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What Is “Do Not Slight the Blessing of a Layperson” in the Work?

Article No. 24, Tav-Shin-Mem-Tet, 1988-89

The Zohar (Nasso, Item 10) says, “Do not slight the blessing of a layperson.” This is, ‘In the daytime, the Lord will command His mercy.’” In the Megillah (p 15) he says, “Never slight the blessing of a layperson.”

We should understand what this comes to teach us in the work of the Creator, meaning when we learn within one person, what is the meaning of “layperson.” First, we need to understand the meaning of a “layperson” altogether.

In Masechet Megillah (p 12b), Rav Kahana said, “It follows that a layperson jumps first.” This means that the meaning of “layperson” is said in his condemnation, that he is a simple person, who nonetheless likes to show himself and appear as wise. Thus, how should we interpret “the blessing of a layperson” in the work? Also, we need to understand what The Zohar says, “Do not slight the blessing of a layperson.” This is, ‘In the daytime, the Lord will command His mercy.’” What is the connection between the blessing of a layperson and His mercy?

It is known that man’s work is in two lines, called “two writings that deny one another until the third writing comes and decides between them.” It is as our sages said (Sotah 47), “The left always pushes away, and the right pulls near.”

In the work, we should interpret “the right pulls near.” When a person is advancing in the work and wants to be in a state nearing the Creator, and does not want to see any deficiency in himself because now he wants to engage in songs and praises for the Creator, and if he sees some deficiency in himself he will not be able to thank the Creator with all his heart because he has deficiencies and he wants the Creator to fill his deficiencies. It follows that now he is praying for the Creator to fill the lacks. Thus, his gratitude is already deficient. That is, in the midst of saying thanks, he claims that the Creator has not given him everything he needs. Therefore, when he wants to engage in wholeness so that the thanks he gives to the Creator will be from the bottom of the heart, he must not see any lack in himself.

However, we must understand how a person can say that he has no lacks, and instead, he thanks and praises the Creator that he is working for the Creator, when he sees that his work is full of flaws. How can he lie when he sees his own incompleteness in the Torah and work? The answer is that when one introspects and sees his lowliness, that he is worse than the rest of the people in skills and qualities, and yet the Creator has given him a thought and desire to do something in Torah and Mitzvot[commandments/good deeds], and he knows that this service is worthless and sees that there are many people more important than him, yet the Creator did not give them a thought or desire to do something in matters of Kedusha [holiness], and He did give him a thought and desire. For this he thanks the Creator as though he has obtained a fortune in corporeality. What spirit would the corporeal things yield in them? From this depiction, he receives joy and happiness and it gives him satisfaction.

This causes him to later have ears to hear things toward which previously his ears were deaf. Now, through the joy, all his organs have become alert and understand and contemplate everything, since the joy that came to him through the joy of Mitzva [singular of Mitzvot] causes him that in corporeality, too, he will be a completely different person now. All this came to him because he appreciated matters in Kedusha.

However, one must believe that even though he appreciates the importance of Kedusha with all his might, he still has not come to give the measure of importance where there is the real importance, because no person can evaluate the measure of importance of the Kedusha, and only those who have ascended know how to appreciate a spiritual matter.

Our sages knew what importance to attribute to spirituality, as our sages said (Berachot 7), “Rabbi Zira said, ‘The reward of learning is in running.’” RASHI interpreted that the reward of people who run to hear a lesson from a sage is mainly the reward for running, since most of them do not understand. The MAHARSHA interprets that “The wise do not need the learning, for they already know the laws, as was said, that in any case, their reward is the running,” meaning the reward for running.

“Abaye said, ‘The reward of the Kallah [Shabbat before a pilgrim festival] is in the squeezing.’” RASHI interpreted, “On a Shabbat before the pilgrimage, everyone gathers to hear the laws of the pilgrimage.” The meaning is that although there are people who do not understand the laws, they still have reward for standing pressed together. The MAHARSHA says about this, too, “If the listener is a wise disciple and has no need for this, he has the reward for squeezing.”

Accordingly, we can see how our sages appreciated the importance of spirituality, for they said, “Even if people do not understand what the sage is saying, they still have reward in that they run to hear the sage’s words.” Moreover, we see that the MAHARSHA says, that even those who are themselves wise disciples and know the laws on their own, still, if they come to listen to the sage’s words, they have reward. And certainly, reward is given only for work.

It follows that a person should be happy that he has been rewarded with the work of the Creator. Even if he comes to the seminary or the synagogue and does not learn, he has the reward for walking, meaning that it is defined as work of the Creator. The evidence of this is that there is reward for this work.

It follows that when a person walks on the right line and wants to engage in work of singing and praising the Creator, he must see that he has wholeness. That is, he must appreciate his lowliness and how the Creator has given him a desire and yearning at least to walk to the seminary, although he understands nothing, and to say, “I cannot appreciate the importance of my fortune that the Creator has chosen me for at least some service.” He should be happy as though he has struck a fortune in corporeality, how he would be happy. That joy gives him the strength to believe in the Creator, that He is good and does good.

But when a person begins to calculate how much he earned in spirituality through the labor he has already given, and begins to see that he did not advance, although what he sees is true according to his attainment, in that state, he is separated from the Kedusha [holiness] because in that state, he is slandering His Providence and cannot say that the guidance of the Creator is in the form of good and doing good.

It follows that by this he becomes more remote from the Kedusha. That is, to the extent that he sees that he is deficient, and sees all that he is lacking, and that he has prayed to the Creator several times but the Creator did not give him anything for his plea, he immediately blemishes the belief that “You hear the prayer of every mouth.”

It follows that in this state, he says that now he is walking on the path of truth and does not want to deceive himself that he is a person who has wholeness, and he is certain that the road he is marching is true. However, a person cannot make ways for himself, but must accept the path that our sages have arranged for us.

About such matters, Baal HaSulam asked about what we say (in “You Have Chosen Us”), “And lifted us from among all the tongues.” Yet, there is only one tongue in the world, that of the evil inclination. Thus, it should have said, “And lifted us from all the tongue.” What is the meaning of “all the tongues,” in plural form? He said that there are holy angels and there are impure angels. That is, sometimes, the evil inclination prevents us from doing something good through a power that incites us and says that we have no need to engage in Torah and Mitzvot, since we will not gain anything from this. Sometimes it comes to us and tells us, “You should not do this; it will only interfere with your engagement in Torah and Mitzvot.” It follows that it says to us the opposite, that he wants us to engage in Torah and Mitzvot, which is why he advises us not to do what we want to do, or learn, or think, etc.

It follows that when a person should walk on the “right line,” the holy angel comes to him and tells him, “Look at your baseness, see how you are devoid of Torah and devoid of faith, and you are also lacking in observing Mitzvot.” He lowers him to the netherworld and speaks to him like a holy angel.

And what happens? In the end, the person falls into a descent and cannot think of doing anything in Kedusha. For this reason, when he must walk on the right line, he must fight against all those who object to the wholeness of the right, and believe above reason that the Sitra Achra [other side] speaks to him dressed as a holy angel.

However, afterward a person must shift to the other side, called “left line,” where great care is required. He must be ready, when he sees his past, that he is full of flaws, to have the ability to pray for the flaws. Otherwise, it is forbidden to begin the work on the left, as it is written in The Zohar, that it is “forbidden to raise the hands without prayer and plea.” “Raising the hands” means that he looks in his hands, meaning what spirituality he already has in his hands, if he has advanced a bit or not.

It is forbidden to look, except in a way that he is willing to make an honest prayer and plea right away. Otherwise, he will fall into despair and sadness and melancholy, and will have to escape the campaign. It follows that where he should have received from the left line a place for prayer, that this is the only reason he should move to the left line, hence, if he cannot be certain that he can make an instantaneous prayer, he should remain on the right line until he is certain that by this he will have the strength to pray that the Creator will help him, and he will believe that “The Lord hears the prayer of every mouth.”

Otherwise, it is forbidden because in that state, he cannot give thanks and also cannot pray to the Creator to deliver him from that state. When a person is in a state where he begins to slander Providence, he immediately loses the power of prayer because the body does not believe that the Creator “hears the prayer of every mouth.” It follows that he remains empty handed both ways. For this reason, he must stay on the right line and not enter the left line.

This is the meaning of what our sages said (Yoma 16), “Any turn you take should be only through the right.” The meaning of “any” is “generally.” That is, generally, a person should walk on the right line. It is permitted to walk on the left line only when he is certain he will be able to pray for his deficiencies. Otherwise, he must remain on the right until he feels that he is ready for it.

Therefore, if thoughts that he is at fault have awakened in him against his will, and how can he speak words of Torah and prayer to the Creator when his thoughts tell him, “You are filthy! How are you not ashamed to engage in matters of Kedusha?!” About this, a person (must) say that it is written, “I am the Lord, who dwells with them in the midst of their Tuma’a [impurity].” That is, even though I am in the lowest possible baseness, I still believe what is written, that the Creator dwells even in the worst lowliness.

However, He is not among the proud, as our sages said, “Anyone who is proud, the Creator says, ‘I and he cannot dwell in the same abode.’” For this reason, when a person feels whole, according to the right line, when he appreciates his lowliness and says that nonetheless, the Creator has given him some grip on Kedusha, and that “some,” compared to the Kedusha that a person should attain, compared to the Kedusha that a person should attain, that “some” is called “layperson.”

But if he says according to his lowliness, “I thank and praise the Creator for this,” it can be said about this what is written, “I am the Lord, who dwells with them in the midst of their Tuma’a.” When he is happy about this, he can be rewarded with, “The Shechina [Divinity] is present only out of joy.”

It follows that through this lowliness, that because the Creator has given him some grip on Kedusha, he can climb the rungs of holiness if he only takes from this the joy and appreciates it. Then, a person can say, “Raise the poor from the dust,” “He will raise the destitute from the litter.” That is, when a person feels his lowliness, that he is meager, meaning poor, as our sages said (Nedarim 41), “Abaye said, ‘In our tradition, there is no poor but in knowledge.’” That is, it has been handed down from our father, a custom from our forefathers that “there is no poor but in knowledge.”

This is why he says that he is meager, meaning poor, for he has no knowledge of Kedusha—he is called “poor and meager.” Then, if there is any grip on Kedusha, even though he is poor, he says, “Raises the poor from the dust.” That is, he says a prayer, for even though he is poor, the Creator still raised him. “He raises the destitute from the litter.” Although he feels that he is destitute, the Creator still lifted him, and for this, he praises the Creator. If there is any grip on Kedusha, we can already praise and thank the Creator.

We can interpret what is written (Psalms 97), “Be glad in the Lord, you righteous ones, and give thanks to the memory of His holy name.” We should interpret that “righteous” is one who says that the Creator is righteous, since any grip that he has on Kedusha, he immediately says, “The Lord is righteous” in that He gives one who is as poor and destitute as him some grip on spirituality. These are called “righteous,” as it is written, “Who is righteous? He who justifies his Maker.”

The measure of grip on spirituality is that he can say about it, “I am happy with it.” The verse says, “And give thanks to the memory of His holy name,” meaning they thank “the memory of His holy name,” the fact that they remember His holiness—for this they thank and praise. This is the meaning of the words, “Give thanks to the memory of His holy name.” That is, if they merely remember the Holy name, for this alone they already thank the Creator, meaning on the mere remembering, they are immediately awakened to thank the Creator.

But one who has some pride and says that “The rest of the people, who have no brains, can come to be servants of the Creator without any intellect and reason, but a man like me, who has brains and is not as stupid as other people,” he says, “If the Creator wants me to work for Him, He must be considerate with me and give me the taste of Torah and prayer. Otherwise, I will serve the way I understand it and not the way You require.”

It is written about this, “The Lord is King, He dresses in pride.” That is, the Creator behaves toward such people a garment of pride and is not impressed with them, and they remain with nothing but their pride. This is why it is written, “The Lord is high and the low will see.” With his lowliness, a man can see. But one who is high, who considers himself higher than others, is called “And the high from afar,” meaning he moves afar from Kedusha.

Now we can understand what we asked, What is “Do not slight the blessing of a layperson”? It means that when a person feels that he is a layperson, that he has only a slight contact with Kedusha, which is considered “layperson” compared to the wholeness that one should achieve, still, when he blesses and thanks the Creator, “Do not slight it.” Rather, a person must appreciate it as though he has obtained a fortune and thank and bless the Creator as though he has attained true wholeness.

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