Article No. 39, 1989
It is written, “If you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands, and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you take her for yourself as a wife.” RASHI interprets, “The Torah speaks only against the evil inclination, that if the Creator does not permit her, he will marry her under prohibition.”
We should understand this. Would it not be better if the Creator had not empowered the evil inclination to incite him into transgression? Then, it would not be needed to permit her because he would not marry her under prohibition. We should also understand what RASHI’s interpretation means in the work, concerning the verse “If you go out to war,” that it speaks of “optional war.” What is “optional war” in the work?
Also, we should understand what our sages said (Kidushin 30), “I have created the evil inclination; I have created for it the Torah as a spice.” It seems as though I have created the Torah for the evil inclination. That is, were it not for the evil inclination, there would be no need for the Torah. Here, too, we should ask, But He had another way, namely not to create the evil inclination, and then there would be no need for the Torah.
It is known that only thanks to the Torah, the world exists, as our sages said, “Were it not for My covenant day and night, I would not establish the ordinances of heaven and earth.” But here it implies that He created the Torah because of the evil inclination. We should understand this in the work.
We must know who is the evil inclination, for whom the Torah had to be created, as it is written, “I have created the evil inclination; I have created for it the Torah as a spice.” We should also understand why the Torah is called a “spice.” We see that when we cook some dish for a meal, in order for the dish to be tasty, we put a spice in the dish. This means that the main thing is the dish, and the spice is only an addition that gives flavor. But according to what is said, the Torah is only a spice. It follows that the main thing is the evil inclination, and the Torah only gives flavor to the evil inclination. How can we understand this, since the Torah is the main thing, as it is written, “For they are our lives and the length of our days”?
According to what is explained in the “Introduction to The Study of the Ten Sefirot,” we understand that the evil inclination is the will to receive delight and pleasure, which is called “evil inclination.” This is the “heart of creation.” That is, the thing of which we can say that a new thing was made in the world, which did not exist before He created it, is only the desire to receive pleasure. This desire, the yearning to receive delight and pleasure, did not exist prior to the creation of the world, since in the Creator, there are no lacks or desires that He needs to receive.
He says there, Why did He create this desire? It is for the purpose of creation, since the creation of the world was because He desires to do good, and we see in our nature that the Creator created that there are delight and pleasure only from things the body craves. Moreover, the measure of delight and pleasure depends on the yearning. For this reason, He created in us a desire to receive delight and pleasure, and this is the heart of creation. In other words, if this will to receive did not exist in the world, there would be no one to receive the delight and pleasure that He wishes to give to the creatures.
It follows that the heart of creation is the will to receive delight and pleasure, and without it, it is impossible to speak of creation. However, we should understand why the will to receive is called “evil inclination,” and if it is truly evil, why did He create it?
The thing is that since the Creator wanted them not to feel unpleasantness when they receive the delight and pleasure, and it is also in the nature that the Creator created, that every branch wants to resemble its root, and since our root, meaning the Creator, is the Giver, and the created beings, who must receive from Him, are opposite from the Creator, they feel shame about this. For this reason, a Tzimtzum [restriction] and concealment were placed, where the delight and pleasure do not shine for the Kelim [vessels] of the will to receive for oneself, but only where they want to receive the delight and pleasure because the Creator wants to give, as this was the purpose of creation, for His desire is to do good to His creations, and the creature wants to obey the King’s commandment and therefore receives.
This is a correction called “receiving in order to bestow.” For this reason, two systems were made: systems of Kedusha [holiness], and systems of Tuma’a [impurity] and Klipot [shells/peels]. It is as it is written in the “Introduction to The Study of the Ten Sefirot” (Item 10), “He imprinted the desire to bestow in the system of ABYA of Kedusha, removed the will to receive for themselves from them, and placed it in the system of the worlds ABYA of Tuma’a. Because of this, they have become separated from the Creator and from all the worlds of Kedusha.”
It follows that this will to receive is called the “evil inclination” because it causes all the evil in the world. Because of it, the creatures cannot receive delight and pleasure, and because of it they remain without vitality of Kedusha, since the light and abundance cannot shine in a place where using it was prohibited. This happened to us because of the cascading of the worlds, where from this will to receive emerged the Klipot into the world, and govern man, and he is utterly incapable of emerging from their governance, unless by the power of Torah and Mitzvot [commandments/good deeds], where there is the light of Torah, and “the light in it reforms him,” meaning sets him free from the governance of the will to receive for himself.
Now we can understand what we asked, why RASHI interpreted the verse, “and you take her for yourself as a wife,” by bringing the explanation of our sages (Kidushin 21), “The Torah speaks only against the evil inclination. Let him eat the flesh of slaughtered carcasses, but not the flesh of carcasses that were not slaughtered.” Some ask, Why did the Creator give the evil inclination the power to incite him into transgression? Would it not be better if the Creator had not empowered the inciter and there would be no need to permit him the forbidden? Our sages said about this, “The Torah speaks only against the evil inclination.”
The answer is that in the work, the evil inclination is called “the will to receive for oneself.” Without the will to receive, there would not be creation whatsoever. Wherever the will to receive sees some pleasure, it wants to satisfy its want, and by wanting to satisfy its want, it is possible to enjoy the thing for which it yearns. Since the Creator created this nature, it does not suffer changes. However, there is a place for corrections, which is not to cancel them but to add to them something by which this thing is corrected. However, this does not change nature, since the Creator created nature and the will to receive is something that the Creator created. Hence, man is powerless to cancel it.
The general correction is the intention to bestow. This is called “mitigation of the judgments.” That is, the judgment that was done, where it is forbidden to use the will to receive and enjoy for one’s own benefit, is because by this we come into disparity of form from the Creator. However, when receiving because the Creator wants us to receive, and for ourselves, we would rather not receive, by this the judgment of prohibition on reception is mitigated.
However, we must know that this quality of receiving in order to bestow is a real correction. That is, the purpose of creation, which is to do good to His creations, cannot come true unless in this manner, when he does use the desire to receive pleasure, yet remains in Dvekut [adhesion], which is equivalence of form. That is, if he receives but does not enjoy, this reception is not regarded as “doing good,” since we do not speak of what he receives, but of what he enjoys. In other words, the upper one wants the lower one to enjoy, and if a person does not enjoy, then he has received nothing from the upper one. This is called “mitigation of the judgments.”
This is the heart of the wholeness. However, there are things that can be sorted from the perspective of the upper roots, so they work in order to bestow, and there are things that are forbidden to use, even in order to bestow. In other words, a person cannot say that he wants to do something that is forbidden, yet aim to bestow. If the thing is forbidden, it is because with respect to branch and root, there are things that the Torah prohibited and there are things that the Torah permitted.
In general, we should make three discernments in the Torah: 1) Mitzva [commandment/good deed], 2) permission, 3) prohibition.
We must be careful with Mitzva and with transgression, even with an act without an aim, for there is a matter of Mitzva in practice even when he has no intention. Likewise, with prohibition, there is a transgression in the action, even without any intention. But the main work on the intention is in what is permitted, when there is no Mitzva in doing it, yet no transgression if he does not do it. Then, when he does what is permitted, meaning when he aims for the sake of the Creator while performing the permitted thing, that permitted thing enters the Kedusha.
Then it is called a Mitzva. In other words, it emerges from being “permission” and enters the realm of Mitzva. And precisely here is the heart of the war against the inclination, since the body tells him that there is no prohibition, so why deny yourself from doing it? But when a person must answer it, he can tell it, “I must perform a Mitzva. Therefore, when I perform a Mitzva, I have done something. When I do not commit a transgression, I also have a Mitzva, as our sages said, ‘If he sat and did not commit a transgression, it is as though he performed a Mitzva.’
“However, when you tell me to do something that is permitted, even though I cannot aim for the sake of the Creator, this is not a Mitzva. Therefore, I have done nothing. And I do not want to be an idle worker, meaning to do things that are a waste.” It follows that with the work of Mitzvot and transgressions, the work is mandatory. But with what is permitted, where there are no imperatives pertaining to this act, specifically then the intention makes it a reality, admitting it into Kedusha.
According to the above, we should interpret what RASHI interpreted about the verse “If you go out to war,” that it speaks of “optional war.” In the work, we should interpret “permission” as having to aim in order to bestow. There is the main work on the inclination. Since there is no prohibition on the act, the inclination sees that the person wants to uproot it from the world. That is, with regard to Mitzvot and transgressions that a person does in action, the inclination does not show much resistance, since the person does not say that he wants to work only for the sake of the Creator. But when he begins to work on the aim to bestow and not for the sake of the body, the real work with the evil inclination begins.
Since the Torah and Mitzvot were given in order to cleanse Israel, as it is written (in the essay, Matan Torah [“The Giving of the Torah”]), “These are the words of our sages when they asked, ‘Why should the Creator mind if one slaughters at the throat or at the back of the neck? After all, the Mitzvot were only given to cleanse people,’ and that cleansing means the cleansing of the turbid body, which is the purpose that emerges from the observation of all the Torah and Mitzvot.”
It follows that only when speaking with the body concerning the intention for the sake of the Creator, when we want to annul self-benefit, then is the real dispute with the body. This is evident precisely when there is a war against the inclination on permitted matters. At that time, the war is not over the act, since there is no prohibition on the action. The war can be only on the aim, where a person wants it to be only for the sake of the Creator and not for the sake of the body. Rather, he wants to kill the body, as our sages said, “The Torah exists only in one who puts himself to death over it.”
Now we can interpret what we asked, Why did the Torah permit the beautiful woman, since the Torah speaks only against the evil inclination? After all, the Creator had an easier way, where He would not need to permit a beautiful woman, meaning He would not give the evil inclination the power to incite him and He would not need to change and permit something forbidden.
What is the answer? “The Torah speaks only against the evil inclination.” Literally, it is very difficult to understand the matter of the prohibition of a beautiful woman. It is just as there are those who ask, Why did the Torah not permit other prohibitions when he has a great lust for the prohibited thing? Indeed, we should answer about this that we have no idea about Torah and Mitzvot, that it is inconceivable to the human intellect. Instead, this is a spiritual matter that the Creator sentenced, as our sages said (Safra, RASHI, Kedoshim), “One should not say, ‘Pork flesh is impossible,’ but rather, ‘It is possible, but what can I do if my Father in heaven so decreed upon me?’” In other words, the whole of the Torah and Mitzvot are decrees of the Creator, and man’s intellect does not reach there. Naturally, we cannot ask, Why the Torah permitted a beautiful woman? (See in Ohr Chaim, Ki Tetze).
We should interpret what we asked, What is the meaning of “I have created the evil inclination; I have created for it the Torah as a spice”? This implies that the evil inclination is the heart of the matter, and the Torah is not the main item, but is like an addition to the dish. According to what is explained in the “Introduction to The Study of the Ten Sefirot,” the heart of creation is the will to receive delight and pleasure. The reason why the Creator created the will to receive is that He wishes to do good to His creations. But due to disparity of form between the Giver and the receiver, it was given to us to correct it into working in order to bestow, by which the disparity of form in the will to receive will be corrected.
It therefore follows that what receives delight is mainly the will to receive. However, if it receives for its own sake, it is called “evil inclination” because the disparity of form in it causes it to separate from the Creator, and the delight and pleasure do not reach the separated Kelim because of the correction of the Tzimtzum. Hence, in order for the will to receive to be able to receive the delight and pleasure, the evil inclination must be given a spice, by which there will be a flavor in the will to receive, meaning that there will be delight and pleasure in the will to receive.
If it is not given the spice, which is the desire to bestow, there will be no flavor in the will to receive because it will have nothing, since the delight and pleasure does not reach there.
However, there are four discernments to make here: 1) The Kli, which receives the pleasure. 2) The pleasure that the Kli receives must have a pleasant taste. That is, it must not have shame in it, but they must feel a good taste. 3) The good taste is the will to bestow. This is called that the desire to bestow spices up the dish so it is tasty. 4) It is possible to receive this flavor, called “desire to bestow,” specifically through the Torah, as it is written, “I have created the evil inclination; I have created for it the Torah as a spice.” This means that the Torah, meaning the light in it, gives the desire to bestow, and the desire to bestow gives a flavor that removes the shame from the dish, for the shame spoils all the flavor that can be found in the dish, and why the Giver cannot give any of the real pleasures, since when it reaches the Kelim of the lower ones, everything will be spoiled. This is all of our work—to obtain Kelim that are suitable for the abundance.
Now we can interpret, “The Torah speaks only against the evil inclination.” Everything that is forbidden or permitted is according to what the Creator decreed. That is, there are things that can be corrected and admitted into Kedusha even before the end of correction, and this is why we were given 613 Mitzvot. This is the reason why the Torah permitted the beautiful woman through the corrections presented in the Torah. This is above our intellect to attain what the Creator permits and what the Creator prohibits. Hence, we have no clue that we can ask, Why did the Torah permit? since the whole matter of Torah and Mitzvot is “to cleanse Israel with them.” Hence, the permission that the Torah permitted a beautiful woman through the corrections is also with the intention to cleanse people.