What Are the Light Mitzvot that a Person Tramples with His Heels, in the Work?
Article 41, 1990
About the verse “And it shall come to pass, because you listen, and keep and do them, and the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy that He swore to your forefathers,” RASHI interpreted as follows, “If the Mitzvot [commandments/good deeds] are light, which a person tramples with his feet, listen, and the Lord will keep, keep with you His promise.”
We should understand what it means to us that if a person observes the light Mitzvot then the Creator will keep with you the oath. We should understand this condition, which implies that otherwise, it is as though He cannot keep the oath he swore to your forefathers. We should also understand what the interpreters ask, Why does he begin with plural form [in Hebrew], “keep and do,” and ends in singular form [in Hebrew], “will keep with you.”
To understand this, we first need to understand the meaning of the 613 Mitzvot that we were given. In the “Introduction of The Book of Zohar” (“General Explanation for All Fourteen Commandments and How They Divide into the Seven Days of Creation,” Item 1), “The Mitzvot in the Torah are called Pekudin [Aramaic: commands/deposits], as well as 613 Eitin [Aramaic: counsels/tips]. The difference between them is that in all things there is Panim [anterior/face] and Achor [posterior/back]. The preparation for something is called Achor, and the attainment of the matter is called Panim. Similarly, in Torah and Mitzvot there are ‘We shall do’ and ‘We shall hear.’ When observing Torah and Mitzvot as ‘doers of His word,’ prior to being rewarded with hearing, the Mitzvot are called ‘613 Eitin’ and are regarded as Achor. When rewarded with ‘hearing the voice of His word,’ the 613 Mitzvot become Pekudin, from the word Pikadon [deposit]. This is so because there are 613 Mitzvot, where in each Mitzva [singular of Mitzvot], the light of a unique degree is deposited, corresponding to a specific organ in the 613 organs and tendons of the soul, etc., and this is regarded as the Panim of the Mitzvot.”
“Doers of His word” is during the preparation, before a person is rewarded with “Hearing the voice of his word,” for “hearing” is when a person has been rewarded with vessels of bestowal, for only then is there a receptacle for the abundance to clothe in vessels of bestowal. At that time, he has “ears” to hear the voice of the Creator.
But while he is still immersed in vessels of reception, a person must work in “doing,” called “action,” although the body disagrees to work for the sake of the Creator. Rather, he must believe that although he is in a state of lowliness, meaning that the body disagrees with this work—to work for the sake of the Creator—still, the Creator enjoys this because in a state of lowliness, a person feels that he needs the Creator’s help. Hence, at that time he has close contact with the Creator, since he feels that he has no other way and only the Creator can save him and deliver him from this lowliness.
However, a person asks himself, “Where are the Creator’s justice and integrity?” He labors and observes Torah and Mitzvot, and he wants no reward for this. Rather, he wants to work for the sake of the Creator, as it is written in The Zohar, to work because he wants to serve a great King, meaning because He is great and ruling. When he asks the Creator to let him feel His greatness, and the person believes that the Creator hears the prayer of every mouth, each day he stands and waits to have more feeling of the greatness of the Creator, but in the end he sees that he has come to greater lowliness. In other words, he feels that people on the street are not as immersed in self-love.
So, the person asks, “How come people on the street, who have no prayer that the Creator will deliver them from self-love, are fine?” He sees that they feel the order of the work as utter completeness, meaning they know that each day they are advancing, meaning that their possessions are growing. It is as I said once, that each of them has a log where he sees how many Mitzvot were registered to his name each day, and how many pages of Gemara he can write in his log. He, on the contrary, sees the opposite, that each day he is worse than the day before.
When a person introspects, he sees that he has several ascents each day until he sometimes thinks, “Now I am certain that I have reached my goal, not as it was until now.” But suddenly, thoughts that confuse him come to him and he forgets everything, meaning he completely forgets even about the ascents and feels nothing but lowliness. Now, after all the work he has done, he has become worse than ever. He begins to look at himself and finds not one good deed, and he feels as though he never observed Torah and Mitzvot.
The question is, How can a person explain these feelings to himself? Are they true or false? That is, with respect to reality, and reality cannot be erased, he certainly exerted and observed Torah and Mitzvot. But according to his feeling, it all disappeared. The question is, Where did they go, meaning who took them, since he does not feel them? He cannot say that he is suffering from amnesia and this is why he has forgotten everything. After all, he sees that he does remember the bad things he did.
The answer is that we must believe in the sages, as it is said in The Zohar, which interprets what is written, “Or make it known to him that he has sinned.” He asks, “Who makes it known to him?” And he explains, “The Torah.” As we once explained, by learning Torah with the intention to achieve the truth, meaning to really be a servant of the Creator, meaning that by observing Torah and Mitzvot, he does not mean to work for himself, meaning that he will receive reward. Rather, he wants to observe Torah and Mitzvot as our sages said, “I have created the evil inclination; I have created the Torah as a spice.” That is, he learns Torah as an advice by which to truly become a servant of the Creator, meaning that he wants to work for the sake of the Creator, so the Torah notifies him that he has sinned.
This means that the order of “the Torah as a spice” is that first, it lets him know that “he has sinned,” meaning how immersed he is in self-love. This is regarded as the Torah, which is the spice, gives him the Kli [vessel], meaning the lack, so he will need the Creator’s help. It follows that the Torah notifies him that his faith in the Creator is something foreign to him. Put differently, he feels how far he is from the Creator, that the Creator to him is like a stranger. As Baal HaSulam said about the verse “There shall be no strange God within you,” “God” means that the Creator should not be to you like something foreign with which you have no connection.
A person is immersed in self-love, which is disparity of form from the Creator, since the Creator wants only to bestow while a person by nature wants only to receive. For this reason, “He and I cannot dwell in the same abode.” It follows that where one should have felt close to the Creator, he feels remoteness from the Creator. This is what the Torah makes him know, meaning one who learns Torah, since he believes in the words of our sages, who said, “The Creator said, ‘I have created the evil inclination; I have created the Torah as a spice.’” This spice is given to a person so he will feel how far he is from the Creator.
It follows that the Torah gives man the Kli, meaning the lack, for man to ask the Creator to deliver him from exile, called “exile in Egypt.” It is known that Metzar-Yam [Mitzraim (Egypt)] means Tzar-Ayin [lit. narrow-eyed, meaning “jealous”]. That is, a person has no power to bestow, but only to receive. Although he sees that it is impossible to approach the Creator before all his actions are in order to bestow, he nonetheless sees that there is no way he will be able to achieve this without His help.
We already said many times why the Creator did this, meaning that there will be no option for a person to emerge from Pharaoh’s control. The answer is as Baal HaSulam said about what Abraham asked the Creator when He promised him the inheritance of the land, “How will I know that I will inherit it? And He said to Abram, ‘Know that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs.’”
He said that Abraham’s question was that he saw what would be the inheritance of the land, which is Malchut that carries the upper abundance, which contains the five Behinot [qualities] NRNHY of Kedusha [holiness]. Also, it is known that there is no light without a Kli [vessel], meaning no filling without a need. Yet, Abraham saw that Israel have no need to obtain the completion of the degree. Rather, if they attain a little bit of illumination from above, they will be satisfied. Naturally, they would have no need to obtain the NRNHY of Neshama that is included in Malchut, which is called “the inheritance of the land.”
“So how,” said Abraham, “will they receive the light, when they have no Kelim [vessels], called ‘need’?” At that time, the Creator told him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs.” In other words, the people of Israel will be in an Eretz [land], meaning a Ratzon [desire] that does not belong to the people of Israel. They will be under the governance of the will to receive, which belongs to Pharaoh, King of Egypt.
“They will be tormented,” meaning that the people of Israel will suffer because they are unable to work in order to bestow, which would bring them Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator. At that time they will need the Creator’s help, as it is written, “And their cry rose up to God from the work, and God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham.”
Our sages said, “He who comes to purify is aided.” The Zohar asks, “How is he aided?” and it replies, “with a holy soul.” In other words, first one is given Nefesh. If he is rewarded more, he is given Ruach. This means that to the extent that one comes to purify himself and demands help, the help he receives from above is considered part of the inheritance of the land.
According to the above, we should interpret what we asked, Why when a person begins to learn Torah for the reason that the Torah is called “a spice,” when one begins to walk on the path of truth, where the Torah is as Eitin, meaning counsels how to conquer the evil inclination, the person begins to see how each time, instead of feeling closer to the Creator, he feels that he has become farther?
We asked, “Is this the way of Torah, by which one becomes farther from the Creator?” The answer was that the Torah first gives him a Kli, meaning the lack, to see how far he is from the Creator. This is why The Zohar says that the Torah notifies him that he has sinned.
It follows that one should not say that he is learning Torah in truth, so why does the Torah not help him as a spice? The answer is that one should believe in the sages that the Torah does help him by revealing to him that he has sinned, meaning how far he is from the Creator, and because of it, he can pray from the bottom of the heart, since he feels that he is worse than other people.
Although if he asks himself, he will see that he makes more efforts to observe Torah and Mitzvot, so why does he feel that he is worse? A person cannot answer this, but he says that as far as feeling, he feels that now he is worse than when he engaged in Torah and Mitzvot before he began to walk on the path of truth. In other words, in everything he does, he sees that it is all halfheartedly, and not as before.
This is as Baal HaSulam said, that the Creator said to Abraham, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will be tormented.” By this they will have a need to inherit the land. That is, by the lack that they will have when they are bare and destitute, they will be in a state of “And the children of Israel sighed from the work, and their cry rose up to God from the work.”
In other words, the work itself, the fact that they are not progressing in the work, but on the contrary, will create their need, and then the Creator will help them each time they want to be purer. By this they will have Kelim [vessels] to receive the inheritance of the land.
According to the above, we should interpret what we asked, “And it came to pass, because you listen, that the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy that He swore to your forefathers.” RASHI interpreted, “If the light Mitzvot, which a person tramples with his feet, listen, and the Lord will keep, keep with you His promise.” We should understand this condition, that if you keep the light ones, the Creator will keep His promise; otherwise, He will not keep the oath.
The thing is that “light Mitzvot” means things that people belittle, referring to the mind and the heart. That is, all the Mitzvot, when observing them in order to receive reward, a person does not belittle these Mitzvot. Instead, all of these Mitzvot are called “serious,” since they might cause the loss of the reward. Therefore, the reward they expect to receive in return for them makes the Mitzvot important. In other words, the reward makes them valuable.
But when a person should work for the sake of the Creator, which is to him above reason, a person has no regard for this, since the body resists working for no reward. Therefore, when we say to the body that we must work only in order to bestow upon the Creator, the body says that this is far from the mind and it is not worth straining for such work. Then, the person sees that he cannot overcome the body. As Baal HaSulam explained, the fact that it is not within man’s power to emerge from the control of the will to receive for himself, the Creator did this on purpose, so that by this a person will acquire a need for the Creator’s help, for otherwise he is lost.
Hence, when a person asks the Creator to help him, by this he receives help from above. This is the light of the Torah, which “reforms him,” as said in The Zohar, that by this he receives Kelim and a need to attain the NRNHY of Neshama. This was the Creator’s answer to Abram’s question, “How will I know that I will inherit it?”
It follows that precisely when a person wants to observe the light Mitzvot, he needs the Creator’s help. Otherwise, if a person has no need to observe the light Mitzvot, which are contemptible Mitzvot, then he does not need the Creator’s help. And since he has no need for the Creator to help him by giving him NRNHY of Neshama, since he has no need for this, so Abram’s question, “How will I now that I will inherit it?” returns, since he has no need to obtain the inheritance of the land.
It therefore follows that the Creator cannot keep the oath concerning the inheritance of the land. For this reason, RASHI’s interpretation, where he says that if you keep the light Mitzvot, the Creator will be able to keep, “And the Lord will keep,” meaning that the Creator will keep His promise; otherwise, it is impossible to keep His promise.
Accordingly, we should interpret what we asked, Why does it begin in plural form, “do” and “keep,” and ends in singular form? The answer is that when a person begins to work, he has two authorities: his own authority, namely the will to receive, and he also wants to work for the Creator. When a person sees that he has two authorities, he asks the Creator to help him cancel his authority and leave only the singular authority, meaning the authority of the Creator. Then, the Creator helps him annul the authority and leaves man with only the singular authority. This is why it is written in singular form, “And the Lord your God will keep with you,” meaning that the Creator will keep him so he will have only the singular authority.
According to the above, we can understand what is written (Deuteronomy 9:5), “It is not for your righteousness or the integrity of your heart that you are going to inherit their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord your God is driving them out before you, and in order to confirm the oath which the Lord swore to your forefathers, to Abraham.”
We should understand this. If the Creator wants to give the inheritance of the land to Israel because He swore to “your forefathers, to Abraham,” it means that the reason He gave the inheritance of the land to the people of Israel was that He promised to Abraham the inheritance of the land. But here the verse says that the reason He gave the inheritance to Israel was the wickedness of the nations. This implies that were it not for the wickedness of the nations, He would not be able to keep His promise to the forefathers. We should understand why it is that if there is the wickedness of the nations, the Creator can keep the oath, and because of “your righteousness or the integrity of your heart,” the Creator cannot keep the oath.
According to the above, in the work, the wickedness of the nations means the evil within man’s heart. A person cannot defeat it and must cry out to the Creator to help him and liberate him from the governance of Pharaoh, King of Egypt. How does He help him? It is as it is said in The Zohar, “with a holy soul.” This means that each time he asks for help, he receives a holy soul. By being in exile and wanting to emerge from exile, meaning when a person feels that he has the wickedness of the nations, who are not letting him work for the sake of the Creator, but only for himself, this is regarded as having to work for the sake of the nations of the world within his body.
This is as it is written (Exodus 1:11), “And they built for Pharaoh cities of affliction, Pithom and Rameses.” Baal HaSulam interpreted that when they wanted to work for the sake of the Creator and overcame the control of the Egyptians, this is the meaning of Rameses, meaning that they overcame the self-love, like Ra’am [thunder] Sus [horse], meaning with great power, like a horse. They thought they had already emerged from the governance of self-love, but then they came to Pi-Tehom [mouth of the abyss], meaning that all the buildings they had built sank and were swallowed in the abyss, and not a remnant was left of the work. This is called “Pithom.”
In other words, each time, they had work in the manner of “Pithom and Rameses,” meaning that each day they had to work anew. That is, each day they felt that as though today they began the work of holiness, and felt as though until now, they had never engaged in the work. They ask themselves, Where did the work and labor they had done thus far vanish? But they do not know what to answer. As was said, it all sank and was swallowed in the ground.
They could not tell their bodies, “Why do you not want to exert today? After all, yesterday, you saw that when you labored, you received the strength to work. You cannot receive something from yesterday,” since he does not feel that yesterday he did something, for it was all swallowed in the ground. Indeed, why is this so? This is a correction.
It follows that if a person looks at himself and he has good deeds, he has no need to ask the Creator to help him, since anyhow, he has no place in which to receive help from the Creator, as there is no filling without a lack. Thus, the Creator cannot keep the oath concerning the inheritance of the land, since they have no need that He will give to them the inheritance of the land as help.
This is why he says, “It is not for your righteousness or the integrity of your heart that you are going to inherit their land.” Why? Because if they are fine, they have no need. This is the meaning of the words “It is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord your God is driving them out,” since because of the evil in his body, there is a need for help.