The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

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

Ba'al ha-Sullam PortraitBody and Soul

Before I clarify this exalted matter, I must note that many apparently deem it impossible to clarify and bring closer to human understanding except by means of abstract philosophical concepts, as is usually the case with such investigations. However, since the day I discovered the wisdom of Kabbalah and dedicated myself to it, I have distanced myself from abstract philosophy and all its branches as far as the east is from the west. Everything I write is from a purely empirical perspective, in utter precision, and by means of simple recognition of practical things.

Although I will make mention of their words below, it is only to indicate the difference between what the human mind can imagine and what can be understood using Torah and prophecy, which are based on practical foundations, as I have shown in Mahutah shel Ḥokhmat ha-Qabbalah (The Nature of the Wisdom of Kabbalah).

I would also like to thoroughly clarify the terms “body” and “soul” as they truly are, since truth and a sound mind are one and the same. This is because the truth is available to anyone, but only by the spirit of the holy Torah, and by removing every distorted concept that has taken root among people. These are mostly taken from abstract methods from which the spirit of our holy Torah is far removed.

Three methods in the concept of “body” and “soul”

In general, we find that the methods which abound in the world concerning the concepts of body and soul can be gathered into three methods:

Faith

The method of faith argues that all that exists is spirit, or the soul. They believe that there are spiritual objects separated from one another by quality. They are called “souls of people,” and they exist independently, prior to clothing in a human body. Afterwards, when the body dies, death does not apply to it, since a spiritual object is a simple object. In their view, death is but a separation of the elements comprising the object.

This is possible with physical objects, comprised of several elements which death disintegrates but the spiritual soul, which is an utterly simple object, lacking any complexity, cannot be separated in any way, as this separation would annul its existence. Hence, the soul is eternal and exists forever.

The body, as they understand it, is like a garment over this immaterial object. The immaterial soul clothes in it and employs it to manifest its forces: the good qualities and every kind of concept. Also, it provides the body with life and motion and guards it from harm. Thus, the body itself is lifeless, motionless, and contains nothing but dead matter, as we see once the soul departs upon death, and all the signs of life that we see in human bodies are but manifestations of the soul’s powers.

Duality

Those who believe in duality think of the body as a discrete creation [i.e., Cartesian Dualism, see Descartes, Meditations]. Standing, living, nourishing, and safekeeping its existence with all that is required, it does not need any assistance from any immaterial substance.

Yet, the body is not considered man’s essence. Man’s essence is the perceiving soul, which is an immaterial substance, as in the view of the first method.

The difference between these two methods is only in the concept of the body. Following the extensive developments in physiology and psychology, they have found that providence has provided for all of life’s needs within the machine of the body itself. This, in their view, restricts the role of the soul’s function in the body only to concepts and virtues of the spiritual kind. Thus, while both methods believe in duality, they say that the soul is the reason for the body, meaning that the body is a result emanating from the soul.

Skepticism

The method of the skeptics acknowledges the material only. Proponents of this method completely deny the existence of any abstract immaterial substance within the body [i.e., “the ghost in the machine,” see Ryle, The Concept of Mind]. Evidently they have proven that man’s mind, too, is but a product of the body. They portray the body as an electric machine with wires that stretch from the body to the brain. It operates according to encounters with external stimuli which send sensations of pain or pleasure to the brain, and the brain instructs the organ what to do. Everything is conducted by “wires” and “cords” made for this purpose. They move the organ away from sources of pain and towards sources of pleasure. Thus, from external stimuli this [network of “wires” and “cords”] determines all of man’s thoughts.

Furthermore, cognition is only an impression of the internal physical functioning of the body. Our superiority over animals is that our brains developed to such an extent that all the body’s functions effect the brain which we then experience as שֶׂכֶל וְהִגָּיוֹן (sekhel ve-higgayon), cognition [the ability to embed our thoughts within other thoughts, see Corballis, The Recursive Mind: The Origins of Human Language, Thought, and Civilization]. Thus, cognition is merely a consequence of accidents of the body.

In addition, there are proponents of the second method who completely agree with this method, but add the immaterial eternal substance to it, called “the soul that inheres within the machine of the body.” This soul is man’s essence, and the machine of the body is only its apparel. Thus, I have laid out in general terms all that human wisdom has thus far contrived with regard to concepts of body and soul.

The empirical meaning of “גוּף (guf), body,” and “נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), soul” according to our holy Torah

Now I shall explain this exalted matter according to our holy Torah, as our Sages have explained it to us. I have already written in several places that there is not a single word of our Sages, not even in the prophetic wisdom of Kabbalah, that relies on a theoretical basis. This is so because it is a known fact that man is naturally doubtful, and each conclusion that the human mind deems certain, it deems uncertain after some time. Hence, one doubles the efforts of his study and invents another inference and declares that as certain.

But if one is a genuine student [of human wisdom], he will walk in circles all his life, since yesterday’s certainty has become today’s uncertainty, and today’s certainty will be tomorrow’s uncertainty. Thus, it is impossible to determine any definite conclusions for more than a day.

The נִגְלֶה (nigleh), revealed, and the נִסתָר (nistar), concealed

The science of our time has come to understand this development and has determined that there is no absolute certainty in reality. Yet, our Sages arrived at this conclusion several thousand years earlier. Hence, concerning religious matters, they have guided and forbidden us to not only refrain from drawing any conclusions based on theory, but even prohibited us from being assisted by such theories, even by way of negotiation.

Our Sages divided the wisdom in two: revealed and concealed. The revealed part contains everything we know from our simple consciousness, as well as axioms built upon practical experience, as our Sages said, “A judge has only what his eyes see” (BT Sanhedrin 6b).

The concealed part contains all the knowledge we have heard from trusted people or have acquired by ourselves through general understanding and perception. However, we cannot sufficiently approach it so as to critique it with a sound mind, with straightforward understanding. And this is regarded as concealed, where we were advised to accept matters on simple faith. And with all that concerns religion, we have been strictly forbidden to even glance at matters that might motivate us to investigate and study them.

Yet, these names, “revealed” and “concealed,” are not permanent names, applying to a certain kind of knowledge, as the uneducated think. Rather, they apply only to human consciousness. Thus, one refers to all those concepts he has already discovered and has come to know through actual experience as “revealed,” and regards all the concepts that are yet to be recognized in this way as “concealed.”

Thus, throughout the generations, all people have these two divisions. The revealed part is permitted for study and research, as it relies on a true basis, and the concealed part is forbidden to even a shred of doubt, since one has no real basis there.

Employing human wisdom: permitted and forbidden

Hence, we who follow in the footsteps of our Sages are not permitted to employ human wisdom, except empirical knowledge, and in whose validity we have no doubt. Therefore, we cannot accept any religious principle from the above three methods. All the more so concerning concepts of “body” and “soul,” which are fundamental concepts and the subject of religion as a whole. We can only accept knowledge derived from the teaching of life itself, taken from experience which none can doubt.

Clearly, such a proof cannot be found in anything immaterial, but only in something material, set up for perception by the senses. Hence, we are permitted to use the third method [of the skeptics] to an extant. It engages only in matters of the body, in all those deductions that have been proven by experiments, and which no one doubts. The rest of the concepts, which combine the logic of their method and other methods, are forbidden to us. One who uses them breaches, Do not turn to the idols (Leviticus 19:4).

Yet, this third method is foreign and loathsome to the human spirit. There is hardly any truly educated person who is able to accept it, since according to them, man’s human form is erased and vanished. Man has been made into a machine that acts and goes about according to other forces. According to them, man has no free choice whatsoever, but is rather compelled by forces of nature, and all his actions are compulsory. Hence, man has no reward or punishment, since no judgment, punishment, or reward apply to one who has no free will.

Such a thing is utterly unthinkable, and not only for the religious, who believe in reward and punishment, since believing in His providence, that all the forces of nature are guided by Him, assures them that everything has a good and desirable cause. Yet, this method is even stranger in the eyes of the non-religious, who believe that everyone is given to the hands of a blind, mindless, and aimless nature. These intelligent ones are like toys in its hands, led astray, and who knows where? Hence, this method has become despised and unaccepted in the world.

But you should know that the method of those who conceive duality came only to correct this aforementioned error. For this reason, they have decided that the body, which is but a machine according to the third method, is not at all the authentic human. Man’s true essence is something altogether different—invisible and imperceptible to the senses. It is an immaterial substance, clothed and concealed within the body. This is man’s “self,” the “I.” The body and everything within it are considered possessions of that eternal and immaterial “I,” as they have written.

Yet, by their own admission, this method is lame, since they cannot explain how an immaterial substance, being the soul or the “self,” can move the body or decide anything concerning it. This is because following philosophical precision itself, the spiritual has no contact whatsoever with the physical. It has absolutely no impact on it, as they have written themselves.

The accusation against Maimonides

Yet, even without this question, their method would have been forbidden among Israel, as we have explained above. It is important to know that the entire accusation against Maimonides by the Sages of Israel, and the harsh judgment to burn his books, were not because they had any doubt of the righteousness and piety of Maimonides himself. Rather, it was only because he employed [Aristotelian] philosophy and metaphysics, which were at their peak at the time, as assistance in his books. Maimonides wished to save them from it, yet the Sages did not agree with him.

Needless to say, today our generation has already recognized that metaphysical philosophy contains no real content upon which it is worthwhile to spend one’s time. Hence, it is certainly forbidden for anyone to take any spices from their words.

The Wisdom of Kabbalah and Philosophy

What is spirituality?

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

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

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

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

Philosophy with regard to His essence

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

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

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

The spiritual is a force without a body

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

A spiritual vessel is called a force

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

Lights and vessels

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

Vessels and lights

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

However, the love that is engendered is considered צוּרָה בְּלִי חוֹמֶר (tsurah beli ḥomer), “form without matter.” In other words, if we strip the love from a gift, as though it was never clothed in any gift, but only in the abstract designation, “love of the blessed Holy One,” then it is regarded as form and it belongs to the formative Kabbalah [cf. Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 1:68]. However, unlike formative philosophy it still concerns what is real since the spirit of love remains in the attainment, completely abstracted from the gift, which is the light itself.

Matter and form in Kabbalah

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

אבי״ע (ABiYA)

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

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

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

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

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

The origin of the soul

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

The acidic element

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Equal force in spiritual and physical

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

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

Body and soul of the supernals

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

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

Lights and vessels

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can spiritual generate physical?

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

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

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

However, all the qualities in spiritual materials abide in physical materials too, as explained in the article Mahuta shel Ḥokhmat ha-Qabbalah (The Essence of the Wisdom of Kabbalah).

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

Materialistic Psychology

Not only is it the wrong place to argue with them about their speculations, but also the time of supporters of such views has already passed and their authority revoked. We should also thank the experts of materialistic psychology for that, which built its foundation on the ruin of the former, winning the public’s favor. Now everyone admits to the irrelevance of philosophy, for it is not built on solid foundations [materialist psychologists generally agree that consciousness (the mind) is the function of the brain. Mental processes can be identified with purely physical processes in the central nervous system, and that human beings are just complicated physiological organisms, see Ryle, The Concept of Mind. Some identify Rabbi Ashlag’s “materialistic psychology” with Freudian theory, see Garb, Yearnings of the Soul, p. 109].

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

I am Solomon

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

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

Three preventions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ba'al ha-Sullam Portrait

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ba'al ha-Sullam Portrait

A Slavegirl that is Heir to Her Mistress: The reason for hiding Kabbalah

Now you can understand the issue of the concealment of the hidden wisdom from the eyes of the outer ones, as well as what the Sages said, “A gentile must not be taught Torah” (BT Sanhedrin 59a). There seems to be a contradiction between this and the saying, “Even a gentile, even a slave, and even a slavegirl who sit and learn Torah, the Shekhinah is with them” (Tanna debei Eliyyahu, 9). Thus, why did the Sages prohibit teaching Torah to gentiles?

Teaching Torah to gentiles

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

Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai’s weeping

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

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

The Messiah’s Shofar: Redemption only through the power of the Kabbalah

Know that this is what it means that the Children of Israel are redeemed only after the hidden wisdom is revealed to a great degree, as is written in the Zohar: “Because the Children 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 compassion” (Zohar 3:124b [RM]). This is because at that time there was hope of redemption with the composition of the Zohar, which began in the days of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai, during the days when Bar-Kokhba appeared. Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai’s master, said of him: “דָּרַךְ בָּר כּוֹכבָאדָּרַךְ כּוֹכָב (Darakh kokhav), a star steps forth, out of Jacob (Numbers 24:17)—(darakh bar kokhva), Bar Kokhba steps forth, out of Jacob” (JT Ta’anit 4:8, 68d). Thus, after the ruin of Beitar there was great hope [see JT, Ta’anit 4:5, 24a; BT Gittin 57b; Eikha Rabbah 2:5].

Composing the Zohar and hiding it

And because of that, Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai permitted himself and revealed the hidden wisdom in his books, the Zohar and Tiqqunei ha-Zohar (Embellishments of the Zohar). However, it was with great care, since he only permitted Rabbi Abba, who was able to reveal so only the sages of the Children of Israel would understand, and the sages of the nations would not understand, for fear lest the wicked know how to serve their Lord [see Zohar 1:11b, cf. ibid. 3:74b]. Therefore, as soon as they realized that the time was not ripe for Israel’s redemption, they hid it. For we find much that the Savora’im, who wrote matters within the Zohar as is known [Savora’im (Opiners): Babylonian scholars of the fifth and sixth centuries C.E.].

Revealing the Kabbalah is the will of the blessed Holy One

Indeed, it was the blessed Holy One’s will that it would appear. This is why it found its way to the widow of Rabbi Moshe de León. She inherited the manuscript from her husband, and he probably told her nothing of the prohibition to reveal it, and she, by chance, put it up for sale.

Israel’s troubles are because of revealing the Kabbalah

Indeed, to this day, this was the cause of many a ruin in the house of Israel for the aforementioned reasons [cf. Rabbi Yeshayahu Bassan, Iggerot Shadal, 29].

Good from revealing the Kabbalah

However, there is no bad without good. And therefore, the predominance which the nations have acquired by stealing Secrets of Torah, caused great momentum in the expansion of holiness. And in my opinion, we are in a generation that is actually standing on the verge of redemption, if we only knew how to spread the hidden wisdom among the masses.

First benefit

Apart from the simple reason of Goods he swallowed he will vomit (Job 20:15), this will reveal “the difference between my son [Jacob] and the son of my father-in-law [Esau]” (BT Berakhot 7b), and the difference between the essence of the kernel and the outermost shell, from which all the sages of the nations of the world peeled. This is because all the camps of Israel that have denied the Torah are sure to return to the blessed Holy One and to His service.

Second benefit

There is another reason for it. We have accepted that there is a precondition for the redemption: all the nations of the world will know Israel’s Torah, as is written, For the earth shall be filled with knowledge [of the glory of YHWH, as the waters cover the sea] (Habakkuk 2:14), as with the exodus from Egypt, where there was a must that Pharaoh, too, know the true God and His commandments, and allow them to leave.

Redemption through divulging Kabbalah to the nations of the world

This is why it is written that each of the nations will take hold of a Jewish man and lead him to the Holy Land [see Zechariah 8:23: Thus says YHWH of Armies; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, out of every language of the nations, even shall take hold of the robe of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you]. And it was not enough that they leave by themselves. You must understand how the nations of the world would come by such a desire or notion. Know that this is through the dissemination of the true wisdom, so they will evidently see the true God and the true law [cf. BT Pesaḥim 87b].

Dissemination of the wisdom of Kabbalah the world over

And the dissemination of the wisdom among the masses is called a שׁוֹפָר (shofar), ram’s horn. Like the shofar, whose voice travels a great distance, the reverberation of the wisdom will spread the world over, so that even the nations will hear and know that there is divine wisdom in Israel.

The revelation of Kabbalah to all the nations is the revelation of Elijah

And this task was said about Elijah the prophet, since revealing Secrets of Torah is always referred to as “the revelation of Elijah.” It is as they have said, “set it aside until Elijah comes” [see M Sheqalim 2:5: “Rabbi Me’ir said, the excess funds for a specific dead person is set aside until Elijah comes”] and also, “תִּשְׁבִּי יְתָרֵץ קֻשְׁיוֹת וְאִבַּעְיוֹת (Tishbi yetarets qushyot ve-iba’eyot), the Tishbite [namely, Elijah] will resolve difficult questions and problems” [תִּיקוּ (tiqu), “It is undecided,” is taken as an acronym for the aforementioned saying, and is often employed in the Talmud. Cf. Zohar 3:27b (RM)]. For this reason, they said that three days (a wellknown hint) prior to the coming of the Messiah, Elijah would walk upon the hilltops and sound a great shofar, and so forth.

Revealing Kabbalah to all the nations is a necessity for the final redemption

You must understand these allusions: The matter of the shofar is only revealing the hidden wisdom to great masses, which is a necessity that must be fulfilled prior to the complete redemption.

And the books that have already been revealed through me in this wisdom testify to it, that matters of the greatest importance have been spread out like a gown for all to see. This is a true witness that we are already on the verge of redemption, and that the voice of the great shofar has already been heard, though not in the distance, for it still sounds very softly.

But indeed, any greatness requires prior smallness, and there is no great voice if it is not preceded by a soft sound, for this is the way of the shofar, that it grows progressively. And who better than I knows that I am not at all worthy of being even a messenger or a scribe for revealing such secrets, much less to thoroughly understand them. And why has the blessed Holy One done so for me? It is only because the generation is worthy of it, since it is the final generation, which stands on the verge of complete redemption. And for this reason, [the generation] is worthy of beginning to hear the voice of Messiah’s shofar, which is the revealing of secrets, as has been explained.

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

Rabbi_Ashlag_Passport

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

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

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

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

Before I elucidate their words, I will inform you that our Sages have a great principle for us, regarding all the holy names and appellations in the books. These are their golden words: “Anything that we cannot attain, we do not give a name” [cf. Rabbi Azriel of Gerona, Commentary on the Ten Sefirot, in Rabbi Me’ir Gabbai, Derekh Emunah, 2b–c, 3a–d: “Ein Sof cannot be conceived, certainly not expressed, though it is intimated in every thing, for there is nothing outside of it. No letter, no name, no writing, no thing can confine it”].

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

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

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

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

Thus, the supernal light is higher than high but will ultimately emanate and actualize the soul clothed in the material body of this world, as is written, For the earth shall be filled with knowledge of YHWH (Isaiah 11:9); 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). Our Sages write, and it is also found in The Book of Zohar, “Torah is the name of the blessed Holy One” [see Rabbi Ezra of Gerona, Peirush le-Shir ha-Shirim, 548; Naḥmanides, Haqdamah Peirush ‘al ha-Torah, 6–7; Zohar 2:60a, 87a, 90b, 124a; 3:13b, 19a, 21a, 35b-36a, 73a, 89b, 98b, 159a, 265b, 298b; Rabbi Moshe de León, Sefer ha-Rimmon, 341-42; Berit Menuḥa, Haqdamah; OY; Galante]. All the stories and laws and verses, all are His holy Name. According to what was already explained, that “Anything that we cannot attain we do not give a name,” you will thoroughly understand the meaning of the holy names of the blessed Holy One. These are the attainments that emanate from Him to His servants, the prophets and the righteous, each according to his merit, as is written, That I and Your people may be distinguished from every people that is on the face of the earth (Exodus 33:16).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, I met with the famous ones among them, people who have already worn out their years delving into the writings of the Ari and the Zohar. They have become astonishingly proficient and conversant in all the writings of the Ari. They have a reputation as being the holiest people in the land [namely, the mekhavvnim (‘intenters’) of the Reḥovot ha-Nahar community and Yeshivat ha-Mequbbalim of the Bet El Synagogue]. I asked them if they had studied with a Rav who attained the essence of matters. They replied: “Perish the thought. There is no internality here whatsoever, only precise texts handed down to us, and nothing more.”

I asked them if Rav Ḥayyim Vital had attained the essence of the matters. They replied: “He certainly did not attain more than we do.” I then asked them about the Ari himself. They replied: “He certainly did not know the essence more than us! All that he knew, he had handed down to his disciple, Rav Ḥayyim Vital, and thus they came into our hands.” I mocked them: “How then were the matters composed in the heart of the Ari without any understanding and knowledge?” They replied: “He received these matters from Elijah, and he knew the essence, because he is an angel.” Here my wrath poured out on them, for my patience to be with them had ended. And when I saw that their foolishness had taken root in nearly everyone engaging in this wisdom at that time, woe to the ears that so hear, Is it also to force the queen with me in the house? (Esther 7:8) [cf. Iggerot ha-Sullam, № 35, 47, 48, 52, 62].

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

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

Our Sages said that the holy Torah mourns before the blessed Holy One: “Your sons have turned Me into a song in public-houses.” But they do not even make of the Torah a semblance of a song, only frightening words to any listener that arise contempt and wrath. Furthermore, they wish to be rewarded like Phinehas, saying that they do it in perfect faith. The Writings says about them: Inasmuch as this people approached with its mouth and with its lips honored Me but kept its heart far from Me, [and their reverence for Me was a commandment of men learned by rote, therefore will I continue to strike this people with wonder upon wonder, and the wisdom of its wise men shall vanish and the discernment of its discerners disappear] (Isaiah 29:13), and this is the reason for the ruin of the First Temple.

The devil still dances among us, precisely at the time of the Messiah, the time of the end of the Secrets of Torah. The zeal of YHWH of Armies came as fire that will not quench in my bones. Because of that, I have been roused to remove the gown to such an extent that they will know that there is wisdom in Israel [cf. BT Pesaḥim 119a]. This has been among the main reasons which made me arrive at this explanation. You must see in every purpose and every goal that it is utterly simple. All the wit, the cleverness, and the many issues form during the preparation, until the goal is reached. For example, when one wishes to sit in a house, he needs wit and knowledge in the design, in artisanship, and in the quality and quantity of the rooms and the possessions.

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

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