The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

The Breath of Life

“נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים (Nishmat ḥayyim), the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). She has five names: nefesh, ruaḥ, neshamah, ḥayyah, yeḥidah. Nefesh—blood, as is written, the blood is הַנָּפֶשׁ (ha-nefesh), the life (Deuteronomy 12:23). Ruaḥ—she ascends and descends [like the רוּחַ (ruaḥ), wind]: as is written, Who knows whether man’s רוּחַ (ruaḥ), spirit, goes upward and the beast’s spirit goes down to earth (Ecclesiastes 3:21). Neshamah—הָאוֹפִיָּא (ha-ofiyya), the breath [or: temperament. Cf. אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם (erekh appayim), Long-suffering (lit., Long-nosed)]; as people say, ‘His temperament is good.’ Ḥayyah—all the limbs are lifeless, yet she is חַיָּה (ḥayyah), vitality, in the body. Yeḥidah—all the limbs [or: organs] are two by two (Genesis 7:9), yet she is יְחִידָה (yeḥidah), unique, in the body’ [cf. Psalms 22:21: Save from the sword נַפְשִׁי (nafshi), my life, from the cur’s power יְחִידָתִי (yeḥidati), my person].

It is written, Should He set His mind on man, if He would gather to Him רוּחוֹ וְנִשְׁמָתוֹ (ruḥo ve-nismato), his spirit and his breath, all flesh would expire together, man to the dust would return (Job 34:14-15). Rabbi Yehoshua son of Rabbi Neḥemyah and the Rabbis discussed this. Rabbi Yehoshua son of Rabbi Neḥemyah interpreted it: ‘Should God set His mind on this man—רוּחוֹ (ruḥo), his spirit, was already in His hand [i.e., when man sleeps at night]’; ‘If He would gather to him his breath, into his body, all humanity would expire together‘ [i.e., if He concentrated man’s soul in one part of his body instead of permitting her to pervade all his limbs]; but when man is sleeping the neshamah warms the body so that it should not shiver and die. Rabbi Bisni, Rabbi Aḥa, and Rabbi Yoḥanan in Rabbi Meir’s name said: The neshamah fills the body, and when man sleeps she ascends and draws life for him from above. Rabbi Levi said in Rabbi Ḥanina’s name: She repeatedly ascends. For every breath which a man takes he must give praise to the blessed Holy One. What is the reason? Let every הַנְּשָׁמָה (ha-neshamah), soul, praise Yah (Psalms 150:6)—let every הַנְּשִׁימָה (ha-neshimah), breath, praise Yah.

… Rabbi Shemu’el, the son-in-law of Rabbi Ḥanina, the companion of the Rabbis, said: Here [Genesis 2:7] neshamah is identified with nesfesh, whereas in another text the neshamah is equated with ruaḥ [ibid. 7:22: all that had the נִשְׁמַת רוּחַ חַיִּים (nishmat ruaḥ ḥayyim), quickening breath of life, in its nostrils]. How do we know that the statement of the one text is applicable to that of the other and vice versa? Because ḥayyim (life) is written in both texts, proving that they are analogous [hence the neshamah is both nefesh and ruaḥ]” (Bereshit Rabbah 14:9).

“Why is it called זָהָב (zahav), gold? Because in it three qualities are wedded. זָכָר (Zakhar) male—ז (zayin). הַנְשָׁמָה (Ha-neshamah), the soul [is נְקֵבָה (neqevah), female]—ה (he), for ה״ (five) names of the soul: nefesh, ruaḥ, neshamah, ḥayyah, yeḥidah. What is the function of ה (he)? It is a כִּסֵּא (kisse), throne, for ז (zayin), as is written, For he who is high has a higher one watching him (Ecclesiastes 5:7). ב (Bet) is sustenance, as is said: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָרָא (Bereshit vara), in the beginning fatten (Genesis 1:1) [cf. Ibn Ezra on Genesis 1:1; 1 Samuel 2:29: לְהַבְרִיאֲכֶם מֵרֵאשִׁית (le-havriakhem me-reshit), to make yourselves fat from the first portions].

What is its purpose here? A parable: A king once had a daughter who was good, sweet, lovely, and perfect. He married her to a royal prince, and clothed, crowned, and bejeweled her, giving her much wealth. Is it possible for the king to ever leave his daughter? You will agree that it is not. Is it possible for him to be with her constantly? You will also agree that it is not. What then must he do? He places a חַלּוֹן (ḥallon), screen, between the two, and whenever the father needs his daughter, or the daughter needs her father, they can come together through this screen [alt., וִילוֹן (vilon), Curtain, see BT Ḥagigah 12b, cf. Zohar 3:222b (RM)]. Therefore it is written All the princess’s treasure is inward, filigree of זָהָב (zahav), gold, her raiment (Psalms 45:14)” (Bahir §53-54).

600,000 Souls by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam)

canva-photo-editor (1)It is said that there are 600,000 souls, and each soul divides into several sparks [see Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah 4:2; Zohar 3:215a, 273b, (both RM); ZḤ 74d (ShS)]. We must understand how it is possible for the spiritual to divide, since from the outset, only a single soul was created, the soul of אָדָם הַרִאשׁוֹן (adam ha-rishon), Primordial Man [see 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”].

In my opinion, there is indeed but a single soul in the world, as is written, And He blew into his nostrils the soul of life (Genesis 2:7). And that same soul is found within all the Children of Israel, in each and every one, as with Primordial Man, since the spiritual is indivisible and cannot be cut, for that is precisely the quality of material things. Yet, when we say that there are 600,000 souls, and sparks of souls, it appears as though this is separation by means of the power inhering in the body of each individual. In other words, first, the body interfers and entirely denies him the radiance of the soul, but through the power of the Torah and the mitsvah, the body is cleansed, and to the degree of its cleansing, the נְשָׁמָה כְּלָלִית (neshamah kelalit), universal soul, shines upon him.

For this reason, two בְּחִינוֹת (beḥinot), facets, were made in the material body:

With the first, one senses his soul as particularly special and does not understand that this is the whole of Israel. And this is truly a flaw. With the second, the true light of the soul of Israel does not shine upon him with its entire power of illumination, but only partially, according to the degree he has purified himself by returning to the כְּלָל (kelal), whole.

The sign of the body’s complete restoration is when one feels that his soul is found in the whole of Israel in each and every one of them, and he does not have a sense of himself as an individual, since one depends on the other. Then he is perfect, without blemish, and the soul truly shines upon him with all her power, as it appeared in Primordial Man, in the mystery of “The one who exhales, exhales from within himself” [see Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady, Liqqutei Amarim, Tanya 2].

And this is the matter of the three times of a man [see Job 33:29, cf. Zohar (RM) ad loc]:

A spark of a soul—mystery of sparkling in the secret of permitted and forbidden; an individual soul—one part of 600,000, in the mystery of permanent completion, yet his flaw remains with him. This means that his body cannot receive the entire soul, and he senses himself as distinct, which causes him great sufferings of love.

Afterwards, he is drawn near perfection, mystery of the universal soul, since the body has been cleansed and it is totally dedicated to the blessed Holy One, and does not perform anything out of self-interest [lit., does not make any שִׁעוּרִים וֽמָסָכִים (shiurim ve-masakhim), measurments and screens], and is entirely included in the whole of Israel.

… We learned that “Even if one man came before his Master in complete repentance, the King Messiah would come immediately” (BT Shabbat 118b) [cf. JT Ta’anit 1:1; 64:1]. It seems to mean, as they said, “Moses is equal to 600,000.” We should understand this, since this would mean that there are two times 600,000 souls—the soul of Moses and the soul of Israel. But the truth is that there is no more than one soul, as is known to the degree each and every soul purifies and cleanses herself of her filth [of self-centeredness]. Hence, when all the souls are restored, they will draw upon themselves the entire supernal soul of אֲצִילוּת (atsilut), Emanation, to each and every soul, since the spiritual is indivisible. At that time: And YHWH shall be King over all the earth (Zechariah 14:9). Hence, when even a single soul is denied total purity, the emanation of holiness is deficient in every soul of Israel. And when a single soul of Israel is purified of all her filth, she draws upon herself every facet of the soul of Atsilut, and by this, repairs all the souls of the generation. This is the meaning of one being dependent on the other, as is written, “There is one amongst you who is worthy that the Shekhinah should rest on him, but his generation does not merit it” (BT Sanhedrin 11a).

The content of the words is entirely bewildering: the same soul that was rewarded with purification immediately strives to increase the favor of the generation and receive for them, until she elevates the entire generation to her degree. This is the meaning of “Moses is equal to 600,000.” Because he was their Faithful Shepherd, he possessed the same holiness as that of the entire generation. Understand this.  

Indeed, with each and every aspect is found the whole, since in the end, all the souls will unite into one בְּחִינָה (beḥina), facet, in the mystery of returning to their spiritual root.

Hence, all the miracles and wonders and journeys they had experienced throughout the world during six thousand years must be experienced by every individual. The good soul attracts to herself every בְּחִינָה (beḥina), aspect, of holiness, before and after. The bad soul acts to the contrary. And mystery of the changing times are regarded as “generations.” However, each generation acts as its own judge, according to the intellect that judges it, since it receives from the holiness of that time. Therefore, each person is capable of attracting the souls of Moses, Aaron, Samuel, David, and Solomon, as times that it experiences.

At the time of the exodus from Egypt and the receiving of the Torah, the soul of Moses our teacher, peace be upon him, appeared. And in the seven conquests, the soul of Joshua, and in the building of the Temple, the soul of King Solomon. Understand this. This does not refer to the aforementioned individual souls, but rather according to the rule that we said before, that the spiritual is indivisible. When one is rewarded with a soul, immediately he is rewarded with the soul of the whole of Israel, according to one’s merit and place however. Hence, at a time when he is rewarded with these wonders, he receives within himself the abundance of the soul in that revelation, hence the name of the master of that revelation is upon him, literally.

They said, “All of Israel are sons of kings” (BT Shabbat 67a; Bava Metsi’a 113b). And also, “A king that dies, all of Israel are worthy of kingship” (JT Horayot 3:5). This is a great mystery, for in all the previous generations, which were but a preparation for the special vessels of kingship required for anointment of their judges, such as the souls of Moses and Samuel and so forth. But the ultimate purpose depends on the whole of Israel, since when a small fraction of a spark is missing, the end cannot be revealed. Hence, all of Israel are worthy of kingship, since everyone is truly equal from this point of view.

For this reason, there is no special vessel for drawing down that perfection, but anyone who cleanses and purifies himself is worthy of drawing down the revelation of מַלְכוּת (malkhut), Kingship, in the world and will be called King David, literally. This is the mystery of [Sanctification of the Moon:] “David, King of Israel lives and will endure” (BT Rosh ha-Shanah 25a), for he has not died at all. And his vessel is found within each and every person of Israel. This is not so with the soul of Moses, which is found only among the wise disciples of the generation, as well as in prophets and priests. And this is the mystery of “A king that dies, all of Israel are worthy of kingship.”

This is also the mystery of “He fulfills on behalf of the many” (M Rosh ha-Shanah 2:5) [cf. BT Rosh ha-Shanah 33b]. And the matter of “In the footsteps of the Messiah impudence will increase” (BT Sotah 49a), the child shall behave himself proudly against the elder, and the base against the honorable (Isaiah 3:5). Even a proud child will dare to draw down His kingship to the world, as though he were one of the elders and the honorable of the generation. Should the base, too—one who has a lowly and deplorable soul at his root—aim his heart and purify his deeds to become worthy, he shall be rewarded with drawing down the entire soul of a holy nation in his soul, with all the wonders that the holy nation has experienced so far.

This is because they were all only preparation for this perfection. Hence, even that individual soul must experience [lit., taste] everything, and he will acquire his world in an hour [cf. M Avot 4:22: “He (Rabbi Ya’aqov) used to say: Better one hour of repentance and good deeds in this world than all the life in the world to come. Better one hour of bliss in the world to come than the whole life of this world”; BT Berakhot 17a: “May you see your world in your lifetime”]. This is due to the ability of that generation to drawn down the crown of His kingship, blessed be He, which includes the whole: “All are dependent on the master of wheat [i.e., the master of Torah who knows how to determine authentic traditions]” (BT Berakhot 64a-b; Bava Batra 145a-b), and each and every element is bound to him. Understand this.

And this is as they said, “Even if one man came before his Master in complete repentance, the King Messiah would come immediately.” Meaning that whoever it is, even if it is only one man in the generation who is rewarded with drawing down that soul to himself, he is able to reward his entire generation, since all who are bound, “fulfill on behalf of the many,” and he can increase prayer and remain steadfast until he rewards his entire generation. This is not so with regards to other redemptions, which were only in the form of preparations and did not belong to every one. For example, the giving of the Torah belonged only to the generation of the desert and to Moses. However, any other generation, even if they were more worthy, would not draw that, and neither did any other person besides Moses, for this depends on that. Yet, the Messiah is prepared for every generation. Therefore, it is also prepared for each and every person to draw down the Messiah, as in “All who are bound,” as mentioned above. And the reason is that anointments concern the תִקּוּן הַכֵּלִים (tiqqun ha-kelim), repair of the vessels, but the image of all the vessels is equal, since any division between them is only in their wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, according to their qualities. Hence, from the prince who sees the King’s face to the one who sits behind the millstones (Exodus 11:5), all are equal servants in restoring the former glory, and in that, there is no distinction between one and his fellow.

A Single Mitsvah by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam)

Ba'al ha-Sullam Portrait“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” (BT Qiddushin 40b).

There is no serving the blessed Holy One and keeping the mitsvot except in “לִישְׁמָהּ (Lishma), for its own sake” (BT Pesaḥim 50b)—to please his Maker. Yet, our sages have already introduced the practice of engaging in Torah and mitsvot even in “לֹא לִישְׁמָהּ (Lo lishma), not for its own sake,” because “From not for its own sake, one comes to for its own sake” (ibid.).

Since the outbreak of the war people’s patience has worn thin and everyone, especially the young, have lost the power to control themselves and for that have become totally rebellious. It has become impossible to instill in them the habits of Torah study and keeping mitsvot. Moreover, the matter of [Torah] “not for its own sake,” which the masses base their practice on, is not the custom at all these days because respect for Torah has completely fallen. Therefore I have come out with this call to young Jews to return to the service of the blessed Holy One and to be faithful to Him even in a minimal fashion. We do not require of them immediate and total acceptance of Torah and mitsvot in their entirety but simply that each and everyone would at any rate accept a single mitsvah. As the sages said, “Habakkuk came and based all [mitsvot] on one, as is said, And the righteous shall live by his faithfulness (Habakkuk 2:4)” (BT Makkot 24b) [cf. Maimonides on M Makkot 3:16]. Even if a person says he will fulfill all the mitsvot of Torah except for one, this refers to individuals who have become perfected and are now performing the mitsvot “for its own sake.” But before reaching that perfection when the whole point of the service is nothing but an exercise and training so that it will bring the individual to do so “for its own sake” the loss is not so great between him who fulfills in whole or in part.

I say that the first, and only mitsvah which guarantees attainment of the hope of “for its own sake,” is to resolve not to serve oneself, except for what is absolutely necessary—merely providing for one’s sustenance [cf. Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program: “Everyone according to his abilities, each according to his needs”]. The rest of the time, one will work for the public: saving the oppressed, and every creature in the world that is in need of rescue and aid.

Serving people with the blessed Holy One’s mitsvot

1) There are two advantages to this mitsvahEveryone will understand that they are laboring because this work is approved and agreeable to all the people in the world.

2) This mitsvah may better qualify one to keep Torah and mitsvot “for its own sake,” since the preparation is part of the objective. This is so because by accustoming oneself to serving people, one benefits others and not oneself. Thus, one gradually becomes fit to keep the mitsvot of the blessed Holy One with the required condition—benefitting the Creator and not oneself. Naturally, the intention should be to keep the mitsvot of the blessed Holy One.

The part of Torah concerning relations between man and man

There are two parts in Torah: one concerns man and the Omnipresent; the other concerns man and man. And I call upon you to, at any rate, engage and assume that which concerns man and man, since thus you will also learn the part that concerns man and the Omnipresent.

Speech, thought, and action

Service of any kind, should include thought, speech, and action. We have already explained the “practical” part of the single mitsvah: one should agree to dedicate all of one’s free time to benefit people of the world. The aspect of “thought” is more essential in this mitsvah than in mitsvot relating to man and the Omnipresent. This is because in mitsvot between man and the Omnipresent, the “act” in itself testifies that the intention is to please his Maker, as there is no other room for such an action but Him.

Yet, with what concerns man and man, they are justified in and of themselves, since human conscience necessitates them. However, if one performs them from this perspective, he certainly has not done a thing. In others words, these actions will not bring him closer to his Maker and to actual service “for its own sake.”

Thus, each person should think that one is doing all that only to please his Maker, and to resemble His ways: as He is merciful, I am merciful, and as He always imparts good, so do I. This image, coupled with good deeds, will bring one closer to the blessed Holy One in a way that will equalize one’s form to spirituality and to holiness. In this manner, one becomes like a seal, fit to receive true supernal abundance.

And the matter of “speech” refers to prayer with the mouth—during the service and according to fixed times—for the blessed Holy One to turn one’s heart from “receiving to giving.” So, to murmur in Torah and in matters which promote achieving this [cf. Psalms 1:2: But YHWH’s Torah is his desire, and His Torah he murmurs day and night].

Pleasing his Maker unintentionally

It is hopeless to wait for a time when a solution is found for allowing one to begin the service of the blessed Holy One, “for its own sake.” As in the past, so in the future—every servant of the blessed Holy One must begin the service in “not for its own sake,” and from there attain “for its own sake.”

And the way to reach this rung is not limited in time, but by mechanisms and by the measure of one’s mastery over his heart. Hence, many have fallen, and will fall, in the matter of serving “not for its own sake,” and die without wisdom. Yet, their reward is nevertheless great, since one’s mind cannot appreciate the true merit and value of pleasing his Maker. Even if one works not under this condition, since one is not worthy of another way, one still brings contentment to his Maker. And this is called “unintentionally.”

Prophetic truth in material measurement

Since it is an absolute certainty the prophetic abundance must be received with language [lit., צֵירוּפִי אוֹתִיוֹת (tserufi otiot), letter-combinations] suitable for the spirit of beginners, that is, to benefit them and to be open to the self-interest of the generation. This is so because only then is it assured that the blessed Holy One’s word is accepted by the generation by way of “not for its own sake,” since the Creator did not prepare them in any other way, as mentioned above.

Hence, this is the sign of a true prophet: his prophecy is best suited for the material success of his contemporaries, as is written, And what great nation is there that has just statutes and laws like all this teaching that I am about to set before you today? (Deuteronomy 4:8). Since the material success at hand confirms their truthfulness, that, at last, it is indeed a widening of the gateway, as mentioned above.

The obligation to keep the 613 mitsvot

The 613 mitsvot, considered holy names, concern the matter of הַשׁגָחָה פְּרָטִית (hashgaḥah pratit), individual providence, for all who approach to receive divine abundance. Man is obligated to experience all of these orders, excepting none. Hence, the perfected ones follow them with their very being, in order to preserve them, down to their material branches, in the mystery of, In every place that I make My name invoked, I shall come to you and bless you (Exodus 20:24).

The Wisdom of Truth

The ancients chose a particular path for themselves, and I chose a general way, since to my mind it better suits the Divine, to ensconce Him in unchanging and eternal language. I mean to say that [even] with material success, they will not change in any place, nor in any time. Thus, my words are definitive.

For this reason I am forced to express רוּחָנִיוּת (ruḥaniut), spirituality, in a general way. However, I instead choose to explain all the particulars and immaterial language, to the most minute detail, which has no source other than this anthology, without the garment of material language—the pure Kabbalah. And by elucidating the spiritual particulars without the garment of material expressions, it will do much for the development of attainment. And this wisdom is called the Wisdom of Truth.


In prophecy no error or falsehood can occur, since in light of the truth which derives from the blessed Holy One how can there be error? Rather, it is as certain as rain and snow falling from the sky onto the soil, not ceasing until successful in their mission. Yet, soil that has been prepared by stone-removal and by plowing is better fit to receive than unprepared soil—everything depends on the preparation.

There is certainly a distinction among prophets, the kabbalists, since one is not actually in the [same] degree as his companion. Greatness or smallness is gauged according to the preparation of that prophet: one in a lower degree, due to a lack of tremendous preparation, is deficient in the light poured upon him, yet, the light of prophecy does not suffer any errors [itself]. However, his smallness causes him to use profuse language [lit., צֵירוּפִי אוֹתִיוֹת (tserufi otiot), letter-combinations], which is the multiplication of צִנוֹרוֹת וְכְּלִים (tsinorot ve-kelim), channels and vessels, until he attains prophecy.

Brevity is prophetic success

A prophet of a smaller degree imposes a more arduous way upon the people to whom he has been sent, although the veracity of a prophet is ultimately determined by the success of his will. However, one of a greater degree, whose preparation is meticulous, experiences no aberration when he receives his prophecy from the blessed Holy One. Hence, he will not increase the channels and vessels, since his prophecy is clear, concise, and easily and quickly accepted by those to whom he has been sent.

It is possible that the smaller may succeed more than the greater

Besides the aforementioned, it is possible for the smallest of prophets to succeed with his prophecy even more than the greatest prophet—concerning the aforementioned brevity—since he relies on the revelations of prior prophets, who paved his way for him. It also depends on the development of his audience, since clear and concise words require a more developed generation, so they can understand him. And if these two [conditions] augment one of a small degree, he can succeed far more than a great one [cf. John of Salisbury, Metalogicon 257].

The secret of prophecy through the generations

Although Moses our teacher, peace be upon him, received the Torah and the statutes for all the generations, to such an extent that a prophet is not permitted any innovations, his prophecy was only given for a time. This is attested to by: A prophet like me from your midst, from your brothers, YHWH will raise up. Him shall you heed (Deuteronomy 18:15). If the prophecy of Moses, peace be upon him, were enough for all eternity, why would the blessed Holy One send any other prophets such as him? Clearly, his prophecy was effective only for its time. And when that time is through, the blessed Holy One sends another prophet to extend or complete His desire.

Yet, the prophet is not permitted to renew or subtract a thing, for this would mean that there was a deficiency in the previous prophet, perish the thought. Rather, the words of the blessed Holy One are always perfect, as is written, I am the fist and I am the last (Isaiah 44:6). And his only task is to extend that same prophecy to those generations that are no longer worthy of receiving from the first.

And the final prophet is the mystery of מָשִׁיחַ (mashiaḥ), Messiah, who fulfills them all. He, too, is certainly not permitted to add or subtract, but his success will be greater, since the whole generation will be fit to receive his words and be fulfilled through him. This is so for two reasons: either because of their greatness, or because of his contemporaries, or because of both.

The essence of prophetic success

The essence of prophetic success is לְהַמשִׁיך (le-hamshikh), to draw, the supernal light down to the lowest ones below. The one who brings it lowest is the most successful. Above and below are measured in spirit and in physical benefit, since the physical obtained by prophecy is the point that gives people footing, and it is known that the focal point in the work of God is the first footing.

A general force and a particular force

Their uniqueness is the unity of the blessed Holy One and the Shekhinah. A particular force is forbidden reception until the lowest degree, and a general force is the multiplication of giving with all his might and his very being.

My Son, My Firstborn, My Servant Israel: Clinging to the King Clingingly Comes Through His Son

“The first commandment: the primary beginning of all the commandments is to know the blessed Holy One in general. What is meant by ‘in general’? To know that there is a supreme power who is Master of the Universe, and created all worlds—heaven and earth and all their forces. This is the meaning of ‘in general.’ The end of all—’in particular’; to know Him in particular.

General and particular are beginning and end, mystery of male and female as one. Consequently, the human being in this world comprises general and particular; the restoration of this world is general and particular. So, the beginning of all is to know that there is a ruler and judge over the world, and that He is Master of all worlds, and created the human being from dust, and blew into his nostrils the soul-breath of life. This is the meaning of ‘in general terms.’

When Israel left Egypt, they did not know the blessed Holy One [cf. Zohar 1:157b; 2:161a, 198b]. When Moses came to them, the first commandment that he taught them was as is written: and you shall know that I am YHWH your God—who takes you out… (Exodus 6:7). Were it not for this commandment, Israel would not have believed in all those miracles and mighty deeds that He performed for them in Egypt. As soon as they knew this commandment in general terms, miracles and mighty deeds were performed for them.

At the end of forty years, during which they engaged in all those commandments of Torah that Moses taught them—both those performed in the land and those performed outside the land—he then taught them in particular terms, as is written: Know today and take to your heart (Deuteronomy 4:39)—today precisely, what they were not permitted beforehand; that יְהוָה הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים (Adonai hu ha-Elohim), YHWH is the God (ibid.)—in particular terms. Countless mysteries and secrets inhere in this statement! This and the one preceding are entirely a single matter—that in general, this is particular [in rabbinic literature, the two names represent the divine qualities of compassion and justice, respectively. See Sifrei, Deuteronomy 26; Bereshit Rabbah 12:15; 33:3; and 13:3, where יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים (YHWH Elohim) is called ‘a complete name.’ Cf. Zohar 1:12a, 91a; 2:26b, 161a–b; 3:65a; Z 70d (ShS)].

Now, you might say, ‘But look at what is written: The awe of YHWH is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7)!’ This refers to in particular terms: to know who awe of YHWH is [Malkhut]. And even though a person must be in awe of Him before he knows, nevertheless here is written beginning of knowledge—to know Him; for this is the beginning of knowing Him in particular terms [cf. Zohar 1:11b–12a].

So, the first commandment is to know the blessed Holy One in general and in particular, beginning and end. This is the mystery of I am the fist and I am the last (Isaiah 44:6). I am the first—in general; and I am the last—in particular. All a single totality, one mystery.

Once one knows this in general, he should perfect all his limbs. What are they? The 248 commandments, which are the 248 limbs of the human being! Once perfected thus in general, he should know in particular terms—total healing—knowing all the days of the year, which unite to bestow healing to all the limbs.

Now, you might say, ‘How do all the days of the year bestow healing to all the limbs?’ Certainly it is so, above and below! The year and its days bestow healing to all the limbs above. When the limbs pour down blessings to the days of the year, healing and life loom above them on high, and they are filled with all. Who brings this about? The days of the year! Similarly below: when a person perfects his body through mitsvot of Torah, you cannot find a single day that does not come to be blessed through him; and when they are blessed through him, life and healing loom above him on high. Who brings this about? Those days of the year! Just as the days of the year are blessed from on high from the mystery of the human being, so are they blessed form below from the mystery of the human being.

Happy are Israel in this world through these mitsvot of Torah, for they are called ‘human,’ as is written: you are human (Ezekiel 34:31)! You are called human, but the other nations are not called human. And because Israel are called human they must engage in the mitsvot of Torah, so that all will be one in the mystery of the human [see BT Yevamot 60b–61a; Bava Metsi’a 114b; Karetot 6b].

When the blessed Holy One gave the Torah to Israel upon Mount Sinai, the first utterance was אָנֹכִי (Anokhi), I am (Exodus 20:2). Anokhi engenders many mysteries. Here it pertains to the mystery of the first commandment—to know him in general [cf. Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 12:24]. For it is written: AnokhiI am—intimating that there is a god, a supreme power of the world—the first commandment, in general. In particular—for it is written: YHWH your God (ibid.)—particular. I am—general; YHWH your God—particular; general and particular. The first commandment: one must know beginning and end, as we have established” (Zohar 2:25a–b, Piqqudin).

“The second commandment: to serve with all kinds of service in the Temple, and outside the Temple with all the rites called ‘service’—with prayer, striving after the commandments of Torah, for all is called ‘service’—like a servant striving after his master’s needs.

For Israel are called ‘servants,’ as is written: For Mine are the Children of Israel as servants, they are My servants (Leviticus 25:55). Why are they servants? For it is written: whom I brought out of the land of Egypt (ibid.). Accordingly, in the ten utterances, after I am YHWH your God (Exodus 20:2), it is written: who brought you out of the land of Egypt (ibid.)—to serve Him like a servant serving his master, who redeemed him from death, redeeming him from all the evils of the world [cf. Rashi on Numbers 15:41; Mekhilta, Baḥodesh 5; Zohar 2:40a. On the ransom paid to death, the Other Side, see Zohar 3:178a-b, Ra’aya Meheimna Qoraḥ].

By these two [designations] are Israel called by the blessed Holy One: they are called ‘servants,’ as is written, they are My servants (Leviticus 25:55); and they are called ‘sons,’ as is written, You are sons of YHWH your God (Deuteronomy 14:1). When a person knows the blessed Holy One in general terms, he is called ‘servant,’ for he carries out his Master’s command—but he is not permitted to search among His treasures or the mysteries of His house. When a person knows the blessed Holy One in particular terms he is called ‘son,’ His beloved—like a son who searches among His treasures, among all the mysteries of His house.

Even though he is called ‘son,’ firstborn of the blessed Holy One, as is said, My son, My firstborn, is Israel (Exodus 4:22), he must not remove himself from the category of ‘servant’—serving his Father with all the rites that are the honor due his Father [תִפאֶרֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל (tif’eret yisra’el), Beauty of Israel, the heavenly Israel, son of Ḥokhmah and Binah. See Zohar 1:95b, 124b, 219a, 223b, 233b; 2:79a, 85b, 197a; 3:74a]. So is required by every person: to be a son to his Father, searching among His treasures, to know the mysteries of His house, striving after them; and to be a servant to his Father.

Mystery of the matter: there are two rungs above with which a person must be adorned; they are a mystery of faith, and they are one: One—mystery of servant; the other—mystery of son. This servant is called lord of all the earth (Joshua 3:11); the son, as we have established, My son, My firstborn, is Israel; all is a single mystery of faith. A person must be adorned with these rungs, to be enveloped in the mystery of faith.

As servant—to serve with all kinds of service, with prayer called ‘service,’ like this Servant—supernal mystery—never ever resting, but praising and singing always. This applies to other acts of service, for She performs and administers all the services and affairs of the worlds; and for this reason She is called lord—for She is a servant to serve, called lord of all the earth. A person who is adorned with this mystery—becoming a servant to serve the service of his Lord—ascends and is crowned, attaining this rung, and is also called ‘lord of all the earth’; for he effectuates blessings to this world through all those acts of service, sustaining it, and he is called ‘lord of all the earth’ accordingly.

Happy is the share of the son, striving to fathom his Father’s treasures and all the mysteries of His house; like an only child granted dominion by his father over all his treasures—honored, for he is in command of all! One who delves into wisdom to fathom the blessed Holy One and His treasures is called a son of the blessed Holy One. Among all the heavenly forces none hinders him whenever he needs to enter to his Father. Happy is his share in all worlds! Accordingly, when he strives to fathom Him in particular terms—in the mystery of wisdom—he is called ‘son.’

In the service rendered by a person to the blessed Holy One, there is an act of service in which a person must incorporate both—being servant and son, to be adorned by the blessed Holy One. What is that? The service of prayer, in which a person must be servant and son, to be embraced by these supernal rungs: serving a and arraying prayer in the mystery of the servant, performing the service of the restoration of worlds; and attaching his will to mysteries of wisdom, cleaving to his Lord through supernal mysteries in the mystery of the son; and all in a single totality. Happy is the share of the person who knows to adorn himself with supernal mysteries, as is fitting!

A son cleaves to his Father always, without any separation at all; none hinders him. A servant performs the service of his Master, arranging arrangements of the world. He who possesses both in one totality, in a single nexus, is the person who arrays the mystery of all faith in one entirety—without any separation at all, uniting all as one. This is the person about whom the blessed Holy One proclaims among all the legions and camps of all worlds, throughout all firmaments, ‘Show care for so-and-so, trustee of the palace! The mystery of the palace and the treasures of his Lord are in his hand!’ Happy is he in this world, and happy is he in the world that is coming!

From that day on, that person is recognized and recorded in all worlds. Whenever he requires, all supernal legions and camps are mindful to be with him; and the blessed Holy One desires none but him alone. A voice arouses, ‘It is fitting for the Unique to be with the unique; Unique engaging with unique! [cf. BT Pesaḥim 118a; Midrash Tehillim 117:3].

We have found the mystery of these two rungs in one verse, as is written: he said to me, ‘You are My servant, Israel, in whom I glory‘ (Isaiah 49:3). He said to me, ‘You are My servant—servant; Israel—son; for when they are a single totality, then is written in whom I glory” (Zohar 3:111b–112a, Piqqudin).

“As one says: Clinging to the King clingingly comes through His Son” (Zohar 2:147a).

More Wondrous Your Love to Me than the Love of Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ba'al ha-Sullam PortraitWhat is spirituality?

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

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

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

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

Philosophy with regard to His essence

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

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

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

The spiritual is a force without a body

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

A spiritual vessel is called a force

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

Lights and vessels

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

Vessels and lights

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

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

Matter and form in Kabbalah

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

אַבִּיעָ (ABiYA)

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

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

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

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

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

The origin of the soul

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

The acidic element

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Equal force in spiritual and physical

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

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

Body and soul of the supernal ones

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

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

Lights and vessels

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can spiritual generate physical?

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

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

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

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

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

Materialistic Psychology

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

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

I am Solomon

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

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

Three preventions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previously in Israel, prior to the development of the printing industry, there were no spurious books among us relating to the essence of Judaism, as there were almost no writers who could not stand behind their words, for the simple reason that in most cases, an irresponsible person is not 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 shall the owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow (Isaiah 34:15). These days, such conspirators multiply, who fabricate such delights disgusting those who behold them.

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

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

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