The Kabbalah of Forgiveness Level Eight: Maintain a Core of Love

level-8

The Eighth Level: Maintain a Core of Love

“Maintain a Core of Love,” illustration of Level 8 by Rebecca Odessa, Courtesy The Wisdom Daily

The Eighth Level: Maintain a Core of Love

Rabbi Cordovero expands upon the metaphysics of forgiveness in the Eighth Level. God preserves a core region of positive regard for every human being, a place where every positive deed that person ever performed is recalled, cherished, and protected. Even when a person commits some act of transgression, the impact of that inappropriate behavior cannot affect the core of love. In other words, God does not keep a running tally of pros and cons regarding each individual, subtracting the blame for transgressions from the reward for good deeds to arrive at a kind of score for each individual. Rather, God is like a king who maintains two halls for his servants. One is beautifully decorated, filled with luxurious furnishings under a lofty ceiling and illuminated with chandeliers.  In this hall, servants are received and rewarded for performing the king’s will, and the king frequently returns to this hall to review the record books and rejoice in the memory of their contributions to the kingdom. The second hall is a plain room, devoid of any luxuries, in which the king reviews the records of servants who have failed to perform their duties appropriately, and they receive punishment. The kingdom has yet to see a servant who is not called to both chambers, yet the king maintains a strict policy: no misdeeds are to be mentioned in the glorious hall of reward.

So too, God maintains a chamber where the positive actions of a person are stored, and no matter how poorly a person may behave, he or she will never lose their place in this holy chamber. Rabbi Cordovero describes the meaning of this Level, and provides direction on how we may apply it in our own lives.

הַשמינית – יִכְבֹּשׁ עֲוֹנוֹתֵינו

הֲרֵי הב”ה  מִתְנַהֵג עִם יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּמִדָּה זוֹ וְהִיא סוֹד כְּבִישַׁת הֶעָוֹן. כִּי הִנֵּה הַמִּצְוֹת הִיא כְפֹרַחַת עָלָתָה נִצָּהּ וּבוֹקֵעַת וְעוֹלֶה עַד אֵין תַּכְלִית לִכְנֹס לְפָנָיו יִתְבָּרַךְ אָמְנָם הָעֲוֹנוֹת אֵין לָהֶם כְּנִיסָה שָׁם ח”ו אֶלָּא כֹּבְשָׁם שֶׁלֹּא יִכָּנְסוּ כְּדִכְתִיב לֹא יְגֻרְךָ רָע לֹא יָגוּר בִּמְגוּרְךָ רָע.

אִם כֵּן אֵין הֶעָוֹן נִכְנָס פְּנִימָה. וּמִטַּעַם זֶה שְׂכַר מִצְוָה בְּהַאי עָלְמָא לֵיכָּא מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהֵם לְפָנָיו יִתְבָּרַךְ וְהַאֵיךְ יִתֵּן לוֹ מִמַּה שֶׁלְּפָנָיו שָׂכָר רוּחָנִי בָּעוֹלָם גַּשְׁמִי וַהֲרֵי כָּל הָעוֹלָם אֵינוֹ כְּדַאי לְמִצְוָה אַחַת וּלְקוֹרַת רוּחַ אֲשֶׁר לְפָנָיו. וּמִטַּעַם זֶה לֹא יִקַּח שֹׁחַד שֶׁל מִצְוֹת, הַמָּשָׁל בָּזֶה, אֵין הב”ה  אוֹמֵר עָשָׂה אַרְבָּעִים מִצְוֹת וְעֶשֶׂר עֲבֵרוֹת נִשְׁאֲרוּ שְׁלֹשִׁים מִצְוֹת וְיֵלְכוּ עֶשֶׂר בְּעֶשֶׂר חַס וְשָׁלוֹם אֶלָּא אֲפִלּוּ צַדִּיק גָּמוּר וְעָשָׂה עֲבֵרָה אַחַת דּוֹמֶה לְפָנָיו כְּאִלּוּ שָׂרַף אֶת הַתּוֹרָה עַד שֶׁיְּרַצֶּה חֹבוֹ וְאַחַר כָּךְ יְקַבֵּל שְׂכַר כָּל מִצְוֹתָיו. וְזֶה חֶסֶד גָּדוֹל שֶׁהב”ה עוֹשֶׂה עִם הַצַּדִּיקִים שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְנַכֶּה מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהַמִּצְוֹת חֲשׁוּבוֹת מְאֹד וּמִתְעַלּוֹת עַד לְפָנָיו יִתְבָּרַךְ, וְהַאֵיךְ יְנַכֶּה מֵהֶן בִּשְׁבִיל הָעֲבֵרוֹת כִּי שְׂכַר הָעֲבֵרָה הוּא מֵחֵלֶק גֵּיהִנֹּם מֵהַנִּבְזֶה, וְהַמִּצְוֹת שְׂכָרָן מֵהַנִּכְבָּד זִיו שְׁכִינָה, והיאך יְנַכֶּה אֵלּוּ כנגד אֵלּוּ אֶלָּא הב”ה גּוֹבֶה חוֹב הָעֲבֵרוֹת וּמַשְׂכִּיר שְׂכַר כָּל הַמִּצְוֹת. וְהַיְּנוּ יִכְבֹּשׁ עֲוֹנוֹתֵינוּ שֶׁאֵין הָעֲוֹנוֹת מִתְגַּבְּרִים לְפָנָיו כְּמִצְוֹת אֶלָּא כּוֹבֵשׁ אֹתָם שֶׁלֹּא יִתְעַלּוּ וְלֹא יִכָּנְסוּ עִם הֱיוֹת שֶׁהוּא מַשְׁגִּיחַ עַל דַּרְכֵי אִישׁ הַטּוֹב וְהָרָע עִם כָּל זֶה הַטּוֹב אֵינוֹ כּוֹבְשׁוֹ אֶלָּא פּוֹרֵחַ וְעוֹלֶה עַד לִמְאֹד וְנִכְלָל מִצְוָה בְּמִצְוָה וְנִבְנֶה מִמֶּנּוּ בִּנְיָן וּלְבוּשׁ נִכְבָּד וַעֲוֹנוֹת אֵין לָהֶם סְגֻלָּה זוֹ אֶלָּא כּוֹבֵשׁ אֹתָם שֶׁלֹּא יַצְלִיחוּ הַצְלָחָה זוֹ וְלֹא יִכָּנְסוּ פְּנִימָה.

אַף מִדָּה זוֹ צָרִיךְ הָאָדָם לְהִתְנַהֵג בָּהּ שֶׁלֹּא יִכְבֹּשׁ טוֹבַת חֲבֵרוֹ וַיִּזְכּוֹר רָעָתוֹ שֶׁגְמָלָהוּ אֶלָּא אַדְּרַבָּה יִכְבֹּשׁ הֵרַע וַיִּשְׁכָּחֵהוּ וְיַזְנִיחֵהוּ וְלֹא יָגוּר בִּמְגוּרוֹ רָע וְתִהְיֶה הַטּוֹבָה סְדוּרָה תָּמִיד לְפָנָיו וְיִזְכֹּר לוֹ הַטּוֹבָה וְיַגְבִּיר לוֹ עַל כָּל הַמַּעֲשִׂים שֶׁעָשָׂה לוֹ וְלֹא יְנַכֶּה בְּלִבּוֹ וְיֹאמַר אִם עָשָׂה לִי טוֹבָה הֲרֵי עָשָׂה לִי רָעָה וְיִשְׁכַּח הַטּוֹבָה לֹא יַעֲשֶׂה כֵן אֶלָּא בְּרָעָה יִתְרַצֶּה כָּל דֶּרֶךְ רִצּוּי שֶׁיּוּכַל וְהַטּוֹבָה אֶל יַזְנִיחָהּ לְעוֹלָם מִבֵּין עֵינָיו וְיַעֲלִים עֵינוֹ מִן הָרָעָה כָּל מַה שֶׁיּוּכַל כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁהב”ה  כּוֹבֵשׁ עֲוֹנוֹת כִּדְפֵרַשְׁתִּי:

 Translation

 The Eighth Level

 He will subdue our transgressions

             God behaves toward the Jewish people in accordance with this level, which is the secret of “subduing the transgression.” Behold, a commandment is like a budding vine that bursts forth and rises without limit to enter the very presence of God.  Transgressions, on the other hand, do not reach that place, Heaven forbid; rather they are subdued so they do not enter. This is as is written (Psalms 5:5): “no evil will dwell with You,” meaning, no evil will reside in Your dwelling place.

No transgression enters the inner abode. Thus “this world cannot contain the reward for a commandment,” because the commandments are before God, and how can God grant people spiritual reward in a physical world? Behold, this entire world is not fit to receive even a kernel of what is before God! For this reason, God does not accept a bribe that consists of the performance of commandments.  For example, God does not say, “this person performed forty commandments and committed ten transgressions. Take ten commandments away for the ten transgressions, leaving thirty commandments.” Heaven forbid! Rather, even a completely righteous person who commits a single sin is considered as if he burned the Torah. He must make good the debt, and afterward receive the reward for the commandments, which is a great kindness that God does for the righteous. God does not subtract, for observance of the commandments is extremely precious and valued before God—how could God delete the rewards because of transgressions? The consequence of sin is a share of the horrible Gehinom, but the reward for the commandments is the glorious radiance of the Shekhinah—how could God subtract the former from the latter? Rather, God collects the obligation incurred by the transgressions and provides the reward for the commandments.  This is what is meant by “He will subdue our transgressions,” that the transgressions do not overpower the commandments.  God “subdues” the transgressions so they do not rise up and enter God’s presence. Even though God observes all the ways of a person, good and evil, nevertheless God does not subdue the good. God allows the good to fly upward without limit, joining commandment to commandment, building from them an edifice, a garment of glory. Sins do not have this power; rather God subdues them.  Sins do not enjoy this success and do not enter the inner presence of God.

 Even this level must be emulated by a human being. One should not subdue the good of a person and recall the evil that he caused. On the contrary, one should subdue the evil, obliterating it from memory and casting it away: “no evil will occur in Your place.” The good that he did must always be held in consciousness, remembered and overpowering whatever else he might have done. One should not subtract in one’s heart, saying, “if he did this good thing for me, behold he also did me harm,” forgetting the good. One should not do this! Rather, one should make peace with the harm with whatever means available, and the good should never be cast out of consciousness, while ignoring the evil as much as possible, just as God subdues transgressions, as I have explained.

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