The Nut Garden

Gleanings of Zohar

More Wondrous Your Love to Me than the Love of Women

imageedit_2_6350929461“If love depends on a specific cause, when the cause ends, so does the love. If love does not depend on a specific cause, then it never ends. What is an example of love depending on a specific cause? The love of Amnon for Tamar [see 2 Samuel 2:13]. What is an example of love not dependent on a specific cause? The love of David and Jonathan” (M Avot 5:20).

And when David returned from striking down the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, the Philistine’s head in his hand. And Saul said, “Whose son are you, lad?” And David said, “The son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.” And it happened as he finished speaking with Saul, that Jonathan’s very self became bound up with David’s, and Jonathan loved him as himself. And Saul took him on that day and did not let him go back to his father’s house. And Jonathan, and David with him, sealed a pact because he loved him like himself. And Jonathan took off the cloak that was on him and gave it to David, and his battle garb, and even his sword and his bow and his belt (1 Samuel 17:57-18:4).

I grieve for you, my brother, Jonathan. Very dear you were to me. More wondrous your love to me than the love of women (2 Samuel 1:26).

And a man who lies with a male as one lies with a woman, the two of them have done an abhorrent thing. They are doomed to die. Their bloodguilt is upon them (Leviticus 20:13).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: I am the only one remaining of Jerusalem’s men of outstanding beauty. He who desires to see Rabbi Yoḥanan’s beauty, let him take a silver goblet as it emerges from the crucible, fill it with the seeds of red pomegranate, encircle its brim with a wreath of red roses, and set it between the sun and the shade: its splendor is like that of Rabbi Yoḥanan’s beauty.

But that is not so; for did not a Master say: Rav Kahana’s beauty is a reflection of Rabbi Abbahu’s; Rabbi Abbahu’s is a reflection of our father Jacob’s; our father Jacob’s was a reflection of Adam’s; whereas Rabbi Yoḥanan is omitted!—Rabbi Yoḥanan is different, because he did not have a stately countenance [since he lacked a beard].

Rabbi Yoḥanan used to go and sit at the gates of the ritual bath. He said, ‘When the daughters of Israel ascend from the bath let them encounter me, that they may bear sons as beautiful and as learned as I.’ The Rabbis said to him: ‘Do you not fear an evil eye?’—’I am of the seed of Joseph against whom an evil eye is powerless’ he replied. For it is written, A fruitful son is Joseph, a fruitful son by a spring, [daughters strode by a rampart] (Genesis 49:22): and Rabbi Abbahu said: Do not read עֲלֵי עָיִן (alei ayin), by a spring, but, עוֹלֵי עַיִן (olei ayin), above the eye.’ Rabbi Yose son of Rabbi Ḥanina said from here: let them teem multitudinous in the midst of the earth (Genesis 48:16): just as fish in the seas are covered by water and the eye has no power over them, so also are the seed of Joseph—the eye has no power over them.

One day Rabbi Yoḥanan was bathing in the Jordan, when Resh Laqish saw him and leapt into the Jordan after him. [Rabbi Yoḥanan] said to him, ‘Your strength for Torah’—’Your beauty for women,’ he replied. He said ‘If you return I will give you my sister who is more beautiful than I [cf. Proverbs 7:4 Say to Wisdom, ‘You are my sister’; betrothing a woman without her consent is prohibited, see BT Qiddushin 2a-b].’ He accepted; then he wished to return and collect his gear, but could not [since his mere decision to turn to the study of Torah had so weakened him that he lacked the strength to don his heavy gear]. Subsequently, [Rabbi Yoḥanan] taught him Bible and Mishnah, and made him into a great man. Now, one day there was a dispute in the study hall: a sword, knife, dagger, lance, hand-saw and a scythe—at what stage can they become unclean? When their manufacture is finished. And when is their manufacture finished?—Rabbi Yoḥanan ruled: When they are tempered in a furnace. Resh Laqish maintained: When they have been scrubbed in water. He said to him: ‘A bandit knows his banditry.’ He said to him, ‘And how have you benefited me: there I was called רַבִּי (rabbi), Master [of the bandits], and here [too] I am [still] called רַבִּי (rabbi), Master [of the bandits]!’ ‘I benefited you by bringing you under the wings of the Shekhinah,’ he replied. Rabbi Yoḥanan was offended, and Resh Laqish fell ill. His sister came and wept before him: ‘For the sake of my son [forgive him].’ He replied: Leave your fatherless children, I will preserve them alive (Jeremiah 49:11). ‘For the sake of my widowhood then!’ He said to her, ‘And let your widows trust in Me (ibid.). Rabbi Shim’on son of Laqish died, and Rabbi Yoḥanan was קַא מִצטַעֵר (qa mitsta’er), profoundly disappointed [or: sorry]. The Rabbis said, ‘Who will go to ease his mind? Let Rabbi Ele’azar son of Pedat go, whose statements are sharp.’ So he went and sat before him; but on every matter uttered by Rabbi Yoḥanan he would say: ‘There is [a tradition] taught which supports you.’ He said, ‘Are you the son of Laqisha?’ ‘When I stated a matter, the son of Lakisha used to raise twenty-four objections, to which I gave twenty-four answers, and the halakhah would become broadened; while you say, ‘There is [a tradition] taught which supports you.’ Don’t I know that what I say is good?’ He went around rending his garments and weeping, ‘Where are you, O son of Laqisha, where are you, O son of Laqisha;’ and so he cried until he went insane. The Rabbis petitioned [heaven] to have compassion on him and he died” (BT Bava Metsi’a 84a).

The Wisdom of Kabbalah and Philosophy by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam)

Ba'al ha-Sullam PortraitWhat is spirituality?

Philosophy has gone through a great deal of trouble to prove that the physical is the offspring of the metaphysical, and that the soul generates the body. Still, their words are unacceptable to the heart in any manner. Their primary mistake is their erroneous  view of spirituality since they postulate that the metaphysical fathered the physical, which is certainly a lie.

For any parent must, somehow, resemble its child. This relation is the path and route by which its offspring emanates. In addition, every agent must have some agency by which to reach it. Since they say that spirituality is denied any physical occurrence, then such a path does not exist, nor any means by which the spiritual can contact and set it into motion.

However, understanding the meaning of the word רוּחָנִיוּת (ruḥaniut), “spirituality,” has nothing to do with philosophy. This is because how can they discuss something that they have never seen or felt? What does their foundation stand on?

If there is any definition that can tell the spiritual from the physical it belongs only to those who have attained a spiritual thing and sensed it and these are the authentic kabbalists. Thus, it is the wisdom of Kabbalah that we need.

Philosophy with regard to His essence

Philosophy loves to occupy itself with His essence and prove which laws do not apply to Him. However, Kabbalah has no dealings with this whatsoever, for how can the unattainable and imperceptible be defined? Indeed, a negative definition is just as relevant as a positive definition. For if you see an object from a distance and apprehend its negatives, meaning all that it is not, that, too, is considered seeing or some degree of apprehension. If an object is truly out of sight even its negative qualities are not apparent.

For example, if we perceive a black form from a distance, but can still determine that it is neither human nor bird, this is considered vision. If it be farther still, we would be unable to determine that it is not human.

This is the cause of their confusion and irrelevance. Philosophy prides itself on understanding all the negatives about His essence [see Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed 1:58]. However, here the sages of Kabbalah put their hand to their mouth, and do not give Him even a simple name, for we do not define by name or word that which we do not attain [cf. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason]. That is because a word designates some degree of attainment. However, kabbalists do speak a great deal about His illumination in reality, meaning all those illuminations they have actually attained, as legitimate as tangible attainment (in my opinion, philosophy has generally worn a mantle that it does not own, for it has stolen definitions from the wisdom of Kabbalah, and made delicacies with human understanding. Had it not been for that, they would never have conjured such fabrications).

The spiritual is a force without a body

That is what kabbalists define as “spirituality” and that is what they talk about. It has no form, space, time or any physical value. However, it is only a potential force, meaning a force that is not clothed in a material body, but rather a force without a body.

A spiritual vessel is called a force

Here we must note that in spirituality the concept of a force does not refer to the light itself. Since this light is immaterial it emanates directly from His essence, blessed be He, and if so is the same as His essence. This means that we have no perception or attainment of this light that we can define by name. Even the word, אוֹר (or), “light,” is borrowed and is not [actually] true. Thus, we must know that the word כֹּחַ (koa), “force,” without a body, refers specifically to a כְּלִי רוּחָנִי (keli ruḥani), “immaterial vessel.”

Lights and vessels

Therefore, we must not inquire how the sages of the Kabbalah, which fill the entire wisdom with their insights, differentiate between the various lights. Since these observations do not refer to the lights themselves, but to the impression of the vessel, being the aforementioned force, which is affected by its encounter with the light.

Vessels and lights

Here we must add the distinction between the gift and the love that it engenders. The lights, meaning the impression on the vessel, which is detectable, is called צוּרָה וְחוֹמֶר (tsurah ve-ḥomer), “form and matter” together. The impression, she is the form and the aforementioned force, he is the matter.

However, the love that is engendered is considered צוּרָה בְּלִי חוֹמֶר (tsurah beli ḥomer), “form without matter.” In other words, if we strip the love from a gift, as though it was never clothed in any gift, but only in the abstract designation, “love of the Name, blessed be He,” then it is regarded as form and it belongs to the formative Kabbalah. However, unlike formative philosophy it still concerns what is real since the spirit of love remains in the attainment, completely abstracted from the gift, which is the light itself.

Matter and form in Kabbalah

The reason is that although love is merely a result of the gift, it is still far more important than the gift itself. It is like a great king who gives something insignificant to someone. Although the gift itself is worthless, the love and attention of the king make it priceless and precious. Thus, it is completely abstracted from the matter—the light and the gift—so that the whole affair remains engraved only in the attainment of love itself, while the gift is forgotten from the heart. Therefore, this aspect of the wisdom is called חָכְמַת הַקְבָלָה הַצוּרָתִית (ḥakhmat ha-qabbalah ha-tsuratit), the formative wisdom of Kabbalah, and it is the most important part of the wisdom.

אַבִּיעָ (ABiYA)

This love consists of four parts, similar to human love: when we first receive a gift, we do not call the giver of the gift one who loves us, all the more so if the giver of the gift is important and the receiver is not equal to him.

However, the persistence of many gifts will make even the most important person seem like a true and equal lover, since the law of love does not exist between great and small, as two true lovers must feel equal.

Thus, you may gauge four rungs of love. The incident is called עֲשִׂיָה (assiyah), Actualization, the repetition of gift giving is called יְצִירָה (yetsirah), Formation, and the appearance of the love itself is called בְּרִיאָה (beri’ah), Creation.

It is here that the study of the formative wisdom of Kabbalah begins, for it is with this rung that love is abstracted from the gifts. This is the meaning of [I form light,and create darkness (Isaiah 45:7), meaning the light is removed from Yetsirah and the love remains without light, without its gifts.

Then comes אֲצִילוּת (atsilut), Emanation. After one has tasted and entirely stripped the form from the matter, as is written, and create darkness, he becomes worthy of ascending to the rung of Atsilut, where form clothes matter once more, meaning light and love together.

The origin of the soul

Everything spiritual is perceived as a separate force from the body because it has no physical form. However, due to this, it remains isolated and completely separate from the physical. If so, how can it set anything material in motion, much less generate anything physical, when it has no means of coming in contact with the physical?

The acidic element

However, the truth is that the force itself is actually considered matter as well, just as any physical matter in the material world, and the fact that it has no form that the human senses can perceive does not reduce the importance of the substance, which is the “force.”

For example, take a molecule of oxygen, which most substances in the world are composed of. Yet, if you have a bottle with pure oxygen you will find that it seems as though the bottle is totally empty, and you are unable to discern anything of it, as intangible air invisible to the eye.

If we remove the lid and smell it, we find no scent; if we taste it, we find no flavor; and if we put it on a scale, it will not weigh more than the empty bottle. The same applies to hydrogen, which is tasteless, odorless, and weightless too.

However, when putting these two elements together, they immediately become a liquid—drinking water that possesses both taste and weight. If we put the water inside active lime, immediately it mixes with it and becomes as solid as the lime itself.

Thus, the elements, oxygen and hydrogen, in which there is no tangibility whatsoever, become a solid. Therefore, how can we define natural forces as not being material substance just because they are not arranged in such a way that our senses can perceive them? Moreover, we can evidently see that most of the tangible materials in our world originally consist of the element of oxygen, which the human senses cannot sense and perceive!

Moreover, even in material reality, solid and liquid, which we perceive vividly in our world, can turn to smoke or vapor at a certain temperature. Likewise, vapors may turn to solids when the temperature drops.

And if so, one wonders how does something give that which it does not possess? For we have clearly seen that all material forms are derived from elements that are in and of themselves intangible, and do not exist as material in and of themselves. Likewise, all the fixed pictures that we know and use to define materials are inconsistent and do not exist in their own right. Rather, they only clothe and unclothe in forms under the influence of conditions such as heat or cold.

However, the essence of material substance is the force in it, though we are not yet able to tell these forces apart, as with chemical elements. Perhaps in the future they will be discovered in their pure form, as we have only recently discovered the chemical elements.

Equal force in spiritual and physical

In a word: all the names that we ascribe substances are imagined, that is they come from our five senses. They do not exist in and of themselves. On the other hand, any definition we ascribe to the force which abstracts it from the material, is also imagined. Even when science reaches its pinnacle, we still must regard only material reality. This means that any physical action we sense, we must perceive its actor which is also material, like the action itself. There is a correlation between them, or they would not have come to it.

We must realize that this erroneous separating of the actor from the action originates in formative philosophy, which insisted on proving that a spiritual action causes a physical action. This resulted in mistaken conclusions such as the above, which Kabbalah has no need for.

Body and soul of the supernal ones

The opinion of Kabbalah on this matter is crystal clear, without any admixture of philosophy. Since in the minds of the kabbalists, even spiritual, abstract, conceptual entities, which philosophy denies having any material reality and portrays as purely conceptual substance, although they are indeed spiritual, sublime and abstract, they still consist of a body and soul, just like the physical human being.

Therefore, you need not wonder how two can win the prize and say that they are complex. Furthermore, philosophy believes that anything complex will eventually disintegrate and decompose, meaning die. Thus, how can one declare that they are both complex and eternal?

Lights and vessels

Indeed, their thoughts are not our thoughts, for the way of the sages of the Kabbalah is one of discovering actual proof of attainment, making its intellectual refutation impossible. But let me make these matters clear for everyone’s understanding.

First, we must know that the difference between lights and vessels is understood immediately with the first emanated being from Ein Sof. Naturally, the first emanation is also the most complete and purer than everything which follows it. It is certain that it receives this pleasantness and completeness from His essence, which wishes to grant it every pleasantness and pleasure.

It is known that the degree of the pleasure is essentially the desire to receive it. That is because what we most want to receive feels as the most pleasurable. Because of this, we should discern two aspects in this first emanation: the desire to receive the essence and the received essence itself.

We should also know that the desire to receive is what we perceive as the “body” of the emanated, meaning its primary essence, being the vessel to receive His goodness. The second is the essence of the good that is received, His light, which is eternally emanated to the emanation.

It follows that we necessarily distinguish two aspects that clothe one another even in the most sublime spiritual that the heart can conceive. It is the opposite of the opinion of philosophy, which postulates that abstract entities are not complex materials. It is necessary that that desire to receive which necessarily exists in the emanated (for without it there would be no pleasure but rather coercion, and no sensation of pleasure) is absent in His essence. This is the reason for the name הַנֶאֱצָל (ha-ne’etsal), “the emanated,” since it is no longer His essence, for from whom would He receive?

However, the bounty that it receives is necessarily a part of His essence, for here there need not be any innovation. Thus, we see the great difference between the generated body and the received abundance, which is deemed His essence.

How can spiritual generate physical?

It is seemingly difficult to understand how the spiritual can generate and emanate anything material. This question is an ancient philosophical problem for which much ink has been spilt attempting to resolve.

The truth is that this question is a difficult one only if one follows their method. That is because they have defined spirituality without a connection to anything material [i.e., metaphysics]. That produces a difficult question: how can the spiritual lead to or generate anything material?

But it is the view of the sages of Kabbalah that this is not difficult at all, for their terms are the complete opposite to those of philosophers. They maintain that any spiritual quality equalizes with the physical quality like two drops in a pond. Thus, the relationships are of the utmost affinity and there is no separation between them, except in the substance: the spiritual consists of a spiritual substance and the physical consists of a physical substance.

However, all the qualities in spiritual materials abide in physical materials too, as explained in the article, The Essence of the Wisdom of Kabbalah.

The old philosophy presents three opinions as obstacles before my explanation: The first is their deciding that the power of the human intellect is the eternal soul, man’s essence [cf. Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 3:27]. The second is their conjecture that the body is an product of the soul. The third is their saying that spiritual entities are simple objects and not complex.

Materialistic Psychology

Not only is it the wrong place to argue with them about their speculations, but also the time of supporters of such views has already passed and their authority revoked. We should also thank the experts of materialistic psychology for that, which built its foundation on the ruin of the former, winning the public’s favor. Now everyone admits to the irrelevance of philosophy, for it is not built on solid foundations [materialist psychologists generally agree that consciousness (the mind) is the function of the brain. Mental processes can be identified with purely physical processes in the central nervous system, and that human beings are just complicated physiological organisms, no more than that. Some identify Rabbi Ashlag’s “materialistic psychology” with Freudian theory, see Garb, Yearnings of the Soul, p. 109].

This old method became a stumbling block and a deadly thorn to the sages of Kabbalah because where they should have subdued themselves before the sages of Kabbalah, and assumed restraint and skepticism, holiness, and purity before the sages revealed to them even the tiniest thing in spirituality, they easily received what they had wanted from formative philosophy. Without payment or price, they watered them from their fountain of wisdom to satiation, and refrained from delving in the wisdom of Kabbalah until the wisdom has almost been forgotten from among Israel. Hence, we are grateful to materialistic psychology for handing it a deadly blow.

I am Solomon

The above is much like a legend that our sages tell: Asmodeus drove King Solomon four hundred parsas from Jerusalem and left Him with no money and means of sustenance. Then he sat in King Solomon’s throne while the king was begging at door ways. Every place he went, he said: “I am Qohelet!” but none believed him. And so he went from town to town declaring, “I am Solomon!” But when he came to the Sanhedrin they said: “A fool does not utter the same foolishness all the time, saying, ‘I was once a king’” [see JT Sanhedrin 2:6; Pesiqta de-Rav Kahane (Buber), 169a; Tanḥuma (Buber), 3:55; Qohelet Rabbah 2:2]. 

It seems as though the name is not the essence of a person, but rather the owner of the name is [cf. BT Berakhot 7b; Bahir §80-§81; Zohar 1:60a; 2:179b]. Therefore, how can a wise man such as Solomon not be recognized if he is indeed the owner of the name? Moreover, it is the person that dignifies the name and he should display his wisdom!

Three preventions

There are three reasons that prevent us from knowing the owner of a name: Because of its profundity, the wisdom becomes clear only when all its details appear together. Therefore, before one knows the entire wisdom, it is impossible to see even a fraction of it. Thus, it is the publicity of its truth that we need, so as to have enough belief in it prior to making a great effort.

Just as Asmodeus, the demon, wore the clothes of King Solomon and inherited his throne, philosophy sat on the throne of Kabbalah with easier concepts to grasp, for a lie is quickly accepted. Therefore, there is a twofold trouble here: first, the wisdom of truth is profound and arduous, while philosophy is false and easily grasped; and second, it is [considered] superfluous, because philosophy is quite satisfying.

As the demon claims that King Solomon is mad, philosophy mocks and dismisses Kabbalah. However, as long as wisdom is sublime, it is elevated above the people and separated from it. Because he was the wisest man, he was also higher than every man. Thus, the finest scholars could not understand him, except those friends, meaning the Sanhedrin, whom he taught his wisdom to every day for days and years. They are the ones who understood him and publicized his name in the entire world.

The reason for it is that minor wisdom is perceived in five minutes, and is thus attainable by anyone and can be easily publicized. However, a weighty concept will not be understood in less than several hours. It may even take days or years, depending on the intelligence. Accordingly, the greatest scholars will be understood only by a selected few in the generation, since profound concepts are founded on much prior knowledge.

It is therefore not surprising that the wisest of all men, who was exiled to a place where he was not known, could not demonstrate his wisdom or even show a hint of his wisdom before they believed that he was the owner of the name.

It is the same with the wisdom of Kabbalah in our time: the troubles and the exile that have come upon us have caused us to forget it (and if there are people who do engage in it, it is not in its favor, but rather harms it, for they did not receive it from a kabbalist sage). Hence, in this generation, it is like King Solomon in exile, declaring, “I am the wisdom, and all the flavors of religion and Torah are with me,” yet none believed it.

But this is perplexing, for if it is a genuine wisdom, can it not display itself like all other wisdoms? It cannot. As King Solomon could not display his wisdom to the scholars at the place of his exile and had to come to Jerusalem, the place of the Sanhedrin, who studied and knew King Solomon, and attested to the depth of his wisdom, so it is with the wisdom of Kabbalah: it requires great sages who examine their hearts to study it for twenty or thirty years. Only then will they be able to attest for it.

And as King Solomon could not prevent Asmodeus from sitting on his throne, pretending to be him until he arrived in Jerusalem, sages of Kabbalah observe philosophic theology and complain that they have stolen the supernal shell of their wisdom, which Plato and his Greek predecessors had acquired while studying with the disciples of the prophets in the Land of Israel. They stole basic foundations of the wisdom of Israel and wore a mantle that is not theirs. To this day, philosophic theology sits on the throne of Kabbalah, being a slavegirl that is heir to her mistress (Proverbs 30:23).

And who would believe the sages of Kabbalah while others sit on their throne? It is as when they did not believe King Solomon in exile, for they knew him to be the demon Asmodeus sitting on his throne. As with King Solomon, it is hopeless that the truth be exposed, for the wisdom is deep and cannot be revealed by testimony or experimentation except to those believers that dedicate themselves to it with heart and soul.

Just as the Sanhedrin did not recognize King Solomon as long as the falsehood of Asmodeus was not apparent, Kabbalah cannot prove its true nature, and no revelations will suffice for the world to know it before the futility and falsehood of theological philosophy that has taken its throne becomes obvious.

Therefore, there was no such rescue for Israel as when materialistic psychology appeared and struck a lethal blow on the head of theological philosophy.

Now, every person who seeks the Name must return Kabbalah to its throne and restore its former glory.

Time to Act by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam)

Ba'al ha-Sullam PortraitIt is time to act for YHWH—they have violated Your teaching (Psalms 119:126)—the second clause may be taken as explaining the first, thus: they have violated your teaching. Why? Because it is time to act for YHWH” (BT Berakhot 63a).

For a long time now, my conscience has burdened me with a demand to come out and create a fundamental composition regarding the essence of Judaism, religion, and the wisdom of Kabbalah, and spread it among the nation, so people will come to know and properly understand these profound matters according to their true meaning.

Previously in Israel, prior to the development of the printing industry, there were no spurious books among us relating to the essence of Judaism, as there were almost no writers who could not stand behind their words, for the simple reason that in most cases, an irresponsible person is not famous.

Therefore, if, by chance, one dared to write such a composition, no scribe would copy it, as he would not be paid for his labor, which, for the most part, was quite considerable. Thus, such a composition was doomed from the start to be lost.

In those days, knowledgeable people, too, had no interest in writing such books, since the public did not need that knowledge. Quite the contrary, they had an interest in hiding it in secret chambers for the reason that God’s honor is to hide a matter (Proverbs 25:2). We were commanded to conceal the essence of Torah and the work from those who did not need it, or were unworthy of it, and to not degrade it by displaying it in shop windows for the lusting eyes of the boastful, because God’s honor demands it.

But ever since the printing of books has become popular, and writers are no longer in need of scribes, the price of books has been reduced. This has paved the way for irresponsible writers to publish whatever books they please, for money or for honor. But they do not take their own actions into account and do not examine the consequences of their work.

From that time on, publications of the aforementioned kind have significantly increased, without any learning or reception mouth-to-mouth from a qualified Rav, and even without knowledge of earlier books that dealt with this topic. Such authors fabricate theories from their own empty husks, and relate their words to the most exalted matters, to thus portray the essence of the nation and its extraordinary treasure. As fools, they know not how to be scrupulous, nor have a way by which to learn it. They introduce erroneous views to the generations, and in return for their petty lusts they sin and cause the nations to sin for generations to come.

Recently, their stench has soared upward because they have plunged their nails into the wisdom of the Kabbalah, not minding that this wisdom has been locked and chained behind a thousand doors to this day, that no person may understand the true meaning of even a single word of it, much less the connection between one word and the next.

That is because in all the genuine books that were written to this day, there are mere hints that barely suffice for a knowledgeable disciple to understand their true meaning, from the mouth of a wise and qualified kabbalist. And there, too, There shall the owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow (Isaiah 34:15). These days, such conspirators multiply, who fabricate such delights disgusting those who behold them.

Some of them even go as far as to presume and to assume the place of the leaders of the generation, and they pretend to know the difference between the ancient books and tell which of them is worthy of study and which is not, since it is filled with errors, and they arouse contempt and wrath. Until today, the work of scrutiny had been limited to one in ten leaders of a generation but now the ignorant abuse it.

Therefore, the apprehension of these matters by the public has been greatly corrupted. In addition, there is an air of frivolity and people think that a glance at one’s leisure is sufficient for the study of such exalted matters. They skim over the ocean of wisdom and the soul of Judaism in a glance, like that well-known angel, and draw conclusions based on their own mood.

These are the reasons that have prompted me to go out of my way and decide that it is time to act for the LORD (Psalms 119:126), and salvage what can still be salvaged. Thus, I have taken upon myself to reveal some of the true essence, which relates to the above matter, and spread it among the nation.

A Slavegirl that is Heir to Her Mistress by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam)

Ba'al ha-Sullam PortraitThe reason for the concealment of Kabbalah

Now you can understand the issue of the concealment of the hidden wisdom from the eyes of the outer ones, as well as what the sages said, “A gentile must not be taught Torah” (BT Sanhedrin 59a). There seems to be a contradiction between this and the Tanna debei Eliyahu, who said, “Even a gentile, even a slave, and even a slavegirl who sit and learn Torah, the Shekhinah is with them.” Thus, why did the sages prohibit teaching Torah to gentiles?

Teaching Torah to Gentiles

Indeed, the Tanna debei Eliyahu relates to a converted gentile, or at least to one who retired from idol worshipping, from superstition. Our sages, conversely, referred to one who did not retire from idol worshipping and wanted to know Israel’s law and wisdom in order to strengthen and fortify their idolatry. And you might say, “Why should we care if this gentile has become more pious in his idol worshipping because of our Torah? If it does not help, what harm will it do?” [see Maimonides on BT Sanhedrin 58b: ‘Resh Lakish said: A heathen who keeps the Sabbath, deserves death, as is written, And day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8:22), and a master has said: Their prohibition is their death sentence’—one is not permitted to make innovations in religion or to create new commandments. He has the privilege to become a true convert by accepting the whole Law’ (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Melakhim, 10, 9). On the prohibition against teaching Torah to gentiles (or the uncircumcised), see BT Ḥagigah 13a; Tanḥuma, Mishpatim 5; Tanḥuma (Buber), Mishpatim 3; Shemot Rabbah 30:12; Zohar 2:111b; 3:73a].

Rashbi’s Weeping

Indeed, this is what Rashbi cried for before he explained an important secret in the hidden wisdom, as is written, “Rabbi Shim’on wept, ‘Woe if I say it! Woe if I do not say it! If I say it, sinners will know how to worship their Lord. If I do not say it, the Companions will be deprived of this word’” (Zohar 1:11b) [cf. ibid., 3:74b; BT Bava Batra 89b].

He was afraid lest this secret would come by the hands of idol worshipers and they would perform their idolatry with the force of this holy mind. This is what prolongs our exile and brings upon us all the afflictions and the ruins, as we now see before us, since the sages of the nations of the world studied all the books of the children of Israel and turned them into delicacies to strengthen their faith, meaning their wisdom, called “theology” [cf. Zohar 3:14b].

From the Mouth of a Sage by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam)

Ba'al ha-Sullam PortraitIt is known from books and from authors that the study of the wisdom of Kabbalah is an absolute must for any man of Israel. And if one studies the whole Torah and knows the Mishnah and the Gemara by heart, and if one is also filled with virtues and good deeds more than all his contemporaries, but has not learned the wisdom of Kabbalah, he is forced to [undergo a new life] cycle in this world in order to study the secrets of Torah and the Wisdom of Truth. This is brought down in several places in the writing of our sages.

This is what the Zohar writes in the interpretation to the Song of Songs, explaining, If you do not know, O fairest of women (Song of Songs 1:8), which our sages interpreted as the soul entering before the Throne after death. The blessed Holy One tells her: If you do not know, O fairest of women—although you are the fairest of women and virtuous in good deeds more than all the souls, if you do not have knowledge of secrets of Torah go out in the tracks of the sheep (ibid.)—leave here and never return to this world. And graze your goats by the shepherd’s shelters—go there to the academies and learn the secrets of Torah from the mouths of the disciples of our sages [see Zohar Ḥadash 70d].

We must understand their words, conditioning one’s perfection on the study of the Wisdom of Truth. Seemingly, how is it different from the other words of the revealed Torah? Nowhere do we find that one is obligated to understand all the areas of Torah, and that he will be lacking if one area of Torah is missing. Moreover, our sages said “Not learning but doing is the main thing” (M Avot 1:17). Our sages also said, “Whether a man offers much or little, as long as he directs his heart to heaven” (BT Menaḥot 11a) [cf. BT Berakhot 17a], and there are many such sayings.

In order to attain the depth of their words, we must first understand what has been written many times in the Zohar and the Tiqqunim, wisely and exquisitely: “The Torah, the blessed Holy One, and Israel, are one.” This seems very perplexing.

Before I elucidate their words, I will inform you that our sages have a great principle for us, regarding all the holy names and appellations in the books. These are their golden words: “Anything that we cannot attain, we do not give a name” [cf. Rabbi Azriel of Gerona, Commentary on the Ten Sefirot, translated in Matt, The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism p. 29-30: “Ein Sof cannot be conceived, certainly not expressed, though it is intimated in every thing, for there is nothing outside of it. No letter, no name, no writing, no thing can confine it”].

Interpretation: It is known that there is no thought and perception in Him whatsoever, as is written in Petaḥ Eliyyahu at the beginning of the Tiqqunim of the Zohar [see Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 17a: “Elijah open and said, ‘Master of the worlds! You are one—but not in counting. You are higher than the high, concealed from the concealed. No thought grasps You at all. It is You who generated ten adornments—called by us the ten sefirot—by which concealed, unrevealed worlds are conducted, and revealed worlds. In them You conceal Yourself from human beings, while You are the One who binds and unites them. Since You are within, whoever separates one of these ten from another—it is as if he divided You”]. For that reason, even the thought of the עַצמוּת (etsmut), essence [or: self], of the Creator is forbidden, much less the speech. All the names we call Him do not refer to His essence, but only to His lights, emanating from Him to the lower ones. Even the holy name, Ein Sof, presented in the books of Kabbalah, is also regarded as light that emanates from His essence. But since He determined that His light, which emanates from His essence, will be attained by the lower ones as Ein Sof, we shall therefore describe it with that name. Yet, this does not refer to His essence, since there is absolutely no perception or thought in Him whatsoever. Thus, how shall we define Him by name or by word, since anything that we cannot attain we do not give a name?

Any novice in the Wisdom of Truth must contemplate this great principle before any scrutiny in a book of Kabbalah, that even the thought is forbidden in His essence, since there is no perception in Him whatsoever. Therefore, how can we utter a name or a word of Him, indicating attainment? However, it is a great mitsvah to probe and discover His illuminations, emanating from Him, which are all the holy names and appellations brought in the books. It is an absolute must for any man of Israel to study and understand the Secrets of Torah and all the ways of He bestows to the lower ones, which is the gist of the Wisdom of Truth and the future reward of the souls at the end of correction.

It is written in the words of our sages, in the Zohar and the Tiqqunim, that all the upper worlds and all the holy sefirot of the five worlds, AQ and ABiYA, in their quantity and quality, were prepared from the outset only for the perfection of the children of Israel. It is so because the soul of one of Israel is a part of God above and “Last in deed, first in thought” (Rabbi Shelomoh Alkabetz, Lekha Dodi) [cf. Isaiah 46:10: Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done].

It arose in His simple will to delight with reward their labor. And for this reason, the entire reality emanated before Him by way of cause and effect, rungs descending through the worlds of AQ and ABiYA (Primordial Man, Emanation, Creation, Formation, Actualization). Finally, they brought forth two discernments clothed in one another: the soul from the coverings of heaven, which emanates and clothes the material body. The essence of reality emanated [or: the root of reality expanded] till the last rung, which is the physical body with a soul. Similarly, the sequence of cause and effect, the manner of His giving, hang down by gradations.

Thus, the supernal light is higher than high but will ultimately emanate and actualize the soul clothed in the material body of this world, as is written, For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of YHWH (Isaiah 11:9); And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know YHWH: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them (Jeremiah 31:34). Our sages write, and it is also found in The Book of Zohar, “Torah is the name of the blessed Holy One” [see Rabbi Ezra of Gerona, Peirush le-Shir ha-Shirim, 548; Naḥmanides, introduction to Commentary on the Torah, 6-7; Zohar 2:60a, 87a, 90b, 124a; 3:13b, 19a, 21a, 35b-36a, 73a, 89b, 98b, 159a, 265b, 298b; Rabbi Moshe de León, Sefer ha-Rimmon, 341-42; Berit Menuḥa: Introduction; OY; Galante]. All the stories and laws and verses, all are His holy Name. According to what was already explained, that “Anything that we cannot attain we do not give a name,” you will thoroughly understand the meaning of the holy names of the blessed Holy One. These are the attainments that emanate from Him to His servants, the prophets and the righteous, each according to his merit, as is written, That I and Your people may be distinguished from every people that is on the face of the earth (Exodus 33:16).

We are distinguished through reception of the Torah and the keeping of mitsvot, first only in the revealed way. It has the merit of purifying our bodies and enhancing our souls to such a measure that we become worthy of attaining the whole Torah and its mitsvot as His names. This is the entire reward intended for the souls at the end of correction. However, it is in this world, too, as is written in the Gemara, “May you see your world in your lifetime” (BT Berakhot 17a).

[This explains to us why] he calls the 613 mitsvot “613 types of advice” in several places in the Zohar [2:82b; 2:97a], but in many other places in the Zohar he calls them 613 “decrees,” [for] man must keep Torah and mitsvot in order to purify his body and enhance his soul. Then the 613 מִּצְווֹת (mitsvot), commandments, are [indeed like] “613 types of advice,” for him, עֵצוֹת‎ (etsot), tips [or: counsel], by which to gradually purify and be awarded coming before the King, and receiving the light of His face. This is because keeping Torah and mitsvot gradually purify him, until he is rewarded with the light of the King’s face [on Torah as advice, see Sifrei, Deuteronomy 322; Avodah Zarah 17b; Midrash Tanna’im, Deuteronomy 32:28; Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 12:12; Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah on 8:5].

Also, it is written: “What difference does it make to the blessed Holy One whether one slaughters an animal from the neck or from the throat [as the law dictates]? The mitsvot were given only to purify people” (Bereshit Rabbah 44:1).

However, after he has been sufficiently purified and merits the light of the King’s face, his eyes and soul open and he is awarded the attainment of the 613 sacred lights found in the 613 mitsvot. These are His holy names, the ones he can attain.

By keeping each of the mitsvot, he takes the share of light deposited in that mitsvah, since the mitsvah is a vessel in which the light is clothed, meaning a holy name that belongs precisely to that mitsvah. This is the meaning of For a mitsvah is a lamp and teaching a light, [and the way of life—stern rebukes]” (Proverbs 6:23).

At that time, he calls the 613 mitsvot “613 פִּקּוּדִין (piqqudin), decrees [alluding to פִּקָדוֹן (piqadon), deposits].” It is like one who keeps fine stones and gems in a vessel and says to his beloved: “Take this vessel for yourself but guard it from thieves and robbers.” Thus, they only speak of the vessel, but their main concern is the precious stones kept there.

It is known in the books of Kabbalah that the meaning of the holy name, הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא (ha-Qodesh Barukh Hu), the Holy One, blessed be He, or קֻדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא (Qudsha Berikh Hu) brought down by our sages and in the Zohar, is named after the יהוה (HaVaYaH). This holy name contains all the holy names until One higher than high. Thus, we learn that “Torah and the blessed Holy One are one,” albeit the masses do not see Him in the Torah, but merely stories, verses, and laws [cf. Zohar 3:73a: “There are three rungs, interlinked—the blessed Holy One, Torah, and Israel”].

Indeed, I have already explained that the 613 “deposits” are called golden apples in silver carvings (Proverbs 25:11), as our sages said, “The whole Torah is the name of the blessed Holy One.” Hence, the Torah and the blessed Holy One are one. Yet, there are general and particular, where the blessed Holy One is the conglomeration of all the names and the general [or: universal] light, and the Torah is divided into 613 lights. It follows that all of them together are one, and are the blessed Holy One Himself.

Now, there still remains for us to explain the discernment of Israel. First, you must understand the matter of multiplicity of separate forms in spirituality, meaning how they are divided and in what. Material things are separated by a knife and such, or time and space separate and distinguish them. Yet, this is unthinkable in spirituality, as it is known to be above time and space. However, know that the whole difference in spirituality between the upper lights is only in the שִׁינוּי הַצוּרָה (shinui ha-tsurah), disparity of form. For example: the intellectual souls of people are certainly divided into separate souls. Each individual has a different soul. Yet, the essential difference between them is nothing more than what stems from their disparity in form, that the soul of one is good, the other’s is bad; one has acquired wisdom, and the other folly and so forth. Of this our sages say, [“One who sees a crowd says, ‘Blessed is He who knows the secrets.] Just as their faces are different one from the other, so are their opinions different one from the other” (JT Berakhot 9:1).

Now we can understand that if all people were to come by the same concepts and inclinations, without any difference whatsoever, all the souls of all the people would be regarded as one soul [cf. M Sanhedrin 4:5: “Man was first created as one נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), soul, to teach you that anyone who destroys a נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), person, is considered by Scripture to have destroyed an entire world; and anyone who saves a person is as if he saved an entire world”]. Its worth would be like the light of the sun: the light enclothes within all the inhabitants of the world, yet we do not discern that there are separate forms in the sunlight. Similarly, one conceptual soul would enclothe in many bodies, since space does not separate at all in spiritual matters if there are no separate forms in their qualities.

Now we shall come to the actual scrutiny: It is known that the meaning of the souls of the children of Israel is that they are a part of God above. The soul cascaded by way of cause and effect, descending rung by rung until it was fit to issue into this world and clothe in the filthy material body. By keeping Torah and mitsvot, she ascends rung-by-rung until her stature is completed, and she is fit to receive her reward from the Perfect. This has been prepared for her in advance, meaning attaining the holy Torah by way of the names of the blessed Holy One, which are the 613 “deposits.”

Now you can see with your own eyes that “Torah and Israel are one.” And the only difference between Torah and the soul is due to the disparity of form in the soul, which has been reduced to a very, very small light, and the Torah is simple light that emanates from His essence, whose sublimity is endless, as is written, “Torah and the blessed Holy One are one.” However, when the soul is complete in her full stature and receives the Torah by way of His names, namely attains all the light deposited in Torah and mitsvot, you find that, in any case, the light of the soul is equal to the light of Torah. This is because she has already attained all the light in Torah.

She is still considered incomplete as long as there is some deficit in attaining a small and subtle part of the general light of Torah. This is because all its light has been prepared for the souls, as I have explained above, “Anything that we do not attain, we do not give a name.” And since the light has been prepared for the attainment of the soul, and the soul did not attain all of it, it is therefore deemed incomplete, as in, “I will keep the whole Torah except one thing. Certainly, he is a complete wicked man” [cf. BT Bekhorot 30b: “If a gentile comes to accept the Torah except for one thing, we do not accept him”]. However, such as that you can declare in the keeping of Torah and mitsvot in attaining the 613 “deposits.” It is incomplete when lacking even one thing, great or small.

Hence, it will ultimately come to complete perfection, namely attaining the whole light of Torah. At that time, there will be no disparity of form between the light of the soul and the light of Torah anyhow. Thus, you find, exquisitely stated, that “Torah and Israel are one,” literally. Because there is no difference or disparity of form between them, they are absolutely one. And since we have already proven that “The blessed Holy One and Torah are one,” and now we have proven that “Torah and Israel are one,” it is therefore evident that “Torah and the blessed Holy One and Israel are one.”

From all the above, you find that there are two parts to Torah and mitsvot:

Torah and mitsvot as they appear to all, being the keeping of mitsvot and the study of Torah in the form of “613 types of advice.” These have the power to purify and cleanse the body, and enhance the purity of the soul, to be worthy and merit receiving the light of the King’s face, as the soul was in its root, before it diminished and came into this base body, in this base world.

Keeping the mitsvot and studying Torah in the form of 613 “deposits,” namely the matter of attaining His names and the full reward of the souls. The merit of the latter part over the former is as the merit of the Heavens over Earth. This is because the first part is mere preparation, and the second part is the actual completeness and the purpose of Creation. This explains our above question about the words of our sages, that even if a person excels in Torah and good deeds more than all his contemporaries, if he has not learned the secrets of Torah and the Wisdom of Truth, he must undergo [a new life] cycle in the world.

We asked, “What is the difference between this subject, the Wisdom of Truth, from other subjects in Torah?” We found nowhere that one is compelled to delve into all the areas of Torah. On the contrary, we have found opposition to that in many places, such as, “One does much, the other little, as long as they aim their hearts to Heaven,” and also, “It is not the study that is important, but the act.”

Now the matter is clarified—the whole part of revealed Torah is but a preparation to become worthy and merit attaining the concealed part. It is the concealed part that is the very perfection and the purpose for which man was created. Hence, clearly, if part of the concealed [teaching] is missing, although one may keep Torah and mitsvot in the revealed part, he will still be forced to undergo [a new life] cycle in this world and receive what he should receive, namely the concealed part, by way of 613 “deposits.” Only in that is the soul perfected, the way the blessed Holy One predetermined for her.

You can therefore see the utter necessity for any man of Israel, whoever he may be, to engage in the internality of Torah and Her its secrets. Without it, the purpose of Creation will not be fulfilled in him. This is the reason why we undergo [new life] cycles, generation-by-generation through our current generation, which is the residue of the souls upon which the purpose of Creation has not yet been fulfilled, as they did not attain the secrets of Torah in the past generations.

For this reason, they said in the Zohar: “The secrets of Torah and its mysteries are destined to be revealed at the time of the Messiah” [see Zohar 1:116a-18b: “Verging on the days of the Messiah, even children of the world are destined to find hidden treasures of wisdom”]. It is clear to anyone who understands, that since they will be fulfilling the purpose of Creation, they will be awarded with the coming of Messiah. Hence, inevitably, the secrets of the Torah will be revealed among them openly, since if the correction is prevented they will be forced to undergo [a new life] cycle. This will explain to you what we should ask about this interpretation in general, for who am I and who are my fathers that I have been awarded making the interpretation to expand the knowledge of the hidden secrets in the Zohar and the writings of the Ari? Moreover, why have we thus far found no other to interpret this wisdom as openly as me?

Now you can see that because our generation is really the time of the Messiah, and we are all standing at the threshold of the complete correction, and the only thing that detains us is the total abandonment of the Wisdom of Truth in this generation, due to the difficulty of the language and the dispersion of the matters. In addition to all that, there is the smallness of mind [or: narrow mindedness] and the abundant troubles in our generation. Hence, as the LORD wishes to hasten the redemption of our souls, He has passed a privilege to my hand in order to disclose a measure in this interpretation, and the will of God succeeded in my hand.

And I had another reason for making this open interpretation: “It is incumbent upon a person who studies wisdom to study some foolishness” (Zohar 3:47b), as is written, [And I saw that wisdom surpasses folly] as light surpasses darkness (Ecclesiastes 2:13). After I served my time in the city of Warsaw in the state of Poland, confined to my chamber, having nothing to do with the darkness of my surroundings, I have been blessed with settling in the Holy City of Jerusalem.

And when I walked among the people here, I saw the poverty of my people, the poverty of their mind. Their foolish laughter was in my ears as the noise of pots beneath the city, mocking and trampling the heart and soul of our yearnings, slandering the LORD, His Law, and His people in a loud voice, without any wisdom, understanding, or knowledge in the wisdom of Kabbalah at all. Rather, [they regard the Wisdom of Truth to be merely] an anthology of words and names, with no sense and no moral, only literal words. [Such people believe] it is a privilege to chatter idle words in the written text with complete faith that they are holy things, and that thus the purpose of Creation will be realized in us. And when those who study the literal [sense of the] texts with complete faith increase in number, the Messiah King will come immediately, for by that the entire תִקּוּן (tiqqun), correction, will be completed, and nothing more is needed.

Finally, I met with the famous ones among them, people who have already worn out their years delving in the writings of the Ari and the Zohar. They have so succeeded that they have become proficient and conversant in all the writings of the Ari. They have a reputation as being the holiest people in the land [likely the Yeshivat ha-Mequbalim of Bet El Synagogue] . I asked them if they had studied with a Rav who attained the essence of the matters. They replied: “Heavens no! There is no internality here whatsoever, only accurate texts handed down to us, and nothing more; perish the thought.”

I asked them if Rav Ḥayyim Vital had attained the essence of the matters. They replied: “He certainly did not attain more than we do.” I then asked them about the Ari himself. They replied: “He certainly did not know the essence more than us! All that he knew, he had handed down to his disciple, Rav Ḥayyim Vital, and thus they came into our hands.” I mocked them: “How then were the matters composed in the heart of the Ari without any understanding and knowledge?” They replied: “He received these matters from Elijah, and he knew the essence, because he is an angel.” Here my wrath poured out on them, for my patience to be with them had ended. And when I saw that their foolishness had taken root in nearly everyone engaging in this wisdom at that time, woe to the ears that so hear, Is it also to force the queen with me in the house? (Esther 7:8).

The holy Zohar has already lamented bitterly the denial of such offenders, telling themselves that there are no inner secrets in Torah, as is written in the portion Va-Yerah: “Woe to the person who says that Torah intended to present a mere story and ordinary words! [For if so, we could compose a Torah right now with ordinary words, and more laudable than all of them. If to display matters of the world,] even worldly potentates possess words more sublime. [If so, let us follow them and make a Torah out of them!]” (Zohar 3:152a). Our sages said that they cut the shoots, for they only take Malkhut.

What would the authors of the Zohar say themselves in view of the culture of such erring people, denying that there is any knowledge or wisdom in the words of the Zohar and the Wisdom of Truth? Of the very secrets of the Torah they say that there is no knowledge or discernment revealed in this world, but merely empty words. Thus, they have come to force the holy Shekhinah inside the King’s palace. Woe unto them, for they have caused themselves harm.

Our sages said that the holy Torah mourns before the blessed Holy One: “Your sons have turned Me into a song in public-houses.” But they do not even make of the Torah a semblance of a song, only frightening words to any listener that arise contempt and wrath. Furthermore, they wish to be rewarded like Phinehas, saying that they do it in perfect faith. The Writings says about them: Since this people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor Me, but have removed their heart far from Me, [and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men] (Isaiah 29:13), and this is the reason for the ruin of the First Temple.

The devil still dances among us, precisely at the time of the Messiah, the time of the end of the secrets of the Torah. The zeal of YHWH of Armies came as fire that will not quench in my bones. Because of that, I have been roused to remove the gown to such an extent that they will know that there is wisdom in Israel. This has been among the main reasons which made me arrive at this explanation. You must see in every purpose and every goal that it is utterly simple. All the wit, the cleverness, and the many issues form during the preparation, until the goal is reached. For example, when one wishes to sit in a house, he needs wit and knowledge in the design, in artisanship, and in the quality and quantity of the rooms and the possessions.

The final goal is but a simple thing—to dwell there. This is the meaning of the words, According to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house (Isaiah 44:13). It is a simple thought, without any proliferation of concepts or wit, but a simple will. Know that all the sophistication in the knowledge is mostly mistakes that should fall before the truth. Yet, the truth itself is simple, without any wit. There is a secret in that, mainly being the iron wall that separates us from our Father in Heaven: There are things that are hidden because of their great height and depth, and there are things that are hidden because of their extreme subtlety, like flies in the air, too small to be seen.

Since His light is such simple light that the human mind, which senses only a tiny fraction of something, simply does not perceive. It is like the smaller things from that measure, requiring an actual instrument to see [i.e., a microscope]. This is so because although not all of the depth of the height and the depth of the width are perceived, you can nonetheless perceive the proximate. However, with subtle things, it seems as though they do not exist at all, since you do not attain even the slightest bit of them.

A Welcoming and Shining Face by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam)

Ba'al ha-Sullam Portrait1) It is written at the end of the six orders [of Mishnah]: “[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). There is a lot to learn here: First, how did they prove that nothing is better for Israel than peace? Second, the text states explicitly that peace is the blessing itself, as is written, give strength… bless… with peace. According to them, it should have stated, giving in peace. Third, why was this phrase written toward the end of the Mishnah? Moreover, we must understand the meaning of the words peace, strength.

In order to interpret this te according to its true meaning we must traverse a long way, for the heart of sayers is too deep to search. This means that all the matters of Torah and the mitsvot bear revealed and concealed, as is written, golden apples in silver carvings, a word spoken in its own right way (Proverbs 25:11). Indeed, the ḥalakhot are like silver flasks of wine. When one gives his friend a gift, a flask of wine, then both the inside and the outside are valuable. This is because the flask has its own value, as does the wine inside it.

The Aggadot, however, are as apples. Their inside is eaten but their outside is discarded, since the outside is totally worthless. You find that all the worth and importance are only with the interior, the insides. So is the matter with Aggadot; the apparent superficiality seems meaningless and worthless. However, the inner content concealed in the words is built solely on the bedrock of the Wisdom of Truth, given to the virtuous few.

Who would dare extract it from the heart of the masses and scrutinize their ways, when their attainment is incomplete in both aspects of Torah called פְּשָׁט (peshat), plain, and דְּרַשׁ (derash), enquiry? In their view, the פַּרדֵס (pardes), Orchard, begins with the פְּשָׁט (peshat), plain, then the דְּרַשׁ (derash), enquiry, then a רֶמֶז (remez), hint, and in the end the סוֹד (sod), secret, is understood.

However, it is written in the prayer book of the Gaon Rabbi Eliyyahu [of Vilna] that attainment begins with the סוֹד (sod), secret. After the secret of Torah is attained it is possible to attain the דְּרַשׁ (derash), enquiry, and then a רֶמֶז (remez), hint. When one is granted perfect knowledge of these three layers of Torah, one is awarded the attainment of the פְּשָׁט (peshat), plain, Torah.

It is written: “If he has merit it becomes for him a סַם (sam), medicine, of life, if not, a סַם (sam), poison, of death” (BT Ta’anit 7a). Great merit is required in order to understand the plain meaning of the texts, since first we must attain the three internal layers of Torah, which the simple clothes, and the simple will not be parsed. If one has not been rewarded with it, one needs great mercy, so it will not become a potion of death for him.

It is the opposite of the argument of the negligent in attaining the interior, who say to themselves: “We settle for attaining the simple. If we attain that, we will be content.” Their words can be compared to one who wishes to step on the fourth rung without first stepping on the first three rungs [of a ladder].

2) However, accordingly, we need to understand the great concealing applied in the interior of Torah, as is said in tractate Ḥagigah, one does not study the Account of Creation in pairs, and not the Account of the Chariot alone. Also, all the books at our disposal in this trade are sealed and blocked before the eyes of the masses. Only the few who are summoned by the blessed Holy One shall understand them, as they already understand the roots by themselves and receiving from mouth to mouth.

It is indeed surprising how the ways of wisdom and intelligence are denied of the people, for whom it is the life and the length of their days. It is seemingly a criminal offence, as about such our sages said in Bereshit Rabbah about Ahaz, that he was called אָחָז (Aḥaz), Ahaz, for he had אָחוּז (aḥuz), seized, synagogues and schools, and this was his great iniquity (Bereshit Rabbah 42:3). Also, it is a natural law that one is possessive concerning dispensing one’s capital and property to others. However, is there anyone who is possessive concerning sharing his wisdom and understanding with others? Quite the contrary, “More than the calf wants to suck, the cow wants to suckle” (BT Pesaḥim 112a).

Indeed, we find such mysteries in the wisdom even with secular sages in previous generations. In Rav Botarel’s introduction to his commentary on Sefer Yetsirah, there is a text ascribed to Plato who warns his disciples as follows, “Do not convey the wisdom unto one who knows not its merit.” Aristotle, too, warned, “Do not convey the wisdom to the unworthy, lest it shall be robbed.” He interprets that if a sage teaches wisdom to the unworthy, they rob the wisdom and destroy it. The secular sages of our time do not do so. On the contrary, they labor in widening the gates of their wisdom to all without any boundaries and conditions. Seemingly, they strongly disagree with the first sages, who opened the gates of their wisdom to only a handful of virtuous few, which they had found worthy, leaving the rest of the people fumbling the walls.

3) Let me explain the matter. We make four distinctions in the human species, arranged in gradations one atop the other. These are: the masses, heroes, affluent, and sages. They are equal to the four species, called: דוֹמֵם צוֹמֵחַ חַי מִדָּבָר (domem, tsomeaḥ, ḥai, midavar), mineral, vegetable, animal, human [lit., mute, growing, living, speaking, see Rabbi Yosef Albo, Sefer ha-Iqqarim 3:1-6]. The mineral can give rise to the vegetable, animal and human, and from the beneficial and detrimental in them we discern three values in the quantity of the force. Of these the vegetable has a minimal degree of the force. Flora attract what is beneficial to them and reject the harmful in much the same way as humans and animals do. However, there is no individual sensation in them, but rather, a general force common to all plants in the world which acts on them.

Atop them is the animal. Each creature senses itself, attracting what is beneficial to it and rejecting the harmful. It follows that one animal is equal in value to all plants in existence. It is so because the force that distinguishes the beneficial from the harmful in the entire vegetable species is found in one creature of the animal species, it is under its own authority. This capacity for sensing in the animal is very limited in time and space, since the sensation does not act at even the shortest distance outside its body. Also, it does not feel anything outside its own time, meaning in the past or in the future, but only at the present moment. Atop them is the human, consisting of an emotional force and an intellectual force together. For this reason, its power is unlimited by time and space in attracting what is good for it and rejecting what is harmful, like the animal. This is so because of its wisdom, which is a spiritual matter, not limited by time and space. One can teach others wherever they are in the whole of reality, and in the past and the future throughout the generations. It follows that the value of one human is equal in value to all the forces in the vegetable and the animal species at that time, and in all the past generations. This is so because its power encompasses them and contains them within its own self, along with all their forces. This ruling also applies to the four divisions in the human species, namely the masses, the heroes, the affluent, and the sages. Certainly, they all come from the masses, which are the first degree, as is written, everything was from the dust (Ecclesiastes 3:20).

It is certain that value of the mineral and its very right to exist is in accordance with the value of the three virtues it gives rise to: vegetable, animal, and human. Also, the value of the masses corresponds to the properties they give rise to. Thus, they too form the shape of a visage. For that purpose, the blessed Holy One embedded three drives in the masses, called “jealousy,” “lust,” and “honor.” Due to them, the masses develop rung by rung in order to form a perfect human visage.

The drive for lust gives rise to the affluent. The select among them have a strong desire and lust. They excel in acquiring wealth, which is the first rung in the evolution of the masses. Like the vegetable species, they are governed by an external force that drives them, as lust is an external force in the human species borrowed from the animal. The drive for honor gives rise to the renowned heroes among them. They govern the synagogues, the town, and so forth. The most strong-willed among them excel in reaching government. These are the second rung in the evolution of the masses, similar to the animal species, whose active force inheres within their own essence, as we have said above. This is because the drive for honor is unique to the human species and along with it the desire to rule [cf. Zohar 1:25a (TZ): “They are the גִּבֹּרִים (gibborim), heroes, of yore, the men of הַשֵּׁם (ha-shem), renown (Genesis 6:4). These descend from the side of those, of whom is written: let us build us a city and a tower… that we may make us a name (Genesis 11:4). They build synagogues and academies. (They are like a) scroll of Torah, with a crown upon רֵישׁוֹי (reshoi), its head {corresponding to: and a tower with its רֹאשׁוֹ (rosho), top, in the heavens (ibid.)].

The jealous drive gives rise to the sages from among them, as our sages said, “[Rav Dimi Neharde’a said:] the jealousy of scribes increases wisdom” [scribes were responsible for keeping a tally of the Bible’s letters, words, and verses] (BT Bava Batra 21a). The strong-willed, with a zealous drive, excel in acquiring wisdom and knowledge. It is like the human species in which the active force is not limited by time and space but encompasses every object in the world, throughout the ages.

Also, it is the nature of the fire of jealousy to be general, encompassing all ages and the whole of reality. This is because it is the conduct of jealousy that if one had not seen the object in his companion’s possession, the desire for it would not have been aroused in one at all [cf. Nietzsche, Genealogy Treatise 1]. You find that the sensation of a lack is not for what one does not have, but for what his companion has, who are the entire progeny of Adam and Eve throughout the generations. Thus, this force is unlimited and it is therefore fit for its sublime and elated role.

Yet, those who remain without any merit, it is because they do not have a strong desire. Hence, all three aforementioned drives act in them together, in compound. Sometimes they are lustful, sometimes jealous, and sometimes they crave honor. Their desire breaks to pieces and they are like children who crave everything they see but cannot attain anything. Hence, their worth is akin to the straw and bran that remain after the flour.

It is known that the beneficial force and the detrimental force go hand in hand. In other words, as much as something can benefit, so it can harm. Hence, since the force of one person is greater than all the beasts and the animals of every age, one’s harmful force supersedes them all, as well. Thus, as long as one does not merit his standing such that he uses his ability only to do good, he must keep careful watch that he not acquire profuse amounts of the humanities and science. For this reason, the first sages hid the wisdom from the masses for fear of accepting indecent disciples who would use the force of the wisdom to harm and damage. These would shatter and destroy the entire population with their brute lust with man’s great powers.

As the generations have declined and sages themselves began to crave both tables, meaning a good life for their body too, their views drew near to the masses [on ירִידַת הַדוֹרוֹת (yiridat ha-dorot), decline of the generations, see BT Berakhot 20a; Eruvin 50a; Yoma 9b; Shabbat 112b; Ba’al ha-Sullam, Introduction to the Book of Zohar 61-65]. They traded with them and sold the wisdom as prostitutes, for the price of a dog. Since then, the fortified wall that the first had exerted on has been ruined and the masses have looted it. The brutes have filled their hands with the force of men, seized the wisdom and tore it. Half was inherited by adulterers and half by murderers, and they have put it in eternal disgrace to this day.

4) From that you may deduce about the Wisdom of Truth, which contains all the secular teachings within it, its seven handmaidens. This is the entirety of the human species and the purpose for which all the worlds were created, as is written, Were it not for My covenant day and night, I would not have established the laws of the heavens and earth (Jeremiah 33:25). Hence, our sages have said, “One who makes worldly use of the crown shall fade away” (M Avot 4:7). This is because they have prohibited us from using it for any sort of worldly pleasure.

This is what has sustained us thus far, to maintain the armies and the wall around the Wisdom of Truth, so no stranger or foreigner would break in and put it in their vessels to go and trade it in the market, as with the secular sages. This was so because all who entered have already been tested by seven tests until it was certain beyond any concern and suspicion.

After these words and truth we find what appears to be a great contradiction, from one extreme to the other, in the words of our sages. It is written in the Zohar that in the time of the heels of Messiah this wisdom will be revealed even to the young [see Zohar 1:93a; 1:118a]. However, according to the aforementioned we learned the generation of the heels of the Messiah will be at the highest peak. We will need no guard at all and the fountains of wisdom will open and water the whole nation.

Yet, in Sotah (49a-b) and Sanhedrin (97a), they said, “In the heels of Messiah impudence will increase… the wisdom of scribes will stink… sin-fearing people will be detested.” Meaning there is none so evil as that generation. Thus, how do we reconcile the two statements? Certainly, “these and those are the words of the Living God.”

The thing is that this careful watch and lock on the hall of wisdom is for fear of people in whom the spirit of “scribe’s jealousy” is mixed with a drive for lust and honor. Their jealousy is not limited to wanting only wisdom and knowledge. Hence, both texts are correct, and one comes and teaches of the other. “The face of the generation is as the face of a dog” (BT Sotah 49b)—they bark as dogs: הַב הַב (hav hav), ‘give, give’ (Proverbs 30:15). The righteous are castaway and scribe’s wisdom went astray with them.

It follows that it is permitted to open the gates of the wisdom and remove the careful guard, since it is naturally safe from theft and exploitation. There is no longer fear lest indecent disciples might take it and sell it in the market to the materialistic plebs, since they will find no buyers for this merchandise, as it is loathsome in their eyes.

And since they have no hope of acquiring lust and honor through it, it has become safe and guarded by itself. No stranger will draw near, except lovers of wisdom and its dwellers. Hence, any examination shall be removed from those who enter, until even the very young will be able to attain it.

Now you can understand their words: “The son of David will come only in a generation that is either altogether righteous or altogether wicked” (BT Sanhedrin 98a). This is very perplexing. Seemingly, as long as there are a few righteous in the generation, they detain the redemption! When the righteous perish from the land the coming of the Messiah will be possible, I wonder.

Indeed, we should thoroughly understand that this matter of redemption and the coming of Messiah that we hope will be speedily in our days, amen, is the supernal perfection of attainment and knowledge, as is written, And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know YHWH: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them (Jeremiah 31:34). And with the perfection of the mind, the body is perfected too, as is written, for the youth shall die a hundred years old (Isaiah 65:20).

When the Children of Israel attain perfect knowledge, the fountains of intelligence and knowledge shall flow beyond the boundaries of Israel and water all the nations of the world, as is written: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of YHWH [as the waters cover the sea] (Isaiah 11:9); and seek YHWH… and his goodness [in the latter days] (Hosea 3:5).

The proliferation of this knowledge is the matter of the expansion of King Messiah to all the nations. Yet, it is the opposite with the crude, materialistic plebs. Since their imagination is attached to the power of the fist, the matter of the expansion of the Kingdom of Israel is etched in their imagination only as a sort of dominion of polis over polis, to take their fee from the lot with great pride, and to be haughty over all the people of the world.

And what can I do for them if our sages have already rejected them, and the likes of them, from among the assembly of the LORD, saying, “‘All who is proud,’ says the blessed Holy One, ‘he and I cannot dwell in the same abode’” (BT Sotah 5a).

Conversely, some err and determine that as the body must exist prior to the existence of the soul and total consciousness, the perfection of the body and its needs precede in time the attainment of the soul and total consciousness. Hence, total consciousness is denied of a weak body.

This is a grave mistake, harder than death, since a perfect body is inconceivable whatsoever before attainment of total consciousness. This is because, in itself, it is a punctured bag, a broken cistern. It cannot contain anything beneficial, either for itself or for others, except with the attainment of total knowledge. At that time the body, too, ascends to its perfection with it, literally hand in hand. This rule applies both in individuals and in the whole.

5) Now you will understand what is written in the Zohar: “In the future Israel will taste of the Tree of Life, סֵפֶר הַזֹּהַר (Sefer ha-Zohar), The Book of Radiance, and leave exile with Mercy” (Zohar 3:124b [RM]). Also, in many other places: Only through the spreading of the wisdom of Kabbalah to the masses will we obtain complete redemption.

They also said, “The light in it draws them near Me” (JT Ḥagigah 1:7, 6b) [cf. Eikhah Rabbah 2: “Rav Huna and Rabbi Yirmiyahu said in the name of Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba: It is written, They have forsaken Me, and have not kept My law (Jeremiah 16:11)—would that they had forsaken Me but kept My law, since by occupying themselves with it, the light in it would draw them near to Me…”]. They were intentionally meticulous about this, to show us that only the light clothed in it, golden apples in silver carvings (Proverbs 25:11), holds the cure to restore a person. Both the individual and the nation will not fulfill the purpose for which they were created except by attaining the internality of Torah and its secrets. And although we hope for perfect attainment with the coming of Messiah, it is written, Gives wisdom to the wise (Daniel 2:21). It also says, And in the heart of every wise-hearted man I have set wisdom (Exodus 31:6).

Hence, it is the great expansion of the Wisdom of Truth within the nation that we need first, so we may merit receiving the benefit from our Messiah. Consequently, the expansion of the wisdom and the coming of our Messiah are interdependent. Therefore, we must establish schools and compose books to hasten the dissemination of the wisdom throughout the nation. And this was not the case before, for fear lest unworthy disciples would mingle, as we have elaborated above. This became the primary reason for the prolonging of the exile for our many sins, to this day.

Our sages said, “The son of David will come only in a generation that is either altogether righteous…” (BT Sanhedrin 98a)—when everyone retires from pursuit of honor and lust. At that time, it will be possible to establish many schools to prepare them for the coming of Messiah Son of David. “Or altogether wicked” (ibid.)—such a generation when “The face of the generation is as the face of a dog… the wisdom of scribes will stink… sin-fearing people will be detested” (BT Sotah 49b). At such a time, it will be possible to remove the careful guard and all who remain in the House of Jacob with their hearts pounding to attain the wisdom and the purpose, “Holy” will be their names, and they shall come and learn.

This is so because there will no longer be fear lest one might not sustain one’s merit and trade the wisdom in the market, as no one in the throng will buy it. The wisdom will be so loathsome in their eyes that neither glory nor lust will be obtainable in return for it. Hence, all who wish to enter may come and enter. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased (Daniel 12:4)—among those worthy of it. And by that we will soon be rewarded with the coming of Messiah, and the redemption of our souls soon in our days, amen.

With these words I unbind myself from a considerable complaint, that I have dared more than all my predecessors in disclosing the ordinarily protected rudiments of the wisdom in my book, which was thus far unexplored. This refers to the essence of the ten sefirot and all that concerns them: יָשָׁר (yashar), direct, and חוֹזֵר (ḥozer), reflected, פְּנִימִי (penimi), inner, and מַקִיף (maqif), surrounding, the meaning of the הָכָּהַ (haka’ah), striking, and the meaning of the הִזדַכְּכוּת (hizdakkhut), clarification.

The authors that preceded me deliberately scattered the words here and there, and with subtle intimations, so one’s hand would fail to gather them. I, with His light which shone upon me, and with the help of my masters, have gathered them and disclosed matters clearly enough and in their spiritual form, above space and above time. They could have come to me with a great argument: If there are no supplements to my masters here, then the Ari and Rav Ḥayyim Vital themselves together with the genuine authors, i.e., commentators on their words, could have disclosed and explained the matters as openly as I. And if you wish to say that it was revealed to them, then who is this writer, for whom it is certainly a great privilege to be dust and ashes under their feet, who says that the lot given to him by the blessed Holy One is more than their lot?

However, as you will see among the approbations, I neither added to my masters nor innovated with this composition. All my words are already written in Shemonah Sha’arim, Ets Ḥayyim, and Mavo She’arim by the Ari. I did not add a single word to them; but they sought to conceal matters; hence, they scattered them one here and one there. This was so because their generation was not yet completely unworthy and required great care. We, however, for our many sins, all the words of our sages are already fulfilled with us. They were spoken for the time of Messiah to begin with, for in such a generation there is no longer fear of revealing the wisdom, as we have elaborated above; hence, my words are clear and in order.

6) And now sons, do hear me: Wisdom cries out in the streets, in the squares she lifts her voice (Proverbs 1:20); Whoever is for YHWH, to me! (Exodus 32:26); For it is not an empty thing for you, but it is your life, and through this thing you will long endure (Deuteronomy 32:47). For you were not created to follow after the act of grain and potato, you and your donkeys in one trough. And just as the purpose of the donkey is not to serve its fellow donkeys, man’s purpose is not to serve the public, contemporaries of his [mere] physical body. Rather, the purpose of the donkey is to serve and be of use to man, who is superior to it. The purpose of man is to serve the blessed Holy One and fulfill His intention. As Son of Zoma says, “He has created all these to serve me” (BT Berakhot 58a)—and I, to serve my Maker. He says, Each act of YHWH has its own end (Proverbs 16:4), since the blessed Holy One desires and yearns for our perfection, as is written:

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).

Seemingly, we should doubt this allegory since where does that tower filled abundantly stand? In our time, we really would fill it with guests to the rim. Indeed, the words are earnest, since you see that the angels made no complaint about any of the creatures that were created during the six days of Creation, except about man. This is because he was created in the image of God and consists of the upper and lower together.

When the angels saw it, they were startled and bewildered. How would the pure, spiritual soul descend from its sublime rung to come and dwell in the same abode with this filthy, beastly body? In other words, they wondered, “Why do You need this trouble?” The answer that came to them is that there is already a tower filled abundantly but empty of guests. To fill it with guests the existence of man, formed of upper and lower together, is necessary. Accordingly, this pure soul must clothe in the form of a sordid body. They immediately understood, saying, “Do what pleases You!”

Know that this tower, filled abundantly, implies all the delight and the goodness for which He has created the creatures, as they, of blessed memory, said, “It is the way of the Good to [do] good.” Hence, He created the worlds to delight His creatures. And since there is no matter of past or future with Him, may He be blessed, we must realize that as soon as He thought to create creatures and delight them they appeared instantly and came into being before Him, may He be blessed, they and all their fulfillments of delight and pleasure—as it arose in thought.

It is written in Ḥeftsi Bah of the Ari that all the worlds, upper and lower, are contained in Ein Sof, blessed be the Name, even before the צִמצוּם (tsimtsum), withdrawal, in the mystery of He is One and His Name One (Zechariah 14:9) [cf. Giller, Reading the Zohar, p. 84: “Another early Lurianic text, R. Yosef ibn Tabul’s Drush Ḥeftsi Bah… is significant because it bypassed the editing of R. Ḥayyim Vital”]. And the occasion of the tsimtsum—the root of the worlds of ABiYA—confined to this world, occurred because the roots of the souls themselves yearn to resemble the Emanator, as is apparent in the name דְבֵקוּת (devequt), “cleaving.”

Attachment and seperation in anything spiritual is possible only in terms of שִׁיוּוּי הַצוּרָה (shiuui ha-tsurah), equivalence of form, or שִׁינוּי הַצוּרָה (shinui ha-tsurah), disparity of form. Since He wished to delight them, a desire to receive pleasure was necessarily embedded in the recipients. Thus, their form was inverted from His, since this form does not inhere in the Emanator, perish the thought, since from whom would He receive?! And to correct this, the צִמצוּם (tsimtsum), withdrawal, and the גְבוּל (gevul), boundary, was actualized until the emanation of this world to existence, enclothing of soul in a material body.

When one labors in Torah in order to satisfy his Maker the form of reception reverts to “in order to give.” This is the meaning of [For if you indeed keep all this command which I charge you to do it, to love YHWH your God to walk in all His ways,] and to cleave to Him (Deuteronomy 11:22), since then one resembles his Maker in form, and as we have said, cleaving in spirituality is equivalence of form. When the matter of cleaving is attained in all aspects of the soul the worlds will return to the state of Ein Sof, as prior to the tsimtsum.

In their land they shall possess double (Isaiah 61:7). This is because then they will be able to receive once more all the delight and goodness, prepared for them in advance in the world of Ein Sof, blessed be the Name. Moreover, now they are prepared for genuine cleaving without any disparity of form since their receiving is no longer for themselves, but rather, to give satisfaction to their Maker. And it is known that they resemble the Emanator, blessed is He, through giving and these matters have been expanded with good reason in Panim Masbirot, Branch One, Assiyah.

7) And with this discern their words: “Shekhinah with the lower ones is an exalted need” (Ibn Gabbai, Avodat ha-Qodesh, 2:32). This is a most perplexing statement, though it does go hand in hand with the above study. They have compared the matter to a king who has a tower filled abundantly and no guests. It is certain that he sits and waits for guests, or his whole preparation will be in vain. It is like a great king who had a son when he was already old and he was very fond of him. Hence, from the day of his birth he thought favorable thoughts about him, collected all the books and the finest scholars in the land, and built schools for him. He gathered the finest builders in the land and built palaces of pleasure for him, gathered all the musicians and the singers and built him concert halls. He assembled the best chefs and bakers in the land and served him every delicacy in the world, and so on and so forth. Alas, the boy grew up to be a fool with no wish for knowledge. He was also blind and could not see or appreciate the beauty of the buildings; and he was deaf and could not hear the singers. Sadly, he was diabetic, and was permitted to eat only coarse-flour bread, arising contempt and wrath.

Now you can understand their words, of blessed memory, on the verse I, YHWH, will hasten it in its time (Isaiah 60:22). “If they are worthy, I will hasten; if not, in its time” (BT Sanhedrin 98a) [cf. Zohar 1:116a-18b]. Thus, there are two ways to attain the aforementioned goal: through their own attention, called the Way of Repentance. If they are awarded that, then I will hasten it will apply to them. This means that there is no appointed time for it, but when they are awarded, the תִּקּוּן (tiqqun), correction, ends, of course. If they are not awarded the attention, there is another way, called the Way of Suffering, as is written, “The blessed Holy One will set up a king over them, whose decrees shall be as cruel as Haman’s, whereby Israel shall engage in repentance” (BT Sanhedrin 97b), meaning in its time, for in this there is an appointed time. By that, they wanted to show us that His ways are not our ways. For this reason, the case of the flesh-and-blood king who had troubled so to prepare those great things for his beloved son and was finally tormented in every way, and all his trouble was in vain, bringing contempt and wrath, will not happen with Him. Instead, all the deeds of the blessed Holy One are guaranteed and true, and there is no fraud in Him, perish the thought. This is what our sages said, “If not [rewarded], in its time.” What the wish [of the blessed Holy One], does not do, the appointed time will, as is written, in Panim Masbirot (end of 72): Can you send lightning bolts on their way, and they will say to you, “Here we are!”? (Job 38:35). There is the Way of Suffering that can remove any defect of materialism until one realizes how to raise his head out of the beastly crib, to soar and climb the rungs of the ladder of happiness and human success, for one will cleave to one’s root and fulfill the purpose [of creation].

8) Therefore, come and see how grateful we should be to our masters, who impart their holy lights to us and dedicate their souls to do good to our souls. They stand between the way of suffering and the way of repentance. They save us from Sheol, which is harder than death, and accustom us to reach the delight, the sublime gentleness and the pleasantness that is our share, ready and waiting for us from the very beginning, as we have said above. Each of them acts in his generation, according to the power of the light of his Torah and holiness.

Our sages have already said, “You do not have a generation without such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in it” [see Bereshit Rabbah 56:7]. Indeed, the man, the godly, our Rabbi Yitsḥaq Luria, troubled and provided us the fullest measure. He did wondrously more than his predecessors, and if I had a tongue that praises, I would praise that day when his wisdom appeared almost as the day when the Torah was given to Israel!

There are not enough words to measure his holy work in our favor. The doors of attainment were locked and bolted, and he came and opened them for us. Thus, all who wish to enter the King’s palace need only holiness and purity, to go bathe and shave their hair and dress in clean garments, to stand before the supernal Malkhut.

You find a thirty-eight-year-old who outweighed in his wisdom all his predecessors from the holy Geonim and on, in all times. All the elders of the land, the gallant shepherds, companions and disciples of the godly sage, Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, stood before him as disciples before the Rav. All the sages of the generations following them to this day, none missing, have abandoned all the books and compositions that precede him, the Kabbalah of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, the Kabbalah of the Rishonim and the Kabbalah of the Geonim, blessed be the memory of them all. They have cleaved their spiritual life entirely and solely to his holy wisdom. It is understood that not without merit is total victory [awarded] to this stream of wisdom, though it be young in years.

Alas, the adversary’s work succeeded, and obstacles were placed along the path of expansion of his wisdom to the holy people, and only very few have begun to conquer them. This was so primarily because the words were written by hearsay, as he had interpreted the wisdom day-by-day before his disciples, who were already elderly and with great proficiency in Zohar and the Tiqqunim. In most cases, his holy sayings were arranged according to the profound questions that they asked him, each according to his own interest. For this reason, he did not convey the wisdom in a useful order, as with compositions that preceded him. We find in the texts that the Ari himself had wished to present the issues in order. In that regard, see the beginning of the sayings of Rabbi Shim’on bar Yoḥai in the interpretation of the Idra Zuta, in a short introduction by Rav Ḥayyim Vital.

There is also the short time of his teaching, since the entire time of his school was some seventeen months, as is said in Sha’ar ha-Gilgulim 8:49a-b, since he arrived in Safed from Egypt soon before Passover in the year 1571, and at that time, Rav Ḥayyim Vital was twenty-nine years of age. And in July 1572, on the eve of the Sabbath, portion Matot-Massei, the beginning of the month of Av, he fell ill, and on Tuesday, fifth of Av, on the following week, he passed away.

It is also written in Sha’ar ha-Gilgulim 8:71a, that upon his demise, he ordered Rav Ḥayyim Vital to not teach the wisdom to others, and permitted him to study only by himself and in a whisper. The rest of the companions were forbidden to engage in it altogether because he said that they did not understand the wisdom properly. This is the reason why Rav Ḥayyim Vital did not arrange the texts at all and left them unorganized. Naturally, he did not explain the connections between the matters, so that it would not serve as teaching others. This is the reason we find such great caution on his part, as is known to those proficient in the writings of the Ari. The arrangements found in the writings of the Ari were arranged and organized by a third generation, in three times, and by three compilers. The first compiler was the sage Mahari Tsemaḥ. He lived at the same time of Mahara Azulai, who passed away in the year 1644.

A large portion of the texts came by him, and he arranged many books from them. The most important among them is the book Adam Yashar, in which he collected the root and the essential teachings that were at his disposal. However, some of the books that this Rav had complied were lost. In the introduction to his book, Kol be-Rama, he presents all the books that he had compiled.

The second compiler is his disciple, Maharam Paprish [Poppers]. He did more than his Rav, since some of the books that were held by the sage Maharash Vital came by his hands, and he compiled many books. The most important among them are the books, Ets Ḥayyim and Pri Ets ha-Ḥayyim. They contain the entire scope of the wisdom in its fullest sense. The third compiler was the sage Maharash Vital, the son of Moharar Ḥayyim Vital. He was a great and renowned sage. He compiled the famous Shemonah Sha’arim from the inheritance his father had left him. Thus we see that each of the compilers did not have the complete writings. It heavily burdened the [proper] arrangement of matters, which are unsuitable for those without true proficiency in Zohar and the Tiqqunim. Hence, few are those who ascend.

9) We are privileged by Him to have been rewarded with the spirit of the Ba’al Shem Tov, whose greatness and sanctity are beyond any word and any utterance. He was not gazed upon and will not be gazed upon, except by those worthy that had served under his light, and they, too, only intermittently, each according to what he received in his heart. It is true that the light of his Torah and holy wisdom are built primarily on the holy foundations of the Ari. However, they are not at all similar. I shall explain that with an allegory of a person who is drowning in the river, rising and sinking as drowning people do. Sometimes only the hair is visible, and then counsel is sought to catch him by his head. Other times his body appears as well, and then counsel is sought to catch him from opposite his heart.

So is the matter before us. After Israel has drowned in the evil waters of the exile in the nations, from then until now they rise and fall, and not all times are the same. At the time of the Ari, only the head was visible. Hence, the Ari endeavoured in our favor to rescue us through the mind. At the time of the Ba’al Shem Tov, there was relief. Hence, it was a blessing to rescue us from opposite our heart and that was a great and true rescue.

And for our many sins, the wheel has been turned over again in our generation and we have declined tremendously, as though from the zenith to the nadir. In addition, there is the collision of the nations, which has confused the entire world. Needs have increased and the mind grown short and corrupt in the filth of materialism. Servants ride horses and princes walk on the earth (Ecclesiastes 10:7), and everything that is said in our study in Sotah has come true in us, for our many sins [see BT Sotah 49b].

Again, the iron wall has been erected, even on this great light of the Ba’al Shem Tov, which we have said illuminated as far as the establishment of our complete redemption. And the wise-at-heart did not believe in the possibility that a generation would come when they could not see by his light. Now, our eyes have darkened; we have been robbed of good, and when I saw this I said, It is time to act! (Psalms 119:126) [cf. BT Berakhot 54a; 63a]. Thus, I have come to open widely the gates of light of the Ari, for he is indeed capable and fit for our generation, too, and two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) [cf. BT Ta’anit 23a].

We should not be blamed for the brevity in my composition, since it corresponds and adapts to any lover of wisdom, as too much wine wears off the flavour and attainment will become harder for the disciple. Also, we are not responsible for those fat-at-heart, since the language to assist them has yet to be created. Wherever they lay their eyes they find folly and there is a rule that from the same source from which the wise draws his wisdom, the fool draws his folly [see Zohar 3:47b].

Thus, I stand at the outset of my book and warn that I have not troubled at all for all those who love to gaze through windows. Rather, it is for those who care for the words of the blessed Holy One and long for Him and His goodness, to fulfill the purpose for which they were created, for with the will of God those that seek Me early shall find Me (Proverbs 8:17) shall come true in them.

10) Come and see the words of the sage Ibn Ezra: “And now note and know that all the mitsvot that are written in the Torah or the conventions that the forefathers have established, although they are mostly in action or in speech, they are all in order to correct the heart, for YHWH searches all hearts, and understands all the imaginations of the thoughts (1 Chronicles 28:9)” (Yesod Morah 1:1, 8b).

It is written, To the upright in their hearts (Psalms 125:4). Opposite this is, A heart plotting wicked designs (Proverbs 6:18). I have found one verse that contains all the mitsvot: YHWH your God you shall fear, and Him shall you serve (Deuteronomy 6:13)fear contains all the negative mitsvot in speech, in heart and in action, it is the first rung from which one ascends to the service of the blessed Holy One, which contains all the positive mitsvot. These will accustom one’s heart and guide one until one cleaves to the blessed Holy One, since for that was man created. He was not created for acquiring fortunes or for erecting buildings. Hence, one should seek everything that will bring one to love Him, to learn wisdom and to seek faith. And the blessed Holy One will open the eyes of his heart and will renew a different spirit in him. Then he will be loved by his Maker in his life.

Know that the Torah was given only to men of heart. Words are as bodies and the טַעַמֵי (ta’amei), reasons [lit., flavors], as souls. If one does not understand the reasons, one’s whole effort is in vain, labor wasted away. It is as though one exerts oneself to count the letters and the words in a medicine book. No healing will come from this labor. “Like a camel carrying silk; he does nothing for the silk, nor does the silk benefit him” (Ibn Ezra, Yesod Mora, 1:1, 9a).

We draw only this from his words: hold on to the purpose for which man was created. He says this is the matter of דְבֵקוּת (devequt), cleaving, to the blessed Holy One. Hence, one must search every means to bring one to love Him, to learn wisdom and to seek faith, until the blessed Holy One rewards one with opening his eyes and renewing a different spirit within him. At that time, he shall be loved by his Maker.

His precision is intentional: to be loved by his Maker in his life. It indicates that while he has not acquired that, his work is incomplete, and the work that was necessarily given to us to do today. It is as he ends, the Torah was only given to men of heart, meaning ones who have acquired the heart to love and covet Him. The sages call them “wise-hearted,” since there is no longer a descending, beastly spirit there, for the evil impulse is present only in a heart bereft of wisdom.

He interprets and says that the words are as bodies and the reasons, as souls. If one does not understand the טַעַמֵי (ta’amei), reasons, it is similar to exerting oneself counting pages and words in a medicine book. This exertion will not yield a remedy. He wishes to say that one is compelled to find the means to acquire the aforementioned possession. It is because then one can taste the טַעַמֵי (ta’amei), flavors, of Torah, which is the inner wisdom and its mysteries, and the flavors of a mitsvah, which are the inner love and desire for Him.

Without it, one has only the words and the actions—dead bodies without souls. It is like one who labors counting pages and words in a medicine book and so forth. Certainly, he will not perfect himself in medicine before he understands the meaning of the written medicine. Even after one purchases it, for whatever price is asked, if the conduct of the study and the actions are not arranged to bring him to it, it is “like a camel carrying silk; he does nothing for the silk, nor does the silk benefit him,” to cause it to fulfill the purpose for which it was created.

11) Accordingly our eyes have been opened with regard to the words of Rabbi Shim’on on Let us make a human (Genesis 1:26):

Rabbi Shim’on said: When the blessed Holy One came to create the human, the ministering angels formed themselves into groups and parties, some of them saying, “Let him be created,” whilst others urged, “Let him not be created.” Thus it is written, Kindness and truth have met, justice and peace have kissed (Psalms 85:10). Kindness said, “Let him be created, because he will render acts of kindness”; Truth said, “Let him not be created, because he is compounded of falsehood”; Justice said, “Let him be created, because he will perform just deeds”; Peace said, “Let him not be created, because he is full of strife.” What did the blessed Holy One do? He took Truth and cast it to the earth. Said the ministering angels before the blessed Holy One “Master of the Universe! Why do You despise Your seal [cf. BT Shabbat 55a: “Truth is the seal of the blessed Holy One”]? Let Truth arise from the earth!” Hence it is written, Truth from the earth will spring up (Psalms 85:12) (Bereshit Rabbah 8:6).

This text is difficult from all perspectives. First: It does not explain the matter of Let us make a human. Is this a counsel that He needs, perish the thought, as is written, rescue through many counselors (Proverbs 11:14). Second: Regarding Truth, how can it be said of humanity that it is all lies, when there is not a generation without such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Third: If the words of Truth are earnest, how did the angels of Kindness and Justice agree to a world that is all lies? Fourth: Why is Truth called Seal, which comes at the edge of a letter? Certainly, the reality exists primarily outside the seal. Is there no reality at all outside the borders of Truth? Fifth: Can messengers of Truth think the true Mover’s act is untrue? Sixth: Why did Truth deserve such a harsh punishment to be thrown to the ground, even into the ground? Seventh: Why is the angels’ reply not recorded in Torah, as their question is brought?

We must understand these two conducts set before our eyes, which are completely opposite. These are the conducts of the existence of the entire reality of this world and the conducts of the manners of existence for the sustenance of each and every one in the reality before us. From this end, we find a reliable conduct in utterly affirmed guidance, which governs the making of each and every creature in reality.

Let us take the making of a human as an example. The love and pleasure are its first reason, certain and reliable for its task. As soon as it is uprooted from the father’s brain, הַשׁגָחָה (hashgaḥa), Providence, provides it a safe and guarded place among the beddings in the mother’s abdomen, so no stranger may touch it.

There Providence sustains it with its daily bread in the right measure. It tends to its every need without forgetting it for even a moment, until it gains strength to emerge into the atmosphere of our world, full of obstacles. Then Providence provides it power within itself and like an experienced warrior it opens gates and pounds on its walls until it comes to such people it can trust to help it through its days of weakness with love and great compassion to sustain its existence, as they are the most precious for it in the whole world.

Thus, Providence embraces it until it qualifies it to exist and to continue its existence onward. As is with the human, so it is with animal and vegetable. All are wondrously watched over, their existence secured, and every student of nature knows this. From the other perspective, when we regard the vast array of existence, large and small, we find orders confused, as if an army were fleeing the battlefield, sick, beaten, and beset by the blessed Holy One. Their whole life is as death, having no sustenance unless by tormenting first, risking their lives for their bread. Even a tiny louse breaks its teeth when it sets off for a meal. How much frisking about it does to obtain enough food to sustain itself? So too great and small alike. All the more so with humans, the pinnacle of creation, engaged with everything.

12) We discern two opposites in the ten sefirot of holiness. The first nine sefirot have the form of giving, and Malkhut for the purpose of receiving. Also, the first nine are filled with light but Malkhut has nothing of Her own [see Zohar 1:181a: “She has no light of Her own”].

This is the meaning of our discernment of two aspects of light in each פַּרצוּף (partsuf), configuration [or: gestalt, countenance]: אַוָר פְּנִימִי (or penimi), inner light, and אַוָר מַקִיף (or maqif), surrounding light, and two aspects in the כְּלִים (kelim), vessels, which are the inner vessel for inner light and an outer vessel for surrounding light. This is so because of the two aforementioned opposites, as it is impossible for two opposites to inhere in the same subject [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 50:2]. Thus, a single subject is required for inner light and a single subject for surrounding light.

However, they are not really opposite in holiness, since Malkhut couples with the upper nine [sefirot], and Her quality is giving as well in the form of אוֹר חֹזֵר (or ḥozer), reflected light. The סִיטְרָא אַחְרָא (sitra aḥra), Other Side [or: Shadow Side], however, has nothing of the upper nine. Its עִקָּר (iqqar), essence [or: root] is חָלָל פָּנוּי (ḥalal panui), empty space, which is the expanded form of receiving, the first צִמצוּם (tsimtsum), withdrawal. That שׁוֹרֶשׁ (shoresh), root, remained without light even after the illumination of the קָו (qav), line, reached within the רשִׁימוּ (reshimu), trace, residue. For this reason, they are complete opposites, compared to life and holiness, as is written, One against the other God has set (Ecclesiastes 7:14); hence they are called “dead.”

It has been explained above (see 6) that the whole issue of the צִמצוּם (tsimtsum), withdrawal, was only for the adornment of the souls, regarding resemblance to their Maker, i.e., the inversion of vessels of receiving to the form of giving. Yet, you find that this objective is denied from the perspective of the פַּרצוּפִים (partsufim), configurations, of holiness. This is because there is nothing there of the vacuum, which is the expanded form of receiving, over which was the tsimtsum, hence, no correction can apply to it since it does not exist in reality [cf. Rabbi Immanuel Hai Ricchi, Yosher Levav, 15, 10a: “Therefore, לְגַבַּי דִידַן (le-gabei didan), relative to us, it is as if there was no tsimtsum and we can say that the tsimtsum is not literal”]. Moreover, there is certainly no correction here מצִידוֹ (mitsido), from the perspective, of the Other Side, although it does have a vacuum, because its interest is totally opposite, everything it receives dies. Hence, it is only a human being in this world that we need. In infancy, he is sustained and supported by the Other Side, inheriting the vessels of the vacuum from it. When he matures he connects to the מַעֲרָך (ma’arakh), structure, of holiness through the power of Torah and mitsvot in order to give satisfaction to his Maker. Thereby one inverts the capacity of receiving he has already acquired to be positioned solely for giving. With this he resembles his Maker and the purpose [of creation] is realized in him. This is the meaning of the existence of time in this world. You find that first these two opposites were divided into Holiness and the Other Side: One against the other God has set (Ecclesiastes 7:14). They are still devoid of the aforementioned correction, for they must inhere in the same subject, which is man. Therefore, the existence of an order of time is necessary for us, since then the two opposites will appear in a person one-by-one, meaning at a time of קַטנוּת (qatnut), smallness [constricted, or flaccid, consciousness], and at a time of גַדלוּת (gadlut), greatness [expanded, or aroused, consciousness] [cf. BT Ḥullin 60b on Amos 7:2; Genesis 32:10].

13) Now you can understand the need for the שְׁבִירָתּ הַכְּלִים (shevirat ha-kelim), shattering of the vessels, and their properties, as is written in the Zohar and in the writings of the Ari, that two kinds of light are present in each of the ten sefirot, running and returning [like the appearance of lighting] (Ezekiel 1:14) [see Zohar 3:255b, 256b, 258a (all RM); TZ 6a–b].

The first light is אוֹר אֵין סוֹף (or ein sof), Light Without End, which travels from above downward. It is called אוֹר יָשָׁר (or yashar), direct light. The second light is a result of the vessel of Malkhut, returning from below upward, called אוֹר חֹזֵר (or ḥozer), reflected light. Both unite into one. Know that from the tsimtsum downward, the point of tsimtsum is devoid of any light and remains a vacuum. The supernal light can no longer appear in the last בְּחִינָה (beḥina), aspect, before the end of correction, this is said of Or Ein Sof, called direct light. However, the second light, called אוֹר חֹזֵר (or ḥozer), reflected light, can appear in the last בְּחִינָה (beḥina), aspect, since the tsimtsum does not apply to it at all.

Now we have learned that the structure of the Other Side and the קְלִפּוֹת (qelipot), shells, is a necessity for the purpose of the tsimtsum, in order to instill in a person the great vessels of receiving while in קַטנוּת (qatnut), smallness [constriction], when one is dependent on her.

Thus, the Other Side needs שֶׁפַע (shefa), efflux, too. Where would she take it if she is made solely of the last aspect which is a space empty of any light, since from the tsimtsum downward the supernal light is isolated from her? Hence, the matter of the shattering of the vessels had been prepared. The shattering indicates that a part of the אוֹר חֹזֵר (or ḥozer), reflected light, of the world of נְקוּדִּים (nequddim), points, descended from [the world of] אֲצִילוּת (atsilut), Emanation, out to the חָלָל פָּנוּי (ḥalal panui), vacuum. And you already know that reflected light can appear in the vacuum, as well. That part, the reflected light that emanated from Atsilut, contains thirty-two unique aspects of each and every sefirah of the ten sefirot of nequddim. Ten times thirty-two is 320. These 320 בְּחִינָת (beḥinat), aspects, that emanated, were prepared for sustaining the lower ones, which come to them in two מַעֲרָכוֹת (ma’arakhot), structures, as is written, One against the other God has set (Ecclesiastes 7:14)—worlds of ABiYA of holiness opposite worlds of ABiYA of the Other Side.

People over people shall prevail, [the elder, the younger’s slave] (Genesis 25:23). Our sages said that when one rises, the other falls, and Tyre is built only over the ruins of Jerusalem. This is so because all these 320 aspects can appear for the סִיטְרָא אַחְרָא (sitra aḥra), Other Side, at which time the building of the structure of holiness, with respect to the lower ones, is totally destroyed. Also, these 320 aspects connect solely to holiness. Then the structure of the Other Side is eradicated from the land and they divide more or less evenly between them, according to human actions. And so they are bound up with the two structures until the גְמָר תִּקּוּן (gemar tiqqun), final correction.

After the shattering of the vessels, of the 320 aspects—cascading sparks of light from Atsilut—288 were arrayed and elevated, meaning all that fell from the first nine of the ten sefirot of נְקוּדִּים (nequddim), points. Nine times thirty-two is the 288 aspects and they reconnect to build the structure of holiness.

You find that only thirty-two aspects remained for the Other Side of what fell from Malkhut of the world of points. This was the beginning of the structure of the Other Side, in its utter smallness, when she is as yet unfit for her task. The completion of her building ended later with the sin of אָדָם הַרִאשׁוֹן (adam ha-rishon), primordial man, with the Tree of Knowledge. Thus we find that there are two structures, one opposite the other, acting in the persistence and maintenance of reality. The allocation of light needed for existence is 320 sparks and these were prepared and measured at the breaking of the vessels. This allocation oscillates between the two structures, and this is what the persistence and maintenance of reality depends on. You should know that the structure of holiness must have a share of at least 288 sparks to complete her nine upper sefirot and continue to maintain the existence of the lower ones. This is what it possessed prior to the sin of primordial man and for that reason the whole of existence was conducted by the structure of holiness, since it had the full 288 sparks.

14) Now we find the opening to Midrash ha-Ne’lam (Zohar 1:134b-140a) the above study regarding the four factions, Kindness, Justice, Truth, and Peace, which negotiated with the blessed Holy One regarding man’s creation. These angels are servants of man’s soul. He negotiated with them since the entire act of creation was according to them, as each and every soul consists of ten sefirot in אַוָר פְּנִימִי (or penimi), inner light, and אַוָר מַקִיף (or maqif), surrounding light. Kindness is the inner light of the first nine of the soul. Justice is the inner light of the Malkhut of the soul. Truth is the surrounding light of the soul.
We have already said that inner light and surrounding light are opposites, since the inner light is drawn by the law of the illumination of the קָו (qav), line, withheld from the point of the צִמצוּם (tsimtsum), withdrawal, which is the גַדלוּת (gadlut), expanded, form of receiving.

Surrounding light emanates from אוֹר אֵין סוֹף (or ein sof), Light without end, which surrounds all the worlds, since there, in Ein Sof, great and small are equal. For this reason, surrounding light shines and bestows upon the point of צִמצוּם (tsimtsum), withdrawal, as well, much less for Malkhut. Since they are opposites, two vessels are needed. This is because inner light illuminates in the upper nine [sefirot]. Even to Malkhut it shines but only according to the law of the upper nine and not at all for Herself. However, surrounding light shines in the vessels that emanate specifically from the point of tsimtsum, which is called כְּלִי הַחִיצוֹן (keli ha-ḥitson), outer vessel.

Now you can understand why Truth is called חוֹתָם (otam), Seal. It is a borrowed name from a seal at the edge of a letter. While it is fixed at the end of matters it supports and validates them. Without the seal they are worthless and the whole text is wasted. It is the same with surrounding light which bestows upon the point of tsimtsum, the גַדלוּת (gadlut), expanded, measure of reception, until it resembles its Maker in giving. Indeed, this is the purpose of all the limited worlds, upper and lower.

The protest of Truth regarding man’s creation is its claim that he is all lies. This is so because, from the perspective of the blessed Holy One, man does not have an outer vessel, which he needs to draw from the point of tsimtsum, as she has already been isolated from His light. Thus, the angels of Truth could not help man obtain the surrounding light.

All the limited worlds, upper and lower, were created solely for that completion and man must be its only subject. But since man is unfit for his purpose they are all welter and falsehood and the labor in them useless. It is the opposite with the angels of Kindness and Justice, which belong specifically to inner light of the soul. Because he has nothing of the vacuum they bestow upon him all the lights of נְשָׁמָה (neshamah), soul, abundantly, in the most sublime perfection.

Thus, they were happy to benefit him and wholeheartedly agreed to man’s creation. Because they are Netsaḥ, Hod, Yesod that enter by זִוּוּג דְהַכָּאָה (zivug de haka’a), coupling in striking, they belong half to the surrounding light from the perspective of the reflected light in it. The angels of Peace claimed that he is all strife. In other words, how would he receive surrounding light? In the end, they cannot inhere in the same subject with inner light as they are opposite from each other, meaning all strife.

Surrounding light is discerned by two: the future reflected light and the future surrounding light. The outer vessel for reflected light is the מָסָך (masakh), screen, and the outer vessel for surrounding light is the עָבִיוּת (aviut), coarseness, of the fourth aspect itself, namely the לֵב הָאֶבֶן (lev ha-even), heart of stone (Ezekiel 36:26). You find that primordial man lacked only an outer vessel, which belongs to the angels of Truth. He did not lack an outer vessel, belonging to the angels of Peace. Hence, they agreed to creation, but claimed that he is all strife, meaning that direct light cannot enter the inner vessel since they are opposites.

15) Now we have been granted the understanding of the rest of the verses in the sin of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, which are most profound. Our sages, who disclosed a portion, concealed ten portions with their words. As a foreword, it is written, And the two of them were naked, the human and his woman, [and they were not ashamed] (Genesis 2:25). Know that clothing means outer vessel. Hence, the text precedes to demonstrate the reason for the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, as is written, Awesome in works over humankind (Psalms 66:5)—works with which to ascend. This means that his sin had been prepared in advance [see Zohar Ḥadash 18c: “Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘A decree was ordained beforehand that Adam should die…’”], and this is the meaning of the words that the human and his wife did not have an outer vessel at the time of creation but only inner vessels emanated from the structure of holiness, hence they were not ashamed. This is why they did not feel their lack, as shame refers to a sensation of lacking.

It is known that the sensation of a lack is the first reason for the fulfillment of deficiency. It is like a person who feels one’s illness and is willing to receive medication. However, when one does not feel that he is ill he will certainly avoid all medications. Indeed, this task is for the outer vessel to do. Since it is in the construction of the body and is empty of light, as it comes from the vacuum, it begets the sensation of emptiness and death in it by which one becomes ashamed.

Hence, one is compelled to return to fill the lack and draw the absent surrounding light which is about to fill that vessel. This is the meaning of the verse, And the two of them were naked, the human and his woman—outer vessel. For this reason, they were not ashamed, since they did not feel their lack. In that manner, they are devoid of the purpose for which they were created.

Yet, we must thoroughly understand the sublimity of this man, made by the hands of the blessed Holy One. Also, his wife, to whom the blessed Holy One has administered greater understanding than him, as they have written in Niddah in the interpretation of And YHWH God built the rib (Genesis 2:21) [see BT Niddah 45b: “And YHWH God יִּבֶן (yi-ven), built, the rib He had taken from the human into a woman (Genesis 2:21)—the blessed Holy One placed more בִּינָה (binah), understanding, in women than in men”].

Thus, how did they fail and became as fools, not knowing to beware of the serpent’s cunning? On the other hand, that serpent, of which the text testifies that it was more cunning than all animals of the field, how did it utter such folly and emptiness that should they eat off the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, they would become God? Moreover, how did that folly settle in their hearts? Also, it is said below that they did not eat because of their desire to become God, but simply because the tree is good to eat. This is seemingly a beastly desire!

16) We must know the nature of two aspects customary for us: The first is called “aspect of good and bad.” The second is called “aspect of true and false.” This means that the blessed Holy One has embedded a discerning force in each creature that acts on everything that is good for it and brings it to its desired perfection. The first aspect is the active, physical force. It employs the sensation of bitter and sweet, which loathes and repels the bitter, since it is bad for it, and loves and attracts the sweet because it is good for it. This force is sufficient for the mineral, vegetable, and animal existence, in bringing them to their desired perfection.

Atop them is the human species in which the blessed Holy One put an active rational force. It discerns the above second aspect, rejecting falsehood and emptiness with loathing to the point of nausea, and attracts true matters and every benefit with great love.

This is called “aspect of true and false.” It is implemented solely in the human species, each according to his own measure. Know that this second active force was created and came to man because of the serpent. At creation, he had only the first active force, from the aspects of good and bad, which was sufficient for him at that time.

Let me explain it to you with an allegory: If the righteous were rewarded according to their good deeds, and the wicked punished according their bad deeds in this world, holiness would be determined for us with the existence of sweet and good, and the Other Side would be apprehended with the existence of bad and bitter. In that state the decree of [free] choice would reach us, as is written, See, I have set before you today life and good and death and evil… choose life (Deuteronomy 30:15, 20). Thus, all the people would be guaranteed to achieve perfection, for they would certainly flee from transgression, as it is bad for them. They would be occupied in His mitsvot day in and day out, ceaselessly, like today’s fools regarding bodily matters and its filth, since it is good and sweet to them. So it was with primordial man when He created him.

[And YHWH God took the human] and set him down in the garden of Eden to till it and watch it (Genesis 2:15). Our sages interpreted: to till it—positive mitsvot; and watch it—negative mitsvot. His positive mitsvot were to eat and delight with all the trees of the Garden, and his negative mitsvot were to not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. Positive mitsvot were sweet and nice, and negative mitsvot were withdrawing from the bitter fruit that is as hard as death.

Not surprisingly, these cannot be called mitsvot and labor. We find the likes of that in our present chores, where through the pleasures of the Sabbath and good days we are rewarded with sublime holiness. And we are also rewarded for retiring from reptiles and insects and everything that one finds loathsome. You find that the choice in the labor of primordial man was by way of “therefore choose sweet.” It follows that the physical palate alone was sufficient for all he needed, to know what the blessed Holy One commanded and what He did not command.

17) Now we can understand the serpent’s cunning, which our sages have informed us was Samael, because its words were very lofty. It started with, Though God said, you shall not eat from any tree of the garden (Genesis 3:1). Meaning, it began to speak with her since the woman was not commanded by the blessed Holy One. Hence, it asked her about the manner of interpretation, meaning how do you know that the Tree of Knowledge has been prohibited? Perhaps all the fruits of the garden were forbidden to you as well? And the woman said… ‘From the fruit of the garden’s trees we may eat… You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it, lest you die’ (Genesis 3:2-3).

There are two great precisions here: Touching was never forbidden [cf. Bahir §199-200]; hence, why did she add to the prohibition? Did she doubt the words of the blessed Holy One? The blessed Holy One said, you will be doomed to die and the woman said, lest you die. Could it be that she did not believe the words of the blessed Holy One even prior to the sin? Yet, the woman answered according to the serpent’s question. She knew what the blessed Holy One had prohibited, that all the trees of the garden are sweet and nice and good to eat. However, she was already close to touching that tree inside the garden, and tasted in it a taste that is as hard as death. She herself had proven that by her own observation, there is fear of death, even from mere touching. For this reason, she understood the prohibition further than she had heard from her husband, as there is none so wise as the experienced.

Lest you die concerns the touching. The answer must have been quite sufficient, for who would interfere and deny another’s taste? However, the serpent contradicted her and said, You will not be doomed to die. For God knows that on the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened (Genesis 3:5). We must be exacting concerning the matter of the opening of the eyes to this place. Indeed, it informed her of a new thing, beyond her. It proved to them that it is folly to think that the blessed Holy One created something harmful and detrimental in His world. Thus, with respect to the blessed Holy One, it is certainly not a bad or harmful thing.

Instead, that bitterness that you will taste in it, when even close to touching, is only on your part, since this eating is to notify you of the stature of your merit. Thus, it is additional holiness that you need during the act, so your sole aim will be to bring satisfaction to your Maker, to keep the purpose for which you were created. For this reason, it seems evil to you, so you will understand the additional holiness required of you.

For on the day you eat from it (Genesis 2:17), meaning if the act is with holiness and purity as clear as day, then “ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.” This means that as it is certainly sweet to the blessed Holy One and completely equal, so the good and bad will be to you, in perfect equivalence, sweet and gentle.

It is still possible to doubt the credibility of the serpent, since the blessed Holy One did not tell it that Himself. Therefore, the serpent first said, for God knows that on the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened (Genesis 3:5). This means that it is not necessary for the blessed Holy One to notify you of that, since He knows that if you pay attention to that, to eat on the side of holiness, your eyes shall be opened by themselves, to understand the measure of His greatness. You will feel wondrous sweetness and gentleness in Him; hence, He does not need to let you know, as for that He instilled in you the scrutinizing force, elucidating capacity, that you may know what is to your benefit by yourselves.

It is written right after that: And the woman saw that the tree was good for eating and that it was lust to the eyes (ibid., 6). This means that she did not rely on His words, but went and examined with her own mind and understanding and sanctified herself with additional holiness, to bring contentment to the blessed Holy One in order to complete the aim desired of her, and not at all for herself. At that time, her eyes were opened, as the serpent had said, And the woman saw that the tree was good for eating.

In other words, by seeing that it was lust to the eyes before she even touched it, she felt great sweetness and lust, when her eyes saw by themselves that she had not seen such a desirable thing in all the trees of the garden. She also learned that the tree is good for knowledge, meaning that there is far more to lust and desire in this tree than in all the trees of the garden. This refers to knowing that they were created for this act of eating, and that this is the whole intention, as the serpent had told her.

After all these certain observations and she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave to her man with her, and he ate (Genesis 3:6). The text writes, precisely, with her, meaning with the pure intention only to give and not for her own need. This is the meaning of the words and she also gave to her man with her in holiness.

18) Now we come to the heart of the matter and the mistake that concerned his leg. This Tree of Knowledge of good and evil was mixed with the vacuum, meaning with the expanded form of reception upon, which the tsimtsum was implemented, and from which אוֹר הַעֶלִיוֹן (or ha-elyon), the supernal Light, departed. It has also been explained that primordial man did not posses any of the expanded form of reception in his structure which emanates from the vacuum. Instead, he emanated solely from the structure of holiness, concerned only with giving.

It is written in Zohar Qedoshim [3:83a (RM)], that primordial man had nothing from this world. For this reason, the Tree of Knowledge was forbidden to him, as his root and the whole structure of holiness are separated from the Other Side, because of their disparity of form which is the separation. Thus, he, too, was commanded and warned about attaching to it, as thus he would be separated from his holy root and die like the Other Side and the קְלִיפּוֹת (qelipot), shells, which die due to their isolation, separated from holiness and חַי הַחַיִים (Ḥai ha-Ḥayyim), the Life of Lives.

However, the adversary, which is Samael, the Angel of Death that was clothed in the serpent, came down and enticed Eve with deceit in its mouth: You will not be doomed to die. It is known that any lie does not stand if it is not preceded by words of truth [see BT Shabbat 104a]. Hence, it started with a true word and revealed the purpose of creation to her, which came only to repair that Tree, meaning to invert the great vessels of receiving to the side of giving.

It said to her that God had eaten from this tree and created the world, meaning looked at that matter in the form of “Last in deed, first in thought” (Rabbi Shelomoh Alkabetz, Lekha Dodi) and for this reason He has created the world. As we have seen above, the whole matter of the first tsimtsum was only for man, destined to invert the form of receiving to giving. This was the truth, which is why it succeeded and the woman believed it when she prepared herself to receive and enjoy solely in order to bestow. You find that at any rate, evil vanished from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, and the Tree of Knowledge of good remained.

This is because the evil there is only the disparity of form of receiving for “self,” which was embedded in him. Yet, with receiving in order to give, he is brought to his complete perfection, and thus you find that she has made the great unification, as it should be at the end of the act.

However, that sublime holiness was still untimely. She was only fit to endure it in the first eating but not in the second eating. I will explain to you that one who abstains oneself from pleasure before one has tasted and grown accustomed is not like one who abstains from pleasure after having tasted and become connected to it. The first can certainly abstain once and for all, but the other must exert to retire from one’s craving bit-by-bit until the matter is completed.

So it is here, since the woman had not yet tasted from the Tree of Knowledge, and was entirely with [a desire for] giving. For this reason, it was easy for her to perform the first eating in order to give satisfaction to the blessed Holy One in absolute holiness. However, after she had tasted it, a great desire and coveting for the Tree of Knowledge was made in her, until she could not retire from her craving, since matters had gone out of her control.

This is why our sages say that she ate prematurely, meaning before it was ripe, before they acquired strength and power to rule over their desire. It is similar to what Abba Shaul said in Yevamot, “I have eaten and I will eat more” [cf. Proverbs 30:20]. This means that even when he had explicitly heard that the blessed Holy One was enraged with him he still could not retire from it since the lust had already attached to him. You find that the first taste was from the side of holiness but the second taste was in utter filth.

Now we can understand the severity of the punishment of the Tree of Knowledge, for which all humanity are put to death. This death extends from eating it, as the blessed Holy One had warned him, for on the day you eat from it, you are doomed to die (Genesis 2:17). The thing is that the expanded form of receiving emanates into his limbs from the vacuum, and from the tsimtsum onward it is no longer possible for it to be under the same roof with the supernal Light. Hence, that eternal breath of life, expressed in the verse, and blew into his nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7), had to depart and depend on a slice of bread for its transient sustenance.

This life is not an eternal life as before, when it was for himself. It is rather similar to a sweat of life, a life that has been divided into tiny drops, where each drop is a fragment of his previous life. And this is the meaning of the sparks of souls that were spread throughout his descendants. Thus, in all his descendants, all the people in the world in all the generations, until the last generation, which concludes the purpose of creation, are one long chain.

It follows that the actions of the blessed Holy One did not change at all with the sin of the Tree of Knowledge. Rather, this light of life that came at once with primordial man were drawn out into a long chain, revolving on the wheel of change until the end of correction. There is no rest, even for a moment, since the actions of the blessed Holy One must be alive and enduring; “Increase in holiness and do not decrease” (BT Shabbat 21b). As is the case of man, so is the case with all the creatures in the world because they all descended from an eternal and general form on the wheel of change, as did man.

Both man and the world have an inner value and an outer value. The external always ascends and descends according to the internal, and this is the meaning of By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread (Genesis 3:19). Instead of the previous breath of life that the blessed Holy One had breathed in his nostrils, there is now a sweat of life in his nostrils.

19) Our sages said “Satan, the evil impulse, and the Angel of Death are all one; He descends and seduces, ascends and arouses wrath, obtains authorization and seizes the soul” (BT Bava Batra 16a) [cf. Zohar 1:190a; 2:33b, 196a]. This is because two general corruptions occurred because of the sin of the Tree of Knowledge. The first corruption is the matter of “ascends and arouses.” He had been tempted to eat from the Tree of Knowledge and acquired a vessel of reception of the vacuum in the composition of his body. That, in turn, caused hatred and remoteness between the eternal light of life that the blessed Holy One had breathed in Adam’s nostrils and Adam’s body.

It is similar to what they said, “‘All who is proud,’ says the blessed Holy One, ‘he and I cannot dwell in the same abode’” (BT Sotah 5a). This is so because pride emanates from the vessels of reception of the vacuum, from which the supernal Light had already departed from the time, of the tsimtsum onward. It is written in the Zohar that the blessed Holy One hates the bodies that are established only for themselves. For this reason, the light of life fled from him, and this is the first קִלקוּל (qilqul), corruption.

The second corruption is the descent of the 288 sparks that were already connected in the structure of holiness. They were given and descended to the structure of the Other Side and the קְלִפּוֹת (qelipot), shells, so the world would not be destroyed. This is so because the structure of holiness cannot sustain and nourish people and the world, due to the hatred that had been made between the holiness and the vessels of the vacuum. This follows the law of opposites, “he and I cannot dwell in the same abode.” Hence, the 288 נִיצוֹצִין (nitsotsin), sparks, were given to the structure of the Other Side so they would sustain man and the world all through the cycling of souls into bodies, as is written, myriad for generations and with a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 7:9) until the end of correction.

Now you can see why they are called קְלִפּוֹת (qelipot), shells. It is because they are like the peel of a fruit. The hard peel envelops and covers the fruit to keep it from any filth and harm until the fruit is eaten. Without it, the fruit would be damaged and would not fulfill its purpose. Thus you find that the 288 sparks were given to the shells in order to sustain reality until they connect and attain their desired goal.

The aforementioned second corruption is the matter of “and seizes the soul.” I wish to say that even that tiny part of the soul that remains for a person, as “sweat of the previous life,” is also robbed by the Other Side, through that same giving that she gives him from the 288 sparks that have fallen into her.

To understand this, you must have a clear picture of the Other Side as she really is. Thus, you will be able to examine all her ways. All the parts of reality of the lower world are branches, extending from their roots like an the imprint of a seal from the upper world, and the upper from the one above it and that upper from its own upper one.

Know that any discernment in branches of the roots is only on the basis of their substance. This means that the substances in this world are corporeal bases, and the substances in the world of יְצִירָה (yetsirah), Formation, are spiritual bases, relating to the spirituality in Formation. So it is in each and every world. However, the occurrences and the comportment in them have the same value from each branch to its root, like two drops in a pond, and like the imprint whose form is identical to the seal from which it was imprinted. And once you know that, we can seek that branch that the upper Other Side has in this world, and through it, we will also know the root of the upper Other Side.

We find in the Zohar Tazri’a [3:50a-b] that the afflictions in man’s bodies are branches of the upper Other Side. Hence, let us take the animal species and learn from that. We find that the rush that occurs in its body through attainment of pleasure is what increases its life. For this reason Providence has embedded in little creatures that every place they rest their eyes on gives them pleasure and gratification, even the most trifling things. This is so because the level of the small must increase sufficiently to proliferate, and this is why their pleasure is great. Thus, you find that the light of pleasure is the cause of life.

However, this law applies only with pleasures that influence the level in general. With an isolated gratification, however, when the pleasure is concentrated and received only by a certain part of the animal species, we find the opposite rule. If there is a defective place in its flesh, which demands scratching and rubbing, the act of scratching carries its reward with it, as one feels great pleasure pursuing it. However, that pleasure is saturated with a drop of the potion of death: if one does not manage his desire and pays the haunting demand, the payment will increase the debt.

In other words, according to the gratification from scratching, so will the affliction increase and the pleasure will turn to pain. When it begins to heal again a new demand for scratching appears, and to a greater extent than before. And if one still cannot manage his desire and pays to saturate the demand, the affliction will grow as well.

Finally, it brings a fetid drop, entirely poisoning the blood in that animal. You find that it died by receiving gratification since it is a pleasure of separation received only by an isolated part of the level. Hence, death acts in the level contrary to the pleasure allotted to the entire level.

Here we see before us the form of the upper Other Side from head to toe. Her head is the desire to receive for herself alone, and to not give outside of herself, as is the property of the demand in the afflicted flesh with respect to the entire animal. The body of the Other Side is a certain form of demand that is not going to be paid. The repayment one makes increases the debt and the affliction even more, as with the example of receiving pleasure by scratching.

The toe of the Other Side is the drop of the potion of death, which robs it and separates it from the last spark of life it had left, like the drop of the potion of death that intoxicates all the blood in the animal. This is the meaning of what our sages said, “For in the end it obtains authorization and seizes the soul.” In other words, they said that the Angel of Death comes with a drawn sword and a drop of poison at its tip. The man opens his mouth, he flings the drop inside, and he dies [see BT Avodah Zarah 20b].

The sword of the Angel of Death is the influence of the Other Side, called חֶרֶב (ḥerev), Sword, because of the distance that increases according to the measure of reception, and the isolation destroys him. He is forced to open his mouth, since he must receive sustenance from her hands, until the fetid drop at the tip of the sword comes, completing the isolation till the last spark of his life-breath.

20) As a result of these two corruptions man’s body was corrupted too, as it is precisely adapted by the Formation to receive the abundance of existence from the structure of holiness. This is so because in any viable act its parts are guarded from any excess or lack. An act is not viable if its parts are imbalanced and there is some lack or excess in them. As he says: “Of all Your work not a thing have You forgotten; You did not exceed and You did not omit” (Shir ha-Yiḥud, attributed to Rabbi Yehudah ha-Ḥasid).

It is an axiom that perfect actions extend from the perfect Mover. Since man [went] from the structure of holiness to the structure of the Other Side, indeed, due to the blemish in his worship by the Tree of Knowledge many parts of his body are in excess and without need. This is because they do not receive anything from the abundance of existence doled out under the authority of the Other Side, as we find with the Luz bone and also in a certain part of each and every organ.

Hence, one must receive sustenance into one’s body more than is necessary, since the surplus joins every demand that rises from the body. Hence, the body receives for them. However, the surplus itself cannot receive its share; thus, its share remains in the body as surplus and litter that the body must later eject.
In consequence, the feeding and digesting tools exert in vain. They diminish and lessen to extinction because their sentence is predetermined, as that of any imbalanced act, destined to disintegrate. Thus you find that from the perspective of the construction of the body, too, its death depends on cause and effect from the Tree of Knowledge.

Now we have been awarded learning and knowing the two contradicting, opposite conducts (see 11). The sustenance and keeping of the created beings has already passed from the structure of holiness to the structure of the Other Side. This is so because of the barnacle of the great will to receive for oneself, connected to the created beings by the eating from the Tree of Knowledge. It induced division, disparity, and hatred between the structure of holiness and the structure of the bodies of the creatures in this world.

And when the holiness can no longer sustain and nurture them from the high table, to not destroy reality and to induce an act of correction for them, it gives the collective abundance of the sustenance of reality—her 288 sparks—to the structure of the Other Side, so they will provide for all creations in the world during the correction period. For this reason the conducts of existence are very confused, since evil sprouts from the wicked and if the abundance is reduced for the creatures it certainly brings ruin and destruction. If abundance is increased, however, it brings excessive force of separation to the recipients, as our sages said, “He who has one hundred wants two hundred; he who has two hundred wants four hundred” (Qohelet Rabbah 1:34).

It is similar to the pleasure that finite and lowly flesh senses, in which greater gratification increases isolation and deficiency [cf. Sefer Yetsirah 2:2: “There is nothing good higher than עֹנֶג (oneg), delight, there is nothing evil lower than נֶגַע (nega), affliction”]. Thus, self-gratification greatly increases in the receivers and one swallows one’s fellow alive. Also, vitality of the body dwindles because the accumulated reception causes the final fetid drop to come sooner and wherever they turn they only condemn.

Now you can understand what is written in Tosafot: “When one prays that Torah will enter his body, he should pray that no delicacies enter his body” (Ketubbot 104). This is because the form of self-love, which is the opposite of holiness, increases and multiplies by the measure of gratification that one’s body acquires. Thus, how can one obtain the light of Torah within one’s body, when he is isolated and totally opposite in form to holiness and there is great strife between them. As with all opposites: they detest each other and cannot be under the same roof.

Therefore, one must first pray that no delights or pleasures will enter his body and, as the deeds in Torah and mitsvot accumulate, he slowly purifies and inverts the form of receiving to [receiving] in order to give. You find that one resembles the structure of holiness and the resemblance and love between them returns as prior to the sin of the Tree of Knowledge. Thus, one is awarded the light of Torah since he has entered the presence of the blessed Holy One.

21) Now it is thoroughly understood why the answer of the angels regarding man’s creation, which we learned in the Midrash (see 11) is not presented. It is because even the angels of Kindness and Justice did not agree to the present man, since he has gone completely out of their influence and has become totally dependent on the Other Side. The Midrash ends: He took Truth and cast it to the earth. Said the ministering angels before the blessed Holy One “… Let Truth arise from the earth!” This means that even the angels of Kindness and Justice regretted their consent, as they never agreed that Truth would be disgraced.

This occurred at the time of the eating from the Tree of Knowledge when Truth was absent from the maintenance of reality, since the power of elucidation embedded in man by the Formation, acting by means of the sensation of bitter or sweet, was weakened and failed (see 17). This is so because the abundance of existence, which are 288 sundry aspects, were already as clear as day, connected with the structure of holiness. And as the palate tastes in eating (Job 34:3) to attract in full all that is loved and sweet, and to reject all that is bitter and bad for him, so no man shall fail with them.

However, after the first taste of the Tree of Knowledge the גַדלוּת (gadlut), expanded, form of self-reception clung to them and their body and holiness became two opposites. Then the abundance of existence, the 288 aspects, went to the clutches of the Other Side.

You find that the 288 sparks that had already been arrayed were confused again by the Other Side. Thus, a new form was actualized—a form whose beginning is sweet and whose end is bitter. This was because the form of the 288 sparks was changed by the Other Side, where the light of gratification brings isolation and bitterness. This is the form of falsehood; the first and foremost progenitor of every destruction and confusion. It is written, “He took Truth and cast it to the earth.” Thus, because of the serpent, a new aspect was added to man—the active cognitive power. It functions by discernments of true and false and one must use it throughout the period of correction, for without it benefit is impossible (see 17).

Come and see: All the confusion caused by the fall of the 288 sparks into the clutches of the Other Side. Before they tasted from the Tree of Knowledge, the woman could not even touch the forbidden thing (see 17). By mere nearness to the Tree of Knowledge, she tasted bitterness that tasted like death. For this reason, she understood and added the prohibition on touching. And after the first eating, when the Other Side and falsehood already controlled the sustenance of reality, the prohibition became so sweet in its beginning that they could no longer retire from it. This is why he said, “I have eaten and I shall eat more.”

Now you understand why the reward in Torah is intended only for ripe bodies. It is because the whole purpose of Torah is to repair the sin of the Tree of Knowledge which confused the orders of existence. It is for this repair that Torah was given, to elevate the 288 sparks to holiness once more. Then order and holiness will return and chaos will cease and humanity will attain the desired perfection solely by the discernment of bitter and sweet which was the first mode of existence prior to the sin of the Tree of Knowledge.

The prophets, too, speak only of this restoration, as is said, “All the prophets prophesied only for the days of Messiah” (BT Sanhedrin 99a). This is the matter of the cessation of the modes of existence of the world in manifest Providence, as it was prior to the sin. “But as for the world to come” (ibid.) implies the realization of the matter, which is to resemble the Maker, “No eye has seen, O God, but You (Isaiah 64:3)” (BT Sanhedrin 99a) [cf. Zohar 3:239b]. It is also written that in the days of the Messiah, If the family of Egypt does not go up, and comes not, they will have no rain… (Zechariah 14:18)—by means of the elucidation of good and evil as we said.

22) Now we understand the words of our sages that the blessed Holy One did not find a vessel that holds a blessing for Israel but Peace. We asked, “Why was this statement chosen to end the six orders [of Mishnah]?” According to the above we understand that the eternal breath of life which the blessed Holy One blew into primordial man’s nostrils, only for his needs, has left him since the sin of the Tree of Knowledge. It acquired a new form called Sweat of Life, meaning the universal has been divided into a great many particulars, tiny beads [of sweat] measured out among primordial man and his descendents until the end of time [see Genesis 3:19: By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread till you return to the soil…].

It follows that there are no changes in the actions of the blessed Holy One, but rather, there is an additional form here. The universal Light of Life breathed into the nose of primordial man, which expanded into a long chain revolving on the wheel of change, body after body until the final of correction.

It turns out that he died the very day he ate from the Tree of Knowledge and eternal life left him. Instead, he was linked to a long chain by the organ of procreation (which is the meaning of coupling, called Peace [see BT Shabbat 152a]. You find that one does not live for himself, only for the entire chain. Thus, each and every link in the chain does not receive the Light of Life into itself but only conducts the Light of Life to the entire chain. This is also what you find with one’s days of life: at twenty, he is fit to marry a woman; and ten years he may wait to bear sons; thus, he must certainly father by thirty. Then he sits and waits for his son until he is forty years of age, the age of Understanding, so he may pass onto him the fortune and knowledge he has acquired by himself, and everything he had learned and inherited from his forefathers, and he will trust him to not lose it for an any reason. Then he promptly passes away and his son grasps the link of the chain in his father’s stead.

It has been explained (see 15) that the experience of the sin of the Tree of Knowledge was necessary for primordial man, as is written, Awesome in works over humankind (Psalms 66:5). This is so because one must add to his structure an outer vessel to receive surrounding light, so that two opposites will inhere in one subject sequentially. During the period of קַטנוּת (qatnut), constriction, he will be dependent on the Other Side. From the vacuum his vessels of reception will expand to their desired measure by the distinct pleasures that one receives because of them. Then, when he reaches גַדלוּת (gadlut), expansiveness, and engages in Torah and mitsvot, the potential to invert the great vessels of reception in order to give will be found. This is the main objective, called light of Truth and Seal (see 14).

However, it is known that before one clings to holiness he must retire once more from any form of receiving that he took from the table of the Other Side, as the mitsvah of love came to us, with all your heart and with all your being (Deuteronomy 6:5). Hence, what have the sages achieved with this correction if one loses everything he has acquired from the Other Side? For this reason His Providence ensured the proliferation of the bodies in each generation, as our sages said, seeing that the righteous were few “The blessed Holy One stood up and planted them in every generation” (BT Ḥagigah 13b). This means that He saw that in the end the righteous would be repulsed altogether by the matter of self-gratification and thus their surrounding light would dwindle, since the outer vessel that is fit for it would be shunned by them.

For this reason He planted them in every generation because in all generations a great many people are created primarily for the righteous to bear vessels of the vacuum for them [cf. Zohar 2:212a; 3:218a; TZ 1a-b]. Thus, the outer vessel necessarily acts in the righteous involuntarily. This is so because all the people in the world are attached to one another. They affect one another, both in bodily drives and in opinions. Therefore, they necessarily bring the drive for self-gratification to the righteous, and in this manner they can receive the desired surrounding light. However, accordingly, the righteous and the wicked should have been of equal weight in each generation. Yet, this is not so and for each righteous, we find many thousands of vain ones. Yet, you must know that there are two kinds of governance in creation: a qualitative force and a quantitative force.

The force of those that hang about the feet of the Other Side is meager, contemptible, low, undesirable, purposeless, and they are blown like chaff in the wind. Thus, how can such as these do anything to wise-hearted people whose way is clear with desire and purpose, and a pillar of supernal light shines before them by day and by night (Exodus 13:21) sufficiently to bring the tiny impulses in their hearts?

Hence, He provided the quantitative force in creation, as this force does not need any quality. I will explain it to you by the way we find the qualitative force in strength, such as in lions and tigers, where because of the great quality of their strength no man will fight them. Opposite them we find strength and power without any quality as with flies. But because of their numbers no man will fight them. These transients rove through a man’s house and set table freely and it is man who feels weak against them. However, with wild flies, insects, and other such uninvited guests, although the quality of their strength is greater than domestic flies, man will not rest until he entirely banishes them from his domain. This is so because nature did not allot them the reproductive ability of flies.

Accordingly, you can see that there must necessarily be a great multitude for every single righteous one. They instill their crude drives in him by virtue of their numbers, as they have no quality whatsoever. This is the meaning of YHWH will give strength to His people (Psalms 29:11). It means that the eternal light of life, attained by the whole chain of creation, is called עֹז (oz), Strength. The verse guarantees that the blessed Holy One will surely give us that strength.

Yet, we should ask, How so? Since no one is perfect in and of himself, as our sages have written, “It is better for man not to have been created than to have been created” (BT Eruvin 13b)—why then are we sure of His eternity? And the verse ends, May YHWH bless His people with peace (Psalms 29:11)—the blessing of the children. It is as our sages said, “The peacemaker of the home has ceased” (BT Shabbat 152a)]. It is so because through children this chain is fastened and linked until the end of correction. At that time all the links will be in eternity. For this reason, our sages 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 His people with peace (Psalms 29:11)” (M Uqtsin 3:12). Since His blessing is eternal so too the recipients should be eternal.

Hence, you find that fathers link to children, making the chain of eternity fit to secure the blessing for eternity. It follows that it is peace that holds and channels the entire blessing. Therefore, our sages ended the six orders [of Mishnah] with this verse, since peace is the vessel that contains the blessing of Torah and all the mitsvot for us until the complete and eternal redemption, soon in our days, amen, and everything will come to its place in peace.

Giving Torah by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam)

Ba'al ha-Sullam PortraitLove your fellow as yourself

Our sages, of blessed memory, say “This is a great principle” [see Bereshit Rabbah 24:7 on Leviticus 19:18, in the name of Rabbi Akiva, cf. Sifra Qedoshim 4:12]. Such a claim demands explanation. “כְּלָל (Kelal), principle,” means “entirety,” thus, when they say love your fellow as yourself is a great principle of Torah, we must understand that all 612 mitsvot of the Torah, including all its writings, are embedded in that single mitsvah. This is quite perplexing, because you can say this regarding mitsvot between man and man, but how can that single mitsvah contain all the mitsvot between man and the Omnipresent, which are the essence and foundation of Torah?

Even if we were to strain ourselves and find some way to resolve the difficulty, there comes before us a second saying, even more outstanding, about a [would be] convert who came before Hillel and told him: “Teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.” And he replied: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: that is the whole Torah and the rest is its commentary. Go and learn” (BT Shabbat 31a). Here we have a clear law that nothing has more importance, in all the 612 mitsvot and all the writings, than the mitsvah: love your fellow as yourself. All these come only to explain and enable us to fulfill the mitsvah of loving others properly, since he specifically says, “The rest is its commentary. Go and learn.” This means that the rest of the Torah is an elucidation of that single mitsvah—that love your fellow as yourself could not be fulfilled were it not for them.

Before we delve into the heart of the matter, we must reflect on that mitsvah, since we are commanded: love your fellow as yourself. Yourself—love your fellow to the same extent you love yourself, not one bit less. In other words, you must constantly and vigilantly satisfy the needs of everyone in the nation of Israel no less than you are always vigilant to satisfy your own needs. Now this is utterly impossible, for not many can satisfy their own needs during their work day, how can you tell them to work to satisfy the wishes of the entire nation? But we cannot possibly think that Torah exaggerates, for it warns us not to add or subtract, indicating that these words and laws were given in utter precision [see Deuteronomy 4:2: You shall not add to the word that I charge you and you shall not subtract from it, to keep the commands of YHWH your God which I charge you].

As if this were not enough, I will tell you that the application of love your fellow as yourself is even more strict, for we must put the needs of our fellow before our own. Concerning this, Tosafot says in the name of the Jerusalem Talmud regarding a Hebrew slave: “[At times he has only one cushion,] if he lies on it himself and does not give it to the slave, he does not observe as it is good for him with you (Deuteronomy 15:16), since he is lying on a cushion and the slave on the ground. And if he does not lie on it and does not give it to the slave either, this is the behavior of Sodom.” We find that he must give it to his slave, while the master himself lies on the ground [cf. BT Qiddushin 20b: “As it is good for him with youwith you in food; with you in drink… Whoever buys a Hebrew slave buys a master for himself!”].

We also find the same law in our verse about the measure of love your fellow as yourself, for here, too, the text compares the satisfaction of the fellow’s needs to the satisfaction of one’s own needs, as with the example of as it is good for him with you regarding the Hebrew slave. Thus, here too, if he has only one chair and his fellow has not, the law is that if he sits on it and does not give it to his fellow, he transgresses love your fellow as yourself since he is not fulfilling the needs of his fellow as he fulfills his own. And if he does not sit on it and does not give it to his fellow either, it is like the wickedness of Sodom. Therefore, he must allow his fellow to sit on it while he himself sits on the ground or stands. Clearly, this is the law regarding all the needs that one has, and one’s fellow lacks. And now go and see whether this mitsvah is within the realm of possibility.

We must first understand why Torah was given specifically to the nation of Israel and not to all the peoples of the world equally. Is there, perish the thought, nationalism involved here? Of course, only an insane person would think so. In fact, our sages have examined this question, and this is what they meant by their words “The blessed Holy One offered the Torah to every nation and every tongue, but none accepted it, [until He came to Israel who received it]” (BT Avodah Zarah 2b). But what they find bewildering is why, then, were we called “the chosen people,” as is written: You YHWH has chosen [to become for Him a treasured people among all the peoples that are on the face of the earth. Not because you are more numerous than all the peoples did YHWH desire you and choose you, for you are the fewest of all the peoples] (Deuteronomy 7:6), since there was no other nation that wanted it? Moreover, there is a basic question: Can it be that the blessed Holy One came with His law in His hand to negotiate with heathens? Such a thing has never been heard of and is totally unacceptable [cf. BT Beitsah 25b: “Why was the Torah given to Israel? Because they are impudent. The academy of Rabbi Yishma’el taught: From His right hand was a fiery law for them (Deuteronomy 33:2); the blessed Holy One said: These are worthy to be given a law of fire. Some say: The laws of these are like fire, for had not Torah been given to Israel no people or tongue could withstand them;” Zohar 3:20a: “The blessed Holy One invited the other nations to receive the Torah. Now, was it not revealed before Him that they did not want it? However, so that they would have no excuse: if only He had given them the Torah, they would have kept it”].

But when we fully understand the essence of Torah and mitsvot that were given to us, and their desired purpose, to the extent our sages have instructed us, which is the purpose of the vast creation set before our eyes, then we shall understand everything. For the first axiom is that there is no act without a purpose. And there is no exception, except for the lowliest of humanity or infants. Therefore, it is certain that the Creator, whose exaltedness is beyond conception, would not act—be it a great or a small act—without a purpose.

Our sages tell us about that, that the world had not been created but for the purpose of keeping Torah and mitsvot, meaning, as our sages have explained, that the aim of the Creator from the time He created His creation is to reveal His godliness to others. This is because the revelation of His godliness reaches the creature as pleasant abundance that is ever growing until it reaches the desired measure. And by that, the lowly rise with true recognition and become a chariot for Him, and cleave to Him, until they reach their ultimate perfection: Neither has the eye seen, God beside You (Isaiah 64:3). And because of the greatness and glory of that perfection, Torah and the prophets too, refrain from uttering even a single word of exaggeration here, as our sages said, “All the prophets made their prophecies only for the days of the Messiah, but for the next world, neither has the eye seen, God beside You” (BT Berakhot 34).

This perfection is expressed in the words of Torah, the prophets, and in the words of our sages with the simple word, דְּבֵקוּת (devequt), cleaving. But for the widespread use of this word by the masses, it has lost almost all its content. But if you linger on that word for even an instant, you will be overwhelmed by its wondrous stature, for you will picture the exaltedness of the Creator and the lowliness of the creature. Then you will be able to perceive the value of cleaving, of one with the other, and you will understand why we ascribe that word the purpose of the whole creation. It turns out that the purpose of the whole creation is that the lowly creatures will be able, by keeping Torah and mitsvot, to rise ever upward, ever developing, until they are rewarded with cleaving to their Creator.

But here come the kabbalists and ask, why were we not created in this exalted stature of cleaving to begin with? What reason did He have to burden us with this toil of creation and Torah and mitsvot? And they replied: “One who eats from his friend’s food is ashamed to look at him” (JT Orlah 1:5, 61b) [cf. Proverbs 15:27; Avot de-Rabbi Natan §37: “Two people eat from the same bowl, but each one tastes according to his deeds;” BT Bava Batra 110a; Pesaḥim 112a; Shabbat 53b; Bava Metsi’a 38a; Beitsah 32b; Zohar 2:198a; ibid., 1:22a (TZ); Rabbi Yosef Karo, Maggid Meisharim, Bereshit]. This means that one who eats and enjoys the labor of one’s fellow is afraid to look at his face since he becomes increasingly humiliated, until he loses all his dignity [lit., human appearance]. And since that which emanates from His perfection is never deficient, He gave us room to earn our own praise by our labor in Torah and mitsvot.

These words are most profound and I have already explained them in the first chapter of my book, Panim Me’irot u-Masbirot to Ets Ḥayyim, and in the book, Talmud Eser Sefirot (Histaqlut Penimit). Here I will explain them briefly to make them understandable for all. This matter is like a wealthy man who took a person from the market and fed him and gave him gold and silver and all desirables every day. And each day he showered him with more gifts than the day before. Finally, the wealthy man asked, “Do tell me, have all your wishes been fulfilled?” And he replied, “Not all of my wishes have been fulfilled, for how good and how pleasant it would be if all those possessions and precious things came to me through my own work, as they have come to you, and I would not be receiving the charity of your hand.” Then the wealthy man told him: “In that case, never has there been born a person who can fulfill your wishes.”

This is quite natural, since on the one hand, he experiences greater and greater pleasure, the more he showers gifts upon him, but on the other, it is hard for him to tolerate the shame of the excessive goodness that the wealthy man showers upon him. This is because there is a natural law that the recipient feels shame and impatience upon receiving gifts from the one who gives mercy and pity. From this follows a second law, that never will anyone be able to satisfy the needs of his fellow to the fullest, because ultimately he will not be able to give him the nature and the form of self-possession, as only with this is the desired perfection attained.

But this relates only to the creatures, whereas regarding the Creator, it is impossible. And this is the reason He has prepared for us the toil and labor of Torah and mitsvot, to produce that exaltedness on our own, because then the delight and pleasure that comes to us from Him, meaning everything that is included in the cleaving with Him, will all be our own possession that has been attained through our own efforts. Then we will feel ourselves as the owners, without which there cannot be a sensation of wholeness [cf. Marx’s Theory of Alienation].

Indeed, we need to examine the heart and the source of this natural law, and who it was that fathered the flaw of shame and impatience that we feel upon receiving charity from another. It is understood from a law that is known to scientists, that each branch bears the same nature as its root, and that the branch also desires, seeks, and craves, and benefits from all the conducts of the root. Conversely, all the conducts that are not in the root, its branch removes itself from them, cannot tolerate them, and is harmed by them. This law exists between each root and its branch and cannot be breached.

Now here opens before us a door to understand the source of all the pleasure and pain in our world. Since the Creator is the root of His creations, we feel all that exists in Him and emanates to us directly from Him as pleasant and delightful, because our nature is close to our Root. And everything that is not in Him, and does not emanate to us directly from Him, but contradicts creation itself, will be against our nature and difficult for us to tolerate. Thus, we love to rest and hate to move so much and do not make a single movement if not for the attainment of rest [cf. Freud’s Pleasure Principle]. That is because our Root is immobile, at rest, and no motion exists in Him whatsoever. Therefore, it is against our nature and repugnant to us. By the same token, we love wisdom, strength, wealth, and so forth, because all of these exist in Him who is our Root. Hence, we loathe their opposites, such as foolishness, weakness, and poverty, since they do not exist in our Root at all. These stir in us a feeling of loathing and agony.

The foul taste of shame and impatience upon receiving from others by way of charity is because in the Creator there is no such thing as receiving favors, for from whom would He receive? And because this element does not exist in our Root, we feel it as repulsive and loathsome. On the other hand, we feel delight and pleasure every time we give to others, since that conduct exists in our Root, which He gives to all.

Now we have found an opening to glimpse the true face of the ultimate purpose of creation—cleaving. This exaltedness and cleaving which is guaranteed to come to us through our work in Torah and mitsvot, is no more and no less than the equivalence of the branches with their Root, may He be blessed. All the gentleness and pleasure and sublimity become a natural extension here, as we have said above, that pleasure is only the equivalence of form with its Maker. And when we resemble, in all conduct, our Root we sense delight. Also, everything we encounter that is not in our Root becomes intolerable, disgusting, or considerably painful to us, as is necessitated by that concept. And we naturally find that our very hope depends on the extent of our equivalence of form with our Root. These were the words of our sages when they asked, “What difference does it make to the blessed Holy One whether one slaughters an animal from the neck or from the throat [as the law dictates]? The mitsvot were given only to purify people” (Bereshit Rabbah 44:1)—cleansing the contaminated body which is the purpose that emerges from keeping all the Torah and mitsvot.

A wild ass is born a man (Job 11:12). The moment one emerges from the bosom of creation, he is in utter filth and lowliness, meaning a multitude of self-interest that permeates him, whose every movement revolves solely around himself, without a hint of giving to others. Here then one is at the furthest most distance from the Root, at the opposite extreme, since the Root is entirely giving without a hint of receiving, whereas the newborn is in a state of total self-reception without a hint of giving. Therefore, his situation is regarded as being at the lowest point of lowliness and filth in our human world.

The more he grows, the more he receives from his environment degrees of “giving to others,” depending on the values and development in that environment. And then one is initiated into keeping Torah and mitsvot for the purpose of self-interest, for reward in this world and in the next world, called “לֹא לִישְׁמַא (Lo lishma), not for its own sake” (BT Pesaḥim 50b), since one cannot be accustomed any other way. As one grows, he is told how to keep Torah and mitsvot       “לִישְׁמַא (Lishma), for its own sake,” which is with an aim solely to bring contentment to his Maker. As Maimonides said, “Women and children should not be told of keeping Torah and mitsvot for its sake, because they will not be able to bear it. But when they grow and acquire knowledge and wisdom, they are taught to labor for its own sake” (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah 10:5). It is as our sages said, “From not for its own sake, one comes to for its own sake” (BT Pesaḥim 50b), which means to satisfy one’s Maker, and not for any reason of self-interest.

Through the natural remedy of engagement in Torah and mitsvot for its own sake, which the Giver of Torah knows, as our sages wrote, “So did the blessed Holy One speak to Israel: ‘My children! I created the evil impulse and I created Torah as its spice’” (BT Qiddushin 30b). Thus, that creature develops and marches upward in degrees of the aforementioned exaltedness, until he loses all trace of self-interest and all the mitsvot in his body rise, and he performs all his deeds only in order to give, so that even the necessity that he receives flows in the direction of giving. This is why our sages said, “The mitsvot were given only to purify people.”

There are two parts in Torah: firstly, mitsvot between man and the Omnipresent, may He be blessed, and secondly, mitsvot between man and man. And they both aim for the same thing, to bring the creature to the ultimate goal of cleaving to Him. Furthermore, even the practical aspect in both of them is really one and the same because when one performs an action for its own sake, without any admixture of self-interest, meaning without looking for any benefit to himself, then one does not feel any different about striving to love your fellow as yourself or the Omnipresent. This is so because it is a natural law for any being, that anything outside one’s own body is regarded as vain and empty. And any action that a person makes in order to love another is performed with a אוֹר חוֹזֵר (or ḥozer), reflected light, some reward that will eventually return to him and serve him for his own good. Thus, such an act cannot be considered love of another since it is judged by its end—it is like rent that finally pays off, however, the act of renting is not considered love of another. But making any kind of movement only as a result of love for others, without any spark of reflected light, and no hope for any kind of self-gratification in return, is completely impossible by nature. Of this it is written in Tiqqunei ha-Zohar with regard to the peoples of the world: “Every kindness that they do, they do for themselves” (Tiqqunei ha-Zohar 36, 22a) [cf. BT Bava Batra 10b: “Righteousness raises a nation. But the kindness of peoples is an offense (Proverbs 14:34)—all the charity and kindness done by the peoples of the world is an offense, since they only do it to magnify themselves;” BT Shabbat 33b: “Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai answered and said, ‘All that they made they made for themselves; they built marketplaces, to set whores in them; baths, to rejuvenate themselves; bridges, to levy tolls for them”]. This means that all the good deeds that they do, either toward their fellow or toward their god, are not because of their love for others, but because of their love for themselves. And this is because it is completely unnatural.

Therefore, only those who keep Torah and mitsvot are qualified for it, because by accustoming themselves to keeping Torah and mitsvot in order to satisfy their Maker, they gradually leave the bosom of creation and acquire a second nature, namely love of others. This is what brought the sages of the Zohar to exclude the peoples of the world from loving their fellow, when they said, “Every kindness that they do, they do for themselves,” because they are not involved in keeping Torah and mitsvot for its own sake, and the only reason they serve their gods is for reward and salvation in this world and in the next. Thus, their worship of their gods depends on self-interest too and they will never perform an action that is outside the boundaries of their own bodies, for which they will be able to lift themselves even a wisp above their basic nature.

Thus we can clearly see that toward those who keep Torah and mitsvot for its own sake there is no difference between the two parts of Torah, even in the practical aspect. This is because before one accomplishes it one is compelled to sense any act of giving, either toward another or toward the Creator, as unfathomable emptiness. But through great effort, one slowly rises and attains a second nature, and then one attains the ultimate purpose, which is cleaving to Him.

Since this is the case, it is reasonable to think that the part of Torah that deals with man’s relationship with his fellow is more capable of bringing one to the desired goal. This is because the labor in mitsvot between man and God is fixed and specific, and is not demanding, and one becomes easily accustomed to it, and everything that is done out of habit is no longer useful. But the mitsvot between man and man are changing and irregular and demands surround him wherever he may turn. Hence, their cure is much more certain and their aim is closer.

Now we can understand the words of Hillel ha-Nasi to the convert, that the essence of Torah is love your fellow as yourself, and the remaining 612 mitsvot are only its interpretation. And even the mitsvot between man and the Omnipresent are regarded as a qualification of that mitsvah, which is the ultimate purpose emerging from Torah and mitsvot, as our sages said, “Torah and mitsvot  were given only purify Israel.” This is the cleansing of the body until one attains a second nature defined as love for others, meaning the one mitsvah: Love your fellow as yourself, which is the ultimate purpose of Torah, after which one immediately attains cleaving to Him.

But one must not wonder why it was not defined in the words: And you shall love YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your being and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:5). It is because, indeed, with respect to a person who is still within the nature of creation, there is no difference between the love of God and the love of his fellow. This is because anything that is not him is unreal to him. And because that would be convert asked Hillel ha-Nasi to explain to him the desired outcome of Torah, so his goal would be near, and he would not have to walk a long way, as he said, “Teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.” Hence, he defined it for him as love of his fellow because its aim is nearer and is revealed faster, since it is error proof and demanding.

In the above words, we find a way to understand our concept from above about the contents of the mitsvah, love your fellow as yourself, how Torah compels us to do something that cannot be done. Indeed, know that for this reason, Torah was not given to our holy Patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—but rather, was withheld until the exodus from Egypt, when they came out and became a whole nation of 600,000 men of twenty years of age or more. For then, each member of the nation was asked if he agreed to that exalted work. And once each and every one in the nation agreed to it in heart and soul, and said We will do and we will heed (Exodus 24:7), it then became possible to keep the whole of Torah, and that which was previously impossible became possible.

This is because it is certain that if 600,000 men abandon their labor for the satisfaction of their own needs and concern themselves with nothing other than standing guard so their fellows will never lack a thing, and moreover, that they will keep it with a mighty love, with their very heart and soul, in the full meaning of the mitsvah, love your fellow as yourself, then it is beyond doubt that no man of the nation will need to worry about his own well being. Because of that, he becomes completely free of securing his own survival and can easily keep love your fellow as yourself, obeying all the conditions given above. After all, why would he worry about his own survival when 600,000 loyal companions stand by, ready with great care to make sure he lacks nothing of his needs?

Therefore, once all the members of the nation agreed, they were immediately given the Torah, because now they were capable of keeping it. But before they have multiplied into a whole nation, and certainly during the time of the Patriarchs, who were unique in the land, they were not qualified to truly keep Torah in its desirable form. This is because with a small number of people, it is impossible to even begin with engagement in mitsvot between man and man to the extent of love your fellow as yourself, as we have explained above. This is why they were not given Torah.

From all the above, we can understand one of the most perplexing phrases of our sages: “All of Israel are responsible for one another” (BT Shavu’ot 39a). This seems to be completely unjust, for is it possible that if someone offends or commits a sin that upsets his Maker, and you have no acquaintance with him, the blessed Holy One will collect his debt from you? It is written, Fathers shall not be put to death over sons… Each man shall be put to death for his own offense (Deuteronomy 24:16), so how can they say that you are responsible for the transgressions of even a complete stranger, of whom you know neither him nor his whereabouts?

And if that is not enough for you, see here: “Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Shim’on said: Because the world is judged by its majority, and an individual [too] is judged by his majority, if he performs one mitsvah, happy is he for turning the scale both of himself and of the whole world on the side of merit; if he commits one offence, woe to him for weighting himself and the whole world in the scale of liability, for it is said: yet a single offender [destroys much good] (Ecclesiastes 9:18)” (BT Qiddushin 40b).

And Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Shim’on, has made me responsible for the whole world, since he believes all the people in the world are responsible for one another, and each person brings merit or liability to the whole world with his deeds. This is twice as perplexing. However, according to what has been said we can understand their words very simply. We have shown that each of the 613 mitsvot of the Torah revolves around that single mitsvah: Love your fellow as yourself. However, we discover that such a state can only exist in a whole nation whose every member agrees to it.