“In every person there is an unknown spark which seeks—indeed, demands—to unite with God. Occasionally they are roused and thirst to know God, or deny God which is the same thing” (Ba’al ha-Sullam, Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag, Kitvei ha-Dor Aḥaron, 1:12).
My heart is pierced within me (Psalms 109:22)—דאָס פּינטעלע ייִד (das pintele Yid), the little point of a Jew, in Yiddish; הַנִצוֹץ הַיְהוּדִי (ha-nitsots ha-Yehudi), the spark of a Jew, which may reside in anybody, in Hebrew.
“The Hebrew word kabbalah means ‘reception,’ or ‘that which has been received.’ On the one hand Kabbalah refers to tradition, ancient wisdom received and treasured from the past. On the other hand, if one is truly receptive, wisdom appears spontaneously, unprecedented, taking you by surprise.
The Jewish Mystical tradition combines both of these elements. Its vocabulary teems with what the Zohar… calls ‘new ancient-words’” (Daniel Matt, The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of the Jewish Mystical Tradition, p. 1).
Cognate with קַבָּלָה (qabbalah), kabbalah, is: מַקְבִּילֹת (maqebbilot), opposite, one another (Exodus 26:5), as is written, “Come and see: the world above and the world below are perfectly balanced” (Zohar 2:176b).
This blog serves as a kind of journal. I arrange different texts according to various themes in order to try and make meaning of them in light of each other. The texts, however, are cryptic and therefore one must have merit to succeed in their study: “Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi asked: ‘What is And this is the teaching which Moses שָׂם (sam), set, before the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:44)?’ If he is worthy it becomes סַם (sam), an elixir, of life, for him, if not, סַם (sam), an elixir, of death” (BT Yoma 72b, cf. BT Ta’anit 7a).
“[However,] if a person desires to delve into Torah but cannot find anyone to teach him, and out of love for Torah he pours over her and stammers in her ignorantly, every single word ascends and the blessed Holy One delights in each one, receiving it and planting it around that stream” (Zohar 3:84b). “It is like a little baby who knows nothing and speaks half words with a stammering tongue, and his father and mother laugh with him and delight in his voice” (Rabbi Eli’ezer ben Yitsḥaq Papo, Pele Yo’ets).
Learning Torah is transformative:
A doctor who writes a book about the healing art does not intend that the book itself will be medicine; rather, he intends that the book should make known his thoughts or preferences on the subject of healing. Once the reader understands the principles of the healing art as written in the book, the book itself is of no intrinsic value. Thus, if the person studies the book for years on end but does not succeed in learning the principles set forth there in, his study has done nothing for him and his soul has not been improved at all, since he still does not understand the requirements of the art. In fact, his study has actually done him harm, since he has wasted time and effort without gaining understanding… [but] undoubtedly the words of Torah are restoring to life (Psalms 19:8). The proof is that Halakhah obligates us to read the weekly Torah portion, twice in the original Hebrew and once in the Aramaic translation, and this includes even seemingly meaningless place names such as Atarot or Divon (Numbers 33:3). This teaches us the perfection of Torah: The very words and letters themselves have hidden inner meaning, spiritual power, and vitality (Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Pardes Rimonim, Sha’ar ha-Otiyyot, cf. Guide of the Perplexed 2:40).
Similarly, “Regardless of whether or not one understands what he reads in Zohar it nevertheless purifies his soul in the same way that a person who enters a perfumery leaves with the smell attached to him even if he does not buy any perfume” (Rabbi Moshe Ḥayyim Ephraim of Sudylkow, Degel Maḥaneh Efrayim, Liqqutim 5).
This blog is also a celebration of Professor Daniel Matt’s magisterial The Zohar: Pritzker Edition. Any passages from Midrash ha-Ne’lam (Zohar Ḥadash 2d–26b; Zohar 1:97b–102b, 104b–105a, 106a–107a, 109a–118a, 121a–130a, 135a–140a; Zohar Ḥadash 27a–28d; Zohar 2:4b–5b, 14a–22a; Zohar Ḥadash 59a–c) are from the translation of Professor Nathan Wolski in The Zohar: Pritzker Edition (Volume Ten). Any passages from Midrash ha-Ne’lam on Song of Songs (Zohar Ḥadash 60c–61d), Ruth (Zohar Ḥadash 46d–48a, 75a–91b), Lamentations (Zohar Ḥadash 91a–93d), Zohar on Song of Songs (Zohar Ḥadash 61d–74d), and Sitrei Torah (Zohar 1:74b–81b, 88a–90a, 97a–101b, 109b–111a; 2:146a–149b, 152a, 253b–254a, 156a–157b, 162a–b, 165a) are from the translation of Professor Joel Hecker in The Zohar: Pritzker Edition (Volume Eleven and Twelve).
Texts translated from various Midrashim, Bahir, Ra’aya Meheimna, Tiqqunei ha-Zohar, Sefer ha-Temunah, and Berit Menuḥa are © original to the author of this blog. The essays of Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag are adapted from the translations of Chaim Ratz of Bnei Baruch. All biblical quotations, apart from those found in The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, are adapted from the translations of Professor Robert Alter.
It is my hope that you not only read this blog, and navigate it using the comprehensive tag cloud, but share your thoughts too. Best wishes ברכות.