This is full translation of the article that was written by students of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag based on multiple questions that rose as many organizations claim to teach the authentic path of Baal HaSulam and Kabbalah.
To the honorable Rabbi Gotlieb, greetings.
Is it true that the study of wisdom of Kabbalah isn’t connected to the observance of Torah and Mitzvoth?
Did Rabbi Ashlag ZT”L ever said or wrote that Torah and Mitzvoth aren’t connected to the study of wisdom of Kabbalah?
My question comes due to the fact that there are many groups that are dealing in Kabbalah leveraging the teachings of Rabbi Ashlag, and they firmly claim that this is the case (i.e. that Torah and Mitzvoth are not connected to the study of Kabbalah).
I am asking the honorable Rav to respond to this matter.
First of all I would like to say that I have neither any idea nor any connection to those groups and therefore I do not want to address them specifically at all. Generally I have no desire to discuss and to judge groups and certain individuals as I do not have such jurisdiction; however there is definitely a place to demonstrate the original way of the school of Rabbis Ashlag, to testify on everything that our eyes have seen and our ears have heard to identify erroneous ways and ideologies. And since questions that are similar to yours are piling up increasingly both in writing and via telephone I therefore decided to make my opinion public which I also reviewed with the wisest scholar of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag (may his memory shine upon us) – Rabbi Yisrael Miller that merited to be the right hand of the Rebbe continuously over thirty-five years and was without any doubt the closest person to the Rebbe. Therefore this article is a common work of mine and his and its goal is to bring to light the knowledge of the school of Ashlag as we heard it from them and as we were instructed by them – as to which path to follow and which to avoid
I merited to be with Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag (let his blessed memory shine upon us) for the duration of fourteen years and during this time I was very close with him (like a son in his house) and during this whole time I have never heard from him that there is no connection between study of Kabbalah to the observance of Mitzvoth G-d forbid, and I have never heard from him anything that would indicate that Mitzvoth are optional rather than obligatory from the Torah G-d forbid. On the contrary, he was stringent on every minor detail and he was very meticulous in all Mitzvothh and all halachot to the tiniest of details. And not this alone but he was specifically instructing us, his closest students, that it is our obligation to be precise with the performance of Halacha much more than other people that study only Nigleh (revealed parts of the Torah). And he specifically emphasized that the key to our success in coming closer to the Creator depends on combining the two things together – keeping the Torah and Mitzvoth in a practical manner in every element as this equals to a body, and study of wisdom of Kabbalah as it equals to soul (neshamah) and it is clear that the soul without a body is like air that lacks substance – drifting on the air without meaning in the daily reality exactly like a body without a soul sits in the dark without light.
I was personally present to see the stringency of RABASH when it came to observance of Mitzvoth among his students as well: there was once a case that it became clear to us that in his lesson there was a Jewish baal teshuva (newly observant person) that was not wearing Tzitzit. Once we found out, the Rebbe asked someone to tell this person to leave the class immediately. In addition the Rebbe RABASH explicitly told us, as these are his words: “whoever states that there is no need in performance of Torah and Mitzvoth or whoever is lax in some portions of Torah and Mitzvoth is very dangerous and one must distance oneself from him”.
People of the real faith live the life of body and soul balanced with each other because this is how the Creator created the person in a manner that he is made from two opposites in order that those opposites complement each other. And therefore it is mandatory to invest in simple performance of physical Mitzvoth such as putting on Tefillin, praying, making Kiddush on Shabbos, Netilat Yadaim, being involved in acts of kindness and charity between a person and his family and between a person and his friends, and blessings after food, and all blessings in general, and keeping the Shabbos, and purity of the family, etc… In addition one also should invest into the building of the internal soul that is part of the intellectual and emotional being of the person so he will come to a state that the fire is burning within him, fire of love and fear towards the Creator and the Creation as the whole. The performance of external Mitzvoth help internal, and internal in turn helps external; one complements and enhances the other.
And here lately I had an opportunity to talk to one of the few people that is still alive that studied in the school of the Rebbe Baal HaSulam (passed away in 1955), HaRav Ezrel Chaim Lomberger, who was a student of Baal Hasulam himself, and he was shocked to hear such things – that there are people that claim that there is no need in keeping the Torah and Mitzvoth or that project them as an option or as cultural symbols G-d forbid, and he told me that our Rebbe Baal HaSulam was extremely careful on keeping the Torah and Mitzvoth and when it came to the matters of Halacha he was exceedingly stringent, much more than other people. Even when there were things that most of the Orthodox community accepted, the Rebbe Baal HaSulam acted with extra stringency and went extra mile when they had halachic disputes. He always chose to follow the most stringent way in performing a Mitzvah.
And therefore we should pay attention to this, especially when such a person on a level of the Rebbe Baal HaSulam that of course came to the completion of his private correction behaves in such manner. Here, we have a live testimony of a person that was like a son in his house and he is still alive, and he states explicitly that Baal Hasulam was extra stringent and was always taking the extra steps from the standard norm of the Ultra-Orthodox community. And this is of course not unusual as he was like a “ladder that is standing on earth with its top reaching heaven”, as this is the intended perfection where a person holds the perfection of G-dliness from one side and from the other side of the ladder he is performing up to the smallest detail every physical leaf, i.e. the Torah and the Mitzvoth in a practical, simple and fundamental manner.
And those things they are very straightforward even in our corporeal world. For example would it even be possible that in an army a person who did not even act as a private would become a general? Of course not! Is it possible that a person will receive a master’s degree in a college if he never attended a high school? Of course not! Therefore based on what logic do people hold that they can deal with the wisdom of Kabbalah, be successful to come to spiritual levels if they can not even perform the simplest and the most basic thing of Judaism? It is clear to everyone that the performance of Mitzvoth is a simple and non-complex thing, accessible to all. And how can one skip it to immediately approach the level of intentions and emotions while he does not hold in his hands even the simplest level of this physical world?
To say that it is possible to come to the spiritual levels of holiness without performing physical Mitzvoth is an outrageous lie. And if a person would say “but I came to feelings of spirituality without the keeping of Torah and Mitzvoth.” My answer is that those “higher” feelings do not point to Truth. As our sages already stated the Creator shone various Divine lights into the systems of Sitra Achra (the Other Side) and the Klippot (shells) and all this was done in order to give a person free will. And therefore, of course the feelings and the pleasures that one experiences have their sources in Klippot and in the Sitra Achra, which is what provides the person these pleasant feelings. But this lie does not have legs and therefore it cannot sustain itself for a long time, thus a person has cyclical feelings of misery followed by feelings of joy, but at this point it is be very hard to free oneself from the control of Klippot.
And here is what is written in our holy Torah (Devarim 13):
1) The entire word that I command you that shall you observe to do you shall not add to it and you shall not subtract from it.
2) If there should stand up in your midst a prophet or a dreamer of a dream and he will produce to you a sign or a wonder
3) and the sign or the wonder comes about of which he spoke to you saying ‘let us follow gods of others that you do not know, and we shall worship them!” –
4) do not hearken to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of a dream for HaShem, you G-d, is testing you to know whether you love HaShem, your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul.
5) HaShem, your G-d, shall you follow, and him shall you fear; his commandments shall you observe and his voice shall you hearken; him shall you serve and to him shall you cleave.
6) And that prophet and that dreamer of a dream shall be put to death for he has spoken perversion against HaShem, you G-d, Who takes you out of the land of Egypt, and Who redeems you from the house of slavery – to make you stray from the path on which HaShem, your G-d, has commanded you to go; and you shall destroy the evil from your midst.
And this is what Rambam, blessed be his memory, wrote in his book “Hayad Hahazakah”
A) It is clearly explained in the Torah that it is the commandment that stands for eternity, it does not change, it does not shrink, and it does not extend, as it is said: “everything that I am telling you today you shall do, do not add onto it and do not subtract from it.” And it is said: “And it has been let know to us and our children until eternity to perform everything that is written in this Torah.” From this we learn that all the commandments of the Torah command us to perform them until eternity. And he also says: “this is the set of laws for all your generations.” And it is said: “It is not in Heaven.” Which comes to teach us that there is no (nor will be) a prophet who is allowed to renew anything in it. Therefore if comes a man, whether from another nation or from Israel and will perform a miracle and he will say that G-d sent him to add a commandment or to subtract a commandment or to change a commandment in a way we have never heard of, or he will say that those commandments that Israel was commanded by are not for eternity and for all the generations, but rather these are commandments bound to a past time, it is obvious that this is a false prophet that comes to deny the prophecy of Moshe. And he will be put to death, for he spoke on behalf of HaShem who has not commanded him to do so as he commanded to Moshe that these commandments are for us and for our children until eternity.
B) Why is it also stated in Torah: “I will establish a prophet for you from the midst of your brothers”? He will not come to establish a new religion but to enforce the Torah and to warn the people that they should not violate it as said the last of the prophets: “Remember the Torah of Moshe.” And if he commands us within the permissible boundaries, such as “go to a certain place,” or “don’t go there,” “make a war today,” or “don’t make a war today,” “build a wall today,” or “don’t build a wall,” it is a commandment to listen to him, and one who transgresses his words is liable to death by heaven; as it is said: “there was a man who did not listen to the words of the prophet that spoke in My Name, I will demand from him.”
D) And also if he tries to change things that we already know, and claims that HaShem commanded him to do this, and he changes Halacha, this is a false prophet and is liable to death even if he can show a sign or a miracle. Behold, this prophet comes to deny the Torah in which it is said: “It is not in Heaven.”
We therefore learn from these words that if there comes a person who wants to cancel even one the commandment from all of the commandments, this is unacceptable even though he can be a big person with power to perform signs and miracles. In the time of the Sanhedrin this person would be put to death, but today we do not practice the death sentence since we do not have the Sanhedrin. And for those people who are advancing on the path of Pinimiut of Torah (inner portion of Torah), of course they can neither correct nor punish, G-d forbid, their fellow Jews, but rather they focus on their own correction, as their own correction influences the whole world. And therefore we are not engaging in physical or verbal confrontation with any person or organization. And from the citations that were brought above we can understand how awful deviation from Judaism is in the eyes of HaShem, and how much we have to be careful to stay away from all of those, as our sages said: “move away from falsehood and from anything that is similar to it.” And every deviation and every reform and every attempt to touch the holy of holies of Torah and commandments of Israel is obviously falsehood, which is unbearable and unforgiveable. And therefore each of us will make his own soul-calculations, “because on whichever path a person chooses to be lead he will be lead.” And he will save himself with contact with everything that may push him away from the original path of Israel. And it is already written in the Zohar, “Do not listen to a good thing from a wicked person.” Because even though he is saying a good thing, the spirit of Tumah (impurity) intervenes in his words and the listener becomes Tammeh (impure) and falls from the original Jewish path, and from the path of our Rabbis.
And to compliment this discussion we would like to add here an additional article from the Rebbe (blessed be his memory), that should clarify these things.
What is Truth and Falsehood in Spiritual Work
Fist of all we have to understand how both truth and falsehood can be in the service of the Creator, specifically, how the service of HaShem can exist in falsehood, how can such a thing be said?
And here Zohar HaKadosh (in the Introduction to the Book of Zohar) says Baal HaSulam: “it is part of the Holy one to give joy to the impoverished as he is able to because in those days, in Holidays, the Holy One comes to see those broken kelim (vessels) that belong to him. And he comes to them and he sees that they have nothing to be happy with. He cries about them and then He ascends to the top to extend the world.”
Baal HaSulam (blessed be his memory) explains this article as following: “We need to understand, first of all, the midrash (legend) of our sages that when the world was created, and it was told to angels ‘we shall make a man in our image,’ behold, Kindness advised to create the world. The Truth said ‘do not create, because all of it will be falsehood,’ Righteousness said ‘The world needs to be created as it will create righteousness,’ and Peace said ‘the world should not be created, as it will constantly be in conflict.’ What did the Creator do? He took Truth and threw it into the ground as it is written “And the Truth was thrown down to earth”. Explanation: as our sages explained that one should be busy with Torah and Mitzvoth even lo-lishma, as from the level of lo-lishma he comes to lishma. As due to the nothingness of the person, he cannot deal with Torah and Mitzvoth li-shma right away in order to fulfill the simple will of his Master. Because ‘desolated city a person will be born’ and it is impossible for him due to his nature to make any movement if it doesn’t benefit him. But via performing physical Mitzvoth he attracts Divine Light which eventually brings him to li-shma, which means to serve his Creator with only one desire – to please Him. And this is what the Truth had said about the creation of the man that it’s all deception – how can such a person be created from the beginning, when he performs Torah and Mitzvoth in deception and lie, i.e. lo-lishma? But Grace stated that the man should be created as it comes from bestowal and by doing good deeds the man will eventually come to the situation where he can also perform Mitzvoth with lishma, and therefore the man should be created. And therefore when Piece complained that man is deception, but the Justice said that man should be created because from his charity acts to poor the man slowly comes close to the bestowal and thus eventually will be able to fulfill commandments lishma as well. Once Creator heard everyone He agreed with the angels of Grace and Justice and threw the truth into the ground, which means He allowed men to perform Mitzvoth lo-lishma to begin with even though they can be considered as deception and lie, as eventually by performing them man will come to lishma and then the Truth will rise from the earth”.
Rambam said: “therefore, when we teach young children and women and the general population, we do not teach but to serve HaShem from fear and for the sake of receiving reward until their mind expands and they become wiser. We also reveal to them this approach very carefully.
From the words of Rambam we see that we have to start serving HaShem in the manner of lo lishma (not for the sake of HaShem) and it is even forbidden to reveal to them that there is a thing as lishma (for the sake of HaShem). And therefore they have to know that they are performing Torah and Mitzvoth to receive reward. This is the actual perfection and there is nothing to add to it but quantity, i.e. to give more time and more effort in order to perform Torah and Mitzvoth. And they have to be happy that they are performing Torah and Mitzvoth believing that they will receive reward for it.
We therefore find that in order to serve HaShem wholly it is forbidden for them to know that there is such a thing that is called lishma (for the sake of HaShem) for the reason that they are still not capable to enter the service of HaShem lishma. Therefore if someone tells them that the key of service of HaShem is lishma, they will reply “but how can we perform Torah and Mitzvoth lo- lishma if this is not considered a real word?” They are yet incapable to work lishma, therefore they will remain neither here nor there, which means that lo-lishma will not be important to them, but in the same time they will also see that they cannot attain lishma. Therefore it is forbidden to reveal to them that there is a thing that people need to perform for the sake of giving (lehaspia). Therefore while they do not know this concept they can think that they serve HaShem fully and that they are righteous, and from that they have energy to work, as they are happy to be the servants of HaShem and they look at other people who do not perform Torah and Mitzvoth as animals, since they do not have higher intellects than animals and other living creatures. And therefore it is written in Etz Chaim: “and behold, the creator did not give Torah but to remove barriers from silver that dresses the soul, and via the intention of the person in Torah and Mitzvoth he performs spiritual work on his Neshamah (soul), and via the Torah thins the Nogah of the world Yetzirah, which dresses Ruach and by performing physical Mitzvoth this thins the Nogah of the world Asiya and becomes a garment of the soul.
Therefore one should not say that performance of Torah and Mitzvoth without intention is not true (G-d forbid), but as we learn from the writings of ARIZAL that from all actions that a person does he removes the Nitzutzim (sparks of holiness) from the Klipot that descended to our world during the Breaking of Vessels. We therefore have to divide between commandments without intentions and Torah without intention versus Torah and Commandments with intentions, as it is said: “performance of Mitzvoth thins the Nogah of the world Asiya and becomes a garment of the soul.”
And as for the falsehood, we have to explain that since the goal of the creation is to satisfy the creations so that a man can achieve it in reality, i.e. that he will reveal the good and the bounty in the world that cannot be seen by the creations because they do not have the real Kelim which they can leverage to see the good and the bounty which is in the world. Therefore the creations still see that people suffer, and thus they can deduce from it that while they perform Torah and Mitzvoth without intention lehashpia (to bestow), they still cannot see the truth that exists in the goal of creation that is to bestow to the creations. And we find that those who keep the Torah and Mitzvoth and still have not merited to have the right intention, do perform corrections in keddusha by performing Torah and Mitzvoth even though they do not have intention, which means that Keddusha expands based on their actions. However since they are not capable to see the outcome of their actions in spirituality, they cannot attain the spiritual changes that resulted from their work even though this work was performed lo-lishma.
We therefore find that when they say that lo-lishma is called “falsehood,” it relates towards the creations, i.e. the creations cannot yet see the truth and the outcome of their performance of Torah and Mitzvoth without intention, but in reality the corrections did take place in spirituality as was written by ARIZAL that from each action and action in Torah and Mitzvoth, spiritual corrections are made. As we can see from Halacha that if a person can act to influence his neighbor not to desecrate Shabbat – for example his neighbor needs a favor from him and for this he will keep Shabbat – than the person is obligated to act to ensure that his neighbor does not desecrate Shabbat. And so we can ask: here there is no intention to keep Shabbat, as his neighbor will keep Shabbat only as a requirement that his friend forces on him, and if so, what benefit can come out from such work? But as we already learned that each action and action that we perform even without kavanah (intention) achieves its objective; that by it we release the sparks of holiness, yet we are incapable of seeing those corrections because those corrections can hurt us since we still exist under the control of the desire to receive. Therefore since the person does not see the corrections that are being preformed by him he cannot receive yet from the bounty that opens up as a result of his actions. And therefore, since he does not see this bounty, he cannot hurt himself since he does not see that there is something that he can receive. But the person must believe that each action and action of Torah and service is a very important thing, and once he merits to attain the second nature which is called “desire to bestow,” then he will be capable of seeing the truth; that the goal of the Creation is to bestow the creations. We therefore can now understand that when it is said that lo-lishma is called “falsehood,” this only relates to the vision of the person, since the person is yet incapable of seeing the actual goal of creation.
And from this we can also understand why lishma is called “emet” (truth), since when a person merits to the level of lishma a person comes to the level of Love of HaShem, and then the person sees the truth; that the goal of creation is only to bestow Good to creations. And in addition the person has to merit and to see how the upper supervision treats all creations in the manner of complete and total goodness, and this is a very high level where a person sees how the Creator treats him personally in a manner of total goodness. Yet the person still needs to see that the Creator acts in the same way towards all of the creations, i.e. in a manner of total goodness, and for this reason lishma is called “truth,” because by performing the service in the mode of lishma the person merits and sees the truth that the Creator treats all of his creations with complete goodness.
And as written in the Introduction to the Talmud of Eser HaSefirot: “And therefore our sages warned us about the condition that obligates in performance of Torah lishma specifically so thus he will merit by it to earn life, as Torah is the source of life. And one should invest all his might to find the glow from the face of the King of Life, which means to attain revealed supervision, which is called the glow from the face. Therefore the whole time that a person did not merit to come to the level of lishma he exists in Hester Panim (concealment of the face), which means that he still does not see how the Creator leads the world in the manner of total goodness. We also find that he exists in the mode of falseness, as he says, “Whoever said that the goal of creation is to bestow good for creations is a liar, as we see the opposite.” And on the other hand, one who learns the Torah lishma merits and sees the truth because he himself merits to see all the good that he receives from the Creator, and moreover he has come to the level of perfection and to see how the Creator deals with the whole world with the goal of bestowing the creations, and therefore we find that the matter of truth and falsehood is always directly related to what the person attains.
And from the set above we can see that one who studies Torah lo-lishma, which is equal to falsehood, it is only because the person is yet incapable of seeing the truth of how the Creator leads the whole world with total goodness, and as ARIZAL wrote from each action a person performs in holiness, corrections are made, but the person is yet incapable of seeing the results of his performance of Mitzvoth that creations are doing even lo-lishma even for his own sake. It is therefore that Rambam said that we have to start the work with children and women in a manner that orients them to believe in reward as every act of Mitzvoth in itself triggers spiritual changes regardless of one’s intention.
And our sages said (Avot PeiGimel/18) “Beloved Israel which is called sons to the Place (Makom/Place is another name of HaShem). Extra love is given to them as they’re called Sons of the Place, as it is said: Sons are you to your G-d”. And the Rebe Ashlag explained that the fact that they were called “sons to the Place” it’s called in generic form, however extra love is given to them privately. And he said: What is this extra love? The extra love is that it is known to them, which means that they know and feel that they are called “sons of the Place”. And in the same manner we can derive that even here – in physical actions that lack proper intention in order to bestow (lehashpia, i.e. lo-lishma) – also the nation is called “sons to the Place” since they invest in Torah and Mitzvoth in a practical manner, which cause major spiritual corrections as explains ARIZAL, but it’s not apparent to them since they aren’t capable of seeing the corrections that are being made due to their actions. That all said, once the person attains the level of lishma, then he can see what he had done before and is doing now in the spiritual realms.
And we also should clarify what our sages said (Avot Pei-Alef/17) “Not the story is the key, but the action”, as there are two cases in front of us: actions and intentions. From one side we realize that they key is intention, which means that during the time that a person performs an action good or bad, we have to consider with the intention and not with the action. Let’s take an example: two people fought with each other, one took knife and stabbed his opponent – of course it’s a bad action. However, here is what the person with the knife claims: This person that I stabbed was in a hospital and doctor sliced things and threw them away from his body, and the patient paid a lot of money for this. And I’m obligated to pay him for a tiny scratch that I did to him, in opposite to the situation with the doctor? Said the judge: the answer is simple, since we’re going based on intention and since you stabbed him because of your personal joy, you have to pay for the pleasure you’ve received. However the surgeon that sliced him with knife was performing it because he wanted the patient to enjoy, and therefore the patient pays him. From this example we see that the key is the intention and not the action and if that’s the case why then did our sages state that “Not the story is the key, but the action”?
This is because in spiritual when it comes to Torah and Mitzvoth the key is the action, as writes ARIZAL that via the practical actions of Mitzvoth we release the sparks of holiness from Klipot. And even though the person isn’t capable of seeing this impact yet, it is done because the person already has Kelim de-hashpaa, and if he would see the changes that he is causing by performing Mitzvoth, this outcome would go into his Kelim de-kabala, and as the result the sparks of holiness that he just released will go back to the Klipa. We therefore find that the key is the action, but of course if one could add intention of lishma on top of the action, then he elevates his spiritual work to much higher level by placing intention on top of his action and “by person’s intention in Torah and Mitzvoth he completes the garment of Neshama, and via the Toarh he decreases (thins out) Nogah of Yetzira – garment of Ruach, and via the practical Mitzvoth he decreases (thins out) Nogah of Assiya and creates the garment to Nefesh”. Therefore the key is the action and on the action we should also strive to add intention.
And we must believe that from the stand point of Roots and Branches, every physical body that we observe in our world is derived from upper (spiritual) root, without which the body cannot exist. Similarly, when it comes to soul, without performance of Torah & Mizvot, there is no nourishment to the soul with which it can be sustained. Ad this is as described in the book Beit Shaar HaKavanot: “And you should know that in the Adam HaRishon were collected all sparks of holiness which included all souls, all worlds and all animals. Only the vegetative (tzomeach) and inanimate (domem) didn’t complete the process – therefore they were eating them (to release sparks of holiness). As result of Adam’s sin, all souls and animals returned to the depths of Klipot. And the sparks of holiness can be released only from pure (kosher) animals, vegetative and inanimate via their consumption
And from what we read we can understand that only via our consumption of domem, tzomeach and chai we can release the sparks of holiness, we only need to add intent, however without the actual action the intent by itself doesn’t help! Therefore, one should not say – why should I put tefilin, as the key is the intention, and by simply having intention I’ll fulfill the commandment of tefilin. But the reality is that the key is the action, and intention is an addition to it! Therefore like in corporeal world if one will simply have intent to eat and to drink but essentially won’t consume food and water he will eventually die; similarly to this the soul that doesn’t receive nourishment from Torah and Mitvot won’t have sustenance. And this is the meaning of “Not the story is the key, but the action”, i.e. actual action executed in reality. And [only] after that we also need intention on actions that we perform. And this is level of Domem De-Kdusha, and from this level we can come to the level of Tzomeach then to Chai and then to Medaber [see Note*].
And from this we can understand (from the statement that talks about the Creator that comes to see those broken kelim) because in the conclusion they will come to lishma and then the truth will become apparent. And it is also there said “Behold, this is also the secret of shvirat ha-kelim (breaking of vessels) which happened before the creation of the world. As the result of this breakage of the kelim of kedusha and their fall to Beria, Yetzira, Asiya, sparks of holiness fell together with them to Klipot and from them were stemmed various desires and wishes that ended-up in the domain of Klipa, and they are the cause of human sins. However together with this we were given Torah and Mitzvoth that even when one starts to deal in them from lo-lishma, i.e. he only does it for self-fulfillment and benefit (social, etc) his conclusion is to come via this actions to lishma and to fulfill the goal of Creation, which is to receive everything that Creator has created for him and to receive for the sake of pleasing his Master”.
And we have to remember the rule in spiritual work that states that a person shouldn’t perform review on himself to see whether he is doing well or not – which means that one might think that when a person sees that he isn’t doing well then it’s time for him to pray to HaShem to help him become well. But this is not the case, as this is specifically in the time when one feels that he has at least some closeness to HaShem – only then it is allowed to perform checks on oneself. Therefore when one feels that he is distant from the spiritual work it is forbidden for him to review himself and to pray – instead he should say to himself: how fortunate I am that I have at least something to work with and I’m happy with what I have and I give thanks to HaShem for it. But not to pray to HaShem to bring him closer in such state, because the point of prayer that asks HaShem to bring one closer to Him has to happen specifically in the time when one feels slight ascent in the work.
And as it is written in Zohar (VaEra/Sulam) “Come and see – during the day he dealt with Torah to complete judgments and at night he dealt with Praises and Songs until come of the day”. The whole day he dealt to complete judgments which signifies the level of Left [line], and at night he dealt with Praises and Songs which are Chasadim. Explanation: specifically when it’s a day, i.e. during the time of spiritual ascent he [King David] was dealing with the left [Line] to complete the judgments, however at night, at the time when there was no light, he was busy with Praises (Tehilim) – [see Note**]
[Note*] Explanation: Action without intention is on the level called Domem De-Kedusha (Holy inanimate) and by leveraging this level one can go up to attain the next levels – Tzomeach, Chai and Medaber. But without the first level of Domem De-Kedusha, i.e. without action it is impossible to advance in spiritual ladder
[Note**] Here our Rebe brings in the beginning of the article the words of holy Zohar in the Introduction to Zohar without many explanations, but his point was to bring also from there evidence to this point that HaShem didn’t consider the truthfulness (of person’s work) as it was said that the person in a whole is deception as he serves his Creator lo-lishma for his own benefit, as HaShem did consider one’s deeds of charity and mercy as these deeds that one performs come from the side of hashpaa, and they will cause the person little-by-little to adjust and change his intention in the process. Therefore from here we see the importance of actions themselves even without proper intention. And at the end of the article the Rebbe brings additional quote from there that describes that when Kelim broke, sparks of holiness fell into the authority of Klipot. But there is no bad without good, as by this action we were given the opportunity to start spiritual work with lo-lishma, and without the starting point of lo-lishma, one wouldn’t be able to start spiritual ascend at all. Hence also from there we see the same idea that the action itself even though lo-lishma is important. And at the end of the article the Rebbe mentions that one shouldn’t exercise self-control unless he currently in the mode of spiritual ascend. When one reads the article question arises to the connection between the end of the article and the article itself in general. The reason for such style is the fact that such opinions (that intention is the key and action without intention doesn’t count to anything) comes from the situation when person goes by Left Line with incorrect balance, which means that he completely focused on self judgment and this incorrect judgment brings him to false conclusions that overall actions without intention don’t count and therefore there is no need to put on Tefilin, etc (G-d forbid). And against such opinions the Rebbe wrote this article.
The Rebbe (blessed be his memory) wrote many times in his articles about this Klipa that exists in a person that from one side brings him closer to the idea of lishma and from the other side shows him that all observance of Torah and Mitzvoth is only to receive (lekabel), and deceives him into believing that therefore there is no need to perform Torah and Mitzvoth in such fashion. And we find that he is left empty from both sides as he didn’t attain the level of lehashpia and also lost the simple performance of Torah and Mitzvoth and then what really remains for him, for such “wise” one? Only animalistic desires… Hence when person realizes that performance of Torah and Mitzvoth is important with the intention of lehashpia (to please his Creator), specifically then he should lower himself before the opinion of rabbis and to trust their words that simple performance of Torah and Mitzvoth without any intention is even more important. And then we find that while he performs the Torah and Mitzvoth in their simplicity – then he actually mashpia, but if he cannot lower himself and perform Torah and Mitzvoth we find that he exists in the authority of Klipat Amalek, which laughs at the belief of performance of Torah and Mitzvoth, and he therefore exists under the control of desire to receive.
In the history of the Wisdom of Kabbalah we find many deviations from Judaism. Many sects that claimed to deal only with Kabbalah and canceled out either all physical commandments or some of its portion based on the idea of intentions, spirituality, and feelings of love towards each other with disconnect from Torah and Mitzvoth – unfortunately we already saw the results of such mutual love. And thus in our generation there are many movements that try to stick their hands into the holiness of Israel. The reason for such phenomenon is when people cleave un-proportionally in exclusive development of mind and senses, which distances the person from the ground of reality and from the original Judaism and brings the person to faulty conclusions – that there is no point in performing physical commandments as they were created only to unknowledgeable and undeveloped and limited people that do not understand the necessity of development of proper thoughts, intentions and feelings and thus they’re left with only empty commandments as their default existence. The source of this error is in klipa that sticks to everyone that deals with the wisdom of Kabbalah, and therefore if one doesn’t have solid base then this Klipa starts to control him.
The roots of this klipa are:
- In the quality of Amalek that tries to deceive the “faith above reason”. And therefore when one desires to correct his desire to receive it is very hard for him to believe that the performance of “external” commandments are much more important from what he considers his inner work on intentions. And thus the outcome of his ignorance towards the performance of physical commandments if the climax of the desire to receive and the Sitrah Achra (the other side – impurity), as he doesn’t accept the yoke of Divine Kingship above his logical reasoning to believe that physical commandments as they are without any intent are more important than any pleasures of this world.
- In snobbism that draws to the person imaginary picture that he is above simple people that are immersed in performance of Torah and Mitzvoth and it’s not up to his high standards to perform such “mechanical primitive actions”, i.e. the actual commandments and it only belongs to simple people that are incapable of raising above their nature towards higher state of mind, intentions and feelings
- In desire to attract as much as possible people. And to find grace in the eyes of non-religious public, which doesn’t want to perform commandments.
May HaShem save a person from such non-sense and false words and from deviation from single letter of His Torah, and of course one has to distance himself as far as possible from such people.
For the summary I would like to recommend to anyone who wants to get closer to HaShem is to study both sides of Judaism – the Nigle (open) and the Nistar (hidden) as our Rebbe Baal HaSulam recommends in the Introduction to Talmud Eser HaSefirot. Of course when we’re talking about baalei-tshuva (people who are new to observance), majority of whom also are working people and don’t have much of free time, at any rate the minimum (in addition to Kabbalah) one should study Kitzur Shulchan Aruch in fundamental manner and implement it step by step in simple and practical manner. Then to review Mishna Brura that goes over the portion of Daily Life. There are also books that explain in simple and short language the halacha and if one has no ability to learn Mishna Brura, I recommend such books as “Keeping Shabbat Properly”, that goes over all halachot of Shabbat in a very easy and simple language. There are also similar books around Halachot (laws) of blessings, halachot kosher food, halachot purity of family and so forth. One simply needs to enter a store that sells such books and ask. And there is nothing that stands between true desire. My recommendation for beginners is to dedicate at least one hour a day to study (practical) halacha and start implementing it in practice.
In addition, of course it’s also important to learn TANACH, mishna, gemorah as needed but all these are only function of time. And if there is no time then one needs to strongly embrace the two bases – Halacha and Inner Torah (Kabbalah).
Rabbi Mordechai Avracham Gotlieb