Disclosing a Portion, Covering Two
There is an idiom among great sages when they come to disclose a profound matter: they begin their words with, “I am disclosing a portion and covering two portions.” Our sages took great care not to utter words needlessly, as our sages instructed, “A word is a rock; silence is two.”
This means that if you have a priceless word whose worth is one rock, know that not saying it is worth two rocks. This refers to those uttering needless words without pertinent content or use except to decorate the tongue in the eyes of the beholders. This was strictly forbidden in the eyes of our sages, as is known to those who examine their words. Hence, we must be attentive to understand this common idiom of theirs.
Three Kinds of Concealment of the Wisdom
There are three parts to the secrets of the Torah. Each part has its own reason for being concealed. They are called by the following names:
The counsel of the Lord is with them that fear Him
There is not a single fraction of this wisdom where scrutinies of these three parts do not apply, and I will clarify them one at a time.
This means that no benefit will stem from its disclosing. Of course, this is not such a great loss because there is only the issue of the cleanness of the mind here, to warn of those actions defined as “so what,” meaning so what if I did this, there is no harm in it.
But you should know that, in the eyes of the sages, the “so what” is considered the worst corruptor. This is because all the destructors in the world, those that have been and those that will be, are the “so what” kind of people. This means that they occupy themselves and others in needless things. Hence, sages would not accept any student before they were certain that he would be cautious in his ways, so as not to reveal what was not necessary.
This means that the language does not compel them to say anything of their quality, due to their great sublimity and spirituality. Hence, any attempt to clothe them in words may only mislead the examiners and deflect them to a false path, which is considered the worst of all iniquities. Therefore, to reveal anything in these matters, permission from Above is required. This is the second part of the concealment of the wisdom. Yet, this permission, too, requires explanation.
Permission from Above
This is explained in the book, The Gate to Rashbi’s Words, by the Ari, in The Zohar, Parashat Mishpatim, p 100. It reads as follows, “Know that some of the souls of the righteous are of the Surrounding-Light kind, and some are of the Inner-Light kind. Those that are of the Surrounding-Light kind have the power to speak of the secrets of the Torah by way of concealment and intimation, so their words will be understood only by those worthy of understanding them.
“Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai’s soul was of the Surrounding-Light kind. Hence, he had the power to clothe the words and teach them in a way that even if he taught them to many, only the worthy of understanding would understand. This is why he was given ‘permission’ to write The Book of Zohar.
“The permission was not ‘granted’ to write a book in this wisdom to his teachers or to the first ones who preceded them, even though they were certainly more proficient in this wisdom than he. But the reason is that they did not have the power to dress the matters as did he. This is the meaning of what is written, ‘Yochai’s son knew how to guard his ways.’ Now you can understand the great concealment in The Book of Zohar, written by Rashbi, that not every mind can grasp his words.”
His words in essence: Explaining matters in the wisdom of truth is not dependent whatsoever upon the greatness or smallness of the Kabbalist sage. Rather, it is about the illumination of a soul dedicated to this: the illumination of this soul is considered “giving permission” from Above to disclose the Higher Wisdom. We therefore learn that one who has not been rewarded with this permission must not make clarifications in this wisdom, as he cannot clothe the subtle matters in their suitable words in a way that will not fail the students.
For this reason we did not find a single book in the wisdom of truth that precedes Rashbi’s The Book of Zohar, since all the books in the wisdom prior to his are not categorized as interpretations of the wisdom. Instead, they are mere intimations, without any order of cause and consequence, as it is known to those who find knowledge, thus far understanding his words.
I should add, as I had received from books and from authors, that since the time of Rashbi and his students, the authors of The Zohar, until the time of the Ari there was not a single writer who understood the words of The Zohar and the Tikkunim (corrections) like the Ari. All the compositions before his time are mere inklings in this wisdom, including the books of the sage, Ramak.
And the same words that were said about the Rashbi should be said about the Ari himself—that his predecessors were not given permission from Above to disclose the interpretations of the wisdom, and that he was given this permission. And also, this does not distinguish any greatness or smallness at all, since it is possible that the virtue of his formers was much greater than the Ari’s, but they were not given permission for it at all. For this reason, they refrained from writing commentaries that relate to the actual wisdom, but settled for brief intimations that were not in any way linked to one another.
For this reason, since the books of the Ari appeared in the world, all who study the wisdom of Kabbalah have left their hands from all the books of the Ramak, and all the first and the great ones that preceded the Ari, as it is known among those who engage in this wisdom. They have attached their spiritual lives solely to the writings of the Ari in a way that the essential books, considered proper interpretations of this wisdom, are only The Book of Zohar, the Tikkunim and following them, the books of the Ari.
3. The Counsel of the Lord Is with Them that Fear Him
This means that the secrets of the Torah are revealed only to those who fear His Name, who keep His Glory with their hearts and souls, and who never commit any blasphemy. This is the third part of the concealment of the wisdom.
This part of the concealment is the strictest, as this kind of disclosure has failed many. From the midst of those stem all the charmers, whisperers, and “practical” Kabbalists, who hunt souls with their cunningness, and the mystics, who use withered wisdom that came from under the hands of unworthy students, to draw bodily benefit for themselves or for others. The world has suffered much from it, and is suffering still.
You should know that the root of the concealment was only this part. From here the sages took excessive strictness in testing the students, as they said (Hagiga 13), “heads of chapters are given only to a chief justice, and to one whose heart is worried,” and “Maase Beresheet is not to be explored in pairs, neither is Merkava to be explored alone.” There are many others like that, and all this fear is for the above reason.
For this reason, few are the ones who have been rewarded with this wisdom, and even those who passed all their tests and examinations are sworn by the most serious oaths to not reveal anything of those three parts.
Do not misunderstand my words, in that I have divided the concealment of the wisdom into three parts. I do not mean that the wisdom of truth itself is divided into these three parts. Rather, I mean that these three parts stem from every single detail of this wisdom, since they are the only three manners of scrutiny that are always applied to this wisdom.
However, here we should ask, “If it is true that the firmness of the concealment of the wisdom is so strict, from where were all the thousands of compositions in this wisdom taken?” The answer is that there is a difference between the first two parts and the last part. The prime burden lies only in the above third part, for the reason explained above.
But the first two parts are not under constant prohibition. This is because sometimes an issue in the “unnecessary” is reversed, stops being unnecessary for some reason, and becomes necessary. Also, the part, “impossible,” sometimes becomes possible. This is so for two reasons: either because of the evolution of the generation or by being given permission from Above, as it happened to the Rashbi and to the Ari, and to smaller extents to their formers. All the genuine books written in the wisdom emerge from these discernments.
This is what they mean by their idiom, “I am disclosing a portion and covering two portions.” They mean that it happened that they revealed a new thing that was not discovered by their predecessors. And this is why they imply that they are only revealing one portion, meaning he is revealing the first part of the three parts of concealment, and leaves two parts concealed.
This indicates that something happened, which is the reason for that disclosure: either the “unnecessary” received the form of “necessary,” or “permission from Above” was granted, as I have explained above. This is the meaning of the idiom, “I am disclosing a portion.”
The readers of these tracts, which I intend to print during the year, should know that they are all innovations, which are not introduced purely as such, in their precise content, in any book preceding mine. I received them mouth to mouth from my teacher, who was authorized for it, meaning he, too, received from his teachers mouth to mouth.
And although I had received them under all the conditions of covering and watchfulness, by the necessity introduced in my essay, “Time to Act,” the “unnecessary” part has been inverted for me and became “necessary.” Hence, I have revealed this portion with complete permission, as I have explained above. Yet I will keep the other two portions as I am commanded.