The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

There was a Famine in the Land: Descent—a Need of Ascent

It came to pass after these things that God נִסָּה (nissah), tested, Abraham (Genesis 22:1). It is written: You have given נֵּס (nes), a banner, to those in awe of You לְהִתְנוֹסֵס (le-hitnoses), to be unfurled (Psalms 60:6)—trial upon trial, elevation above elevation, to test them in the world, to elevate them in the world like a ship’s banner” (Bereshit Rabbah 55:1).

“Once Abraham was crowned with his rungs in the Holy Land and entered the holy rung, what is written? There was a famine in the land (Genesis 12:10), for no one knew how to draw near the blessed Holy One [cf. Amos 8:10]. There was a famine in the land, for until now the power [of Shekhinah] over the land had not vitalized or nourished the land, for it was still unsanctified, unstable. As soon as Abraham saw that the power appointed over the land had not vitalized it fittingly with holy energy, Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there (ibid.). How did Abraham know? As is written: To your seed I give this land (ibid., 7). Then Abraham knew that the land would be arrayed in holy arrayal only through certain rungs issuing from him. He discovered a mystery of wisdom: only so would the land be arrayed in holiness [i.e., it is impossible to reach the height of perfection unless one has first descended into the realm of evil and risen from there, see Rabbi Avraham Galanté, Zahorei Ḥammah on Zohar 1:81b].

Abram went down to Egypt. Why Egypt? Because it is equivalent to the Garden of YHWH, as is written: Like the garden of YHWH, like the land of Egypt (ibid. 13:10) [cf. Deuteronomy 11:10]. For there one river on the right plunges, as is written: The name of the first is Pishon, the one winding through the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold (ibid. 2:11). Once Abraham knew and entered perfect faith, he sought to know all those rungs linked below, and since Egypt drew from the right, he went down to Egypt. 

Come and see: Famine prevails only when compassion withdraws from justice. 

When he drew near to Egypt (ibid. 12:11).

Rabbi El’azar said, כַּאֲשֶׁר הִקְרִיב (Ka’asher hiqriv), When he drew [someone] near. The verse should read: כַּאֲשֶׁר קָרַב (Ka’asher qarav), When he came near. Why Ka’asher hiqriv, when he drew [someone] near? As is written, Pharaoh hiqriv, drew [someone] near (Exodus 14:10), for he drew Israel back to God [see Shemot Rabbah 21:5]. Here too, hiqriv, for he drew himself near to the blessed Holy One fittingly. 

To enter Egypt (Genesis, ibid.)—to scrutinize those rungs, and shun them, to shun the ways of the Egyptians. 

Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘Come and see: Because Abraham went down to Egypt without permission, his descendants were enslaved there for four hundred years. For look at what is written: Abram went down to Egypt, and not: Go down to Egypt! ” (Zohar 1:81a–b).

“Come and see the mystery of the matter: If Abram had not gone down to Egypt and been refined there first, he would not have become the share of the blessed Holy One. Similarly with his children, when the blessed Holy One wanted to make them a unique and perfect people, to draw them close to Him: If they had not first gone down to Egypt and been refined there, they would not have become His unique nation. Similarly, if the Holy Land had not been given first to Canaan to rule, it would not have become the portion and share of the blessed Holy One [see Zohar 1:73b]. It is all one mystery….

Come and see: When Abraham entered the land the blessed Holy One appeared to him, as has been said, for it is written: to YHWH who had appeared to him (Genesis 12:7). There he received nefesh and built an altar for that rung. Afterward, continually journeying (ibid., 9), receiving ruaḥ. Finally he ascended to cleave to neshamah, and then he built an altar there to YHWH (ibid., 8)—uncharacterized, referring to neshamah, concealed of all concealed. 

Then he knew he had to be refined and crowned with rungs, so immediately Abram went down to Egypt (ibid., 10). He was delivered from there, not seduced by those dazzling demons. Refined, he returned to his domain. Having descended and been refined, immediately Abram went up from Egypt (ibid. 13:1)—went up, literally, returning to his domain, cleaving to supernal faith, as is written: to the Negev. From now one Abraham knew supernal wisdom, cleaving to the blessed Holy One, becoming the right hand of the world. Then Abram was very heavily laden with cattle, with silver, and with gold (ibid., 2). Very heavily laded—on the side of the East; with cattle—on the side of the West; with silver—on the side of the South; and with gold—on the side of the North” (Zohar 1:82b–83b).

“Come and see: When the blessed Holy One created Adam, He commanded him for his own good and endowed him with wisdom, whose rungs he climbed. Descending below, rediscovered the craving of the evil impulse and clung to it, forgetting all he had attained of the supernal glory of his Lord.

Then came Noah. At first is written: Noah was a completely righteous man (Genesis 6:9). Later he descended below and saw strong wine, unclassified, one day old. He drank some of it, became drunk, and exposed himself.

Then came Abraham. He ascended in wisdom, contemplating the glory of his Lord. Afterwards, there was a famine in the land and Abram went down to Egypt… (ibid. 12:10). Subsequently what is written? Abram went up from Egypt… (ibid. 13:1), ascending to the rung he had attained at first. He entered in peace and emerged in peace.

Then came Isaac. What is written? There was a famine in the land… and Isaac went (ibid. 26:1). Isaac went and later ascended from there in peace.

Every single one of the righteous is tested by the blessed Holy One, to elevate them in this world and in the world that is coming” (Zohar 1:140b).

Go, My People, Come into Your Chambers and Shut Your Doors Behind You

And they provoked Him through their acts, and the scourge broke out among them (Psalms 106:29).

“Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani said that Rabbi Yonatan said: Punishment comes upon the world only when there are wicked in the world, and it begins only with the righteous first, as is said: Should a fire go forth and catch in thorns (Exodus 22:5). When does fire break out? When thorns are found. And it begins only with the righteous first, as is said: or standing grain… be consumed, [he who set the fire shall surely pay] (ibid.). It does not say and consumes standing grain, but standing grain… be consumed—it already was consumed.

Rabbi Yosef taught: What is And as for you, none of you shall go out from the entrance of his house till morning (Exodus 12:22)? Once permission has been granted to the Destroyer, he does not distinguish between righteous and wicked, as is said, [Thus said YHWH: Here I am against you,] and I will take out My sword from its sheath and cut off from you the righteous and the wicked (Ezekiel 21:8)….

Our Rabbis taught: A plague in town? Keep your feet indoors, as it says, And as for you, none of you shall go out from the entrance of his house till morning, and it says, Go, my people, come into your chambers and shut your doors behind you. [Hide but a moment until the wrath passes. For YHWH is about to come out from His place to punish the crime of the dwellers on earth, and the earth shall lay bare its bloodguilt and no longer cover its slain] (Isaiah 26:20). And it says: Outside will the sword bereave and within chambers—terror. [Both youth and virgin, suckling and gray-haired man] (Deuteronomy 32:25). Why? Lest you say these words [apply] only to the night, but not to the day.

Come and hear: Go, my people, come into your chambers and shut your doors behind you. And should you say this matter [applies only] where there is no such terror within, whereas where there is terror within it is much better to go out and sit among people in one company, again come and hear: Outside will the sword bereave and within chambers—terror—that [even where] the terror is within the sword will destroy [more] outside.

In the time of a plague Rava used to keep the windows shut, as is written, For death has come up through our windows, [has entered our citadels, to cut off the babe from the street, the young man from the squares] (Jeremiah 9:20).

Our Rabbis taught: A plague in town? One should not walk in the middle of the road, because the Angel of Death walks there—for as soon as permission has been granted him, he strides brazenly. But when there is peace in the town, one should not walk at the sides of the road, for since he has no permission he slinks along in hiding.

Our Rabbis taught: A plague in town? Nobody should enter the synagogue alone, as the Angel of Death keeps his tools there. However, this is the case only where no children are being taught there or where ten [men] do not pray there [together].

Our Rabbis taught: When dogs howl the Angel of Death has come to town. But when dogs frolic Elijah the prophet has come to town—only if there is no female among them” (BT Bava Qamma 60a–b, see Mekhilta, Pisḥa 11; Zohar 1:63a, 68a–b, 69a, 107b, 113a, 182b, 197b; 2:196a, 227a).

“Our Rabbis taught: There are four signs: A sign of transgression is swelling [due to the build-up of excess fluid in the body’s tissues i.e., edema]; a sign of baseless hatred is jaundice; a sign of arrogance is poverty [cf. BT Qiddushin 49b]; a sign of לָשׁוֹן הָרַע (lashon ha-ra), the evil tongue [i.e., slander], is diphtheria.

Our Rabbis taught: Diphtheria comes to the world on account of [neglect of] tithes. Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Yose said: On account of the evil tongue [cf. BT Yevamot 62b]. Rava, some say Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi, said: What verse [teaches this]? But the king will rejoice in God, all who swear by him will revel, for the mouth of the liars יִסָּכֵר (yissakher), is muzzled [playing on אַסְכָּרָה (askarah), diphtheria, an acute bacterial disease that can infect the body in the tonsils, nose, or throat] (Psalms 63:12).

It was asked by them: Does Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Yose say, [Only] on account of slander, or perhaps on account of slander too?

Come and hear: For when our Rabbis entered the ‘vineyard’ in Yavneh [the famous town north west of Jerusalem, the seat of the Sanhedrin and Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Zakkai’s academy after the destruction of the Temple. Sittings were held in a ‘vineyard,’ i.e., members sat in rows similar to vines in a vineyard], Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Yose and Rabbi Shim’on [son of Yoḥai] were present, and this question was raised before them: why does this affliction start in the bowels and end in the throat? Rabbi Yehudah son of Rabbi Ila’i, the first speaker on all occasions answered and said: Though the kidneys counsel, the heart gives understanding [kidneys were thought to be the seat of conscience, see Psalms 16:7; the heart is imagined as the seat of understanding, see Isaiah 6:10], and the tongue cuts [a word], yet the mouth finishes it.

Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Yose answered and said: Because they eat impure food with it. ‘Impure food!’ does it enter your mind? Rather [say] because they eat unfit food [i.e., which was not tithed]. Rabbi Shim’on answered and said: As a punishment for the neglect of study. They said to him. Let women prove it! [since they are not obligated to study (see BT Qiddushin 29b), and yet suffer from diphtheria (cf. M Sotah 3:4)]. That is because they restrain their husbands [from study]. Let Gentiles prove it! [since they are not obligated to study Torah, and are yet subject to it]. That is because they restrain Israel. Let children prove it! That is because they make their fathers to neglect [study]. Then let school children prove it! There it is as Rabbi Guryon. For Rabbi Guryon, some say Rav Yosef son of Rabbi Shemaya, said: When there are righteous men in the generation, the righteous are seized [by death] for the [sins of the] generation; when there are no righteous in a generation, school children are seized for the generation. Rabbi Yitsḥaq son of Ze’iri, some say Rabbi Shim’on son of Nezira, said: Which verse [teaches this]? If you do not know, O fairest of women, go out in the tracks of the sheep [and graze your goats by the shepherd’s מִשְׁכְּנוֹת (mishkenot), shelters (Song of Songs 1:8) and we interpret this as [referring to] the goats which are הַמְמוּשְׁכָּנִין (ha-memushkanin), taken as collateral, for the [debts of the] shepherds. Thus this proves that he said on account of slander too. This proves it” (BT Shabbat 33a–b).

“Rabbi Aḥa traveled to כְפַר טַרְשָׁא (Kefar Tarsha), Clod Village; he arrived at his inn. All the town’s residences spoke in hushed tones about him, saying, ‘A great man has arrived here. Let us go to him. They went to him. They said to him, ‘Is the master’s heart anguished by the destruction?’ He said to them, ‘What do you mean?’ They said to him, ‘For seven days, a plague has been hovering over the town. Each day it grows stronger and does not desist.’ He said to them, ‘Let us go to the synagogue and implore mercy from the blessed Holy One.’

While they were walking, [some people] arrived and said, ‘So-and-so and so-and-so have died, and so-and-so and so-and-so are about to die.’ Rabbi Aḥa said to them, ‘Now is not the time to stand by—the hour is pressing! Rather, set aside forty of the most righteous people, in four groups of ten, and I with you; ten for one corner of the town, ten for another corner of the town, so on for the four corners of the town; and recite with soulful devotion the passages of the aromatic incense that the blessed Holy One gave Moses, accompanied by the passages of the sacrifices [cf. BT Shabbat 89a].’

They did so three times—and passed through all four directions of the town, reciting accordingly [cf. Zohar 2:219a: It is forbidden to burn incense anywhere else except in the fire-pan (of the Temple)]. Afterward, he said to them, ‘Let us go to those verging on death. Set aside [other righteous people] for their houses and let them recite in a similar fashion. When you finish, recite these verses loudly three times: Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take the fire-pan and place fire upon it…’ (Numbers 17:11); Aaron took… (ibid., 12); He stood between the dead… (ibid., 13).’

They did so and the plagued ceased. They heard a voice saying, ‘Secret striker, primal striker, wait on high; the judgment of heaven does not hover here, for they know how to nullify it.’

Rabbi Aḥa’s heart was faint. He fell asleep. He heard that they were telling him, ‘Just as you accomplished that, accomplish this! Go and tell them to return in teshuvah, for they are wicked before Me.’

He arose and returned them in complete teshuvah, and they accepted upon themselves never to desist from Torah; and they changed the name of the city to מָאתָא מַחְסֵיָא (Mata Meḥseya), Town of Compassion [cf. BT Ketubbot 4a; Horayot 12a; Zohar 1:72a, 94b]” (Zohar 1:100b–101b, Midrash ha-Ne’lam).

“Whoever is careless over washing hands is uprooted from the world” (BT Sotah 4b).

 

Radiance Surrounding It

“Rabbi Shim’on son of Gamli’el says that [apart from Hebrew] even [Torah] scrolls are permitted to be written only in Greek’ (M Megillah 1:8). Rabbi Abbahu said in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan: The Halakhah follows Rabbi Shim’on son of Gamli’el. Rabbi Yoḥanan also said: What is the reason of Rabbi Shim’on son of Gamli’el? It says, May God enlarge Japheth, may he dwell in the tents of Shem (Genesis 9:27)—that the words of Japheth shall be in the tents of Shem [cf. ibid. 10:2: The sons of Japheth: Gomer and Magog and Madai and Javan…. Javan was the legendary ancestor of the Ionians, a section of the Greek people]. But why not say [the words of] Gomer and Magog? Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba said: The reason is because it is written, יַפְתְּ אֱלֹהִים לְיֶפֶת (Yaft Elohim le-Yefet), May God enlarge Japheth—let יָפְיוּתוֹ (yafyuto), the beauty, of יֶפֶת (Yefet), Japheth, be in the tents of Shem [eldest son of Noah, father of the ‘Semitic’ peoples, including the Jewish people]” (BT Megillah 9a–b).

That has no blemish (Numbers 19:2)—kingdom of Greece, who are near the paths of faith” (Zohar 2:237a, cf. Bereshit Rabbah 2:4–5).

Radiance surrounding it (Ezekiel 1:4)—Greece, surrounded by radiance, but not itself radiant, as is written: surrounding. For there is none among all the kingdoms that approach the path of faith as they do. Here, too, among these shells, none approach the kernel [Israel] like this one. Surrounded by radiance, but radiance is not in it. Radiance emerges from the kernel—shining and encircling” (Zohar Ḥadash 38b).

“[The ancient Greeks] were close to the path of truth, but then came other learned men and Aristotle with his companions who sought wisdom in guess work. They have neither part nor lot in the wisdom of Torah” (Rabbi Moses de León, Sefer ha-Mishqal, 62–63).

You are My Witnesses: A Need on High

“Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai taught: ‘You are My witnesses,’ says YHWH, ‘and I am God’ (Isaiah 43:12). When you are My witnesses, I am God. When you are not My witnesses, I am not, as it were, God” (Sifrei, Deuteronomy 346, cf. Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 12).

“Is the blessed Holy One מִשְׁתַּבַּח (mishtabaḥ), praised [or: enhanced], בְּשִׁבְחַיְיהוּ (be-shivḥayyehu), through the praise [or: enhancement], of Israel? Indeed, as is written: YHWH you have proclaimed today to be your God [and to go in His ways and to keep His statutes and His commands and His laws and to heed His voice] (Deuteronomy 26:17). And it is written: And YHWH has proclaimed you today [to be to Him a treasured people, as He has spoken to you, and to keep all His commands, and to set you high above all the nations that He made, for praise and for acclaim and for glory, and for you to be a holy people to YHWH your God, as He has spoken] (ibid., 18)” (BT Berakhot 6a).

“When the blessed Holy One took counsel from the Torah—whose name is Prudence—to create the world, she answered Him: Master of the Worlds: If the king has no army and no camp, over what does he rule? And if there is no people מְקֻלָּסִין (mequllasin), praising, the king, what is that king’s glory? The Lord of the World listened and it was pleasing to Him. Torah said: The blessed Holy One took counsel from me to create the world, as is said, Mine is counsel and prudence, [I am Discernment, mine is might. Through me kings reign, and rulers decree righteous laws] (Proverbs 8:14)” (Pirqe de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 3, cf. Zohar 3:69a).

“The ministering angels said to the blessed Holy One: Master of the World! What is man that You should note him, and the human creature, that You pay him heed? (Psalms 8:5). This trouble, for what has it been created? He said to them: If so sheep and oxen all together (ibid., 8), why were they created; why were birds of the heavens and fish of the sea (ibid., 9) created? A tower full of good things and no guests—what pleasure has its owner in having filled it? They said to Him: Master of the World! YHWH our Master, how majestic Your name in all the earth! (ibid., 10). Do what pleases You!” (Bereshit Rabbah 8:6).

And the gain of the earth is in all—a king [opposite a field] (ibid., 8)—what is יִתְרוֹן (yitron), the gain? The Place from which the earth was hewn, and He yitron, surpasses, what was  [cf. Ecclesiastes 2:13: And I saw that wisdom yitron, surpasses, folly as light surpasses darkness]. And what are they yitron, profited? Every thing in the world: when inhabitants of the world are able to take from its splendor then it is a yitron, gain” (Bahir §95).

The Adversary Dances Among Them: He Descends and Leads Astray, Ascends and Arouses Wrath

And one day, the sons of God came to stand in attendance before YHWH, and the Adversary, too, came among them to stand in attendance before YHWH. And YHWH said to the Adversary, “From whence do you come?” And the Adversary answered YHWH and said, “From roaming the earth and walking about in it.” And YHWH said to the Adversary, “Have you paid heed to My servant Job, for there is none like him on earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and shuns evil and still clings to his innocence, and you incited Me against him to destroy him for nothing.” And the Adversary answered YHWH and said, “Skin for skin! A man will give all he has for his own life. Yet, reach out, pray, Your hand and strike his bone and his flesh. Will he not curse You to your face?” And YHWH said to the Adversary, “Here he is in your hands. Only preserve his life.” And the Adversary went out from before YHWH’s presence. And he struck Job with a grievous burning rash from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head (Job 2:1–7).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: [And you incited Me against him to destroy him for nothing (Job 2:3)]—were it not written in the verse we would not dare say it: Like a man whom others incite, and is incited [against his better judgment, cf. Deuteronomy 13:6]. A Tanna taught: [The Adversary] he descends and leads astray, ascends and arouses wrath, obtains authorization and seizes the soul. And the Adversary answered YHWH and said, “Skin for skin! A man will give all he has for his own life. Yet, reach out, pray, Your hand and strike his bone and his flesh. Will he not curse You to your face?” And YHWH said to the Adversary, “Here he is in your hands. Only preserve his life.” And the Adversary went out from before YHWH’s presence. And he struck Job (Job 2:4–7).

Rabbi Yitsḥaq said: The Adversary’s torment was worse than that of Job. A parable: Job was like a servant who is told by his master, ‘Break the cask but do not let any of the wine spill.’ Resh Laqish said: The Adversary, the evil impulse, and the Angel of Death are all one. He is called הַשָּׂטָן (ha-satan), the Adversary, as is written, And the Adversary went out from before YHWH’s presence (Job 2:7). He is called the evil impulse: [we know this because] it is written in another place, [“And YHWH saw that the evil of the human creature was great on the earth and that every scheme of his heart’s devising] was only perpetually evil. [And YHWH regretted having made the human on earth and was grieved to the heart] (Genesis 6:5), and it is written here Only against him do not reach out your hand (Job 1:12). He is also the Angel of Death, since it says, [“Here he is in your hands.] Only preserve his life” (ibid. 2:6), consequently his very existence is in his hands.

Rabbi Levi said: [In acting as adversaries] both the Adversary’s and Peninah’s intentions were for the sake of Heaven. The Adversary, when he saw the blessed Holy One inclined to [favor] Job said, ‘Perish the thought that He should forget the passion of Abraham!’ Of Peninah it is written, And her rival would torment her sorely so as to provoke her [(to prayer) because YHWH had closed her womb] (1 Samuel 1:6). When Rav Aḥa son of Ya’aqov expounded [this teaching] in Papunia, the Adversary came and kissed his feet.

With all this, Job did not offend with his lips (Job 2:10)—Rava said: With his lips he did not offend, but he did offend within his heart. What did he say? The earth is given in the wicked man’s hand, the face of its judges He veils. If not He—then who else? (ibid. 9:24). Rava said: Job sought to turn the dish [i.e., the world] upside down. Abayye said: Job was referring only to the Adversary” (BT Bava Batra 16a).

“[Bewildering and beguiling,] the Adversary dances among them” (BT Megilah 11b, cf. BT Berakhot 33a; Pesaḥim 112b).

“What is And they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they encamped there by the water (Exodus 15:27)? What is so great about seventy date palms? In one of the smallest spots there are a thousand! But they were worthy of being their example, and there they were likened to date palms, as is written, And they came to Marah and could not drink water from מָרָה (marah), Marah, for they were מָרִים (marim), bitter (ibid., 23). Teaching that a מַעֲרָבִית (ma’aravit), western, wind was preventing [them], as is written, And he cried out to YHWH, and YHWH showed him a tree, and he flung it into the water, and the water turned sweet (ibid., 25)—immediately the blessed Holy One laid His hand upon the Adversary, diminishing him a bit, as is written, There did He set him a statute and law, and there did he test Him (ibid.). Teaching that at this time, the Adversary clung to them in order to blot them out from the world [cf. JT Shabbat 5:2, 7b: ‘The Adversary accuses only in a time of danger’], as is written, And the people murmured against Moses, saying ‘What shall we drink?’ (ibid., 24), continuing to accuse Moses until he cried out to YHWH, and YHWH showed him a tree. YHWH showed him a tree—why? To teach that the Tree of Life was around the water. The Adversary came and removed it from there in order to accuse Israel and cause them to offend their Father in Heaven. He said to them: Now you assemble in the wilderness? Yet these [bitter] waters you take up are good, for you will be content with them, but in the wilderness you will not find [enough] even to wash your hands and faces. Then, naked, you will die of hunger and thirst, entirely in want! 

They came to Moses and told him such and such, but he dismissed them. [The Adversary] saw that he was unable to overpower Israel and Moses, and so the people came to Moses and the people murmured against Moses: Here we are without water, what is there to drink in the wilderness?—the Adversary came and feigned their words to Moses in order to cause them to offend. As soon as Moses saw the Adversary, He cried out to YHWH, and YHWH showed him a tree—the very Tree of Life the Adversary had removed. And he flung it into the water, and the water turned sweet. And the blessed Holy One came to the Adversary [with] a statute and law; and there did he test Him—Israel. And the blessed Holy One warned Israel, saying: If you really heed the voice of YHWH your God (ibid., 26) and so forth.

A parable: A king had a lovely daughter and others were lusting for her. The king knew of it but could not fight with those who exposed his daughter to bad ways. He came to his house and warned her, saying, “My daughter, give no regard to the words of these enemies and they will not be able to overcome you. Do not leave the house, but do all your work at home. Do not sit idle, even for a single moment. Then they will not be able to see you and harm you. There is a certain quality in them which departs from a good way and chooses every bad way. When they see man directing himself along a good way, they hate him.” 

And what is it? The Adversary. Teaching that the blessed Holy One has a quality whose name is רָעָה (ra’ah), Evil; and it is to the north of the blessed Holy One, as is written, From the north הָרָעָה (ha-ra’ah), evil, will be let loose on all the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14). That is to say, any evil that comes to all the inhabitants of the land (ibid.), comes from the north.

What is this ‘certain quality’? She is the shape of a hand. She has many messengers, and the name of them all is רַע רַע (ra ra), evil! evil! Some are big and some are small, but they all bring guilt upon the world since תֹּהוּ (tohu) is on the north side. Tohu—none other than Evil, מְתָהֵה (metaheh), bewildering, inhabitants of the world until they sin. Every יֵצֶר הָרָע (yetser ha-ra), evil impulse, in man is from there. And why was he given to the left? Because he has no authority, nor any place in the world, except in the north; he is not accustomed to being anywhere except the north, he does not want to be anywhere except the north. If he remained in the south until he learned from the way of the south, how could he lead astray? He would be detained those days unable to make them miss the mark (Judges 20:16). Therefore, he is forever in the north, to the left. And this is For the יֵצֶר (yetser), devisings, of the human heart are evil from youth (Genesis 8:21)—he is evil from his youth and he does not incline other than to the left, for he is already accustomed to her. Of this the blessed Holy One said to Israel: If you really heed the voice of YHWH your God, and do what is right in His eyes, and hearken to His commands (Exodus 15:26)—not to the commands of the evil impulse; And keep all His statutes (ibid.)—not the statutes of the evil impulse [all the sickness that I put upon Egypt I will not put upon you,] for I am YHWH your healer (ibid.).

Why is the evil impulse enriched? A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A king appointed officials (Esther 2:3) over his kingdom and his trade—each one had a surplus. [There was an official appointed] over the storehouses of foodstuff and goods, and one appointed over a storehouse of stones. All the world came to buy from the storehouses of goods. This one appointed over the storehouse of stones came. He saw that they were not buying from him, [and] he envied [this]. What did he do? He commanded all of his brothers to destroy the weak houses—for they were unable [to destroy] the strong ones. He said, ‘In any case, [when] you strive to destroy [one] house from among the strong ones, twenty of the weak ones will be destroyed, and they will all come and buy [stones] from me. And I will not be less than my competitor!’ Thus it is written: From the north evil will be let loose on all the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14). It then continues, ‘For I am about to call forth all the clans of the kingdoms of the north,’ says YHWH,’ and they shall come and each set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem [and against its walls all round and against all the towns of Judah] (ibid., 15). Evil will be a trade to her, also the evil impulse strives perpetually [cf. Genesis 6:5]. And what is the import of שָׂטָן (satan), ‘adversary’? Satan, adversary—in other words מֻטֶּה (mutteh), skewed justice (Ezekiel 9:9); that מַטֶּה (matteh), he tips, the world toward the scale of guilt. And it is written, וַיֵּט (Va-yet), And he turned aside, to her by the road, [and said, ‘Here, pray, let me come to bed with you…’](Genesis 38:16), and it is translated, וּסְטָא (u-seta), and he turned aside, to her. And it is written, שְׂטֵה (Seteh), turn away, from him and pass on (Proverbs 4:15)” (Bahir §§107–110).

By His Anger He is Really Known

“Rabbi Yoḥanan says in the name of Rabbi Yose: How do we know that the blessed Holy One מִתְפַּלֵּל (mitpallel), prays? As is said: I will bring them to My holy mountain and give them joy in My house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7). Not their house of prayer, but My house of prayer, therefore the blessed Holy One prays. What does He pray? Rav Zutra son of Toviah said in the name of Rav: ‘May it be My will that My mercy overcome My anger, and that My mercy prevail over My [other] qualities, so that I may deal with My children with the quality of mercy and, on their behalf, stop short of the limit of harsh judgment’ [cf. BT Gittin 56b].

It was taught: Rabbi Yisham’el son of Elisha says: I once entered into the innermost part [of the Sanctuary] to offer incense and saw אַכְתְּרִיאֵל יָהּ (Akhtri’el Yah), Mighty Crown of Yah, YHWH of Armies, seated on a high and exalted throne (Isaiah 6:1). He said to me: Yisham’el, My son, bless Me. I replied: May it be Your will that Your mercy overcome Your anger and Your mercy prevail over Your other qualities, so that You may deal with Your children according to the quality of mercy and may, on their behalf, stop short of the limit of harsh judgment. And He nodded to me with His head. Here we learn that the blessing of an ordinary person must not be considered lightly in your eyes.

Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Yose: How do you know that we must not try to placate a man in the time of his anger? As is written: My presence shall go, and I will grant you rest (Exodus 33:14). The blessed Holy One said to Moses: Wait till My enraged face passes and then I will grant you rest [cf. Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 12:25]. But is there anger before the blessed Holy One? Yes. For it has been taught: [Elohim exacts justice for the righteous] and El utters doom each day (Psalms 7:12) [cf. BT Avodah Zarah 4a ad loc.].

And how long does this rage last? One moment. And how long is one moment? One fifty-eight thousand eight hundred and eighty-eighth part of an hour. And no creature has ever been able to fix precisely this moment except the wicked Balaam, of whom is written: And knows what Elyon knows (Numbers 24:16). Now, he did not even know the mind of his beast [see ibid., 22], how then could he know the mind of Elyon?! Only that he knew how to fix precisely this moment in which the blessed Holy One is angry. And this is just what the prophet said to Israel: My people, recall, pray, what Balak king of Moab devised and what Balaam son of Beor answered him… that YHWH’s bounties would be known (Micah 6:5). What is that YHWH’s bounties would be known? Rabbi El’azar says: The blessed Holy One said to Israel: See now, how many righteous acts I performed for you in not being angry in the days of the wicked Balaam. For had I been angry, not one remnant would have been left of the enemies of Israel [i.e., Israel]. And this too is the meaning of what Balaam said to Balak: What can I hex that El has not hexed, and what can I doom that YHWH has not doomed? (Numbers 23:8). This teaches us that He was not angry all these days. And how long does His wrath last? רֶגַע (Rega), A moment. And how long is a rega? Rabbi Avin said (or according to some, Rabbi Avina), ‘As long as it takes to say rega.’ And how do you know that He seethes for a moment? For it is said: But a moment in His wrath, life in His favor (Psalms 30:6). Or if you wish, say: Hide but a moment until the wrath passes (Isaiah 26:20). And when does He seethe? Abbaye said, ‘Within those first three hours [see Zohar 1:182b], when the comb of the rooster is white and it stands on one foot. It stands this way each hour? In each other hour it has red streaks, but at this moment it has no red streaks at all” (BT Berakhot 7a).

“Rabbi Shim’on son of El’azar said in the name of Ḥilfa son of Agra in Rabbi Yoḥanan son of Nuri’s name: He who tears his garments in his anger, he who breaks his vessels in his anger, and he who scatters his money in his anger, regard him as an idolater, because such is the craft of the evil impulse: Today he says to him, ‘Do this’; tomorrow he tells him, ‘Do that,’ until he tells him, ‘Go and serve idols,’ and he goes and serves [them]. Rabbi Avin said: What verse [alludes to this]? There shall be among you no foreign god and you shall not bow to an alien god (Psalms 81:10); who is the alien god that is a person’s body? Say, the evil impulse! This is only necessary [to discuss] where he does it in order to instill fear in his household [thus, he maintains control of himself and is not in danger of succumbing to the evil impulse], as Rav Yehudah pulled the threads [of his garment;] Rav Aḥa son of Ya’aqov broke broken vessels; Rav Sheshet threw fish-brine at his maidservant’s head; Rabbi Abba broke a lid” (BT Shabbat 105b).

“Son of Zoma said: Who is strong? One who masters his [evil] impulse, as is written, Better patience than a warrior, and he who governs his spirit, than a conqueror of towns (Proverbs 16:32)” (M Avot 4:1).

“Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani said in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: He who loses his temper all the torments of Hell rule over him, as is written: And remove כַּעַס (ka’as), anger [or: worry], from your heart, and take evil away from your flesh (Ecclesiastes 11:10). Now evil can only mean Hell, as is written, Each act of YHWH has its own end; even the wicked, for an evil day (Proverbs 16:4). And not only that, he is made to suffer from hemorrhoids, as is written, And YHWH will give you there a quaking heart and a wasting away of the eyes and an anguished spirit (Deuteronomy 28:65). Now what causes a wasting away of the eyes and an anguished spirit? Certainly hemorrhoids.

When ‘Ulla went up to the land of Israel, he was joined by two inhabitants of Ḥozai, one of whom arose and slew the other. The murderer asked of ‘Ulla: ‘Did I do well?’ ‘Yes, and open the place of the slaughter,’ he replied. When he came before Rabbi Yoḥanan, he asked him, ‘Perish the thought, maybe I have strengthened the hands of transgressors?’ He replied, ‘You have saved your life.’ Then Rabbi Yoḥanan wondered: And YHWH will give you there a quaking heart—Babylon [and surely not the holy land of Israel]? ‘Ulla replied, ‘We had not yet crossed the Jordan.’ Rabbah son of Rav Huna said: He who loses his temper, even שְׁכִינָה (Shekhinah), the Divine Presence, is unimportant in his eyes, as is written, The wicked sought not in his towering wrath—’There is no God’ (Psalms 10:4)—God is not in all his thoughts. Rabbi Yirmeyah of Difti said: He forgets his learning and waxes ever more stupid, as is written, [Better a thing’s end than its beginning; better patience than haughtiness. Do not be rash in your mood to be angry,] for anger rests in the lap of fools (Ecclesiastes 7:9); and is written, [Every shrewd man acts through knowledge,] but a dullard broadcasts folly (Proverbs 13:16). Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq said: It is certain that his crimes out number his merits, as is written, [An angry man stirs up strife,] and a hothead abounds in crime (ibid. 29:22)” (BT Nedarim 22b).

“Rabbi Yehudah opened, ‘Desist from a human, whose breath is in his nostrils, for of what account is he? (Isaiah 2:22). This verse has been established, but what is the meaning of Desist from a human? Is Scripture warning a person to avoid other people? Then they would act the same toward him, and consequently people would never approach one another! Rather, they have established this as referring to one who immediately upon rising in the morning goes to the door of his friend to greet him. We, however, have based this upon another verse, as is written: One who blesses his fellow loudly, rising early in the morning, [shall have it reckoned to him as a curse] (Proverbs 27:14). Although all is fine, still, what is the meaning of Desist from a human, אֲשֶׁר נְשָׁמָה בְּאַפּוֹ (asher neshamah be-appo), whose breath is in his nostrils?

Here the blessed Holy One commands a person and warns him to be wary of those who pervert their ways from good to evil, and defile their souls with that alien defilement. But when the blessed Holy one created the human being, He fashioned him in a supernal image, and breathed into him a holy spirit comprised on three, as they have established: nefesh, ruaḥ, neshamah. Highest of all is neshamah, for she is a supernal power, by which to know and observe the commandments of the blessed Holy One. If one conducts that holy neshamah into alien worship, he defiles her and abandons the worship of his Lord; for these three powers are all one—nefesh, ruaḥ, neshamah, participating as one, becoming one, patterned entirely on supernal mystery.

If we see a person who possesses all these rungs—though his status and identity are still uncertain—how can we determine whether to approach him or avoid him? By his anger he is really known, and recognized for who he is [cf. BT Eruvin 65b]. If, in a moment of anger, he maintains that holy neshamah—not uprooting her from her place so as to supplant her with that alien god—then this is a fitting human being, this is a servant of his Lord, this is a consummate man. And if that person does not maintain her—uprooting this supernal holiness from its place, to supplant it with the Other Side—then this is surely a person who rebels against his Lord, and it is forbidden to approach him or associate with him. This one is called he who tears his soul in his anger (Job 18:4)—tearing and uprooting his soul on account of his anger, and enabling an alien god to dwell within in. Thus it is written: Desist from a human אֲשֶׁר נְשָׁמָה בְּאַפּוֹ (asher neshamah be-appo)—who tears and defiles that holy neshamah on account of appo, his anger; who exchanges neshamah for his anger.

For בַמֶּה (va-meh), of what, account is he? (Isaiah 2:22)—this person is accounted an idol. Whoever associates with him or speaks with him is like one who associates with a real idol. Why? Because real idolatry dwells within him. Moreover, he has uprooted supernal holiness from its place and supplanted it with idolatry, an alien god. As, regarding an alien god, it is written: Do not turn to the idols (Leviticus 19:4), it is similarly forbidden to look at his face.

Now, you might say, ‘But what about anger of the Sages?’ Well, anger of the Sages is good in all aspects, for we have learned that Torah is fire, and Torah inflames him, as is written: ‘Is not My word like fire?’ declares YHWH (Jeremiah 23:29). Anger of the Sages, over words of Torah; anger of the Sages, to honor Torah—all in the service of the blessed Holy One. But if over other matters, this is not service of the blessed Holy One; for no other sin committed by a person is real idolatry, and it is forbidden to approach him.

Now, you might say, ‘This was only for a moment, for it passed and then he returned.’ Not so! For once he has uprooted the holiness of his soul from himself and from its place, and that alien god usurps that place, it entrenches itself and will not leave him. Except when a person purifies himself completely and eradicates it permanently, and then strives to sanctify himself and to draw holiness—then, oh that he could become holy!

Rabbi Yose said to him, ‘He really does become holy!’ He replied, ‘Come and see: When he uproots the holiness of his soul and supplants it with that alien god, that person is defiled and called ‘impure,’ and he defiles whoever approaches him, and that holiness flees from him. If it has fled once, how much must a person do until it returns to its place!’ He said, ‘If so, what about all the defiled who are purified?’ He replied, ‘Any other defilement is different, not being so effective, but this one is unique, defiling the whole body, inside and out, and the soul and everything. Other defilements of the world affect only the outer body. Therefore it is written: Desist from a human אֲשֶׁר נְשָׁמָה בְּאַפּוֹ (asher neshamah be-appo)—who has exchanged the holiness of his Lord for appo, his anger; for this is defilement defiling all. For בַמֶּה (va-meh), of what, account is he? בָּמָה (Bamah), a cult site—idolatry, surely—he is accounted” (Zohar 2:182a–b).

“Come and see what is written: They said, a man to his brother (Genesis 37:19)—Simeon and Levi, who were truly brothers in every respect, for they issued from the side of harsh judgment, so their wrath was murderous, as is written: Cursed be their anger, so fierce (ibid. 49:7).

Come and see the mystery of the matter: There is wrath, and then there is wrath! There is wrath blessed from above and below, called blessed, as has been said, for it is written: [And Abram heard that his kinsman was taken captive…. And he and his servants with him fanned out against them by night and he struck them and pursued them…. And he brought back all the substance, and also Lot his kinsman and his substance he brought back, and the women and the other people as well…. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine, for he was priest to God the Highest. And he blessed him, and he said,] Blessed be Abram by God the Highest (ibid. 14:9), as they have established [cf. Zohar 2:243a]. And there is wrath cursed above and below, as has been said, called cursed as is written: Cursed are you among all animals and among all beasts of the field (ibid. 3:14). Cursed be their anger, so fierce.

Upon this mystery stand two mountains, as is written: You will give the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal (Deuteronomy 11:29), corresponding to these two rungs, so this is called cursed and that is called blessed. Simeon and Levi issue from the side of harsh judgment, and from the side of harsh, fierce judgment issues accursed wrath.

Come and see: From the aspect of harsh judgment issue two aspects, one that has been blessed and one that has been cursed, one blessed and one cursed. Similarly, from the side of Isaac issued two sons: one blessed and the other cursed, above and below, one branching inward and the other to his side, one dwelling in the Holy Land and the other on Mount Seir, as is written: a skilled hunter, a man of the field—this one’s domain in wilderness, ruin, and desolation; this one dwelling in tents (Genesis 25:27), all as it should be. So there are two rungs: blessed and cursed, each on its own side. From this one issue all blessings of the world above and below, all joy and goodness, all radiance, all deliverance and redemption. From that one issues all curses, all war, all bloodshed, all desolation, all evils, and all defilement” (Zohar 1:184a–b, cf. ibid. 3:18b).

The Nation by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam)

Jerusalem, 4 Sivan, 5700 (10 June, 1940)

Our intention

This newspaper, הַאֻמָּה (ha-ummah), The Nation, is something novel on the Jewish street. It is an “inter-partisan paper.” You may ask, “What is an ‘inter-partisan paper,’ how can there be a paper serving all parties, in spite of all their opposition and differences?” Indeed, it is an entity born in dire straits, through tortuous labor-pains, from amidst the venom of hatred that afflicted the nations of the world to wipe us off the face of the earth, the destruction of millions of our brethren, and they are prepared to do even more. Their sadistic urge is insatiable, and the disaster is twofold, since we must not delude ourselves believing that all this is but a passing, transitory phenomenon, as with our past experiences in history, that when a certain nation erupted over us, we found a substitute in another.

Now things are very different. Not only are we simultaneously attacked from all directions, but even the most developed nations have shut their doors to us without any sense of mercy or compassion, and in such a ruthless way that is without precedent in the whole of human history, even in the most barbaric of times. It is clear, save for relying on miracles, that our existence as individuals and as a nation teeters between life and death. And the rescue is if we find the required tactic, a great scheme whose path is only found in imminent danger, and which can tip the scale in our favor—to give us a safe haven here [in the land of Israel] for all our brethren in the diaspora, as everyone says it is, at present, the only place of refuge. Then a path to life will be open to us, to somehow carry on in spite of the hardship. And if we miss the chance and do not rise as one, with the tremendous effort required in a time of danger, to ensure our staying in the Land, then the facts on the ground pose a great threat, since things are progressing in favor of our enemies, who seek to wipe us off the face of the earth.

It is also clear that the tremendous effort that the rugged path ahead demands of us mandates unity that is as hard as steel, from every part of the nation, without exception. If we do not go out with united ranks toward the mighty powers standing in our way to harm us, we will find that our hope is doomed from the outset. And after all this, each individual and faction sits carefully guarding its own possessions without any concession. And under no circumstances do they desire national unity in a way this grave hour necessitates for us all. Thus, we are sunk in indifference, as though nothing has happened.

Try to imagine that if some nation showed us the door—as is so common these days—it is then certain that none of us would consider our factional allegiance, since the hardship would mold us all into one clump, in order to defend ourselves or to get up and flee by land or sea. Had we sensed the real danger we would undoubtedly be united properly without any difficulty. Under these circumstances we met here [in the land of Israel], a small group of us, from every stream, people who feel a terrible whip against their backs as though it had already materialized. We have undertaken to publish this paper, which we believe will be a trustworthy channel through which to convey our feeling to the entire nation, in every stream and faction, none excluded. By so doing, the differences and the narrow-minded factionalism can be nullified. More precisely, they would be silenced and give way to what precedes them [i.e., a history of national unity], and we will then all be able to join together into a single solid body politic, capable of protecting itself at this critically important time.

And although this danger is known to us all, perhaps it is yet to sufficiently develop in the public, as it truly is. If the public had felt it, they would have shaken off the dust of factionalism long ago to the degree that it obstructs the unification of our ranks. If this is not so, it is only because this is still not felt by the majority. Therefore, we have undertaken the publication of this paper, to stand guard, warn of the trouble, explaining it to the public, until all segregating elements are silenced, and we will be able to face our enemy with united ranks, and give it its due response in time. Moreover, we are confident that among us there are still those who probe hearts, who can provide a successful plan to unite all factions in the nation. From experience, we have learned that specifically those people go unnoticed and have no audience. In this paper, we are willing to make room for anyone who carries a promising solution for uniting the nation, to publicize it and give it a voice.

In addition to what has already been said, by publishing this paper, we aim to preserve our ancient culture of two thousand years, since before the ruin of our country. We hope to reveal it, removing the accretion of many years in exile among the nations, so that our noble and pure Jewish nature will be recognized again, as it was long ago. This will bring us the greatest benefit: we will be able to find a way of connecting our diaspora mode of thinking with that [former] glorious time, and redeem ourselves from having to borrow from others.

Individual and nation

We human beings are social creatures. Since we cannot satisfy our vital needs without assistance from others, the partnership of many is necessary for our existence. This is not the place to explore the development of the nations, but we can suffice with examining reality as it appears to our eyes. Indeed, it is a fact that we cannot satisfy our needs by ourselves, and we need a social life. Hence, individuals were forced to unite into a union, called “nation” or “state,” in which everyone engages in his own trade, some in agriculture, and some in crafts. They connected through the trade of their products. Thus nations were formed, each with its unique character—in material life and in cultural life.

Observing life, we can see that the process of a nation is just as the process of an individual. The function of each and every individual within the nation is like the function of organs in a single body. There must be absolute harmony among the organs of each individual: the eyes see and the brain is assisted by them to think and to confer, then the hands labor and the legs walk. Thus, each stands guard, awaiting its function. Similarly, the organs that comprise the body of the nation—counselors, employers, workers, deliverers and so forth—should function in absolute harmony. This is vital for a nation’s normal life and continued existence.

As the natural death of an individual results from disharmony of one’s organs, a nation’s natural decline results from some obstruction that occurs among its organs, as our Sages testify, “Jerusalem was destroyed only because of the שִׂנְאַת חִנָּם (sinat ḥinnam), groundless hatred, that existed in the generation” (Tosafot, Bava Metsi’a 2). At that time, the nation was plagued and died, her organs scattered in every direction. Therefore, it is a must that every nation be firmly united within, that every individual within her be attached to one another by instinctual love. And every individual should feel that the well being of the nation is one’s own well being, and the nation’s flourishing is one’s own flourishing. One should be willing to give his all to the nation whenever needed. Otherwise, the right to exist as a nation in the world is doomed from the outset.

This does not mean that everyone in the nation must be so without exception. Rather, it means that the people of a given nation, who sense the harmony, are the ones who constitute the nation, and the measure of the nation’s well being and sustainability are measured according to their quality. After a critical mass of individuals is secured for the ongoing existence of the nation is found, there can be a certain number of loose limbs, which are not connected to the body of the nation to the aforementioned degree, since the foundation is already secured without them. Hence, in ancient times, we do not find unions and societies without kinship among their members, since the primal love necessary for the existence of society, is found only in families that are the offspring of a single father. However, in successive generations there were already societies united under the “state,” without any familial or racial ties. Now the only connection of an individual to the state is no longer a natural, primal connection, but rather stems from a common need where each individual joins with the collective making a single body, which is the state. And the state protects the body and the possessions of each individual with all the power of a state.

Indeed, the transition in which successive generations moved from a natural nation to an artificial state—from ties that stem from primal love, to ties that stem from a common need—does not require anything from the conditions necessary in a natural ethnic state. The rule is that as every healthy individual has complete control over his organs, which is based solely on love, because the organs cheerfully obey without any fear of punishment, the state should totally dominate every individual within it with respect to their general needs, based on a love and instinctual devotion of individual for collective. This is the most expedient force, sufficient to move individuals toward the needs of the collective.

However, domination based on coercion and punishment is too weak a force to move every individual enough to guard the public’s needs. The public, too, will weaken and will not be able to carry out its commitment of guarding and securing each and every individual’s body and possessions. And we are not concerned with the form of governance of the state, whether autocratic, democratic, or socialist. They do not alter the essence whatsoever of the establishment of the power of social unity. A nation cannot be founded, much less persist, except through ties of social love.

It is a bitter shame to admit that one of the most precious merits we lost to exile, indeed the most important of them, is the loss of an awareness of [our] nationality, meaning that natural sense which connects and sustains any nation. The threads of love that connect the nation, which are so natural and primitive in all nations, have decayed and detached from our hearts—they are gone. And worst of all, even the little we have left of a national love is not instilled in us positively, like it is in every nation. Rather, it exists within us on a negative basis, in the common suffering that each of us endures being a member of this nation. This has embedded within us a national awareness and closeness, as with fellow-sufferers. This is an external cause. As long as this external cause joins and blends with our natural national awareness, an odd sort of national love is engendered, sparked as it is from this jumble, unnatural and incomprehensible. And most importantly, it is totally unfit for its task. Its measure of warmth suffices only for a short burst, but without the capacity with which we can be rebuilt as a nation that is self sufficient. This is because a union that relies on an external cause is not a national union whatsoever.

In this sense we are like a pile of nuts forced together by an enveloping sack—our degree of unity fails to unite us into a single body, indeed each movement the sack undergoes produces tumult and separation. Thus, we consistently form new unions with only limited cooperation. The fault being that we lack the inner unity. Our entire power of unity derives only from external accidents. This pains us to the heart [cf. Marx, Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 7, p. 338].

Indeed, a spark of nationalism was preserved within us to its fullest measure, but it has dimmed and become inert. It has also been greatly harmed by the admixture it received from outside, as we have said. It does not yet enrich us, and the reality is very bitter. Our only hope is to thoroughly establish a fresh national education, to reveal and ignite once more the natural national love that has dwindled within us. To revive once more the national muscles, as it were, which have not been active in us for two millennia, with every means suitable to this end. Then we will be assured that we have a natural, reliable foundation to be rebuilt and to continue our existence as a nation, qualified to carry itself like all nations of the world.

This is a precondition for any action. At first a foundation must be built in a manner sufficiently sound to carry the load it is meant to. Then the building of the structure begins. But shame on those who build structures without a sufficiently solid basis! Not only do they not build anything, they put themselves and the others near them at risk, for the structure will fall with the slightest movement, its parts scattering in every direction. Here I must stress the aforementioned national education: Although I intend to plant great love among individuals of the nation in particular and for the entire nation in general—to the utmost degree—this is not at all similar to chauvinism or fascism. We abhor them, and my conscience is completely free of them. Despite the apparent similarity in language, since chauvinism is nothing but excessive national love, they are in essence as far from one another as black is from white. 

In order to easily perceive the difference between them, we can compare them with the measures of egoism and altruism in an individual. As was stated above, the process of the nation is very similar to the process of the individual with all of his particular details. This is a general key by which to see all the national laws without turning right or left, even a hair’s breadth. Clearly, the quality of egoism inherent in every creature is a necessary condition for the actual existence of that creature. Without it, it would not be a separate and distinct being in itself. Yet, this should not deny the quality of altruism in a person whatsoever. The only thing needed is to mark distinct boundaries between them: The law of egoism must be kept in all its power, to the extent that it concerns one’s minimal existence. And concerning any surplus of that quality, permission is granted to waive it for the well-being of one’s fellow.

Naturally, anyone who acts in this manner is to be considered exceptionally altruistic. However, one who gives up his minimal share, too, for the benefit of others, and thus risks his life, this is totally unnatural and cannot be kept, save perhaps once in life. The excessive egoist, who has no regard at all for the well-being of others, is abhorrent in our eyes, as this is the substance from which pillagers, murderers, and all who are corrupt are made. It is similar with national egoism and altruism: the national love, too, must be embedded in all the individuals in the nation, no less than the egoistic love in a person for his own needs, sufficient to sustain the existence of the nation as such, in order to carry itself. And the surplus of that minimal amount can be dedicated to the well-being of the whole of humanity, without any distinction of nation or race.

Conversely, we utterly despise the excessive national egoism that shows no regard for the well-being of others. They that plunder and murder other nations for their own pleasure, which is called chauvinism. Thus, those who completely retire from nationalism and become cosmopolitan for humane, altruistic motives are making a fundamental error, since nationalism and humanism are not at all contradictory. It is therefore evident that national love is the basis of any nation, just as egoism is the basis of any individual. Without it, it would impossible to exist in the world. Similarly, national love among the citizens of a nation is the basis of any nation’s independence. This is the sole reason for it’s continued existence, or it’s ceasing to exist.

For this reason, this should be the first concern in the revival of our nation. This kind of love is not presently in our midst. We have lost it in our wandering among the nations for the past two thousand years. Only individuals have gathered here, without any ties of pure national love among them. Rather, this one is connected through a shared language, that one through a shared homeland, another through a shared religion, and yet another through a shared history. They all want to live here according to the manner by which they lived in the nation from which they came. They do not take into account that there it was a nation founded by its own members before he entered it, and which he took no active role in establishing.

However, when a person goes up to the land of Israel, where there is no predetermined order that will suffice for a nation to function on its own, we have no other national substance on which we can rely—[sadly] we have no wish for it. Rather, here we must rely entirely on our own building. And how can we acheive this when there is no natural national connection to unite us for this task? These loose ties—language, religion, and history—are important, and no one denies their worth. However, they are still totally insufficient to rely on as a basis for the independent existence of our nation. In the end, all we have here is a gathering of strangers, descendents of cultures of the seventy nations, each making a stage for himself, his spirit, and his inclinations. There is nothing basic that unites us all from within into a single whole.

I know that there is one thing that is common to all of us: the escape from bitter exile. However, this is only a superficial union, like the sack that holds nuts together, as we said already. This is why I say we must establish special education for ourselves by means of widespread circulation, in order to instill in each of us a feeling of national love, both between individual to individual, and from the individual to the whole. To rediscover the national love that was instilled in us since the time we were on our land as a nation among nations.

This endeavor precedes all others because besides being the foundation, it affords stability and success in any other undertakings that we wish to perform in this field.

The name of the nation, the language, and the land

We should look at the name of our nation. We have grown accustomed to calling ourselves עִבְרִי (‘ivri), “Hebrew,” while our usual names, יְהוּדִי (yehudi), “Jew,” or יִשְׂרָאֵל (yisra’el), “Israel,” have fallen out of use. So much so that to distinguish the jargon from the language of the nation we call the language of the nation עִבְרִית (‘ivrit), “Hebrew,” and the jargon, יְהוּדִית (yehudit), “Jewish.”

In the Bible we find the name “Hebrew” employed only by the nations, especially the Egyptians: See, he has brought us אִישׁ עִבְרִי (ish ‘ivri), a Hebrew man, to play with us (Genesis 39:14); or, And there was with us נַעַר עִבְרִי (na’ar ‘ivri), a Hebrew lad (ibid. 41:12); or, This is one of the children of הָעִבְרִים (ha-’ivrim), the Hebrews (Exodus 2:6). The Philistines also use this name: Lest הָעִבְרִים (ha-’ivrim), the Hebrews, make sword or spear! (1 Samuel 13:19). We also find it used between the nations and us, such as in the war of Saul with the Philistines, when he declared, Let the Hebrews hear! (ibid., 4), and וְעִבְרִים עָבְרוּ (ve-’ivrim ‘avru), and Hebrews had crossed, the Jordan (ibid., 7) [cf. Joshua 24:2; see Rabbi Naḥman of Bratslav, Liqqutei Moharan 1:64b]. We also frequently find the name “Hebrew” in close proximity to slaves, such as a Hebrew slave or a Hebrew slavegirl and so forth. However, in truth, we will never encounter the name “Hebrew” in the Bible but only one of the two names, yisra’el, “Israel,” or yehudi, “Jew.”

There was most likely a famous ancient nation that went by the name “Hebrew,” as is written, Shem, the father of all the sons of עֵבֶר (‘ever), Eber (Genesis 10:21)—indicating Noah’s son as the father of that nation. Abraham the patriarch was from that nation, which is why the nations called him Abram the Hebrew, as is written, And told Abram the Hebrew (ibid. 14:13). For this reason, before Israel became a nation among nations, they were called “Hebrews,” after the nation of Abraham the patriarch, the Hebrew.

Although the Israelites were distinguished in Egypt as a separate nation, as is written: Look, the people of the sons of Israel is more numerous and vaster than we. Come, let us be shrewd with them lest they multiply (Exodus 1:9). That name, however, is the name of a tribe, and not a nation, for they became a nation only after they entered the land of Israel. From this we must conclude that this is why the nations did not wish to call us the nation of Israel even after we had entered the Land, so as not to admit our existence as a nation. They emphasized this by calling us “Hebrews,” as they had called us prior to entering the Land.

It is not by chance that the name “Hebrews” is not found in the Bible and in subsequent literature, except in relation to slaves and slavegirls, to whom the name “Hebrew” is always attached. But we never encounter a “slave of Israel” or a “Jewish slave.” This juxtaposition is probably a relic of the Egyptian bondage, which we are commanded to remember: And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15).

Even today most nations refer to us as “Jews” or “Israelis,” and only the Russian nation still calls us “Hebrews.” Supposedly, those haters of Israel among them employ this term with the intention of rejecting [Jewish] nationalism, just like the ancient peoples. It seems they delved into the meaning of this name far more than we who have foolishly adopted it due to it’s being employed in the Russian language. It follows from all of this that if we want to respect ourselves we should stop using the name “Hebrew” with regards to any free person among us.

Indeed, with regards to the name of the language, if we had an historic source, a language that the ancient Hebrew nation spoke, then perhaps we could call it “Hebrew.” Yet, I have not found any proof that this ancient nation spoke this language. Thus, we should consider the Talmud, which is closer to the source than we are by fifteen centuries. For them, it was unanimously accepted that the ancient Hebrews did not use this language at all. They said, “Originally Torah was given to Israel in כְּתָב עִבְרִי (ketav ‘ivri), paleo-Hebrew script, and in the holy language; later, in the times of Ezra, Torah was given in כְּתָב אַשּׁוּרִי (ketav ashuri), [square] Assyrian script, and Aramaic language. [Finally,] Israel selected the Assyrian script and the holy language, leaving the paleo-Hebrew script and Aramaic language for the commoners…” (BT Sanhedrin 21b). Thus, we learn from their words that only the letters have come to us from the Hebrews, but not the language, because they said, “Assyrian script and the holy language,” and not “paleo-Hebrew script and language.”

Also, we do find: “[A scroll containing] Hebrew text written in תַּרְגּוּם (targum), Aramaic translation, or an Aramaic translation written in Hebrew, or [either] in paleo-Hebrew script [and not Assyrian script], does not defile the hands” (BT Megillah 8b). Thus, they emphasized, “Aramaic translation written… in paleo-Hebrew script.” They are not saying, “Aramaic translation written in Assyrian script, and in paleo-Hebrew script,” as the Mishnah says (see M Yada’im 4:5). This teaches us that only the [paleo-Hebrew] script is attributed to the Hebrews, and not the language. Also, there is no evidence from the words of the Mishnah because it seems that here there was Roman censorship of the text. And when they were rehearsing Mishnah [i.e., committing to memory], they were fittingly precise.

Conversely, we find that several times the Tanna’im referred to the language as “the holy language.” As is written, “Whoever lives in the land of Israel and says the recitation of Shema morning and night, and speaks the holy language is a son of the world to come” (Sifre Deuteronomy 333). Also, we learn from Rabbi Me’ir, “whoever is permanently in the land of Israel and speaks the holy language…”.

Even if we assume that we can find some ancient source that the Hebrews spoke this language, it does not obligate us to name this language after them, since there is not a trace of this nation among the living. As we have already stated, this name does not add to our national dignity, only our enemies have attached it to us, to reject and make light of our image and our national treasures. Therefore, we should also avoid taking after the English language, which calls the nation “Jews,” and the language “Hebrew.” We should also determine which name suits us best: “Jews” or “Israelis.” The name, “Israel,” stems from our father, Jacob, who, as is written, is named as an expression of power and honor: Not Jacob shall your name hence be said, but Israel, for you have striven with God and men, and won out (Genesis 32:29). It is after him that we are called Israel.

However, after King Solomon, the nation split in two: the ten tribes, which ordained Jeroboam son of Nebat, and the two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, which remained under the kingship of Rehoboam, son of Solomon. The name, “Israel,” remained with the ten tribes, and the two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, took for themselves the name, “Jews,” as we find in the story of Esther: There was אִישׁ יְהוּדִי (ish yehudi), a Jew, in Shushan the capital, and his name was Mordecai son of Jair son of Shimei son of Kish, a Benjaminite man (Esther 2:5). Thus, the tribe of Benjamin also called themselves יְהוּדִים (yehudim), “Jews.”

The ten tribes were exiled from the land long before the exile of Judah, and since then there has been no trace of them. The exile of Judah, who were exiled to Babylon, returned to the Land after seventy years of exile and rebuilt the Land. This is why throughout the period of the Second Temple, the name “Jews” is mentioned most often, and the name “Israel,” is mentioned only rarely, under special circumstances. We, the descendants of the exile of the Second Temple, are also called mainly by the name, “Jews,” since we are from the exile of the Second Temple, the descendants of the two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, who gave themselves the name, “Jews.” Accordingly, we should judge that the name of our nation is “Jews” and not “the nation of Israel” or “Israel,” which is the name of the ten tribes.

And concerning the language, we should certainly choose the “Jewish language,” and not the “language of Israel,” for we do not find in the Bible this construct state of “Israeli language,” as opposed to the mentioning of “Jewish”: did not know how to speak יְהוּדִית (yehudit), Judahite (Nehemiah 13:24), and also, Speak, pray, to your servants Aramaic, for we understand it, and do not speak Judahite in the hearing of the people who are on the wall (2 Kings 18:26).Rather, we should emphasize that this is why they called their language yehudit, Judahite, since the people of King Hezekiah were called yehudim, “Jews,” as well as those who came from the exile in Babylon. But the ten tribes, which were called יִשׂרְאֵלִים (yisrelim), “Israelis,” also called their language שָׂפָה הַיִשׂרְאֵלִית (safah ha-yisrelit), “the Israeli language.” And yet, even if we assume that it is so, it is still no reason for us, the descendants of Judah and Benjamin, to call our language “Israeli.” In summary, both the nation and the language must be given only the name Judah. The nation should be called “Jews,” and the language, “Jewish.” The jargon language should be called אִידִּישׁ (yiddish), “Yiddish.” Only the land should be called “the land of Israel,” since it is the inheritance of all the tribes.

A critique of Marxism in light of the new reality: a solution to the question of the unification of the nation above its factions

I have been asked to offer a solution, according to my view, regarding the painful problem of uniting all streams and factions on one basis. And immediately I must admit that I have no solution to this question in the way it was asked—it will never have a solution. Wise men of all nations and throughout the ages have probed it, but have not found a natural solution that is accepted by every stream among them. Many have suffered, indeed many will yet suffer, before they find the golden path that does not conflict with the currents among them. The difficulty of the matter is that man cannot give up his ideals whatsoever, since he can make concessions when it comes to his material life, to the extent that it is necessary for his physical existence, but it is not so with ideals. By nature idealists will give all that they have for the triumph of their idea. And if they must give up their ideals, even a bit, it is not an honest concession. Rather, they remain alert, waiting for a time when they can reclaim what is theirs. Therefore, such concessions cannot be trusted.

It is even more so with an ancient nation—a civilization that is thousands of years old. Its ideals have already developed in it far more than in recently developed nations. Thus there is no hope that they are be able to concede, even a bit. It is unwise to think that in the end the more just idea will defeat other ideas, since over time they are all right, for “[(Son of Azzai) used to say: Do not scorn any person and do not disdain anything;] for there is no person who does not have his hour, and there is no thing that does not have its place” (M Avot 4:3).

Because of this ideas keep reemerging, ideas that were ruled out in ancient times reemerged in the Middle Ages, and having been ruled out in the Middle Ages, they have been revived in our generation. This shows that they are all correct, yet, none of them is everlasting. Although the nations of the world suffer terribly from this clash, they still have a strong back allowing them to endure this terrible burden. Somehow it does not immediately threaten their existence. But what can a poor nation do when its entire existence depends on the crumbs and leftovers that the nations throw them according to their mercy once they are satisfied? Their back is too weak to bear the weight of this, especially during this fateful time when we are standing on the very edge of the abyss—it is not a time for vanity, disputes, and internal strife among brothers.

Due to the urgency of the hour, I have a genuine solution to offer, which I think is worthy of being accepted, and which will unite all the factions among us into a single bloc. However, before I present my solution I would like to put the minds of readers at ease who undoubtedly want to know my own political bias. I must admit that I see the socialist ideal of equal and just division as the truest. For our planet Earth is rich enough to provide for all of us. Why do we battle a tragic life which has ruined our lives for generations? Let us divide the labor and its produce equally and put an end to all the troubles! After all, what pleasure do even the millionaires among us derive from their possessions if not financial security for themselves and their descendants? And with a government of just division they will also have the same certainty, to an even greater extent.

And should you say that they will not have the honor that they had while they were property owners, that, too, is nothing. For those staunch property owners are still capable of procuring honor in another field since the gates of competition and honor will never be locked. Indeed, as truthful as this ideal is I cannot promise us even an iota of paradise. On the contrary, a tremendous hell is guaranteed, and the living proof that is Russia has already taught us. And yet, this does not negate the veracity of this ideal. Its only fault is that for us it is unripe. In other words, our generation is not yet capable of digesting this [form of] government of just and equal division, since we have not had enough time to develop morally in order to accept the slogan, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” (Critique of the Gotha Program). This is like the offence of first man: our ancient sages have explained that the offence was because he ate of fruit before it had ripened sufficiently [see Zohar 1:73a]. For that small offence the entire world was sentenced to death—teaching us that this is the cause of every detriment in the world.

People do not know how to mind and watch a thing to see if it has ripened sufficiently. Although the content of a matter may be beneficial, we must still probe more deeply to see if it is ripe, and if those who will taste of it have grown sufficiently to digest it. While they are still developing what is truthful and beneficial becomes harmful and deceitful in their stomachs. Thus, they are doomed to die, for he who eats unripe fruit dies for his offence. In light of these matters, the Russian entanglement has not proven that the socialist ideal is unjust at its core, since they need more time to accept the truth and justice of this [ideal]. As yet they are incapable of behaving according to it. They are only harmed by their lack of development and qualification for this ideal [cf. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 250–51].

It is worthwhile to give heed to the words of comrade M. Botkovsky (see Davar, № 4507). He asks, “Why would a politician, a member of the Socialist movement, not do as the physicist, who when faced with some contradiction in the ironclad laws of his theory does not shy away from abandoning it? First, he carefully tries to amend it, but in the end when he can no longer square it with reality, he is ready to abandon it.” And he explains, “During the ruin of the international Labor Movement, we must purge biases. When facts spell out defeat, we must return to the school bench and examine the way forward and its principles; we must soberly recognize the burden on the shoulders of those who carry on. This is the scientific approach when hemmed in by contradictions between the new reality and the theory that explained the old reality. Only a conceptual breakthrough enables new science, and a new life.” He concludes, “Unless we ignore our conscience, we must declare that the time has come for a fundamental debate—a time of labor pains. Now is the time for the leaders of the movement to stand up and answer the question: ‘What does socialism mean today? What is the way the camp must go?’” I doubt if anyone in the movement will answer him, or even appreciate his words. It isn’t easy for a hundred-year-old who has so far been successful in his research to all at once stand up, cross out his prior theory, sit at the desk, and take up his research again like that physicist, as comrade Botkovsky rightly demands of the socialist movement.

Yet, how can you ignore his words? While it is possible to sit idly by the ruin of the international Labor Movement, since they are not facing immediate destruction, they are still secured the minimum standard of living of indentured servants and slaves. And it is not so concerning the Hebrew Labor Movement and the danger it faces. They are truly on the brink of annihilation under the slogan of the enemy To destroy, to kill, and to wipe out [all the Jews, from young lad to old man,] babes and women, [on a single day] (Esther 3:13) as it was during the time of Queen Esther.

We must not compare our state of ruin with the ruin of the movement internationally. If we were only sold to slavery and indentured servitude, we would keep still, like they do. Yet, we are denied even the security of the life of slaves. Thus, we must not let the moment escape us. We must attend school once again, reexamine the socialist ideal in light of the facts and contradictions that have surfaced in our days and not fear tearing down ideological fences, since nothing stands in the way of saving lives.

To that end, let us briefly review the evolution of socialism from its earliest stages. In general, there are three eras: The first was humanistic socialism based on the development of morality. It was aimed solely at exploiters. The second was based on the recognition of justice and injustice. It was aimed primarily at the exploited, to make them realize that workers are the true owners of the labor, and that the produce of society belongs to them. Since the workers are the majority in society, they were certain that once they realized that they are just, they would rise as one and take what is theirs, and establish a government of just and equal division in society. The third is Marxism, which succeeded more than any of them, and which is based on historical materialism. The great clash of creative-forces, of the workers and those who exploit them, the employers, necessitates that a society ultimately come to the brink of destruction. Then comes a revolution in production and distribution. The capitalist government is forced into ruin in favor of a proletariat government. In his view, this government was to emerge by itself, by way of cause and effect. But in order to usher in the end and the ensuing revolution still sooner, counsel must be sought, and obstacles must be placed before the bourgeois government.

Before I critique his theory, I must admit that of all its predecessors his theory is most just. After all, we are witnessing the great success it had, both in quantity and quality, throughout the world before it came to practical implementation among the many millions in Russia. Until then, almost every leader of humanity was drawn to it, and this is true testimony to the fitness of his theory. Besides, even theoretically, his words have merit, and no one has been able to contradict his view of history, that humanity is progressing slowly and gradually upward, as if on a ladder [cf. the rabbinic concept of יְרִידַת הַדוֹרוֹת (yeridat ha-dorot), decline of the generations]. Each step is but the negation of its former, hence each step that humanity has taken in political government is but a rejection of its preceding state.

The duration of every political phase is merely the time it takes to reveal its failures and wickedness. While exposing these, it makes way for a new state, free of these faults. Thus, the impediments that emerge in a given situation and demolish it are the very forces of human evolution, as they raise humanity to a more corrected state. And the faults in the next state bring humanity to a third and better state. Thus, the persistent negative forces that emerge in each state are the cause of human progress. Through them, humanity climbs the rungs of the ladder. [Negative forces] faithfully perform their duty, delivering humanity to the ultimate most desirable state, purified of any disgrace or blemish.

According to this historic process, [Marx] shows how the feudal government revealed its faults and was demolished, making way for the bourgeois government. Now it is time for the bourgeois government to reveal its faults and be demolished, making way for a government which is better still—the government of the proletariat, according to him. However, on this last point, where [Marx] promises that after the demolition of the bourgeois government a proletariat government will be established straightaway, here is the flaw in his theory. The current reality in front us denies it. He thought that the proletariat government would be the next step toward a bourgeois government, and thus predicted that by nullifying the bourgeois government, a proletariat one would be established straightaway. Yet, reality proves that the step following the demolition of the present government is that of Nazis or fascists.

Evidently, we are still in the intermediate stages of human development. Humanity has yet to reach the highest rung of the ladder. Who can guess how many rivers of blood are yet to be shed before humanity reaches the desired rung? In order to find a way out of this conundrum, we must thoroughly understand the aforementioned law of gradual development upon which [Marx] based his entire theory [see dialectical materialism]. We should know that this law comprises all of Creation. All of nature’s systems are based on it, organic and inorganic alike, up to the human species with all its ideal and base qualities.

With all that was said above, there is nothing that does not obey the ironclad law of gradual development resulting from the competition of these two forces with one another: a positive creative force, and a negative destructive force. They form and perfect all of reality, in general and in particular, through their harsh and perpetual battle with one another. As was already stated, the negative force appears at the end of every political phase, elevating it to a better state. Thus, these states unfold from one another until they reach their ultimate perfection.

Let us take planet Earth as an example: At the outset, it was merely a ball of fog-like gas. Through the force of gravity, over time, it concentrated its atoms into a narrow חוּג (ḥug), ring. As a result, the ball of gas became a liquid ball of fire. Over eons of terrible battles between these two forces the cooling force in Earth was finally triumphant over the force of liquid fire, and a cool thin crust hardened around the Earth. However, the planet had not yet become still due to the battle between the forces, and after some time the liquid force of fire overpowered, erupting into a great tumult from the bowels of Earth, rising and shattering the cold, hard crust to pieces, turning the planet back into a liquid ball of fire. Then an era of new battles began until the cooling force overpowered the force of fire once more, and a second cool crust hardened around the ball, thicker and more durable against the outbreak of fluids from within the ball. This time it lasted longer, but in the end, the liquid forces overpowered once again and erupted from the bowels of Earth, shattering the crust in pieces. Once more all was destroyed, becoming a liquid ball.

Thus was the dialectic interplay down through the eons, and each time the cooling force prevailed, the crust it made grew thicker. Finally, the positive forces overpowered the negative ones and assumed a total harmony: The liquids took their place in the bowels of Earth, and the cold crust became thick enough around them to enable the formation of organic life upon it, as it is today.

All organic bodies develop in the same way. From the moment they are planted until the end of their ripening, they undergo several hundred phases such as has been described with regard to Earth. It is these battles which yield the ripening of the fruit. Similarly, every living thing begins with a tiny drop. By means of gradual development and constant struggle, it finally becomes a big ox, fit for every manner of work, as it were, or a great man, fit for all his tasks.

However, there should be yet another distinction between the ox and man: Today, the ox has long since reached its final phase of evolution [cf. BT Bava Qamma 65b: “Rava said: A one-day-old ox is called ‘ox,’ as is written: When an ox or a sheep or a goat is born (Leviticus 22:27)”; Zohar 3:91b]. For us, however, the physical power is insufficient to deliver us to perfection since we also possess cognitive power thousands of times more valuable than our physical power. Thus, for humanity there is a sequence of gradual development, unlike any animal: the gradual evolution of human thought.

Also, being a social creature individual development is not sufficient. Rather, one’s ultimate perfection relies on the development of all members of society. With regards to the development of one’s intelligence, namely one’s ability to discern what is good or bad for him, though we must not think that man is still at the rung of primitive man, it is quite clear that we have yet to attain perfection. Rather, we are still in the midst of our development, still given to the battle between the positive and negative forces of Creation, which are faithful messengers in their mission of delivering humanity to its ultimate perfection.

As I have stated, since the socialist ideal is the most just of all, it requires a highly developed generation to realize it properly. Since today humanity is on the middle rungs of the ladder of development, still caught between the battle of the positive and negative forces of Creation, it is unfit for this lofty ideal. Rather, it is premature, like unripe fruit. Therefore, not only is it bitter to taste, but the negative force in it is also harmful, even poisonous. This is the predicament of that nation [Russia], and the reason it suffers so, since they are untimely and lack the basic qualities needed to actualize this just form of government.

Do not think that I have any spiritual idea regarding this, for Marx himself says the same thing: He admits that on the first rung of society, flaws are unavoidable. However, he promises that “In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!” (Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program).

Thus, he, too, admits that it is hopeless to wait for a totally just form of government before humanity attains the highest rung, before labor itself becomes a vital need, meaning the life principle, and not for the purpose of provision. However, he concludes that while society is on a lower rung, it should still be conducted by communism—even with all its flaws. But as stated above, this is the stumbling block in his theory. Soviet Russia has already proven that an insufficiently developed society will turn communism into the worst form of government in the world. Moreover, he assumed that the subsequent state would be the workers’ government, but reality has demonstrated that the subsequent government is a Nazi or fascist government. This is a serious error. And worst of all it threatens specifically the Jewish People, without any differentiation of class. Indeed we must learn from history. First, the question arises: Such a leader who has shaken the world with his theory, how did he make such a serious error? What was his stumbling block? Indeed, this necessitates careful and sober consideration of his words.

As was stated above, the basis of his theory is historical materialism, in which society develops through competing forces by way of cause and effect, from state to state. When the negative force prevails, it demolishes that state, and a better state emerges in its place through the positive force. They continue to battle each other until eventually the positive force fully emerges. However, this means that the perfection of society is guaranteed by default, since the negative force will not retreat until it delivers it to perfection. It follows that we can sit idly by, waiting for the anticipated self-development. So why should he burden us with this tactic of his?

Indeed, it is a silly question since this is the difference between man and beast: animals rely entirely on nature. They are utterly incapable of elevating nature, or supporting themselves without it. Not so with man. He is endowed with an intellectual capacity through which he becomes free of the shackles of nature, elevating it. His way is to emulate Nature’s work and do likewise. He does not wait for chicks to hatch naturally, for the hen to come and warm the eggs. Instead, he builds a machine for himself that warms the eggs and hatches the chicks, as a hen does.

And if he does this with specific things, he will certainly do it with regard to the development of the whole of humanity. He will not rely on the competing forces, with him becoming victim to their clashing. Rather, he will advance Nature and thoroughly emulate its work in this development. He arranges a technique for himself in order to bring about the desired outcome in less time and with less effort.

This is what Marx wanted with his tactic: The organization, the class conflicts, and implementing obstacles to undermine the capitalist government. His tactic would ease the pains of the suffering subjects, and stomping on their backs. It would invigorate them to be their own subjects, and hasten the end of the backward regime to make room for the happy rule of the proletariat. In a word, the Marxist tactic turns the objects into subjects, establishing for them development as they wish. In summary, the basis is the nature of human development through causality, which we see is a natural engine for development. The tactic is a sort of artificial engine of human development, similar to a natural engine. The benefit of the tactic is saving time and minimizing misery.

Now we can begin the critique of his theory in a simple way. It is clear that when we want to produce a machine that replaces the work of Nature, we first need to closely observe Nature’s mechanism. Then we can set up an artificial mechanism, similar to the natural. For example, if we want to produce a machine that replaces a hen’s belly, which warms the eggs and hatches the chicks, we must first thoroughly understand Nature’s forces and manner of development, which operate in the hen’s belly. We observe them and produce a device similar to a hen’s belly, which can likewise hatch chicks.

So too concerning our matter. When we want to produce a device that will replace the engine of natural human development, here, too, we must first examine those two forces—positive and negative—that operate in nature. It is an engine by which nature performs the procedure of development. Then we, too, will know how to establish a tactic that is similar to the mechanism of Nature’s natural engine of development, and which will be just as successful in developing humanity. Clearly, if we misunderstand the mechanism of the natural engine, our substitute will be useless, since the whole idea is to mimic the natural ways of Creation and adapt artificial ones in their place.

To define the matters in original terms that will prevent any mistakes by any party, we should define the two forces—positive and negative—operating in the engine of human development by two names: “egoism” and “altruism.” I am not referring to moral terms which we use ordinarily. Rather, only to their material sense, meaning the extent to which they are embedded in the human body to the point that one can no longer liberate oneself from them. That is, with respect to their being active forces in a person: The egoistic force functions in him like קַרְנִי סֶנְטרוֹפֶּיטְלִים (qarni sentropetlim), centripetal rays, drawing inwards and concentrating within the body itself. And the altruistic force functions in him like קַרְנִי סֶנטרוֹפוּגלִים (qarni sentrofuglim), centrifugal rays, flowing from within the body outwards.

These forces exist in every fragment of reality, each according to its essence. They also exist in man, according to his essence. They are the determining factors of all our actions. There are actions that are caused by a force that serves an individual’s existence. This is a force which attracts to its center anything external which is of benefit. Were it not for this force the object itself would not exist. This is “egoism.”

Conversely, there are actions that are caused by a force which flows outward to the benefit of what is external. This force works to advantage of others, and it can be called “altruism.” Accordingly I have named the two forces that struggle with one another on the path of human development. I shall call the positive force, an “altruistic force,” and I shall call the negative force, an “egoistic force.” By the term, “egoism,” I am not referring to egoism according to its original meaning. Rather, I am referring to a narrow egoism. That is, originally egoism is nothing but self-interest, all of a person’s positive, individualistic power of existence. In that respect, it is not at odds with the altruistic force, although it does not serve it. However, it is the nature of egoism to hate and exploit others in order to make one’s own existence easier. Also, it is not abstract hatred, but one that appears in abusive acts toward one’s fellow for his own benefit. Growing ever darker by deceiving, cheating, robbing, and murdering. This is called “narrow egoism,” and in that respect it is at odds with—and the complete opposite from—love of others. It is a negative force that destroys society.

Its opposite is the altruistic force. This is society’s constructive force, since all that one does for another is done only by the altruistic force, as stated above. And it ascends in its rungs: the initial expression of this constructive force is having children and family life. The next [such expression] is benefiting relatives. The third is benefiting the state, and fourth is to benefit the entire world. The entire cause of social structuring is the altruistic force. As was already stated, these are the elements that operate in the natural engine of the development of humanity—the egoistic force, which is detrimental to society, and the altruistic, positive force, which is beneficial to society. In his emulation of the natural engine of development, Marx regarded only the results of these negative and positive forces, which are the building or destruction that take place in society. He planned his tactic according to them, but overlooked what causes these results.

This is similar to a physician not diagnosing the root cause of an illness, but healing the patient only according to his superficial symptoms. This approach always does more harm than good, since you must take both into account: the cause of the illness and the illness itself, and only then prescribe a successful remedy. That same deficiency exists in the Marxist tactic—he did not take into account subjective forces in society, but only what is constructive or flawed. As a result, the direction of his tactic was counterproductive, for while the productive is altruistic, the direction of the tactic was to the contrary. It is clear that the socialist government must be conducted in an altruistic direction, since the very words, “just division,” contain a purely altruistic ethos, and is totally devoid of egoism.

Egoism aims to exploit others entirely. As far as it is concerned, there is no justice as long as reality is not working to its own advantage. The very word, צֶדֶק (tsedeq), righteousness, means “social justice,” which is a concept in favor of the other. And to the same degree that it acknowledges the entitlement of the other, it necessarily abandons its own self-entitlement. It turns out that the very notion of “just division,” is an altruistic one. Realistically speaking, it is impossible to mend the rifts of a society with just division, unless through an exaggerated altruism. This is so since the reward for spiritual work is greater than that of physical work, and the work of the quick is more rewarding than the work of the slow, and a bachelor should receive less than one who has a family. Also, the hours of labor should be equal for all, and the produce of the labor should be equal for all. Indeed, how do we mend these rifts?

These are the main rifts, but they split into myriad more rifts, as appears before us in the Soviet play. The only way to mend them is through good altruistic expression, where the spiritual workers relinquish some of their share in favor of the physical workers, and the bachelors in favor of the married… or as Marx himself put it, “The labor itself becomes an imperative and not merely a means of provision.” This is nothing less than total altruism. And because a purposeful government must be altruistic by nature, it is necessary that the tactic that aims toward that objective should also be aimed in the same direction as the target, namely towards altruism.

However, in the Marxist tactic, we find the narrowest egoism. This is the opposite the direction of the target: nurturing hatred of the opposite class, implanting obstacles, demolishing the old regime, and cultivating in the workers a feeling that the entire world enjoys on the back of their work. All these overly intensify the narrow egotism among the workers. It completely deprives them of the altruistic feeling naturally inherent in them. And if the tactic moves in the opposite direction of the target outcome, how will one ever reach it? This engendered the contradiction between his theory and the new reality. He thought that the stage following the bourgeois government would be a socialist workers’ regime, but in the end we are living witnesses that if the democratic bourgeois government were to be demolished now, a Nazi and fascist regime would rise in its place straightaway. Also, it will not necessarily be through the present war, but whenever the democratic government is demolished, a fascist Nazi regime inherits it.

There is no doubt that if this happens the workers will be set back by a thousand years. They will have to wait for several regimes to arise by cause and effect before the world returned to today’s democratic bourgeois government. All this emerges from the egoistic tactic that was given to those subjects that should be the workers’ governance, and took the movement in an opposite direction from the intended outcome.

We should also take into account that all those who are ruining the natural process of just governance actually came from the proletariat and emerged from their midst, and not necessarily the Soviets, but the majority of Nazis were also initially pure socialists, as well as the majority of fascists. Even Mussolini himself was initially an enthusiastic socialist leader. This completes the picture of how the Marxist tactic has led the workers in the total opposite direction of the intended outcome.

Indeed, it is difficult to understand how such a straightforward matter could be overlooked by the creator of Marxist theory, especially since he himself determined that there is no remedy for communist society until “after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished.” Thus, it is clear that he was aware that a communist society without the members’ complete surrender of their shares in favor of the comrade is unsustainable.

And since he was aware of that altruistic element necessary for society, I assert that he did not intend to offer us a meaningful procedure by his tactic whatsoever. Rather, he intended primarily to hurry—through this tactic—the end of the present unjust government, on the one hand, and on the other hand, to organize the international proletariat and prepare them to be a strong, decisive force when the bourgeois government is [finally] demolished. These are fundamentals stages in facilitating the government of a communist society.

In that respect, his tactic is an invention of genius, the likes of which we do not find in history. And concerning the establishment of a happy society, he relied on history itself to complete it, for it was clear to him that in dire times, when the bourgeois government starts to die, the proletariat organization will find itself unprepared to assume government. At that time the workers will have to choose one of two options: one, either to destroy themselves and let the true destroyers, the Nazis and fascists, seize the helm of government, or two, find a good tactic by which to qualify the workers to take governance into their own hands. 

In his mind, he was certain that when we reach a state where the international proletariat forms a decisive power in the world, we will thank him for the validity of his theory, which has brought us thus far, and we ourselves will seek the way to continue moving toward the goal. Indeed, there has never been a inventor who did not leave the completion of his work to his successors.

If we delve further into his theory we discover that, in fact, he could not invent for us the tactic by which to complete the qualification of the workers, as they are two procedures that contradict one another. To create the fastest movement and destroy abusive governments, he had to employ the procedure in the direction of the narrowest egoism, meaning to develop profound hatred towards the class of abusers in order to increase the negative power into an instrument capable of demolishing the old government in the quickest possible time, and to organize the workers along the strongest ties. For this reason, he had to uproot and neutralize the altruistic force in the proletariat, whose nature is to tolerate and concede to its abusers. To qualify the workers in “practical socialism,” so they could assume the government de facto, he had to use the procedure in the altruistic direction, which contradicts the “organizational procedure.” Thus, he must have intended to leave this work for us.

He did not doubt our understanding or ability since the matter was so straightforward that a cooperative government is feasible only on an altruistic basis, so we would have to adopt a new tactic in the direction of altruism and qualify the workers to take governance into their own hands in a practical and sustainable manner. However, to comment on it, he found it necessary to depict for us the form of just government of the proletariat in the abbreviated words, “society [will] inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!” Thus, even a completely blind person would find these words to mean that just government is inconceivable except in an altruistic society in the fullest sense.

From this perspective, Marxism has not encountered any opposition due to the failed Russian experiment. And if Marxism has been arrested, it is only because its role in the first phase has been completed, namely organizing the international proletariat into a force. Now we must find a practical way to qualify the movement to actually acquire the government in its own hands. As stated before, the current procedure must be in the completely opposite direction from the previous tactic. Where we had cultivated excessive egoism, which was very successful in the first phase, we must now cultivate excessive altruism among the workers. This is utterly mandatory for the social nature of a socialist government. Thus, we will lead the movement with confidence in its practical role of acquiring the government into its own hands in its final form.

I am aware that it is not an easy task to completely reverse the direction of the movement so that all who hear it will be burned by it as if by boiling water. Yet, it is not as bad as it is seems. We can gain recognition for the movement through proper explanation that the interest of the class depends on this, “whether it persists or perishes,” whether to continue the Marxist movement or hand over the reigns of government to the Nazis and fascists—the most dangerous forces for a government of the workers, which pose a risk of being setback by a thousand years.

When the masses understand this, it is certain that they will easily adopt the new, practical tactic leading them to actual acquisition of the government. Who does not remember how the whole world anxiously awaited the successful end of the Soviet regime? And were they not successful, the whole world would undoubtedly be under the reins of a socialist government. Indeed, the Russians could not possibly succeed because the organizational direction to which the masses are accustomed is an egoistic one, which is necessary in the first phase, and by nature, it is a power that destroys the socialist government.

Before the theory is accepted, it is too soon to speak in any detail about the practical program of this direction, especially since my essay has become too long already. Briefly, we can say that we must set up such dissemination, scientifically and practically, that will be certain to impress in the public opinion that any member who does not excel in altruism is like a predator that is unfit to be among human beings, until he senses himself within society a murderer and a robber. If we systematically engage in circulating this matter using the appropriate manners, it will not require such a long process. Hitlerism has proven that within a short amount of time, an entire country has been turned upside down through propaganda, accepting his bizarre notion.

Now that facts of history have clarified the right way forward henceforth, I urgently appeal to our workers. As was already stated, the nations of the world may wait, especially now that there is global upheaval and we must first be rid of the Hitlerian danger. But we have no time to waste. I ask that you will promptly pay attention to this new theory that I have proposed, and which I call “practical socialism,” for until now the role of socialism, in my view, was merely “organizational socialism,” as stated above.

If my theory is accepted, we should also change the outward tactic, where instead of the old weapon of class hatred and hatred of religion, they will be given a new weapon—hatred of excessive egoism within. It is fit for its task from every vantage because not only will the opposite class be unable to defend itself using the dense shields of moral and religious dogmas, it will also uproot along the way various harmful weeds of Nazism and fascism that have taken root quite strongly among the proletariat itself, risking its existence, as stated above.

We should also take into account the beauty of this weapon, which is most enticing and can unite our youth around it. In fact, the change is not so much in the tactic, but rather only in the result. Until now, when they fought against the depriving of the class, the demonstrator always looks through the narrow possessive-egoistic perspective, since he is protecting his own possession. Thus, along with his battle, the excessive egoistic force expands in him, and the social justice warriors themselves are caught up in the same bourgeois perspective.

It is also very unlike the [property] owners’ approach, for they believe in their complete entitlement from every side, by law, religion, and ethics, protecting themselves by all the means. However, when fighting against the egoism of the owners using the broad perspective of an altruistic outlook, the result is that the power of altruism grows within them in proportion to the level of their struggle. Thus, the entitlement of the owners becomes very flawed and they cannot defend themselves, for this type of war relies heavily on the ethical and religious perception in the owners themselves.

Thus, my theory holds the key for national unity, for which we are so thirsty at this time. History itself has already broken many of the political divides among us, for now we can no longer distinguish between anti-Zionists, religious Zionists, secular Zionists, territorial ones and so forth. Now that all the hopes of breathing free air outside our country have been shattered, even the most devout anti-Zionists have become, by necessity, complete practical Zionists. Thus, in principle, the majority of rifts in out midst have been mended.

However, we are still suffering from two terrible divides: class divide and religious divide. We must not slight these whatsoever, nor can we hope to ever be rid of them. However, if my new theory of “practical socialism,” which I have suggested, is accepted by the movement, we will be rid once and for all of the class divide, too, which has been stuck in the nation’s back.

As was already stated, the new tactic takes much from religion, and does not aim at abusing offenders, but only at their offenses—only at the contemptible egoism within them. In truth, the same war will unfold in part within the movement, too, which will necessarily abolish class hatred and religious hatred. We will have the ability to understand one another and attain a complete unity of the nation with all its factions and streams, as this grave hour necessitates for us all. This is the guarantee of our victory on all fronts.