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Da Et Atzmcha (7) Receiving Separates & Giving Unites

Last time, we summarized the processes of hachna'ah and havdalah. We committed to discuss, from here on, the process of hamtakah. The work of hachna'ah and havdalah is subjugating evil and separating from it. On the other hand, the work of hamtakah is to unite. It is the opposite of hachna'ah and havdalah. We already mentioned when discussing these themes, and especially when dealing with the world of the "alone," that the goal is not for a person to be separate. Rather, the goal is to unite. Hachna'ah and havdalah are only preparatory, as a path in one's avodah for the sake of uniting later. This unity is called hamtakah.

For example, if a person is offered something bitter to eat or drink, he wants to be separate from it, but if offered something sweet, he wants to connect with it, by putting it inside his body. This is the idea of hamtakah. It is unifying and merging-firstly, with of the Jewish people; then, with all the peoples of the world; and after that, with all of creation.

We will try to gradually explain this concept, with the help of Hashem. The Jewish people has 600,000 primary souls, as is known. In the whole world, there are a great many people. From the standpoint of the body, each person is a distinct entity. Each body is separate. In order to unify people, we need to employ the principle discussed earlier. If a person only sees himself as a body with a soul inside, then as a body, he cannot really unite with others. There can be unity for a few moments, but that is all. Absolute unity only exists when a person sees himself as a soul on which the body is merely a garment. The true merging and unity cannot come through a body. It can come only through the spiritual power of the person, the neshamah.

Therefore, it is clear that unless one has progressed according to our prior talks and sees himself as essentially a soul, it is impossible for him to enter the work of hamtakah. The whole nature of hamtakah is unity and merging. But as long as one openly lacks the ability to do so, he cannot attempt to unite. This would be like someone taking a car key and trying to start a car, but cannot, because he only has a key, not a car! If one has a car, and just needs to start it, he can take the key and turn it in the ignition, and the car can go at 140 kilometers per hour, but with only a key, one cannot travel. So too, the information here is only a key, but one must have the "car," the power for uniting, which is the holy neshamah that must be exposed in the person. If so, all we will be saying now must be taken as a stage above what has been said until now.

It's clear, then, that from the standpoint of the body, each person is a distinct entity. The root of merging and unity is the power of the soul. When speaking before of hachna'ah and havdalah, we explained that good comes from the soul, evil comes from the body, and a person's avodah is to subjugate and separate the evil within, be it in action, speech, or thought. There is an inner root for good, and another root for evil. Goodness (tov) relates to connection, as it says (Bereishit 2:18), "It is not good (tov) for man to be alone." We can infer from this that if being alone is not good, unity with others is good.

What unites, and what separates? One who has learned some of Rav Ashlag's writings, or alternatively, the writings of Rav Dessler, knows that they considered one's avodah in this world to be based on the issue of giving as opposed to taking. Taking makes one separate. We cannot call it inherently evil, because if one takes honestly, and is not stealing or cheating, it is not an evil act, but it relates to evil. Giving relates to goodness and unity.

We will consider this matter more deeply. When, for example, ten people come together to listen to a speech about how to run a business, a university graduate with a master's degree might be teaching each of them how to develop a successful business. He may have the wisdom of twenty years of experience in business, and he is lecturing about this. Ten people come to hear him. They all have the same goal: to establish a successful business. Superficially, it seems that there are ten united people. All come with one clear goal. They all listen quietly and attentively to each word. They paid for the talk, and they will not waste their money. So it seems they are united. But from a deeper perspective, there are ten people almost totally separate from each other. Why? It is true that each has the identical goal of learning how to set up a business. But why does he want the business? To take care of himself.

If all ten would come to learn how to do a business so as to give speeches in order to help others by teaching them how to be successful in business, the goal would be one: they would be listening in order to publicize the information in the world for the benefit of mankind. But when the goal of each is only that he will open a business, have money, and be successful, each is concerned only for himself. Hence, this person is coming and speaking one speech to ten people, and all want to hear his words, but the ten are separate from each other. Deep down, each one has the goal of receiving and only caring for himself. He doesn't care if the person sitting next to him is paying attention or not, understands or not, will be a success or a failure; what interests him is only himself. "I must pay attention, I must understand, and I must succeed." There are ten separate selves here. Hence, if one cares about himself, though it is done honestly (he signed up for the lecture, paid the fee up front, and perfectly adheres to the rules), and there is nothing inherently evil, there is an essential separation between each person and the next.

On the other hand, if each of the ten would come with the goal of devoting themselves to the good of mankind, because the country is in a recession, and there is a need for people to open more businesses in order to stimulate the economy, and these ten want to help the citizens of the country, then they are listening with a unified goal: to understand the ideas and use them to help the economy for the benefit of its citizens. If they are coming to give and not to receive for their own sake, and they are only receiving (knowledge) in order to pass it on, we have a unit of joined people. Although there are ten people on ten chairs, a single goal unites them.

In depth, each act done by a person, each feeling, and each thought, must be evaluated in this way. Is the thought, feeling, or act for the sake of taking or giving? If one is looking to take, he is associating with the root of separation in the world. If one is looking to give, he associates with the root of the unity of all of creation.

As long as one has not divested from the more coarse evils in act, feeling, and thought, it is certainly difficult to work with the desires of giving and taking. He has a much more fundamental kind of evil still inside him. He has coarse "garments" that preclude him from feeling the deep subtle feeling in the soul that seeks to give and recoils from taking. After a person has worked with himself, and the coarser elements of evil in thought, feeling, and act have been ameliorated, he can then work with the inner root of good vs. evil. The root of all that is negative in creation is the desire to take, while the root of all good is the desire to give.

A person has the ability to connect to everything in creation, or to close himself off from everything. If one's perspective (in actions, feelings, and thoughts) is to give, he will be able to unite with the positive aspect of everything in his environment. But if the acts, feelings, and thoughts are focused on taking, he can be living even at home with his wife and children, but deep down, he is separate from them. A person can act lovingly for twenty or thirty years, yet not really to give, but so that someone will reciprocate. This is giving for the sake of taking.

There is a giving in order to take, and there is a taking in order to give. If a person goes to the supermarket and gathers various products, and then takes out a 200-shekel bill for the cashier, he is giving in order to take. He is seemingly giving, but it is in order to take. It cannot be defined as giving. Giving in order to take is a tool for taking; one knows that if he doesn't pay the 200 shekels, he won't be able to take. Although the act looks like one of giving, "the final act was initially in the mind" (siddur, Friday night prayers), and that was taking.

On the other hand, there is taking which is, in depth, giving. A person who goes to collect charity from generous donors is initially taking, by collecting charity. But he does not take a penny for himself. All he takes will be given away. This is taking in order to give.

This is not only true in a material sense. If a person studies a trade, or anything else, with the goal of teaching and helping others, though he may spend two or three years or more taking (knowledge) from someone, he is taking in order to give. Therefore, when we said that a person must identify if his acts, feelings, and thoughts are directed toward taking or giving, the analysis must be penetrating. Something might superficially seem like an act of taking, but it is essentially giving. The opposite is also true.

The power of giving can unite a person with all of creation. We may not, G-d forbid, unite with the evil manifestation of anything, but we can unite with the hidden good in all of creation. There is no created being in the world without some spark of goodness. If it did not have a spark of goodness, it would not be able to exist.

Hence, when one gives properly and in the proper place, it engenders unity. The Talmud (Ketubot 105b) states that the word shochad (a type of giving) is a contraction of shehu chad (becoming one), because the giver and taker become one. Superficially, a person thinks, "I gave to that person. That was good, but now, it's over. I had the thing and then gave it a way. The act took a minute or two, and then we went on our separate ways." But in depth, as Chazal teach, they become one.

If I gave a carton of milk to a neighbor from downstairs who needed it, or I met someone in the bus station who needed money for bus fare, and I handed him nineteen shekalim, do I become one with him? How can such trivial acts unify people? If one wants to unite, as with a spouse, it is a process of years, as we all know. How can a minor act unify people?

Here is the answer: If you take a magnet and place it next to another one, they will become attached to each other. But if something else is placed between them, they will not be able to join. The moment the intervening item is removed, they will naturally join. This is the deep condition of all of creation. If we would try to create a new unity where one never existed, it would be difficult, and in fact, impossible. But the natural state of people is to be one. All of our souls were contained in Adam HaRishon. There, we were one person. Afterwards, we became more and more divided from each other, until coming to our current state. Unity is not a new state; it is a return to the primal state.

There is a divider that separates us, namely, the body, which has a desire to take, but once one removes that will to take, he will sense a natural unity with other people. If the natural state of people is to be absolutely separate, the avodah to unite them would be very difficult and actually impossible. But since they are essentially one, but each person later fashions his own will and his own concerns and an attitude of taking, there is a separation caused between people. After we have removed this desire to take, and have acted upon the loftier desire by really giving, there is no real need to "create" unity. You must understand this, because it is subtle and deep. Giving, in depth, does not unite; it removes the cause of separateness. After the cause of separateness has been removed, we naturally unite.

Here is an example: There were periods in the history of this country when women gave birth in hospitals, and were told all kinds of stories about how their babies died, as we all know. The truth, as we also know, was that there were people who kidnapped these babies and sent them all over the country and the world. There were cases in which these children later discovered from outside sources that the people who raised them were not their real parents. They investigated and investigated - sometimes the parents were the ones who found the children, and sometimes the children found the parents - and the children returned to their real parents. Before the son knows that two individuals are his real parents, and before the parents know that such a person is their son, if they would see each other on the street, they might not even greet each other. There is no hostility, but there is also no connection. There is no feeling at all - "another good Jew in Israel" - beyond that, there is no particular feeling toward the person. After they are told that this is definitely their son, and the son is told that these are his parents, they fall on each other with powerful embraces. Anyone can understand that you cannot create such a strong relationship in 25 seconds. How can they so suddenly give such loving embraces? The answer is that they are really a family, but there was a temporary division between them, which was the ignorance that separated them. Once the ignorance was removed, and the information came to light, they naturally connect to each other. The parents don't need to buy a gift to convince the son to return. There is no need for external acts of giving in order to unite.

Superficially, we understand that when we give, the giving causes unity. That's not totally wrong, but that is not the depth of giving. Giving is a tool for removing the power of taking in the soul. If a person gives a gift so that someone will appreciate him, or reciprocate at his son's wedding, or the like, there is no unity. It is like acting in a play. But if a person gives and wants to give, by giving, he uproots, at least partially, the power of taking in his soul. If it is really giving for the sake of giving, the giving uproots, at least partially, the desire to take. By uprooting this desire, he can unite with the other person. As one removes the desire to take, he will begin to love even people to whom he has given nothing. He will give a gift to Reuven, and start loving Gad. How is this? If the giving unified only the two people, how does a gift to Reuven expose love toward Gad? But the depth of the matter is that a person has this power of separation called "the desire to take." The more he will weaken this, the more he will uncover the natural love from the soul that exists in each of us. There is not one of us without a neshamah inside. There is not one of us who does not love all of the Jewish people, and there is not one of us who does not love all of mankind, but this love has many coverings over it.

A child is used to telling his father, "Give me, give me, give me!" A child has almost nothing of his own. He must ask even for bread. If he later wants to go on a trip, he has to ask his parents for money for the trip. Year after year, he gets used to asking and more asking. Even if he is somewhat independent, around age 16 or 17, and can earn some money, although he may then have some pocket money, most of his food and other expenses will still come from his father. If he wants to learn a profession, his father will pay for it. A person becomes used to asking and taking for about twenty years. This is the beginning of the damage inside of us. Of course, there is no choice with a child, and we must give to him (and if he never asks for anything, he apparently has some emotional problem), but he will get used to asking more and more. When he grows up, the attitude of asking and taking will be so ingrained in him that it will already be hard to abandon. Even if he does abandon it, it will usually be just partial.

There are people who are always first on line for anything given away. They don't evaluate if they need it, or not, if it is proper to take, or not; if it's being given away, they take. A person might profit from a free gift a few hundred shekalim or more, but he has destroyed his soul. If one would know that by getting used to taking, he is burying his sense of vitality and joy of life, he would not want to take anything for free.

If one is mature, if he will take something for free, it is only because he wants to give a good feeling to the giver. But he would not take anything for free if he can pay. Why? Because he wants to develop a life of giving, not of taking. He might take, but actually be giving. If one visits his mother, and she wants to give him a gift, and he says, "No thanks, "He who hates gifts will live" (Mishlei 15:27), he is certainly wrong. There, to accept it is very positive. The mother feels good about giving to her son. To give her that opportunity is itself a form of giving. Though outwardly, it is an act of taking, in reality, it is an act of giving.

What emerges is that if one wants not only to remove all negativity from actions, feelings, and thoughts, but also to build for himself a world of purity and goodness, he must first of all think deeply: what is the purpose of a person in his world? He must think about what builds him and what destroys him. Giving is the root of building, while taking is the root of destruction. Once this has become clear to a person, and he contemplates the concepts and sees their truth, he must make a deep commitment in life. Is he ready to devote his life to giving, or will he surrender to his material part and look to take?

Of course, one cannot just give throughout life. A person needs a livelihood in order to eat, drink, and have a place to live, and he has a wife and children. If he only gives all the time, how will he earn a livelihood? In this world, you cannot only give. To live that way, one would need to have absolute faith that anything he needs will come to him with no effort, but almost no one lives on that level. Therefore, some of our life must be directed toward taking. And this is the difficulty. If it were possible to create a life that is purely one of giving, it would be much easier to escape from taking. But even after reaching the recognition and the will to live as a giver, not a taker, one must still live to a certain extent as a taker. He goes to work each morning, and expects a salary. There will remain in the soul an element of taking, and so it is difficult to deal with this issue in life. On one hand, when one reaches an awareness of what he is and what his purpose is, he will want to make himself a giver. But on the other hand, he is almost forced to be a taker. Therefore, the world is a "narrow bridge," and we must walk on a very thin trail, to know when we should take and when we should give.

But even when one must take, he must include some aspect of giving. There is giving purely for the sake of giving, with no taking at all. If one is at an intersection, and a small child asks him to help him cross the street, he will be giving for its own sake, with no interest in taking. But there are parts of life where one must take, and nonetheless, he should make sure that he is not only taking. During all taking, one must inject at least a bit of giving.

We will give a few examples, so as to make it more practical. There is a person who cleans the streets of Tel Aviv. He is paid by the municipality. He definitely wants to receive, by taking a salary at the end of the month. He works honestly, and wants to be paid honestly. It seems he is just taking; he doesn't clean so the streets will be clean, but he wants a salary. If someone would offer to pay him without his having to work, he would gladly accept it. So simply, he is taking and not giving. But if one thinks deeply and defines his life as being for the sake of giving, even if he cleans the streets for wages, this should only be one part of his attitude. When he comes in the morning to clean, he can think two true thoughts. Primarily, he wants a salary at the end of the month, but in addition, he should think that he wants to help people by giving them a good feeling when they walk in the streets. I agree that if he doesn't get paid, he should quit his job. No one can be motivated to work from 8 to 4 just so people will have enjoyment. But if he does get paid, he should think and feel in his heart: "Why shouldn't I also want to help people? I'm working anyway; I should at least have a desire for it to be pleasant for people to walk here. Though he has a real job and supports himself honestly and wants to receive his salary, if he is thoughtful, he will also think of giving, not just taking.

Another point: This street cleaner is not alone; he has a wife and children. He doesn't just take the money and use it for his own eating and drinking, but he supports his family. Isn't one giving when supporting a wife and children? If his intent is to earn a salary so as to give to his wife and children, although it is not the highest level of giving found in the world, he still has an intent to give. He is working in order to receive his wages, which seems to be only taking, but he considers that this taking also has an aspect of giving. He thinks, when moving the broom, and when waking up in the morning, "I am taking, but I am also receiving. Part of the salary is for me, but part of it is so that my wife and children can be properly supported." Thus, although superficially, his work seems to be for the sake of receiving a monthly salary, he can contemplate and find ways to give through it. He can also decide at the beginning of the month, "I will give a small percentage of my wages to needy people who don't have what to eat." So although he takes most of the wages for himself, even if he gives only five shekel for charity so someone else can have something to eat, his work is no longer totally for taking, but also has a component of giving. Understandably, there are many examples and possibilities. Each person must develop the ideas according to his circumstances and opportunities.

We give all day, but do we think about giving, or about taking? A person gets married, and has children. It's possible that these children exist because of a desire to take, and it's possible that they exist because of a desire to give. Some people have children just because they don't want to be bored. One's child becomes like some kind of doll. This is a pathetic situation. Then he wonders why his child doesn't honor him! The person is such an egoist that he has children for his own sake, and he just wants his son to be near him.

We do helpful acts in the house, and of necessity, meet with many opportunities daily, but the question is: what is our intent? A person may come to an intersection and legally have the right of way. He can wait half a minute and let someone else go first. This is a matter of one's attitude toward life: Why do I live? Do I live to give, or to take?

If a person is highly aware of himself, he will see that each moment, he is focused either on giving or on taking. After all, there isn't a moment in which a person doesn't think, and the thoughts are either about giving or taking; there is no third possibility. At times, the desire to do one or the other is very clear. But sometimes, a person has all kinds of enjoyable thoughts in his imagination related to things he has seen. It would seem that at that time he isn't giving or taking. "I'm not thinking about giving to or taking from other people." But in truth, why is he thinking about this? Because he gets pleasure from it. He is immersed in personal pleasure, which is also a form of taking. I am not suggesting that a person suffer and never think a pleasant thought. As we said, we certainly cannot live with only giving. We must also take, both physically and emotionally. But one must be in a process of expanding the amount of giving and diminishing the amount of taking.

At this stage, a person should make a daily self-accounting, and contemplate: Today, did I give, or take? Were my giving acts really for giving, or for taking? Were my taking acts really taking, or giving? Even this is a superficial way of self-accounting. But the deeper and more in touch with himself one becomes, he will be able to feel himself: "do I really feel that my life is for giving or for taking?" Of course, if someone doesn't really want to face the truth, he will say, "I have a wife and children. I am always working to support them. I give virtually from morning to night." But he is escaping reality.

An honest person will admit that he gives to his wife and children because he has no choice (What should he do? Throw them in the street? They need to eat!), or that he doesn't even think about what he's doing. He doesn't think if he wants to give or take. He lives according to habit.

A person must, however, reveal the depth of giving in the soul, think deeply that this is his purpose in life, and start to build his world according to the perspective of giving. At first, he will train himself to do a few acts daily with fully conscious intent to give. He will evaluate the acts he is already doing and will try to place in them a perspective and sense of giving. Gradually, he will examine his thoughts and his feelings, when they are free, and see if his soul remains like that of a child who wants to take more than to give, or if he has reached inner maturity, sensing a mission of giving.

Of course, we are not talking about giving with public signs and advertisements about it. There are people who give all over the country, but it is not really for giving (but for publicity). We are talking about a giving from the depth of the soul, from an inner sense that the soul wants to give.

In summary, the process of hamtakah (unity with all of creation) is not just to give instead of receive, but to delve into the fact that one exists and lives in order to give to others. I must instill in my soul that this is my purpose. Just as (lehavdil) many people sense that life is all about making money, so does an inward person with proper awareness sense a daily mission and attitude about giving. He will judge, though, "Where is it most possible and most appropriate for me to give?" He arranges his life to be for giving. After one has this clear in his mind, and he applies it in action (and I emphasize that it must progress gradually), there is a guarantee, and not [just] from me, that he will naturally feel a love for all people, even for people he hasn't helped. He might help people in Tel Aviv, and feel a love for those in Chulon. He will give to people in Israel, and love those in New York. This is because the sense of separateness in the soul is becoming weaker and weaker, and the sense of unity of all souls is becoming stronger and stronger.

With Hashem's help, we will continue to describe the means of uniting and merging, until the perfect unity with all of creation.

Basic points that emerged from question and answer period:

  1. At first, one must sense a unity with his family, and expand it gradually outward. Ultimately, there will be a sense of unity with every being in creation, because each thing has some spiritual energy, but if one starts with something distant (like a stranger or an animal), and ignores those who are close to him, it is probably a kind of escape, because he cannot get along with those close to him.

  1. When we thank G-d for not making us like the nations, we are not saying that they are evil. They have received good qualities, but we thank G-d for giving us more. This is like a first-born son who gets a double inheritance, and appreciates that he has more than his brothers, but they, too, receive something valuable.

  1. We have focused on giving for the sake of uniting with mankind, but there is another benefit that comes after. Since we will be emulating the Creator's attributes, we will become more like Him and will be able to have a greater love for Him.

  1. True giving brings true joy, but if one will only give if he knows he will get joy, then he is really giving in order to receive something. If he would give regardless, the joy is a gift from G-d, and nothing is wrong with it.

  1. Giving should not only be desired when one sees someone needy and has compassion. If that is the only time one wants to give, it is because he is pained to see the other's suffering, and wants to alleviate his own discomfort. Real giving is present when one wants to give even to someone who is not particularly needy. However, practically speaking, since we have limited resources, we should use our money where it is most needed.

  1. Contemplation alone cannot change a person; it must be accompanied with action. For example, in this area, one can, in addition to contemplating, make a commitment to perform three acts of kindness each day. But thoughts alone hover in the air if there is no "vessel" of action to contain them.
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