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Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam)

Letter No. 3


“Four entered a PARDESS [1]” etc.. Before the world was created, there was He is One and His Name One, because the souls were not considered souls, since the issue of name refers to when one turns one’s face away from one’s friend, and the friend calls upon him, so he would turn his face back.

And since prior to creation, the souls were completely attached to Him, and He placed upon them crowns and wreaths, glory, majesty, and splendor, even what they did not evoke, since He knows their wish and grants them. Hence, it is certainly irrelevant to state a name, which relates to an awakening from below of some side. Hence, it is considered Simple Light, since everything is utter simplicity, and this Light was understood to every simple person, even to those who have never seen any wisdom.

This is why sages and wise called it Pshat (literal), since the Pshat is the root of everything. Authors and books do not discuss it, as it is one, simple, and famous concept. And although in the lower worlds, two divisions are detected in the Reshimo of this Simple Light, it is because of the division in their own hearts, by way of “and I am a smooth man.” [2]

Yet, in the above-mentioned place, there are no changes in any depiction you might make. It is like a king who took his darling son and put him in his grand and wondrous grove. And when the son opened his eyes, he did not look at the place where he stood, since due to the great light, his eyes wandered far away, as the east is far from the west. And he cast his eyes only at the buildings and palaces far to his west. Thus, he walked for days and months, wandering and wondering at the glory and the grandeur he was seeing to the west.

After some months, his spirit rested and his desire was fulfilled, and he was satiated from looking to the west. He reconsidered and thought, “What can be found along the way I have traversed?” He turned his face eastwards, the side through which he’d come, and he was startled. All the grandeur and all the beauty were right beside him. He could not understand how he has failed to notice it thus far, and clung only to the Light that was shining to the west. Then he became attached solely to the Light that shines to the east, and he was wandering eastwards until he returned right to the entrance.

Now do consider and tell me the difference between the early days and the latter days. All that he had seen in the latter months, he’d seen in the early months, as well. But in the beginning, it was not inspiring, since his eyes and heart were taken by the Light that shines westwards. And after he was satiated, he turned his face eastwards and noticed the Light that shines towards the east. But how has it changed?

But being near the entrance, there is room for disclosing the second manner, which the sages call Remez (intimation), as in “what do thine eyes imply?” It is like a king who hints to his darling son, and frightens him with a wink of his eye. And although the son does not understand a thing, and does not see the fear that is hidden in the hint, still, due to his devout adherence of his father, he promptly jumps from there to another side.

This is why the second manner is called Remez, since the two manners, Pshat and Remez, are registered in the lower ones as one root, as the meticulous ones write, that there is not a word that does not have a two-letter root, called the “origin of the word.” This is so because no meaning can be deduced from a single letter; hence, the acronym for Pshat and Remez is PR (pronounced Par), which is the root of Par Ben Bakar (young bull) in this world. And Pria and Revia (multiplication) comes from that root, as well.

Afterwards the third manner appears, which the sages call Drush (interpretations). Hence, there was no Drisha (demand) for anything, as in “He is One and His Name One.” But in this manner, there is subtraction, addition, interpretation (studying), and finding, as in “I labored and found,” as you evidently know. This is why this place is ascribed to the lower ones, since there is an awakening from below there, unlike the awakening of the face of the east Upwards, which was by way of, “Before they call, I will answer.” This is because here there was a powerful call, and even exertion and craving, and this is the meaning of “the graves of lust.”

Afterwards begins the fourth manner, which the sages call Sod (secret). In truth, it is similar to Remez, but in the Remez, there was no perception whatsoever; it was rather like a shadow following a person. And all the more so that the third manner, the Drush, has already clothed it.

Yet, here it is like a whisper, like a pregnant woman… you whisper in her ear that today is Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), so the fetus would not rock and fall. And we might say, “Moreover, it is the concealment of the face, and not the face!” For this is the meaning of the words, “The counsel of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and His covenant, to make them know it.” This is why he made several circles until a whispering tongue said this to him: “He hath given Teref (food) unto them that fear Him,” and not Trefa (non-kosher food), as that soldier sneered.

You understood by yourself, and you wrote me in your letter, though timidly, that you are a bachelor, and hence, naturally polite.

Since this verse came into your hands, I shall clarify it for you, as this is also the poet’s question, “The counsel of the Lord is with them that fear Him.” And why did he say so? It is as our sages’ question, where we find that the text wastes (eight) twelve letters, to speak with a clean tongue, as it is written, “and of the beasts that are not clean,” etc..

But your reason does not suffice the poet, for He could have given abundance to the souls, and with a clean tongue, as Laban said to Jacob, “Wherefore didst thou flee secretly, and outwit me; and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth and with songs, with tabret and with harp.” The poet’s answer to that is, “and His covenant, to make them know it.”

This is the meaning of the cutting, the removal, and the drop of blood, meaning the individual thirteen covenants. Had the secret not been in this manner, but in another tongue, four corrections from the thirteen corrections of Dikna would have been missing, and only the nine corrections of ZA would remain. Thus, ZA would be clothing AA, as it is known to those who know God’s secret. This is the meaning of “and His covenant, to make them know it,” and this is the meaning of “ancestral merit has ended, but ancestral covenant has not ended.”

Let us get back to our issue, which is PR (pronounced Par), PRD (pronounced Pered), and PRDS (pronounced Pardess). This is their order and combination from Above downwards. Now you will understand these four sages that entered the Pardess, meaning the fourth manner, called Sed, since the lower one contains the Upper Ones that preceded it. Hence, all four manners are included in the fourth manner, and they are to the right, left, front, and back.

The first two manners are the right and the left, meaning PR (this is the meaning of his words on the step at the Temple Mount: “All of Israel’s sages are worthless in my eyes”). These are Ben Azai and Ben Zuma, as these souls nurtured off the two PR manners. And the last two manners are the Panim (front) and Achor (back), which is Rabbi Akiva, who entered in peace and came out in peace. They correctly stated, “it indicates that for every thistle, mountains of laws can be learned.”

Achor is Elisha Ben Avoia, who went astray (became heretical). Our sages said about that, “One shall not raise and evil dog within one’s home,” for it is going astray. Everything that was said about them—“peeped and died,” “peeped and was hurt,” “went astray”—is said of that generation when they have gathered closely together, but were all thoroughly corrected, one by one, as it is known to those who know the secret of reincarnation.

Yet, after he saw the tongue of Hutzpit, the translator, he said, “Return, O backsliding children,” except for the other, and Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Akiva’s disciple, will take his place. It is true that the Gemarah, too, finds it difficult; how did Rabbi Meir learn Torah from another? And they said, “He had found a pomegranate, ate its content, and threw its shell (another).” And some say that he corrected the Klipa (shell), too, as in, raising smoke over its grave.

Now you can understand Elisha Ben Avoia’s words: “He who teaches a child, what is he like? Like ink, written on a new paper,” meaning the soul of Rabbi Akiva. “And he who teaches an old one, what is he like? Like ink, written on used paper,” he said of himself. This is the meaning of his warning to Rabbi Meir, “Thus far the Shabbat zone,” for he understood and estimated his horse’s steps, since he had never come off from his horse.

This is the meaning of “the transgressors of Israel, the fire of hell does not govern them, and they are as filled with Mitzvot (good deeds) as a pomegranate.” He says that it is all the more so with the golden altar, which is merely as thick as a golden coin. It stood for some years, and the light did not govern it, etc., “the vain among you are as filled with Mitzvot as a pomegranate, all the more so,” as he says, that the Klipa, too, is corrected.

Know that the great Rabbi Eliezer, and Rabbi Yehosha, too, are from the souls of PR, as are Ben Azai and Ben Zuma. But Ben Azai and Ben Zuma were in the generation of Rabbi Akiva, and were his students, among the 24,000. But Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehosha were his teachers.

This is why it is said that instead of Rabbi Eliezer, they were purifying the purifications (Pshat) that they had done over Achnai’s oven, since they cut it into slices (eighteen slices) and placed sand between each two slices. In other words, the third manner, the sand, joins the first slice, which is the second manner, and the second slice, which is the fourth manner. And naturally, the sister and the awareness are conjoined as one. And Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Yehosha as one are disciples of the great Rabbi Eliezer, and Rabbi Akiva is seemingly included in them. This is because a second good day, with respect to the first good day, is like a weekday in the eyes of our sages, since the Drush, compared to the Remez, is like a candle at noon.

But the sages of his generation defiled all those purifications and burned them, and the great Rabbi Eliezer proved with the aqueduct whose water rose that Rabbi Yehosha was a great sage, and the walls of the Temple will prove. And they began to fall before the glory of Rabbi Eliezer, and they did not fall before the glory of Rabbi Yehosha. This is a complete proof that there is no place for any doubt that he is pure.

But the sages took Rabbi Yehosha for himself, and they did not wish to rule as with Rabbi Eliezer, his teacher, until a voice came down, that Rabbi Yehosha was really his disciple. But Rabbi Yehosha did not connect to his place and said that you do not pay heed to a voice, “It is not in heaven,” etc.. Then, sages blessed him, for the Light of Awzen (ear) was cancelled from them, since they did not follow the rules of the great Rabbi Eliezer. And Rabbi Akiva, his favorite disciple, told him that his 24,000 disciples had died during the count, and the world was sickened, a third in olives, etc..

Elisha Ben Avoia and Rabbi Tarfon came from the same root. But Elisha Ben Avoia is the Achoraim (posterior) itself, and Rabbi Tarfon is the Panim (face) deAchoraim (of the posterior). To what is this likened? In one house, lie bitter olives that are good for nothing, and in another house, lies the beam of the oil-press, which is good for nothing. Then a man comes and connects the two. He places the beam over the olives and produces a wealth of oil.

It follows that the good oil that appears is the Panim, and the beam is the Achoraim. And the plain wooden tools are thrown away after they have completed their work.

Understand, that this custom is in the expansion of the roots to the branches in worlds lower than itself. But at their root, they both appear at once, like a person who suddenly enters the oil-press and sees the beam, and under it, a large pile of olives, with oil flowing abundantly from them. This is so because at the root, all is seen at once. This is why one is called “another” and the other is called “Tarfon,” one is “a beam” and the other is “oil,” which immediately flows by means of it.

This is also the meaning of going astray. After the desire has emerged, which is the soul of Rabbi Tarfon, the soul of “another” remained as “bad manners” in one’s home. This is the meaning of the letter-combination Sod: Samech is the head of the word Sod itself, the soul of “another,” and Dalet is the head of the word Drush, the soul of Rabbi Akiva, because they act. And the Vav in the middle is Rabbi Tarfon.

[1] Translator’s note: In Hebrew, a Pardess means grove, as in orange grove. But in Kabbalah, this word is an acronym for Pshat (the literal Torah), Remez (intimation), Drush (interpretations), and Sod (secret).

[2] Translator’s note: In Hebrew, Halak means both ‘smooth’ and ‘part.’

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