Chapter 11. From the Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot
In the Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot, Baal HaSulam (Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag) explains that his principal desire is to break the iron wall that has been separating us from Kabbalah and prevent the disappearance of this science from our world once and for all. However, many objections have been raised against the study of Kabbalah, all of which stem from ignorance concerning its essence and purpose.
Baal HaSulam continues to explain that if we ask ourselves, “What is the meaning of our lives, these numbered, bitter, hard years that are full of troubles? Who can enjoy it? What does the Creator demand of us?” where are the answers to these questions?
Finally, he states that Kabbalah asserts the following: “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (referring to the sensing of the Creator acquired through the study of Kabbalah). You will see that He is absolutely kind that He created it all for our benefit, and gave us Kabbalah to attain it. You will feel it all while living here in this world. Kabbalah encourages us to “Choose life,” to choose goodness, not death, meaning a bitter and meaningless existence. It is said, “Choose,” which means that we are given a choice.
It has been clarified in previous articles that choice pertains only to that between two paths to attain the preordained goal: there is the path of spiritual development (the path of Kabbalah) or the path of suffering. The final goal is to eradicate egoism and to acquire a nature of love and bestowal.
How can this be achieved? It is written, “Sleep on the ground, be content with only bread and water, and you will be happy in this world and in the next world.” This way one can acquire the spiritual nature, merge with the Upper Worlds, and only afterwards feel the Creator’s goodness.
However, only special individuals (souls) can attain the goal this way. Therefore, another path has been granted us: the study of Kabbalah. Its Light affects the soul and transforms it in the right direction. In so doing, we tread a path of attainment through the heart and mind, not through physical sufferings.
However, the Light of Kabbalah influences only those who are loyal and faithful to the Creator, those who believe in His good deeds. The principal requirement for being on this path is faith in the Creator, measured by the time and effort one devotes to this.
Thus, the task boils down to achieving the utmost confidence in the Creator’s strength, protection, and love for those who are advancing towards Him. This faith cannot be acquired from any other source except through the study of Kabbalah. The principal strength of Kabbalah lies in the fact that it directly studies the Creator’s actions. Hence, the Upper Light that comes from it is intense and quickly corrects us.
The wisdom of Kabbalah consists of two parts: a secret part that has never been described and is passed orally; and a revealed part that was explained in many books. One should study the revealed part because attaining the goal depends solely on it.
The Upper Light’s influence is positive only when the goal of a Kabbalah student is to eradicate personal egoism and merge with the Creator. One cannot instantly attune to the desired goal; it must be constantly pursued while studying. This is particularly true by studying the spiritual worlds and the Creator’s actions. In this way, students find it easier to concentrate on the thoughts and the desire to merge with what is being studied.
Our remoteness from the spiritual world is the cause of all pain, trouble, suffering, and futility. Our own misunderstanding of how the world is ruled, and our inability to sense the Creator lead us to incomprehension of His governance. Indeed, if the world’s governance were revealed, if reward and punishment immediately followed our actions, everyone would be righteous!
Thus, the only thing we lack is a tangible perception of the governance. This concrete attainment unfolds in four stages:
A double concealment of the Creator’s actions;
A single concealment;
Attainment of cause and effect, reward and punishment;
Absolute attainment, once it becomes clear that everything was created for the good of all created beings, both good and bad.
The Creator is actually doubly concealed from human beings in their initial state. In this state, one sees no consequences of the Creator’s presence in the world and believes in nature. A single concealment is a state when misfortunes befall the person due to insufficient closeness to the Creator. Human beings in this state believe that they are the result of personal actions, as well as the Creator’s governance. This concealment is where one believes in the presence of the Upper Governance.
These two concealments constitute the principal work of approaching the Creator, because due to the Creator’s concealment, freedom of will becomes possible. As one advances toward the Creator in faith, while aspiring to see Him in every action, the Creator gradually reveals Himself. In that state, the person clearly sees all the causes and effects of the world’s governance, and eradicates egoism once recognizing the need for it and its enormous benefits. Naturally, at this point, one cannot turn back because one feels and foresees punishment.
While continuing to purify, one achieves the level of absolute love for the Creator and thus acquires absolute attainment of Him. This is the ultimate goal of every individual. All the worlds and the forces that control and populate them were created for this purpose.
It is written, “Attain your world and see it while you are still alive.” This is the reward for a long and difficult path in darkness, in a state where the Creator is concealed, and when we use our willpower in defiance of nature and society, overcoming the barrier between our world and the spiritual one in search of the Creator. The more obstacles and the greater the distance we must traverse, the stronger the attained sensation of mutual love.
This goal should be constantly pursued in the study of Kabbalah, for only then can we succeed. Otherwise, this study will turn against us and only increase our egoism. This is why it is so important for those of us who are so remote from the Creator to study Kabbalah, which describes the Creator’s actions, thoughts, and goals. It helps us to know Him better, and through this knowledge, we will come to love Him and aspire to Him. Although we all start from the farthest point, everyone is obliged to achieve the level of love and complete attainment of the Creator.
Before being handed to us, Kabbalah had passed through a great number of consecutive restrictions from the level of its creation in the world Atzilut. However, its essence is constant and unchanging. The lower the level of the created beings, the more important it
becomes for them. It helps them to free themselves from the shackles of a body constrained by its inner desires.
In our world, Kabbalah is hidden under coverings (nature, animate creatures, and time) that are controlled from the world Atzilut. These shells are the sources of our suffering because they conceal the system of governance.
The shells and the concealed part of the worlds, Beria, Yetzira, and Assiya are called Kabbalah, and the shell of our world is called “revealed science.” Until one enters the shell of the world Yetzira, regardless of what is being studied, one deals with the concealed part of Kabbalah. However, upon entering the world Yetzira, one reveals Kabbalah and the Light replaces the meaningless names.
Thus, one starts learning Kabbalah from a secret until it becomes a reality. This corresponds to the Creator’s double and single concealments in the world Assiya, to the revelation in the world Yetzira, the attainment of love for the Creator in the world Beria, and to the merging in absolute love in the world Atzilut. Ari’s book, The Tree of Life, was written to help people attain the Creator consistently, painlessly, and with confidence.