Which Keeping of Torah and Mitzvot Purifies the Heart

Found in the book “Kabbalah for the student
Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag (The RABASH)


Question: Does keeping Torah and Mitzvot in order to receive reward purify the heart, too? Our sages said, “I have created the evil inclination, I have created the spice of Torah.” This means that it does purify the heart. But is it so when one aims specifically at not receiving reward, or does it also purify the heart if one works in order to receive reward?

Answer: In the “Introduction to the Book of Zohar” (Item 44), it is written, “When one begins to engage in Torah and Mitzvot, even without any intention, meaning without love and fear, as is appropriate when serving the King, even in Lo Lishma (not for Her Name), the point in one’s heart begins to grow and show its activity. This is so because Mitzvot do not require intention, and even actions without intention can purify one’s will to receive, but in its first degree, called ‘still.’ And to the extent that one purifies the still part of the will to receive, one gradually builds the 613 organs of the point in the heart, which is the still of Nefesh de Kedusha (holiness).” Thus, we see that observing Torah and Mitzvot, even Lo Lishma purifies the heart.

Question: Is the path of observing Torah and Mitzvot in order to not be rewarded meant only for a chosen few, or can anyone walk this path of observing everything in order to not be rewarded, by which they will be rewarded with Dvekut (adhesion) with the Creator?

Answer: Although the will to receive for oneself alone emerged and came to be at the Thought of Creation, being given a correction that the souls will correct it to being in order to bestow, meaning observing Torah and Mitzvot, will turn our will to receive to be in order to bestow. This is given to everyone, without exception, for everyone was given this remedy, and not necessarily a chosen few.

But since this is a matter of choice, some advance more quickly and others more slowly. But as it is written in the “Introduction to the Books of Zohar” (Items 13, 14), in the end, everyone will achieve their complete perfection, as it is written, “He that is banished be not an outcast from him.”

Still, when beginning to learn to observe Torah and Mitzvot, one begins in Lo Lishma. This is because man is created with a will to receive; hence, he does not understand anything that does not yield him self-benefit and he will never want to begin to observe Torah and Mitzvot.

It is as the Rambam wrote (Hilchot Teshuva, Chapter 10), “Sages said, ‘one should always engage in Torah, even Lo Lishma, because from Lo Lishma, one comes to Lishma.’ Hence, when teaching children and women and the populace, they are only taught to work out of fear and to receive reward. And when they gain knowledge and acquire wisdom, that secret is revealed to them bit by bit. They are accustomed to it calmly until they attain Him and serve Him with love.” Thus, we see from the Rambam’s words that everyone should achieve Lishma, but the difference is in the timing.

Question: If a person sees and feels that he is treading a path that leads to Lishma, should he try to influence others so others would tread the right path, too, or not?

Answer: This is a general question. It is like a religious person examining a secular person. If he knows that he can reform him, then he is must reform him, due to the Mitzva, “Thou shalt surely rebuke thy neighbor.” Similarly, in this case it can be said that you should tell your friend about the better way that one can go, provided your intention is only the Mitzva. But there are many times when a person rebukes another only for the purpose of dominating, and not in order to “rebuke thy neighbor.”

And we learn from the above that everyone’s desire that the other will tread the path of truth has created disputes between orthodox and secular, between Litaim [17] and Hassidim, and among the Hassidim themselves. This is because everyone thinks that he is in the right, and everyone is trying to persuade the other to tread the right path.



[17] A faction of orthodox Judaism that started with the Vilna Gaon (GRA) in Vilna, Lithuania

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