Smaller Is Better

Smaller Is Better

How rich must we be to be satisfied? How confident must we be to feel successful? How great must we be to become leaders? You probably think you know the answer…

This edition of The Long Short Way covers the second part of the seventh chapter of the Frierdiker Rebbe’s ma’amer, Basi Legani from 5710 (1950). Basi LeGani is a series of four ma’amorim, the second, HaYosheves BeGanim, includes the chapter we learn this year. This ma’amer was distributed on 13 Shvat, the yohrtzeit of the Frierdiker Rebbe’s mother. Open Part One in a new tab. Download the PDF here.

Previously, we learned about the duality of yesod (foundation, connection). On the one hand, yesod bridges the gap between malchus (kingship) and the higher sefiros allowing it to receive life energy from them. On the other hand, yesod unifies the other five emotive sefiros with malchus. Yesod unites chessed (loving kindness) and gevurah (severity, discipline, judgment) and binds this union with malchus. In the previous post, the Frierdiker Rebbe explained how this is learned out from verses. First, there is the verse in Chronicles that lists the sefiros, and when it reaches yesod, it says “everything in the heaven and the earth.” Next, the Frierdiker Rebbe brings the Targum of the verse from Chronicles that refers to yesod as the “unifier of heaven and earth.” Then he brought a Rashi from parshas Bereishis that breaks the word “shomayim” (heaven) into “eish u’mayim” (fire and water). Fire refers to the nature of chessed, where water refers to the nature of gevurah. “Earth,” in “unifier of heaven and earth,” refers to malchus, which is also the lowest rung.

In summary: “Everything in the heaven and the earth” » “unifier of heaven and earth” » “unifier” = yesod » “heaven” = chessed and gevurah » “earth” = malchus.

Chaos and Order    
Nothing can exist independent from G-d. Therefore, even unholiness stems from G-dliness albeit in a most superficial way. Another difference between the holy and unholy is that holiness is united—it cooperates and integrates with G-dliness. Unholiness is scattered, splintered and chaotic.   וְזֶהוּ דְיַעֲקֹב אָמַר “יֶשׁ לִי כֹל” וְעֵשָׂו אָמַר “יֶשׁ לִי רָב,” דְבְּקְדוּשָׁה שֶׁהוּא בְּחִינַת וּמַדְרֵיגַת ״יַעֲקֹב,״ אָמַר “יֶשׁ לִי כֹל,” בְּחִינַת ״כֹּל״ ״דְּאָחִיד בִּשְׁמַיָּא וּבְאַרְעָא, אַבָל בְּעֵשָׂו שֶׁהוּא קְלִיפָה וְסִטְרָא אַחֳרָא אָמַר ״יֶשׁ לִי רָב,” שֶׁהוּא אֵין לוֹ בְּחִינַת ״כֹּל הַמְחַבֵּר״ כְּיַעֲקֹב, כִּי אִם ״רַב״ שֶׁהֵם רִיבּוּי הַשְׁפָּעוֹת גַשְׁמִיוּת.
Holiness, on the other hand, stems directly from G-dliness. That’s why when Yaakov Avinu met with Eisav, he said, “I have everything.” Whereas Eisav said, “I have a lot.” Yaakov had “everything,” as in “everything in the heavens and the earth is G-d’s,” and its translation, “unifier of heaven and earth.” Eisav, who was unholy, expressed the theme of unholiness; his wealth reflected his splintered and scattered character.
Yaakov Avinu had a connection to yesod. This relationship gave him direct access to the Source of Life. As a result of this humble realization, his wealth, therefore, came with the satisfaction to say, “I have everything.” “Everything” = yesod, the bridge between malchus (humility) and the higher sefiros.
The Zohar states, “Rav Mesivta said, ‘He who is small [in his own eyes] is great, and he who is great [in his own eyes] is small.'” In holiness, “it is he who diminishes himself [who merits].”   וּכְּמַאֲמָר ״רַב מְתִיבְתָּא* ׳מַאן דְּאִיהוּ זְעֵיר, אִיהוּ רַב וּמַאן דְּאִיהוּ רַב, אִיהוּ זְעֵיר,״ דְבְּקְדוּשָׁה דְּ״אִיהוּ מַאן דְּאַזְעִיר גַּרְמָא״ וּכְּמָּה שֶׁכָּתוּב ״מִי יָקוּם יַעֲקֹב כִּי קָטֹן הוּא,״ אִיהוּ רַב בְּגִילוּי בְּחִינַת ״כֹּל,״ אַבָל ״מַאן דְאִיהוּ רַב דְיֵשׁ לוֹ רַב אִיהוּ זְעֵיר, ״וְלָרָשׁ אֵין כֹּל,״ וְהוּא רַק בְּהַשְׁפָּעָה גַשְׁמִיוּת.
When the prophet Amos entreats G-d not to bring a plague, he asks, “How will Jacob survive for he is small?” Amos mentions our smallness to emphasize the humility a Jew can have to G-d. Yaakov is great because he is connected to holiness. He who stems from unholiness may have plenty of material wealth but is truly destitute.
Real wealth and true greatness is a result of humility. When we realize that what we have is a gift from G-d, we will feel small and satisfied at the same time—a truly joyous life.
On the verse, “Lions were reduced to starvation,” the Zohar explains that this refers to the seventy bulls sacrificed on Sukkos. Each of the seventy bulls sacrificed on Sukkos represents one of the ministering angels of each of the seventy nations. In this way, the Gentile nations would receive their vitality from holiness. The bulls were brought in diminishing order—13 bulls on day one, 12 on day two, and so on. So too, unholiness—and the unholy among the gentile nations—will dwindle and become depleted.   וְזֶהוּ דְכְּתִיב ״כְּפִירִים רָשׁוּ וְרָעֵבוּ,״ וּפִּירֵשׁ בְּזֹהַר שֶׁקָאִי עַל ע’ פָּרֵי הֶחָג, וְזֶהוּ״כְּפִירִים רָשׁוּ,״ שֶׁהֵם הוֹלְכִים וּמִתְמַעֲטִים. וְיָדוּעַ דְע’ פָּרִים הֵם נֶגֶד ע’ שָׂרִים, דְהָהַשְׁפָּעָה גַשְׁמִיוּת נִקְרָא ״רָשׁוּ,״ שֶׁהוּא בְּחִינַת עָנִי כוּלְהוּ.
An Empty Life Is Not a Life    
The sefer, Mikdash Melech, refers to unholiness as bulls. Being that the evil among the Gentile nations receives life-force from a glimmer of a glimmer of holiness, it follows that their connection to holiness is concealed.   וּבְּמִקְדָשׁ מֶלֶךְ אִיתָא דְקְלִיפָּה וְסִטְרָא אַחֳרָא נִקְרָא פָּרִים וְשְׁנֵיהֶם אֶמֶת, דְלִהְיוֹת כְּלָלוּת הַחַיוּת שֶׁמְחַיֶה אוֹתָם הוּא רַק הֶאָרָה דְּהֶאָרָה מֵהֶאָרַת הַקְדוּשָׁה, וְלָכֵן הָהַשְׁפָּעָה הוּא בְּתַּכְלִית הַהֶעְלֶם וְהַהֶסְתֶּר שֶׁהוּא הַשְׁפָּעָה חִיצוֹנִיוּת דְּחִיצוֹנִיוּת.
The fact that their connection to holiness is concealed is the cause of egotism. Pharaoh, for example, said, “The river is mine, and I made it myself.” The truth was that the blessings that befell Egypt were in Yaakov’s merit.   וְזֶהוּ שֶׁזֶה גוּפָא עוֹשֶׂה אוֹתָם בִּבְחִינַת יֶשׁוּת יוֹתֵר, וּכְּמוֹ פַּרְעֹה שֶׁאָמַר ״לִי יְאֹרִי וַאֲנִי עֲשִׂיתִנִי,״ שֶׁזֶהוּ הֵיפֶּךְ הָאֶמֶת מַמָּשׁ, דְהָאֶמֶת הוּא שֶׁנִתְבָּרֵךְ בְּבִרְכָּתוֹ שֶׁל יַעֲקֹב (וּכְּדְאִיתָא בְּפִּירוּשׁ רַשִׁ”י עַל פָּסוּק ״וַיְבָרֶךְ יַעֲקֹב [אֶת פַּרְעֹה]״ כוּלהוּ),
The Midrash asks, “What was the blessing with which Yaakov blessed Pharaoh?” and answers, “That the waters of the Nile rise before him.” Egypt is not irrigated by rain, the waters of the Nile rise and water it. Whenever Pharaoh came to the Nile, it rose, overflowing its banks and irrigating the land.
Pharaoh in Hebrew shares the same letters ha’oref (stubbornness)—he was in denial, and he felt the need to say that the river was his. The fact that he—an evil man among the Gentile nations—received his vitality from G-d in a concealed way. The more concealed the G-dly vitality, the greater the ego becomes.   וְפַּרְעֹה הוּא אוֹתְיוֹת הָעֹרֶף, הִנֵה עוֹד כִּיחֵשׁ וְהָיָה כָּפוּי טוֹבָה לֵאמֹר ״לִי יְאוֹרִי״ כוּלהוּ וְהַיְּינוּ שֶׁעַל יְדֵי הָהַשׁפָּעָה הַרֵי הוּא נַעֲשֶׂה בִּבְחִינַת יֵשׁ יוֹתֵר.
Another meaning brought in Chassidus for Pharaoh sharing the letters of the word ha’oref is the following. Oref, means nape, the base of the back of the head. Holiness derives its life energy from G-d, and He gives it willfully. Receiving life energy from G-d’s nape—His hindside—so to speak, is characteristic of the unwillingness to sustain such evil.
Summary: Having yesod is the foundation for humility. Having yesod is to realize that everything we have and who we are comes from G-d. This realization will make us feel small, but be greater than our best. When we are small, we channel G-d.   קִיצוּר. יַמְשִׁיךְ דְהַיוּ”ד שֶׁבְּאַחוֹרֵי הַדַלי״ת הוּא ״כֹּל״ ״דְּאָחִיד,״ ״יֵשׁ לִי כֹּל.״ לְרֹ”ש אֵין כֹּל.״ יֵשׁ לִי רַב דְקְלִיפָּה גוֹרֵם הַיֶשׁוּת.
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