Chronicles 17), “His heart was proud in the ways of the Lord.” And in the Mishnah, it was said (Avot, Chapter 4:4), “Be very, very humble.” Thus, this contradicts what is written, “His heart was proud.”

The Zohar (VaYera, Item 17) asks, “‘And the Lord appeared unto him by the Oaks of Mamre.’ Why in the Oaks of Mamre and not elsewhere? It is because Mamre gave him an advice about the circumcision. When the Creator told Abraham to circumcise himself, Abraham went to consult his friends. Aner told him, ‘You are over ninety years old; you will torment yourself.’ Marme told him, ‘Remember the day when the Chaldeans threw you in the furnace, and that famine that the world endured, and those kings whom your men chased and whom you struck. The Creator saved you from all of them. Rise up and do as your Master commands.’ The Creator said to Mamre: ‘You advised him in favor of the circumcision, thus, I will appear to him only in your abode.’”

This is difficult to understand. If the Creator commanded him to circumcise himself, he went to ask his friends if he should obey the Creator? What if Mamre had said otherwise? He would heed the advice of Mamre and not the word of the Creator. Can we say this?

It is also difficult to understand what Mamre told him, that he should obey the Creator, that He will save you for sure, just as He saved you from the furnace. This implies that the basis for why Mamre told him to obey the Creator is because He would save him, just as He saved him from the furnace. Otherwise, you should not obey.

We see the same thing where our sages said (RASHI brings the words of our sages, Genesis 11:28), “‘Terah died in the presence of his father,’ during his father’s life. Some say that because of him, his father died, when Terah complained to Nimrod about his son, Abram, about the breaking of his statues and throwing them into the furnace. Haran sat and said to himself, ‘If Abram wins, I am with him. If Nimrod wins, I am with him.’ When Abram was saved, they said to Haran, ‘Who are you with?’ Haran replied, ‘I am with Abram.’ They threw him in the furnace and he burned.”

We see about Haran that since he said that he was going to take upon himself devotion on condition that the Creator would save him, he was burned. Thus, why in Abram’s case, when Mamre told him, “You should obey the Creator,” since He saved Abram from the furnace, meaning yesterday’s Abram, for example, He would also save Abram today when he circumcises himself? This is just like Haran and Abram with the furnace. The only difference here is that they are the same thing but in the same body, meaning in two states of Abram.

In the literal, we see that with Haran and Abram and the furnace, there was the matter of gentiles, meaning that foreigners wanted both Abram and Haran not to obey the Creator. This is not so with the circumcision, which the Creator instructed him. That is, there is a difference between foreigners saying not to obey the Creator, or the Creator telling him to obey Him.

We should say that when foreigners want a person to idol-worship and detach himself from faith in the Creator, a person should give unconditional dedication. For this reason, when Haran said that he was ready to dedicate himself on condition that he survives, like Abraham, this is not regarded as dedication. This is why he was burned in the furnace.

This is not so here when the Creator told him to circumcise himself and he went to consult his friends. We should interpret this differently, that he thought that the Creator telling him to circumcise himself is a high degree and he was still unworthy of it, as he thought that if the Creator told him to circumcise himself and he was still unworthy of it, he might fall even from the state he was in at the time, since he knew that he was in lowliness, as it is written, “And I am dust and ashes.” Therefore, he went to ask whether he was permitted to walk into this high degree and circumcise himself, or should he wait until he is worthy of it.

This is why Aner told him, “You are over ninety years old; you will torment yourself” beginning to ascend high degrees now, and beginning to do more work in order to qualify yourself to be worthy of the Mitzva [commandment/good deed] of circumcision. “You are too old to start making great efforts now in order to be rewarded with higher degrees. This is suitable for a young man, who has a great future, not for you, who is already over ninety. Therefore, this is not for you.”

However, when he came to ask Mamre, Mamre replied to him, “You see that the Creator does not look at your lowliness; let Him say when you are worthy, and then He can help you, as our sages said, ‘He who comes to purify is aided.’ When you feel that you are dust and ashes, the Creator cannot help you, but you see that when you were thrown in the furnace, the Creator helped you nonetheless, since He is merciful and gracious.”

This is as our sages say about the verse, “‘And I will pardon whom I pardon,’ although he is unfit and unworthy of it.” Therefore, here, too, with the Mitzva of circumcision, the Creator wants you to enter a higher level although you are not worthy or fit. Hence, go and do your Master’s commandment and do not look at your own lowliness.

This is as Baal HaSulam said about what the Creator said, “Now I know that you are God fearing.” The question is, Does the Creator not know the future, that He said, “Now I know,” meaning that now He knows that “you are God fearing”? That is, this means that now Abraham knew that he was God fearing.

The question is, Why did Abram need to know this? We should say that now that he knows that he is God fearing, Abraham can go to a higher level and is not afraid that it might be too high for him. Rather, he can already ascend.

Likewise, we can interpret what Rabba said (Berachot 61), “One should know in one’s heart whether he is a complete righteous or not.” We should also understand there why he needs to know this. Indeed, by this he will try to walk in higher degrees and will not think that it is too high for him. This is why Mamre advised him not to look at his lowliness that he feels, that he is dust and ashes. Rather, the Creator wants you to ascend in degrees through the Mitzva of circumcision? Go and do it, and do not look at anything. This is the meaning of the verse, “The Lord is high and the low will see,” as it is written, “The Lord raises up the lowly.”

Now we can understand what we asked, Why did Abraham consult his friends whether to obey the Creator? The meaning is that if he should wait and qualify himself to enter the high degree with which he will be rewarded following the doing of the commandment of circumcision, or should he do it right away and ignore his lowliness, where he feels that he is dust and ashes. This is what he asked his friends about, and not whether to observe the commandment of the Creator.

By this we will also understand why when he was thrown into the furnace, he did not seek his friends’ advice, but agreed to be thrown into the furnace in order to sanctify the name of heaven. However, this is the quality of faith, where we must give unconditional devotion, meaning to say, “I am very low; this is why He does not want to give devotion.”

But in idol-worship, the rule is “Be killed but do not breach.” For this reason, when Haran wanted to sanctify the Creator with dedication only on condition that he stays alive like Abram, this is clearly not “Be killed but do not breach,” since his view was that he agreed to be thrown in the furnace provided he is not killed. It follows that he did not observe at all the Mitzva that there is in idol-worship, “Be killed but do not breech.” This is why Haran was burned in the furnace.

Conversely, Abram’s view was in the form of “Be killed but do not breach.” Therefore, thanks to the complete Mitzva, he was saved from the furnace. This is the meaning of the nations speaking to him there, demanding of him to idol-worship.

But with the commandment of the circumcision, where the Creator told him to circumcise himself, the Creator certainly demanded of Abram to ascend in degree. Once he sanctified the Creator with Nimrod, what did the Creator want from Abraham? Certainly, to ascend to a higher level. It was about this that he thought that perhaps he was still unworthy of ascending to such a high level, which is why he went to ask his friends what to do, since he felt that he was still not worthy of such Gadlut[greatness/adulthood], which he would be awarded by observing the Mitzva of circumcision. Therefore, it is a completely different matter here.

According to the above, we see that there are two states in the work: 1) faith, 2) Torah.

In the state of faith, it cannot be said that he is lowly, and therefore cannot observe the commandment of sanctifying the Creator, which is done by the general public in Israel, even among common people, that we hear that they died for the sanctification of the Creator.

Therefore, when a person begins the work of the Creator on the path of truth, he must take upon himself the burden of faith above reason even though all the nations of the world in his body laugh at him. He must sanctify the Creator before the gentiles in his body and say that he believes in the Creator and wants to serve Him with all his heart and soul. And even though they disagree with him, he can say that he takes upon himself to love the Creator. Even if he has no feeling when he utters it, a person should not be impressed with the organs disagreeing with his view. He does what he can do. That is, in speech and action he can do this by coercion. And although he feels nothing in it, he is still doing an awakening from below.

It was said about this, “And I will bless you in all that you will do.” That is, the Creator will later send him blessing on what he does. Although after the overcoming he does not see that he received any blessing, meaning he does not feel any nearing to the Creator more than he was prior to the overcoming, so the body asks the person, “You told me that if you overcome your mind and reason, the Creator would give you blessing, meaning that by this you will feel the importance of spirituality. But you see that you are in the same state as before the work, when you exerted to do things by coercion.”

To this comes the answer, “If I felt the blessing instantaneously, then I would have done it in order to receive reward.” This is similar to Haran who said, “If I see that Abraham was saved from the furnace, I am with him.” Here, too, when he says, “I am willing to bow myself and do good deeds against the body’s will, but on condition that afterwards I will get a good feeling, how worthwhile it is to serve the Creator in order to receive reward, meaning a good feeling.”

Hence, if a person wants to receive reward immediately after the work by coercion, it is as though he began with the coercion so that afterward he would not have to work by coercion. It follows that when accepting the faith, he sets conditions. But the faith of acceptance of the kingdom of heaven must be unconditional surrender. For this reason, where faith is concerned, it cannot be said that a person feels that he is too lowly, that it is not for him to assume the burden of the kingdom of heaven. Also, a person should not say, “Now I am not in the mood for this; I’ll wait for when I am in a better mood, and then I’ll try to take upon myself the burden of the kingdom of heaven.” Rather, this duty lies with every person to take upon himself the burden of the kingdom of heaven, at any place and at any time.

Conversely, when speaking of the Torah, this is the time when one should feel one’s lowliness. Since our sages said, “It is forbidden to teach Torah to idol-worshippers,” but only to Israel, he should therefore first see if he is truly regarded as “Israel.” This means that he should see whether he is worthy of learning Torah. If he sees that he is still unworthy, he must try to be worthy, and then he will be able to learn Torah.

What is the way by which one should qualify himself to be worthy? The way is as our sages said, “The Creator said, ‘I have created the evil inclination; I have created the Torah as a spice.’” In other words, a person should learn Torah first, so the Torah will lead him into being regarded as “Israel.” When he has the quality of “Israel,” he will ascend in degree to learn Torah, which is then called “the Torah of the Creator, as in the names of the Creator.” Before he is rewarded with being “Israel,” he must try to engage in Torah and Mitzvot so it will make him become “Israel.” Then is the time to come to wholeness, called “the purpose of creation,” which is to do good to His creations.

However, when he engages in Torah and Mitzvot, since a person must walk on two lines—right and left—meaning a time of wholeness and a time of lack, on one hand we must thank the Creator, and one who feels he has received a lot of good from the Creator is more capable of giving more gratitude, so when a person engages in Torah and Mitzvot, this is the time to be in wholeness, as though the Creator has brought him close, to be among the King’s servants. However, one must not lie to oneself and say that he feels that he is serving the King when he does not feel this way. Therefore, how can he be grateful to the Creator for drawing him near if he does not feel it?

Instead, at that time a person should say that although he is in utter lowliness, meaning he is still immersed in self-love, and still cannot do anything above reason, the Creator still gave him a thought and desire to engage in Torah and Mitzvot, and has also given him some strength to be able to overcome the spies who speak to him and poke his mind with their arguments. And still, he has some grip on spirituality.

At that time, a person should pay attention to this and believe that the Creator is tending to him and guides him on the track that leads to the King’s palace. It follows that he should be happy that the Creator is watching over him and gives him the descents, as well. That is, a person should believe, as much as he can understand, that the Creator is giving him the ascents, since certainly, a person cannot say that he himself receives the ascents, but that the Creator wants to bring him closer; this is why He gives him the ascents.

Also, a person should believe that the Creator gives him the descents, as well, because He wants to bring him closer. Therefore, every single thing that he can do, he must do as though he is in a state of ascent. Therefore, when he overcomes a little during the descent, it is called an “awakening from below.” Each act that he does, he believes that it is the Creator’s will, and by this itself he is rewarded with greater nearing, meaning that the person himself begins to feel that the Creator has brought him closer.

It is as Baal HaSulam said, that when a person is happy, when he feels that he is privileged that he has some grip on spirituality, that person is called “blessed,” and “The blessed clings to the Blessed.” That is, the person begins to feel that the Creator is blessing him now, and he feels no lack at all. However, this is so specifically when he engages in Torah and Mitzvot.

Yet, one must dedicate a little bit of his time to work on the left line, as this gives him room to pray for the lacks in him. It is needed that during the wholeness, when a person is grateful to the Creator for bringing him a little closer, this is the time to receive the filling for his lacks, which he felt while working in the manner of the “left.”

It follows that the answer to the prayer is not when he prays, since then he is in a state of “cursed,” meaning deficient, and the complete does not connect to the deficient. Rather, when a person feels whole not because he knows that he has wholeness but because he feels himself as lowly, and regards whatever grip he has on spirituality as a great fortune, from this he derives wholeness and says that he is not even worthy of this. This is the time when he can receive the filling for what he felt while he was working in the manner of the “left.”

Now we can understand what we asked, why on one hand they said, “Be very, very humble,” and on the other hand, it is written, “And his heart was proud in the ways of the Lord,” as they are two opposites on the same topic. The answer is that they are two opposites on the same topic, but in two times.

In other words, when he engages in the kingdom of heaven, to take upon himself faith above reason, when the body disagrees with it and gives him many excuses that now is not the time for this, and brings him evidence from other people, who do not pay attention to this work of faith in the Creator above reason, he should say about this, “And his heart was proud in the ways of the Lord.” He does not look at anyone, but is determined that this is the path of truth and he should not look at anyone or hear what the body makes him understand—“Go and look at reputable people, who understand what is the work of the Creator.” It is about this that they said, “And his heart was proud,” to be proud that he understands better than everyone.

But when he engages in Torah and Mitzvot and sees that he has no idea what he is learning or what he is praying, at that time he must not be proud and say that if he does not understand, why should he look at the books in vain, if he does not understand the matters of Torah and Mitzvot. At that time he should be in lowliness, as our sages said, “Be very, very humble.” In other words, a person should be in lowliness and say that he is happy with whatever grip he has, since he sees how many people do not have any grip on spirituality. Therefore, here he needs to feel that he is not worthy of anything, and be happy.

Inapoi la pagina 1990 (ŞLAVEY HASULAM (TREPTELE SCĂRII) – link

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