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Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochay

(middle of the 2nd century A.C.)

Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochay (Rashbi) as the author of the book of Zohar in the second century A.C. It is the most important book in Kabbalah and considered the primary and most fundamental textbook. Rashby lived between the Talmudic period and that of the Zohar, and is regarded as a great researcher of our own nature and that of the upper world. He is also among the most important sages of the Talmud (his name is mentioned there some 4000 times). He was proficient in both the language of the Talmud and the language of Kabbalah. He used them to describe the upper system of management, how the events of the present and the future are made to happen there, all the innovations and transformations, and how they come down from there to our world, how they manifest themselves in clothing of this world.

The book of Zohar explains which are the actions with which we influence the rest of the world from here below. Rashby was the first Kabbalist to describe the reactions that we get from above for our thoughts. He described how they operate in the upper world and thus affect the unfolding of future events that are to descend to us. The Zohar is so important to us because it encircles all the possible circumstances throughout human history.

Before Rashby began to write the Zohar, he established around him a group of disciples, in a way that the soul of each disciple corresponded to a certain spiritual degree in the upper world. There were nine of them and he was the tenth. Their conjunction to one soul fully corresponded to the complete structure that exists in the spiritual world, called “Eser Sefirot” (Ten Sefirot).

Thus, although Rashby is the author of the book, it actually speaks of each and every one of the students, because each of them represents one of the attributes of the spiritual world. He built a sort of prism, through which the simple-upper light descends to our world, and divides to ten parts, which are then divided to ten inner Sefirot.

Thus, their story is in fact, a description of the way those spiritual properties come upon our world, how those ten forces lead the world, and how each person can utilize these forces for his own benefit and for others.

However, you will not be able to use them for your own benefit, if that implies harming others, and vise-versa, you cannot use it for others if by that you harm yourself. Everything in nature abides by the law of reciprocity and absolute harmony. If we think that we can take egoistic steps, it is only because we cannot see that entire picture that comes to us from above.

The forces that operate in favour of the collective as well as that of every individual are linked together and come from one source. Therefore, there can never be a situation where one will benefit at the expense of another. The book of Zohar teaches us how to use the spiritual powers correctly.

Rashby said he could not have written the book by himself. He was supposed to write the book for the last generations, and conceal it in the meantime, so that it would only be revealed in the 16th century. Therefore, in order to write this book in hiding, in such a way that the intermediary generations would pass by it, he used his disciple Rabbi Abba. Rabbi Abba started writing the book while hearing-studying it from his teacher. But he wrote it in such a way that when one reads it, one perceives only the outermost layer of the book.

The more a person works on himself, the further he refines himself and rises spiritually. As he rises, he becomes better qualified to delve into the depth of the Zohar and actually feel what is written in it. He receives spiritual forces and becomes increasingly able to take an active part in the overall evolution.

Rabbi Abba did not write the book in Hebrew, as did Abraham and Moses. He wrote it in Aramaic, which was a language used in Mesopotamia (today’s Iraq). The book also contains words in Greek and Latin that were prevalent at the time. However, that does not diminish the value of he book in any way. In writing this way, the author wanted to hide the inner part of the book, wrapping it in an unappealing package.

In order to write the Zohar, Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochay hid in a cave in the northern part of Israel (the Idra Raba) with his son Rabbi Eleazar. They sat in a cave for thirteen years, feeding – as the Midrash has it – on carobs and water from a nearby spring. Their clothes were torn, and in order to stay covered during the study, they buried themselves in sand. During the day, while inside the sand, they studied and examined everything that was written afterwards in the book of Zohar.

When the thirteen years had passed, Rabbi Shimon went out of the cave with his son, and gathered ten disciples around him. He raised them spiritually, each according to his soul, thus building a collective spiritual vessel, in which they felt the structure of the upper world, the highest root of our existence.

When the book was finally written, Rabbi Shimon passed away and was buried in Miron, not far from where the book was written. His son is buried next to him, and his other disciples are also buried nearby.

The book was concealed while Rabbi Shimon was still alive; right after the writing was completed. The reason for that is that humanity as a whole, and especially the Jewish people, were not at the spiritual degree that would allow them proper use of the book of Zohar, for a spiritual purpose and for the best of all mankind.

The Torah, Moses’ book, speaks only of spiritual worlds as well. It is so well spread throughout the world precisely because it is written in such a way that the entire nation can read it, and every one can understand it even in his corporeal level, and adhere to what it says.

But Moses referred to adhering to spiritual laws. He did it so that one, who kept them, would direct the entire illumination of the universe on himself in the best possible way. Because of the coded and ‘simple’ way the Torah was written (‘simple’ because when one reads it, one thinks that it is simple and clear), the Torah didn’t have to be concealed like the Zohar, and could remain out in the open, not having to be handed over secretly from one Kabbalist to another.

Rabbi Shimon ordered the Zohar buried in his lifetime. In fact, he both wrote it and concealed it. Today, many parts of the Zohar are still missing. Five or six hundred years later, the book was found by chance: A Kabbalist asked one of his students to go get some food from the market. The student brought him something wrapped in paper. The Kabbalist opened it and was astonished to see that the wrapping was an ancient manuscript.

The Kabbalist began to study it and saw that it lead to the secrets of creation. He immediately sent his students back to the market. They began to burrow in every pile of litter and take all the pages they could find. They ended up with a very large amount. They had collected more than 2700 pieces of paper that an Arab merchant brought there. The Arab merchant, who had come to the land of Israel after a camel ride in the area of the rivers of Euphrates and Tigris found these pieces and thought to use them in order to wrap his spices with. Thus the pieces of the ancient book of Zohar were put together again.

The Kabbalist Moshe De Leon was the first to publish the Zohar in the thirteenth century in Spain. It contained not only commentaries on the Torah, but commentaries on other books as well, such as the books of the prophets, and Kabbalistic explanations to the Mishnah and the Talmud. Therefore, what we now refer to as the Zohar, is only a part of the original book. It is not a large book today, containing approximately three hundred pages of text, and about twenty times smaller than the original size. That means that there is a huge amount of information still missing. However, it is not so great a loss, because since then new Kabbalists came. They told us about everything that happens in the two worlds, and how the upper world affects our own, building today and tomorrow.

Except for the interpretation to Moses’ five books of the Pentateuch, almost nothing remained of these interpretations. The Zohar we now have contains only a handful of the commentaries on the other books. However, that does not diminish its value in any way, because even in its present form, it remains a key by which we can open the gates to the spiritual world.

After Rabbi Moshe De Leon, the Zohar was concealed again, for hundreds of years, until the late Middle Ages, the time of the holy Ari. There were other Kabbalah books written during that time besides the Zohar.

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