Tuesday, November 02, 2004

R' Ashlag Ch. 11 (sect. 3)

Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag's "Introduction to the Zohar"

-- as translated and commented on by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman


Ch. 11 (sect. 3)

"After all, as it’s written in Tractate Kiddushin (7a) that when it comes to a prominent man, a woman can offer (a betrothal pledge) and the man can agree to confirm the betrothal. That's because it's an instance of someone accepting something in order to please someone else, which is deemed complete bestowance and giving."

-- Here’s the entire statement in the Talmud (with explanation) along with R' Ashlag's remark about it.
“Raba asked: What if she says (i.e., what would be the halachic outcome if a woman says to a man) ‘Here's a maneh-coin (as a betrothal pledge -- when it's the man who usually offers it to the woman; and she then says) ... 'I am hereby betrothed to you'? (Is she in fact bethrothed to him?)
Mar Zutra ruled in R. Papa's name that she *is*.... (But, how could that be? Because) He's a prominent man whom she completely abdicates to (in great joy, and thus agrees to *his "offer to marry her"*, so to speak) because of the satisfaction (she derives) from the fact that (someone of his stature) would accept a gift (i.e., a betrothal pledge) from (someone like) her.”
R' Ashlag terms that whole transaction "an instance of someone accepting something in order to please someone else", and he equates it with out-and-out bestowance. Let's explain.
-- As we've learned, while we're all very ready and willing to take-in and hardly willing to bestow, there are nonetheless instances in which we're indeed willing and even eager to bestow -- when we benefit from our "generosity" as well. So, to use the Talmudic example, if someone important were willing to take something (a betrothal pledge in this instance) from me, I'd be so honored by his deigning to acknowledge my presence that his *taking* it from me would actually be tantamount to his *bestowing me* with something.
-- Thus we see that one can indeed take-in as we're inclined to do and yet do so *altruistically* -- when he bestows in return. R' Ashlag's final point is that doing that is in fact the best that we could hope for as human beings who always need to take in, unlike G-d who has no need to take-in and always bestows.

"For when one does that, he comes to be utterly attached to the other, since d’vekut on a spiritual level comes about with an affinity of tsurot (as we'd indicated). For as our sages put it, "One cannot attach himself onto G-d (per se), but (he can attach onto or align himself with) His attributes" (see Sifre to Deut. 11:22). For when one does that, he merits receiving the delight, pleasure, and pleasantness that lie within the (original) thought of creation."

-- In sum, when we take-in so as to give-back we align ourselves with G-d's being as much as we can as humans, and we thus come to cling unto His Presence. This will prove to be a major thesis of R' Ashlag's, and one of the primary ways he indicated we can fulfill our roles in life en toto and G-d’s wishes for us.
-- R' Ashlag offers a cogent parable for this. A certain Mr. A was hungry when he arrived at his friend Mr. B's house; and whether knowing that or not, Mr. B offered him a meal. Mr. A declined despite his hunger, because he didn't want to put Mr. B out by eating at his friend's expense. As any good host would, Mr. B insisted on serving Mr. A something, and Mr. A finally accepted so as not to upset his host.
-- The point is that though Mr. A did indeed benefit from his friend's largesse, he did as much good for Mr. B by accepting his meal as he did by satisfying his own hunger; and that Mr. A, too, became a benefactor in the process like Mr. B. So we see that we can indeed bestow even as we take-in; and that that's essentially equivalent to out-and-out bestowing.

(c) 2004 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

(Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org )

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