The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

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

Ba'al ha-Sullam Portrait

1) 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 verse states explicitly that peace is the blessing itself, as is written, give strength… bless… with peace. According to them, it should have said, giving in peace. Third, why was this written toward the end of the Mishnah? Moreover, we must understand the meaning of the words peace and strength.

In order to interpret this according to its true meaning we must traverse a long way, for the heart of sayers is too deep to probe. This means that all matters of Torah and mitsvot bear revealed and concealed meaning, 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. All the worth and importance you find only with the interior. 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 plain, then the 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, edited by Rabbi Naftali Hertz ha-Levi (Weidenbaum)] that attainment begins with the secret. After the secret of Torah is attained it is possible to attain the enquiry, and then a hint. When one is granted perfect knowledge of these three layers of Torah, one is awarded the attainment of the plain Torah [cf. BT Shabbat 63a: “(Rav Kahana said:) A verse cannot depart from its plain meaning”].

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 these texts, since first we must attain the three inner layers of Torah, which are clothed by the simple, and the simple will not be parsed [cf. BT Avodah Zarah 19a in the name of Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi]. If one has not been rewarded with it, one needs great mercy, so it will not become poison 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, nor the Account of the Chariot alone. Moreover, all the books at our disposal in these matters 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 received “mouth to mouth.”

It is indeed alarming how the ways of wisdom and the intellect are denied people for whom it is life and the length of their days. It is seemingly a criminal offence, as our Sages said in Bereshit Rabbah of Ahaz, that he was called אָחָז (Aḥaz), Ahaz, for he had אָחוּז (aḥuz), seized, synagogues and schools, and this was his great crime [see Bereshit Rabbah 42:3]. Also, it is a natural law that one is possessive concerning dispensing his money and property to others. However, is there anyone who is possessive about sharing his wisdom and understanding with others? On 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 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 the virtuous few, who they found worthy, leaving the rest of the people fumbling the walls.

3) Let me explain the matter: We make four distinctions in humanity, arranged in a hierarchy. These are: the masses, heroes, the 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 may give rise to the vegetable, animal and human, and from the beneficial and detrimental in them we discern three degrees in the quantity of the [life] force. Of these the vegetable has a minimal amount 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 a single animal is equal in degree to all plants in existence. This is so because the force that distinguishes the beneficial from the harmful among the entire vegetable species is found within a single creature of the animal species—it is under its own authority. The animal’s capacity for sensing is quite limited in time and space, since its sensation does not act at even the shortest distance outside of its body. Also, it does not sense anything outside its own time-frame, meaning neither in the past nor in the future, but only at the present moment.

Atop them is the human, comprising both emotional and intellectual power together. For this reason, its power is not limited 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 an immaterial matter, not limited by time and space—one can teach others wherever they are in the whole of reality, in the past and the future, throughout the generations. It follows that the value of a single human being is equal to the value of the entire force inhering in the vegetable and the animal species, in all past and present generations. This is so because his power encompasses them and contains them within his own self, along with their entire [life] force. This rule also applies to the four divisions of 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.” It is due to them that 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 an [exceedingly] strong desire and lust. They excel at amassing 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 [life] force inheres within their 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, “The jealousy of scribes increases wisdom” [scribes were responsible for keeping a precise tally of the letters, words, and verses of the Tanakh] (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 their active [life] 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 universal, encompassing all ages and the whole of reality. This is because it is the way of jealousy that if one had not seen the object in his fellow’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 fellow has, who are the entire progeny of Adam and Eve throughout the generations. Thus, this [life] force is unlimited and it is therefore fit for its sublime and exalted 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 like 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 science and the humanities. For this reason, the first Sages hid the wisdom from the masses for fear of accepting unworthy disciples who would use the force of wisdom to harm and damage. Such as these would shatter and destroy the entire population with their great brute lust.

As the generations have declined and sages themselves began to crave [to eat] from 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 here]. They traded with them and sold the wisdom as prostitutes, for the price of a dog (Deuteronomy 23:18). Since then, the fortified wall that the first ones 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 torn it asunder. Half was inherited by adulterers and half by murderers, and they have put it in eternal disgrace to this day.

4) From this you may infer concerning the Wisdom of Truth, which contains all the secular teachings within it, its seven handmaids. 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 set out 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 in maintaining the armies and the wall around the Wisdom of Truth, that no stranger or foreigner break in, put it in their vessels and go 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 footsteps of the Messiah this wisdom will be revealed even to the young [see Zohar 1:93a, 118a]. However, according to the aforementioned we learned the generation of the footsteps of the Messiah will be at the highest peak. We will need no guard at all and the wellsprings 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 chamber 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 the scribe’s wisdom went astray with them.

It follows that it is permitted to open the gates of wisdom and remove the careful guard, since it is naturally safe from theft and exploitation. There is no longer fear lest unworthy disciples take it and sell it in the market to 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 her inhabitants. 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 no longer teach each to his fellow man and each to his brother, saying, ‘Know YHWH.’ For they shall all know Me from the least of them to their greatest (Jeremiah 31:33). And with the perfection of the mind, the body is perfected too, as is written, For like a lad he shall die at a hundred (Isaiah 65:20).

When the Children of Israel attain perfect knowledge, wellsprings of wisdom shall flow beyond the boundaries of Israel and water all the nations of the world, as is written: For the earth shall be filled with knowledge of YHWH [as water covers the sea] (Isaiah 11:9); and seek YHWH… and His bounty [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 minds are 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 peoples 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, he and I cannot dwell in the same abode,’ says the blessed Holy One” (BT Sotah 5a).

Conversely, some err and determine that as the body must exist prior to the existence of the soul and an expanded consciousness, the perfection of the body and its needs precede in time the attainment of the soul and expanded consciousness. Hence, expanded 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 an expanded consciousness. This is because, by itself, it is a punctured bag, a broken cistern (Jeremiah 2:13). 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 with individuals and in the whole.

5) Now you will understand what is written in the Zohar: “Because [the people of] Israel are destined to taste of this Tree of Life, namely this סֵפֶר הַזֹּהַר (Sefer ha-Zohar), Book of Radiance, they will thereby come forth from exile through [divine] compassion” (Zohar 3:124b [RM]). Also, in many other places: Only through the spreading of the wisdom of Kabbalah to the masses will we attain complete redemption.

They also said, “The light in it returns [them] to good” (JT Ḥagigah 5:7, 80a; Eikhah Rabbah 2) [cf. Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 15:5: “Rav Huna, Rabbi Yirmeyahu in the name of Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba: ‘It is written, Me did they forsake (Jeremiah 16:11).’ Is it possible that they have kept My Torah? Would that they would forsake Me and keep My Torah. For if they had forsaken Me but kept My Torah, then in the course of their Torah study, the yeast that is in it would have brought them back 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 inner Torah and its mysteries. And although we hope for perfect attainment with the coming of Messiah, it is written, Gives wisdom to the wise (Daniel 2:21), and, In the heart of every wise-hearted man I have set wisdom (Exodus 31:6).

Hence, it is great expansion of the Wisdom of Truth among 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 mingle, as we have elaborated on above. This became the primary reason for the prolonging of the exile for our many transgressions, 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 lose his 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 release 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 מַקִּיף (maqqif), 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., their commentators, 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 his lot, given 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 transgressions, 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 concise 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 pack it full of guests. 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 comprises 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 [and his disciple Rabbi Yosef ibn Tabul] that all the worlds, upper and lower, are contained in Ein Sof even before the צִמצוּם (tsimtsum), contraction [or: withdrawal], in the mystery of He is One and His Name One (Zechariah 14:9). 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 word דְבֵקוּת (devequt), “cleaving.”

Attachment and separation in anything spiritual is possible only in terms of שִׁוּוּי הַצּוּרָה (shiuui ha-tsurah), parity of form, or שִׁנוּי הַצּוּרָה (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), contraction [or: 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 this 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 parity 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.

Therefore they shall possess their land twice over (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. 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 MasbirotAssiyah, 1.

7) And with this discern their words: “אֲשֶׁר הַשְׁכִינָה בַתַּחְתּוֹנִים צֹרֶךְ גְּבֹהַּ (Asher ha-Shekhinah va-taḥtonim tsorekh gevoah), Shekhinah in the lower realms—a need on high” [צֹרֶךְ גְּבֹהַּ (tsorekh gevoah), a need on high, refers to necessities of the service in the Temple, see BT Shabbat 131b; Mo’ed Qatan 9a; Yevamot 5b; Menaḥot 64a]. This is a most perplexing statement, though it does go hand in hand with what was learned above. 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, in its due time I will hasten it (Isaiah 60:22). “If they are worthy, I will hasten it; if not, in its due 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 already said. 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 divine 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 much 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 Ge’onim and on, in all times. All the elders of the land, the courageous shepherds, companions and disciples of the divine 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 Ge’onim, 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 textual accounts that the Ari himself had wished to present the matters 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 not to 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 in the 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 ba-Ramah, 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, of blessed memory, 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 with a parable: Like a man drowning in the river, rising and sinking as drowning people do. Sometimes only his hair is visible, and then counsel is sought to grab him by the head. Other times his body appears as well, and then counsel is sought to grab him from opposite his heart.

So is the matter before us. After Israel has drowned in the evil waters of the exile among 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 endeavored in our favor to rescue us through the mind. At the time of the Ba’al Shem Tov, of blessed memory, there was relief. Hence, it was a blessing to rescue us from opposite our heart, and, indeed, it was a great and true rescue.

But for our many transgressions, 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 of Sotah has come true with us, for our many transgressions [see BT Sotah 49b].

Again, the iron wall has been erected, even on this great light of the Ba’al Shem Tov, of blessed memory, 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 ad loc.]. Thus, I have come to open wide the gates of light of the Ari, for he is indeed capable and fit for our generation as well, 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 becomes more difficult 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 stare out the window. 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 with 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 discerns every devising of schemes (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 effort. “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 any cure. 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 are the inner wisdom and its mysteries, and the flavor 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 factions, 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 [see BT Shabbat 55a: ‘Truth is the seal of the blessed Holy One’]? Let Truth arise from the earth!” As 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 being as an example. The love and delight of its parents are the first incentive bound to perform its function. As soon as the foundational drop is taken from the father’s brain, הַשְׁגָּחָה (hashgaḥah), providence, provides it a safe guarded place among the bedding of the mother’s womb, so no stranger may harm it.

There providence sustains it with its daily bread in precise 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 gives 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: אוֹר פְּנִימִי (or penimi), inner light, and אוֹר מַקִּיף (or maqqif), 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, is חָלָל פָּנוּי (ḥalal panui), empty space, which is the expanded form of receiving, the first צִמצוּם (tsimtsum), contraction [or: withdrawal]. That שׁוֹרֶשׁ (shoresh), root, remained without light even after the illumination of the קָו (qav), cord, reached within the רְשִׁימוּ (reshimu), trace [or: 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 matter of the צִמצוּם (tsimtsum), contraction [or: 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 is denied from the perspective of the פַּרצוּפִים (partsufim), visages, 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 Ricchi, Yosher Levav, 15, 10a: “Therefore, לְגַבַּי דִידַן (le-gabbai 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 consciousness], and at a time of גַדלוּת (gadlut), greatness [expanded 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 journeys 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 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), husks, 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 נִקּוּדִים (niqqudim), punctiform lights, 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 neqqudim. 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 נִקּוּדִים (neqqudim), punctiform lights. 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 אוֹר פְּנִימִי (or penimi), inner light, and אוֹר מַקִּיף (or maqqif), 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), cord, withheld from the point of the צִמצוּם (tsimtsum), contraction [or: 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), contraction [or: 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; 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), husks, 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 over and descended to the structure of the Other Side and the קְלִפּוֹת (qelipot), husks, 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 over to the structure of the Other Side so they would sustain man and the world all through the cycling of souls into bodies for myriad generations, as is written, to a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 7:9) until the end of correction.

Now you can see why they are called קְלִפּוֹת (qelipot), husks [or: 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 over to the husks 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 supernal Other Side has in this world, and through it, we will also know the root of the supernal Other Side.

We find in the Zohar [3:50a–b] that the afflictions in man’s bodies are branches of the supernal 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 supernal 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 [cf. BT Sukkot 52b: “Rav Yoḥanan said: Man has a small member—when he starves it, it is satisfied, and when he satisfies it, it is starving”].

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 he-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 delicacies do not enter his body” (Tosafot, BT 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, God besides 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 Portrait

Love your fellow as yourself

Our Sages, of blessed memory, say “This is a great כְּלָל (kelal), 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. Kelal 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 commentary, 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 rule 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 says specifically, “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 but 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 [see 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). 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 said: “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 hand, 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. 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. 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 parity of the branches with their Root, may He be blessed. All the gentleness and pleasure and sublimity become a natural extension, as we have said above, that pleasure is only the parity 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 parity 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)—purifying the defiled 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 לִישְׁמָהּ (Lo lishmah), 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 “לִישְׁמָהּ (Lishmah), 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 rungs 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 אוֹר חוֹזֵר (or ḥozer), reflected light, i.e., 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 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: “Rabbi Eli’ezer said…: 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 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 purifying 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 should 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.

The Pledge by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam)

Ba'al ha-Sullam Portrait

All of Israel are responsible for one another

And once the whole nation unanimously agreed and said, We will do and we will heed (Exodus 24:7), each member of Israel became responsible that nothing  be lacking from any other member of the nation. Only then did they become worthy of receiving the Torah, and not before. Because the Torah was not given to them before each and every one of Israel was asked if he agreed to take upon himself the mitsvah of loving others in the full measure, expressed with the words: love your fellow as yourself (Leviticus 19:18). This means that each and every one of Israel would take it upon himself to care and work for each member of the nation, and to satisfy their every need, no less than the measure embedded in him to care for his own needs.

With this collective responsibility, each member of the nation was liberated from worrying about the needs of his own body and was able to keep love your fellow as yourself in the fullest measure, and give all that he had to any needy person, since he no longer cared for the existence of his own body, as he knew for certain that he was surrounded by 600,000 loyal companions, who were standing by ready to provide for him.

For this reason, they were not ready to receive the Torah in the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but only when they came out of Egypt and became a whole nation. Only then was there the possibility to guarantee everyone’s needs without care or concern.

However, while they were still mingled with the Egyptians, a portion of their needs was necessarily given into the hands of these savages permeated with self-love. Thus, the measure that is given into the hands of foreigners will not be secured for any person of Israel because he will not be able to provide for those needs, as they will not be in possession of them. Consequently, as long as the individual is troubled with concerns for himself, he is unfit to even begin to keep love your fellow as yourself.

And evidently you discover that the giving of the Torah had to be delayed until they came out of Egypt and became a nation of their own, so that all their needs were provided for by themselves, without dependence on others. This qualifies them to receive the aforementioned עַרְבוּת (arvut), pledge, only then were they given the Torah [alternate vocalization: עֲרֵבוּת (arevut). Cf. Genesis 43:9: I will be אֶעֶרְבֶנּוּ (e’ervennu), his pledge, from my hand you may seek him; BT Sanhedrin 27b; Shevu’ot 39a: “All of Israel are עֲבִירוּת (avirut), responsible, for one another”]. It turns out that even after receiving the Torah, if a handful of Israel betray them and return to the filth of self-love, without concern for others, that same amount of need that is put into the hands of those few would burden Israel with the need to provide for it themselves.

This is because those few would not pity them at all; hence, the fulfillment of love your fellow as yourself would be withheld from the whole of Israel. Thus, these rebels would cause those who keep the Torah to remain in their filth of self-love, for they would be prevented from engaging in love your fellow as yourself and fulfilling their love for others without their help.

As a result, “All of Israel are responsible for one another,” both on the positive side and on the negative side. On the positive side, if they keep the pledge until each cares and satisfies the needs of his fellows, they can fully keep the Torah and mitsvot, meaning bring contentment to their Maker. And on the negative side, if a part of the nation does not want to keep the pledge, but rather chooses to wallow in self-love, they cause the rest of the nation to remain immersed in their filth and lowliness without ever finding a way out of their filth.

Therefore, the Tanna described the pledge as two people on a boat, when one of them began to drill a hole in the boat. His companion asked, “Why are you drilling?” He replied, “What business is it of yours? I am drilling under me, not under you.” So he replied, “Fool! We will both drown together!” [see Vayiqra Rabbah 4:6, cf. Zohar 3:122a].

From this we learn that since those rebels wallow in self-love, through their deeds they erect an iron wall preventing the keepers of Torah from even beginning to keep the Torah and mitsvot to the full degree of love your fellow as yourself, which is the ladder for attainment of cleaving with Him. And how right were the words of the proverb that said, “Fool, we will both drown together!”

Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai, extends the pledge even further [see BT Qiddushin 40b]. It is not enough for him that all of Israel be responsible for one another, but the whole world is included in that pledge. Indeed, there is no dispute here, but everyone admits that to begin with, it is enough to start with one nation for the observance of the Torah for the beginning of the repair of the world. It was impossible to begin with all the nations at once, as they said that the blessed Holy One went with the Torah to all the peoples and tongues, but they did not want to receive it [see BT Avodah Zarah 2b–3a]. In other words, they were immersed in the filth of self-love up to their necks, some with adultery, some with robbery and murder and so on, until it was impossible to conceive, in those days, of even asking if they agreed to retire from self-love.

Therefore, the blessed Holy One did not find a people or a tongue capable of receiving the Torah, except for the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whose ancestral merit reflected upon them, as our Sages said, “The Patriarchs kept the whole Torah even before it was given” (M Qiddushin 4:14 on Genesis 26:5) [cf. Vayiqra Rabbah 2:10; Bahir §192; Zohar 3:277a (RM)]. This means that because of the loftiness of their souls, they had the ability to attain all the ways of the blessed Holy One with respect to the spirituality of the Torah, which stems from their cleaving, without first needing the ladder of the practical part of Torah, which they had no possibility of observing at all, as is written in Matan Torah (Giving Torah).

Undoubtedly, both the physical purity and the intellectual loftiness of our holy Patriarchs greatly influenced their sons and their sons’ sons, and their righteousness reflected upon that generation, whose members all assumed the sublime service, and each and every one said clearly, We will do and we will heed. Because of this, we were chosen, out of necessity, to be a chosen people from among all the peoples. Hence, only the members of Israel were admitted into the required pledge, and not the nations of the world at all, because they did not participate in it. This is simply the reality, and how could Rabbi El’azar disagree with it?

But the end of the repair of the world will only be realized by bringing all the people in the world under His service, as is written, And YHWH shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall YHWH be one, and His name One (Zechariah 14:9). In that day—and not before. And there are several more verses, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of YHWH, [as the waters cover the sea] (Isaiah 11:9); [And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of YHWH’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills;] and all nations shall flow unto it (ibid. 2:2).

But the role of Israel towards the rest of the world resembles the role of our holy Patriarchs towards the nation of Israel: Just as the righteousness of our Patriarchs helped us develop and purify until we became worthy of receiving the Torah, were it not for our Patriarchs, who kept the whole Torah before it was given, we would certainly not be any better than the rest of the nations.

Also, it is upon the nation of Israel to qualify [or: enable, prepare] itself and all the people of the world through Torah and mitsvot, to develop until they take upon themselves the sublime service, the love of others, which is the ladder to the purpose of creation: cleaving with Him.

Thus, each and every mitsvah that each man of Israel performs in order to bring contentment to his Maker, and not for any self satisfaction, helps, to some extent, with the development of all the peoples of the world. This is because it is not performed all at once, but rather by slow, gradual development, until it increases to such a degree that it can bring all the people in the world to the desired purity. And this is what our Sages call “weighting down the scale of merit,” meaning that the requisite weight of merit has been reached. And they compare it to weighing on a scale, where the shifting of the balance is the attainment of the desired weight [see BT Qiddushin 40b, cf. BT Sotah 3b; Midrash Tehillim 30:4; Zohar 3:111a (RM)].

These are the words of Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Shim’on who said that the world is judged by its majority. He was referring to the role of the nation of Israel to accrue to the world a certain measure of merit, until they are worthy of taking upon themselves His service, no less than Israel were worthy at the time they received the Torah. In the words of our Sages, it is regarded as if they had accrued enough merit to overcome the scale of liability, which is filthy self-love.

Of course, if the scale of merit, which is the sublime attainment of the benefit of loving others, overcomes the filthy scale of liability, they become qualified for the decision and the agreement to say, We will do and we shall heed, as Israel said. But before that, before they obtain sufficient merit, self-love certainly prevails and the sentence is their refusal to assume his burden.

Our Sages said, “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.” This means that an member of Israel finally adds his own part to the final reckoning, as one who weighs sesame seeds and adds them one by one to the scale, until the balance tips. Certainly, everyone takes part in this tipping, and without him, the sentencing would never be completed. Similarly, it is said about the acts of a member of Israel that he sentences the whole world to a scale of merit. This is because when the matter ends and the whole world has been sentenced to a scale of merit, each and every one will have a share in this tipping, for were it not for his deeds, the tipping would have been deficient.

Thus you find that Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Shim’on, does not dispute the words of our Sages that all of Israel is responsible for one another. Rather, Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Shim’on, speaks of the restoration of the whole world at the time of the end of the repair, whereas our Sages speak of the present, when only Israel has assumed the Torah.

And this is what Rabbi El’azar son of Rabbi Shim’on quotes from the Writings: yet a single offender destroys much good (Ecclesiastes 9:18). This is because it has already been explained that the impression that comes to a person when engaging in mitsvot between man and the Omnipresent is completely the same as the impression he gets when engaging in mitsvot between man and man. He is obliged to perform all the mitsvot for their own sake, without any hope of self-interest, meaning that no light returns to him through his trouble in the form of reward or honor, and so forth. Here, on this exalted point, the love of the Omnipresent and the love of his fellow unite and actually become one.

Thus he affects a certain measure of advancement on the ladder of love for others in all the people of the world in general. This is because that rung, which this individual caused by his deeds, whether large or small, ultimately joins the future in tipping the world to a scale of merit, since his share has been added and joins the tipping.

And one who commits one offence, meaning he cannot overcome and conquer his filthy self-love, and thus steals or something of the sort, weighs himself and the whole world down in the scale of liability. This is because with the revelation of the filth of self-love, the lowly nature of creation is bolstered. Thus, he withdraws a certain amount from the scale of merit. This is similar to a person removing from the scale a single sesame seed his fellow had placed there.

Thus, to that extent, he slightly tips the scale of liability. It turns out that he devalues the world, as they said, a single offender destroys much good. Because he could not overcome his petty lust, he thrust the spirituality of the whole world backwards.

With these words, we clearly understand what we said above, about the Torah being given specifically to the nation of Israel, because it is certain and unequivocal that the purpose of creation lies on the shoulders of the whole of the human race, black, white or yellow, without any essential difference.

However, because of the descent of human nature to the lowest rung, which is the self-love that rules over all of humanity without restraint, there was no way to negotiate with them and persuade them to agree to take upon themselves, even as an empty promise, to abandon their narrow world for the expansiveness of the love of others. The exception was the nation of Israel because they were enslaved in the savage kingdom of Egypt four hundred years in horrible torment.

Our Sages said, “As salt sweetens meat… so does suffering wash away all the iniquity of man” (BT Berakhot 5a). Meaning they bring great purification to the body [which constitutes all of humanity]. And in addition, the purification of their holy Patriarchs assisted them, which is the most important, as some verses of Torah attest to.

Owing to the experiences [of themselves and their ancestors] they were qualified for it [cf. Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality, 205]. And this is why the text refers to them in singular form, as is written, and Israel camped there over against the mountain (Exodus 19:2), and our Sages interpret “as one man with one heart” [see Rashi: “And Israel camped there (Exodus 19:2). וַיִחַן (Va-yiḥan), and he camped [third-person masculine singular]—as one man with one heart.” See Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishma’el ad loc.].

This is because each and every member of the nation completely detached himself from self-love, and wanted only to benefit his fellow, as we have demonstrated already regarding the meaning of love your fellow as yourself. It turns out that all the members of the nation came together, becoming as one heart and one man, for only then were they qualified to receive the Torah.

Thus, because of the aforementioned necessity, the Torah was given specifically to the nation of Israel, solely to the descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for it was inconceivable that any stranger would take part in it. Because of that, the nation of Israel had been established as a kind of gateway by which the sparks of merit would shine upon the whole of the human race the world over.

And these sparks multiply daily, like one who gives to a treasurer, until they are filled sufficiently, that is, until they develop to such an extent that they can understand the pleasantness and tranquility that are found in the kernel of love of others. For then they will know how to tip the balance to the right, and will place themselves under His burden, and the scale of liability will be eradicated from the world.

Now there remains to complete what we have said above about the reason why the Torah was not given to our Patriarchs, because love your fellow as yourself is the axis of the whole Torah around which all the mitsvot revolve, so as to clarify and interpret, it cannot be observed by an individual, but only through the consent of an entire nation.

And this is why it took until they came out of Egypt, when they became worthy of observing it. And then each and every one of the nation was first asked if they agreed to take that mitsvah upon himself. And once they agreed to it, they were given the Torah. However, there still remains to clarify where we find in the Torah that the children of Israel were asked that question, and that they all agreed to it prior to receiving the Torah.

Bear in mind that these things are evident to every educated person in the invitation that the blessed Holy One had sent to Israel through Moses, prior to receiving the Torah. As is written “And now, if you will truly heed My voice and keep My covenant, you will become for Me a treasure among all the peoples, for Mine is all the earth. And as for you, you will become for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.” And Moses came and he called to the elders of the people, and he set before them all these words that YHWH had charged him. And all the people answered together and said, “Everything that YHWH has spoken we shall do.” And Moses brought back the people’s words to YHWH (Exodus 19:5–8).

These words do not seem to fit since common sense dictates that if one offers one’s fellow to do some labor, and he wants him to agree, he should give him an example of the nature of that labor and its reward. Only then can he examine whether to decline or to accept.

But here, in these two verses, we seem to find neither an example of the labor nor its reward, because he says, And now, if you will truly heed My voice and keep My covenant and he does not interpret the voice or the covenant and what they apply to. And then he says, you will become for Me a treasure among all the peoples, for Mine is all the earth.

It is not clear whether He commands us to labor to be a treasure among all the peoples, or whether this is a promise of good to us.

We must also understand the connection to the end of the verse, כִּי (ki), for, Mine is all the earth. All three translators—Onqelos, Yonatan ben Uziel, and the Jerusalem Talmud, and all the commentators: Rashi, Naḥmanidies, etc.—try to emend its literal meaning. Ibn Ezra says, in the name of Rabbi Marinus [Rabbi Yonah ibn Yanaḥ], that כִּי (ki) means אַף עַל פִּי (af al pi), although, and he translates: you will become for Me a treasure among all the peoples, although Mine is all the earth. Ibn Ezra himself tends to agree, but this interpretation is not employed by our Sages, who said that ki serves four meanings: “אוֹ (O), if, דִּלְמָא (dilema), perhaps, אֶלָּא (ella), but, דְּהָא (deha), because” (BT Gittin 90a).

And he even adds a fifth meaning: אַף עַל פִּי כֵן (af al pi khen), even so. Afterwards the verse ends: and as for you, you will become for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. But here, too, it is not self-evident if this is a mitsvah and one must delve into it, or a promise of good. Also, the words a kingdom of priests are not repeated nor explained anywhere in the Bible.

The main thing here is we must discern between a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. For according to the ordinary meaning of priesthood, it is one aspect of holiness, and it is therefore obvious that a kingdom entirely of priests must be a holy nation, so a holy nation seems redundant.

However, according to all that we have explained from the beginning of the essay until now, we learn the true meaning of the words, to resemble a negotiation of offer and agreement. This means that with these words, He really does offer them the whole form and content of the labor in Torah and mitsvot, and its worthwhile reward.

The labor in Torah and mitsvot is expressed in the words, you will become for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. A kingdom of priests—all of you, from youngest to oldest, will be like priests. Just as priests have no land or any material possessions because YHWH is their domain, so will the entire nation be organized so that the whole earth and everything in it will only be dedicated to YHWH, may He be blessed. And no person should have any other involvement in it except to keep the mitsvot of YHWH, may He be blessed, and to satisfy the needs of his fellow. Thus he will lack none of his wishes, so that no person will need to have any worry about himself.

This way, even secular tasks such as harvesting, sowing, and so forth are regarded precisely as the service of the sacrifices performed by priests in the Temple. How is it different if I keep the mitsvah of making sacrifices to YHWH, which is a positive mitsvah, or if I can keep the positive mitsvah, love your fellow as yourself? It turns out that he who harvests his field in order to feed his fellow is the same as he who sacrifices to YHWH. Moreover, it seems that love your fellow as yourself, is more important than he who makes the sacrifice, as we have already shown.

Indeed, this is not yet the end of it, since the whole of the Torah and mitsvot were given for the sole purpose of purifying Israel, which is cleansing of the body, after which he will be granted the true reward: cleaving with Him, the purpose of creation. And that reward is expressed in the words a holy nation. Through cleaving with Him, we become holy, as is written, You shall be holy, for I YHWH your God am holy (Leviticus 19:2).

And you see that the words a kingdom of priests express the entire form of the service on the axis of love your fellow as yourself, meaning a kingdom entirely of priests, that YHWH is their inheritance, and they have no material personal property. And we should admit that this is the only definition by which we can understand the words, a kingdom of priests. For you cannot interpret it with regard to the sacrifices on the altar, for that could not have been said of the whole nation, for who would be making the sacrifices?

Also, with regard to taking the gifts of the priesthood, who would be the givers? And also, to interpret the holiness of the priests, it has already been said, a holy nation. Therefore, this must certainly mean that it is only that YHWH is their domain, that they lack any material possession for themselves, meaning love your fellow as yourself to the utmost degree, which encompasses the whole Torah. And the words a holy nation express the entire form of the reward, which is the cleaving.

Now we understand fully the aforementioned words And now, if you will truly heed My voice and keep My covenant—to make a covenant on what I am telling you here—you will become for Me a treasure among all the peoples. You will be My treasure, and sparks of purification and cleansing of the body shall pass through you onto all the peoples and the nations of the world, for the nations of the world are not yet ready for it. And at any rate, now I need one nation to begin with, so it will be as a remedy for all the nations. And therefore He ends, for Mine is all the earth; all the peoples of the earth belong to Me, as do you, and are destined to cleave to Me.

But now, while they are still incapable of performing that task, I need a treasured people. And if you agree to be the treasure of all the nations, I command you to become for Me a kingdom of priests, which is the love of others in its ultimate form: love your fellow as yourself. This is the axis of all the Torah and mitsvot. And a holy nation is the reward in its ultimate form of cleaving with Him, which encompasses all the rewards that can ever be imagined.

These are the words of our Sages in clarifying the ending, these are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites. They were precise regarding “These are the words—do not add and do not subtract” (Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishma’el, Baḥodesh 2) [cf. Rashi]. This is perplexing: How can you say that Moses would add or subtract from the words of YHWH to the point that YHWH, may He be blessed, had to warn him about it? And we find none like him in the entire Torah. On the contrary, the Torah says about him: In all My house he is trusted (Numbers 12:7).

And now we can fully understand that concerning the service in its final form, as understood by a kingdom of priests, the ultimate definition of love your fellow as yourself, it was indeed conceivable for Moses to delay and refrain from revealing the outline of the service all at once, lest Israel not want to detach themselves from all material possessions and give all their wealth and property to YHWH, as taught by a kingdom of priests.

Similarly Maimonides writes, that women and children should not be told of the pure service, which must for the sake of reward, and wait until they grow, become wise, and have the courage to execute it [see Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah 10:5]. Therefore, YHWH, may He be blessed, gave him the aforementioned warning, “do not add,” but presented them with the true nature of the service, in all its sublimity, expressed in the words a kingdom of priests.

And regarding the reward that is understood in the words a holy nation, it was possible for Moses to contemplate interpreting and elaborating further about the pleasantness and the sublime subtleness that come with cleaving with Him, to persuade them to accept this extreme, to completely detach themselves from any worldly possessions, as do priests. Hence, he was warned, “do not add,” but be vague and do not elaborate about the entire reward included in a holy nation.

The reason for it is, had he told them about the wondrous things in the essence of the reward, they would necessarily use and assume His service in order to obtain that wonderful reward for themselves. This would be considered serving themselves, for self-interest. That, in turn, would falsify the whole purpose.

Thus we see that regarding the nature of the service expressed in the words a kingdom of priests, he was told, “do not subtract.” And about the undetermined extent of the reward, expressed by the words a holy nation, he was told, “do not add.”