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What Does It Mean that Moses Was Perplexed about the Birth of the Moon, in the Work?

Article No. 23, Tav-Shin-Nun, 1989-90

RASHI brings the words of our sages who said about the words, “This month.” These are his words: “Moses was perplexed about the birth of the moon, at what measure should it be seen so it is worthy of sanctifying. He showed him with a finger the moon in the firmament and said, “Such as this, see and sanctify.”

We should understand what it implies to us in the work, that Moses was perplexed about the birth of the moon, and what it implies to us that the Creator showed Moses with His finger. Also, we should understand what our sages said (Sukkah 29), “Israel count by the moon, and idol-worshippers by the sun.” What does the difference between counting by the moon and counting by the sun imply to us in the work?

It is known that the purpose of creation is His desire to do good to His creations. However, in order to bring to light the perfection of His deeds, there was a Tzimtzum [restriction] and concealment both on the Torah and Mitzvot, for in the Torah and Mitzvot, the delight and pleasure are clothed, and on the fact that He placed a Tzimtzum and concealment on the Creator Himself, as it is written, “Indeed You are a God who hides.” This means that the Creator is concealed from us and we were given the commandment of faith, to believe in the Creator, that He leads the world with a guidance of good and doing good.

Although when a person begins to look at creation, it is full of flaws, meaning that The Good Who Does Good is not revealed in the world, one must believe above reason that His guidance is in a manner of good and doing good. Although he does not see this, he should say, “They have eyes and see not.”

Therefore, when a person begins to take upon himself the burden of the kingdom of heaven, he immediately gets foreign thoughts that remove a person from the work of the Creator. And the more a person overcomes the thoughts, these thoughts of separation poke his mind and heart, and he thinks, “Although now I cannot overcome the foreign thoughts, I am waiting for an opportunity when I have more importance for Torah and Mitzvot, and then I will have the strength to overcome.” And in the meantime, he leaves the campaign.

Concerning faith, Baal HaSulam said that to man, it is of little importance, since man wants to understand and to know everything. Therefore, when a person takes upon himself faith, which is against reason, meaning that the reason does not attain this, the body does not want to take upon itself such work, especially since this is not just any work, but on the basis of above the intellect, he must work “with all his heart and with all his soul,” as our sages said, “even if he takes your soul.”

Therefore, because of the concealment that occurred, there are ascents and descents here. That is, the matter of faith does not always illuminate to a person. But most important, a person must believe in reward and punishment. And concerning reward and punishment, we said many times that faith in reward and punishment apply in every discernment that a person is in, but the difference among people is in the Kelim [vessels].

There are people for whom reward and punishment are dressed in vessels of reception. That is, what the vessels of reception of a person can receive is considered a reward, and they do not speak at all about the reward that cannot clothe in vessels of reception, since reward that does not dress in the will to receive for oneself does not interest them.

Then, there are people for whom reward and punishment are called “reward and punishment” specifically when they dress in vessels of bestowal. That is, if they can be rewarded with bestowing contentment upon the Creator through their work, they regard this as a reward. For this purpose, they say that it is worthwhile to work and to come to this, that He will have good taste and pleasure in being able to perform acts of bestowal upon the Creator.

If they see that they do not have this feeling, they consider this a punishment, meaning that the Creator is pushing them away and does not want to accept them as servants of the King, since the Creator looks at them as indecent people. Hence, He cannot permit them to enter the King’s palace and they are outside the King’s palace. They understand why they deserve punishment, since they are still immersed in self-love.

Therefore, all of their work is for the Creator to help them be able to emerge from self-love. It follows that in general, everyone must work with reward and punishment, and in this there is no difference among people. The difference is which reward and which punishment we speak of.

Therefore, when a person is promised reward and punishment clothed in vessels of self-love, the body does not resist it so much, since to the extent that one believes in reward and punishment, he has fuel that enables him to overcome the foreign thoughts that come to him and do not let him believe in reward and punishment.

But those for whom the reward and punishment is what dresses in vessels of bestowal, the body resists this with all its might. The body says, “If I agree to what you are saying, that you believe in reward and punishment, then what reward do you promise me if I do not resist engaging in Torah and Mitzvot? The reward will be that you will revoke me altogether, so I, meaning the will to receive, will have no right at all. You want to have a reward such as that of King David, of whom our sages said about what David said, ‘My heart is slain within me,’ where ‘slain,’ means that they killed the evil inclination by fasting. Thus, if I believe you, that you will be rewarded with killing me, in return for observing Torah and Mitzvot, this reward that you hope for is actual death to me, so how can I help you kill me?’”

Therefore, one who wants the reward and punishment to be in vessels of bestowal, where if he is rewarded, this will be his reward, the body certainly objects. Hence, in this work begins the matter of ascents and descents, to such a point where a person often decides that this path of being rewarded with vessels of bestowal, that this will be his reward, this work is not for him, and he wants to escape from this campaign.

In this work, the reward and punishment—that he wants to be rewarded with vessels of bestowal—there must be a concealment of the face on Providence, or it will be utterly impossible that one will be able to do anything for the sake of the Creator.

Hence, when a person wants to take upon himself the kingdom of heaven, in a state of the time of concealment, Malchut is regarded as “the moon, which receives its light from the sun.” However, in Malchut herself, no light is revealed on her own self, as it is written in The Zohar“Malchut has nothing of her own, except that which her husband gives her.”

That is, for the part of the lower one, one who takes upon himself the burden of the kingdom of heaven does not taste any flavor of importance from himself. “From himself” means that he does not want any flavor, but if the upper one gives, the lower one receives. This is considered that she has nothing of herself except that which her husband gives her. This she has. But for herself, she does not want anything.

Rather, a person agrees unconditionally to be a servant of the Creator, meaning whether he feels the flavor of importance or does not feel any flavor in the work. He says, “If I want to bring contentment to the Creator, why should I mind whether I take pleasure in my work? I must only believe that the Creator enjoys my work. And although I see that the work I am doing is not with all my heart, and I do not have the feeling that I am observing the King’s commandment, since for now, everything is hidden from me, and in my view,” says the person, “there is no value in what I do, and how can I say that the Creator enjoys such an act, and if at least such faith would illuminate for me, that the Creator enjoys this, then I, too, would feel some pleasure.”

The answer is as Baal HaSulam said, that one must believe that when he does something and wants the Creator to enjoy what he is doing, He already feels pleasure above. The form of the act does not matter; it is enough that the person wants, even when a person sees that this act is in utter lowliness, the lowest that can be.

This is considered that he is walking on the straight path, meaning that the person does not say that his work is perfect; he does not lie to himself. Instead, he says that the work he is doing could not be more flawed, and this is true, but he believes in the sages, who tell us to believe in what is written, “The Lord is high and the low will see.” For this reason, he believes that the Creator does enjoy this work.

Now we should interpret what we asked, What is the meaning of Moses being perplexed about the birth of the moon, to what extent should it be seen and be fit for sanctification? We should interpret that the birth of the moon implies that when a person begins to take upon himself the burden of the kingdom of heaven, and “begins” means the beginning of man’s birth, at that time, the question is, To what extent is the acceptance of the kingdom of heaven, meaning the faith that one takes upon oneself.

On this measure of faith he performs actions,” and the “birth of the moon” means that the faith in the Creator is still not felt in all his organs. However, he already wants to assume the kingship, but the body disagrees with it, and he works with his body through compulsion. In other words, on one hand, he wants to believe in the Creator and love Him, and on the other hand, the body resists this and he feels his lowliness.

We can say about such a person that he is in a state of “concealment of the face.” But those people who have no connection to faith in the Creator are not in a state of concealment of the face. That is, they do not believe that the Creator is hidden from them, meaning that the Creator has covered Himself so they would not feel Him for the purpose of the correction of creation.

For this reason, we do not speak of them at all. Rather, the beginning of the speaking in the work is from the time when a person begins to take upon himself the burden of the kingdom of heaven, and based on this faith he observes Torah and Mitzvot. With respect to him, we begin to speak of the matter of the birth of the moon, to what extent should it be seen and become worthy of sanctification. In other words, at what level of faith can we say that he already has Kedusha[holiness] and can say that the Creator enjoys what he is doing because his actions are of Kedusha. Even though the things he does are compulsory, since the whole body resists what he wants, so how can it be said that the Creator enjoys such actions, when “his heart is not with him”?

For example, if a person gives a gift to his friend, and his friend knows that although he is giving him the gift, it is not with all his heart, since he still does not love him. That person would not receive the gift from him. But in reality, we see that if someone invites his friend to a meal, and the guest knows that this invitation is not from the bottom of the heart, but is compulsory, if the guest knew this, he would decline the offer. So, how can a person say about a state of concealment, when he is doing his work in a compulsory manner, that the Creator accepts his work and enjoys it?

However, we must believe in the sages, who tell us that all our work, however we work, if the person attributes the work to the Creator, even if it is in utter lowliness, the Creator enjoys it. The person should be happy that he can do things while in a state of lowliness.

The person should tell himself that He enjoys this work, which is entirely above reason. Reasonably thinking, this work is not considered “work,” meaning an important act that the Creator enjoys. Yet, he believes in the sages, who told us that the Creator does enjoy, but this is above reason.

By this we should interpret why Moses was perplexed about the birth of the moon: How can it be that about such work during the birth, which is a state of concealment, can we say that it is Kedusha and that the Creator enjoys such actions?

It is written, “Moses was perplexed about the birth of the moon. The Creator showed him with a finger the moon in the firmament and said to him: ‘Such as this, see and sanctify.’”

We asked, What does it imply that He showed him with a finger? This is as Baal HaSulam said about what our sages said (End of Taanit): “Rabbi Elazar said, ‘The Creator is destined to pardon the righteous, and dwell among them, and each one will point with his finger.’” He said that “point with his finger” implies the light of Hochma, called “seeing,” meaning that everyone will be rewarded with the revelation of Hochma [wisdom].

Accordingly, we can interpret here “the Creator showed Moses with a finger and said, ‘Such as this, see and sanctify,’” as it is written, “showed him the moon in the firmament,” meaning that the birth of the moon is seen in the firmament. The “firmament” is the “separating Masach [screen],” as our sages said, “And God made the firmament, and it divided between water and water,” and the lower water cries, “We want to be before the King.”

The moon that is in the firmament at the time of the birth is in concealment of the face. The Creator said, “This measure that you see during the birth, such as this, see and sanctify. Although this is utter lowliness, which is completely above reason, since all his actions are still compulsory, still, if you attribute this work to My name, I enjoy it as though he were pointing with a finger.”

As is said in the words of our sages, “The Creator is destined to pardon the righteous, and each one will point with his finger.” That is, I enjoy this as though they have already been rewarded with Hochma. For this reason, if a person overcomes in this, and believes with faith in the sages, he can ascend, since he says to the Creator, “I want to subjugate myself unconditionally, so You do not need to give me a good taste in the work.”

That is, a person says to the Creator, “If You see that I am enjoying, then I can work in order to bestow, so You will enjoy, too. Otherwise, I cannot work in order to bestow.” It follows that he dictates to the Creator how He should behave with him, meaning according to man’s mind. We should say about this that the Creator said, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts.”

Rather, the person says, “I do not mind how much I understand about appreciating the importance of observing Torah and Mitzvot, that I will receive from this such great inspiration that the whole body will surrender to the Creator and do everything with love and joy. Rather, by this, I see that I can do the holy work only by coercion. It follows that I still do not have the knowledge to understand and appreciate whom I am serving, meaning to feel that I am serving a great King. Thus, how can I say that I am working in Kedusha? After all, I have foreign thoughts against the work of the Creator, to such an extent that I must do everything coercively.” And yet, he believes with faith in the sages.

The answer to this is that the Creator said, “Such as this, see and sanctify.” That is, although he still does not see the measure of importance of the moon, where “moon” implies the kingdom of heaven, and the moon, the Creator showed with a finger in the firmament that it is concealment toward the lower ones, as said in the interpretation to, “And God made the firmament, and divided between the water that is below the firmament.”

In other words, the lower ones cannot look up, since there is a firmament that hides and divides from the lower ones. This was the Creator’s answer to Moses, who was perplexed, to what extent it should be seen and be worthy of sanctification, meaning so he can say, “This is Kedusha, and this Kedushaascends before Me and I accept it as Kedusha.”

He showed him with a finger. That is, “Such as this, see and sanctify.” In other words, as the moon in the firmament is in utter concealment, and the person sanctifies it and says, “Whatever grip I have in spirituality, I accept it with love, even though my work is compulsory, this, too, is important, that I have some faith in the Creator, that I can nonetheless bend myself and do something by coercion in order to please the Creator, and this is the least that I have.” The person should say that it is as important in his eyes as if He is pointing with a finger.

This is the meaning of “Israel count by the moon, and idol-worshippers count by the sun.” We asked, What does this come to teach us in the work? We should interpret that since man is a small world, which comprises the quality of “Israel” and the quality of “the nations of the world,” Israel count by the moon, and idol-worshippers count by the sun.” Something important is called “something that is counted.”

Among the nations of the world in a person, it is when the work of the Creator shines for him like the sun. As the sun is called “day,” as our sages said, “If the matter is as clear to you as light, meaning as light that shines” (Pesachim 2b). In other words, the matter of work shines throughout his body. At that time he can work and engage in Torah and Mitzvot.

But if it does not shine for him throughout his body, he cannot do the holy work. This discernment is called “the nations of the world,” who serve only the sun, meaning specifically when it illuminates for them, and they cannot overcome and work coercively.

But the Israel in a person count by the moon. That is, they sanctify their work during the birth of the moon, when the light she should receive from the sun is still not seen. Rather, “Such as this, see and sanctify.” He does not wait until some illumination from above shines for him, and then he will begin to work. Rather, for whatever grip he has on spirituality, he thanks the Creator. This is called “the quality of Israel,” and specifically by this is one rewarded with ascending on the rungs of holiness, as was said, “In return for ‘And Moses hid his face for he was afraid to look,’ he was rewarded with, ‘The image of the Lord does he behold.’” In other words, specifically by taking upon oneself to do the work of holiness unconditionally, a person is rewarded with achieving the purpose of creation, which is His desire to do good to His creations.

Such as this we see presented in The Zohar (Beresheet Bet, Item 14), “Within that palace are all those who suffered torments and illnesses in this world to be corrected in complete repentance, who thanked and praised their Master each day, and never cancelled their prayer. That is, it is the nature of a man who is concerned before Him to see himself as full of deficiencies. This enables him to always pray for complementing his deficiencies. However, he cannot thank and praise the Creator because in his mind, he has nothing for which to thank and praise. On the other hand, if he overcomes and always thanks and praises the Creator each day for the great kindness toward him, he necessarily feels satisfaction in his state, and again he cannot pray and complain to the Creator about his deficiencies.” The Zohar says that “the merit of those righteous is that they are complete on both sides. Therefore, they were rewarded with entering the palace of Hod in the Garden of Eden.”

It therefore follows that a person should walk on both lines, although they contradict one another, for specifically by this are we rewarded with entering the King’s palace.

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

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