The Torah and Prayer
180. Rabbi Shimon opened and said: “It is written that Hizkiyahu (Hezekiah) turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Creator.” Let us see how great and potent the power of the Torah is, and how high it rises above all. He who engages in the Torah has no fear of those Above or below, nor of any hardships or illnesses of this world, for he is connected to the Tree of Life and learns from it each day.
181. For the Torah teaches man how to walk a path of truth; it teaches him how to return to his Master and cancel what is predestined for him. And even if man is shown that what is predestined for him cannot be cancelled, it is nonetheless completely cancelled and annulled, then disappears at once and does not prevail over him in this world. Hence, man should study the Torah day and night, and never abandon it, as it is written: “Contemplate Him day and night.” Whomever abandons the Torah, it is as though he abandons the Tree of Life.
“Contemplate Him day and night” – “Him” implies the Creator! In another place in The Zohar, it is said that Hizkiyahu’s prayer was accepted by the Creator, for nothing (no egoistic desires) separated him from the wall (the Shechina, the sensation of the Creator, akin to the Wailing Wall).
This was the advice that he received from the Torah, when, through his efforts in the Torah, he realized how to achieve complete return to the Creator, whereby nothing would separate him from the Creator (from the wall, the Shechina, the sensation of the Creator). As a result, the decree of his death (the Light’s exit from the Partzuf) was revoked. So great is the power of the Torah.
182. Come and see – such is the advice given to man. When he goes to bed at night, he must accept the Creator’s governance from Above, and wholeheartedly entrust his soul with Him. Thus, man is immediately spared all the illnesses, slander, and evil eyes, and they will no longer have power over him.
Here we come to a precise understanding of certain definitions from the Torah, which are quite different from the notions that we are accustomed to. Daylight signifies the sensation of unity with the Creator. It is called “Light,” for this is how man defines his good feelings. Therefore, daylight is when man feels closeness of the Creator and the greatness of spirituality.
Darkness coincides with nighttime in our world. Accordingly, with regard to man’s spiritual states, darkness designates the absence of the sensation of the Creator, of the Upper Light, due to the actions of the impure, egoistic forces that separate man from the Creator. At night in our world, we sleep. The spiritual Partzuf is filled with the minimal amount of Light in an unconscious state called “sleep.” The amount of Light within the Partzuf is so little that it is defined as one sixtieth – 6 (Sefirot of ZA) x 10 (in each part) – of death or complete absence of spiritual Light, for the impure forces rule here.
Due to these two forces that govern and control us, we cannot completely and permanently merge with the Creator. As the result of our sensation of the state of night, the impure forces that rule at night impede us in our efforts, for their power over us keeps returning, thus creating gaps in our unity with the Creator and in our work for His sake.
To correct this, Rabbi Shimon gives us his advice: every “night” (a feeling of separation from the spiritual), when man goes to “sleep” (sinks deeper into the sensations of this world), he must wholeheartedly accept the Creator’s governance, entrust himself completely under His rule. For if the night (the sensation of night) is corrected as in the act of creation, when day follows night, as it is said, “And there was evening and there was morning, one day,” both night and day become as a single whole.
And the night, called “the rule of Malchut,” shall not mix with any impure force, and shall not attack man because of the disappearance of the sensation of the Creator on account of egoistic desires and obstacles of “reason.” For first, man has realized the necessity of the night for the attainment of the next day (greater sensation of the Creator, a bigger altruistic desire), and perceives these two states as a single whole and as an advancement, despite the fact that in his sensations, a night designates remoteness from spirituality.
In the language of spiritual work, this means that if man feels remoteness from the Creator, and is therefore without joy, despite all the possible pleasures, for him this state is called “night.” It is precisely in such a state of complete absence of sensation and lack of faith in the Creator that man can, through his own effort, without feeling any taste in the Torah, yield before the Creator’s rule. That is, he closes his eyes (as one who goes to sleep) and says: “I bring myself under the Creator’s rule and submit to His will.” This state is called “descent for the sake of a subsequent ascent,” and serves as a springboard, by which man attains an even brighter “day.”
However, to this end man must completely accept the SupernalKingdom’s rule, so that nothing will separate him from the Creator. In other words, he must submit to the Supernal Rule unconditionally, whether it brings life or death, so that no force in the world will be able to stop him from uniting with the Supernal Ruler, as it is written, “Love your Creator with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might” (Devarim,6:5).
If man accepts everything that the Creator sends him with all his heart, he is certain that nothing will separate him from the Creator. This determines the fulfillment of the condition of entrusting one’s soul with the Creator. For he gives himself into the Creator’s hands in advance, by deciding to fulfill all His desires (commandments) to the fullest, right up to self-sacrifice.
Hence, as man sleeps, when his soul (the sensation of the Creator), the Light that previously filled him, leaves his body (desires), he does not feel the taste of the sixtieth part of death, for the impure (egoistic) forces have no power over him. In other words, they do not separate him from the Creator. Rather, he merely fails to feel the Creator temporarily.
Thus, the impure forces cannot interrupt his spiritual work even in the state called “night,” for his evening and morning are already as one day – the Creator’s Light. The night becomes a part of the day, for it is precisely because of the night that he recognizes his future merit of receiving an even greater Light.
This is because his night stems not from the rule of the impure forces. Instead, he understands that the Creator intentionally sends him such states. Thus, even in such sensations as darkness and lack of feeling, absence of aspiration and taste for the spiritual, he sees an opportunity to merge with the Creator. And this means that nothing stands between him and the wall.
183. And in the morning, when he rises from his bed, he must bless the Creator, enter His house, and bow before Him in fear and trepidation, and only then should he pray. He should take advice of his holy Patriarchs, as it is written, “By Your great mercy shall I come into Your house, to bow in fear of Your holy greatness.”
Thanks to Your great kindness, I can now bless You for being merciful to me, for ending my spiritual descent, and for letting me come into Your house once more, for allowing me to feel You. However, I am happy not because my suffering gave way to pleasure, but because now I can thank You. I come to Your house so as to kneel in awe before Your holy greatness, which I now attain more than ever before.
The prayer in our heart is the correction within Malchut (the Shechina, the sensation of the Creator, or the common soul of Israel), and the fulfillment of this common soul with the Upper Light (the sensation of the Creator), in accordance with all of its corrected desires. Hence, all our pleas are expressed in plural form, for we pray not for our own soul, but for the common soul of Israel. Naturally, all that is present in the Shechina is subsequently present in every soul of Israel, and vice versa, all that the common soul of Israel lacks is also absent in each soul.
Therefore, before we start praying, we need to understand (feel) what is lacking in Malchut (the Shechina), to know what we need to correct in her and how we can fulfill her. Our heart, the center of our desires, is a part of this Malchut (the Shechina). All the generations of Israel are included in the common soul – the Shechina.However, we need not correct what has already been corrected by previous generations, but only what is left after those generations of souls.
Our Patriarchs, the spiritual Partzufim called “Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov,” also known as the Sefirot Hesed, Gevura, and Tifferet of Partzuf ZA de Atzilut, include the entire community of Israel, all the properties that subsequently manifest in the corrected Malchut, who, in her corrected state, is called “Israel.” The Patriarchs designate the three spiritual roots of the 600,000 souls of Israel in all the generations. In other words, these are the three sources of desires born within man’s part of Malchut for the purpose of his correction.
All the good deeds, the reception and bestowal of Light carried out by the “community of Israel” (by Kabbalists) in all the generations, first trigger reception of the Upper Light by our holy Patriarchs (Sefirot de ZA), for all the Upper Light descends through them from Above downwards. From them, this Upper Light descends onto the “community of Israel,” the righteous of that generation who exist with their properties in the worlds of BYA, and evoke the descent of this Light with their prayers.
Such is the order of spiritual degrees: each branch can receive only through its root (the preceding, Higher Degree), but never independently. The main Light remains in the root, and only an insignificant part of it descends to the branch that evokes it. Therefore, all the corrections completed in the community of Israel (the Shechina, the common soul) are stored and preserved in the souls of our holy Patriarchs.
(The Light received in the corrected Kelim remains forever within them. Our description of the Light’s exit and descent should be understood as a metaphor, for the Partzuf receives new empty desires that require correction, and the sensation of emptiness from the received empty desires is perceived as the Light’s departure. Nevertheless, upon correcting these newly received desires, in them the Partzuf will receive an even greater Light than before.)
Therefore, the essence of our prayer lies in supplementing the Shechina with whatever it needs to achieve complete correction, after all the previous corrections that were performed in it by the past generations of Kabbalists. Hence, he who spiritually ascends must first make all the corrections that have already been performed in the Shechina, and only then will he be able to recognize what is left for him to correct.
This is why it is written that one cannot enter the Beit Knesset (synagogue, but in Hebrew it means “the house of assembly” or “the house of prayer,” from the word Kones – “to assemble”) before he assembles his prayer and asks the holy Patriarchs for guidance, for he needs to know what has already been corrected and what still needs to be corrected. This is possible only after he receives everything that the Patriarchs have corrected through the Shechina. Only then will he come to know what is left for him to correct in the Shechina.
The Patriarchs have corrected the prayer in the Shechina. Prayer and the Shechina are one and the same, for prayer is a request, a raising of MAN, a Kli, the corrected Malchut or the desire for the Creator’s sake. The correction performed by Avraham is called Shacharit (the morning prayer), by Yitzchak – Mincha (the afternoon prayer), and by Yaakov – Arvit (the evening prayer). Therefore, one must first repeat in his prayer everything that was already corrected by them, and then he will discover how to construct his personal plea, and what other imperfections are left that only he can, and consequently, must correct.
184. Man cannot enter the Beit Knesset (synagogue, house of prayer) unless he first receives permission from Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, for they have corrected the prayer to the Creator. It is therefore written, “And in Your great mercy shall I enter into Your house” (Tehilim,5:8). The aforesaid refers to Avraham, for his property is mercy, the SefiraHesed. “I will bow before Your holy chamber” refers to Yitzchak, for thanks to him Malchut is called Heichal – chamber, the Sefira Gevura. “In fear and trepidation” refers to Yaakov, for his property is the SefiraTifferet, called “fear.” And man must first enter into these properties, and only then enter the Beit Knesset to raise his prayers. Such a state is described by the verse, “Here is My slave, Israel, by whom I am adorned.”
Here The Zohar analyzes the first three main corrections, made by the Patriarchs in the Shechina. Avraham corrected the property called Bait (house, permanent dwelling), which allows man to merge with it and to always exist in the Creator’s properties and sensations, just as he can always dwell in his house.
Yitzchak complemented the correction and corrected Malchut in the property called the “holy temple,” so that the King Himself would always dwell in it, as a king always dwells in his chambers. Yaakov added to the correction by the property of fear, which corresponds to a gate in front of a house, and designates the condition that (if met) allows man to enter Malchut,Avraham’s house, and into Yitzchak's holy temple that are both within her.
Upon including within him all three corrections of the Patriarchs in full perfection, he attains what has already been corrected in the holy Shechina, and then proceeds to correct what has not been corrected.
Avraham is the source of the property of mercy in the souls of Israel. Therefore, he corrected the holy Shechina in such a way that it could receive Ohr Hassadim, the Light of mercy.And the Shechina received this Light in its entirety for all the souls of Israel. Had it remained this way, all the souls of Israel would have been in complete and eternal unity with the Creator, and the Shechina would have been filled with Light (pleasure). Thus, no man would ever wish to part with the Shechina (the sensation of the Creator) even for a single moment.
Yet, Avraham’s entire correction consisted in the creation of a perfect, bestowing Kli, which consisted only of Ohr Hassadim. There was no way of corrupting its properties or introducing imperfection within it, for, just like Avraham’s property of mercy (Hesed), this Kli (desire) consisted only of the will to bestow upon, and please the Creator, as it is written: “Mine is yours and yours is yours designates the property of mercy” (Avot,85). By imparting creation with his property, Avraham completely separated the impure forces (thoughts and desires) from the Shechina, and made it completely holy and pure.
However, the Thought of Creation does not end here, for it lies in fulfilling the souls with delight. And the extent of pleasure depends on the aspiration to enjoy, on the degree of hunger. Only the extent of preliminary hunger, the will to receive pleasure, determines the extent of the subsequent reception of pleasure.
The Shechina (Malchut de Atzilut, the sum of the souls) received its correction from Avraham – the Supernal force of Hassadim, the Sefira Hesed of ZA de Atzilut – and acquired the property of mercy from it. This property is completely free from any selfish will to receive, that is, its desire to receive something from the Creator has completely disappeared, and only the will to bestow upon Him remains. This desire is called “bestowal for the sake of bestowal.” However, this brought no correction to the souls (parts of the Shechina), for their role is to receive the pleasure prepared for them by the Creator. To that end, they must first have the “will to receive.” After all, pleasure is felt only when preceded by an aspiration or desire for it, and is determined by the extent of this desire.
It is hence written that Avraham fathered Yitzchak: Yitzchak found the Shechina in absolute spiritual perfection, in the property of pure selfless bestowal, filled with Ohr Hassadim because of all the corrections made by Avraham. However, in accordance with his properties, Yitzchak (the left spiritual force) felt imperfection in this state of the Shechina – that it was not yet corrected to “receive” all that was conceived in the Thought of Creation.
Therefore, he corrected it by turning it into a Kli (vessel) of reception, by supplementing it with the will “to receive,” so that it could receive all the perfection prepared for it. Yitzchak evoked in the Shechina the will to receive pleasure from the Creator, albeit in the form of “reception for the Creator’s sake” – with the intention of receiving pleasure in order to delight Him.
The reception for the Creator’s sake means that although man fervently wishes to receive pleasure, he receives not because he wishes to enjoy, but only because the bestowing Creator wishes for him to receive it. And had the Creator not wished it so, man would have no desire to receive from Him.
Reception for the Creator’s sake is equivalent to selfless bestowal. Thus, the egoistic, impure force, cannot cling to such a desire.
Hence, Yitzchak corrected the Shechina and brought it to complete perfection, for now it can receive all that the Creator conceived to bestow upon it, as this is the purpose of His creation.
Thus, after being corrected by Yitzchak, the state of Malchut- Shechina is called Heichal (the Creator’s chambers), for now He can fill it with Himself, His Light, which means that He dwells in its halls.
Yet, Avraham’s correction, called “house,” did not yet allow the Shechina to be filled and worthy of the Creator’s presence. Hence, Yitzchak is considered to have corrected all the Gevurot (willpower and resistance to egoism in the souls of Israel). This means that he mitigated all the laws and restrictions in the Creator’s governance. This is because all restrictions and punishments come into this world for the sole purpose of correcting the souls’ will to receive, to make them suitable for reception of the infinite goodness contained in the Thought of Creation. And since Yitzchak corrected the Shechina to complete perfection, all its restrictions and forces have been corrected, and all of its properties have attained the desired goal.
However, his correction, too, did not retain this form in the Shechina, and became corrupted, for the world was still unprepared for the end of correction. Hence, Yitzchak fathered a sinner, Esav, who, being unable to resist the temptation to receive for himself, corrupted Yitzchak’s correction in the Shechina. Unlike Yitzchak, he could not resist the selfish reception. This means that even when it became clear to him that the bestowing Creator did not wish for him to receive, he wanted to receive nonetheless, for such was his desire of self-gratification.
Therefore, the impure force (Klipot-shells, the husk, or rind surrounding the pure forces) clung to the Shechina.Thus, the legs (Sefirot NHYM) of Partzuf Malchut de Atzilut descended to the place of the Klipot below Parsa,where egoistic desires dominate the desires of NHYM.
Yet, the Rosh and the Upper Part of the Guf down to the Tabur of Partzuf Malchut remained above the rule of the impure forces. Hence, his head (Rosh) understands how he should act (hence, Yitzchak’s head is buried together with the bodies of Avraham and Yaakov in the Machpela cave), but the body (Guf) still wants to receive pleasure for its own sake.
And since Yaakov saw the damage caused by Esav, he corrected the Shechina by adding his property of fear to it, as it is written: “His hand had hold on Esav’s heel” (The Torah, Beresheet, 25:26). Because Yaakov realized what imperfection Esav had caused in Shechina (in the created souls), he corrected himself in fear to such an extent that he raised the holy Shechina as a crown-adornment. By this he also retained the corrections made by Avraham and Yitzchak.
However, Yaakov’s correction was not final, for this fear is more similar to the fear of transgression than the selfless fear that comes from within. For this fear of his is born in him from Esav’s hip, even though he had not transgressed by receiving, as did Esav. But the end of correction will bring a different state: Esav’s hip will be annulled, as it is written: “Death will forever vanish from the world,” and fear will remain only because the Creator is almighty and great.
Yaakov attained this genuine fear by himself. However, the entire “community of Israel,” all the souls that form the Shechina, still need to correct themselves in all the generations, from the first to the last, to the end of correction. (Only Moshe attained the property of true fear – one out of greatness and love – only he, and no one else. Hence, as the Talmud says, description of fear out of love for the Creator doesn’t even exist.)
The Zohar cites the words of the Psalm (5:8): “By Your great mercy I shall come into Your house,” since Avraham corrected the Shechina up to the property of a “house” that is filled with goodness, i.e., with Ohr Hassadim. The words, “So as to bow before Your holy chamber,” refer to Yitzchak, who corrected the Shechina from a “house” to a “chamber” that befits the Creator. The words, “in fear” refer to Yaakov, who corrected the Shechina with his property of fear, whereupon he made it a Kli (vessel) of reception that includes all the corrections made by Avraham and Yitzchak.
Yet, how did he find out what else needed correction in the Shechina? Only by correcting and including himself in these three corrections performed by the holy Patriarchs before him. This means that, just as they did, Yaakov can act according to the conditions of these corrections. In other words, Yaakov merged with their properties, thereby ascending to their level.
Thus, man must first attain these properties and correct them within him. Only after he assumes the properties of these three corrections into himself can he start correcting them from where our Patriarch Yaakov left off, i.e., elevating fear to the extent of the Creator’s greatness and omnipotence, and drawing the Upper Light with his prayer, with his awe of the Creator’s greatness. And the Upper Light will bring with it the fulfillment of the Shechina and the end of its correction. Hence, man’s prayer must include two objectives: to obtain fear of the Creator’s true greatness, and with this attainment, to achieve the final correction of his egoism.