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Rabbi Shimon’s Departure from the Cave

185. Rabbi Pinchas stood before Rabbi Rachuma on the shore of Lake Kinneret. He was wise, old, and almost blind. He said to Rabbi Pinchas: “I have heard that our friend Shimon Bar-Yochai has a jewel, a son. I have looked upon the Light from that jewel, and it shines like the light of the sun, and illuminates the entire world.

A fully corrected Malchut is called a jewel (usually a pearl). Rabbi Nachum tells Rabbi Pinchas that Rabbi Shimon has already merited complete correction, for a “son” designates the next state, the next Partzuf that emerges or is born from the preceding one. And Rabbi Pinchas sees this while looking (with his spiritual sight, called Ruach HaKodesh – the Holy Spirit) at the Light of this pearl, which shines like the sun emerging from its hiding (Nartik – sheath). This means that after the future correction of Malchut (the moon), her Light will become like that of the sun, and will illuminate the entire world.

And when the Light of the moon becomes like that of the sun, it will rise to the zenith and illuminate the whole world with a pillar of Light, from Heaven to earth. And it will shine until Rabbi Shimon completes the correction of Atik. This speaks to the fact that he has already merited attaining the degrees of the Creator’s two revelations, i.e., the end of correction.

186. And that Light extends from the Heavens down to the earth and illuminates the whole world until Atik- Keter appears and sits upon its throne, which occurs at the end of correction. And that Light abides entirely in your household (for the daughter of Rabbi Pinchas was wife to Rabbi Shimon, and Rabbi Elazar was therefore his grandson). And a tiny ray of Light (called “the son of the household,” Rabbi Elazar) separates from the Light that fills the household, comes forth and shines upon the whole world. Happy are those who merit such a destiny! Come out, my son, come out! Go after that jewel, which illuminates the world, for it is a good time to do so!

Since the daughter of Rabbi Pinchas was the wife of Rabbi Shimon (Rabbi Shimon and his wife designate two spiritual Partzufim that are below Rabbi Pinchas), Rabbi Shimon (together with his wife) belonged to the household (was included in the Partzuf) of Rabbi Pinchas. This refers to Rabbi Elazar, the Partzuf that emerged from the Light and illuminated the world, which filled the household (ten Sefirot) of Rabbi Pinchas, i.e., came out of the Partzuf called “Rabbi Shimon and his wife.”

187. He came out before him and stood waiting to board a ship. Two women were with him. He saw two birds soaring over the water. He raised his voice and said, “Birds, you soar over the sea; have you seen the place where one could find Bar-Yochai?” He waited some and said, “Birds, O birds, fly away.” They flew away and disappeared into the sea.

Rabbi Shimon fled from the authorities that condemned him to death, and hid in a cave with his son. And no one knew where he was. Therefore, Rabbi Pinchas set out to look for him.

Although everything described here is historically true, it is nonetheless essential for us to understand the words of The Zohar as the actions of Supernal spiritual causes, whose consequences determine all that transpires on earth. The egoistic authorities (forces) of a Partzuf as exalted as Rabbi Shimon’s try to overcome his own altruistic aspirations and deprive him of the Light, that is, to kill him. And he hides from them in a cave, i.e., assumes a small state (Katnut) and shines with the Light of mercy. This is referred to as “hides in a cave” – becomes invisible to egoistic forces, for they desire Ohr Hochma and cannot see Ohr Hassadim.

188. Before he boarded the ship, the birds approached again, and in the beak of one of them was a letter. It read that Rabbi Shimon, the son of Yochai, had left the cave together with his son, Rabbi Elazar. Rabbi Pinchas went to them and found them completely changed: their bodies were covered with sores (like holes in the ground – see the Talmud, Bava Batra, 19:2) from staying in the cave for so long. He wept and said, “Woe that I have seen you so!” Rabbi Shimon replied: “O how happy is my lot that you have seen me so, for had you not seen me so, I would not have been what I am!” Rabbi Shimon opened about the Mitzvot (commandments) of the Torah and said, “The Mitzvot of the Torah that the Creator gave to Israel are all described in a general form.”

While staying in the cave (in Ohr Hassadim) for many years (degrees), Rabbi Shimon had no choice but to sit in the sand (the external garment – Levush covering the Partzuf with a particular property, called “earth”) in order to cover his naked body (desires) so he could study the Torah (receive the Upper Light in his Partzuf with the intention for the Creator’s sake). As a result of being covered with sand, his entire “body” was covered with “rust and sores” (but these were necessary corrections).

And not only did the Partzuf called Rabbi Shimon need the correction of concealment in Hassadim (cave) and the cover of an external garment (Returning Light), but his next state, fathered by him, called his son, Rabbi Elazar (a lower Partzuf), also needed these corrections to attain all of the Creator’s Light.

He wept and said: “Woe that I have seen you so!” Rabbi Shimon replied:“O how happy is my lot that you have seen me so, for had you not seen me so, I would not have been what I am!” In other words, if I would not look as I do, I would not have merited all the secrets of the Torah, for all that I have attained, I have attained during those thirteen years (thirteen successive corrections) of hiding in the cave.

Mitzvot of the Torah: “The Mitzvot of the Torah that the Creator gave to Israel are all described in a general form.” All of the Mitzvot of the Torah are described in the passage from the Torah, starting with “In the beginning the Creator created” and ending with “Let there be Light.” These are the Mitzvot of fear and punishment, which include all the Mitzvot of the Torah. This is why they are called “in general.”

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