REMEMBERING THE EXODUS 7-8

Chapter Seven

We now must introduce one additional matter. As known,[123] “G-d made each thing opposite the other,”- literally.  Just as on the side of holiness there is the power for G-dly faith, so likewise on the side of evil there also is a power of faith, which is called “alien faith.”  Thus, our sages of blessed memory said in Tractate Yoma,[124] that the first holy Temple was destroyed due to the cardinal sins of idolatry, licentiousness and bloodshed (however, the Holy One blessed be He overlooked these sins until they specifically transgressed the sin of neglect of Torah study, as mentioned before).  On the other hand, though we know that in the second Temple they were occupied in Torah study and the performance of mitzvot and charity, nonetheless it was destroyed due to the baseless hatred (Sinat Chinam) that was rampant amongst them.  This teaches us that baseless hatred is equal to the three cardinal sins of idolatry, licentiousness, and bloodshed.

Now, we need to understand. Why was the second Temple destroyed due to baseless hatred if they were involved in Torah, mitzvot and charitable acts!?  As we know, the vast majority of Jews at the time actually had the quality of self-sacrifice for Torah and mitzvot. One example is the Jews in the time of the Maccabees. They were totally self-sacrificing for the sake of Torah and the service of HaShem when the Greeks attempted to abrogate Torah and mitzvot.  This was similarly the case in the generations of the “pairs” such as Hillel and Shammai and their students until the generation of Rabbi Akiva and his companions, such as Rabbi Chanina ben Teradion,[125] all of whom were martyred in the sanctification of HaShem’s name and for the sake of Torah and mitzvot, as known. How then, could it be that the second Temple was destroyed for the sin of baseless hatred and that this alone was comparable to the three cardinal sins of idolatry, licentiousness and bloodshed!?

The explanation is that “G-d made each thing opposite the other.” During the time of the first Temple, the power of G-dly faith was openly revealed amongst the Jewish people. More specifically there were open revelations of G-dliness in the Holy of Holies, such as the miracles associated with the “holy ark” and the tablets. Moreover, the revelation of the spirit of prophecy was poured upon the prophets etc. Now, at the very same time, on the opposing side of evil, alien faiths were rampant, such as star worship or the worship of Ba’al and Ashera and the like.  Throughout the period of the kings of Israel and Judah until the generation of the prophet Jeremiah, many Jews adhered to idolatrous practices. This is as stated,[126] “Their wives offered to other gods,” and,[127] “There sat there women weeping for the Tamuz idol,” or,[128] “Since we ceased our offerings to the queen of heaven…we have been in want of all things etc.”  Similarly, there were also a multitude of false prophets at the time, such as the prophets of Ba’al and Ashera in their various casts, as is known.

Moreover, even a prophet who speaks in the name of Hashem and admonishes the people not to worship idols, but says even one thing in the name of Hashem that Hashem did not command him to speak, that prophet too[129] “has spoken iniquity in the name of Hashem, and is subject to the death penalty” no less than the prophets of Ba’al. This accords with the statement in Parshat Re’eh,[130] “If there arises in the midst of you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams…and the sign or wonder comes to pass… and he spoke to you saying let us go after other gods… he shall be put to death because he has spoken perversion against Hashem etc.”  Similarly in Parshat Shoftim[131] it states, “But the prophet who shall speak any word presumptuously in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.  And if you say in your heart, ‘how shall we know the word that Hashem has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of Hashem, if the thing does not follow nor come to pass, that is the thing which Hashem has not spoken, the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you shall not be afraid of him.”  From this it is understood that whether a prophet speaks in the name of Hashem that which HaShem never told him to speak, or whether a prophet speaks in the name of false gods, their judgment is equal.  This, then, is the primary qualification of false prophecy. It is similar to the spirit that said,[132] “Let me go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets etc.”

Since at the time of the first Holy temple G-dly influence descended in a manner that G-dly faith was openly revealed, through the miraculous presence of the holy ark, the tablets and true prophets of HaShem, therefore, on the opposing side of the “evil husks” there was the aspect of alien and false faiths with false prophets, such as the prophets of Ba’al.  Moreover, many people believed that these alien gods were the source of physical sustenance, as the women stated, “Since we ceased our offerings to the Queen of heaven… we are in want of all things etc.”  This is the diametric opposite of true G-dly faith, the primary aspect of which is to believe in Him alone, blessed be He, and that He personally supervises every detail of creation with Divine providence. This is as stated,[133] “Your eyes are open upon all the ways of mankind,” and similarly it states,[134] “Hashem looks down from the heavens and beholds all of mankind,” or,[135] “[And it shall come to pass on that day, that Hashem will punish] the hosts of heaven on high, [and the kings of the earth upon the earth etc.]”  For no angel or star has the authority to effect any of its actions without HaShem’s will, for they are merely like an axe in the hand of the woodchopper[136] or like a horse relative to its rider, as it states,[137] “Can a hatchet glory over the one who chops with it?”  Similarly it states,[138] “Behold Hashem rides upon a swift cloud” for the hosts of heaven are called,[139] “Clouds upon which he rides.”  This is the meaning of what we say in our prayers,[140] “He arranges the stars in their positions in the firmament according to His will” – literally.

The false prophets, one the other hand, had false beliefs and gave primary importance to the subsidiary instruments.  That is, they believed in the stars and constellations and offered incense to them in the belief that power was granted to them to bestow influence upon the world and conduct it.  This is as stated,[141] “They have forsaken Me, the source of living waters, and have hewn out broken cisterns that hold no water.”  This, literally, is contrary to true G-dly faith, in that “G-d made each thing opposite the other.” It is also written,[142] “the one nation shall strive for power over the other nation,” which Rashi explains, “They will not be equal in greatness; when one rises the other will fall, as scripture states,[143] ‘I shall become full from the destroyed city.’ That is, Tyre only became full (or gained power) with the destruction of Jerusalem.”[144]  Similarly, at that time the opposing forces struggled for power over the G-dly faith which was openly revealed during the period of the first Temple.  This happened by means of false faiths which were similar in their subject, namely, they too were involved with G-dliness. In other words, they did not deny the simple unity of HaShem,[145] G-d forbid. On the contrary, they still continued to bring the offerings in the holy Temple and even fulfilled all of the positive mitzvot. Nonetheless, they were drawn to idolatry through false prophets, and this sin resulted in the destruction of the first Temple.

This is because G-dly faith was revealed in full force, such as the revelation of the Divine Presence (Shechinah) in the Holy of Holies which was the revelation of the “Essence of G-dliness” that is called Sovev Kol Almin (transcending all worlds), as we learn that,[146] “He constricted His Divine Presence between the two poles of the holy ark etc.” and the primary G-dly faith is specifically in the Essence of G-dliness which[147] “is not graspable by any thought whatsoever,” and is called Sovev Kol Almin (transcending all the worlds).  It is for this reason that faith is called by the term “Crown (Ateret)” because it is comparable to a beautiful crown upon the head etc. Therefore it also states,[148] “He is truth and she is Faith”. This is because the faith of the community of Israel acts as a receptacle to contain the aspect of the Truth of the Essence of the Infinite Light, blessed be He, as He is – literally, in that He is called Truth, as it states,[149] “Your truth, my G-d etc.”

However, the second Temple lacked five things:[150] the ark, the tablets, prophecy etc. Only a tiny radiance of G-dly light in the form of a heavenly voice[151] (Bat Kol) was left at their disposal.  There no longer was a revelation of G-dliness as He literally is, even in the Holy of Holies. Rather there was only revelation as revealed through the filter of a “garment” that conceals the “Essential” light.  Furthermore, this revelation was brought about only through the outer services in the Temple, such as the service of the altar (Mizbe’ach), the table (Shulchan), and the candelabra (Menorah), which are only the aspect of G-dly light as it is drawn down by way of the chaining down and enclothement of the worlds (Seder Hishtalshelut); in other words, HaShem’s inner light that pervades all worlds (Memale Kol Almin).

Therefore, in the husks (Kelipah) that oppose holiness there also only was opposition in an inner, pervading manner of enclothement below, rather than in a way of alien faith, as before. This is because though “Alien faiths” are false faiths, nonetheless, at least they deal with G-dliness, except that they err in believing that the star or constellation is a primary source of influence. This is a false faith in HaShem, for it is the mistaken belief that He granted actual authority to the stars and constellations or the like.

However, since during the period of the second Temple the light of G-dly faith that encompasses all worlds (Sovev Kol Almin) was not strongly revealed in the Holy of Holies, therefore the opposition to it through false prophecy was also not strong.  Rather, the alien faith was manifested in worldly matters, primarily in the form of baseless hatred of one Jew to another.  The reason is because baseless hatred also is caused primarily through the power of faith.  That is, that a person believes the gossip and slander about his fellow Jew and thereby becomes hateful and vindictive toward him.  Likewise, the other fellow also believes the gossip and slander about him and becomes hateful and vindictive too etc.  If only they would not believe the slander and gossip about each other, then on the contrary, their hearts would be strengthened to seek only goodness for each other and they would remain faithful and beloved friends who only wish the best for each other.

Rather, this is caused by a spirit of delusion[152] which can even cause divisiveness and disunity between the closest friends, thus bringing accusations from above on all of them, because when a friend becomes an enemy below in this physical realm, this arouses harsh judgments and accusations upon the spiritual life of his soul above. Thus, the sin that he has transgressed below awakens to become[153] “a whip with which to smite him” and literally disrupts his family life, his health and his livelihood. Additionally, when one Jew hates his fellow, he also awakens supernal accusations against his fellow.  All these are the work of the “Accuser” (Satan) to cause divisiveness amongst people and this is the reason for the great length of the exile. There is not a single city or place that is not embroiled in baseless hatred stemming from false beliefs, because people believe lies and become vindictive towards each other, until they “swallow each other alive” and awaken accusations which destroy everything. This is especially true of this orphaned generation, in which even the leaders of the generation have fallen into exceedingly baseless hatred.  (This may be compared to how it was amongst the princes of Israel in the period of the first Temple, as stated in Tractate Yoma,[154] “They would eat and drink together, but stab each other with the swords of their tongues etc.”)

Now, aside for the belief in gossip, lies and slander, another primary cause of hatred is envy towards whoever is wealthy and successful in earning his livelihood.  The hatred and envy towards such people is tremendous.  This tendency is mostly found amongst the nations of the world. About this the verse states,[155] “Their tongue is a sharpened arrow to speak deceit; with his mouth one speaks peaceably to his neighbor, but in his heart he lays in wait for him” to overpower and kill his neighbor. Such is the punishment upon those who are wealthy and successful but show no mercy and or kindness to the poor and impoverished.  Rather, he takes all sustenance for himself, but places every manner of imposition and affliction upon the poor,[156] but is lenient on himself, may Hashem atone.  This will suffice for the understanding.

 

Chapter Eight

Now, after all these words of truth a person may clearly understand the great power of strong faith, and how it includes and is the foundation of all the positive and negative mitzvot, as it states,[157] “For I believe Your mitzvot.” Faith also includes all the particular levels of service of HaShem in the mind and heart, in both emotional and intellectual love and awe of HaShem, each person according to his time and place, as well as the delight in G-dliness that the soul experiences when a person is spiritually worthy.  This is as known regarding the verse[158] “My flesh and heart will sing for joy to the living G-d,” and similarly,[159] “My soul yearns and pines for the courts of Hashem” with sweetness, pleasantness, and endearment etc.  The same is true in the opposite sense, in regard to the great anguish and bitterness that is experienced when one is distant from the unity of Hashem, which touches the very essential point of the heart, as it does in the truly penitent, as known.  All this comes about solely through the power of faith, which is imbedded in the very essence of the soul, and all the above mentioned matters are only like rays of light that branch out of faith in the service of the mind and heart, in deeds and in acts penitence from the depth of the heart.  The same applies to the delight in Hashem that is experienced on Shabbat and holidays.

It is therefore incumbent upon each person to come close to Hashem with prayer, repentance and good deeds, and to greatly strengthen his heart with the power and might of this essential faith in HaShem’s essential Being, specifically. It is specifically through this that the light of Truth will shine in all aspects of his daily service, in his mind and heart, in his fulfillment of the positive mitzvot and in desisting from doing the negative mitzvot, and in his repentance of returning to HaShem etc.  Regarding this it specifically states,[160] “They are renewed every morning; Great is Your faithfulness etc.”  That is, the G-dly soul shines every morning specifically because of the power of faith. About this it states, “The righteous lives by his faith.”  In other words, it is faith that enlivens a person with G-dly life. Through this even his physical livelihood will be enlivened specifically through Divine providence.  This will suffice for the understanding.

Hence, we see that the very essence and foundation of all G-dly service is specifically the mitzvah of simple faith. About this we say in the Haggadah,[161] “This is what stood for our fathers and us etc.”  “This” refers specifically to the mitzvah of faith, in that its merit is eternal and rescues us from every manner of accusation, both supernal and temporal.  This is as stated, “I have not despised them to destroy them by abrogating my covenant with them etc,” This also is the meaning of the continuation of the verse, “For not only one alone rose up against us to destroy us etc,” (as explained in Shaar HaEmunah[162]).

Therefore, it is exceedingly important for each person to strengthen and arouse the power of faith in his soul, for certainly every Jew possesses it as a nature, literally as an inheritance from our forefathers. This is why the mitzvah of faith is not explicitly mentioned in the Torah – because a “commandment” is not applicable here. Rather, all that is necessary is just to awaken what inherently is already there for its light to shines forth in a revealed manner with strength and fortitude.  This will suffice for the understanding.

Now, after truly strengthening one’s faith, each person according to his ability may come to an aspect of revelation and illumination of G-dly knowledge and the specific levels of G-dly excitement which are awakened through the contemplation (Hitbonenut) of the HaShem’s upper unity (Yichuda Ila’a) and His lower unity (Yichuda Tata’a) during the recital of the Shma, this being the mitzvah to acknowledge HaShem’s unity, with G-dly comprehension and recognition in the mind and heart, each person according to his stature.  Included, are the mitzvot to love and fear of HaShem during the recital of the two chapters of the Shma.[163]  This is because love and fear of HaShem, whether intellectual or emotional, are only branches that stem from the power of comprehension and recognition in the mind and heart.  Therefore we first state, “Hear oh Israel,” and only afterwards we say, “You shall love HaShem your G-d etc. and serve Him” through the acceptance of the yoke of His kingdom, as known.

All of these matters are clearly evident to those who see with the eye of the intellect, and it is apparent that faith is the pillar and foundation for all G-dly service, because “everything follows that which establishes it.”  The same is true regarding that which follows simple faith, which is the mitzvah to know HaShem, as it states,[164] “I will betroth you to Me with faith and with the knowledge of Hashem.”  Similarly it states,[165] “You shall know this day and set it upon your heart,” and,[166] “You have been shown to know etc,” as mentioned above in regard to the matter of the negative mitzvah not to forget.

With this purpose in mind I have committed myself to awaken the hearts of my brothers and friends, all those who are like me. For although they are already accustomed in their minds and hearts regarding the manner in which to receive the details of G-dly knowledge, nevertheless, they should not err in their souls to think that they have touched upon the ultimate truth of G-dly light.  For although it is good for those who have tasted, and although ecstasy and G-dly pleasure is accessible at propitious times, such as on shabbat and holidays, nonetheless, they must venture to truly behold the ultimate truth, this being the true and ultimate foundation for all G-dly toil in the mind, the heart and in action, which is specifically the mitzvah of faith.  I therefore I have taken it upon myself to collect words of truth regarding the matter and essence of faith. In addition, I have collected various discourses and precious expositions on the subject of the splitting of the sea and the exodus from Egypt as they relate to the subject of faith.  However, my goal here is not to merely expound.  Rather, these are solely words that have been gathered from or founded upon the path of light and truth that was illuminated by my father and master, the G-dly genius of blessed memory, in his expositions, that have been accepted in the hearts of all who heard and understood them. Therefore, everyone whose desire is to find serenity in his soul, especially in these difficult times, should set it upon his heart with a strong commitment, to come close to Hashem through strong faith in the very essence of his soul.  This will suffice for the understanding.

In addition, I have found it fitting to join to this composition, which is called “The Gate of Faith” (Shaar HaEmunah), an additional pamphlet that speaks about the matter of the HaShem’s unity, in all the details of the chaining down of the ten Sefirot in the four worlds of Atzilut, Briyah, Yetzirah and Asiyah.  It summarizes everything that a person can bring close to his intellect in a manner of comprehension that can vest within and be grasped by the mind and heart regarding every detail of the chaining down of the worlds (Seder Hishtalshelut).  That is, it explains everything from the very first Tzimtzum (constriction) until the very end of the world of Asiyah (Action).  This composition is generally known by the name Kuntres HaHitbonenut  (The Tract on Contemplation), and many have yearned to see it in print, for there are many mistakes in the hand-copied manuscripts.  I trust that my positive intentions for the good of every person who truly and honestly seeks G-d, will be desirable before Hashem and that I will be judged meritoriously in whatever may be found to not be fitting in the eyes of the wise, as it states,[167] “Who can discern his errors etc.”

May Hashem uplift the horn of Israel and enlighten their eyes with the light of Hashem, the eternal light, with grace, kindness, and mercy.  May He bless them with spiritual and physical life and may He always support and uplift them[168] until the coming of the redeemer.

These are the words of one who speaks in truth and with the love of the light of truth and faith, “a friend that is closer than a brother,”[169] who is bound with the bonds of great love and eternal love to all those who seek and search out Hashem in the ways of the Torah of truth, the mitzvot, prayer and repentance.

From the depths of my heart,

Dov Ber, the son of my father, master, teacher and Rabbi, the genius, our master and teacher Rabbi Shneur Zalman, may the memory of the righteous bring blessings and may his soul repose in Eden.

 

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