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Introduction to the Zohar, Who is to Blame?

Selected pieces from the Introduction to the Zohar
Talk – Oct. 19, 2000

In his Introduction to the Zohar, Baal HaSulam writes:

66) Bear in mind, that everything has internality and externality. Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is generally considered the internality of the world, and the seventy nations are considered its externality. Within Israel also, there is internality, which are the wholehearted worshipers of the Lord, and externality, who do not devote themselves entirely to the work of God. And among the nations of the world as well there are internal parts, which are the Righteous of the Nations, and an external part, which are the rude and the destructive among them.

And also within the worshipers of the Lord that are within Israel, there is internality, which are those who are endowed with the comprehension of the soul of the internality of the Torah and its secrets, and externality, which are those who merely observe the actual part of the Torah. And in every man from Israel there is internality, which is the Israel within him, being the point in the heart, and externality, which is the Nations of the World within him, being the body itself. But even the Nations of the World within him are regarded proselytes, because by cleaving to his internality, they become like proselytes from the Nations of the World, who cleave to the whole of Israel

67) When a man from Israel enhances and dignifies his internality, which is the Israel in him, over his externality, being the Nations of the World in him, meaning that he dedicates the majority of his time and efforts to enhance and exalt his internality, for the good of his soul, and a minor effort, the mere necessity, to sustain his Nations of the World, meaning his bodily needs, as it says (Avot 1) - “make your Torah permanent and your labor transient”, by that he makes - in the internality and externality of the world - the Sons of Israel soar upwards and the Nations of the World, which are the general externality, recognize and acknowledge the value of the Sons of Israel.

And if, God forbid, the contrary occurs, that a man from Israel enhances and regards his externality, which is the Nations of the World in him, higher than the Israel in him - as it says (Deuteronomy 28) “The stranger that is in the midst of thee”, the externality in him will soar upwards, and you, that is the internality, the Israel in you, will plunge deep down. That causes the externality of the world in general, which are the Nations of the World, to soar ever higher and overcome Israel, degrading them to the ground, and the Sons of Israel, the internality of the world, to plunge, God forbid, deep down.

68) Do not wonder, that a single person will trigger with his action, a descent or an ascent to the whole world. For it is an unbending law, that the general and the particular are as equal as two drops in a pond. And all that is customary in the general is customary in the particular as well. Moreover, the particulars compose everything that is in the general. For the general cannot come to be, but after the particulars have been revealed, according to the quantity and quality of the particulars. Evidently, the act of a particular, according to its value, raises or declines the whole. That will clarify the words of the Zohar, that through the study of the Zohar and the Wisdom of Truth, they will be redeemed from exile, into complete deliverance. But what is really the connection between the study of the Zohar and the deliverance of Israel from amongst the nations?

69) It’s been thoroughly clarified, that the Torah too has its internality and its externality, as does the whole world. Therefore, he who delves in the Torah also has those two degrees. And upon increasing his toil in the internality of the Torah and its secrets, to that extent he makes the virtue of the internality of the world, which is Israel, rise ever higher over the externality of it, meaning the Nations of the World. And all the nations will recognize and admit to the ascendancy of Israel over them, until the words - “And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall posses them in the land of the Lord (Isaiah 14, 2)” “Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and set up my standard to the peoples: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried on their shoulders (Isaiah 49, 22)” - finally come true.

But if, God forbid, the contrary occurs, that the man from Israel degrades the virtue of the internality of the Torah and its secrets, dealing with the customs of our souls and their degrees, and also in the part of the reasoning of the mitzvoth (precepts), with regard to the virtue of the externality of the Torah, that deals solely with the practical part alone, and even if he dedicates some time to the internality of the Torah, but just a little of his time, when it is neither night nor day, as though it were, God forbid, redundant, by that he causes degradation and decline of the internality of the world, which are the Sons of Israel, and enhances the domination of the externality of the world - meaning the Nations of the World - over them, and they shall humiliate and disgrace the Sons of Israel, and regard Israel as redundant, as though the world has not a need for, God forbid.

And furthermore, by that they make even the externality of the world overcome its internality. For the worst of the Nations of the World, which destruct and damage it, mount higher over the internality of them, which are the Nations of the World, and then they cause the ruin and the heinous slaughter our generation witnessed, may God protect us from now on.

Thus you see that the redemption of Israel and indeed its rise depends upon the study of the Zohar and the internality of the Torah. And vise versa, all the ruin and decline of the Sons of Israel, is a result of their abandoning of the internality of the Torah, degrading it and turning it to something seemingly redundant, God forbid.

How can one identify within him, or his people, or the world around him, which parts are internal and which are external?

The nations of the world in man are attributes, desires (vessels) that we must not use until the end of correction. But we can work with the desires called “Israel”. Israel are the vessels, or attributes that are characterized by their desire to give, to bestow. The ‘gentiles’ are the vessels with the egoistic attributes, which want solely to receive. After the correction of all of man’s attributes, all his vessels, Israel and the gentiles will unite, and man will feel the Creator in completeness. But until the attainment of that situation, the correction lies on the shoulders of the people of Israel, Israel’s representative in this world, who should be the first to correct himself, prior to everyone else. Hence, to the extent that we correct ourselves, we will bring the nations of the world to their correction.

What is internaland what is external?

That depends on what a person does and what he studies. If he is busy with improving his desires in order to satisfy them with all sorts of pleasures then he is called a “gentile”. If that person wants to improve his attributes in order to resemble the Creator, then he is called “Jewish” or “Israel”, from the words Yasher (straight, direct) El (to God), meaning straight to God.

A person is born with a desire to delight himself alone, but he should come to the opposite, the desire to have the same attributes as the Creator’s. We do not build that desire, which is the complete opposite of his natural desire from nothing, but from an opposite desire. It evolves on top of that initial egoistic desire we are born with.

That natural desire in man, the desire to satisfy himself, is a necessary foundation, and probably the most beneficial for attaining the goal, and precisely for attaining it by yourself, becoming an active participant in attaining it. You continue to receive, but with a different meaning, receiving only on condition that by that you delight the giver. At the end of the process of equivalence, called the “end of correction”, the soul-vessel, the Malchut of the infinity (Ein Sof) wants only to cleave to the Creator, and by that it equalizes with the Creator’s attribute of bestowal.

That is why we must go through all those situations, which create a desire to bestow, the real vessel for the upper light, the need to resemble the attribute of the Creator. It is a collective law that is meant to bring all creations to a corrected state of resemblance with the Creator. That law rules everyone and at all levels, still, vegetative, animate and speaking (man).

The more developed the creature is, the stronger he feels the force that compels him to resemble the Creator. That is why of all creations, man suffers most. And among the various degrees of humans, Israel suffer more than everyone else. And within Israel, those who are at the innermost degree. It is because the light, the force of life, which attracts us to it, begins its extensions from the innermost point in creation, from those desires which are the closest to the essence of the law, the attributes of giving, of bestowal. After that, along with the distancing of the light from the center, the light diminishes toward the outer layers.

The light of correction shines from the center. The response of the vessel to it depends on the situation of the vessel. If the corrections are performed willingly, it is a sign a person is taking the “path of Torah”. If the corrections are performed against one’s will, not by the desire of the Creator or the creature, the torments do not diminish but increase and accumulate in order to make man hate the source of the torment, the evil inclination within him.

Because man is but a “desire for pleasure”, the only way to influence him, is to make him feel a lack, the sensation of the absence of the ‘desired’ within the egoism, which we call “suffering”.

Why is it that the inner vessel , which is more corrected, feels greater pain, after all, it is a less egoistic vessel than the outer one?

The reason is that the inner vessel is closer to correction, and the outer vessel is farther from correction. But in any case, both the inner and the outer vessels are as yet, uncorrected. The inner vessel – “Israel” – has a smaller egoism, which is why Israel is a small nation.

The vessels of the gentiles are a lot greater than those of Israel, but despite that, the other peoples feel less desire than Israel, because their vessel has not yet been fully opened. The vessel appears only to the extent that it can be corrected. But when their desire awakens they immediately begin to hate Israel, until even peoples that were never in contact with Israel begin to hate Jews, although they never had anything to do with them. That is because the gentiles are the ones who have to make Israel perform corrections. And it is only after the correction of the degree of Israel in the world, that the other nations will also be able to deal with correction and thus bring the collective correction.

That is the nature of the unique connection between Israel and the nations of the world. The Israeli nation should be careful, because when they do not perform the necessary corrections, the nations of the world grow eager to destroy it, because there is no need for vessels such as Israel, if they cannot fill the vessels of the nations of the world, which is, in fact, the role of Israel.

That is why Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag, Baal HaSulam, warns that the people of Israel should hurry and begin to perform the task given to it. And that can be performed only through the wisdom of the Kabbalah, because it is the method for collective correction and there is no other method.

The correction begins from the finer souls, the least egoistic, those that can be corrected faster, which are Israel. The correction is only a person’s individual task, his individual soul, and no other person is taken into account here. A person comes down to the world for this sole purpose and that is the one thing he should deal with. That is why he was born, created, and everything else he does, counts for nothing.

If the people of Israel deal with corrections, will the hatred of the nations toward it grow or diminish?

If everyone from Israel faces his inner enemies, the external enemies will vanish, because what happens inside determines what happens outsides.

The externality depends completely on the internality, just as the lower (degree) depends on the higher, the lower degree is born and sustained by the upper one, so is the behavior of the nations of the world depends on our behavior.

Change the spirit within you and you will see how reality begins to change. This is how you can determine future events.

What force of bestowal should the Kabbalists activate in order to bring the world to the best path of correction?

The level of still should follow the collective, meaning take into consideration what the public in general can handle – that should set the level of demands from it, and boundaries of how much it could be influenced. The public has its own natural limits, because it observes the precepts and customs by itself.

But in spirituality one should follow the individual. In the spiritual development it is the individual who decides, through his soul, what to do and how. He determines the connection between him and the Creator, and how he relates to life. We have to awaken ourselves not just in order to change the situation of the world by a little bit, to have more rain, more peace, more happiness, but we should act toward the spiritual goal, in order to bring everything to the end of correction.

Should we all get there by ourselves , according to the root of our souls, or do we awaken everyone’s interest in it?

As we learn from the writings of Baal HaSulam, the masses should be partners to it. He speaks about a collective process of correction, about a great number of souls that are to be part of this correction. It is not by chance that two hundred years ago the Creator divided the people of Israel to secular and religious, to a part that continues to observe Torah and mitzvot out of education, and a part that has become liberated from that. Each of them has its own mission, because everything comes down from above, from providence. Those two parts should work together. There would have been nothing left of the secular part if it did not have the orthodox part next to it. However, if we were to continue to work only by the orthodox line of thought, we would probably not be able to attain the purpose of creation.

In fact, we see that it is those who did not receive any orthodox upbringing that are suitable for the correction through the Kabbalah, because only they feel imperfection and are therefore worthy of ‘receiving the Torah’. That is why they will lead everyone forward, to correction, whereas the orthodox part will probably remain at the degree called “holy still”, immobile.

Will the disturbances increase the more Israel progresses in the correction, because these are not disturbances, but actually help that comes in the form of obstacles?

The ascents and descents occur only in individuals, only in those souls that go through their own process of correction. The connection with the Creator is private, although the freedom of choice of man is only in the choice of group from which he takes his path in life, but each person has his own choice.

Corrected souls usually take other souls along with them – other desires that have not been corrected, but only to he extent that they can bring a collective correction. It is called “a light for the nations”. Israel takes the gentiles along with them and rise with them by a joining called “inclusion” (Hitkalelut).

In any case, an individual’s spiritual progress is different than that of the whole. The correction is performed in the individual by personal ups and downs, whereas for the whole the correction is performed by joining with the individual. The nations of the world feel the deficit in their progress, they feel dependent on Israel, but only their first corrections depend on Israel, because the corrections that will come after that depend on them alone.

From the Introduction to the Zohar:

70) The correction of the Zohar says (correction 40): “Awaken and rise for the Divine Presence, for your heart is empty, without the wisdom to know and to attain it, although it is within you.” And the secret of it is, as it says: that a voice pounds within the heart of each and every one of Israel, to pray for the rising of the Divine Presence, which is the assembly of the souls of Israel. But the Divine Presence says, I have no strength to pick myself up from the dust, for all the flesh is but hay. They are all like hay eating beasts. Meaning that they perform the precepts mindlessly, just like beasts, and all its grace is as the flower of the field, all the good deeds they do, it is for them they do it.

That means that in the good deeds that they perform, they do not mean to please their maker, but only to please themselves. And even the best of them, who have dedicated all their time to the Torah, did not do it, but for the benefit of their own body, lacking the desired aim, to please their maker.

It is said about the generation of that time: “a spirit leaves so as never to return, that is the spirit of the Messiah, the one who should deliver Israel from exile and from trouble to complete redemption, to fulfill the words: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord. That spirit left and alights not in the world.”

Alas, these people, who make the spirit of Messiah vanish from the world, so as never to return, make the Torah dry, without the moist of mind and knowledge, for they confine themselves to the practical part of the Torah, and do not wish to try and understand the wisdom of the Kabbalah, to know and educate themselves in the secrets and the reason behind the Torah and the precepts. Alas, they cause by their deeds the poverty, the ruin and the robbery, the looting, the killings and destruction in the world.

71) And the reason for that is, as we’ve said, that since all those who delve in the Torah, depreciate their own internality, and the Torah’s internality, leaving it as though it were redundant in the world, and studying it only at a time that is neither day nor night. And they are like blind men searching the wall, causing by that the proliferation of their own externality, meaning the benefit of their own body, and they regard the externality of the Torah as higher than its internality - thus causing the expansion of each external aspect in the world over its internal parts, each according to its own essence.

Because the externality of the whole of Israel, meaning the Nations of the World among them, intensifies and revokes the internality of the whole of Israel, which are the Greats of the Torah. And the externality within the Nations of the World too, which are the destructors among them, intensifies and revokes the internality among them, which are the Righteous of the World. And the externality of the whole world, being the Nations of the World, intensifies and revokes the Sons of Israel, which are the internality of it.

In such a generation, all destructors of the Nations of the World raise their heads and wish primarily to destroy and kill the Sons of Israel, as it says: (Yebamot 63) “No calamity comes to the world but for Israel”, as it says in the above corrections, that they cause poverty and ruin and robbery and killings in the whole world.

And since, through our many faults, we’ve witnessed the aforesaid in the corrections, and not only that, but the calamity struck at the very best of us, as it says: (Baba Kama 60) “And it does not start, but from the righteous”. And of all the glory Israel had had in the countries of Poland and Lithuania etc. there remains but the remnants in our holy land. Now it is upon us relics, to correct that dreadful wrong. And each of us remainders, will take upon himself, heart and soul, to intensify from this day forth, the internality of the Torah, and give it its worthy place, above the externality of the Torah.

Then, each will be awarded with the intensification of his own internality, meaning the Israel in him, which is the needs of the soul over the aspect of his own externality, being the Nations of the World in him, which are the needs of the body. And that force will come to the whole of the people of Israel, until the peoples of the world within us recognize the virtue of the Greats of Israel over them, and listen and obey them. And also the internality of the Nations of the World, which are the Righteous of the World, will overcome their externality and subdue them, which are the destructors. And the internality of the world too, which are Israel, shall rise with all the praise and virtue, over the externality of the world, which are the nations. Then, all the Nations of the World will recognize and admit to the ascendancy of Israel over them.

And they shall carry out the words: “And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall posses them in the land of the Lord (Isaiah 14, 2)”. And also: “and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried on their shoulders (Isaiah 49, 22)”. And that is as the Zohar says: “That through this composition, which is the book of Zohar, they will be freed from exile with mercy (Nasah 124)”. Amen, would that be.

The most important question is why one studies. You can study Kabbalah for luck, for relaxation, to acquire peace and confidence, and you can study because you feel that you must correct your ‘vessels’, correct the situation. It is an enormous difference in approach. And here one cannot walk alone, but rather requires spiritual guidance.

Baal HaSulam writes that everyone must attain the degree of Moses. Everyone must return to the root of his soul. That is required of everyone. Today, we have reached a position where we must actively correct our society. Before our generation, only a few chosen souls attained correction. They were hidden Kabbalists, and the correction was not a necessity for all the people and all the nations of the world.

Baal HaSulam writes that before the people of Israel returned to the land of Israel, the Israeli nation had no obligation to equalize with the land, so that the whole nation would correct itself, to the attainment of the spiritual degree called “the Land of Israel”. The word “land” (Heb. Eretz) comes from the word “desire” (Heb. Ratzon), a direct desire to the Lord.

But once the Creator has brought us back to this land, either willingly or unwillingly, we, the whole nation, must equalize ourselves with the spiritual attributes of this land. While we are physically in the land of Israel, we must also attain the inner degree, the spiritual Land of Israel. Otherwise, we have no right for being here, because the inner and outer degrees are imbalanced.

We have been in this situation more than once. Every time the people of Israel stopped equalizing with the spiritual nation of Israel, meaning the people that lives directly from the Land of Israel, meaning the direct desire for the Lord, we were driven away from our land. Now we are back again, the land of Israel was given to us again, but we still have not received it, we are still not worthy of it.

If we do not accept it willingly, as Baal HaSulam writes, meaning if we do not resemble it in our inner-spiritual degree, though this land will not drive us away as before, it will, however, force us to correct and become worthy of it through horrendous torments.

The mission of the Kabbalists today is to try to disseminate the necessity in the correction among the nation in any way possible, create a method suitable for all, publish books, and prepare teachers. There is a lot to be done, but even a single thought about correction, even the beginning of that thought creates great positive changes in the land, and prevents terrible suffering.

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