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What Is the Meaning of Suffering in the Work?
Article No. 27, Tav-Shin-Mem-Tet, 1988-89
On Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement], in the “Eighteen Prayer” (“My God, Until I Was Created”), we say, “That which I sinned before You, erase with Your many mercies, but not through suffering.” We should understand how is it that when we pray that we want Him to erase our sins, we stipulate conditions before Him, or else we do not want Him to erase our sins. Thus, what is the condition, “but not through suffering”?
The Zohar (BeHukotai, Item 42) writes, “Rabbi Yosi started, ‘My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His admonition.’ How beloved are Israel, that the Creator wishes to admonish them and lead them on the straight path. And out of His love for him His cane is always in His hand, to lead him on the straight path and so he will not stray right or left. One whom the Creator does not love but loathes, He removes His admonition from him. ‘But Esau I hated,’ which is why I removed from him the cane, removed from him the admonition so I would not give him a part in Me, for My soul loathes him. But you I love indeed, and do not loathe His admonition.’ What is, ‘Do not loathe’? It is, do not loathe it, as one who runs from thorns, for those kings who enslave Israel are as thorns in one’s body.”
We should understand this. Common sense mandates that the Creator should hold the cane for the gentiles, who act against the Creator. But to the people of Israel, whom He loves, it should be as it is written, “Love will cover all crimes.” So why does He afflict specifically Israel—whom He loves—with a cane?
We should also understand what it interprets, “Do not loathe His admonition,” that the kings’ enslavement of Israel is like thorns in a person’s body. Yet, it says, “Do not loathe,” meaning do not run away from the thorns, meaning from the enslavement of the kings. Can be it be that He tells them not to run from the kings’ thorns only because He loves them?
We should also understand the words “But Esau I hated,” which is why He removed from him the admonition, “so I would not give him a part in Me.” It seems as though if He did admonish him, he would have a part in the Creator. How are they connected? It is as though the suffering causes them to have a part in the Creator.
We should know that when speaking in matters of work, both Israel and Esau speak of people who observe Torah and Mitzvot [commandments/good deeds], and not of the nations of the world or secular people. Rather, it is only about people who have faith and observe Torah and Mitzvot. Thus, what is the difference between the quality of “Israel” in a person and the quality of “Esau” in a person?
According to the rule in observing Torah and Mitzvot, we should also discern the intention—if the observance of Torah and Mitzvot is in order to receive reward in this world or in the next world, or is his intention to bestow and not receive anything. In the quality of “Israel,” the aim is Yashar-El[straight to the Creator], when he does not want to receive anything in return but that everything will go straight to the Creator. This is regarded as the “quality of Israel” in a person in the work.
But if he does want reward in return for observing Torah and Mitzvot, it is regarded as “Esau.” Esau means Asu [did], meaning that he made a domain for himself and wants the Creator to fill his domain. He does not want to revoke his own domain, which is called Yashar-El, meaning cancel his domain and annul before Him, which is called “straight to the Creator,” and this is his only aim. This, he does not want. For this reason, we discern two qualities in man’s work: “in order to receive reward” or “not in order to receive reward.”
We should remember that man’s work in order to bestow, when he wants Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator, is where one begins a procession of ascents and descents. That is, when a person focuses everything he does in the work on receiving reward in return for this, then, when he believes in reward and punishment, his inherent will to receive does not object to receiving greater pleasures.
However, when a person wants to walk on the path of not receiving reward, since it is against nature, the real war with the evil inclination begins, since a person wants to remove the evil inclination from the world, for only here is its existence. And concerning the name of the will to receive, “evil inclination,” it is because it depicts to us the path that the people of Israel want to march as bad. That is, it argues that a person’s desire to annul his own authority and annul before the Creator is suicide. Instead, what would be called “good”? That would be if a person demanded of the Creator to expand man’s domain and satisfy all his lacks, and not that man would work for the Creator.
In other words, the evil inclination asks a person, “Where is your brain, that you are working so hard in Torah and Mitzvot, and for what reward?” It is as our sages said, “The light in it reforms him.” This means that since the evil does not want to annul before the Creator, but rather the evil in a person wants man to exist, man is advised that if he engages in Torah and Mitzvot he will thereby be rewarded. That is, without Torah and Mitzvot, it is impossible to receive such as great reward, and only by the power of Torah and Mitzvot can we achieve such a great reward that a person will annul before the Creator and man’s authority will not be apparent, and the Creator will take everything.
About such a reward, the evil inclination cries out, “But you are losing your very being! You are performing actions that will cause you to cease to exist! Should one work and toil for this?!” It follows that the evil inclination depicts to him bad pictures concerning the order of his work.
This is called “suffering.” That is, when a person wants to walk on the path of truth and achieve Dvekut with the Creator, called “equivalence of form,” these questions come to him and he suffers a descent, meaning he cannot overcome its arguments. This manifests immediately, in mind and in heart. When that person recovers from the descent and begins to contemplate the situation he is in, he suffers from being far from the Creator.
Once he has been rewarded with an ascent in spirituality, he begins to think that from now on he will be strong and immune to the words of the kings of the nations of the world who slander the Creator. That is, they do not necessarily say that it is not worthwhile to engage in Torah and Mitzvot. Rather, they say that it is not worthwhile to engage for this reward of losing himself, and also that he wants all the labor to be for the sake of the Creator and not at all for himself.
This inflicts upon a person great sufferings, which are as thorns in one’s body, and he wants to escape the situation he is in. He says, “I am probably unworthy of this work, or I would not suffer descents.” It follows that these sufferings are that he hears from them that it is not worthwhile to work for Him with this intention.
Thus, there are two things here: 1) The kings’ arguments, who enslave Israel with their words. That is, a person falls under the control of the kings, who enslave a person so he can work only for his own sake because of the suffering of the bad depictions that the evil inclination depicts to him.
Generally, all the kings of the nations of the world are called “evil inclination.” Each king has his own view, and he says to a person, “Walk in my way; I will give you pleasure in the work.” In other words, all the kings say the same thing: It is better for you to work for yourself rather than for the Creator.”
It follows that the suffering that one sees—that he cannot work for the sake of the Creator—causes him to want to escape the campaign. These sufferings make him see that this work is not for him, for this path requires chosen people, a select few, and mere ordinary people cannot approach this work, called “working with the aim to bestow.”
Worse yet, the evil inclination comes to him dressed as a holy angel and says to him, “But you see that I am right. Look back at how vigorously you engaged in Torah and Mitzvot and how enthusiastically you used to pray. If you ask, Why was it like this before? It is as I am saying, since you worked for your own benefit, to receive reward. This is why you had the strength to work. Thus, what is the point in overcoming each time if you see that you keep descending, which is called ‘The shattered is greater than the whole,’ meaning that there are many more descents than ascents.”
The evil inclination also tells him, when it dresses in the clothes of a holy angel, “Previously, you advanced in the work and each day you acquired a possession of Kedusha [holiness] in Torah and Mitzvot. But you denigrate this and say that you want to work only for the sake of the Creator. But you see that you are going backward in this work, that you have descents, meaning that your bad is becoming increasingly evil. While you were observing Torah and Mitzvot in practice in the work, you were more successful. You saw for yourself how you progressed. But now, where are your energy and excitement in the work? Thus,” it says to him, “turn away from this path.”
It follows that through the words of the evil inclination, which is all the kings of the nations of the world, they enslave Israel and sting the bodies of those workers who want to work in order to bestow. This brings up the question, Why do these people, who want to walk on the path of truth, achieve Dvekut with the Creator and annul before Him, deserve such suffering, such descents that they cannot tolerate the suffering and want to escape the campaign?
And conversely, those who work in order to receive reward do not have the suffering of feeling that they are far from the work of the Creator. Instead, they feel that they are advancing every day. Certainly, when they see the progress, there is energy to work. They do not feel that they have any descents, but only that sometimes they advance more and sometimes they advance less, but they do not regress.
The answer is that when a person does not feel a lack and corruption in the work, he has nothing to correct. Therefore, these are people who can work only in practice, and on practical Mitzvot, there is nothing to add or subtract, as it is written, “Do not add, and do not take away.”
And since they still have no need for the intention, and intention means achieving equivalence of form, called “in order to bestow,” naturally, they do not want to adhere to Him. That is, they have no understanding about working not in order to receive reward. For this reason, the Creator does not give them suffering, namely the sensation of remoteness from the Creator, so they will ask the Creator to bring them closer.
This is as Maimonides writes, that “women, little ones, and uneducated people are taught to work in order to receive reward,” for they will not understand otherwise. When “they gain knowledge and acquire much wisdom, they are taught that secret,” that we should work Lishma [for Her sake], which is in order to bestow.
Now we can understand what we asked, Why does the Creator afflict Israel, who are the Creator’s beloved ones? Moreover, He tells them, “Since I love you, I want you not to loathe the thorns,” since those kings who enslave Israel are as thorns in their bodies.
It is written, “Do not loathe His admonition,” meaning do not escape the campaign and say that this work on the aim to bestow is not for you. This means that those whom the Creator loves, referring to the quality of Israel, who want to annul Yashar-El [straight to the Creator], and the will to receive that exists in a person, this they want the Creator to give them the power to subdue it so he will annul before the Creator.
However, a person cannot overcome the will to receive, since the will to receive makes him see that the main reason why a person should labor and toil is to be able to satisfy his self-love. But that person wants the opposite—to revoke his self-love and be able to work only on what pertains to love of the Creator. That is, he does not want to work for his own sake, but for the sake of the Creator, meaning for what pleases the Creator.
That person says that he derives no satisfaction from having the strength not to work for himself, as there are many smart-alecks who say that man achieves wholeness if he does not work for himself. He, however, says that this is not why the Creator created the creatures, so they will not enjoy. Rather, the purpose of creation was to do good to His creations. Therefore, the creatures, too, should work in equivalence of form, meaning so all their yearning will be to do good to the Creator.
It follows that one who says that man’s purpose to achieve wholeness is only so as not to work for himself, that only this is man’s purpose and why he was created, this is not the truth. Instead, one should always examine oneself to see if he is working for the sake of the Creator, meaning that the Creator will enjoy. That is, he wants to replace self-love and achieve love of the Creator, for only in this way will the creatures achieve the goal for which they were created, called “to do good to His creations.”
Therefore, those who want to achieve love of the Creator, although this degree is still far from them, yet they nonetheless want to achieve it, these are called “those who love the Creator.” It is as Baal HaSulam said about the verse, “will give wisdom to the wise.” He asked, “It should have said, ‘will give wisdom to the fools?!’” Since they are already wise, what does wisdom give them? Also, from where would they have wisdom before the Creator gives them? Only afterward, when they already have wisdom.
He said that the meaning of “wise” is those who want to be wise. Although he still does not have wisdom, but he desires wisdom, he is already called “wise,” after his purpose. Hence, one who wants to be wise should believe that the Creator will give him wisdom.
In this way, we should interpret that one who wants to love the Creator is already regarded as one who loves the Creator. For this reason, the Creator wants to give them love, meaning annulment of self-love and to be rewarded with love of the Creator. The Zohar says to them that the Creator holds in His hand a cane to lead them on the straight path. That is, they should believe that the sufferings they suffer from the descents they undergo come from the Creator. That is, these foreign thoughts they are receiving, which are as thorns in their bodies, the Creator is the one who sends them.
Although a person understands it would be better if the Creator sent more ascents, and why do I need these descents, meaning what is their purpose, the answer to this is that this is called “the cane in the Creator’s hand to lead him on the straight path.” Otherwise, if a person remains in a state of ascent, he will think that he has achieved completeness and will remain in his state of lowliness because he will not feel any lack that he must correct.
For this reason, the Creator shows him his lowliness and shows him that as much as he already thought that he was superior, that he did not have such lowly thoughts that other people have, suddenly he sees that he has worse thoughts than people who work like the general public, who are regarded as working in order to receive reward.
He says that he wants to work only for the sake of the Creator and not for his own sake, and he is certainly at a higher degree than they are. But suddenly, he sees that he is lower than they are. It follows that the suffering he feels causes him to need to ask the Creator to truly bring him closer. This is why this pertains specifically to people who are regarded as Israel, who want to be “Israel.” In order not to fail in the work, He sends them these descents. This is considered that He is “holding the cane in His hand, to lead them on the straight path.” The “straight path” is the path that leads straight to the King’s palace.
This is not so with those who are regarded only as Esau. This is only action, without the intention that the actions will lead to annulment of self-benefit, and they do not want to do things for the sake of the Creator, but settle for the action, without the aim that they will lead to Dvekut with the Creator and do not think of the matter of Dvekut with the Creator, as it is written, “And to cling unto Him.” For them, the Creator does not hold the cane in His hand to admonish them.
He says, “But Esau I hated, which is why I removed the cane from him, removed the admonition from him so I would not give him a part in Me.” That is, “I do not want him to have Dvekut with Me.” This is why He says, “My soul loathes him,” meaning that because their whole work is only for their own sake, “My soul loathes him,” and I will not give him a part in Me. That is, I will not give him suffering by which to cling to Me. Since they have no desire for Me, I have no desire for those who are in the quality of Esau, who feel themselves as whole. “Esau” means that he has already Asah[did] his bit and regards himself as whole.
Yet, what can one do in order not to undergo a descent, called “suffering” from feeling remote from the Creator? since all the suffering is in order for a person not to remain on a low degree because he is content with little, since he already thinks that he has already been rewarded with a spiritual degree. Therefore, it is necessary to lower the person in importance, meaning that he will see for himself how deficient he is. Then he will come to ask the Creator to deliver him from his lowliness.
Thus, how can he not fall into a state of lowliness? The advice for this is that if a person calculates and sees, through thought and desire, that he is still far from Dvekut with the Creator, meaning that even during an ascent he still considers himself, and begins to feel his faults, then he does not need to fall from his state, meaning to be given lowly thoughts until he feels that he is in a state of deficiencies.
Rather, even during an ascent he begins to seek advice how to ascend in degree. In that case, he does not need to be given descents from above, since he himself begins to seek advice even before he has fallen into lowliness. Now it seems that in the situation he is in, he is full of faults. By this he can rid himself of the need to be given descents from above.
However, normally, the order is that during an ascent, a person does not want to search for faults in himself. Therefore, he must be given descents from above.
By this we can interpret what our sages said (Shabbat 152), “What I did not lose, I seek.” That is, an old man walking bent, always looking at the ground as though searching for something. He says, “I have lost nothing, yet I search.” We should interpret “Old is he who has acquired wisdom.” That is, he is “Wise, who sees the future.” Since he can come to a descent in order acquire empty Kelim, so the Creator may fill them or he will remain in a state of lowliness because he will not feel deficient. Then, when he loses the state of ascent, he begins to seek advice how to ascent in spirituality once again.
Therefore, one who is old, meaning wise and sees the future, begins to search how to ascend in spirituality even before he loses the state of ascent. He begins to follow all the counsels about the ways to ascend on the spiritual degrees, and this is done by seeking deficiencies in the state he is in. In that case, there is no need to throw him down in importance so he will find and see deficiencies in himself, since he himself will be looking for deficiencies so as to have empty Kelim that the Creator may fill.
The best advice in a state of ascent is that when a person feels that now there is a state of spirituality, and he wants to find deficiencies, in that state he should delve in the Torah and find the connection between the Torah and man. From this he will be able to take knowledge about how to serve the Creator, as it is written, “a soul without knowledge is also not good,” and as it is written, “grant us wisdom, understanding, and knowledge from You.” In that state, he will see the lack in him and will have empty Kelim. By this, he will be saved from coming into a real descent.
Now we will explain the question, Why, when we pray to the Creator to erase our sins, do we stipulate before Him conditions and say, “but not through suffering,” meaning “not through descents”? During a descent, we are separated from Him, since during a descent, everything is in lowliness. This is called “Shechina [Divinity] in the dust.” Because we must feel our lowliness, we cause the Shechina to be in exile, too, just as we have drifted from the holy land. That is, we do not have the desire of Kedusha [holiness]. Instead, during a descent, we receive the desire of “the land of the nations,” and by this we degrade the Kedusha.
For this reason, we ask Him to help us erase our sins so we may enter Kedusha. However, that it will not come by suffering, called “descents,” for these descents cause the degrading of Kedusha, which is called “Shechina in the dust” or “Shechina in exile.” We pray that this suffering will not come, since we are causing the degradation of Kedusha.
Our sages say (Berachot p 5), “Rabbi Yohanan was weak. He went to Rabbi Haninah. He said to him, ‘Are you fond of suffering?’ He replied, ‘Neither they nor their reward.’” Everyone asks about this. After all, many righteous took upon themselves suffering, so why did Rabbi Yohanan say “Neither they nor their reward”?
Baal HaSulam interpreted this and said that they were arguing over the exile of the Shechina, which is delayed because not all the sparks of Kedusha that have descended into the Klipot [shells/peels] have been corrected. For this reason, although there is reward, namely that everything that descended to be among the Klipot will return to the Kedusha, which is a very big reward—that everything will be corrected—but in the meantime, until everything is corrected, the Shechina is in exile, everyone degrades her and exalt the maidservant, namely the Klipa [singular of Klipot]. This is the sorrow of the Shechina that he cannot tolerate. It is about this that he said “Neither they nor their reward.”
We see what is suffering in the work. It is that they suffer that the Shechina must be in lowliness because of them. To understand this, we should examine the essay “Divinity in Exile” (Shamati, Essay No. 1), where it says that when a person regrets being far from the Creator, that he is inside the will to receive only for his own benefit, like animals, which is unbecoming of the “human” quality, he should direct the suffering so it is not because he wants to be a man, and this is why he suffers, but rather that it is because of the sorrow of the Shechina.
He says an allegory about this, that a person who has a pain in a certain organ, feels the pain primarily in the heart and in the mind, which is the whole of man. Likewise, man is a specific part of the Shechina, called “the assembly of Israel.” She feels the majority of the pain, and this is what he should regret. This is called “suffering” in the work.
Inapoi la pagina 1989 (ŞLAVEY HASULAM (TREPTELE SCĂRII) – link