What Is “the People’s Shepherd Is the Whole People” in the Work?
Article No. 13, 1988
It is written in The Zohar (Beshalach, Item 68): “‘And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear; stand by and see the salvation of the Lord.’’ Rabbi Shimon said, ‘Happy are Israel that a shepherd such as Moses walks among them. It is written, ‘And He remembered the days of old, Moses is His people.’ ‘And He remembered the days of old’ is the Creator. ‘Moses is His people,’ since Moses was tantamount to the whole of Israel. We learn from this that the people’s shepherd is really the whole people. If he is rewarded, the whole of the people are righteous; and if he is not rewarded, the whole of the people are not rewarded and are punished because of him.’”
We should understand this in the work, where we learn everything in one body, meaning that both Moses and Israel are in the same body. We should also understand why if he is not rewarded, meaning the people’s shepherd, they are punished because of him. We learned that if the shepherd is righteous, the people are also righteous. But why should the people be punished because of him? What did they do that they are to blame for the fault of the shepherd?
It known that The Zohar calls Moses “the loyal shepherd.” Baal HaSulam interpreted that he was nourishing the people of Israel with faith. He said that man does not lack any power in order to be able to observe Torah and Mitzvot [commandments/good deeds] in full, but only faith. To the extent that he has faith, to that extent he can exert in the work.
He says in the “Introduction to The Study of the Ten Sefirot” (Item 14): “I once interpreted the saying of our sages, ‘He whose Torah is his trade.’ The measure of his faith is apparent in his practice of Torah because the letters of the word Umanuto [his trade] are the same [in Hebrew] as the letters of the word Emunato [his faith]. It is like a person who trusts his friend and lends him money. He may trust him with a pound, and if he asks for two pounds he will refuse to lend him. He may also trust him with all his property without a hint of fear. This last faith is considered ‘whole faith,’ and the previous forms are considered ‘incomplete faith.’ Rather it is partial faith.” Thus, we see that man lacks no power but only faith, and this is what gives man the power to work.
By this we can interpret what Rabbi Shimon said, “Happy are Israel that a shepherd such as Moses walks among them.” It means that the people of Israel have within them faith, which is called “Moses, the faithful shepherd.” Then, since they have faith, they have the strength to engage in Torah and Mitzvot. In other words, within every person there is faith in the Creator, which is called “Moses, the faithful shepherd.” At that time the whole people are righteous, meaning that all of man’s organs, namely his thoughts and desires, which are called “organs,” and this is called “a people.”
This is the meaning of what is written, “‘And He remembered the days of old’ is the Creator. ‘Moses is His people,’ since Moses was tantamount to the whole of Israel.” We learn from this that “the people’s shepherd is really the whole people,” for the faith in man is the whole of man. That is, if he has the quality of Moses, which is called “faith,” then the whole people are righteous. This is why he says, “If he is rewarded, the whole people are righteous,” for “rewarded” means that his shepherd is faith, called Moses.
He says, “If he is not rewarded, the whole people are not rewarded and are punished because of him.” It is known that if there is a righteous, he protects the generation, and if there is no righteous, we can say that there is no one to save the generation. Yet, why are they punished because of him if he is not rewarded? Why is it the generation’s fault?
According to the rule that Baal HaSulam said, all the heaviness in the work of the Creator is only the lack of faith, since when a person is rewarded with complete faith, he yearns to annul before the Creator as a candle before a torch. Naturally, all his organs, meaning his thoughts and desires, follow what faith obliges him to do, they do it. This is why he says that if he is rewarded, all the organs are righteous, since thoughts and desires of the righteous extend from faith in the Creator.
Accordingly, it is obvious that if the people’s shepherd is not rewarded, meaning that his faith, which should be cleansed, meaning complete faith, yet he has only partial faith, as it is written (“Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot,” Item 14), “the whole people are not rewarded.” This means that all his organs do things that are suitable for those without complete faith. “They are punished because of him,” meaning that it is not their fault that they have thoughts and desires unfit for one who has faith.
That is, if their shepherd had complete faith, the organs would listen to him and would have thoughts and desires of a righteous. This is why they suffer because of him, since he does not have complete faith. This is why such thoughts are born out of this shepherd.
Therefore, when a person wants to walk on the path of truth, he cannot say that he has worse qualities than others, and less intellect than others. That is, he cannot exempt himself from the work because he has a weak character or no talent. Instead, the only difficulty in the matter is the lack of faith. For this reason, a person should do all his work and all his actions in order to acquire faith in the Creator, for only this gives everything.
For this reason, when a person learns Torah or engages in Mitzvot, or when he prays, he should focus his thoughts on wanting reward for all his good deeds—that the Creator will give him complete faith. This is as it is written in the prayer of Rabbi Elimelech (“A Prayer before a Prayer”): “And do fix Your Faith in our hearts forever and ever, and let Your Faith be tied to our hearts as a stake that will not fall.” This is the meaning of “The people’s shepherd is really the whole people.”
In order to achieve complete faith, they said, “He who comes to purify is aided.” The reason is that since faith requires assistance from the Creator, and there is a rule, “There is no light without a Kli [vessel],” it means that it is impossible to fill up a place where there is no lack, which is called a need, namely a Kli, as he said, “there is no light without a Kli.”
In order to come to feel the need for faith, a person must first imagine what benefits he can derive through faith, and what he loses when he has only partial faith. First, he must depict to himself the purpose of creation, meaning for what purpose the Creator created creation. Then, he must believe in the sages, who said that the purpose of creation is to do good to His creations.
When a person begins to examine creation with his eyes, meaning which form of good and doing good he sees that the creatures are receiving from Him, the opposite view appears to man. He sees that the whole world suffers torments, and it is hard to find one person who can say that he feels and sees how His guidance is in the form of good and doing good.
In that state, when he sees a dark world, and he wants to believe above reason that the Creator behaves with the world in Private Providence as good and doing good, he remains standing on this point, and all kinds of foreign thoughts come into his mind. Then, he must overcome above reason, that Providence is good and does good. At that time he receives a need for the Creator to give him the power of faith that he will have the strength to go above reason and justify Providence.
Then he can understand the meaning of “Shechina [Divinity] in the dust,” since then he sees that where he should do something for the Creator and not for his own sake, the body promptly asks, “What is this work for you?” and does not want to give him strength to work. This is called “Shechina in the dust,” meaning that what he wants to do for the sake of the Shechina tastes to him like dust and he is powerless to overcome his thoughts and desires.
At that time a person realizes that all he lacks in order to have strength to work is that the Creator will give him the power of faith, as said above (in the prayer of Rabbi Elimelech), that we must pray, “And do fix Your Faith in our hearts forever and ever.” In that state, he comes to the realization that “If the Creator does not help him, he cannot overcome it.”
Now we can interpret what our sages said (Berachot 6b), “Any person in whom there is fear of heaven, his words are heard,” as it was said, “In the end, all is heard, fear God.” This is difficult to understand literally. After all, there were many prophets and righteous and great people, so why were their words not heard, but Israel remained in their state and would not listen to those who admonish? In the literal, there are probably many explanations to this.
However, in the work, where we learn the whole Torah in one body, we should interpret this verse. One who wants his body, meaning all the organs, which are the thoughts, desires, and actions, to be purely sacred, the advice for this, for the body to obey all his demands, is to obtain complete faith, which is called “fear of heaven.”
There are many degrees in faith, as it is said in The Zohar (“Introduction of The Book of Zohar,” Item 191), “Fear, which is the most important, is when one fears one’s Master because He is great and ruling, the essence and the root of all the worlds, and everything is considered nothing compared to Him.” Interpreting the words teaches us that there are three manners in fear of the Creator, only one of which is regarded as real fear: 1) He fears the Creator and observes His commandments so his sons may live, and he will be kept from bodily punishment or a punishment to his wealth. This is a fear of punishments in this world. 2) He fears punishments of Hell, as well.
Those two are not real fear, for he does not keep the fear because of the commandment of the Creator, but because of his own benefit. It follows that his own benefit is the root, and fear is a derived branch of his own benefit.
3) Fear, which is the most important, means that he fears the Creator because He is great and rules over everything. He is great because He is the root from which all the worlds expand.
It follows that the most important point about fear or heaven is to believe in the greatness of the Creator, for the greatness and importance of the Creator is the reason that commits him to observe Torah and Mitzvot, and not for his own sake. It is as he says there, “And he will place his heart and desires in that place called ‘fear.’ He will cling to fear of the Creator willingly and eagerly, as is befitting and proper with the King’s commandment.”
When a person is rewarded with such faith, meaning that he feels in his heart the greatness of the Creator, the body and all the organs, meaning the desires, thoughts, and actions, annul before the King as a candle before a torch.