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

by tillerofthesoil

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.