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What Is the Prohibition to Bless on an Empty Table, in the Work?
Article No. 16, Tav-Shin-Mem-Tet, 1988-89
It is written in The Zohar, Yitro (Item 437): “‘You shall not take the name of your God in vain.’ Rabbi Shimon started, ‘And Elisha said unto her: ‘What shall I do for you? Tell me; what do you have in the house?’ Elisha said to her, ‘Do you have anything on which the blessing of the Creator can be?’ We learned that a person must not bless on an empty table. What is the reason? It is because the blessing above is not present on an empty place.’” (In 442) It says, “Hence, we must not mention the holy name in vain, as it is written, ‘You shall not take the name of your God in vain.’”
We should understand why there cannot be an upper blessing on an empty table. After all, the blessing is that the Creator wants to give to the created beings delight and pleasure. Thus, why must the receivers first prepare in order to make room for the blessing to be, meaning that they must set up a suitable place to receive the upper blessing?
The thing is that the table is a place on which we eat, meaning the place from which one sustains oneself, and on which various pleasures are set in order to enjoy them. This is called a “table.” It must not be empty, but have something from which one enjoys, and only then can one bless the Creator. This means that if one blesses the Creator but there is no pleasure set on the table, it is forbidden, as it is written, “a person must not bless on an empty table.”
It is also difficult to understand what Rabbi Shimon brings as evidence, that Elisha asked her, “What do you have in the house?” The question was, Do you have something from which to enjoy? or else, the blessing cannot come. Yet, we see that the cessation of the oil, which is called a “blessing,” was because there were no empty Kelim [vessels], as it is written, “And he said, ‘Go, borrow vessels for yourself, empty vessels, do not get a few.’ …And he said to her, ‘There is not one vessel more,’ and the oil stopped.”
It follows that the cessation of the blessing was not because the table was empty. Rather, the cessation of the blessing of the oil was for lack of empty Kelim. This means that there must be empty Kelim, as well.
To understand this in the work, we should know about the oppositeness we have in the order of the work. On one hand, we see that a person should establish the praise of the Creator, and then pray. Clearly, while he establishes the praises, he says that the Creator is good and does good to the bad and to the good, and that He is merciful and gracious. At that time, it cannot be said that a person is deficient, meaning that he lacks something whether in spirituality or in corporeality. Otherwise, it means that he is merely saying but his heart is not with him. That is, in his heart, he thinks differently from what he says with his mouth. For this reason, it is impossible to sing and thank the Creator and say His virtues, but a person says about himself that he has abundance and that he lacks nothing. Thus, how can one say so when he finds himself bare and destitute?
Baal HaSulam said about this that a person should depict to himself as though he has already been rewarded with complete faith in the Creator and already feels that the Creator leads the world in a manner of good and doing good. Although when he looks at himself and the world and sees that he and the whole world are deficient, each according to his degree, he should say about this, “They have eyes and see not,” meaning above reason. In this way, he can say that he is a complete person and lacks nothing. Naturally, he can establish the praise of the Creator above reason.
He also said that a person should walk on the right line, which is to introspect and say that everything is under guidance and man has no free choice at all. Accordingly, The Baal Shem Tov said that before the fact, a person should say, “If I am not for me, who is for me?” and after the fact, a person should say, “Everything is under Providence.” In other words, the Creator gave him a thought and desire to do something in Torah and Mitzvot [commandments/good deeds], and chose him not only from among all the nations to give him a thought and desire to serve Him, meaning to observe Torah and Mitzvot, but even within the people of Israel themselves, He chose him from the rest of the people to give him a place to serve Him.
Although it is a small service, meaning that He let him work outside His palace, which is called Lo Lishma [not for Her sake], and still did not permit him to enter the palace, meaning He still did not receive permission from the Creator, namely a desire and yearning to work in order to bestow, and everything he does is only for his own sake, regarded as “outside the King’s palace,” but he considers this, too, a great privilege that He has chosen him from the rest of the people. He feels happy about this, and this can satisfy a person and make him praise and thank the Creator for rewarding him with accepting him into the work.
This is called “right line” in the work. That is, he feels happy when he looks at the rest of the people, who do not have this privilege of serving the King, even if Lo Lishma. Still, it is very important, since in terms of the action, he is serving the King, and on actions, we should not add. That is, even if he wants to add to the performance of Mitzvot, it is forbidden, as it is written, “You shall not add and you shall not take away.” Thus, he considers it a great privilege.
For this reason, when he looks at others, that they have no contact with Torah and Mitzvot, and sees their lowliness, in what they are immersed, meaning that all the pleasures they can have are only pleasures clothed in dresses that every animal enjoys, that they were permitted from above to enjoy only these dresses and have no connection whatsoever to Torah and Mitzvot, and he believes that everything comes from above, from this a person should derive joy and happiness.
Baal HaSulam said that if a person receives from this joy and happiness, through the joy he is regarded as blessed, and then “The blessed clings to The Blessed.” This is called “From Lo Lishma, we come to Lishma [for Her sake],” since the light in it reforms him, as now he feels that he is blessed and then the upper blessing can be on him, which is regarded as equivalence of form.
But if a person feels cursed, deficient, he has no equivalence with the Creator because the Creator is utterly complete. Consequently, there is no place where the blessing can be due to disparity of form.
That state is called “right line,” meaning wholeness, in which there are no deficiencies. And what should one do when he engages in a manner of “right”? He should praise and thank the Creator, and engage in the Torah, for then is the time to receive the light of Torah, since he is in a state of wholeness, regarded as being a person who has blessing and no lacks. Naturally, this is the time for the blessing to be on him, as said above, “The blessed clings to The Blessed.”
However, it is impossible to walk on one leg. That is, a person cannot progress on one leg. Since there is a rule, “There is no light without a Kli,” meaning “No filling without a lack,” and since on the right line he is in wholeness, it follows that he has nowhere to progress, no need for the Creator to satisfy his needs, since he has no needs at all.
For this reason, at that time a person must try to see his faults, so as to have room for prayer that the Creator will satisfy his needs. This is regarded as a person having to provide empty Kelim that the Creator may fill with upper abundance, which is called “a blessing.” If there are no empty Kelim, meaning deficiencies, with what can he fill them?
This is regarded as a person walking on the “left line.” In spirituality, “left” means something that requires correction. This means that a person should dedicate a small portion of his time to criticize himself and see how much effort he can put into working solely for the sake of the Creator, and not for his own sake, and if he can say that if he does not work in order to bring contentment to his Maker, he does not want to live, and so forth.
At that time he realizes that he cannot do this on his own, but only the Creator can help. It follows that now is the time when he can pray from the bottom of the heart. That is, he sees and feels that he is powerless to change the nature with which he was created, called “will to receive for himself and not to bestow.”
But in truth, one must believe that this lack, that he cannot change himself alone, namely his nature, this awareness comes from above. That is, from above, he is notified of this truth that he cannot work in order to bestow.
A person must know that not everyone is shown this. Usually, meaning for people who work like the general public, since they take strength for work like the sacred still, and have no connection to the vegetative, they do not see flaws in themselves. Rather, those who try to walk on the path of individuals, to the extent that they yearn to achieve the degrees of Dvekut [adhesion], they receive help from above to see the truth, how far the created beings are from being givers.
It therefore follows that the upper one does not necessarily give them the help to be able to work in order to bestow. Rather, the upper one also gives the Kli, meaning the need to get help from above, since they cannot work in order to bestow by themselves. In other words, the upper one also gives the need, meaning the empty Kelim—that they are unable to overcome the vessels of reception. This, too, the upper one gives.
Yet, help with this lack is given specifically to those who want to walk on the path of individuals. People who work in the manner of the general public are not revealed this knowledge, for the simple reason that they have no desire to work in order to bestow, so what will they reveal to them?
However, there is an issue here, that it is difficult for a beginner to walk on the path of individuals, and he begins to see that bestowing is difficult, and he cannot say that he was given this awareness from above as a gift. Rather, this awareness came to him due to the lowliness of the body itself. He says that all those who walk in the path of the work of bestowal is because “They do not have so much evil in their nature; this is why they can walk on this path. But for me, this is difficult.” It is hard for him to believe that this is hard for everyone by nature, and there is no way that a person will have the power to emerge from the control of self-love unless the Creator Himself helps him out of this governance.
This is regarded as the Creator delivering His people from the exile in Egypt, as it is written in the Passover Haggadah [story/narrative], “I and not a messenger, I and not a seraph [type of angel], I the Lord and not another.” We should interpret that the Creator said that only He had brought His people out of Egypt, as it is written, “I and not a seraph.” This means that the person had the power of the fire of a seraph, which is why he could emerge from self-love. Even if a person has a burning fire, he will still not have the strength to go against nature, but rather the Creator brought them out.
This is the meaning of the words, “I and not a messenger.” It means that it will not help a person that he wants to do God’s mission, and will thereby have the power to emerge from their control. Rather, nothing will help him. Even if he is the mightiest of the mighty, he will not be able to emerge from this control of the self-benefit, unless the Creator gives the strength to emerge from this exile.
For this reason, a person must say and believe that nothing is difficult for the Creator. Therefore, a person cannot say that this work of bestowal is not for him because it is hard for him. Instead, he must believe that all those descents he has are because with each descent, he gets a need for the Creator’s help, since a need is called a Kli, and in this Kli, the Creator can place light, as it is known that there is no light without a Kli.
However, the Kli is not made all at once. Rather, each descent gives one a need for His help. For example, one descent creates a one centimeter worth of need, and in the second descent, he gets a need once more, where he must say that only the Creator can help him. It follows that he has received another centimeter, and he has a Kli that is only two centimeters deep. When he has a hundred descents, he has a Kli that is one hundred centimeters deep. Thus, the Kli (grows), meaning the need and the desire that the Creator will help him (and give him) a big Kli.
Yet, we should ask, What is the measure of the Kli? Baal HaSulam said about this that a person should believe that the Creator knows how much need and desire the size of the Kli should have. When the Creator sees that the Kli can receive the light, the Creator immediately fills the Kli as much as He can. Thus, one should not be impressed by the descents. Instead, he should say, “The salvation of the Lord is as the blink of an eye,” and a person must believe that immediately following each descent it may be enough to give him a Kli, a desire that the Creator can instantly fill.
However, when he sees that he still did not receive the help from the Creator, he must increase his praying that the Creator will help him and not fall into despair. This order is called “left line,” meaning that specifically now he should feel his lowliness, how far he is from the work of bestowal.
However, he must not prolong this work on the left line. He should take only a short time of his work for the Creator to work with the lack. Most of the time, he should engage in work in wholeness, called “right,” when he is content with little. That is, whatever taste and feeling in the work he has, he is happy with his lot and feels complete, thanks the Creator for it, and feels that he is the happiest person in the world.
At that time he can bless the Creator because of this good that He has given him—that he has the ability to be a worker of the Creator even at the smallest degree, it does not matter for him. This is so because he sees that he is important to the Creator because he believes that the Creator has chosen him to stand before him and do even the smallest service, while to others, He has not given even this service. For this, he blesses the Creator.
Now we can understand the question we asked, Why is the Creator unable to give His blessing unless there is some food on the table, and it is forbidden to bless on an empty table? The reason is that there must be equivalence of form, as our sages said, “The cursed does not cling to The Blessed.” Therefore, when a person blesses the Creator and derives pleasure from the fact that the Creator has given him the meal, meaning a grip on Kedusha [holiness], this is regarded as the table not being empty, and the blessing can be in it. This is called “right line,” and in this one should be most of the day’s work.
We should also interpret what he brings as evidence, that he asked the woman what she has in the house. He learns from this that the table must not be empty. But we see that we do need empty Kelim, since the stopping of the oil, called “blessing,” was because there were no more empty Kelim?
The answer is that in order to advance in the work, we also need the left line, called “deficiencies,” which are empty Kelim. However, it is one thing to make the Kelim, which is when he works on the left line, and the pouring of the abundance into the empty Kelim. This is done specifically when a person is in a state where he is blessed and lacks nothing, and “The blessed clings to The Blessed.”
IInapoi la pagina 1989 (ŞLAVEY HASULAM (TREPTELE SCĂRII) – link