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3.01 Baal HaSulam,

“The Freedom”

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.”

3.02 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.

3.03 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.

3.04 Baal HaSulam,

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

Now you can understand the words of our sages about the verse, “Therefore, choose life” (See RASHI’s interpretation). It states, “I instruct you to choose the part of life, as one who says to his son: ‘Choose for yourself a good part in my land.’ He places him on the good part and tells him, ‘Choose this for yourself.’” It was said about this, “Lord, the portion of my inheritance and of my cup, You support my lot. You placed my hand on the good fate, to say, ‘Take this for you.’”

The words are seemingly perplexing. The verse says, “Therefore, choose life.” This means that one makes the choice by himself. However, they say that He places him on the good part. Thus, is there no longer choice here? Moreover, they say that the Creator puts one’s hand on the good fate. This is indeed perplexing, because if this is so, where then is man’s choice?

Now you can see the true meaning of their words. 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.

3.05 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 inconceiv- able 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.

 3.06 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 consequence, 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.

 3.07 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.

Yet, there are two conditions to obtaining the greatness:

  1. Always listen and accept the appreciation of the environment to the extent of their great- ness.
  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.

3.08 Baal HaSulam,

“A Speech for the Completion of the Zohar”

The measure of the greatness does not depend on the individual, but on the environment. For example, even if one is filled with virtues but the environment does not appreciate him as such, he will always be low-spirited and will not be able to take pride in his virtues, although he has no doubt that they are true. And conversely, a person with no merit at all, but the environment respects him as though he is virtuous, that person will be filled with pride, since the measure of importance and greatness is given entirely to the environment.

When a person sees that the environment slights His work and does not properly appreciate His greatness, he cannot overcome the environment. Thus, he cannot obtain His greatness, and becomes negligent during his work, like them.

Since he does not have the basis for obtaining His greatness, he will obviously not be able to work in order to bring contentment to his Maker and not to himself, for he will have no motivation to exert, and “if you did not labor and find, do not believe.” The only advice for this is either to work for oneself or not to work at all, since bestowing contentment upon his Maker will not be for him tantamount to reception.

Now you can understand the verse, “In the multitude of people is the king’s glory,” since the measure of the greatness comes from the environment under two conditions:

  1. The extent of the appreciation of the environment.
  2. The size of the environment. Thus, “In the multitude of people is the king’s glory.”

 3.09 Baal HaSulam,

“The Freedom”

When we examine the acts of an individual, we will find them compulsory. He is compelled to do them and has no freedom of choice. In a sense, he is like a stew cooking on a stove; it has no choice but to cook, since Providence has harnessed life with two chains: pleasure and pain.

The living creatures have no freedom of choice—to choose pain or reject pleasure. And man’s advantage over animals is that man can aim at a remote goal, meaning agree to a certain amount of current pain, out of choice of future benefit or pleasure to be attained after some time.

But in fact, there is no more than a seemingly commercial calculation here, where the future benefit or pleasure seems preferable and advantageous to the agony they are suffering from the pain they have agreed to assume presently. There is only a matter of deduction here—where they deduct the pain and suffering from the anticipated pleasure, and there remains some surplus.

Thus, only the pleasure is extended. And so it sometimes happens that we are tormented because the pleasure we received is not the surplus we had hoped for compared to the agony we suffered. Hence, we are in deficit, just as are merchants.

And when all is said and done, there is no difference here between man and animal. And if this is the case, there is no free choice whatsoever, but a pulling force drawing them toward any passing pleasure and rejecting them from painful circumstances. And Providence leads them to every place it chooses by means of these two forces without asking their opinion in the matter.

Moreover, even determining the type of pleasure and benefit are entirely out of one’s own free choice, but follows the will of others, as they want, and not he. For example: I sit, I dress, I speak, and I eat. I do all these not because I want to sit that way, or talk that way, or dress that way, or eat that way, but because others want me to sit, dress, talk, and eat that way. It all follows the desire and fancy of society, and not my own free will.

Furthermore, in most cases, I do all these against my will. For I would be more comfortable behaving simply, without any burden. But I am chained with iron shackles, in all my movements, to the fancies and manners of others, which make up the society.

So tell me, where is my freedom of will?

3.10 Baal HaSulam,

“Peace in the World”

We must thoroughly know the proportional value between the individual and the collective, between the individual and the collective that the individual lives in and nourishes from, in both matter and in spirit.

Reality shows us that an individual cannot exist in isolation without a sufficient number of people around him to serve him and help him provide for his needs. Hence, man is inherently born to lead a social life. Each and every individual in society is like a wheel that is linked to several other wheels placed in a machine. This single wheel has no freedom of movement in and of itself but continues with the motion of the rest of the wheels in a certain direction to qualify the machine to perform its general function.

And if there is some malfunction in the wheel, the malfunction is not evaluated relating to the wheel itself, but according to its service and role with respect to the whole machine.

3.11 RABASH,

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

A person has a desire within him, which comes from himself. In other words, even when he is alone and there are no people around him to affect him, or from whom to absorb some desire, he receives an awakening and craves to be a servant of the Creator. But his own desire is certainly not big enough for him not to need to enhance it so he can work with it to obtain the spiritual goal. Therefore, there is a way—just like in corporeality—to enhance that desire through people on the outside who will compel him to follow their views and their spirit.

This is done by bonding with people whom he sees that also have a need for spirituality. And the desire that those people on the outside have begets a desire in him, and thus he receives a great desire for spirituality. In other words, in addition to the desire that he has from within, he receives a desire for spirituality that they beget in him, and then he acquires a great desire with which he can reach the goal. Hence, the issue of love of friends is where each person in the group, besides having a desire of his own, acquires desire from the friends. This is a great asset that can be obtained only through love of friends. However, one should take great care not to be among friends who have no desire to examine themselves, the basis of their work—whether it is to bestow or to receive—and to see if they are doing things in order to reach the path of truth, which is the way of nothing but bestowal.

Only in such a group is it possible to instill the friends with a desire to bestow, meaning that each will absorb a lack from the friends, which he himself lacks the power to bestow, and wherever he walks, he is eagerly searching for a place where perhaps someone will be able to give him the power to bestow.

Hence, 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.

 3.12 RABASH,

Article No. 14 (1988), “The Need for Love of Friends”

There is a special power in the adhesion of friends. Since views and thoughts pass from one to the other through the adhesion between them, each is mingled with the power of the other, and by that each person in the group has the power of the entire society. For this reason, although each person is an individual, he has the power of the entire group.

3.13 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.

3.14 RABASH,

Article No. 17 (1987), “The Meaning of the Strict Prohibition to Teach Idol Worshippers the Torah”

It is impossible to receive the influence of the society if he is not attached to the society, meaning if he does not appreciate them. To the extent that he does, he can receive from them the influence without any work, simply by adhering to the society.

 3.15 RABASH,

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

If he sees that the friends are at a higher degree than his own, he sees within reason how he is in utter lowliness compared to the friends, that all the friends keep the schedule of arriving at the seminary, and take greater interest in all that is happening among the friends, to help anyone in any way they can, and immediately implement every advice for the work from the teachers in actual fact, etc., it certainly affects him and gives him strength to overcome his laziness, both when he needs to wake up before dawn and when he is awakened.

Also, during the lesson, his body is more interested in the lessons, since otherwise he will lag behind his friends. Also, with anything that concerns Kedusha [holiness/sanctity], he must take it more seriously because the body cannot tolerate lowliness. Moreover, when his body looks at the friends, it sees within reason that they are all working for the Creator, and then his body, too, lets him work for the Creator.

And the reason why the body helps him shift to in order to bestow is as mentioned—the body is unwilling to tolerate lowliness. Instead, everybody has pride, and he is unwilling to accept a situation where his friend is greater than him. Thus, when he sees that his friends are at a higher level than his own, this causes him to ascend in every way.

3.16 RABASH,

Article No. 4 (1984), “They Helped Every One His Friend”

We must understand how one can help his friend. Is this matter specifically when there are rich and poor, wise and fools, weak and strong? But when all are rich, smart, or strong, etc., how can one help another?

We see that there is one thing that is common to all—the mood. It is said, “A concern in one’s heart, let him speak of it with others.” This is because with regard to feeling high-spirited, neither wealth nor erudition can be of assistance.

Rather, it is one person who can help another by seeing that one’s friend is low. It is written, “One does not deliver oneself from imprisonment.” Rather, it is one’s friend who can lift his spirit.

This means that one’s friend raises him from his state into a state of liveliness. Then, one begins to reacquire strength and confidence of life and wealth, and he begins as though his goal is now near him.

It turns out that each and every one must be attentive and think how he can help his friend raise his spirit, because in the matter of spirits, anyone can find a needy place in one’s friend that he can fill.

3.17 RABASH,

Assorted Notes, Article No. 759, “Man as a Whole”

One must know that love is bought by actions. By giving his friends gifts, each gift that he gives to his friend is like an arrow and a bullet that makes a hole in his friend’s heart. Although his friend’s heart is like a stone, still, each bullet makes a hole. And from many holes, a hollow is created, and the love of the giver of the gifts enters in this place.

The warmth of the love draws to him his friend’s sparks of love, and then the two loves weave into a garment of love that covers both of them. This means that one love surrounds and envelops them, and then they two become one person because the clothing that covers them is a single garment. Hence, both are cancelled.

It is a rule that anything new is exciting and entertaining. Hence, after one receives the garment of love from another, he enjoys only the love of the other and forgets about self-love. At that time, each of them begins to receive pleasure only from caring for his friend, and they cannot worry about themselves because one can labor only where he can receive pleasure.

Since he is enjoying love of others and receives pleasure specifically from that, he will take no pleasure in caring for himself. If there is no pleasure, there is no concern and no place for labor.

3.18 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. We should know that “Two is the least plural.” This means that if two friends sit together and contemplate how to enhance the importance of the Creator, they already have the strength to receive enhancement of the greatness of the Creator in the form of awakening from below. And for this act, the awakening from above follows, and they begin to have some sensation of the greatness of the Creator.

According to what is written, “In the multitude of people is the King’s glory,” it follows that the greater the number of the collective, the more effective is the power of the collective. In other words, they produce a stronger atmosphere of greatness and importance of the Creator. At that time, each person’s body feels that he regards anything that he wishes to do for holiness—meaning to bestow upon the Creator—as a great fortune, that he has been privileged with being among people who have been rewarded with serving the King. At that time, every little thing he does fills him with joy and pleasure that now he has something with which to serve the King.

To the extent that the society regards the greatness of the Creator with their thoughts during the assembly, each according to his degree originates the importance of the Creator in him. Thus, he can walk all day in the world of gladness and joy.

3.19 RABASH,

Article No. 14 (1988), “The Need for Love of Friends”

Although the commandment to love your friend as yourself applies to the whole of Israel, the whole of Israel are not walking on the path of coming from love of others to love of the Creator. Also, there is a rule that when people unite they absorb each other’s views, and the matter of Lishma—the essential aim of Torah and Mitzvot—has not yet been fixed in a man’s heart, meaning that the main intention is that through observing Torah and Mitzvot they can achieve Lishma. Hence, by bonding with others, the views of the others weaken his view of Lishma. For this reason, it is better to serve and to bond with the kind of people who understand that “love your friend as yourself” is only a means to achieve the love of the Creator, and not because of self-love, but his whole aim will be to benefit the Creator. Hence, one should be careful in bonding and know with whom one bonds.

3.20 RABASH,

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

In matters of work on the path of truth, one should isolate oneself from other people. This is because the path of truth requires constant strengthening, since it is against the view of the world. The view of the world is knowing and receiving, whereas the view of Torah is faith and bestowal. If one strays from that, he immediately forgets all the work of the path of truth and falls into a world of self-love. Only from a society in the form of “They helped every man his friend” does each person in the society receive the strength to fight against the view of the world.

3.21 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.

3.22 RABASH,

Article No. 1 (1984), “Purpose of Society – 2”

There should be careful watch in the society, disallowing frivolity, since frivolity ruins everything.

3.23 RABASH,

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

A person alone will still want to eat, drink, sleep, and so on, even when there are no other people around him. However, if there are people around him, there is the matter of shame, where others compel him. Then he must eat and drink what people around him compel him to.

This is apparent primarily in clothing. At home, a person wears what is comfortable for him. But when he is among people, he must dress according to the way others see it. He has no choice, since shame compels him to follow their fancies.

3.24 RABASH,

Article No. 8 (1985), “Make for Yourself a Rav and Buy Yourself a Friend – 2”

After he has bonded with a group of people who wish to achieve the degree of love of the Creator, and he wishes to take from them the strength to work in order to bestow and be moved by their words about the necessity for obtaining the love of the Creator, he must regard each friend in the group as greater than himself.

3.25 RABASH,

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

A person has qualities that his parents bequeathed to their children, and he has qualities that he acquired from the society, which is a new possession. And this comes to him only through bonding with the society and the envy that he feels toward the friends when he sees that they have better qualities than his own. It motivates him to acquire their good qualities, which he doesn’t have and of which he is jealous.

Thus, through the society, he gains new qualities that he adopts by seeing that they are at a higher degree than his, and he is envious of them. This is the reason why now he can be greater than when he didn’t have a society, since he acquires new powers through the society.

3.26 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.

3.27 Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Halevi Epstein,

Maor VaShemesh, Portion Yitro

One should depict his friend as serving the Creator more than him, and “authors’ [also counters’] envy will increase wisdom.” By this, he will grow increasingly stronger in the work of the Creator. This is the meaning of “Each one is burned by his friend’s canopy,” from the word “fervor.” By seeing that his friend’s canopy is bigger than his, a fire will burn in him and his soul will further ignite toward the work of the Creator, and he will attain more attainments of Godliness.

3.28 Raaiah Kook,


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

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