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1.01 Baal HaSulam

Shamati, Article No. 217, “If I Am Not for Me, Who Is for Me?”

“If I am not for me who is for me, and when I am for myself, what am I?” This is an inherent con- tradiction. The thing is that one should do all of one’s work by way of “If I am not for me, who is for me,” that no one can save him, but “by your mouth, and by your heart to do it,” that is, a dis- cernment of reward and punishment. However, to oneself, in private, one should know that “when I am for myself, what am I?” This means that everything is in private Providence and no one can do anything.

If you say that if everything is in private Providence, why is there the issue of working in the form of “If I am not for me, who is for me?” Yet, through working in the form of “If I am not for me, who is for me,” one is awarded private Providence, meaning attains it. Thus, everything follows the path of correction, and the distribution of added fondness, called “children of the Creator,” is not revealed unless it is preceded by work in the form of “If I am not for me, who is for me.”

1.02 Baal HaSulam,

Letter No. 16

I have already said in the name of the Baal Shem Tov that prior to making a Mitzva [command- ment], one must not consider private Providence at all. On the contrary, one should say, “If I am not for me, who is for me?” But after the fact, one must reconsider and believe that it was not by “My power and the might of my hand” that I did the Mitzva, but only by the power of the Creator, who contemplated so about me in advance, and so I had to do.

It is likewise in worldly matters because spirituality and corporeality are equal. Therefore, before one goes out to make one’s daily bread, he should remove his thoughts from private Providence and say, “If I am not for me, who is?” He should do all the tactics applied in corporeality to earn his living as do others.

But in the evening, when he returns home with his earnings, he must never think that he has earned this profit by his own innovations. Rather, even if he stayed all day in the basement of his home, he would still have earned his pay, for so the Creator contemplated for him in advance, and so it had to be.

Although the matters look the contrary on the surface, and are unreasonable, one must believe that so the Creator has determined for him in His law, from authors and from books.

1.03 Baal HaSulam,

Shamati, Article No. 5, “Lishma Is an Awakening from Above, and Why Do We Need an Awakening From Below?”

In order to attain Lishma [for Her sake], it is not within one’s hands to understand, as it is not for the human mind to grasp how such a thing can be in the world. This is so because one is only permitted to grasp that if he engages in Torah and Mitzvot [commandments] he will attain something. There must be self-benefit there for otherwise, one is unable to do anything. Rather, it is an illumination that comes from above, and only one who tastes it can know and understand. It is written about it, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Thus, we must understand why one should seek advice and counsels regarding how to achieve Lishma. After all, no counsels will help him, and if the Creator does not give him the second nature, called “the desire to bestow,” no labor will help him to attain the matter of Lishma.

The answer is, as our sages said (Avot, Chapter 2, 21), “It is not for you to complete the work, and you are not free to idle away from it.” This means that one must give the awakening from below, since this is regarded as a prayer.

A prayer is considered a deficiency, and without a deficiency there is no filling. Hence, when one has a need for Lishma, the filling comes from above, and the answer to the prayer comes from above, meaning he receives fulfillment for his lack.

1.04 RABASH,

Assorted Notes, Article No. 845, “None as Holy as the Lord”

“There is none who is as holy as the Lord.” But is there one who is worse than the Creator but holy? “There is no rock like our God.” Does that mean that there is another rock, which is a little worse than the Creator? Rather, there are holy ones and angels and souls, and all receive Kedusha [holiness] from the Creator. This is not so “because there is none besides You.” Rather, You will give them Kedusha [holiness] (The Zohar, Tazria, Item 37).

We should ask what this tells us in the work. One must believe how all the overcoming in the work, and did he labor in order to be rewarded with the Holy one, as it is written, “You will be holy, for I am holy.” At that time, one must know that all of man’s work does not help him whatsoever. Rather, it is all from the Creator.

In other words, all the Kedusha [holiness] that one feels he has comes to him from the Creator. This is what it means that there is no Kedusha, meaning no Kedusha in the world that one can obtain by himself. Rather, everything comes from the Creator. This is why it is written, “There is none as holy as the Lord,” and “There is no rock like our God.”

It is known that Kelim [vessels] are called by the name Elokim [God], and lights are called by the name of HaVaYaH. It is written, “there is no rock,” which is when one sees that he has vessels of bestowal. This is regarded that a new thing was created for him, which is called a “rock,” meaning that in a place where he had vessels of reception, vessels of bestowal have been depicted in him. One should not think that he helped the Creator in any way and by this obtained vessels of bestowal. Rather, everything came from above.

Baal HaSulam said that prior to working, one must say, “If I am not for me, who is for me?” After the work, he should believe in private Providence, meaning that the Creator does everything. This is the meaning of what is written there: “The Creator draws a picture within a picture.” We should interpret that within the form of the Kelim, which is reception, He draws there the form of bestowal.

1.05 RABASH, Article No. 19 (1990),

“Why Is the Torah Called “Middle Line” in the Work? – 2”

One should believe that “there is none else besides Him,” that the Creator does everything. In other words, as Baal HaSulam said, before each action one should say that man was given only choice, since “If I am not for me, who is for me?” Thus, everything depends on one’s choice. However, after the fact, one should say that everything is private Providence, and that one does nothing on his own.

 1.06 RABASH, Assorted Notes,

Article No. 659 “What Are Torah and Work?”

With regard to the Creator, we can speak of Torah, since work pertains specifically to the created beings.

Work applies only to the created beings. Hence, when we speak of work, it means that we learn what one should do. In that state, a person should say, “If I am not for me, who is for me?”

Afterward, we should extend the quality of Torah on this work, regarded as what the Creator does. That is, we must extend the discernment of private Providence and we must not say, “My strength and the might of my hand has gotten me these riches.” This is the meaning of the Torah being called “the names of the Creator,” meaning that the Creator does everything.

1.07 RABASH,

Article No. 6 (1991), What Is, “The Herdsmen of Abram’s Cattle and the Herdsmen of Lot’s Cattle,” in the Work?

As long as a person does not have the desire to bestow, he is unfit to receive delight and pleasure. Therefore, when a person suffers, he loses the faith. But once he has been rewarded with the desire to bestow, he receives delight and pleasure from the Creator and is rewarded with permanent faith. It follows that all those ascents and descents bring him to a state where the Creator helps him achieve the desire to bestow, and then all his works are for the sake of the Creator.

However, a person must know that when he comes to a state where he does not see how he will ever be able to emerge from self-love and he wants to escape the campaign, he must know that there are two matters here, which are opposite from one another, as our sages said (Avot, Chapter 2:21), “It is not for you to finish the work, nor are you free to idle away from it.”

Thus, on one hand, a person must work and never idle away from it. That is, it is within man’s power to attain, since he says, “nor are you free to idle away from it.” This means that one should work because he is guaranteed to get what he wants, meaning to be able to work for the sake of the Creator in order to bring contentment to his Maker.

On the other hand, he says, “It is not for you to finish the work.” This implies that it is not within man’s hands, but rather, as it is written, “The Lord will finish for me.” This means that it is not within man’s ability to obtain the desire to bestow.

However, there are two matters here:

1) A person must say, “If I am not for me, who is for me?” Hence, he should not be alarmed by the fact that he has not been rewarded with obtaining the desire to bestow, although in his opinion, he has made great efforts. Nonetheless, he should believe that the Creator waits until he reveals what he must do.

2) Afterward, the Creator will finish for him, meaning that at that time, he will receive what he wants at once, as it is written, “The salva- tion of the Lord is as the blink of an eye.”

1.08 RABASH,

Article No. 6 (1989), “What Is Above Reason in the Work?”

This is the meaning of the words, “king of Israel and his redeemer.” That is, once they have taken upon themselves the kingdom of heaven, called “king of Israel,” they attain that the Creator is his redeemer, meaning that only the Creator redeemed them from the control of the evil, and they themselves were powerless to do so.

In this way, we should interpret the words “Lord of hosts.” This name means, as Baal HaSulam inter- preted, that as he said, Tzevaot [hosts] are two words: Tze [leave/go out] and Ba [comes]. That is, Tzava [army] are men of war. These are people who go each day to fight the evil inclination. They are called “army.” Therefore, after they have been rewarded with redemption, meaning after they conquer the evil inclination and emerge from the control of the evil, their conduct in the work is by way of ascents and descents, which is called Tzevaot [plural of Tzava (army)]. Meaning, at times they emerge from their control, and then are under their control again. Thus, the name for ascents and descents is Tzevaot.

During the work, a person should say, “If I am not for me, who is for me?” At that time in the work, they think that they themselves are doing the ascents and descents, that they are men of war, called Tzava, “mighty men.” Afterward, when they are redeemed, they attain that the Lord is of hosts [Tzevaot], meaning that the Creator made all the ups and downs they had.

In other words, even the descents come from the Creator. A person does not get so many ups and downs for no reason. Rather, the Creator caused all those exits. We can interpret “exit” as “exit from Kedusha [holiness],” and Ba [comes] as “coming to Kedusha. The Creator does everything. Hence, after the redemption, the Creator is called “Lord of Hosts.” And who is He? “The king of Israel and his redeemer.”

1.09 RABASH,

Article No. 18 (1986), “Who Causes the Prayer”

One must not say, “I’m waiting for the Creator to give me an awakening from above, and then I will be able to work in the work of holiness.” Baal HaSulam said that in regard to the future, a person must believe in reward and punishment, meaning he must say (Avot, Chapter 1), “If I am not for me who is for me, and when I am for me, what am I, and if not now, then when?”

Thus, one mustn’t wait another moment. Instead, he should say, “If not now, then when?” And he must not wait for a better time, so “Then I will get up and do the work of holiness.” Rather, it is as our sages said (Avot, Chapter 2), “Do not say, ‘I will study when I have time,’ lest you will not have time.”

1.10 Pirkei Avot, 1:14

He (Old Hillel) would say, “If I am not for me, who is for me? And when I am for myself, what am I? And if not now then when?”

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