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1.01 Baal HaSulam,

“The Freedom”

There is freedom for the will to initially choose such an environment, such books, and such guides that impart upon him good concepts. If one does not do this but is willing to enter any environment that appears before him and read any book that falls into his hands, he is bound to fall into a bad environment or waste his time on worthless books, which are abundant and more accessible. In con- sequence, he will be forced into foul concepts that make him sin and condemn. He will certainly be punished, not because of his evil thoughts or deeds, in which he has no choice, but because he did not choose to be in a good environment, for in this there is definitely a choice.

Therefore, he who strives to continually choose a better environment is worthy of praise and reward. But here, too, it is not because of his good thoughts or deeds, which come to him without his choice, but because of his effort to acquire a good environment, which brings him these good thoughts and actions. It is as Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Perachya said, “Make for yourself a rav and buy for yourself a friend.”

 1.02 Baal HaSulam,

Shamati, Article No. 225, “Raising Oneself”

One cannot raise oneself above one’s circle. Hence, one must nurse from one’s environment, and he has no other way except through Torah and much work. Therefore, if one chooses for oneself a good environment, he saves time and efforts since he is drawn according to his environment

 1.03 Baal HaSulam,

“The Freedom”

All the praise and spirit depends on the choice of the environment.

1.04 Baal HaSulam,

“The Freedom”

Rabbi Yosi Ben Kisma (Avot, Chapter 6), who replied to a person who offered him to live in his town, and he would give him millions of gold coins for it: “Even if you give me all the gold and silver and jewels in the world, I will live only in a place of Torah.” These words seem inconceivable to our simple mind, for how could he relinquish millions of gold coins for such a small thing as living in a place where there are no disciples of Torah, while he himself was a great sage who needed to learn from no one? Indeed, a mystery.

But as we have seen, it is a simple thing and should be observed by each and every one of us. Although everyone has his own source, the forces are revealed openly only through the environ- ment one is in. This is similar to the wheat sown in the ground, whose forces become apparent only through its environment, which is the soil, rain, and sunlight.

Thus, Rabbi Yosi Ben Kisma correctly assumed that if he were to leave the good environment he had chosen and fall into a harmful environment in a city where there is no Torah, not only would his former concepts be compromised, but all the other forces hidden in his source, which he had not yet revealed in action, would remain concealed. This is because they would not be subject to the right environment that would be able to activate them.

And as we have clarified above, only in the matter of the choice of environment is man’s reign over himself measured, and for this he should receive reward or punishment. Therefore, one must not wonder that a sage such as Rabbi Yosi Ben Kisma chose the good and declined the bad, and was not tempted by material or corporeal things, as he deduces there: “When one dies, one does not take with him silver, gold, or jewels, but only Torah and good deeds.”

And so our sages warned, “Make for yourself a rav and buy for yourself a friend.” And there is also the choice of books, as we have mentioned, for only in this is one rebuked or praised—in his choice of the environment. But once he has chosen an environment, he is at its hands as clay in the hands of the potter.

1.05 Baal HaSulam,

“A Speech for the Completion of the Zohar”

Our sages said, “Make for yourself a rav and buy yourself a friend.” This means that one can make a new environment for oneself. This environment will help him obtain the greatness of his rav through love of friends who appreciate his rav. Through the friends’ discussing the greatness of the rav, each of them receives the sensation of his greatness. Thus, bestowal upon his rav becomes reception and sufficient motivation to an extent that will bring one to engage in Torah and Mitzvot Lishma.

It was said about this, “The Torah is acquired by forty-eight virtues, by serving of sages, and by meticulousness of friends.” This is so because besides serving the rav, one needs the meticulousness of friends, as well, meaning the friends’ influence, so they will influence him so he obtains the greatness of his rav. This is so because obtaining the greatness depends entirely on the environment, and a single person cannot do a thing about it whatsoever.

1.06 Baal HaSulam,

“A Speech for the Completion of The Zohar”

There are two conditions to obtaining the greatness:

  1. Always listen and accept the appreciation of the environment to the extent of their greatness.
  2. The environment should be great, as it is written, “In the multitude of people is the king’s glory.”

To receive the first condition, each student must feel that he is the smallest among all the friends. In that state, he will be able to receive the appreciation of the greatness from everyone, since the great cannot receive from a smaller one, much less be impressed by his words. Rather, only the small is impressed by the appreciation of the great.

For the second condition, each student must extol the virtues of each friend and cherish him as though he were the greatest in the generation. Then the environment will influence him as though it were a great environment, as it should be, since quality is more important than quantity.

1.07 Baal HaSulam,

Shamati, Article No. 25, “Things that Come from the Heart”

When one hears the words of Torah from his teacher, he immediately agrees with his teacher and resolves to observe the words of his teacher with his heart and soul. But afterward, when he comes out to the world, he sees, covets, and is infected by the multitude of desires roaming the world. Then, he and his mind, his heart, and his will are annulled before the majority.

As long as he has no power to sentence the world to the side of merit, they subdue him, he min- gles with their desires, and he is led like sheep to the slaughter. He has no choice; he is compelled to think, want, crave, and demand everything that the majority demands. Then he chooses their foreign thoughts and their loathsome lusts and desires, which are alien to the spirit of the Torah. In that state, he has no strength to subdue the majority.

Instead, there is only one counsel then: to cling to his teacher and to the books. This is called “From the mouth of books and from the mouth of authors.” Only by clinging to them can he change his mind and will for the better. However, witty arguments will not help him change his mind, but only the remedy of Dvekut [adhesion], for this is a wondrous cure, as the Dvekut reforms him.

1.08 Baal HaSulam,

“Introduction to The Study of the Ten Sefirot,” Item 4

It is indeed true that the Creator Himself puts one’s hand on the good fate by giving him a life of pleasure and contentment within the corporeal life that is filled with torment and pain, and devoid of any content. One necessarily departs and escapes them when he sees, even if it seemingly appears amidst the cracks, a tranquil place to escape there from this life, which is harder than death. Indeed, there is no greater placement of one’s hand by Him than this.

And one’s choice refers only to the strengthening. This is because there is certainly a great effort and exertion here before one purifies one’s body to be able to keep the Torah and Mitzvot correctly, not for his own pleasure, but to bring contentment to his Maker, which is called Lishma [for Her sake]. Only in this manner is one endowed with a life of happiness and pleasantness that come with keeping the Torah.

Before one comes to that purification, there is certainly a choice to strengthen in the good way by all sorts of means and tactics. One should do whatever his hand finds the strength to do until he completes the work of purification and will not fall under his burden midway.

 1.09 Baal HaSulam,

Shamati, Article No. 99, “He Did Not Say Wicked or Righteous”

If one does not have any desire or craving for spirituality, if he is among people who have a desire and craving for spirituality, if he likes these people, he, too, will take their strength to prevail, and their desires and aspirations, although by his own quality, he does not have these desires and cravings and the power to overcome. But according to the grace and the importance he ascribes to these people, he will receive new powers.

Now we can understand the above words: “The Creator saw that the righteous were few,” meaning that not any person can become a righteous, for lack of qualities for it, as it was written, that he is born a fool or a weakling; he, too, has a choice and his own qualities are no excuse. This is because the Creator planted the righteous in every generation.

1.10 RABASH,

Article No. 37 (1985), “Who Testifies to a Person?”

We need an environment, meaning a group of people who are all of the view that they must achieve whole faith. This is the only thing that can save a person from the views of the collective. At that time, everyone strengthens everyone else to crave to achieve whole faith, that he can bestow content- ment upon the Creator, and that this will be his only aspiration.

1.11 RABASH,

Article No. 12 (1984), “Concerning the Importance of Society”

It is known that one is always among people who have no connection to the work on the path of truth, but to the contrary, always resist those who walk on the path of truth. And since people’s thoughts mingle, the views of those who oppose the path of truth permeate those with some desire to walk on the path of truth.

Hence, there is no other solution but to establish a separate society for themselves, to be their framework, meaning a separate community that does not mingle with other people whose views differ from that society. And they should constantly evoke in themselves the issue of the purpose of society, so they will not follow the majority, because following the majority is our nature.

1.12 RABASH,

Article No. 727, “The Most Important Is the Environment”

“And choose life.” The most important is the environment. Man is always in an environment and necessarily follows them. Hence, if one is immersed in thoughts of Abaye and Raba, he is neces- sarily influenced by them. But if, for a brief moment, he places his thoughts on a different matter during the study, meaning thinks about something related to corporeal matters, he is necessarily immediately placed in a corporeal environment. This means that he begins to yearn for desires that the environment obligates him.

Also, concerning Abaye and Raba, if he regards them merely as great scholars, he will only be able to yearn for erudition. But if he regards them as sages with attainment, he will yearn for attainments.

1.13 RABASH,

Article No. 9 (1984), “One Should Always Sell the Beams of His House”

If a society is established with certain people, and when they gathered, there must have been some- one who wished to establish specifically this “bunch.” Thus, he sorted out these people to see that they were suitable for each other. In other words, each of them had a spark of love of others, but the spark could not ignite the light of love to shine in each, so they agreed that by uniting, the sparks would become a big flame.

Hence, now, too, when he is spying on them, he should overcome and say, “As all of them were of one mind that they must walk on the path of love of others when the society was established, so it is now.” And when everyone judges his friends favorably, all the sparks will ignite once more and again there will be one big flame.

1.14 RABASH,

Article No. 21 (1986), “Concerning Above Reason”

Our sages said, “Counters’ envy increases wisdom.” In other words, when all the friends look at the society as being at a high level, both in thoughts and in actions, it is natural that each and every one must raise his degree to a higher level than he has by the qualities of his own body.

1.15 RABASH,

Article No. 13 (1985), “Mighty Rock of My Salvation”

When he comes into a group where everyone is thirsty for the power to bestow, everyone receives this strength from everyone else. This is considered receiving strength from the outside in addition to the small power that he has within him.

1.16 RABASH,

Article No. 17 (1986), “The Agenda of the Assembly-2”

The whole basis upon which we can receive delight and pleasure, and which is permitted for us to enjoy—and is even mandatory—is to enjoy an act of bestowal. Thus, there is one point we should work on—appreciation of spirituality. This is expressed in paying attention to whom I turn, with whom I speak, whose commandments I am keeping, and whose laws I am learning, meaning in seeking advice concerning how to appreciate the Giver of the Torah.

And before one obtains some illumination from above by himself, he should seek out like- minded people who are also seeking to enhance the importance of any contact with the Creator in whatever way. And when many people support it, everyone can receive assistance from his friend.

1.17 Raaiah Kook,


A person from Israel who wants to be rewarded with the light of life in truth must agree to plant him- self in the assembly of Israel with all his heart, with all his senses and corporeal and spiritual powers.

1.18 Israel Hopstein of Kozhnitz,

Avodat Israel [The Work of Israel], Portion Shlach

Our sages said, “Dispersion is good for the wicked and gathering is good for the righteous.” This is according to what the ARI said, that in the worlds of Igulim [circles], one Igul [circle] does not touch another, and there the breaking happened until it was corrected in the world of Yosher [straightness]. The meaning of the matter and the allegory is that the mind of the Igulim is that it is as one who surrounds and encircles himself, and becomes separated from his Maker. It seems to him that he will lead himself by his own will, and he is haughty and says, “I will rule,” and this was the shattering. Likewise, among the wicked, the heart of each one is haughty, saying “I will rule,” which is why they are in the world of separation and cannot connect, like the circles, as we can evidently see, for they cannot sit together. To them, dispersion is good.

Conversely, although each of the righteous serves his Creator in a different style, they all aim at the same thing—their father in Heaven. They gather and assemble one by one, as one man with one heart, and each one diminishes himself and glorifies the work for the sake of the Creator, who gives him the strength and intelligence by which to serve Him. Hence, one will not be arrogant toward his friend, and they are in the world of straightness and unite with one another.

1.19 Babylonian Talmud, Berachot

The Torah is acquired only in company.

1.20 Rabbi Reuben Landa,

Shem Olam

The very study, even when he studies alone, is also observing the commandment to-do of learning Torah. In any case, in the beginning, it is a commandment to glorify anything he can learn in com- pany, for by this the name of the Creator is sanctified more, when many from among the children of Israel gather to serve the Creator. Also, our sages said in several places, “The King is glorified in the in the presence of many people.”

1.21 Rabbi Nachman of Breslov,

Likutey Halachot

It is written, “The Sanhedrin was as a round semicircle so they would see each other,” for the love is mainly that they saw each other. They could not tolerate not seeing one another, for when they see each other, they receive from one another. This is the meaning of what our sages said, “Either company or death.”

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