Peace by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam)
Empirical research regarding the obligation to serve the blessed Holy One
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them (Isaiah 11:6).
… And it shall come to pass in that day, that YHWH shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, who shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea (ibid., 11).
“Rabbi Shim’on son of Ḥalafta said, ‘The blessed Holy One found no vessel to hold blessing for Israel but peace, as it says: May YHWH give strength to His people. May YHWH bless His people with peace (Psalms 29:11)” (M Uqtsin 3:12).
After having demonstrated in previous essays a general overview of His service, whose essence is but the love of others, defined in practice as “giving to others,” meaning that the actualization of love of others is rendering kindness to others—aiming to ensure that we will not forget the purpose.
Now that we know for certain the mode of His service, there still remains to inquire whether this service is acceptable to us on faith alone, without any empirical basis, or whether we also have an empirical basis for it. This is what I want to demonstrate in the essay before us. But first I must thoroughly demonstrate the subject itself, meaning who it is who accepts our service.
However, I am not a lover of formal philosophy, since I detest theoretically based studies. And it is well known that most of my contemporaries agree with me, for we have tested such foundations, which are shaky. When the foundation moves a little, the whole building comes tumbling down.
Therefore, I have come to speak only by critique of empirical reason, starting from the simple recognition no one objects to, proving analytically (separating out the various elements in a matter), until we come to determine the sublime. And it will be tested synthetically (the unity and connection between matters, such as הֶקֵשׁ [heqesh], analogy, and קַל וָחוֹמֶר [qal va-ḥomer, the exegetical principle of inference from] minor to major), how the blessed Holy One’s service is confirmed and reaffirmed by simple recognition from a practical perspective [cf. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason].
Contradictions in providence
Any reasonable person who examines the reality before us discovers in it two polar opposites. When we consider the order in Creation, with regard to its existence and endurance, our eyes behold striking evidence of guidance, profound wisdom, and great skill, in terms of both the emergence of particular aspects of reality and the ensuring of their existence in a general way.
Let us take the making of a human being as an example: the love and delight of its parents is the first incentive bound to perform its function. And when the foundational drop is taken from the father’s brain, providence has very wisely arranged a safe place for it, which prepares it to receive the רוּחַ חַיִּים (ruaḥ ḥayyim), breath of life. Providence allots it its daily bread in precise measure, and it also readies wonderful bedding for it in the mother’s womb so that no stranger can harm it.
It tends to its every need like a expert nanny who will not forget it even for a moment, until it has acquired the strength to emerge into our world. At that time, providence briefly lends it just enough strength to break the walls that surround it, and like a seasoned warrior it breaks an opening and emerges into the world.
Then, too, providence does not abandon it. Like a loving mother, it brings it to such caring, loyal people it can trust, called “mother” and “father” to assist it through its days of feebleness until it grows and is able to sustain itself. Like the human, so are all the animals, plants, and inanimate objects—all are cared for in wisdom and compassion, ensuring their existence and the propagation of the species.
But those who examine this reality from the perspective of provision and continued existence can plainly see tremendous confusion and chaos, as though there were no leader and no guidance. Every man did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25)—building himself on the ruin of others. The wicked thrive and the righteous are trampled mercilessly.
Bear in mind that this paradox, set before the eyes of every reasonable and educated person, has preoccupied humanity since time immemorial. And there are many approaches to account for these two apparent contradictions in providence, inhabiting the very same world.
First approach: Nature
This approach is an ancient one. Since they did not find an entry way to bring these two polar opposites closer, they came to assume that the Creator, who created all these, who mightily watches over His existence lest any of it be annulled, is not all knowing but rather foolish.
Hence, although He watches over the existence of reality with wondrous wisdom, yet He Himself is thoughtless, and does all that without purpose. If there was any reason and sensing in Him, He would certainly not leave such malfunctions in the provision of existence without pity and compassion for the tormented. For this reason, they named Him “Nature”—an unknowing, unfeeling overseer. And therefore, in their opinion there is no one to resent, pray to, or justify oneself to.
Second approach: two authorities
Others were more wise since they found it difficult to accept belief in Nature’s providence. They saw that providence is far beyond human wisdom. They could not accept that the One who supervises all would Himself be thoughtless—for how can one give that which he does not possess? And can one instruct his fellow while he himself is a fool?
How can it be the one who sets before us acts in wondrous wisdom does not know what He is doing, but rather does so by accident? It is evident that chance cannot order any precise act, devised in wisdom, much less ensure its perpetual existence.
This is why they came to the second opinion, that there are two authorities: one creates and sustains the good, and the other creates and sustains the bad. And along their way they greatly elaborated on this with evidence and proof.
Third approach: numerous gods
This approach was derived from the approach of two authorities, since they isolated each and every act from the all-encompassing act [of Creation], that is: Power, Wealth, Domination, Beauty, Famine, Death, Chaos, and so forth. They appointed each its own overseer, and expanded this as they wished.
Fourth approach: His abandonment
With the increase in wisdom as of late they see the tremendous interconnection between all aspects of Creation, they realized the idea of multiple gods is totally impossible. Thus, under close examination the problem of paradox in Creation was felt once again.
This led them to a new opinion: that the Overseer is indeed wise and caring. Yet, due to His exaltedness, which is beyond conception, our world is but a mustard seed, nothing in His eyes. It is not worth His while to bother with our petty affairs, and this is why we are neglected and left to chaos, every man doing what was right in his own eyes.
Alongside these approaches, there were religious approaches of divine unity. But this is not the place to examine them, as I wanted only to examine the origins from which the flawed approaches and bewildering opinions that vastly dominated and expanded in different times and places were taken.
We find that the basis on which the aforementioned approaches were built, having emerged from the apparent paradox between the two types of providence perceived in our world, came only to bridge this great divide.
Yet, the world persists as always. And not only was that great divide not bridged it expands before our eyes into a daunting abyss, without hope of escape. And when I look at all the attempts man has made these several thousand years to no avail, from the perspective of the Overseer I wonder if we should seek to bridge this great divide at all, but rather accept that this great תִקּוּן (tiqqun), repair, is in our own hands.
The necessity to practice caution with the laws of Nature
We can all plainly see that the human species must lead a social life, meaning it cannot subsist without the help of others [cf. Aristotle, Politics: “Man is by nature a social animal”]. Therefore, picture a circumstance in which a man retires from society to a desolate place and lives there a life of misery and great suffering due to his inability to provide for his needs. That man would have no right to protest against his fate. And if he were to do that, that is complain and curse his bitter fate, he would merely be showing his own stupidity.
This is because while providence has prepared a comfortable, appealing place for him in society, he has no justification to remove himself to a desolate place. Such a man should not be pitied, since he is going against the nature of Creation; since he has counsel to live as providence has decreed, he should not be pitied. That decree is agreed upon by all of humanity without dissent.
And I emphasize it on a religious basis, giving it the form of law: since providence emanates from the Creator, who undoubtedly acts with purpose, and since there is no action without intention, we find that anyone who violates חוּקִי הַטֶבַע (ḥuqi ha-teva), the Laws of Nature, הַטבִּיעַ (hatbi’a), embedded, in us, ruins the plan [of Creation].
Because that plan is undoubtedly built into all the Laws of Nature, none excluded, just as the wise laborer does not add or subtract even a hairsbreadth of the necessary effort to carry out his plan, he who alters even a single law ruins the Creator’s plan, and will therefore be punished by nature. Hence, we, too, creatures of the blessed Holy One must not pity such a man because he violates the Laws of Nature and ruins the divine plan. That, in my opinion, is the form of the law.
And I think it isn’t worthwhile for anyone to disagree with the form I have given to the law, because the words of the law are one. For in the end what is the difference if we say that the Overseer is blind “Nature,” or that the Overseer is wise, wonderful, knowing, feeling, and whose acts have intention?
In the end, we all admit that we are obligated to keep the commandments of providence, meaning the Laws of Nature. And we all admit that one who violates the commandments of providence, meaning the Laws of Nature, must be punished by Nature, and should not be pitied by anyone. Look, the nature of the law is one in the same, and the only difference is in the motivation: in their opinion it is [merely] necessary, while for me it is by design.
To avoid having to use both expressions—טֶבַע (teva), Nature, and מַשׁגִיחַ (mashgiaḥ), Overseer, in which there is no difference, as I have shown with respect to following the laws—from now on it is best for us to meet halfway and accept the words of the kabbalists that הַטֶבַע (ha-teva), Nature, is numerically equivalent to אֱלֹהִים (Elohim), God—eighty-six [and this serves as a mnemonic, see Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, Get ha-Shemot, 101b (MS Oxford, 1682); Rabbi Ḥayyim Luzzatto, Da’at ha-Tevunot]. Then, I am able to call חוּקִי אֱלֹהִים (ḥuqi Elohim), the Laws of God, מִצְווֹת הַטֶבַע (mitsvot ha-teva), the commandments of Nature, and vice-versa, for they are one and the same, and we need not discuss it further [cf. Philo, A Treatise on the Life of Moses, 2:12–14; De Mundi Opificio, 3; Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 2:40].
Now it is critically important for us to examine Nature’s commandments, to know what She demands of us, lest She punish us mercilessly. We have said that Nature obligates the human species to lead a social life, and this is simple. But we must examine the commandments that Nature obligates us to keep, with respect to the social life.
In general, we find that there are only two commandments to follow in society. These can be called קְבָּלָה (qabbalah), “receiving,” and הַשְׁפִּיעַ (hashpi’a), “giving.” This means that each fellow must, by nature, receive his needs from society and must benefit society through his work for its well-being. And if one violates one of these two commandments, he is punished mercilessly, as we said.
Now, we need not examine the commandment of receiving excessively, since the punishment is carried out immediately, preventing any neglect. But with the other commandment, that of giving to society, not only is the punishment not immediate, but it is administered indirectly. Therefore, this commandment is not kept properly.
Thus, humanity is scorched by the fire of a pot boiling over furiously, and war and famine and their consequences have so far not ceased. And the amazing thing about it is that Nature, like a skillful judge, punishes us according to our development. For we can see that to the same degree the human species develops, so too the torments and suffering involved in the acquisition of our provisions for our subsistence also proliferate.
Thus you have an empirical basis that His providence has commanded us to keep with all our might the commandment of giving to others in utter precision, in such a way that no fellow from among us would work any less than the measure required to secure the happiness of society and its success. And as long as we are idle in fulfilling this, Nature will not refrain from punishing and taking revenge against us.
And besides the blows we suffer today, we must also take into account the sword drawn for the future. Here the correct conclusion must be made—that Nature will ultimately triumph and we will all be forced to join hands in following Her commandments to the degree required of us.
Proof of His service by experience
But he who wishes to criticize my words might still ask, “Although so far you have proven that one must work to benefit people, where is the proof that it must be done for the blessed Holy One?”
Indeed, history itself has troubled in our favor and has prepared for us an established fact, sufficient for a full appreciation and unequivocal conclusion: anyone can see how a large society like the state of Russia, with hundreds of millions in population, more land than the whole of Europe, second to none in wealth of raw materials, and which has already agreed to lead a communal life and practically abolished private property altogether, where each worries only about the wellbeing of society, has seemingly acquired to the utmost degree the virtue of giving to others in the deepest sense, as far as the human mind can grasp.
And yet, go and see what has become of them. Instead of rising and exceeding the achievements of the bourgeois states, they sink ever lower. Now, they not only fail to benefit the lives of the workers a little more than in the bourgeois countries, they cannot even secure their daily bread or clothe their bare flesh. Indeed, this is shocking to us, because judging by the wealth of that country and its large population, it should not have come to this.
But this nation has erred with one offence the blessed Holy One will not forgive. For all this precious and exalted work, namely giving to others, which they have undertook, must be for the blessed Holy One and not for the sake of humanity. And because they serve, but not for His sake, from Nature’s perspective, they have no right to exist.
Try to imagine if every person in that society were anxious to keep the commandment of the blessed Holy One to the extent of the verse: And you shall love YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your being and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:4), and to that extent each would rush to satisfy the needs and wants of his fellow to the utmost degree as it is man’s nature to satisfy his own wants, as is written, love your fellow as yourself (Leviticus 19:18).
If the blessed Holy One Himself were the aim of every worker while working for the well-being of society, meaning that the worker would anticipate that this service to society would reward him with cleaving with Him, the source of all truth and goodness and every sweetness and tenderness, there is no doubt that within a few years they would soar in wealth over all the countries of the world put together. That is because then they would be able to utilize the raw materials in their rich soil, would truly be an example for all the countries, and would be called blessed by the blessed Holy One.
But when all the work of giving to others is based solely on the benefit of society, it is a shaky foundation, for who and what would obligate the individual to toil for society? In a dry, lifeless principle, one can never hope to find motivation even among developed people, much less for undeveloped people. Thus arises the question, “Where would the worker or the farmer find sufficient motivation to work?”
For his daily bread will not increase or decrease according to his efforts, and there are no goals or rewards awaiting him. It is well known to researchers of Nature that one cannot perform even the slightest movement without motivation, without somehow benefiting himself.
When, for example, one moves his hand from the chair to the table, it is only because he thinks that by putting his hand on the table he will enjoy it more. If he did not think so, he would leave his hand on the chair for the rest of his life without moving it at all. All the more so with greater efforts.
And if you say that there is a solution—to place them under supervision so that anyone who is idle at his work will be punished by withholding his salary, I will ask, “Do tell me where the supervisors themselves should take the motivation for their work?” Because standing at one place and watching over people to motivate them to work is a great effort, too, perhaps more than the work itself! Therefore, it is like one wishes to switch on a machine without powering it.
Hence, they are doomed by Nature, since the Laws of Nature will punish them because they do not conform to Her decrees—performing these acts of giving to others in the form of serving the blessed Holy One, in order to attain the purpose of Creation, which is cleaving with Him. It was explained in the essay Matan Torah, that this cleaving comes to the one who labors in the manner of His sweet and delightful abundance, increasing to the desired degree for ascending to apprehend the truth of the blessed Holy One, until he is rewarded with what is hinted at by: Neither has the eye seen, O God, besides You, [what He has prepared for him that waits for Him] (Isaiah 64:4).
And imagine the farmer and the worker were so inspired while serving the well-being of society, they would certainly not need any supervisors, since they would already have sufficient motivation for a great effort, enough to raise society to the heights of happiness.
But the truth is that understanding this in such a way requires great care and proven conducts [or: faithful arrangements]. But everyone can see that without it they have no right to exist from the perspective of unyielding Nature, which knows no compromise, and this is what I wanted to demonstrate here.
Thus, I have shown from the perspective of empirical reason—from the actual history unfolding before our very eyes—that there is no other cure for humanity but to accept the commandment of providence: giving to others in order to please the blessed Holy One to the degree of two verses.
First: love your fellow as yourself (Leviticus 19:18), which is the quality of the service itself. This means that the extent one endeavors to give to others for the betterment of society should be no less than the extent he naturally cares for his own needs. Moreover, he should put his fellow’s needs before his own, as is written in the essay Matan Torah.
Then: And you shall love YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your being and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:4). This is the goal that must be before everyone’s eyes when serving his fellow’s needs. This means that he labors and toils only to find favor in the eyes of the Creator—that He speak and they perform His will.
If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land (Isaiah 1:19)—for poverty and suffering and exploitation shall be no more in the land, and the happiness of each and every one shall soar ever higher, beyond measure. But as long as you refuse to assume the covenant of serving the blessed Holy One to the utmost degree, Laws of Nature stand ready to exact revenge. And as we have explained, He will not relent until He defeats us and we accept His authority, in whatever He commands.
And here I have provided you with research according to the critique of empirical reason regarding the absolute necessity of all people to assume the service of the blessed Holy One with all their heart, soul, and might.
Clarification of a saying from the Mishnah
Now that we have learned all the above, we can understand a statement which is unclear: “[Rabbi Akiva] used to say: All is given on collateral, and a net is spread over all the living. The shop is open, the shopkeeper extends credit, the ledger is open, and the hand records. Whoever wishes to borrow may come and borrow. The collectors regularly make their daily rounds and collect payment from a person, whether he realizes it or not. They have [a record] on which they can rely; the judgment is just; and all is prepared for the banquet” (M Avot 3:20).
Not for nothing does this parable remain hidden to us, without even a hint as to its meaning. This tells us that there is a great depth to delve into here. Indeed, it is well understood according to the knowledge we have acquired thus far.
The wheel of transformation
First, let me present the opinion of our sages concerning the unfolding of the generations of the world: although we see the bodies changing from generation to generation, this is only the case with the bodies. But the souls, which are the essence of the body, do not vanish, to be replaced, but travel from body to body, from generation to generation. The same souls that were at the time of the flood came also during the time of Babylon, and in the exile in Egypt, and in the exodus from Egypt, and so forth, until this generation and until the end of correction [see BT Shabbat 152b; Bahir §121–22, §195].
Thus, in our world, there are no new souls the way bodies are renewed, but only a certain amount of souls that cycle on the wheel of transformation, because each time they enclothe in a new body and a new generation.
Therefore, with regard to the souls, all generations since the beginning of Creation to the final correction are like one generation that has extended its life over several thousand years, until it developed and was corrected as it should be. And the fact that in the meantime each has exchanged its body thousands of times is completely irrelevant, because the essence of the body’s self, called “the soul,” does not suffer at all by these changes.
And there is much evidence pointing to this, and a great wisdom called “the mystery of גִלגוּל הַנְשָׁמוֹת (gilgul ha-neshamot), cycling souls.” And while this is not the place to explain it, because of the great importance of the matter, it is worthwhile to point out to the uninformed that cycling souls occurs in all the objects of tangible reality, and each object, in its own way, lives eternal life.
Although our senses tell us that everything is transient, this is only how we see it. In fact, here there are only cycles—no object is still, nor does it rest for even a moment, rather it cycles on the wheel of transformation, losing nothing of its essence along its way, as physicists have shown.
And now we come to clarify: “All is given on collateral.” This has been compared to someone who lends money to his fellow in order to make him a partner in the profit. To make sure that he doesn’t lose his money, he gives it to him as collateral, and thus he is free of any uncertainty. The same applies to the creation of the world and its existence, which the blessed Holy One has prepared for humanity to engage in and to eventually attain through it the exalted intention of cleaving with Him, as is explained in the essay Matan Torah. Thus, one must wonder, who would compel humanity to engage in His service, until they finally come to this exalted end?
Rabbi Akiva informs us about that: “All is given on collateral.” This means that everything that the blessed Holy One placed in Creation and has given to people, He did not give to them for free, but secured Himself with collateral. And should you wonder what collateral He was given? He replies: “and a net is spread over all the living.” This means that the blessed Holy One has cleverly devised a wonderous net and spread it over all of humanity, so no one will escape. All the living must be caught in this net and inevitably accept His service, until they attain their sublime purpose. This is the collateral with which the blessed Holy One secured Himself, to guarantee that no harm would come to the act of Creation.
Afterwards, he interprets it in detail and says, “The shop is open.” Meaning that this world seems to us like an open shop, without a shopkeeper, and anyone who passes through may take as much as he wishes, free of charge. However, Rabbi Akiva warns us that the shopkeeper sells on credit. In other words, although you cannot see any shopkeeper here, know that there is a shopkeeper, and the reason that he is not demanding payment is because he sells to you on credit.
And should you say, “How does He know what I owe?” He replies, “The ledger is open, and the hand records.” Meaning there is a book in which each act is written without fail. And the purpose revolves around the law of development that the blessed Holy One has embedded in humanity, which drives us ever forward.
This means that corrupt leadership in the states of humanity are the very ones that generate the good states. And each good state is nothing but the fruit of the labor in the bad state which preceded it. Indeed, these values of good and bad do not refer to the value of the state itself, but to the general purpose: each state that brings humanity closer to the purpose [of Creation] is called “good,” and one that distances them from the purpose is called “bad.”
By this standard alone the “law of development” is built—the corruption and wickedness that arises in a state are considered the cause of the good state, so that each state lasts just long enough to cultivate the evil in it to such a degree that the public can no longer tolerate it. At that time, the public is forced to join against it, uproot it, and regroup in a better state for the restoration of that generation.
And the new state, too, lasts just as long as the sparks of wickedness in it ripen and reach such a degree that they can no longer be tolerated, at which time it must be destroyed and a more peaceful state is built in its stead. And so the states clear up one by one and rung by rung until they come to such a restored state that it is without any sparks of wickedness.
And you discover that all the seeds from which the good states grow are only the corrupt deeds themselves, meaning that all the wickedness laid bare from under the hands of the wicked of the generation merge and accrue a great sum, until they weigh so heavily that the public can no longer bear them. Then, they rise up and demolish it and create a more desirable state. Thus you see that all the wickedness done becomes the driving force by which the good state is developed.
These are the words of Rabbi Akiva: “The ledger is open, and the hand records.” Any state that the generation is in is like a book, and all the wicked ones are as writing hands because each evil is carved and written in the book until they accrue an amount that the public can no longer bear. Then, they demolish that wicked state and regroup into a more desirable state. Thus, each and every act is calculated and written in the book, meaning in the state.
And he says, “Whoever wishes to borrow may come and borrow.” This means that he believes that this world is not like an open shop without shopkeeper, but that there is an owner present, a shopkeeper who stands in his shop and demands of each customer the right price for the merchandise he takes from the shop, meaning toiling in His service while he is nourished by that shop, in a manner that is certain to deliver him to the purpose of Creation, as He desires.
Such a person is regarded as he who wishes to borrow. Thus, even before he reaches out his hand to take from this world, which is the shop, he promises to faithfully repay his debt. In other words, he takes it upon himself to labor in order to attain His desire during the time he is supported by the shop, in a way that he promises to pay his debt by achieving the desired goal. Therefore, he is deemed as one who wishes to borrow, meaning that he pledges to return the debt.
Such a person is regarded as one who wishes to borrow. Thus, even before he stretches his hand to take from this world, “the shop,” he takes it on credit. In other words, he takes it upon himself to labor in order to attain His desire during the time he is supported by the shop—he promises to repay his debt by laboring for the purpose [of Creation]. Therefore, he is deemed one who wants to take purchase on credit.
Rabbi Akiva portrays two types of people: the first are “the shop is open” type, which regard this world as an open shop without shopkeeper. Of them he says, “The ledger is open, and the hand records.” Meaning, although they do not see that there is an account, all their actions are nonetheless written in the book, as explained above. This is according to the law of development embedded in Creation against humanity’s will, in which the deeds of the wicked themselves necessarily give rise to the good deeds, as we have shown above.
The second type of person is called “whoever wishes to borrow.” They take the shopkeeper into consideration, and when they take something from the shop, they only take it on credit. They promise to repay the shopkeeper the fixed price, meaning to attain the purpose [of Creation] by it. And of them he says, “Whoever wishes to borrow may come and borrow.”
And if you say, “What is the difference between the first type, in which the purpose [of Creation] comes to them according to the law of development, and the other type, in which the purpose [of Creation] comes to them by enslaving themselves to His service? Are they not equal in attaining the goal?!”
In that regard, he continues, “The collectors regularly make their daily rounds and collect payment from a person, whether he realizes it or not.” Thus, in truth, both give their daily payments of the debt.
And just as the forces that emerge by engaging in His service are deemed faithful collectors, who collect their debt incrementally each day, until it is paid in full, the mighty forces embedded in the law of development are also deemed faithful collectors who collect on their debt. This is the meaning of, “The collectors regularly make their daily rounds and collect payment from a person.”
However, there is a great difference and distance between them, meaning “whether he realizes it or not.” The first type pay their debt unknowingly, but storming waves crash upon them from the strong wind of development, driving them from behind, forcing them to advance.
Thus, their debt is collected against their will and with great suffering through manifestations of the forces of evil, which drive them from behind. But the second type pay their debt, which is the attainment of the purpose [of Creation] knowingly, of their own accord, by repeating the deeds which hasten the development of the sense of recognition of evil. And through this labor they gain doubly.
The first gain that these forces, which manifest from His service, are set before them as a magnetic force. They chase after it of their own free choice, with the spirit of love. Needless to say, they are free from any kind of sorrow and suffering like the first type.
The second gain is that they hasten the purpose [of Creation], for they are the righteous and the prophets who attain the goal in each generation, as is explained in the essay, Mahutah shel ḥokhmat ha-qabbalah (The Essence of the Wisdom of Kabbalah), in, Al mah sovevet ha-ḥokhmah (What Does the Wisdom Revolve Around?).
“All is given on collateral, and a net is spread over all the living. The shop is open, the shopkeeper extends credit, the ledger is open, and the hand records. Whoever wishes to borrow may come and borrow. The collectors regularly make their daily rounds and collect payment from a person, whether he realizes it or not. They have [a record] on which they can rely; the judgment is just; and all is prepared for the banquet.”
Thus you see that there is a great difference between those who pay knowingly and those who pay unknowingly, as the profit of the light of sweet delight over the darkness of pain and suffering. As he says: “They have [a record] on which they can rely.” In other words, he promises all those who pay knowingly and willingly that they have what to rely on, that there is great strength in His service to bring them to the sublime purpose [of Creation], and it is worthwhile for them to harness themselves under His burden.
And of those who pay unknowingly, he says, “the judgment is just.” Seemingly, one must wonder why providence permits corruption and suffering to manifest in the world, in which humanity is being scorched mercilessly.
He says about it that this “the judgment is just,” since “all is prepared for the banquet,” for the true intention. And the sublime delight that is destined to emerge with the revelation of His purpose in Creation, when all the trouble and toil and anguish that befall us through time will seem like a host who troubles himself greatly to prepare a great feast for the invited guests. And he compares the anticipated end that must finally be revealed to a banquet, whose guests attend with great pleasure. This is why he says, “the judgment is just; and all is prepared for the banquet.”
Such as that you will find regarding the creation of man:
The ministering angels said to the blessed Holy One: “Master of the Universe! 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 Universe! YHWH our Master, how majestic Your name in all the earth! (ibid., 10). Do what pleases You!” (Bereshit Rabbah 8:6).
Interpretation: The ministering angels who saw all the pain and suffering that was to befall humanity wondered “Why do You need this trouble?” And the blessed Holy One replied to them that indeed he had a tower full of good things, but only humanity was invited to it. And of course, the ministering angels weighed the pleasures in that tower, awaiting its guests, against the suffering and trouble that awaited humanity.
And once they saw that it was worthwhile for humanity to suffer for the good that awaited them, they agreed to the creation of man, just as Rabbi Akiva said, “the judgment is just; and all is prepared for the banquet.” Since the beginning of Creation, all people have had doubts but the thought of the blessed Holy One imposes on them to come to the banquet, knowingly or unknowingly.
And now all will see the truth in the words of the prophet in the prophecy of peace: The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid (Isaiah 11:6). And he reasoned: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of YHWH, as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9).
Thus, the prophet makes filling the whole world with knowledge of the blessed Holy One a condition for peace in the world, just as we have said above. The egoistic resistance between man and man deteriorate will not cease from the world by any human counsel or tactic, whatever it may be.
Our eyes see how the destitute turn over in dreadful, intolerable suffering, and humanity has already veered to the extreme right, as with Germany, or to the extreme left, as with Russia. But not only have they not eased the situation for themselves, they have worsened the plague and suffering, and the tulmult reaches up to the sky, as we all know.
Thus, they have no other choice but to accept His burden in knowledge of the blessed Holy One, meaning that they bend their actions to the will of the blessed Holy One and to His purpose, as He planned for them before Creation. And when they do that, it is plain to see that with His service, all envy and hatred will be abolished from humanity, as I have shown above. This is because then all members of humanity will unite into one body and one heart, full of the knowledge of the blessed Holy One. Thus, world peace and the knowledge of Him are one and the same thing.
Immediately following, the prophet says, And it shall come to pass in that day, that YHWH shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people…and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth (Isaiah 11:11–12). Thus we learn that world peace comes before the ingathering of the exiles.
Now you can understand the words of our sages: Rabbi Shim’on son of Ḥalafta said, “The blessed Holy One found no vessel to hold blessing for Israel but peace, as it says: May YHWH give strength to His people. May YHWH bless His people with peace (Psalms 29:11)” (M Uqtsin 3:12). Seemingly, one should wonder about this, “vessel to hold blessing for Israel.” Moreover, how does one draw that conclusion from these words?
But these words become clear to them like the prophecy of Isaiah that world peace precedes the ingathering of the exiles. This is it says, May YHWH give strength to His people—that in the future, when the blessed Holy One gives His people strength, meaning everlasting revival, then: May YHWH bless His people with peace. This means that He will first bless His people, Israel, with peace the world over, and then He shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people.
Our sages said about the reason for the words: the blessing of peace in the whole world precedes the strength, meaning the redemption, because “The blessed Holy One found no vessel to hold blessing for Israel but peace.” Thus, as long as self-interest and egoism exist among the nations, the Children of Israel, too, will not be able to serve the blessed Holy One on the side of purity in the matter of giving to others, as is written, And as for you, you will become for Me a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6), in the essay, Ha-Arvut. And we see it from experience, for coming to the Land and building the Temple can not be maintained in order to receive the blessings the blessed Holy One has sworn to our Patriarchs.
And this is why they said, “The blessed Holy One found no vessel to hold blessing for Israel but peace,” meaning until this time Israel has no vessel to hold the blessing of the Patriarchs. Therefore, the promise that we inherit the Land for all eternity has not yet been fulfilled, because world peace is the sole vessel that enables us to receive the blessing of the Patriarchs, as in the prophecy of Isaiah.