Article No. 29, 1987
Our sages wrote (Avot, Chapter 5), “Ben Ha Ha says, ‘According to the sorrow, so is the reward.’” We should understand this condition. What can we understand from “The work is according to the reward”?
It is written (in the song, “All who Sanctify”), “His reward is plentiful, according to his work.” Therefore, we should understand what is “According to the sorrow, so is the reward.” Instead, it should have said, “According to his work, so is his reward,” so what is “According to the sorrow is the reward”?
This is similar to what we find in The Zohar (Ki Tetze, Item 54): “Likewise will be the redemption. If they are rewarded, they will come out with mercy, as it is written, ‘Before her pain came, she gave birth to a male,’ and they came out with mercy. If He does not precede mercy, they will come out with pain. It is better to precede sorrow and judgment in order to extend mercy. For this reason, the authors of the Mishnah established, ‘According to the sorrow, so is the reward.’”
The words of The Zohar require clarification: 1) Why does it require preceding sorrow and judgment in order to extend mercy, as it is written, “It is better to precede sorrow and judgment in order to extend the mercy”? 2) They said, “According to the sorrow, so is the reward,” meaning “according to the sorrow, so is the reward.” But our sages said (Avot, Chapter 1), “He would say, ‘Be not as slaves serving the great one in order to receive reward.’” Thus, why is it permitted to work for a reward, since they said, “According to the sorrow, so is the reward”? Are we not forbidden to work for a reward?
To understand this, we first need to know what they call “sorrow,” “labor,” and “judgment.” Which reward are they referring to in “According to the sorrow, so is the reward”? It is known that there is no light without a Kli [vessel]. That is, we cannot fill a lack where there is none. Rather, where there is a lack, it can be said that it requires filling. For this reason, the Creator created a lack called “desire and yearning for pleasure.”
This is called Malchut de Ein Sof, which is called “creation.” It is known that this is called “creator of darkness,” in order to give her light and pleasure. We learned that it is called Ein Sof because this discernment, called “will to receive” in order to satisfy the lack in the yearning for pleasure, did not put a stop. That is, she did not say, “I do not want to use this Kli.” Instead, she received the delight and pleasure.
Afterward, this Kli, which took the abundance, said, “I do not want to be a receiver. Rather, I want to be like the Creator, meaning a giver, too.” But how can this be? That is, if we are speaking of spirituality, and she is craving Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator, how can she say, “I don’t want to receive,” which contradicts the intention of the Creator, since His will is to do good to His creations? How could Malchut say, “I don’t want the intention of the Creator to be carried out”? since the Creator’s will cannot come true unless the lower one receives what He wants to give. If the lower one does not receive, the Creator’s intention will never come true.
The answer is that Malchut said, “I do want to receive; I don’t want to go against the will of the Creator, who wants to give, as it is written, ‘His desire to do good to His creations.’ However, I don’t want to receive in order to calm my yearning. Although I feel a great deficiency and I want to satisfy my desire with upper abundance, yet, I do not want to receive for this reason. Instead, with this intention He will receive, meaning because of the will to receive in me. I want to relinquish this, meaning to leave a vacant space without abundance, and because the Emanator wants the lower one to receive delight and pleasure, for this reason I will receive. In other words, I will receive because the Creator wants to give, for His pleasure is that He gives. For this reason I will receive.” This is called “receiving with the intention to bestow,” since by this I am bestowing upon the Creator, whose will, which is called “His desire to do good,” is carried out.
In the words of Kabbalah, this is regarded as placing a Masach [screen] on the upper abundance and not receiving it until she calculates this abundance to see what percentage she can receive in order to bestow. This she receives. If she receives the rest, it will be in order to receive, and this will remain vacant, without abundance.
According to the rule, “A desire in the upper one becomes a mandatory law in the lower one,” it follows that Malchut saying, “I don’t want to receive in order to receive,” which is called Tzimtzum [restriction], caused a prohibition on receiving in order to receive from her and below. If we do want to receive, we become separated from the Creator, since He is the bestower, and the receiver is in oppositeness of form, and “disparity of form causes separation in spirituality.” From here, the place for the Klipot [shells/peels] was made, who are separated from “The Life of Lives,” and are called “dead.”
Afterward, two systems emerged from this: Kedusha [sanctity/holiness] and Klipa [singular of Klipot]. It is written about it (“Introduction to The Book of Zohar,” Item 10), “And in order to mend that separation, which lays on the Kli of the souls, He created all the worlds and separated them into two systems, which are the four worlds ABYA of Kedusha, and opposite them the four worlds ABYA of Tuma’a. He imprinted the desire to bestow in the system of ABYA of Kedusha, removed from them the will to receive for themselves, and placed it in the system of the worlds ABYA of Tuma’a. The worlds cascaded onto the reality of this corporeal world, to a place where there is a body and a soul and a time of corruption and correction. For the body, which is the will to receive for oneself, extends from its root in the thought of creation through the system of the worlds of Tuma’a, and remains enslaved thirteen years, and this is the time of corruption. By engaging in Mitzvot from thirteen years onward, he begins to purify the will to receive for himself, imprinted in him, and slowly turns it into working in order to bestow. By this he extends a holy soul from its root in the thought of creation. It passes through the system of the worlds of Kedusha and dresses in the body. This is the time of correction.”
The above order, where he says that for thirteen years a man is under the control of the Klipot, is when one satisfies all his needs completely. There is no one who does not walk on this path of the time of corruption, since this way is natural. That is, everything he does, does not blemish the will to receive for himself.
But after thirteen years, when a person begins to work in Torah and Mitzvot with the aim to emerge from the governance of Tuma’a, and wants to work to the contrary, meaning that by the force of Torah and Mitzvot that he observes, he will have the strength to revoke the will to receive, which extends from the system of Tuma’a, the work becomes heavy, since it is against nature. [And I, Michael Laitman, heard from my teacher, the RABASH, that Baal HaSulam mentioned the number thirteen in order to obscure the matter.]
Man is born inside the will to receive for himself. Suddenly, he comes to the body and says, “Listen, until now you worked in thought, speech, and action for your own sake. From now on, I want you to work only for the sake of the Creator, meaning that everything you do will be with the intention to bestow contentment upon your Maker.”
When the body hears these words, it resists with all its might, both in mind and in heart. According to one’s prevailing, to that extent he reveals its resistance through all kinds of arguments, such as the arguments of the spies, who spoke about the land of Israel, as The Zohar interprets (Shlach, Item 59). It writes, “And they went up the Negev.” It means that people ascend in her in Negev [desert/dryness], meaning with an idle heart, as though one is working for nothing, with dryness, and thinks that there is no reward in it. He sees that the wealth of the world is lost for her, and thinks that everything is lost.
It is also written there (Item 63), “‘And they returned from touring the land.’ That is, they returned to the bad side and reverted from the path of truth saying, ‘What will we get out of it? To this day, we have not seen good in the world. We have toiled in Torah but the house is empty. We sat among the lowliest in the nation, and who will be rewarded with that world? Who will come into it? It would have been better had we not toiled so. That upper world is good, but who can be rewarded with it?’”
According to the above, we see that the complaint of the spies came only after the exertion, when they already began to work in order to bestow, as it is written in The Zohar, that they said, “To this day, we have not seen good in the world. We have toiled in Torah.” They also said, “It would have been better had we not toiled so.” That is, they had made great efforts to come to work in order to bestow, which is called “the land of Israel,” for Eretz [land] is called Ratzon [desire], and Ysrael [Israel] is called Yashar-El [straight to the Creator], meaning that they want everything to be straight to God, directly to the Creator, and not to the Klipot, whose control is in the will to receive for oneself.
Yet, the spies said, “That world is good, but who can be rewarded with it?” We see that the bad in a person interferes with entering the path of truth, which is to work only in order to bestow. It does not appear at once, but rather everything goes by way of “one opposite the other”: To the extent of overcoming in order to bestow, the “in order to receive” increases.
For this reason, a person thinks that he is regressing and not progressing. But in truth, he is progressing, and he can see this by the fact that the more he exerts to work in bestowal, the more attraction he receives toward the will to receive.
That is, before he exerted to walk on the path of bestowal, he did not have such an attraction for self-love. But once he has commenced in the work of bestowal, he sees that where the desire to bestow should have been stronger in him and the will to receive weaker, he is asking, “What have I gained from my work for “in order to bestow”? The will to receive has strengthened, meaning ascended in degree and became more important, while the desire to bestow grew weaker. In other words, it is at a lower degree in him after he has begun this work of acquiring vessels of bestowal.
It follows that only when he begins to work in bestowal comes the argument of the spies. Before he began to work in bestowal and his work was like the general public, he knew that he was learning Torah and engaging in Mitzvot, and he had no sorrow while engaging in his work in Torah and Mitzvot. But once he has begun the work of bestowal, he feels sorrow and suffering even during the work.
Indeed, concerning the argument of the spies that comes into his mind at that time, he sees that they are right in everything they say. This causes him to doubt the beginning. That is, he is angry with the one who admitted him into this work of bestowal. He lived in a world that was all good and felt that he was “happy in this world and happy in the next world.” But now he is hearing the argument of the spies coming from his body: “We labored in vain, and who will be rewarded with the upper world?”
It follows that he feels destitute because now he sees the truth—that the evil controls him and he has no permission to disobey it and go against the will and view of the will to receive for himself. He actually feels that he is completely separated from Kedusha and is in the group of the dead, as in, “The wicked, in their lives, are called ‘dead,’” since they are separated from The Life of Lives. Now he can actually feel this.
Conversely, before he began the work of bestowal, he would tell himself that he belongs to the group of servants of the Creator, and all the energy he put into the work brought him pain and sorrow when he saw that there are people who are not walking on the path of the Creator. But concerning himself, he was more or less certain that he was already considered a “servant of the Creator.”
But now he sees what has happened to him because of the advice to walk in the above-mentioned way: only sorrow and pain for not having this world. That is, in this world, he sees that he is not fine with the Creator, meaning he feels that he would like to work for the sake of the Creator and does not find satisfaction in his own benefit. Although he cannot exit self-gratification, he also cannot find satisfaction in it.
Now, in the next world, how can he hope and tell himself that he will be rewarded in the next world, so now he sees the truth—that he has no intention to work for the sake of the Creator, to be able to say, “I deserve reward for working for the Creator.”
Accordingly, we see that precisely when a person begins to walk on the path of bestowal, he comes to a state of pain and sorrow, and feels the labor that exists in serving the Creator. That is, the labor begins to work when one wants to work for the sake of the Creator. Only then do the arguments of the spies come to him. It is very difficult to overcome them, and many people escape the campaign and surrender to the argument of the spies.
But those who do not want to move, but rather say, “We have nowhere to go,” suffer from not being able to always overcome them. They are in a state of ascending and descending, and every time they overcome, they see that they are farther from the goal that they want to be rewarded with Dvekut with the Creator, which is equivalence of form.
The measure of sorrow that they must tolerate is because in truth, a person cannot emerge from the control of self-reception by himself, as it is the nature in which the Creator created man, which only the Creator Himself can change. In other words, as He has given the created beings the desire to receive, He can later give them the desire to bestow.
However, according to the rule, “There is no light without a Kli, no filling without a lack,” first one needs to obtain a deficiency. That is, he must feel that he is deficient of this Kli called “desire to bestow.” And concerning feeling, it is impossible to feel any lack if one does not know what he is losing by not having the Kli, called “desire to bestow.” For this reason, man must introspect on what causes him not to have the desire to bestow.
To the extent of the loss, he feels sorrow and suffering. When he has the real lack, meaning when he can pray to the Creator from the bottom of the heart for not having the strength to be able to work for the sake of the Creator, then, when he has the Kli, meaning the real lack, this is the time when his prayer is answered and he receives assistance from above. It is as our sages said, “He who comes to purify is aided.”
By this we will understand what we asked, “What is the meaning of ‘According to the sorrow, so is the reward’?” It means that according to his lack, meaning to the extent that he feels sorrow at not being able to emerge from the control of the bad, and bad means that he feels that it is something bad, meaning he sees what bad that the vessels of reception cause him, then he feels actual sorrow. This gives him the need that the Creator will help him, and he receives the reward, meaning the reward for the sorrow he had had. This is the meaning of the words, “According to the sorrow,” to the full extent of the sorrow, meaning the understanding of the lack, is the reward. Then comes the time when the reward comes, for “there is no light without a Kli.”
Now we can understand what we asked according to what our sages said, “Be not as slaves serving the great one in order to receive reward.” In other words, it is forbidden to work in order to receive reward because receiving the reward separates us from the Creator, who is the giver, while man wants to receive.
The answer is that the reward he is asking for his labor is to be able to overcome the vessels of reception and be able to work in order to bestow. Such a reward will bring him Dvekut with The Life of Lives. That is, the reward he expects is to be given the strength to work without reward that comes to the vessels of reception, by which he becomes separated. Rather, the reward comes to the vessels of bestowal, by which he becomes close to the Creator.
By this we will also understand what we asked about what we sing in the songs of Shabbat [Sabbath], “His reward is plentiful, according to his work.” We should understand the following: 1) Is it permitted to work for a reward? If so why does he say, “His reward is plentiful”? 2) “His reward is plentiful, according to his work.” What is the novelty? In everything, if he works more he receives more reward. So, what is “his reward is plentiful”? I would understand it if he said, “His reward is plentiful although he did not make such great efforts, yet he received a great reward.”
According to the above, we should interpret that “work” does not pertain to corporeal work, where one is rewarded according to the output that a person produces. The output is positive, relating to what the worker did, and to the extent of the output so is his reward.
But here, “according to his work” means according to his labor and exertion without seeing anything positive in the work. On the contrary, each time, he sees more negativity in his work. That is, each time he sees that he does not want to work for the sake of the Creator. Thus, how can he ask for a reward, so as to say, “His reward is plentiful, according to his work,” although he sees no progress? On the contrary, he is regressing every time, yet he does not escape the campaign or grow idle in the work. Instead, he works as though he is advancing. It follows that “according to his work” means to the extent that he overcomes each time, and according to the sorrow and exertion that he puts into this work, it causes him to be able to obtain a real Kli and need for the Creator’s help.
It follows that unlike corporeality, where we are rewarded according to the output, meaning that one looks at the work he did. Here, it is the opposite.
Also, why is it permitted to receive reward here? It is because the reward he is asking is not a reward that will separate him from adhering to Him. Rather, he hopes that all of the reward he hopes to be given is the ability to bestow upon the Creator, and through this reward he will adhere to Him.
This is the meaning of what is written, “It is good to precede sorrow and judgment in order to extend mercy.” We asked, why the need for sorrow and judgment if we want mercy? The reason is that the sorrow is the Kli and the need, for there is no light without a Kli. And what is the “light”? It is mercy, as our sages said, “As He is merciful, so you are merciful.” This is what he should be given.