The Language of the Kabbalists
Words and letters provide a code that points to the spiritual object and to its unique situation. When one Kabbalist reads what another Kabbalist wrote, he can reconstruct the text and feel exactly what his fellow Kabbalist meant, just as a musician can reconstruct a musical piece that was written by a another composer 500 years ago through notes, or just as we mark the mathematical signs with notes that are numbers.
Let’s assume that we meet a creature from outer space, and he speaks our language, meaning he uses our words, but the content that he puts into them is completely different, could we still call it ‘our language’? In order to learn it we would have to know what he means by those familiar words. Kabbalists too can convey to one another the knowledge in our language, but within the words there is a completely different content that points to a sensation, act or an attainment of the ‘right’ result. And that is because they have common feelings and a common basis for these realizations. Their language in our world is the language of the branches, where every name points to a specific spiritual object that it symbolizes.
When Kabbalists take a name from our world, they see the root from the upper world that stands behind it very clearly. The whole difference between us and Kabbalists is in that when we read in the books of Kabbalah, we see before our eyes pictures from our world, which are completely unlike what the Kabbalist who wrote them meant, whereas when a Kabbalist reads the book, he sees the spiritual roots of the upper world in the words. That is why we often find in books of Kabbalah, words that seem inappropriate to spiritual terms, such as: kiss, coupling, hug, vagina, uterus. Of course their spiritual meaning is not the spiritual meaning we ascribe to the words in our world. Even a person unfamiliar with the wisdom of Kabbalah will easily agree that this area is above our reason. According to our understanding, spirituality cannot stem from such abject egoistic desires and from the use of such mundane language, so how is it that we find such ‘vulgar’ expressions, that even in our everyday life we almost never use them?
The thing is that once the Kabbalists have chosen the words in the “language of the branches” for the description of spiritual objects, they cannot change one word for another as they please. They must use words that precisely indicate those upper roots, and they cannot waive even a single word just because it seems vulgar or improper. Just as two hairs cannot grow from the root, so two branches cannot stem from the same spiritual root. Each and every creature has its own upper root, and it cannot be replaced with another.
Each object in our world has an upper root that bears the same name. There cannot be two different roots with the same name, just as two separate creatures in our world cannot bear the same name, because they are different at least in something, or else they would be one and the same. Each object or a phenomenon of nature must have a specific name, and once it’s been given, it cannot be called by any other name.
If we were to replace the ‘dirty’ words with others, we would break the tight connection between the branch and its upper root. We would not know which spiritual object to relate to which written word, because there is no other science in the world with such perfect correlation between root and branch. Kabbalists are people who attain those roots; they clearly see those ‘strings’ we can not, which link the root with its branch below.
From beginning of creation to its end there is an ongoing process of correction and elevation, according to a plan that descends from the upper world and dictates us everything. Each and every creature goes its own way in that collective process, and no ‘I’ disappears in the process. It might take on different forms, but it always sustains.
Of course in such a complex system you cannot replace one name with another. In order to choose an accurate ‘code language’ it must be applicable under any condition – meaning, always use the word that points to its upper root, as in genuine Kabbalah books. The people who wrote those books attained the roots and were in such spiritual degrees that they provide accurate definitions. That is why their language describes the upper worlds with utter precision. We learn from this that books that are written by people who call themselves ‘Kabbalists’ are worthless and only mislead and divert the reader from understanding and advancing in the right way.
All the terms we meet in Kabbalah books such as: kiss, coupling, dressing/clothing, extension, meat, circumcision etc., all speak of the upper roots and in no way about any worldly processes. They are called that simply because it is impossible to find another name that will point to that upper root in our language, and not because the processes in the upper roots somehow resemble the ones of this world. We must not picture sublime bodies mating or kissing.
Because of that it is very difficult for a person who doesn’t know how to translate the words to the spiritual language, to read the books of Kabbalah, and that applies to the Torah (Bible) as well. In legends and in the Torah and most of all in the Song of Songs (that seems to speak of love as we understand it) it is very difficult to separate between the ordinary meaning that we ascribe to the words, and their spiritual meaning, because there is already a solid connection between the words and our emotions. (By the way, it is easier for those whose mother tongue is not Hebrew, because they do not connect directly between the Hebrew words and their emotions).
In time that connotation is broken in the student, and gradually, according to his work and effort to feel spiritual concepts that stand behind the language of the branches, he creates a new connection. An ordinary reader of the Bible, or the Gmara, simply cannot free himself from the familiar meaning of the words he knows, which in fact, stand for things that are completely unknown to him. The whole problem is that Torah is understood correctly by only a handful of people, although the Torah itself says: “The whole Torah is the names of the Creator”. But what does that mean?
We name an object according to its attributes, after we have attained them and we know precisely what its essence is. When a Kabbalist rises with his feelings to the spiritual world, he begins to feel the revelation of the Creator, His actions, His attributes, the Creator Himself, and he names what he feels. Only a person who can feel the Creator can name Him. The name is not a result of reading a book. A Kabbalist calls the Creator by a name when he feels Him no less then we feel anything in our world.
That is why the expression: “The whole Torah is the names of the Creator” means that the revelation of the Torah is only for those who climb up his spiritual sensations and can feel the Creator.
The light that the Kabbalist receives is called Torah. Only people who attain the roots, meaning Kabbalists, can easily see what is behind the words of the Torah. That is also how all our holy books are written, which is why they are holy. They speak of Godliness, about the world of the Creator.
A Kabbalist is named after the highest degree that he attains – the highest revelation of the Creator that he attains defines his name. For example: we learned that a Partzuf (spiritual object) is named after the type of light in its head. If it is the light of wisdom, it is a Partzuf of wisdom (Hochma), if the head contains the light of mercy, it is called Partzuf Bina. In our world too, we name a person after his greatest achievement, for instance: Professor, Doctor etc.
It is almost impossible to understand the books of Kabbalah, because they were written in our world’s terms. It is said about the first man, who was created by the Creator, that he was a thief, about Moses’ wife – “cheap woman”, about Laban (which is really the light of wisdom, the upper light), that he was a “cheat”. We simply do not understand the real spiritual meaning behind the familiar words. Each and every language has its own spiritual root, as does every thing in our world, but there is certainly a difference between one spiritual root and the next. At the end of correction, those spiritual differences will disappear, but until then there are upper roots and lower roots, more important and less important.
The world is built as a spiritual pyramid, and until the end of correction we are not all equal in relation to the spiritual world, and we cannot determine the position of a person who delves in spiritual correction by one’s appearance. He who is closer to entering the spiritual world might have a worse character, but he is more familiar with his attributes, with the lowness of his nature. Those who are farther from the entrance to the spiritual world have nicer attributes. We must remember that we are only talking about people who are working on their spiritual correction. About a person who is not studying Kabbalah there is nothing to say anyhow, because they still cannot feel anything real, because they have no spiritual scale to compare themselves with. Hence, there is a difference between the spirituality of the upper roots and the branches in our world. So can any language be picked as the language of the branches? In fact, every language has its own upper root, but Hebrew is the only language that we know the spiritual code for. The world was created in its letters, and each and every word expresses the essence of the object.
That is why the Torah was ‘given’ in Hebrew. In the upper world there are no letters, but the spiritual attributes were described for us in the form of Hebrew letters.
The ARI, the great Kabbalist from Zefad (Hebrew city) described the spiritual world through ten Sefirot. He conveyed the reasons for everything that happens in the spiritual world, through a screen and the upper light, which allows any beginner to study Kabbalah. Before the ARI all the books were written in the language of legends or midrash, like the Zohar. Until then, Kabbalists wrote their books as a story that tells of what they saw in the spiritual world, and not as a scientific description of what happens there, by way of extension of light from up downward, or the five phases in the vessel and the screen that dresses over it. You might say with certainty that there were Kabbalists who attained higher degrees than that of the ARI, but he was the first to be given permission from above to convey to us the whole wisdom of Kabbalah. Baal HaSulam, Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag, interpreted all the places in the writings of the ARI that needed to be stripped of terms of time, space and motion.
How then, did Baal HaSulam refine the language to such a degree that now there is no room for the materialization of spirituality? He ‘only’ explained the ten Sefirot, and nothing more. The first nine Sefirot describe how the Creator relates to the creature, and the last Sefira is Malchut – the creature himself. There is nothing in the whole of creation other than the inclusion of the Creator with the creature.
In the following example we will try to further understand what is the “language of the branches”. For example, scientists measured a certain level of influence that the outside world has over a certain person, through instruments that they connected to his sensory organs and to his heart, which is his vessel of reception for the reaction. That way they built charts and graphs that expressed the dependency between his inner reactions and outer stimulus. Afterwards they connected the source of the electric signals to his body and sent them to his mind, as they came from the real source. The person did not feel any difference, he took the signals as though they came from the actual source. They gave technical names to the experiments, you send this and that signal and get this and that reaction. That is how a scientific dictionary is created. That is also how Kabbalist-scientists operate. They perform experiments with the effect of the light of the Creator (the single source of all our emotions) on themselves, and afterwards they describe their reactions.
The Kabbalist is both a researcher and the object being researched at the same time. That is why he can describe his feelings in terms of an exact science, and not only through emotional expression such as poetry or music. That is why the Kabbalah is called the “wisdom of truth”, or a “Torah of truth”.
To a person in our world, who has not yet attained the spiritual world, there is a spiritual vessel in his heart called a “black point”. It is a spiritual point that is not physically in the heart, but only felt through it. If a person studies Kabbalah with the right teachers, he slowly begins to develop that point into a complete vessel, a spiritual Partzuf. It is as though he expands that point, inflates it and creates a space in it, in which he will afterwards receive the spiritual light – the sensation of the Creator. The sensation of the Creator is called “light” and the spiritual Partzuf is the “vessel” that can receive it. The size of the Partzuf determines the spiritual degree of the Kabbalist. A name in Kabbalah (such as Moses) is used to indicate a degree that Moses the Kabbalist attained. Anyone who attains that degree will also be called by that name. Kabbalah does not deal in any way with a description of the physical body. Only the measurement of the revelation of the Creator determines the stature of the spiritual degree of a Kabbalist. When a Kabbalist reads in a Kabbalah book, he knows what he must do in order to raise himself spiritually. The acts that he performs in his spiritual body are called “Mitzvot”. They are spiritual actions – “desires of the Creator” that one must follow in order to attain the light and feel the Creator.
That is why the books of Baal HaSulam can be studied without any danger of materializing the spiritual concepts, without picturing physical objects that operate on one another. We do not affect the spiritual world by the mechanical performance of the Mitzvot. There is no connection between our physical acts and the spiritual world. The severity of the prohibition of idolatry is about materializing spirituality and not about bowing before some piece of wood or a rock. Such things are not even a topic for discussion. Idolatry is the materializing of the spiritual terms, as though spiritual powers dress in our body, or in a piece of flesh. Because of that danger there was the prohibition on the study of Kabbalah. Baal HaSulam conveyed the wisdom in his books in such a way that anyone could study it without materializing the spiritual concepts. Before his time, they were still not ready to accept it, and the Kabbalah was hidden. In fact, the purpose of the development of mankind is to bring it to feel and agree that there are things that we cannot feel, but do exist; that they are unseen, yet great, that there can be existence beyond time and space.
That will prepare mankind for the thought that such a thing as spirituality, that is not felt and that cannot be described, can still exist. Our collective experience is so great by now, that we are more willing to accept that anything is possible than ever before.