Introduction to The Study of the Ten Sefirot
1) At the outset of my words, I find a great need to break an iron wall that has been separating us from the wisdom of Kabbalah, since the ruin of the Temple to this generation. It lies heavily on us and arouses fear of being forgotten from Israel.
However, when I begin to speak to anyone about this study, his first question is, “Why should I know how many angels are in the sky and what their names are? Can I not keep the whole Torah in all its details and intricacies without this knowledge?”
Second, he will ask, “The sages have already determined that one must first fill one’s belly with Mishnah and Gemarah. Thus, how can one deceive himself that he has already completed the whole of the revealed Torah, and lacks only the wisdom of the hidden?”
Third, he is afraid that he will turn sour because of this engagement. This is because there have already been incidents of deviation from the path of Torah because of engagement in Kabbalah. Hence, “Why do I need this trouble? Who is so foolish as to place himself in danger for no reason?”
Fourth: Even those who favor this study permit it only to holy ones, servants of the Creator. And not all who wish to take the Lord may come and take.
Fifth, and most importantly, “There is a conduct in our midst that, when in doubt, keep this: Do as the people do,” and my eyes see that all those who study Torah in my generation are of one mind, and refrain from studying the hidden. Moreover, they advise those who ask them that it is undoubtedly preferable to study a page of Gemarah instead of this engagement.
2) Indeed, if we set our hearts to answer but one very famous question, I am certain that all these questions and doubts will vanish from the horizon, and you will look unto their place to find them gone. This indignant question is a question that the whole world asks, namely, “What is the meaning of my life?” In other words, these numbered years of our life that cost us so heavily, and the numerous pains and torments that we suffer for them, to complete them to the fullest, who is it who enjoys them? Or even more precisely, whom do I delight?
It is indeed true that historians have grown weary contemplating it, and particularly in our generation. No one even wishes to consider it. Yet the question stands as bitterly and as vehemently as ever. Sometimes it meets us uninvited, pecks at our minds and humiliates us to the ground before we find the famous ploy of flowing mindlessly in the currents of life as always.
3) Indeed, it is to resolve this great riddle that the verse writes, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Those who keep the Torah and Mitzvot correctly are the ones who taste the taste of life. They are the ones who see and testify that the Lord is good, as our sages say, that He created the worlds to do good to His creations, since it is the conduct of The Good to do good.
Yet, those who have not yet tasted the taste of life in keeping Torah and Mitzvot, cannot feel and understand that the Lord is good, as our sages say, that when the Creator created us, His sole purpose was to benefit us. Hence, we have no other counsel but to keep the Torah and Mitzvot correctly.
It is written in the Torah (Parashat Nitzavim): “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil.” This means that prior to the giving of the Torah, we had only death and evil before us, as our sages say, “The wicked, in their lives, are called ‘dead.’” This is because their death is better than their lives, as the pain and suffering they endure for their sustenance is many times greater than the little pleasure they feel in this life.
However, now we have been granted Torah and Mitzvot, and by keeping it we are rewarded with the real life, joyful and delightful to its owner, as it is written, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Hence, the writing says, “See, I have set before thee this day life and good,” which you did not have in reality at all prior to the giving of the Torah.
And the writing ends, “therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed.” There is a seemingly repeated statement here: “choose life, that thou mayest live.” Yet, it is a reference to life in keeping Torah and Mitzvot, which is when there is real life. However, a life without Torah and Mitzvot is harder than death. This is the meaning of the words of our sages, “The wicked, in their lives, are called ‘dead.’”
The writing says, “that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed.” It means that not only is a life without Torah joyless to its owner, but one also cannot delight others. One finds no contentment even in one’s progeny, since the life of his progeny is also harder than death. Hence, what gift does he leave for them?
However, not only does one who lives in Torah and Mitzvot enjoys his own life, but he is even happy to bear children and bequeath them this good life. This is the meaning of, “that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed,” for he receives additional pleasure in the life of his progeny, of which he was the cause.
4) Now you can understand the words of our sages about the verse, “therefore choose life.” It states, “I instruct you to choose the part of life, as one who says to his son: ‘Choose for yourself a good part in my land.’ He places him on the good part and tells him: ‘Choose this for yourself.’” It is written about this, “O Lord, the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup, Thou maintainest my lot. You placed my hand on the good fate, to say, ‘This take for you.’”
The words are seemingly perplexing. The verse says, “therefore choose life.” This means that one makes the choice by himself. However, they say that He places him on the good part. Thus, is there no longer choice here? Moreover, they say that the Creator puts one’s hand on the good fate. This is indeed perplexing, because if so, where then is one’s choice?
Now you can see the true meaning of their words. It is indeed true that the Creator Himself puts one’s hand on the good fate by giving him a life of pleasure and contentment within the corporeal life that is filled with torment and pain, and devoid of any content. One necessarily departs and escapes them when he sees a tranquil place, even if it seemingly appears amidst the cracks. He flees there from this life, which is harder than death. Indeed, there is no greater placement of one’s hand by Him than this.
And one’s choice refers only to the strengthening. This is because there is certainly a great effort and exertion here before one purifies one’s body to be able to keep the Torah and Mitzvot correctly, not for his own pleasure, but to bring contentment to his Maker, which is called Lishma (for Her Name). Only in this manner is one endowed with a life of happiness and pleasantness that come with keeping the Torah.
However, before one comes to that purification there is certainly a choice to strengthen in the good way by all sorts of means and tactics. Also, one should do whatever his hand finds the strength to do until he completes the work of purification and will not fall under his burden midway.
5) According to the above, you will understand the words of our sages in the Masechet Avot: “Thus is the path of Torah: Eat bread with salt, drink little water, sleep on the ground, lead a sorrowful life, and labor in the Torah. If so you do, happy you will be; happy in this world and happy in the next world.”
We must ask about their words: How is the wisdom of Torah different from the other teachings in the world, which do not require this asceticism and sorrowful life, but the labor itself is enough to acquire those teachings? Even though we labor extensively in the Torah, it is still not enough to acquire the wisdom of the Torah, except through the mortification of bread with salt and a sorrowful life.
The end of the words is even more surprising, as they said, “If so you do, happy you will be; happy in this world and happy in the next world.” This is because it is possible that I will be happy in the next world. But in this world, while I torment myself by eating and drinking and sleeping, and lead a sorrowful life, would it be said about such a life, “happy in this world?” Is this the meaning of a happy life in this world?
6) However, it is explained above that engagement in Torah and Mitzvot correctly, in its strict condition, is to bestow contentment to one’s Maker and not for self-gratification. And this is impossible to achieve except through great labor and exertion in purifying the body.
The first tactic is to accustom oneself to not receive anything for one’s pleasure, even the permitted and necessary things for the existence of one’s body, such as eating, drinking, sleeping, and other such necessities. Thus, one will detach oneself completely from any pleasure that comes to him, even in the necessities, in the fulfillment of one’s sustenance, until he leads a sorrowful life in its literal meaning.
And after one becomes accustomed to that, and his body possesses no desire to receive any pleasure for itself, it is now possible for him to engage in the Torah and keep the Mitzvot in that manner, too, in order to bestow contentment upon his Maker and not at all for his own pleasure.
When one acquires that, one is rewarded with tasting the happy life, filled with goodness and delight without any blemish of sorrow, which appear in the practice of Torah and Mitzvot Lishma. It is as Rabbi Meir says (Avot 6), “Anyone who engages in Torah Lishma is granted many things. Moreover, the whole world is rewarding to him, the secrets of Torah are revealed to him, and he becomes as a flowing spring.”
It is about him that the verse says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” One who tastes the flavor of the practice of Torah and Mitzvot Lishma is endowed with seeing the intention of Creation by himself, which it is to do only good to His creations, as it is the conduct of The Good to do good. Then he rejoices and delights in the number of years of life that the Creator has granted him, and the whole world is rewarding for him.
7) Now you will understand the two sides of the coin of engagement in Torah and Mitzvot: On the one hand, it is the path of Torah, meaning the extensive preparation one must make to prepare the purification of his body before he is actually rewarded with keeping Torah and Mitzvot.
In that state, he necessarily engages in Torah and Mitzvot Lo Lishma (not for Her name), but mixed with self-gratification. This is because he has not yet purified and cleansed his body from the will to receive pleasure from the vanities of this world. During this time, one must lead a sorrowful life and labor in the Torah, as it is written in the Mishnah.
However, after one completes the path of Torah, has already purified his body, and is now ready to keep the Torah and the Mitzvot Lishma, to bring contentment to his Maker, he comes to the other side of the coin. This is the life of pleasure and great tranquility, to which the intention of Creation – “to do good to His creations” – refers, meaning the happiest life in this world and in the next world.
8) This explains the great difference between the wisdom of Torah and the rest of the teachings in the world: Acquiring the other teachings in the world does not benefit life in this world whatsoever. This is because they do not even render mere gratification for the torments and suffering one experiences during life. Hence, one need not correct one’s body, and the labor that he gives in return for them is quite sufficient, as with all other worldly possessions acquired in return for labor and toil.
However, the sole purpose of engagement in Torah and Mitzvot is to make a person worthy of receiving all the goodness in the intention of Creation, “to do good to His creations.” Hence, one must necessarily purify one’s body to merit that Godly goodness.
9) This also thoroughly clarifies the words of the Mishnah: “If so you do, happy you will be in this world.” They made this precision deliberately, to indicate that a happy life in this world is only for those who have completed the path of Torah. Thus, the mortification in eating, drinking, sleeping, and a sorrowful life that are mentioned here apply only while being on the path of Torah. This is why they meticulously stated, “Thus is the path of Torah.”
And when one completes this path of Lo Lishma in sorrowful life and mortification, the Mishnah ends, “…happy are you in this world.” This is because you will be granted that happiness and goodness in the intention of Creation, and the whole world will be rewarding for you, even this world, and all the more so the next world.
10) The Zohar (Beresheet p 31b) writes about the verse, “And God said: ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light,” there was Light for this world and there was Light for the next world. This means that the acts of creation were created in their full stature and form, meaning in their fullest glory and perfection. Accordingly, the Light that was created on the first day came out in all its perfection, which contains the life of this world, too, in utter pleasantness and gentleness, as expressed in the words, “Let there be light.”
However, to prepare a place of choice and labor, He stood and concealed it for the righteous at the end of days, as our sages say. Hence, they said in their pure tongue, “Let there be Light for this world.” However, it did not remain so, but “let there be Light for the next world.”
In other words, they who practice Torah and Mitzvot Lishma are rewarded with it only at the end of days, during the end of days, after the end of the purification of their body in the path of Torah. Then they are rewarded with that great Light in this world, too, as our sages said, “You shall see your world in your life.”
11) However, we find and see in the words of the sages of the Talmud that they have made the path of Torah easier for us than the sages of the Mishnah. This is because they said, “One should always practice the Torah and Mitzvot, even Lo Lishma, and from Lo Lishma he will come to Lishma, because the Light in it reforms him.”
Thus, they have provided us with a new means instead of the penance presented in the above- mentioned Mishnah, Avot: the “Light in the Torah.” It bears sufficient power to reform one and bring him to practice Torah and Mitzvot Lishma.
They did not mention penance here, only that engagement in Torah and Mitzvot alone provides one with that Light that reforms, so one may engage in Torah and Mitzvot in order to bring contentment to his Maker and not at all for his own pleasure. And this is called Lishma.
12) Yet, it seems we must question their words. After all, we have found a few students whose practice in Torah did not help them to come to Lishma through the Light in it. Indeed, practicing Torah and Mitzvot in Lo Lishma means that one believes in the Creator, in the Torah, and in reward and punishment. And he engages in the Torah because the Creator commanded the engagement, but associates his own pleasure with bringing contentment to his Maker.
If, after all one’s trouble in the practice of Torah and Mitzvot, he will learn that no pleasure or self-benefit came to him through this great exertion and strain, he will regret having made all these efforts. This is because from the very beginning, he has tortured himself thinking that he, too, would enjoy his exertion. This is called Lo Lishma.
Nonetheless, our sages permitted the beginning of the practice in Torah and Mitzvot in Lo Lishma, as well, because from Lo Lishma one comes to Lishma. However, there is no doubt that if this student has not been rewarded with faith in the Creator and in His law, but still dwells in doubt, it is not about him that our sages said, “from Lo Lishma he will come to Lishma.” It is not about him that they said that by engaging in it, “the Light in it reforms” them.
This is so because the Light in the Torah shines only to those with faith. Moreover, the measure of that Light is as the measure of the force of one’s faith. Yet, to those without faith it is the opposite, for they receive darkness from the Torah and their eyes darken.
13) Sages have already presented a nice allegory about the verse, “Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! Wherefore would ye have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light” (Amos 5). There is an allegory about a rooster and a bat that were waiting for the Light. The rooster said to the bat: “I am waiting for the Light because the Light is mine. But you, why do you need the Light?” (Sanhedrin 98b).
Clearly, those students who were not endowed with coming from Lo Lishma to Lishma, due to their lack of faith, did not receive any Light from the Torah. Thus, in darkness they walk and shall die without wisdom.
Conversely, those who were imparted complete faith are guaranteed in the words of our sages that because they engage in the Torah, even in Lo Lishma, the Light in it reforms them. They will be imparted the Torah Lishma, which brings a happy and good life in this world and in the next world, even without the prior affliction and sorrowful life. It is about them that the verse writes, “Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord, and I will make thee to ride upon the high places of the earth.”
14) Concerning such a matter as the above, I once interpreted the saying of our sages, “He whose Torah is his trade.” The measure of his faith is apparent in his practice of Torah because the letters of the word, Umanuto (his trade), are the same (in Hebrew) as the letters of the word, Emunato (his faith).
It is like a person who trusts his friend and lends him money. He may trust him with a pound, and if he asks for two pounds he will refuse to lend him. He might also trust him with one hundred pounds, but not more. Also, he might trust him enough to lend him half his properties, but not all his properties. Finally, he may trust him with all his properties without a hint of fear. This last faith is considered “whole faith,” and the previous forms are considered “incomplete faith.” Rather it is partial faith, whether more or less.
Similarly, one allots oneself only one hour a day to practice Torah and work out of the measure of his faith in the Creator. Another allots two hours, according to the measure of one’s faith in the Creator. The third does not neglect even a single moment of his free time without engaging in Torah and work. Thus, only the faith of the last one is whole, since he trusts the Creator with all his property. The previous ones, however, their faith is still incomplete.
15) Thus, it has been thoroughly clarified that one should not expect that engagement in Torah and Mitzvot in Lo Lishma will bring him to Lishma, except when one knows in one’s heart that he has been granted faith in the Creator and in His Torah appropriately. This is because then the Light in it reforms him and he will attain “the day of the Lord,” which is all Light. The sanctity of faith purifies one’s eyes to enjoy His Light until the Light in the Torah reforms him.
Yet, those without faith are as bats. They cannot look at the Light of day because the daylight has been inverted for them to a more terrible darkness than the darkness of the night, as they are only fed in the darkness of night.
In this manner, the eyes of those without faith are blinded to the Light of God; hence, the Light becomes darkness to them. For them, the potion of life is turned into a potion of death. It is about them that the writing says, “Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! Wherefore would ye have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light.” Thus, first, one must make one’s faith whole.
16) This answers yet another question in the Tosfot (Taanit p 7): “He who practices Torah Lishma, his Torah becomes to him a potion of life. And he who practices Torah Lo Lishma, his Torah becomes to him a potion of death.” They asked, “Yet, they said, ‘One will always practice the Torah, even in Lo Lishma, and from Lo Lishma he will come to Lishma.’”
According to the explained above, we should divide it simply: One who engages in Torah for the Mitzva of studying Torah, and believes in reward and punishment, but associating self-pleasure and benefit with the intention to bring contentment to his Maker, the Light in it will reform him and he will come to Lishma. And one who studies not for the Mitzva of studying Torah, because he does not believe in reward and punishment in that measure, to labor so for it, but exerts only for his own pleasure, it becomes a potion of death for him, since for him, the Light in it is turned to darkness.
17) Hence, the student pledges, prior to the study, to strengthen himself in faith in the Creator and in His guidance in reward and punishment, as our sages said, “Your landlord is liable to reward you for your work.” One should aim one’s labor to be for the Mitzvotof the Torah, and in this way, he will be imparted the pleasure of the Light in it. His faith will strengthen and grow through the remedy in this Light, as it is written, “It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones” (Proverbs 3:8).
Then one’s heart shall rest assured that from Lo Lishma he will come to Lishma. Thus, even one who knows about himself that he has not been rewarded with faith, still has hope through the practice of Torah.
For if one sets one’s heart and mind to attain faith in the Creator through it, there is no greater Mitzva than that, as our sages said, “Habakkuk came and stressed only that: ‘the righteous shall live by his faith’” (Makkot 24).
Moreover, there is no other counsel than this, as it is written (Masechet Baba Batra p 16a), “Rabbi said: ‘Job wished to rid the whole world of judgment. He said before Him: ‘Oh Lord, Thou hath created the righteous; Thou hath created the wicked; who holds You down?’’”
And Rashi interprets there: “Thou hath created righteous by means of the good inclination; Thou hath created wicked by means of the evil inclination. Hence, none are saved from Thine hand, for who holds You down? Coerced are the sinners.” And what did the friends of Job reply (Job 15:4)? “Indeed, you do away with fear, and impair devotion before God, the Creator has created the evil inclination, He has created for it the spice of Torah.”
Rashi interprets there: “Created the Torah, which is a spice that revokes ‘thoughts of transgression,’” as it is written (Kidushin p 30), “If thou cometh across this villain, pull him to the Beit Midrash (seminary). If he is hard, he will soften. Hence, not coerced are they, for they could save themselves.”
18) Clearly, they cannot rid themselves of the judgment if they say that they received that spice and still have thoughts of transgression, meaning that they are still in doubt and the evil inclination has not yet melted. This is because the Creator, who created it and gave the evil inclination its strength, evidently knew to create the remedy and the spice liable to wear off the power of the evil inclination and eradicate it altogether.
And if one practices Torah and fails to remove the evil inclination from himself, it is either that he has been negligent in giving the necessary labor and exertion in the practice of Torah, as it is written, “I have not labored but found, do not believe,” or perhaps one did put in the necessary amount of labor, but has been negligent in the quality.
This means that while practicing Torah, they did not set their minds and hearts to draw the Light in the Torah, which brings faith to one’s heart. Rather, they have been absent-minded about the principal requirement demanded of the Torah, namely the Light that yields faith. And although they initially aimed for it, their minds went astray during the study.
Either way, one cannot rid oneself of the judgment by arguing coercion, for our sages strictly state, “I have created the evil inclination; I have created for it the spice of Torah.” If there had been any exceptions in that, then Job’s question would remain valid.
19) Through all that has been explained thus far, I have removed a great complaint about the words of Rabbi Chaim Vital in his introduction to Shaar HaHakdamot (Gate to Introductions) by the Ari, and the introduction to ThеTree of Life. He writes, “Indeed, one should not say, ‘I shall go and engage in the wisdom of Kabbalah before he engages in the Torah, Mishnah, and Talmud.’ This is because our sages have already said, ‘One should not enter the PARDESS  unless he has filled his stomach with meat and wine.’”
This is like a soul without a body: it has no reward or act or consideration before it is connected in a body, when it is whole, corrected in the Mitzvot of the Torah, in 613 Mitzvot.
Conversely, when one is occupied with the wisdom of the Mishnah and Babylonian Talmud, and does not give a share to the secrets of Torah and its concealments, as well, it is like a body that sits in the dark without a human soul, God’s candle, which shines within it. Thus, the body is dry and does not draw from a source of life.
Thus, a wise disciple, who practices Torah Lishma, should first engage in the wisdom of the Bible, the Mishnah, and the Talmud, as long as his mind can tolerate. Afterwards, he will delve into knowing his Maker in the wisdom of truth.
It is as King David commanded his son Solomon: “know thou the God of thy father and serve Him.” And if that person finds the study of the Talmud heavy and difficult, he is better off leaving his hand off it once he has tested his luck in this wisdom, and engage in the wisdom of truth.
It is written, “A disciple who has not seen a good sign in his study within five years will also not see it” (Hullin p 24). Thus, every person whose study is easy must dedicate a portion of one or two hours a day to study the Halachah (Jewish code of laws), and explain and interpret the questions in the literal Halachah.
20) These words of his seem very perplexing: he is saying that before one succeeds in the study of the literal, one should already engage in the wisdom of truth. This contradicts his former words that the wisdom of Kabbalah without the literal Torah is as a soul without a body, having no deed, consideration, or reward.
The evidence he brings of a disciple who did not see a good sign is even more perplexing, for our sages said that he should therefore abandon the study of Torah. But certainly, it is to caution him to examine his ways and try with another Rav or in another portion. But he must certainly not leave the Torah, even the literal Torah.
21) It is even more difficult to understand, both in the words of Rabbi Chaim Vital and in the words of the Gemarah. It is implied in their words that one needs some specific preparation and merit to attain the wisdom of Torah. Yet, our sages said (Midrash Raba, Portion “And This Is the Blessing”), “The Creator said unto Israel: ‘Regard, the whole wisdom and the whole Torah is easy: anyone who fears Me and observes the words of the Torah, the whole wisdom and the whole Torah are in his heart.’”
Thus, we need no prior merit here; and only by virtue of fear of God and the keeping of Mitzvot is one granted the whole wisdom of the Torah.
22) Indeed, if we examine his words they will clarify before us as pure heavenly stars. The text, “he is better off leaving his hand off it, once he has tested his luck in this [revealed] wisdom,” does not refer to luck of wit and erudition. Rather, it is as we have explained above in the explanation, “I have created the evil inclination; I have created for it the spice of Torah.” It means that one has delved and exerted in the revealed Torah, and still the evil inclination is in power and has not melted at all. This is because he is still not saved from thoughts of transgression, as Rashi writes above in the explanation, “I have created for it the spice of Torah.”
Hence, he advises him to leave his hands off it and engage in the wisdom of truth, for it is easier to draw the light in the Torah while practicing and laboring in the wisdom of truth than in laboring in the literal Torah. The reason is very simple: the wisdom of the revealed is clothed in external, corporeal clothes, such as stealing, plundering, torts, etc. For this reason, it is difficult and heavy for any person to aim his mind and heart to the Creator while studying, so as to draw the Light in the Torah.
It is even more so for a person for whom the study in the Talmud itself is heavy and arduous. How can he remember the Creator during the study, since the scrutiny concerns corporeal matters, and cannot come in him simultaneously with the intention for the Creator?
Therefore, he advises him to practice the wisdom of Kabbalah, as this wisdom is entirely clothed in the names of the Creator. Then he will certainly be able to easily aim his mind and heart to the Creator during the study, even if he is the slowest learner. This is so because the study of the issues of the wisdom and the Creator are one and the same, and this is very simple.
23) Hence, he brings good evidence from the words of the Gemarah: “A disciple who has not seen a good sign in his study after five years will also not see it.” Why did he not see a good sign in his study? Certainly, it is only due to the absence of the intention of the heart, and not because of any lack of aptitude, as the wisdom of Torah requires no aptitude.
Instead, as it is written in the above study: “The Creator said unto Israel, ‘Regard, the whole wisdom and the whole Torah is easy: any one who fears Me and observes the words of the Torah, the whole wisdom and the whole Torah are in his heart.’”
Of course one must accustom oneself in the Light of Torah and Mitzvot, and I do not know how much. One might remain in waiting all his years. Hence the Braita warns us (Hulin 24) to not wait longer than five years.
Moreover, Rabbi Yosi says that only three years are quite sufficient to be granted the wisdom of the Torah. If one does not see a good sign within that length of time, one should not fool himself with false hopes and deceit, but know that he will never see a good sign.
Hence, one must immediately find himself a good tactic by which to succeed in achieving Lishma and to be granted the wisdom of the Torah. The Braita did not specify the tactic, but it warns to not remain seated in the same situation and wait longer.
This is the meaning of the Rav’s words, that the surest and most successful tactic is the engagement in the wisdom of Kabbalah. One should leave one’s hand entirely from engagement in the wisdom of the revealed Torah, since he has already tested his luck in it and did not succeed. And he should dedicate all his time to the wisdom of Kabbalah, where his success is certain.
24) This is very simple, for these words have no connection to the study of the literal Torah, in any thing that one must actually practice, for “it is not the ignorant who is pious, and a mistaken learning makes for evil, and one sinner destroyeth much good.” Hence, one must necessarily repeat them as much as it is necessary to not fail in one’s practice.
However, here it speaks only of the study of the wisdom of the revealed Torah, to explain and scrutinize questions that arise in the interpretation of the laws, as Rabbi Chaim Vital deduces there himself. It refers to the part of the study of the Torah that is not performed de facto, or to the actual laws.
Indeed, here it is possible to be lenient and study from the abbreviations and not from the origins. However, this, too, requires extensive learning, since one who knows from the origin is not like one who knows it from a brief scan of some abbreviation. In order to not err in that, Rabbi Chaim Vital says at the very outset of his words that the soul connects to the body only when it is corrected in the Mitzvot of the Torah, in 613 Mitzvot.
25) Now you see how all the questions that we presented in the beginning of the introduction are complete folly. They are the obstacles that the evil inclination spreads in order to hunt innocent souls, to dismiss them from the world, robbed and abused.
Examine the first question, where they imagine that they can keep the whole Torah without the knowledge of the wisdom of Kabbalah. I say to them: Indeed, if you can keep the study of Torah and the observance of the Mitzvot appropriately, Lishma, meaning only in order to bring contentment to the Maker, then indeed, you do not need to study Kabbalah. This is because then it is said about you, “One’s soul shall teach him.” This is because then all the secrets of the Torah will appear before you like a lush spring, as in the words of Rabbi Meir in the Mishnah (Avot), and you will need no assistance from the books.
However, if you are still engaged in learning Lo Lishma, but hope to merit Lishma by this means, then I ask you: “How many years have you been doing so?” If you are still within the five years, as the Tana Kama says, or within the three years, as Rabbi Yosi says, then you can still wait and hope.
But if you have been practicing the Torah in Lo Lishma for more than three years, as Rabbi Yosi says, and five years, as the Tana Kama says, then the Braita warns you that you will not see a good sign in this path you are treading! Why delude your souls with false hopes when you have such a near and sure tactic as the study of the wisdom of Kabbalah, as I have shown the reason above that the study in the issues of the wisdom and the Creator Himself are one?
26) Let us also examine the second question, which is that one must fill one’s belly with Mishnah and Gemarah. Everyone agrees that it is indeed so. Yet, this is all true if you have already been endowed with learning Lishma, or even Lo Lishma, if you are still within the three years or the five years. However, after that time, the Braita warns you that you will never see a good sign, and so you must test your success in the study of Kabbalah.
27) We must also know that there are two parts to the wisdom of truth: The first, called the “secrets of Torah,” should not be exposed except by implication, and from a wise Kabbalist to a disciple who understands in his own mind. Maase Merkava and Maase Beresheet belong to that part, as well. The sages of The Zohar refer to that part as “the first three Sefirot, Keter, Hochma, Bina,” and it is also called “the Rosh (Head) of the Partzuf.”
The second part is called the “flavors of Torah.” It is permitted to disclose them and indeed, a great Mitzva to disclose them. The Zohar refers to it as the “seven lower Sefirot of the Partzuf,” and it is also called the Guf (Body) of the Partzuf.
Every single Partzuf de Kedusha (of holiness) consists of ten Sefirot. These are called Keter, Hochma, Bina, Hesed, Gevura, Tifferet, Netzah, Hod, Yesod, Malchut. The first three Sefirot are considered the “Rosh of the Partzuf” and the seven lower Sefirot are named the “Guf of the Partzuf.” Even the soul of the lower person contains the ten Sefirot in their above names, as well, and every single discernment, in the Upper and in the lower.
The reason why the seven lower Sefirot, which are the Guf of the Partzuf, are called “flavors of Torah” is as the meaning of the verse, “and the palate tasteth its food.” The Lights that appear under the First three, namely the Rosh, are called Taamim (flavors), and Malchut de (of the) Rosh is called Hech (palate).
For this reason they are called Taamim of Torah. This means that they appear in the palate of the Rosh, which is the source of all the Taamim, which is Malchut de Rosh. From there down it is not forbidden to disclose them. Quite the contrary, the reward of one who discloses them is immeasurable and boundless.
Also, these First three Sefirot and these seven lower Sefirot expand both in the general and in the most particular segment that can be divided. Thus, even the First three Sefirot of the Malchut at the end of the world of Assiya belong to the section of the “secrets of Torah,” which are not to be disclosed. And the seven lower Sefirot in the Keter of the Rosh of Atzilut belong to the section, “ Taamimof Torah,” which are permitted to be disclosed, and these words are written in the books of Kabbalah.
28) You will find the source of these words in the Mishnah Pesachim (p 119), as it is written (Isaiah 23), “And her gain and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord; it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her gain shall be for them that dwell before the Lord, to eat their fill, and for stately clothing.” “What is ‘stately clothing’? This is what covers things that Atik Yomin covered. And what are those? The secrets of the Torah. Others say, this is what reveals things that Atik Yomin covered. What are those? The flavors of the Torah.”
RASHBAM interprets, “Atik Yomin is the Creator,” as it is written, “and Atik Yomin sits.” The secrets of the Torah are Maase Merkava and Maase Beresheet. The meaning of “Name” is as it is written, “This is My Name for ever.” The “clothing” means that He does not give them to any person, but only to those whose heart is anxious. “This is what reveals things that Atik Yomin covered” means covering the secrets of the Torah, which were initially covered, and Atik Yomin disclosed them, and gave permission to disclose them. And one who discloses them is granted what he said in this verse.
29) Now you evidently see the great difference between the secrets of Torah, where all who attain them receive this great reward for covering them and for not disclosing them. And it is to the contrary with the Taamim of the Torah, where all who attain them receive this great reward for disclosing them to others.
There is no dispute on the first opinion, but only examination of the different meanings between them. The Lishna Kama states the end, as it says, “stately clothing.” Hence they interpret the attainment of the great reward for covering the secrets of Torah.
Others say it states the beginning, which reads, “eat their fill,” meaning the Taamim of the Torah, as it is written, “and the palate tasteth its food.” This is because the Lights of Taamim are called “eating”; hence, they interpret the attainment of the great reward mentioned in the text regarding one who discloses the Taamim of the Torah. (There is no dispute between them, but one speaks of the secrets of the Torah and the other speaks of the Taamim of the Torah.) However, both think that the secrets of the Torah must be covered, and the Taamim of the Torah must be disclosed.
30) Thus you have a clear answer about the fourth and the fifth questions in the beginning of the introduction. And what you find in the words of our sages, as well as in the holy books, that it is only given to one whose heart is worried, meaning the part called “secrets of the Torah,” considered the First three Sefirot and Rosh, that it is given to only concealed ones and under certain conditions, you will not find even a trace of them in all the books of Kabbalah, in writing and in print, since those are the things that Atik Yomincovered, as it is written in the Gemarah.
Moreover, do say if it is possible to even think and picture that all those holy and famous righteous, which are the greatest and best in the nation, such as Sefer Yetzira (Book of Creation), The Book of Zohar, and the Braita of Rabbi Ishmael, Rabbi Hai Gaon, and Rabbi Hamai Gaon, Rabbi Elazar of Garmiza, and the rest of the Rishonim (first ones) through the RAMBAN, and Baal HaTurim and the Baal Shulchan Aruch through the Vilna Gaon (GRA), and the Ladi Gaon, and the rest of the righteous may the memory of all be blessed.
From them we received the whole of the revealed Torah, and by their words we live, to know which act to perform so as to be favored by the Creator. All of them wrote and published books in the wisdom of Kabbalah. And there is no greater disclosure than writing a book, whose author does not know who reads the book. It is possible that utter wicked will scrutinize it. Hence, there is no greater uncovering of secrets of Torah than that.
And we must not doubt the words of these holy and pure, that they might infringe even an iota on what is written and explained in the Mishnah and the Gemarah, that are forbidden to disclose, as written in Masechet Hagigah.
Rather, all the written and printed books are necessarily considered the Taamim of the Torah, which Atik Yomin first covered and then uncovered, as it is written, “and the palate tasteth its food.” Not only are these secrets not forbidden to disclose, on the contrary, it is a great Mitzva (very good deed) to disclose them (as written in Pesachim 119).
And one who knows how to disclose and discloses them, his reward is plentiful. This is because on disclosing these Lights to many, particularly to the many, depends the coming of Messiah soon in our days Amen.
31) There is a great need to explain once and for all why the coming of the Messiah depends on the study of Kabbalah in the masses, which is so prevalent in The Zohar and in all the books of Kabbalah. The populace has already discussed it pointlessly and it has become unbearable.
The explanation of this matter is expressed in the Tikkunim (corrections) of The Zohar (Tikkun 30). Abbreviated translation: When the Holy Divinity went into exile, this spirit blows upon them who engage in the Torah because the Holy Divinity is among them. They are all as hay-eating beasts, every grace that they do, they do for themselves. Even all those who do study the Torah, every grace that they do, they do for themselves. In that time, the spirit leaves and does not return to the world. This is the spirit of the Messiah.
Woe unto them that make the spirit of the Messiah leave and not return to the world. They make the Torah dry and do not want to delve into the wisdom of Kabbalah. These people cause the sprouting of the wisdom, which is the Yod in the name HaVaYaH, to depart.
The spirit of the Messiah leaves, the spirit of holiness, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord. “And God said: ‘Let there be Light.’” This is the Light of love, the love of Mercy, as it is written, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.”
It is said about that, “if ye awaken, and if ye stir up love, until it please…,” then it is love not in order to receive reward. This is because if fear and love are in order to receive reward, it is a handmaid… “a handmaid that is heir to her mistress.”
32) We shall begin to explain the Tikkunim of The Zohar from toe to head. He says that the fear and the love one has in the practice of Torah and Mitzvot in order to receive reward, meaning while hoping for some benefit from the Torah and the work, this is considered the maid. It is written about her, “a handmaid that is heir to her mistress.”
This is seemingly perplexing, for it is written: “One will always engage in Torah and Mitzvot, even Lo Lishma,” and why “the earth doth quake?” In addition, we must understand the correlation of the engagement in Lo Lishma specifically to the handmaid, and also the parable that she inherits her mistress. What inheritance is there here?
33) You will understand the matter with everything that is explained above in this introduction, that they did not permit the study in Lo Lishma but only since from Lo Lishma one comes to Lishma, since the Light in it reforms. Hence, engagement in Lo Lishma is considered a helping handmaid, who assists and performs the ignoble works for her mistress, the Holy Divinity.
This is because at last, one will come to Lishma and will be imparted the inspiration of Divinity. Then the maid, which is the engagement in Lo Lishma, will also be considered a holy maid, for she supports and prepares the holiness, though she will be considered the world of Assiya of the Kedusha (holiness).
However, if one’s faith is incomplete, and he does not engage in the Torah or in the work only because the Creator commanded him to study, then we have seen above that in such Torah and work the Light does not appear. This is because one’s eyes are flawed, and like a bat turn the Light into darkness.
Such a study is no longer considered a maid of Kedusha, since he will not acquire Lishma through it. Hence, it comes to the domain of the maid of Klipa (shell), which inherits these Torah and work, and robs them for herself.
Hence, “the earth doth quake,” meaning the Holy Divinity, called “earth.” This is so because those Torah and work that should have come to her, as possessions of the Holy Divinity, that evil handmaid robs and lowers them to be a possession of the Klipot (shells). Thus, the handmaid is heir to her mistress.
34) The Tikkunim of The Zohar interpret the meaning of the oath, “if ye awaken, and if ye stir up love, until it please.” The precision is that Israel will draw the Light of the Upper Hesed (Mercy), called “Love of Mercy,” since this is what is desired. This is drawn particularly by the engagement in Torah and in Mitzvot not in order to receive reward. The reason is that the Light of the Upper Wisdom is extended to Israel through this Light of Mercy, appearing and clothing in this Light of Mercy, which Israel extends.
And this Light of Wisdom is the meaning of the verse, “And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11). It is said about the King the Messiah: “And He will set up an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the dispersed of Israel, and gather together the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” This is because after Israel extends the Light of Wisdom through the Light of Mercy, the Messiah appears and assembles the dispersed of Israel.
Thus, everything depends on the practice of Torah and the work Lishma, which can extend the great Light of Mercy where the Light of Wisdom clothes and extends. This is the meaning of the oath, “if ye awaken, and if ye stir up.” It is so because complete redemption and assembling the exiles are impossible without it, since so are the channels of holiness arranged.
35) They also interpreted “and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.” What is “the spirit of God”? During the exile, when Israel were still occupied in Torah and Mitzvot Lo Lishma, if they are in this way because from Lo Lishma one comes to Lishma, then Divinity is among them, though in exile, since they still have not reached Lishma.
This is the meaning of the text when Divinity is in concealment. However, they are bound to attain the revelation of Divinity, and then the spirit of the Messiah King hovers on the engaging and awakens them to come to Lishma, as it is written, “the Light in it reforms them.” She aids and prepares for the inspiration of Divinity, which is her mistress.
Yet, if this learning in Lo Lishma is not suitable to bring them to Lishma, Divinity regrets it and says that the spirit of man that rises upward is not found among those practicing the Torah. Rather, they suffice for the spirit of the beast, which descends, whose engagement in Torah and Mitzvot is only for their own benefit and pleasure.
The engagement in the Torah cannot bring them to Lishma, since the spirit of the Messiah does not hover on them, but leaves them and will not return, because the impure maid robs their Torah and inherits her mistress, since they are not on the way to come from Lo Lishma to Lishma.
Even though they do not succeed through the practice in the revealed Torah, since there is no Light in it, and it is dry due to the smallness of their minds, they could still succeed by engaging in the study of Kabbalah. This is because the Light in it is clothed in the clothing of the Creator – the Holy Names and the Sefirot. They could easily come to that form of Lo Lishma, which brings them to Lishma, and then the spirit of God would hover on them, as it is written, “the Light in it reforms them.”
Yet, they have no wish at all for the study of Kabbalah. And thus they cause poverty, looting, ruin, killing, and destruction in the world, since the spirit of the Messiah leaves, the spirit of holiness, the spirit of wisdom and understanding.
36) We learn from the words of the Tikkunim of The Zohar that there is an oath that the Light of Mercy and love will not awaken in the world before Israel’s deeds in Torah and Mitzvot will have the intention to not receive reward, but only to bestow contentment upon the Maker. This is the meaning of the oath, “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem.”
Thus, the length of the exile and affliction that we suffer depends on us and waits for us to merit the practice of Torah and Mitzvot Lishma. And if we only attain that, this Light of love and Mercy, which has the power to extend, will immediately awaken, as it is written, “And the spirit shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding.” Then we will be granted complete redemption.
It has also been clarified that it is impossible for the whole of Israel to come to that great purity except through the study of Kabbalah, which is the easiest way, adequate even for commoners.
However, while engaging only in the revealed Torah, it is impossible to be rewarded through it, except for a chosen few and after great efforts, but not for the majority of the people (for the reason explained in Item 24). This thoroughly explains the irrelevance of the fourth and fifth questions at the beginning of the introduction.
37) The third question, which is the fear that one will turn sour, well, there is no fear at all here. This is because the deviation from the path of God that occurred before was for two reasons: Either they broke the words of our sages with things that they were forbidden to disclose, or because they perceived the words of the Kabbalah in their superficial meaning, as corporeal instructions, breaching “Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image.”
Hence, until this day there has indeed been a fortified wall around this wisdom. Many have tried to begin to study, but could not continue for lack of understanding and because of the corporeal appellations. This is why I have labored with the interpretation, Panim Meirot and Panim Masbirot, to interpret the great book, The Tree of Life, by the Ari, to make the corporeal forms abstract and to establish them as spiritual laws, above time and place. Thus, any novice can understand the matters, their reasons, and explanations with a clear mind and great simplicity, no less than one understands Gemarah through the interpretation of Rashi.
38) Let us continue to elaborate on the practice of Torah and Mitzvot Lishma. We must understand that name, “Torah Lishma.” Why is desirable and whole work defined by the name, Lishma, and undesirable work named Lo Lishma?
The literal meaning implies that one who engages in Torah and Mitzvot to aim his heart to bring contentment to his Maker and not to himself should have been referred to as Torah Lishmo (for His Name) and Torah Lo Lishmo (not for His Name), meaning for the Creator. Why, then, is this defined by the name Lishma and Lo Lishma, meaning for the Torah?
There is certainly something more to understand here than the aforementioned, since the verse proves that Torah Lishmo, meaning to bring contentment to His Maker, is still insufficient. Instead, the study must be Lishma, meaning for the Torah. This requires explanation.
39) The thing is that it is known that the name of the Torah is “Torah of Life,” as it is written, “For they are life unto those that find them” (Proverbs, 4:22); “For it is no vain thing for you; because it is your life” (Deuteronomy 32:47). Hence, the meaning of Torah Lishma is that the practice of Torah and Mitzvot brings one life and long days, and then the Torah is as its name.
And one who does not aim his heart and mind to the aforesaid, the practice of Torah and Mitzvot brings him the opposite of life and long days, meaning completely Lo Lishma, since its name is “Torah of Life.” These words are explained in the words of our sages (Taanit 7a), “One who practices Torah Lo Lishma, his Torah becomes a potion of death for him; and one who practices Torah Lishma, his Torah becomes a potion of life for him.”
However, their words require explanation, to understand how and through what does the Holy Torah becomes a potion of death for him? Not only is his work and exertion in vain, and he receives no benefit from his labor and strain, but the Torah and the work themselves become a potion of death for him. This is indeed perplexing.
40) First, we must understand the words of our sages (Megillah 6b), who said, “I labored and found – believe. I did not labor and found – do not believe.”
We must ask about the words, “labored and found”; they seem to contradict each other, since labor refers to work and exertion that one gives in return for any desired possession. For an important possession, one makes great efforts; for a lesser possession, one makes lesser efforts.
Its opposite is the find. Its conduct is to come to a person absentmindedly and without any preparation in labor, toil, and price. Hence, how do you say, “labored and found”? And if there is effort here, it should have said, “labored and purchased” or “labored and acquired,” etc., and not “labored and found.”
41) The Zohar writes about the text “and those that seek Me shall find Me,” and asks, “Where does one find the Creator?” They said that the Creator is found only in the Torah. Also, regarding the verse, “Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself,” that the Creator hides Himself in the Holy Divinity.
We must thoroughly understand their words. It seems that the Creator is hidden only in corporeal things and conducts and in all the futilities of this world, which are outside the Torah. Thus, how can you say the opposite, that He hides Himself only in the Torah?
There is also the general meaning, that the Creator hides Himself in a way that He must be sought; why does He need this concealment? And also, “All that seek Him shall find Him,” which we understand from the verse “and those that seek Me shall find Me.” We must thoroughly understand this seeking and this finding, what are they and why are they?
42) Indeed, you should know that the reason for our great distance from the Creator, and that we are so prone to transgress His will, is for but one reason, which became the source of all the torment and the suffering that we suffer, and for all the sins and the mistakes that we fail in. Clearly, by removing that reason, we will instantly be rid of any sorrow and pain. We will immediately be granted adhesion with Him in heart, soul, and might. And I tell you that that preliminary reason is none other than the “lack of our understanding in His Providence over His creations,” that we do not understand Him properly.
43) If, for example, the Creator were to establish open Providence with His creations in that, for instance, anyone who eats a forbidden thing would suffocate on the spot, and anyone who performs a Mitzva would discover such wonderful pleasures in it, like the finest delights in this corporeal world. Then, what fool would even contemplate tasting a forbidden thing, knowing that he would immediately lose his life because of it, just as one does not consider jumping into a fire?
Also, what fool would leave any Mitzva without performing it as quickly as possible, just as one who cannot retire from or linger with a great corporeal pleasure that comes into his hand, without receiving it as swiftly as he can? Thus, if Providence were open before us, all the people in the world would be complete righteous.
44) Thus you see that all we need in our world is open Providence. If we had open Providence, all the people in the world would be completely righteous. They would also cleave to Him with absolute love, for it would certainly be a great honor for any one of us to befriend and love Him with our heart and soul and cleave unto Him without losing even a minute.
However, since it is not so, and a Mitzva is not rewarded in this world, and those who defy His will are not punished before our eyes, but the Creator is patient with them, and moreover, sometimes think the opposite, as it is written (Psalms 73), “Behold, such are the wicked; and they that are always at ease increase riches.” Hence, not all who want to take the Lord may come and take. Instead, we stumble every step of the way, until, as our sages wrote (VaYikra Rabba, 2) about the verse, “I have found one man out of a thousand, that a thousand enter a room, and one comes out to teach.”
Thus, understanding His Providence is the reason for every good, and the lack of understanding is the reason for every bad. It turns out that this is the axis that all the people in the world circle, for better or for worse.
45) When we closely examine the attainment of Providence that people come to sense, we find four kinds there. Each and every kind receives specific Providence by the Creator, in a way that there are four discernments in the attainment of Providence here. In fact, they are only two: concealment of the face, and revelation of the face, but they are divided into four.
There are two discernments in Providence of concealment of the face, which are “single concealment” and “concealment within concealment,” and two discernments in the Providence of revelation of the face: Providence of “reward and punishment,” and “eternal Providence.”
46) The verse says (Deuteronomy 31:17), “Then My anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall come upon them; so that they will say in that day: Are not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us? And I will surely hide My face in that day for all the evil which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.”
When you regard these words, you will find that in the beginning it states, “Then My anger shall be kindled... ...and I will hide My face,” meaning one concealment. Afterwards, it states, “and many evils and troubles shall come upon them... ...And I will surely hide My face,” meaning double concealment. We must understand what is this “double concealment.”
47) We must first understand what is the meaning of the “face of the Creator,” about which the writing says, “I will hide My face.” It can be thought of as a person who sees his friend’s face and knows him right away. However, when he sees him from behind he is not certain of his identity. He might doubt, “Perhaps he is another and not his friend?”
So is the matter before us: Everyone knows and feels that the Creator is good and that it is the conduct of the good to do good. Hence, when the Creator generously bestows upon His creations, it is considered that His face is revealed to His creations. This is because then everyone knows and senses Him, since He behaves according to His name, as we have seen above regarding open Providence.
48) Yet, when He behaves with His creations the opposite from the above mentioned, meaning when they suffer affliction and torment in His world, it is considered the posterior of the Creator. This is because His face, meaning His complete attribute of goodness, is entirely concealed from them, since this is not a conduct that suits His name. It is like a person who sees his friend from behind and might doubt and think, “Perhaps he is another?”
The writing says, “Then My anger shall be kindled... ...and I will hide My face.” During the anger, when people suffer trouble and pains, it means that the Creator is hiding His face, which is His utter benevolence, and only His posterior is revealed. In that state, great strengthening in His faith is required, to beware of thoughts of transgression, since it is hard to know Him from behind. This is called “One Concealment.”
49) However, when troubles and torments accumulate to a great extent, it causes a double concealment, which the books name “concealment within concealment.” It means that even His posterior is unseen, meaning they do not believe that the Creator is angry with them and punishes them, but ascribe it to chance or to nature and come to deny His Providence in reward and punishment. This is the meaning of the verse, “And I will surely hide My face in that… they are turned unto other gods,” that is, they become heretic and turn to idol worshiping.
50) However, before that, when the writing speaks only from the perspective of one concealment, the text ends, “they will say in that day: Are not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?” This means that they still believe in Providence of reward and punishment, and say that the troubles and suffering come to them because they do not cleave to the Creator, as it is written, “these evils come upon us because our God is not among us.” This is considered that they still see the Creator, but only from behind. For that reason it is called “One Concealment,” only concealment of the face.
51) Now we have explained the two discernments of the perception of concealed Providence, which people sense: “one concealment” and “concealment within concealment.” One concealment relates only to the concealment of the face, while the posterior is revealed to them. This means that they believe that the Creator gave them the affliction as a punishment. And although it is hard for them to always know the Creator through His posterior side, which brings them to transgress, even then they are considered “incomplete wicked.” In other words, these transgressions are like mistakes, because they come to them as a result of the accumulation of the affliction, since, in general, they believe in reward and punishment.
52) Concealment within concealment means that even the posterior of the Creator is hidden from them, as they do not believe in reward and punishment. These transgressions of theirs are considered sins. They are considered “complete evil” because they rebel and say that the Creator does not watch over His creations at all, and turn to idolatry, as it is written, “in that they are turned unto other gods.”
53) We must know that the whole matter of the work in keeping Torah and Mitzvot by way of choice applies primarily to the two aforementioned discernments of concealed Providence. And Ben Ha Ha says about that time (Avot, Chapter 5): “The reward is according to the pain.”
Since His Guidance is not revealed, it is impossible to see Him but only in concealment of the face, from behind, as one who sees one’s friend from behind and might doubt and think he is another. In this manner, one is always left with the choice to either keep His will or break it. This is because troubles and the pains he suffers make him doubt the reality of His Guidance over His creations, whether in the first manner, which is the mistakes, or in the second manner, which are the sins.
In any case, one is still in great pain and labor. The writing says about this time: “Whatsoever thy hand attaineth to do by thy strength, that do” (Ecclesiastes 9). This is so because he will not be granted the revelation of the face, the complete measure of His goodness, before he exerts and does whatever is in his power to do, and the reward is according to the pain.
54) When the Creator sees that one has completed one’s measure of exertion and finished everything he had to do in strengthening his choice in faith in the Creator, the Creator helps him. Then, one attains open Providence, meaning the revelation of the face. Then, he is rewarded with complete repentance, meaning he cleaves to the Creator once more with his heart, soul, and might, as though naturally drawn by the attainment of the open Providence.
55) These above attainment and repentance come to a person in two degrees: The first is the attainment of Providence of absolute reward and punishment. Besides attaining the reward for every Mitzva in the next world in utter clarity, he is also rewarded with the attainment of the wondrous pleasure in immediate observation of the Mitzva in this world.
In addition, besides attaining the bitter punishment that extends from every sin after one’s death, one is also rewarded with the sensation of the bitter taste of every transgression while still being alive.
Naturally, one who is imparted this open Providence is certain that he will not sin again, as one is certain that he will not cut in his own flesh and cause himself terrible suffering. In addition, one is certain that he will not neglect a Mitzva without performing it the instant it comes to his hand, as much as one is certain that he will not neglect any worldly pleasure or a great profit that comes into his hand.
56) Now you can understand the words of our sages, “What is repentance like? When He who knows all mysteries will testify that he will not turn back to folly.” These are seemingly perplexing words, for who would rise to the heaven to hear the testimony of the Creator? Also, before whom should the Creator testify? Is it not enough that the Creator Himself knows that the person repented and will not sin again?
From the explanation, the matter becomes quite clear: In truth, one is not absolutely certain that he will not sin again before he is rewarded with the above attainment of reward and punishment, meaning the revelation of the face. And this revelation of the face, from the perspective of the Creator’s salvation, is called “testimony,” since His salvation in itself, to this attainment of reward and punishment, is what guarantees that he will not sin again.
It is therefore considered that the Creator testifies for him. It is written, “What is repentance like?” In other words, when will one be certain that he has been granted complete repentance? For this, one is given a clear sign: “when He who knows all mysteries testifies that he will not turn back to folly.” This means that he will attain the revelation of the face, at which time one’s own salvation will testify that he will not turn back to folly.
57) This above-mentioned repentance is called “repentance from fear.” This is because although one returns to the Creator with his heart and soul, until He who knows all mysteries testifies that he will not turn back to folly, that certainty that he will not sin again is due to one’s attainment and sensation of the terrible punishment and wicked torment extending from the transgressions. Because of that, one is certain that he will not sin, just as he is sure that he will not afflict himself with horrible suffering.
However, at last, these repentances and certainty are only because of the fear of punishment that extends from the transgressions. It turns out that one’s repentance is only for the fear of punishment. Because of that, it is called “repentance from fear.”
58) With this we understand the words of our sages: that one who repents from fear is rewarded with his sins becoming mistakes. We must understand how this happens. According to the above (Item 52), you can thoroughly understand that the sins one makes extend to him from the reception of Providence through double concealment, namely concealment within concealment. This means that one does not believe in Providence of reward and punishment.
One concealment means that he believes in Providence of reward and punishment. Yet, because of the accumulation of the suffering, he sometimes comes to thoughts of transgression. This is because even though he believes that the suffering came to him as a punishment, he is still like one who sees his friend from behind, and might doubt and mistake him for another. And these sins are only mistakes, since, as a whole, he does believe in Providence of reward and punishment.
59) Hence, when one is granted repentance from fear, meaning a clear attainment of reward and punishment until he is certain that he will not sin again, the concealment within concealment is entirely corrected in him. This is because now he evidently sees that there is Providence of reward and punishment. It is clear to him that all the suffering he had ever felt was a punishment from His Providence for the sins he had committed. In retrospect, he made a grave mistake; hence, he uproots these sins.
However, this is not entirely so. They become sins. In other words, it is like the transgressions he made in one concealment, when he failed because of the confusion that came to him due to the multitude of torments that drive one out of one’s mind. These are only regarded as mistakes.
60) Yet, in this repentance, he did not correct at all the first concealment of the face, which he had had before, but only from now on after he has attained the revelation of the face. In the past, however, before he had attained repentance, the concealment of the face and all the mistakes remained as they were, without any change or correction whatsoever. This is so because then, too, he believed that the troubles and the suffering came to him as punishment, as it is written, “they will say in that day: Are not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?”
61) Therefore, he is still considered incomplete righteous because one who is awarded the revelation of the face, namely the complete measure of His goodness, as befits His Name, is called “righteous” (Item 55). This is so because he justifies His Providence as it truly is, that He is utterly good and utterly perfect with His creations, that He is good to the good and to the bad.
Hence, since he has been awarded the revelation of the face, from here on he merits the name “righteous.” However, since he has not completed the correction, but only the concealment within concealment, and has not corrected the first concealment, but only from here on, that time, before he was awarded repentance, still does not merit the name “righteous.” This is because then he is left with the concealment of the face, as before. For this reason, he is called “incomplete righteous,” meaning one who still needs to correct his past.
62) He is also called “medium,” since after he attains repentance from fear he becomes qualified, through his completion in Torah and good deeds, to attain repentance from love, as well. Then one attains being a “complete righteous.” Hence, now one is the medium between fear and love, and is therefore named “medium.” However, prior to that, he was not completely qualified to even prepare himself for repentance from love.
63) This thoroughly explains the first degree of attainment of the revelation of the face, the attainment and the sensation of Providence of reward and punishment in a way that He who knows all mysteries will testify that he will not turn back to folly. This is called “repentance from fear,” when his sins become as mistakes. This is also called “incomplete righteous” and “medium.”
64) Now we shall explain the second degree of the attainment of the revelation of the face, which is the attainment of the complete, true, and eternal Providence. It means that the Creator watches over His creations in the form of “Good that does good to the good and to the bad.” Now one is considered “complete righteous” and “repentance from love,” when one is granted turning his sins to virtues.
This explains all four discernments of perception of Providence that apply in the creations. The first three discernments, double concealment, single concealment, and attainment of Providence of reward and punishment are but preparations by which one attains the fourth discernment, which is the attainment of the true, eternal Providence.
65) But we have yet to understand why the third discernment is not enough for a person, namely attainment of the Providence of reward and punishment. We said that he has already been rewarded with He who knows all mysteries testifying that he will not sin again. Hence, why is he still called “medium” or “incomplete righteous,” whose name proves that his work is still not desirable in the eyes of the Creator, and there is still a flaw and blemish in his Torah and work?
66) First, let us scrutinize what the interpreters asked about the Mitzva of loving the Creator. How did the Holy Torah oblige us to a Mitzva that we cannot keep at all? One can coerce and enslave oneself to anything, but no coercion or enslavement in the world will help with love.
They explained that when by keeping all 612 Mitzvot appropriately, the love of God extends to him by itself. Hence, it is considered possible to keep, since one can enslave and coerce oneself to keep the 612 Mitzvot appropriately, and then he will also attain the love of God.
67) Indeed, their words require elaborate explanation. In the end, the love of God should not come to us as a Mitzva, since there is no act or enslavement on our part in it. It rather comes by itself after completing the 612 Mitzvot. Hence, we are quite sufficient with the commandment of the 612 Mitzvot, and why was the Mitzva of love written?
68) To understand that, we must first acquire genuine understanding in the nature of the love of God itself. We must know that all the inclinations, tendencies, and properties instilled in a person, with which to serve one’s friends, all these tendencies and natural properties are required for the work of God.
To begin with, they were created and imprinted in man only because of their final role, which is the ultimate purpose of man, as it is written, “he that is banished, be not an outcast from him.” One needs them all so as to complement oneself in the ways of reception of abundance, and to complement the will of God.
This is the meaning of, “Every one that is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory” (Isaiah 43:7), and also “The Lord hath made all things for His own purpose” (Proverbs 16:4). However, in the meantime, man has been given a whole world to develop and complete all these natural inclinations and qualities, by engaging in them with people, thus yielding them suitable for their purpose.
It is written, “One must say, ‘The world was created for me,’” because all the people in the world are required for a person, as they develop and qualify the attributes and inclinations of every individual to become a fit tool for His work.
69) Thus, we must understand the essence of the love of God from the properties of love by which one person relates to another. The love of God is necessarily given through these qualities, since they were only imprinted in humans for His name to begin with. And when we observe the attributes of love between man and man, we find four measures of love, one atop the other, meaning two that are four.
70) The first is “conditional love.” It means that because of the great goodness, pleasure, and benefit that one receives from one’s friend, one’s soul clings to one’s friend with wondrous love.
There are two measures in that: the first is that before they met and began to love one another, they did harm to one another. However, now they do not want to remember it, for “love covereth all transgressions.” The second measure is that they have always done good and helped one another and there is no trace of harm or detriment between them.
72) The second is “unconditional love.” It means that one knows the virtue of one’s friend to be sublime, beyond any imaginable measure. Because of that, his soul clings to him with endless love.
Here, too, there are two measures: the first measure is before one knows every conduct and deed of one’s friend with others. At that time, this love is considered “less than absolute love.”
This is because one’s friend has dealings with others, and on the surface he seems to be harming others out of negligence. In this manner, if the lover saw them, the merit of his friend would be entirely blemished and the love between them would be corrupted. Yet, since he has not seen these dealings, his love is still whole, great, and truly wonderful.
73) The second attribute of unconditional love is the fourth attribute of love in general, which also comes from knowing the merit of his friend. Yet, in addition, now he knows all his dealings and conducts with every person, none missing. He has checked and found that not only is there not a trace of flaw in them, but his goodness is greater than anything imaginable. Now it is “eternal and complete love.”
74) Note that these four attributes of love between man and man apply between man and God, as well. Moreover, here, in the love of God, they become degrees, by way of cause and consequence.
It is impossible to acquire any of them before one acquires the first attribute of conditional love. And after it is completely acquired, that first attribute causes one to acquire the second attribute. And after one has acquired the second attribute to the fullest, it causes him to acquire the third attribute. Finally, the third attribute to the fourth attribute, eternal love.
75) Hence the question arises, “How can one acquire the first degree of love of God, the first degree of conditional love, which is love that comes through the multitude of goodness that one receives from the loved one, when there is no reward for a Mitzva in this world?”
Moreover, according to the above, one must go through the first two forms of Providence by way of concealment of the face. In other words, His face, meaning His measure of goodness – the conduct of the good is to do good – is concealed at that time (Item 47). Therefore, at that time, one experiences pain and suffering.
Nevertheless, we learn that the whole practice of Torah and work out of choice is conducted primarily during that time, of concealment of the face. If so, how can it be that one will be awarded the second attribute of conditional love, being that the loved one has always done only wondrous and plentiful good, and never caused him any harm at all, and even more so when he attains the third degree or the fourth?
76) Indeed we dive into deep waters here. At the very least, we must fish out a precious gem from this. For that purpose, let us examine the words of our sages (Berachot 17), “You shall see your world in your life, and your end to the life of the next world.”
We must understand why they did not say, “You will receive your world in your life,” but only “see”? If they wanted to bless, they should have blessed wholly, meaning to acquire and receive his world in his life. We must also understand, why should one see his next world in his life? At least his end will be the life of the next world. Moreover, why did they place this blessing first?
77) First, we must understand how is this seeing of the next world in one’s life? Certainly, we cannot see anything spiritual with corporeal eyes. It is also not the Creator’s conduct to change the laws of nature. This is because the Creator originally arranged these conducts in this manner because they are the most successful for their purpose. Through them, one comes to cleave unto Him, as it is written, “The Lord hath made all things for His own purpose.” Therefore, we must understand how one sees one’s world in one’s life?
78) I shall tell you that this seeing comes to a person through the opening of the eyes in the Holy Torah, as it is written, “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.” It is about this that the soul is sworn before it comes to the body (Nida p 30), and “Even if the whole world says you are righteous, be wicked in your own eyes,” specifically in your own eyes.
In other words, as long as you have not attained “opening of the eyes” in the Torah, regard yourself as wicked. Do not fool yourself with your reputation in the entire world as righteous.
Now you can also understand why they placed the blessing, “You shall see your world in your life,” at the beginning of all the blessings. It is because prior to that, one is not even awarded the property of “Incomplete Righteous.”
79) We have yet to understand, if a person knows within himself that he has already kept the whole Torah, and the whole world agrees with him in that, why is that not enough for him at all? Instead, he is sworn to continue regarding himself as wicked. Is it because that wondrous degree of opening his eyes in the Torah is missing in him that you compare him to a wicked?
80) Indeed, the four measures of people’s attainment of His Providence over them have already been explained. Two of them are in concealment of the face, and two are in disclosure of the face.
Also, the reason for the concealment of the face from the people has been explained: it is deliberately to give people room for labor and engage in His work in Torah and Mitzvot out of choice. This is because this increases the contentment of the Creator from their work in His Torah and Mitzvot more than His contentment from His angels above, who have no choice and whose work is coerced.
81) Despite the above praise for concealment of face, it is still not considered wholeness, but only as “transition.” This is the place from which the longed-for wholeness is attained.
This means that any reward for a Mitzva that is prepared for a person is acquired only through one’s labor in Torah and good deeds during the concealment of the face, when he engages out of “choice.” This is so because then one feels sorrow out of his strengthening in His faith, in keeping His will. And one’s whole reward is measured only according to the pain he suffers from keeping the Torah and the Mitzva, as it is written, “The reward is according to the pain.”
82) Hence, every person must experience that transit period of concealment of the face. When he completes it, he is rewarded with open Providence, meaning the revelation of the face.
And before he is rewarded with revelation of the face, and although he sees the posterior side, he cannot refrain from ever committing a sin. Not only is he unable to keep all 613 Mitzvot, since love does not come by coercion and compulsion, but one is not complete even in the 612 Mitzvot, since even his fear is not fixed as it should be.
This is the meaning of the Torah being 611 in Gematria (any Gematria is the posterior side), that one cannot properly observe even 612 Mitzvot. This is the meaning of, “He will not always contend.” In the end, one will be awarded the revelation of the face.
83) The first degree of the revelation of the face is the attainment of the Providence of reward and punishment in utter clarity. This comes to a person only through His salvation, when one is awarded the opening of eyes in the Holy Torah in wonderful attainment, and becomes “a flowing spring” (Avot 6). In any Mitzva in the Holy Torah that one has already kept of his own choice, one is granted seeing the reward of the Mitzva in it, intended for him in the next world, as well as the great loss in the transgression.
84) And although the reward is not yet in his hand, since the reward for a Mitzva is not in this world, the clear attainment is quite sufficient for him from now on, to feel the great pleasure while performing each Mitzva. This is so because, “All that is about to be collected is deemed collected.”
For example, take a merchant who made a deal and gained a large sum, even though the profit will come to him after a long time. But if he is certain beyond any shadow of a doubt that the profit will come to him in time, he is as happy as if the money has come to him immediately.
85) Naturally, such Providence testifies that from now on he will cleave to Torah and Mitzvot with his heart, and soul, and might, and that he will retire from the sins as if escaping from a fire. And although he is not yet a complete righteous, since he has not acquired repentance from love, his great adhesion in the Torah and good deeds help him slowly be granted repentance from love, meaning the second degree of the revelation of the face. Then one can keep all 613 Mitzvot in full, and he becomes a complete righteous.
86) Now we thoroughly understand what we asked concerning the oath, that the soul is sworn before it comes to this world: “Even if the whole world says you are righteous, be wicked in your own eyes.” We asked, “Since the whole world agrees that he is righteous, why must he still consider himself wicked? Does he not trust the entire world?”
We must also add, concerning the phrase, “Even if the whole world says.” What is the connection between this and the testimony of the entire world, since one knows oneself better than the rest of the world? It should have sworn him, “Even if you know for yourself that you are righteous.”
Yet, the most perplexing is that the Gemarah explicitly states (Berachot 61) that one must know in one’s soul if he is righteous or not. Thus, there is an obligation and possibility to truly be completely righteous.
Moreover, one must delve and know this truth. If this is so, how is the soul sworn to always be wicked in its own eyes, and to never know the actual truth, when our sages have obligated the contrary?
87) The words are very precise indeed. As long as one has not been awarded the opening of eyes in the Torah in wondrous attainment, sufficient for him for clear attainment of reward and punishment, he will certainly not be able to deceive himself and consider himself righteous. This is because he will necessarily feel that he lacks the two most comprehensive Mitzvot in the Torah, namely love and fear.
Even attaining complete fear, in a way that “He who knows all mysteries will testify that he will not turn back to folly,” due to his great fear of punishment and the great loss from transgressing, is completely unimaginable before he is awarded complete, clear, and absolute attainment in Providence of reward and punishment
This refers to the attainment of the first degree of revelation of the face, which comes to a person through the opening of eyes in the Torah. It is all the more so with love, which is completely beyond one’s ability, since it depends on the understanding of the heart, and no labor or coercion will help here.
88) Hence, the oath states, “Even if the whole world says you are righteous.” This is so because these two Mitzvot, love and fear, are given only to the individual, and no one else in the world can distinguish them and know them.
Thus, since they see that he is complete in 611 Mitzvot, they immediately say that he probably has the two Mitzvot of love and fear, too. And since human nature compels one to believe the world, one might fall into a grave mistake.
For that reason, the soul is sworn to that even before it comes into this world, and may it help us. Nonetheless, it is the individual himself who must certainly question and know in his heart if he is a complete righteous.
89) We can also understand what we asked, “How can even the first degree of love be attained when there is no reward for a Mitzva in this world (in this life)?” Now it is clear that one does not need to actually receive the reward for the Mitzva in his life, hence their precision, “You will see your world in your life, and your end to the life of the next world,” indicating that the reward for a Mitzva is not in this world, but in the next world.
Yet, to know, to see, and to feel the future reward of the Mitzva in the next world, one must know it in complete certainty and clarity while in this life, through the wonderful attainment in the Torah. This is because then one still attains conditional love, which is the first degree of the exit from concealment of the face and the entrance to the revelation of the face, which one must have in order to keep Torah and Mitzvot correctly, in a way that, “He who knows all mysteries will testify that he will not turn back to folly.”
90) And by laboring to observe Torah and Mitzvot in the form of conditional love, which comes to him from knowing the future reward in the next world, as in, “all that is about to be collected is deemed collected,” one attains the second degree of revelation of the face – His Guidance over the world from His eternity and truthfulness, meaning that He is good and does good to the good and to the bad.
In that state, one attains unconditional love and the sins become as virtues for him. And from then on, he is called “complete righteous,” since he can keep the Torah and Mitzvot with love and fear. And he is called “complete” because he has all 613 Mitzvot in completeness.
91) This answers what we asked: “One who attains the third measure of Providence, namely Providence of reward and punishment, when He who knows all mysteries already testifies that he will not turn back to folly, is still considered ‘Incomplete Righteous.’” Now we thoroughly understand that one still lacks one Mitzva, the Mitzva of love. Of course, one is incomplete, since he must necessarily complete the 613 Mitzvot, which is necessarily the first step on the door of perfection.
92) With all that is said above, we understand what they asked, “How did the Torah obligate us to the Mitzva of love when this Mitzva is not even in our hands to engage in or even somewhat touch it?” Now you see and understand that it is about this that our sages warned us, “I have labored and did not find, do not believe,” and also, “Let one always engage in Torah and Mitzvot in Lo Lishma because from Lo Lishma one comes to Lishma” (Pesachim 50). Also, the verse, “those that seek Me shall find Me” (Proverbs 8), testifies to that.
93) These are the words of our sages (Megillah p 6): “Rabbi Yitzhak said, ‘If a person should tell you, ‘I have labored and did not find,’ do not believe; ‘I did not labor and found,’ do not believe; ‘I labored and found,’ believe.’” And we ask about, “I labored and found, believe,” that the words seem self-contradictory, since labor relates to possession, and a find is something that comes without labor at all, absentmindedly. He should have said, “I labored and bought.”
However, you should know that this term, “find,” mentioned here, relates to the verse, “those that seek Me shall find Me.” It refers to finding the face of the Creator, as it is written in The Zohar that He is found only in the Torah, meaning that one is rewarded with finding the face of the Creator by laboring in the Torah. Hence, our sages were precise in their words, and said “I labored and found, believe,” because the labor is in the Torah, and the finding is in the revelation of the face of His Providence.
They deliberately refrained from saying, “I labored and won, believe,” or “I labored and bought.” This is because then there would be room for error in the matters, since winning or possessing relate only to possession of the Torah. Hence, they made the precision of the word “found,” indicating that it refers to another thing besides the acquisition of the Torah, namely the revelation of the face of His Providence.
94) That settles the verse, “I did not labor and found, do not believe.” It seems puzzling, for who would think that it is possible to attain the Torah without having to labor for it? But since the words relate to the verse, “those that seek Me shall find Me” (Proverbs 8:17), it means that anyone, small or great, who seeks Him, finds Him immediately. This is what the word “seek” implies.
One might think that this does not require so much labor, and even a lesser person, unwilling to make any effort for it, will find Him, too. Our sages warn us in that regard to not believe such an explanation. Rather, the labor is necessary here, and not, “I labored and found, do not believe.”
95) Now you see why the Torah is called “Life,” as it is written, “See, I have set before thee this day life and good” (Deuteronomy 30:15), and also, “therefore choose life,” and “For they are life unto those that find them” (Proverbs 4:22). This extends from the verse, “In the light of the king's countenance is life” (Proverbs 16), since the Creator is the source of all life and every good.
Hence, life extends to those branches that cleave to their source. This refers to those that have labored and found the Light of His face in the Torah, that have been imparted opening their eyes in the Torah in wonderful attainment, until they were imparted the revelation of the face, the attainment of the true Providence that befits His name, “Good,” and the conduct of the Good is to do good.
96) And those that won can no longer retire from keeping the Mitzva correctly, as one cannot retire from a wonderful pleasure that comes to his hand. Hence, they run from transgression as one runs from a fire.
It is said about them: “But ye that did cleave unto the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day,” as His love comes abundantly to them in natural love, through the natural channels prepared for one by the nature of Creation. This is so because now the branch is properly cleaved to its root, and life pours to him abundantly and incessantly from its origin. It is because of this that the Torah is called “Life.”
97) For that reason, our sages warned us in many places concerning the necessary condition in the practice of Torah, that it will be specifically Lishma, in a way that one will be awarded life through it, for it is a Torah of life, and this is why it was given to us, as it is written, “therefore choose life.”
Hence, during the practice of Torah, every person must labor in it, and set his mind and heart to find “the light of the king's countenance” in it, that is, the attainment of open Providence, called “light of countenance.” And any person is fit for it, as it is written, “those that seek Me shall find Me,” and as it is written, “I labored and did not find, do not believe.”
Thus, one needs nothing in this matter except the labor alone. It is written, “Anyone who practices Torah Lishma, his Torah becomes a potion of life for him” (Taanit 7a). It means that one should only set one’s mind and heart to attain life, which is the meaning of Lishma.
98) Now you can see that the question the interpreters asked about the Mitzva of love, saying that this Mitzva is out of our hands, since love does not come by coercion and compulsion, is not at all a question. This is because it is entirely in our hands. Every person can labor in the Torah until he finds the attainment of His open Providence, as it is written, “I labored and found, believe.”
When one attains open Providence, the love extends to him by itself through the natural channels. And one who does not believe that he can attain that through his efforts, for whatever reason, is necessarily in disbelief of the words of our sages. Instead, he imagines that the labor is not sufficient for each person, which is the opposite of the verse, “I labored and did not find, do not believe.” It is also against the words, “those that seek Me shall find Me”; specifically, those that “seek,” whomever they are, great or small. However, he certainly needs to labor.
99) From the above, you will understand the meaning of, “Anyone who practices Torah Lo Lishma, his Torah becomes a potion of death for him” (Taanit 7a), and the verse, “Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself,” that the Creator hides Himself in the Torah.
We asked, “It seems reasonable that the Creator is hidden in this world, outside of the Torah, and not in the Torah itself, that only there is the place of the disclosure. And we asked further: This concealment that the Creator hides Himself, to be sought and found, why should I?”
100) From the above explained, you can thoroughly understand that this concealment that the Creator hides Himself so as to be sought is the concealment of the face, which He conducts with His creations in two manners: one concealment, and concealment within concealment.
The Zohar tells us that we should not even consider that the Creator wishes to remain in Providence of concealed face from His creations. Rather, it is like a person who deliberately hides himself, so his friend will seek and find him.
Similarly, when the Creator behaves in concealment of face with His creations, it is only because He wants the creatures to seek the disclosure of His face and find Him. In other words, there would be no way or inlet for people to attain the Light of the King’s countenance had He not first behaved with them in concealment of face. Thus, the whole concealment is but a preparation for the disclosure of the face.
101) It is written that the Creator hides Himself in the Torah. Regarding the torments and pains one experiences during the concealment of the face, one who possesses few sins and has done little Torah and Mitzvot is not like one who has extensively engaged in Torah and good deeds. This is because the first is quite qualified to sentence his Maker to a scale of merit, to think that the suffering came to him because of his sins and scarceness of Torah.
For the other, however, it is much harder to sentence his Maker to a scale of merit. This is because in his mind, he does not deserve such harsh punishment. Moreover, he sees that his friends, who are worse than him, do not suffer so, as it is written, “the wicked, and they that are always at ease, increase riches,” and also, “in vain have I cleansed my heart.”
Thus, as long as one has not attained Providence of revelation of the face, the abundance of Torah and Mitzvot he has performed makes his concealment of the face much heavier. This is the meaning of, “the Creator hides Himself in the Torah.”
Indeed, all that heaviness he feels through the Torah is but proclamations by which the Holy Torah itself calls him, awakening him to hurry and give the required measure of labor, to promptly endow him with the revelation of the face, as God wills it.
102) This is why it is written that all who learn Torah Lo Lishma, their Torah becomes a potion of death for them. Not only do they not emerge from concealment of the face to disclosure of the face, since they did not set their minds to labor and attain it, the Torah that they accumulate greatly increases their concealment of the face. Finally, they fall into concealment within concealment, which is considered death, being completely detached from one’s root. Thus, their Torah becomes a potion of death for them.
103) This clarifies the two names the Torah is called by: “revealed” and “concealed.” We must understand why we need the concealed Torah, and why is the whole Torah not revealed?
Indeed, there is a profound intention here. The concealed Torah implies that the Creator hides in the Torah, hence the name, “the Torah of the hidden.” Conversely, it is called “revealed” because the Creator is revealed by the Torah.
Therefore, the Kabbalists said, and we also find it in the prayer book of the Vilna Gaon (GRA), that the order of attainment of the Torah begins with the concealed and ends with the revealed. This means that through the appropriate labor, where one first delves into the Torah of the hidden, he is thus granted the revealed Torah, the literal. Thus, one begins with the concealed, called Sod (secret), and when he is rewarded, he ends in the literal.
104) It has been thoroughly clarified how it is possible to attain the first degree of love, which is conditional love. We learned that even though there is no reward for a Mitzva in this world, the attainment of the reward for the Mitzva exists in worldly life nonetheless. It comes to a person by opening the eyes in the Torah. And this clear attainment is completely similar to receiving instantaneous reward for the Mitzva.
Hence, one feels the wonderful benefit contained in the Thought of Creation, which is to delight His creatures with His full, good, and generous hand. Because of the abundance of benefit that one attains, wondrous love appears between a person and the Creator. It pours to one incessantly, by the same ways and channels through which natural love appears.
105) However, all this comes to a person from the moment he attains onwards. Yet, one does not want to remember all the torment caused by the Providence in concealment of the face he had suffered before he attained the above disclosure of the face, since “love covereth all transgressions.” Nevertheless, it is considered a great flaw, even with love among people, much less concerning the truthfulness of His Providence, since He is Good who does good to the good and to the bad.
Therefore, we must understand how one can attain His love in such a way that he will feel and know that the Creator has always done him wondrous good, since the day he was born onwards; that He has never, nor will ever cause him an ounce of harm, which is the second manner of love.
106) To understand that, we need the words of our sages. They said, “one who repents from love, his sins become as virtues.” It means that not only does the Creator forgive his sins, each sin and transgression one had made is turned into a Mitzva by the Creator.
107) Hence, after one attains the illumination of the face in such a measure that each sin he had committed, even the deliberate ones, is turned and becomes a Mitzva for him, one rejoices with all the torment and affliction he had ever suffered since the time he was placed in the two discernments of concealment of the face. This is because it is them that brought him all these sins, which have now become Mitzvot, by the illumination of His face, who performs wonders.
And any sorrow and trouble that drove him out of wits, and where he failed with mistakes, as in the first concealment, or failed with sins, as in the double concealment, has now become a cause and preparation for keeping a Mitzva and the reception of eternal and wondrous reward for it. Therefore, any sorrow has turned for him into great joy and any evil to wonderful good.
108) This is similar to a well-known tale about a Jew who was a house trustee for a certain landlord. The landlord loved him dearly. Once, the landlord went away, and left his business in the hands of his substitute, who was an anti-Semite.
What did he do? He took the Jew and struck him five times in front of everyone, to thoroughly humiliate him.
Upon the landlord’s return, the Jew went to him and told him all that had happened to him. His anger was kindled, and he called the substitute and commanded him to promptly give the Jew a thousand coins for every time he had struck him.
The Jew took them and went home. His wife found him crying. She asked him anxiously, “What happened to you with the landlord?” He told her. She asked, “Then why are you crying?” He answered, “I am crying because he only beat me five times. I wish he had beaten me at least ten times, since now I would have had ten thousand coins.”
109) Now you see that after one has been awarded repentance of the sins in a way that the sins became to him as virtues, one is then awarded achieving the second degree of love of the Creator, where the loved one never caused his loved one any harm or even a shadow of harm. Instead, He performs wondrous and plentiful good, always and forever, in a way that repentance from love and the turning of the sins into merits come as one.
110) Thus far, we examined only the two degrees of conditional love. Yet, we must still understand how one is awarded coming in the two manners of unconditional love with one’s Maker.
For that, we must thoroughly understand what is written (Kidushin p 40), “One must always regard oneself half unworthy and half worthy. If he performs one Mitzva, happy is he, for he has sentenced himself to a scale of merit. If he commits one sin, woe unto him for he has sentenced himself to a scale of sin.
Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon, says, ‘Since the world is judged by its majority, and the individual is judged by the majority, if he performs one Mitzva, happy is he, for he has sentenced himself and the whole world to a scale of merit. If he commits one sin, woe unto him, for he has sentenced himself and the whole world to a scale of sin.’ For this one sin that he had committed, the world and he have lost much good.”
111) These words seem puzzling from beginning to end. He says that one who performs one Mitzva, immediately sentences to a scale of merit, for he is judged by the majority. Yet, this refers only to those who are half unworthy and half worthy. And Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon, does not speak of those at all. Thus, the essence is still absent.
Rashi interpreted his words as referring to the words, “One must always consider oneself half unworthy and half worthy.” Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon, adds that one should also regard the whole world as though they are half unworthy and half worthy. Yet, the essence is still absent, and why did he change his words if the meaning is the same?
112) This is even more difficult on the object itself, meaning for one to see oneself as though he is half unworthy. This is a wonder: if one knows one’s many iniquities, would he deceive oneself saying that he is only half this and half that?
The Torah states, “keep thee far from a false matter!” Moreover, it is written, “one sinner destroyeth much good.” This is because one sin sentences the person and the entire world to a scale of sin. Thus, it is about the actual reality, not some false imagination by which a person should picture himself and the world.
113) And there is another bewilderment: can it be that there are not many people in each generation who perform one Mitzva? So how is the world sentenced to a scale of merit? Does that mean that the situation does not change at all, and there is nothing new under the sun? Indeed, great depth is required here, for the words cannot be understood superficially.
However, this does not concern a person who knows his sins are many, to teach him deception, that he is half this and half that, or to insinuate that he lacks only one Mitzva. This is not at all the way of the wise. Rather, this relates to one who feels and imagines himself as being completely and utterly righteous, and finds himself utterly whole. It is so because he has already been awarded the first degree of love by opening his eyes in the Torah, and He who knows all mysteries already testifies that he will not turn back to folly.
To him, the writing shows the way and proves that he is not yet righteous, but in between – half unworthy and half worthy. This is so because one still lacks one of the 613 Mitzvot in the Torah, namely the Mitzva of love.
The whole testimony of He who knows all mysteries that he will not sin again is only because of the clarity in one’s attainment of the great loss in transgressing. This is considered fear of punishment, and is therefore called “repentance from fear.”
114) We also learned above that this degree of repentance from fear still does not correct a person, but only from the time of repentance onwards. Yet, all the sorrow and the anguish one had suffered prior to being awarded the revelation of the face remain as they were, uncorrected. In addition, the transgressions one had made are not entirely corrected, but remain as mistakes.
115) This is why it is said that such a person, who is still short of one Mitzva, will regard himself as half unworthy and half worthy. Meaning, one should imagine that the time when he was granted repentance was in the middle of his years. Thus, he is still half unworthy, in that half of his years that had passed before he has repented. In that time, one is certainly unworthy, since repentance from fear does not correct them.
It follows, also, that he is also half worthy, in the half of his years since he has been awarded repentance onwards. At that time, one is certainly worthy, for he is certain that he will not sin again. Thus, in the first half of his years he is unworthy, and in the second half of his years, he is worthy.
116) He is told to think that if he performs one Mitzva, that Mitzva which he lacks from the number 613, he will be happy, for he has sentenced himself to a scale of merit. This is so because one who is granted the Mitzva of love by repentance from love, through it he is rewarded with turning his sins to merits.
Then, every sorrow and grief that he had ever suffered, prior to being awarded repentance, is turned into wondrous, endless pleasures for him. Moreover, he regrets not having suffered twice as much and more, as in the allegory about the landlord and the Jew who loved him.
This is called “sentencing to a scale of merit,” since all of one’s emotions, the mistakes and the sins, have been turned to merits. Thus, sentencing to a scale of merit means that the whole cup that was filled with sins has now been turned into a cup full of merits. In the words of the sages, this inversion is called “sentencing.”
117) It further warns us and says that as long as one is in between, and has not been granted the one Mitzva that is missing from the number 613, one should not believe in oneself until one’s dying day. He should also not rely himself on the testimony of the One who knows all mysteries, that he will not turn back to folly, but he might still transgress.
Hence, one should think for oneself that if he commits one sin, woe unto him, for he has sentenced himself to a scale of sin. This is because then he will immediately lose all his wonderful attainment in the Torah, and all the disclosure of the face that he has been granted, and he will return to concealment of the face. Thus, he will sentence himself to a scale of sin, for he will lose all the merits and the good, even from the latter half of his years. And as evidence, it brings the verse, “one sinner destroyeth much good.”
118) Now you understand the addition that Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon, adds, and also why he does not bring the phrase, “half unworthy and half worthy.” This is so because there it speaks of the second and third discernments of love, while Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon, speaks from the fourth discernment of love, the eternal love – the disclosure of face, as it truly is, Good and does good to the good and to the bad.
119) We learned there that it is impossible to attain the fourth discernment, except when one is proficient and knows all the dealings of the loved one, and how he behaves with all the others, none missing. This is also why the great privilege, when one is awarded sentencing himself to a scale of merit, is still not enough for one to attain whole love, meaning the fourth discernment. This is so because now he does not attain His merit as being good who does good to the good and to the bad, but only His Providence over him.
Yet, he still does not know of His Providence in this sublime and wonderful manner with the rest of the people in the world. Thus, we learned above that as long as one does not know the dealings of the loved one with others, until none of them is missing, the love is still not eternal. Hence, one must also sentence the entire world to a scale of merit, and only then does the eternal love appear to him.
120) This is what Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon, says, “Since the world is judged by its majority and the individual is judged by its majority,” and since he relates to the whole world, he cannot say, as it is written, that he will regard them as half unworthy, half worthy. This degree comes to a person only when he is granted the disclosure of the face and repentance from fear.
Yet, how is this said about the whole world, when they have not been granted this repentance? Thus, one must only say that the world is judged by its majority, and the individual is judged by its majority.
Explanation: One might think that one does not become a complete righteous, except when he has no transgressions and has never sinned. But those who failed with sins and transgressions no longer merit becoming complete righteous.
For that reason, Rabbi Elazar, son or Rabbi Shimon, teaches us that this is not so. Rather, the world is judged by its majority and so is the individual. This means that after one is no longer considered medium, after he has repented from fear, he instantaneously attains the 613 Mitzvot and is called “medium,” meaning half his years he is unworthy, and in half his years he is worthy.
Afterwards, if one adds but a single Mitzva, the Mitzva of love, it is considered that he is mostly worthy and sentences everything to a scale of merit. Thus, the scale of sins becomes a scale of merits, too.
It turns out that even if one has a full scale of transgressions and sins, they all become merits. Then, one is as one who has never sinned, and is considered “complete righteous.”
This is the meaning of the saying that the world and the individual are judged by the majority. Thus, the transgressions in one’s hand from before the repentance are not taken into any account, for they have become merits. Accordingly, even “complete wicked” are considered “complete righteous” after they are granted repentance from love.
121) Therefore, he says that if an individual performs one Mitzva, meaning after the repentance from fear, then one is short of only one Mitzva, and “he is happy for he has sentenced himself and the whole world to a scale of merit.” Thus, not only is he rewarded, through his repentance from love, with sentencing himself to a scale of merit, as the verse says, but he is even awarded sentencing the whole world to a scale of merit.
This means that he is awarded rising in wonderful attainments in the Holy Torah, until he discovers how all the people in the world will finally be awarded repentance from love. Then, they, too, will discover and see all that wonderful Providence, as he has attained for himself. And they, too, will be all sentenced to a scale of merit. At that time, “sins will cease out of the earth and the wicked be no more.”
And even though the people in the world themselves have not yet been granted even repentance from fear, still, after an individual attains that sentencing to a scale of merit, destined to come to them in clear and absolute attainment, it is similar to, “You shall see your world in your life,” said about one who repents from fear. We said that one is impressed and delighted by it as though he instantly had it, since “all that is about to be collected is deemed collected.”
Also, here it is considered for that individual who attains the repentance of the whole world precisely as though they have been granted and came to repentance from love. Each of them sentenced their sins to merits sufficiently to know His dealings with every single person in the world.
This is why Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon, says, “Happy is he, for he has sentenced himself and the entire world to a scale of merit.” From now on, one thoroughly knows all the conducts of His Providence, with every single creation, by way of disclosure of His real countenance, meaning the Good who does good to the good and to the bad. And since he knows it, he has therefore been granted the fourth discernment of love, namely “eternal love.”
Like the verse, so Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon, warns that even after one has sentenced the whole world to a scale of merit, one should still not believe in himself until his dying day. Should he fail with a single transgression, he will immediately lose all his wonderful attainments, as it is written, “one sinner destroyeth much good.”
This explains the difference in what Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon, writes. The writing speaks only from the second discernment and the third discernment of love; hence, it does not mention sentencing the whole world.
But Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon, speaks from the fourth discernment of love, which cannot be depicted except by attainment of sentencing the entire world to a scale of merit. However, we must still understand how we attain this wonderful attainment of sentencing the whole world to a scale of merit.
122) We must understand what is written (Taanit 11a), “When the public is in grief, one should not say, ‘I shall go to my house and eat and drink, and have my soul at peace.’ If one does that, the writing says about him, ‘And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine – Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die!’ What does it say about that? ‘And the Lord of hosts revealed Himself in mine ears: Surely this iniquity shall not be expiated by you till ye die.’
Thus far regarding the attribute of medium. But it is written about the attribute of wicked, ‘Come ye, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and tomorrow shall be as this day.’
What does it say about that? ‘The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart, …that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.’ Instead, when one grieves with the public, one is granted the comfort of the public.”
123) These words seem completely irrelevant. He wishes to bring evidence from the text, that one must pain oneself with the public. Hence, why should we divide and separate the attribute of medium from attribute of wicked? Furthermore, what is the precision that it makes regarding the attribute of medium and attribute of wicked? And why does it not say, “intermediate” and “wicked,” and why do I need the attributes?
Also, where does it imply that the writing speaks of an iniquity when one does not pain oneself with the public? Still more, we do not see any punishment in the attribute of the wicked, but in what is written, “The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart.” If the wicked sin, what does the righteous do that he should be punished, and why should the wicked cry if the righteous perisheth?
124) Yet, you should know that all these attributes, “medium,” “wicked,” and “righteous” are not in special people. Rather, all three are within every single person in the world. These three attributes are discernible in every person. During one’s period of concealment of the face, even before one attains repentance from fear, he is discerned as being in the attribute of wicked.
Afterwards, if one is granted repentance from fear, he is considered medium. Then, if one is granted repentance from love, too, in its fourth discernment, meaning eternal love, he is considered “complete righteous.” Hence, they did not say merely medium and righteous, but the attribute of medium and the attribute of wicked.
125) We should also remember that it is impossible to attain the above fourth discernment of love without first attaining the revelation of the face, which is destined to come to the entire world. That gives one strength to sentence the entire world to a scale of merit, as Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon says. And we have already learned that the matter of the disclosure of the face will inevitably turn every grief and sadness that came during the concealment of the face into wondrous pleasures, until one regrets having suffered so little.
Hence, we must ask, “When one sentences oneself to a scale of merit he certainly remembers all the grief and pains he had had during the concealment of the face.” This is why it is possible that they will all be turned into wondrous pleasures for him, as we have said above. But when he sentences the entire world to a scale of merit, how does he know the measure of grief and pain that all the people in the world suffer, so as to understand how are they are sentenced to a scale of merit in the same manner we explained regarding one’s own sentencing?
To avoid having the scale of merit of the entire world lacking, when one is qualified to sentence them to a scale of merit, one has no other tactic but to always pain himself with the troubles of the public, just as he suffers with his own troubles. Then the scale of sin of the entire world will be ready within him, like his own scale of sin. Thus, if he is granted sentencing himself to a scale of merit, he will be able to sentence the entire world to a scale of merit, too, and attain being “a complete righteous.”
126) Thus, if one does not pain himself with the public, then even when he is granted repentance from fear, namely the attribute of medium, the writing says about him: “And behold joy and gladness.” This means that one who has been granted the blessing, “You shall see your world in your life,” and sees the entire reward for his Mitzva, which is prepared for the next world, is certainly “filled with joy and gladness.” And he tells himself, “slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine – Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die!”
In other words, he is filled with great joy because of his guaranteed reward in the next world. This is why he says so gladly, “for tomorrow we shall die,” and I will collect my next world’s life from The Whole after I die.
Yet, it is written about that: “And the Lord of hosts revealed Himself in mine ears: Surely this iniquity shall not be expiated by you till ye die.” This means that the text rebukes him for the mistakes in his hand.
We learned that the sins of one who repents from fear become mere mistakes. Hence, since he did not pain himself with the public and cannot attain repentance from love, at which time the sins are turned to virtues, it is necessary that the mistakes in his hand will never be repented in his life. Thus, how can he rejoice in his life in the next world? This is why it is written, “Surely this iniquity shall not be expiated by you till ye die,” meaning the mistakes, “until you die,” meaning before he dies. Thus, he is devoid of repentance.
127) It is also written that this is the “attribute of medium,” meaning that this text speaks of a time when one has repented from fear onwards. At that time, one is considered “medium.”
Yet, what does it write about the “attribute of wicked”? In other words, what shall become of the time when he was in concealment of the face, which was then called “attribute of wicked”? We learned that repentance from fear does not correct one’s past before he has repented.
Hence, the text brings another verse: “Come ye, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and tomorrow shall be as this day.” This means that those days and years that have passed since the time of concealment of the face, which he has not corrected, called “attribute of wicked,” they do not want him to die, since they have no part in the next world after the death, as they are the attribute of the wicked.
Therefore, at the time when the attribute of medium in him is glad and rejoicing, “for tomorrow we shall die,” and will be rewarded with the life of the next world, at the same time the attribute of wicked in him does not say so. It rather says, “and tomorrow shall be as this day,” meaning it wishes to live and be happy in this world forever, for it still has no part for the next world, since he has not corrected it, as it is only corrected by repentance from love.
128) It is written, “The righteous perisheth,” meaning the attribute of complete righteous, which that person should merit, is lost from him. “And no man layeth it to heart …the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.” This means that because that medium did not pain himself with the public, he cannot attain repentance from love, inverting sins to virtues and evils to wonderful pleasures. Instead, all the mistakes and the evil one had experienced before he acquired repentance from fear still stand in the attribute of wicked, who sense harm from His Providence. And because of these harms that they still feel, they cannot be awarded being complete righteous.
The writing says, “and no man layeth it to heart,” meaning that that person does not take it to heart “from the evil to come.” In other words, because of the harm that one still feels in His Providence from the past, “the righteous perisheth,” meaning he lost the attribute of righteous. And he will die and pass away from the world as mere medium.
All that concerns he who does not pain himself with the public, and is not awarded seeing the comfort of the public, for he will not be able to sentence them to a scale of merit and see their consolation. Hence, he will never attain the attribute of righteous.
129) From all the aforementioned, we have come to know that there is no woman-born person who will not experience the three above attributes: attribute of wicked; attribute of medium; attribute of righteous.
They are called Midot (attributes) since they extend from the Midah (measure) of their attainment of His Providence. Our sages said, “one is measured to the extent that he measures” (Sutah 8). And they who attain His Providence in concealment of the face are considered wicked: either incomplete wicked from the perspective of the single concealment, or complete wicked from the perspective of the double concealment.
And because they feel and think that the world is conducted in bad guidance, it is as though they condemn themselves, since they receive torments and pains from His Providence and feel only bad all day long. And they condemn the most by thinking that all the people in the world are watched over like them, in bad guidance.
Hence, those who attain Providence from the perspective of concealment of the face are called “wicked,” since that name appears in them out of the depth of their sensation. It depends on the understanding of the heart, and the words or the thought that justifies His Providence do not matter at all, when it opposes the sensation of every organ and sense, which cannot force themselves to lie, as it does.
Hence, they who are in this measure of attainment of Providence are considered to have sentenced themselves and the entire world to a scale of sin, as it is written in the words of Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon. This is because they imagine that all the people in the world are watched over in bad guidance, as would befit His Name, “The Good that does good to the good and to the bad.”
130) They that are granted the sensation of His Providence in the form of the first degree of disclosure of the face, called “repentance from fear,” are considered medium. This is because their emotions are divided into two parts, called “two cups of the scales.”
Now that they have acquired the disclosure of the face, by way of “You shall see your world in your life,” at the very least they have attained His Good Providence as befits His Name, “Good.” Hence, they have a scale of merit.
Yet, all the sorrow and the bitter torments that were thoroughly imprinted in their feelings from all the days and years they received Providence of concealed face, from the time before they were awarded the above repentance, all remain standing and are called “a scale of sin.”
And since they have these two scales standing one opposite the other, in a way that the scale of sin is set from the moment of their repentance and before, and the scale of merit is set and guaranteed to them from the moment of repentance onwards, the time of repentance stands “between” the merit and the sin, and hence they are called “medium.”
131) And the ones who merit the disclosure of the face in the second degree, called “repentance from love,” when sins become as merits to them, are considered to have sentenced the above scale of sin to a scale of merit. This means that all the sorrow and affliction engraved in their bones while being under the Providence of concealment of the face have now been inverted and sentenced to a “scale of merit.”
This is because every sorrow and grief has now been turned into a wonderful, endless pleasure. Now they are called “righteous,” for they justify His Providence.
132) We must know that the above attribute of medium applies even when one is under Providence of concealment of the face. By great exertion in faith in reward and punishment, a Light of great confidence in the Creator appears to them. For a time, they are granted a degree of disclosure of His face in the measure of the medium. But the drawback is that they cannot permanently remain in their degrees, since standing permanently in a degree is possible only through repentance from fear.
133) We should also know that what we said, that there is choice only when there is concealment of the face, does not mean that after one has attained Providence of revealed face, one has no further labor or exertion in the practice of Torah and Mitzvot. On the contrary, the proper work in Torah and Mitzvot begins primarily after one has been awarded repentance from love. Only then is it possible to engage in Torah and Mitzvot with love and fear, as we are commanded, and “The world was created only for the complete righteous” (Berachot 61).
It is rather like a king who wished to select for himself the most loyal of his subjects in the country and bring them in to work inside his palace. What did he do? He issued a decree that anyone who wished, young or old, would come to his palace to engage in the works inside his palace.
However, he appointed many of his servants to guard the palace gate and on all the roads leading to it, and ordered them to cunningly deflect all those nearing his palace and divert them from the way that leads to the palace.
Naturally, all the people in the country began to run to the king’s palace. But the diligent guards cunningly rejected them. Many of them overpowered them and came near the palace gate, but the guards at the gate were the most diligent, and if someone approached the gate, they diverted him and turned him away with great craftiness, until one despaired and retuned as he had come.
And so they came and went, and regained strength, and came and went again, and so on and so forth for several days and years, until they grew weary of trying. And only the heroes among them, whose patience endured, defeated the guards and opened the gate. And they were instantly awarded seeing the King’s face, who appointed each of them in his right place.
Of course, from that moment on, they had no further dealings with those guards, who diverted and mislead them and made their lives bitter for several days and years, running back and forth around the gate. This is because they have been rewarded with working and serving before the glory of the king’s face inside His palace.
So it is with the work of the complete righteous. The choice applied during the concealment of the face certainly does not apply when they have opened the door to attain open Providence.
However, they begin their work primarily from the revealing of the face. At that time, they begin to march up the many rungs in the ladder set up on the earth, whose top reaches the heaven, as it is written, “The righteous shall go from strength to strength.”
It is as our sages say, “Each and every righteous is covered by the cover of his friend.” These works qualify them for the will of God, to realize His Thought of Creation in them, which is to “delight His creatures” according to His good and generous hand.
134) You should know this law, that there is disclosure only in a place where there was concealment. This is similar to matters of this world where the absence precedes the existence, since the growth of wheat appears only where it was sown and rotted.
It is the same with higher matters, where concealment and disclosure relate to each other as the wick to the light that catches it. This is because any concealment, once it is corrected, is a reason for disclosure of the Light related to that kind of concealment, and the Light that appears clings to it like light to a wick. Remember this on all your ways.
135) Now you can understand what our sages wrote, that the whole Torah is the names of the Creator. This seems puzzling, as there are many indecencies, such as names of wicked – Pharaoh, Balaam, etc., prohibition, impurity, ruthless curses in the two admonitions and so on. Thus, how can we understand that all these are names of the Creator?
136) To understand that, we must know that our ways are not His ways. Our way is to come from the imperfect to perfection. In His way, all the revelations come to us from perfection to the imperfect.
First, complete perfection emanates and emerges from Him. This perfection descends from His face and hangs down restriction by restriction, through several degrees, until it comes to the last, most restricted phase, suitable for our material world. And then the matter appears to us here in this world.
137) From the aforementioned, you will learn that the Holy Torah, whose Height is endless, did not emanate or emerge from before Him as it appears to us here in this world, since it is known that “The Torah and the Creator are one,” and this is not at all apparent in the Torah of our world. Moreover, one who engages in it Lo Lishma, his Torah becomes a potion of death for him.
Rather, when it was first emanated from Him, it was emanated and emerged in utter perfection, meaning in the actual form of “The Torah and the Creator are one.” This is called, “The Torah of Atzilut,” in the Introduction to the Corrections of The Zohar (p 3), that “He, His Life, and His Self are one.” Afterwards, it descended from His face and was gradually restricted through many restrictions, until it was given at Sinai, when it was written as it is before us here in this world, clothed in the crude dresses of the material world.
138) Yet, you should know that the distance between the dresses of the Torah in this world and the dresses of the Torah in the world of Atzilut is immeasurable. Yet, the Torah itself, meaning the Light within the dresses, is unchanged at all between the Torah of Atzilut and the Torah of this world, as it is written, “I the Lord change not” (Malachi 3:6).
Moreover, these crude dresses in our Torah of Assiya are not at all of inferior value with regard to the Light that is clothed in it. Rather, their importance is much greater, with respect to the end of their correction, than all its pure dresses in the Upper Worlds.
This is so because the concealment is the reason for the disclosure. After its correction, during the disclosure, the concealment is to the disclosure as a wick is to the light that grips it. The greater the concealment, the greater Light will cling to it when it is corrected. Thus, all these crude dresses that the Torah is clothed in, in this world, their value is not at all inferior to the Light that clothes it, but quite the contrary.
139) This is Moses’ triumph over the angels with his argument, “Is there envy among you? Is the evil inclination among you?” (Shabbat 89). It means that the greater concealment discloses a greater Light. He showed them that in the pure clothes that the Torah clothes in, in the world of the angels, the greater Lights cannot appear through them as they can in dresses of this world.
140) We thus learn that there is no change whatsoever from the Torah de Atzilut, where “The Torah and the Creator are one” through the Torah in this world. The only difference is in the dresses, since the dresses of this world conceal the Creator and hide Him.
Know that because of His clothing in the Torah, it is called “Teaching.” It tells you that even during the concealment of the face, and even during the double concealment, the Creator is instilled and clothed in the Torah. He is the “Teacher” and it is the Torah, but the crude clothes of the Torah before our eyes are as wings that cover and hide the Teacher who is clothed and hides in them.
However, when one is granted the revelation of the face in repentance from love in its fourth discernment, it is said about him, “yet shall not thy Teacher hide Himself any more, but thine eyes shall see thy Teacher” (Isaiah, 30:20). From then on, the clothes of the Torah no longer hide and conceal the “Teacher,” and one discovers for all time that “The Torah and the Creator are one.”
141) Now you can understand the meaning of the words, “Forsake Me and keep My law.” They interpreted, “I wish that they had left Me and kept My Torah – the Light in it reforms them” (Yerushalmi, Hagiga, p 6b).
This is perplexing. They mean that they were fasting and tormenting to find the revelation of His face, as it is written, “they delight to draw near unto God” (Isaiah 58:2). Yet, the text tells them in the name of the Creator, “I wish you would leave Me, for all your labor is in vain and fruitless. I am found nowhere but in the Torah. Therefore, keep the Torah and look for Me there, and the Light in it will reform you and you will find Me,” as it is written, “those that seek Me shall find Me.”
142) Now we can somewhat clarify the essence of the wisdom of Kabbalah, enough for a reliable perception in the quality of that wisdom. Thus, one will not deceive oneself with false imaginations, as the masses envisage.
You should know that the Holy Torah divides into four discernments, which encompass the whole of reality. Three discernments are discerned in the general reality of this world. They are called “World,” “Year,” “Soul.” The fourth discernment is the conduct of existence of the above three parts of reality, their nourishment, their conducts, and all their incidents.
143) The outer part of reality, like the sky and the firmaments, the earth and the seas, etc., that are written in the Torah, all these are called, “World.” The inner part of reality – man and beast, animals and various birds, etc. – brought in the Torah, which exists in the above places, called “outer part,” are called “Soul.”
The evolution of reality throughout the generations is called “cause and consequence.” For example, in the evolution of the heads of the generations from Adam ha Rishon through Joshua and Caleb, who came to the land, which are brought in the Torah, the father is considered the “cause” of the son, who is “caused” by him. This evolution of the details of reality by way of the above cause and consequence is called, “Year.” Similarly, all the conducts of the existence of reality, both external and internal, in their every incident and conduct, brought in the Torah, are called “the existence of reality.”
144) Know that the four worlds are named in the wisdom of Kabbalah, Atzilut, Beria, Yetzira, and Assiya. When they came out and evolved, they emerged from one another like a seal and imprint. This means that anything that is written in the seal necessarily appears in what is imprinted from it, no more and no less, and so it was in the evolution of the worlds, as well.
Thus, all four discernments, WYS (World, Year, Soul), with all their modes of sustenance, which were in the world of Atzilut, came out, were imprinted, and manifested in their image in the world of Beria, as well. It is the same from the world of Beria to the world of Yetzira, down to the world of Assiya.
Thus, all three discernments in the reality before us, called WYS, with all their modes of sustenance, which are set before our eyes here in this world, extended and appeared here from the world of Yetzira, and in Yetzira from its superior.
In this manner, the source of the numerous details before our eyes is in the world of Atzilut. Moreover, even with the innovations that appear in this world today, each novelty must first appear Above, in the world of Atzilut, and from there hang down and appear to us in this world.
This is the meaning of the words of our sages: “There is not a blade of grass below that does not have a fortune and a guard above, which strike it and tell it: ‘Grow!’” (Beresheet Rabba, Chapter Ten). This is the meaning of the text, “One does not move one’s finger below, before one is declared Above” (Hulin p 7).
145) Know that because of the clothing of the Torah in the three discernments of reality, “World,” “Year,” “Soul,” and their existence in this material world, produce the prohibitions, impurities, and interdictions found in the revealed Torah. It has been explained above that the Creator is clothed in it by way of, “The Torah and the Creator are one,” but in great concealment. This is because these material dresses are the wings that cover and hide Him.
However, the clothing of the Torah in the form of the pure WYS, and their existence in the three Upper Worlds, called Atzilut, Beria, Yetzira, are generally named, “The Wisdom of Kabbalah.”
146) Thus, the wisdom of Kabbalah and the revealed Torah are one and the same. Yet, while a person receives from a Providence of concealed face, and the Creator hides in the Torah, it is considered that he is practicing the revealed Torah. In other words, he is incapable of receiving any illumination from the Torah of Yetzira, not to mention from Above Yetzira.
And when one is granted the revelation of the face, he begins to engage in the wisdom of Kabbalah. This is because the dresses of the revealed Torah themselves were purified for him, and his Torah became the Torah of Yetzira, called, “The Wisdom of Kabbalah.”
Even for one who is granted the Torah of Atzilut, it does not mean that the letters of the Torah have changed for him. Rather, the very same dresses of the revealed Torah have purified for him and became very pure clothes. They have become like the verse, “yet shall not thy Teacher hide Himself any more, but thine eyes shall see thy Teacher.” At that time, they become as, “He, His Life, and His Self are one.”
147) Let me give you an example, so as to bring the matter a little closer to your mind. For instance: While one was in concealment of the face, the letters and the dresses of the Torah necessarily hid the Creator. Hence, he failed, due to the sins and the mistakes he had committed. At that time, he was placed under the punishment of the crude dresses in the Torah, which are impurity, prohibition, and interdictions.
However, when one is awarded open Providence and repentance from love, when his sins become as virtues, all the sins and the mistakes he had failed in while being under the concealment of the face have now shed their crude and very bitter clothes, and wore the clothes of Light, Mitzva, and merits.
This is so because the same crude clothes have turned to virtues. Now they are as clothes that extend from the world of Atzilut or Beria, and they do not cover or hide The Teacher. On the contrary, “thine eyes shall see thy Teacher.”
Thus, there is no difference whatsoever between the Torah of Atzilut and the Torah in this world, between the wisdom of Kabbalah and the revealed Torah. Rather, the only difference is in the person who engages in the Torah. Two may study the Torah in the same portion and the same words, but to one, this Torah will be as the wisdom of Kabbalah and the Torah of Atzilut, while to the other, it will be the Torah of Assiya, the revealed.
148) Now you will understand the truth in the words of the Vilna Gaon in the prayer book, in the blessing for the Torah. He wrote that the Torah begins with Sod (secret), meaning the revealed Torah of Assyia, which is considered hidden, since the Creator is completely hidden there.
Then he moves on to the Remez (intimation), meaning that He is more revealed in the Torah of Yetzira. Finally, one attains the Peshat (literal), which is the Torah of Atzilut. It is called Peshat, for it is Mufshat (stripped) of all the clothes that conceal the Creator.
149) Once we have reached thus far, we can provide some idea and discernment in the four worlds, known in the wisdom of Kabbalah by the names, Atzilut, Beria, Yetzira, Assiya of Kedusha (holiness), and in the four worlds ABYA of the Klipot, arranged one opposite the other, opposite the ABYA of Kedusha.
You will understand that in the four discernments of attainment of His Providence, and in the four degrees of love. First, we shall explain the four worlds ABYA of Kedusha, and we shall start from below, from the world of Assiya.
150) We have already explained the first two discernments of Providence of concealment of the face. You should know that both are considered the world of Assiya. This is why it is written in the book, The Tree of Life, that the world of Assiya is mostly evil, and even the little good contained in it is mixed with evil and is unrecognizable.
From the perspective of the first concealment, it follows that it is mostly bad, meaning the torments and the pains that those who receive this Providence feel. And from the perspective of the double concealment, the good is mixed with the bad, as well, and the good is completely indiscernible.
The first discernment of revelation of the face is considered “the world of Yetzira.” Hence, it is written in the book, The Tree of Life (Gate 48, Chapter Three), that the world of Yetzira is half good and half bad. This means that he who attains the first discernment of revelation of the face, which is the first form of conditional love, considered a mere “repentance from fear,” is called “medium,” and he is half unworthy, half worthy.
The second discernment of love is also conditional, but there is no trace of any harm or detriment between them. Also, the third discernment of love is the first discernment of unconditional love. Both are regarded as the world of Beria.
Hence it is written in the book, The Tree of Life, that the world of Beria is mostly good and only its minority is bad, and that minority of bad is indiscernible. This means that since the medium is awarded one Mitzva, he sentences himself to a scale of merit. And for this reason, he is considered “mostly good,” meaning the discernment form of love.
The minute, indiscernible evil that exits in Beria extends from the third discernment of love, which is unconditional. Also, he has already sentenced himself to a scale of merit, but he has not yet sentenced the whole world; hence, a minority in him is bad, since this love is not yet considered eternal. However, this minority is indiscernible because he still did not feel any harm or detriment, even toward others.
The fourth discernment of love, the unconditional love, which is also eternal, is considered the world of Atzilut. This is the meaning of what is written in the book, The Tree of Life, that in the world of Atzilut there is no evil whatsoever, and there, “evil shall not sojourn with Thee.”
This is because after one has sentenced the entire world to a scale of merit, too, love is eternal, complete, and no concealment and cover will ever be conceived. This is so because there is the place of the absolute revelation of the face, as it is written, “yet shall not thy Teacher hide Himself any more, but thine eyes shall see thy Teacher.” This is because now he knows all of the Creator’s dealings with all the people, as true Providence that appears from His name, “The Good who does good to the good and to the bad.”
151) Now you can also understand the discernment of the four worlds ABYA of Klipa, set opposite the ABYA of Kedusha, as in, “God hath made even the one as well as the other.” This is because the chariot of the Klipot of Assiya comes from the discernment of the concealed face in both its degrees. That chariot dominates to make man sentence everything to a scale of sin.
And the world of Yetzira of Klipa catches the scale of sin – which is not corrected in the world of Yetzira of Kedusha – in its hands. Thus, they dominate the medium, which receive from the world of Yetzira, by way of, “God hath made even the one as well as the other.”
The world of Beria of Klipa has the same power to cancel the conditional love, to cancel only the thing that love hangs on, that is, the imperfection in the love of the second discernment.
And the world of Atzilut of Klipa is what captures in its hand that minority of evil whose existence in Beria is not apparent, due to the third discernment of love. And even though it is true love, by the force of the Good who does good to the good and to the bad, which is considered Atzilut of Kedusha, still, because he has not been awarded sentencing the whole world to a scale of merit, the Klipa has the strength to fail the love with regard to Providence over others.
152) This is the meaning of what is written in The Tree of Life, that the world of Atzilut of the Klipot stands opposite the world of Beria, not opposite the world of Atzilut. This is so because only the fourth discernment of love extends from the world of Atzilut of Kedusha. Hence, there is no dominion to the Klipot there at all, since he has already sentenced the whole world to a scale of merit, and knows all the conducts of the Creator in His Providence on people, too, from the Providence of His name, “The Good who does good to the good and to the bad.”
However, in the world of Beria, from which extends the third discernment, there is still no sentencing of the whole world. Therefore, there is still a hold for the Klipot. Yet, these Klipot are considered the Atzilut of the Klipa, since they are opposite the third discernment, the unconditional love, and this love is considered Atzilut.
153) Now we have thoroughly explained the four worlds ABYA of Kedusha and the Klipot, which are the “vis-à-vis” of each and every world. They are considered the deficiency that exists in their corresponding world, in Kedusha, and they are the ones named “the four worlds ABYA of Klipot.”
154) These words suffice for any observer to feel the essence of the wisdom of Kabbalah to some degree. You should know that most of the authors of Kabbalah books did not direct their books, but only to such readers that have already attained a disclosure of the face and all the sublime attainments.
We should not ask, “If they have already been awarded attainments, then they know everything through their own attainment. Why then would they still need to delve in books of Kabbalah by other authors?”
However, it is not wise to ask that question. It is like one who engages in the literal Torah who has no knowledge of the conducts of this world with respect to the World, Year, Soul of this world, and who does not know people’s behavior and their conducts with themselves and with others. And also, he does not know the beasts and the birds in this world.
Would you even consider that such a person would be able to understand even a single issue in the Torah correctly? He would overturn the issues in the Torah from good to bad and from bad to good, and he would not find his hands or legs in anything.
So is the matter before us: Even if one has been awarded attainment, and even at the level of the Torah of Atzilut, he will still not perceive more than relates to his own soul. Yet, one must know all three discernments, World, Year, Soul, in their every incident and conduct in full consciousness, to be able to understand the issues in the Torah that relate to that world.
These issues are explained in The Book of Zohar and the genuine Kabbalah books with all their details and intricacies. Thus, every sage and one who understands with his own mind must contemplate them day and night.
155) Therefore we must ask, why then, did the Kabbalists obligate each person to study the wisdom of Kabbalah? Indeed, there is a great thing in it, worthy of being publicized: There is a wonderful, invaluable remedy to those who engage in the wisdom of Kabbalah. Although they do not understand what they are learning, through the yearning and the great desire to understand what they are learning, they awaken upon themselves the Lights that surround their souls.
This means that every person from Israel is guaranteed to finally attain all the wonderful attainments that the Creator had contemplated in the Thought of Creation to delight every creature. And one who has not been awarded in this life will be granted in the next life, etc., until one is awarded completing His Thought, which He had planned for him.
And while one has not attained perfection, the Lights that are destined to reach him are considered Surrounding Lights. That means that they stand ready for him, but are waiting for him to purify his vessels of reception, at which time these Lights will clothe the able vessels.
Hence, even when he does not have the vessels, when he engages in this wisdom, mentioning the names of the Lights and the vessels related to his soul, they immediately shine upon him to a certain extent. However, they shine for him without clothing the interior of his soul, for lack of able vessels to receive them. Yet, the illumination one receives time after time during the engagement draws upon him grace from Above, imparting him with abundance of sanctity and purity, which bring him much closer to achieving perfection.
156) Yet, there is a strict condition during the engagement in this wisdom – to not materialize the matters with imaginary and corporeal issues. This is because thus they breach, “Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any manner of likeness.”
In that event, one is rather harmed instead of receiving benefit. Therefore, our sages cautioned to study the wisdom only after forty years, or from a Rav, and other such cautions. All of that is for the above reason.
To rescue the readers from any materialization, I composed the book Talmud Eser Sefirot (The Study of the Ten Sefirot) by the Ari. There I collect from the books of the Ari all the principal essays concerning the explanation of the ten Sefirot in as simple and easy language as I could. I have also arranged the table of questions and table of answers for every word and issue. “…and that the will of God will succeed in his hand.”
 See explanation in the essay PARDESS.