Introduction to the Book of Zohar. Items 1-5
This Introduction is one of four explanations that the Baal HaSulam wrote for the “Book of Zohar” to furnish a person with an outlook on evolution, to show where this book leads, and to what goals and heights it should elevate him. In this book, the Baal HaSulam researches the deepest layers of the universe. He tries to explain the properties of our reality, to unveil its depth and the extent of our comprehension of it. He tells us how we can change it and ascend to a different, Upper Reality.
Most importantly, this Introduction speaks about our active part in this process. It is very good and commendable to be simply studying Kabbalah. Yet, can we change anything with the help of this knowledge? This is where the study should lead us. This is the only aspect of Kabbalah that should interest us.
“Introduction to the Book of Zohar” is a very deep, summarizing text. While “Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot” speaks of the person’s path and the levels he ascends on his way to the Goal, this composition is an immersion into the universe. As a submarine dives into the ocean, so does the Zohar descend with us to the unimaginable depths of reality.
As the article, “The Essence of the Wisdom of Kabbalah” says, the task of Kabbalah is to reveal the Creator to the person. The Creator created man and conceals Himself to let him rise to His level. Otherwise, we would feel no need to reach out to Him, to grow and become similar to Him. The Creator is like a loving mother who teaches her child to walk. She places him on his feet, and then moves slightly away to compel the child to make a few steps towards her. She then moves farther away to encourage him to make a few more steps and so on. This is how our children grow, and we are supposed to grow in the same way with regard to the Creator. We should always perceive His concealment as an appeal to get closer to Him.
The book of Zohar expounds the profound processes that unfold in us while we gradually reveal the Creator. This is called ascending the ladder of the spiritual worlds. Kabbalah tells the person what he sees and feels while gradually ascending this ladder of similarity to the Creator. He can only be revealed to the extent of our equivalence with Him; the more likeness there is between He and I, the better I can feel Him. Therefore, it turns out that to be similar to the Creator is the same as to feel or reveal Him.
1. In this introduction, my wish is to clarify issues that seem simple at first. Everyone has tried to explain these issues, and much ink has been spilled in these efforts (throughout the history of humankind). Yet to this day, we have not reached a clear enough knowledge in these matters.
The questions are as follows:
Both ancient and modern philosophers and scientists have been puzzled by them.
What questions are these? They are fundamental and critical to our essence and existence.
What is our essence?
Who are we? Are we animals or are we human? Are we intelligent beings? Do we exist or only imagine that we exist? It is quite possible that we are completely different than we imagine. In fact, when we look at any other small animal, such as a dog or a kitten, our impression about it, about its nature, is completely different.
How can we objectively see ourselves as though we are looking from outside? What does it mean to see from the outside? Starting from where can we imagine ourselves? The question about our essence consists of many conditions.
What is our part in the long chain of reality, of which we are but small links?
We can see that we have gone through some states. This world has gone through some states with or without our involvement. Alternatively, perhaps it exists by itself; or we somehow exist in it. Nevertheless, we see everything from the perspective of historic consequence, the cause and effect chain of reality.
Do we play any role? This chain exists for a reason, and so do we. Do we exist parallel to the chain or inside of it? Do we determine the development of this chain and its consequences? Can we influence reality or do anything about it? What is our role? The answer to these questions includes knowledge of all potential development, cause and effect, beginning and end, all the processes, all the intermediate levels, and knowledge about our potential impact in this process.
When we look at ourselves, we feel that we are so spoiled and low that no one is more despicable than we are.
The Baal HaSulam addresses here the particular inner attainment in which we can actually perceive ourselves. We can feel our insignificance and meanness with the help of the descending Surrounding Light, the Ohr Makif, in direct proportion with the descending Upper Light. If we genuinely attract it with the help of the group and serious study, the Upper Light demonstrates to us the insignificance of our essence.
What is the actual matter here? The matter is that, in addition to the animal essence, we have something that is above animal existence. This something is called our egoism. It is based on our aspirations to wealth, honor, fame, power, and knowledge. Animals do not have these aspirations. This is called “ Kina”, “ Ta’avah”, and “ Kavod” – envy, inclination to pleasures, and aspiration to honor. These aspirations bring a person to a level above the animal. Since they are above animal qualities, these aspirations and qualities are praiseworthy. On the other hand, their common natural utilization puts us below all other levels.
Therefore, the Baal HaSulam says:
When we look at ourselves, we feel that we are so spoiled and low that no one is more despicable than we are.
Animals kill other animals because it is integrated in them at the level of instinct. A lion kills only in order to fulfill his small desire to be sated. However, egoism in humans is so much higher than for its own sake; humans want to destroy everyone. Consequently, the additional egoism that elevates us above animals actually makes us lower than animals.
However, if we look at the One who created us, we would think that we were supposed to have become the crown of everything, higher than everything, because an excellent Creator should only perform excellent actions.
The Baal HaSulam tells us here about people who can roughly imagine what the Creator, Perfection, and a desire to bestow mean.
Yet, how did it happen that a perfect Creator created such a mean being that is so much meaner than the rest? What is He like, if He is perfect? Additionally, are we perfect or imperfect? We have observed from Universal laws that imperfection does not emanate from perfection.
Our mind makes us acknowledge the Creator's absolute kindness and that He only performs kindness, so that there is nothing higher than He.
Fundamentally, our mind does not agree to that. Many believe that the world is governed by a single “evil force”. Kabbalists tell us about the essence of the Creator. They are on a different level of attainment. The Baal HaSulam provokes us with questions that have not yet materialized for us. Nevertheless, they have been already resolved for him.
Hence, he offsets what he conceived on the upper, perfect level to our imperfect condition. He does this from the foundation of these two points where the first point is he being at the state of the Creator and another point is we at our current state. He demonstrates a difference between these states that are called questions. All our questions come from discrepancies and oppositions to his state. So he says:
Our mind makes us acknowledge (from its perception) the fact that the Creator is all kind and performs only kindness, so that there is nothing higher than He.However, how could He create so many forms which, from the very beginning, are destined to spend all the days of their existence in suffering and grief? (Now he is asking at our level) . If that was not done in kindness, could it at least have been done with less evil (He created us) ?!
Why did He create us to harm? In addition, why, even now when we are just beginning to study the path we must take in order to reach the Purpose of creation, do we see that every step of the way consists of continuous falling and rising, that the lower the falling, the higher the rising?
Nothing is comprehended unless a Kli has been comprehended first, a suffering, and feeling of worthlessness, inferiority, depression, emptiness, opposition to the Creator. Only then, follow the revelation of the Creator and unification with Him.
Why should it all be done this way? Why were we created inferior? Why should we comprehend perfection from our inferior state?
How could insignificant, temporary, and impure forms come from the Infinite, something without beginning or end (our “final state”, as conceived by the Baal HaSulam) ?
How can this be? The fifth question appears similar to the third one. He states that, "When we look at ourselves, we feel that we are so spoiled and low that no one is more despicable than we are. If we look at the One who created us, we would think that we were supposed to have become the crown of everything, higher than everything, because an excellent Creator should only perform excellent actions."
Here he says something similar: When we look at ourselves, we feel that we are so spoiled and low that no one is more despicable than we are.
The five questions that he addresses here concern our state with regard to the Creator’s. These questions can only be raised and cleared up by someone at His level as compared to ours. The Baal HaSulam tells us about the discrepancies between these two levels. He wishes to explain to us why it is necessary to have this difference and how we may reach perfection. This is our challenge, to conceive where we are, where the Creator is, and how to overcome this chasm between us.
Why does he raise these questions? In this Introduction, he partially explains it, but actually, he raises these questions in order to comprehend them. During these lessons, we will discover that not only must we understand these questions while studying this Introduction, but also actualize them within ourselves and subsequently use them to climb to the level where we need to be. That is why we need to study the book of Zohar. Hence, he uses this explanation in his Introduction to this book.
2. In order to comprehensively clear all this up, in advance, we have to carry out certain studies where the subject is not a “forbidden area”, meaning, the essence of the Creator. This can in no way be comprehended by our mind; hence, we have neither thought nor concept of Him. The compulsory field of research is the study of the Creator’s actions.
In general, we can understand the questions: “What is the Essence?”, “What is our role in a chain of reality?”, and “Why are we defective, while the Creator is perfect?” and so on. So, for what do we need preliminary studies?
We need them to understand these questions accurately. In other words, we should approach them in a different way, for it is said, "Many people (in the course of history) have attempted to disclose these questions, and much ink has been spilled". Yet in the end, the questions have remained unanswered.
How can we resolve these questions, find the answers, and actually become fully aware of them within ourselves? In order to look at these questions and correctly move towards their realization, it is necessary to put us in an unambiguous position with regard to them. This is what the Baal HaSulam does in his studies. He says:
In order to clear all this up comprehensively, in advance, we need to make some preliminary inquiries, where the subject is not a “forbidden area”, i.e., the essence of the Creator… Why is it forbidden for us to study the essence of the Creator? Further, he answers this: …which can in no way be comprehended by our mind.
Since we cannot comprehend the Creator’s essence, we should not study it. This is unattainable for us at our current level of development. Therefore, the only thing we should do is study all that we can possibly comprehend. Moreover, perhaps, if we study what we are able to attain, we will approach the incomprehensible area, the essence of the Creator.
Here he says: …the Creator’s essence, which can in no way be comprehended by our mind, hence we have no thought and concept about Him… and the compulsory field of research (i.e., the Creator’s instruction), is the study of the Creator’s actions. As we are told, “Know the Creator and serve Him”.
If I attain Him, His actions, and His instructions, I will be adapting the correction internally. I will place myself in likeness to Him and this will be called “I perceive His actions and serve Him”, work “for the sake of Creator”.
It is also said, “ By Your actions I will know You”.
I will attain Him by adapting my actions to His and by becoming similar to Him. If I begin my exploration of Him straightforwardly, this will be called “philosophy.” I will not achieve anything this way. I can only comprehend and attain the Creator if I become similar to Him, and then all those conditions and qualities that exist in Him will be formed in me. Subsequently, I will be able to understand His intentions, something that precedes His qualities and actions. From the Guf (body) of the Partzuf I will rise to its Rosh (head).
If I make my body, i.e., all of my desires, similar to all of the Creator’s actions, then the inner body of my soul, my desires, the body of the Partzuf will be formed. The Toch (inner part) or Sof (end) of the Partzuf will be similar to the Creator’s influence on me. This is called “nine of my reversed Sefirot become similar to nine of His direct Sefirot”. It allows me to reach complete balance with the Creator and to grasp His thoughts, the Rosh of the Partzuf.
Thus we can come to an understanding of the Creator. If the person specifically acts in this manner, he reveals in his study the opportunity to ascend from the level of the creation to the level of the Creator. If we are willing to do this, what kind of inquiries should we make?
How can we see creation as something newly formed, something new, something that did not exist in the Creator before it was formed. How can anyone in his right mind understand that there is nothing that was not in the Creator? Simple common sense makes us acknowledge that. One cannot give if he does not have that which he is giving.
If the Creator creates something, it has to be within Him in some form. How can it be that something suddenly appeared from nothing, out of nowhere? What does it mean “out of nowhere”? Has He thought of this? Has He made any plans? What has induced Him to this? From where has he taken the material – thoughts, feelings, and actions to make the creation? Was there a point in Him from which it all began? How can it be if there was nothing within Him, no starting point? Should not there be a beginning? If so, how is it possible to imagine that we appeared not from Him, but from nothing?
I recommend that you stop and try to remember all I say. Do not make an inner effort to adapt the material and put everything within you on the right shelves. Please do not do this!
You should take it easy or it will not enter you. There is no need to be tense; study it freely, with love. Do not attempt to memorize anything! We cannot possibly remember anything of what we learn.
Suddenly we feel that we can only understand something new if it penetrates us from within, becomes our nature. Do not imitate the philosophers who have “spilled much ink” for thousands of years. Nothing has come out of it!
We should reproduce all of these actions within ourselves. When they become our inner properties, we will know, feel, and see it all. Otherwise, our useless attempts to sort this data will fail.
While studying try to concentrate on what we wish to achieve, where we want to be. The most important thing is not to know, but to attract the light of correction, which would elevate us to these states. This is what we should be thinking about during our lessons.
By aspiring to one goal, we try to draw on ourselves the Surrounding light. To this end, we read what the author wrote while being on the high level of attainment where he is merged with the Creator. He wrote his books not to enlighten poor philosophers or us. He instructs us to “know the Creator and serve Him”, to adapt His actions in ourselves and become similar to Him. The result will be as King David says, “By Your actions I will know You”. This is where our focus must be. So let us stop racking our brains in vain and try activating our hearts, and most importantly the point in them.
Can you say that, from the aspect of the Creator’s almightiness, He certainly can create something from nothing, meaning something new that is not in Him?
If we say that He can do everything, then of course, He can create something from nothing, meaning something new, which is not in Him at all. Then the question arises, what kind of reality can we refer to as having no place in the Creator, but is a new formation?
Suppose that we accept our first inquiry as an axiom: yes, the Creator has created something from nothing. We are yet to come to this conclusion, but for now let us admit that we have already accomplished it. In that case, He has created something that is completely not within Him.
Then the question arises, what kind of reality can we refer to as having no place in the Creator, but is a new formation?
So what was it that the Creator decided to create, something that is not within Him and in which He felt the sudden need? Does it not follow that there is an absence of perfection in Him? That something was missing, and now this something is in demand? Alternatively, if He was perfect before and afterwards, why has He made something new? If this is so, obviously this new “creation” has nothing to do with perfection.
The Kabbalists say that the human soul is a part of the Creator. Therefore, there is no difference between Him and the soul.
There is a person within whom there is an animal soul, a vital force that sustains alike both animals and us. Besides this, we have a tiny particle of the Creator Himself. The soul is within us, but it is a small part from Above. When it is above, it is a small particle; when it is within us, it is already a soul.
The difference is that He is the "whole" and the soul is a "part". This resembles a stone carved from a rock. There is no difference between the stone and the rock except that the rock is a "whole" and the stone is a "part". Thus, we must ask: Although a stone carved from the rock is separated from it by an axe made for that purpose, causing the separation of the "part" from the "whole", how can one imagine that the Creator separates a part from His essence to become detached from Him, meaning a soul, to the point that it can only be understood as part of His essence?
An Axe is a Kli, a tool, a material force that splits a “part” from the “whole”.
So what is the spiritual axe that cuts a part from the whole? Why does the carved off part remain unchanged with the same properties that are in the Creator? Does the Creator suffer form this process? A piece was cut from Him! Was that part of his perfection reduced? Is it possible that He became imperfect? Does He lack anything? What is the connection between a part (a soul) separated from the Creator and the Creator Himself? Alternatively, is this part completely detached from Him?
3. Fourth Inquiry:
Since the system of impure forces and the Klipot are so far from the Creator’s purity that nothing farther remote can be conceived, how can they be emanated from the Creator, much less sustained by Him?
The Kabbalists wish to make our life easier, so they tell us everything in advance. In addition to the usual questions they ask many others, which we would never think of. Here the Baal HaSulam speaks about the system of impure forces (Klipot) that are absolutely opposite to the Creator. He gives birth to this system of impure worlds and constantly sustains it with His purity. What connection can exist between them if they are opposite?
We say that if spiritual properties are opposite, there can be no contact between them. If they adjoin each other in some point, it means that they have one quality in which they are similar and join.
If they are partially superimposed, it means that some of their qualities are similar to each other. If they completely overlap, they are equivalent. The creation is initially opposite to the Creator and separated from Him.
This is what happens with impure forces. There is the Creator and the Klipot.
Klipot are born and sustained by the Creator, whereas in fact they are completely separated from each other. How can this be? The Creator creates and sustains Klipot while at the same time being completely separated from them. This question demands an explanation.
Fifth Inquiry refers to the “resurrection of the dead”.
The Baal HaSulam says there is a state called “resurrection of the dead”. We should agree upon definitions: by “the soul”, we mean bestowal or the intention of bestowal. By “the body”, we mean the Guf of the Partzuf or desire. By “resurrection of the dead”, we mean rising of the dead bodies (desires).
Since the body is so despicable, it is doomed to perish and to be buried.
What does it mean,“doomed to perish” and “to be buried”? By the body, we mean desires from the moment of birth, because they have egoistical intentions. “Doomed to perish,” means to be completely cut off from the light, become dead. The person considers his “desires with egoistic intentions” to be dead. He is neither able nor willing to use them, wants to bury them. After that, the desires go through corrections, i.e., the intention for one’s own sake (which is the intention of the Klipot) is transformed into the intention for the sake of the Creator, for the sake of bestowal. This process is called a resurrection of the dead bodies.
The body (of desires) does not change. Only the intention does. The body itself is neutral. There is the egoistical intention “for one’s own sake” or the screen that generates Ohr Hozer (Reflected light), the intention “for the sake of the Creator”. The intention “for one’s own sake” is called Klipa. The intention “for the sake of the Creator” is called Kedusha. We need to come to the point when the intention “for one’s own sake” will be dead in us. If we achieve the intention “for the sake of the Creator”, that will be the resurrection.
Let us look at what the Baal HaSulam writes. While reading the text without commentaries, one may think of fairy tales about the resurrection of dead bodies that arise from the graves and wander around.
Why then does the body return and rise at the “resurrection of the dead”? Could the Creator not delight the souls without it?
The Baal HaSulam’s question concerns neither the body nor the soul, but rather the reason why we have to go through all these transformations. Why do we have to stay in Klipot until we consider them dead and bury them, until they are completely decomposed? We can use the body (desire) and start working on this desire “for the sake of the Creator” only after we free ourselves from the egoistical intention.
Let us suppose that I have a desire with initially egoistic intentions, everything for my own sake. This is my first state. My second state is when under the influence of the Higher Light that I draw upon myself by reading Kabbalistic texts, these desires begin to gradually leave me. I begin to feel my condition as evil and it slowly comes out of me. I sense that they (desires) are dying and reach the condition when I am completely free of them. On my next level, I begin to adopt the Creator’s properties and aspire to Him. This is called resurrection of the body.
By “the body” we always mean the desire. It remains the same; nothing happens to it, only the intention changes. The body always consists of the same desires. I always have 620 desires in my body.
By and large, we can easily understand this. The question always arises about another matter. Why are we bound to receive bad intentions “for our own sake” to begin with? Why should we see them as bad, and then wish to be completely free of them and finally begin to acquire good intentions?
The Baal HaSulam says:
Why then does the body return and rise at the “resurrection of the dead”? Could the Creator not delight the souls without it?
Why can we not receive good properties from the beginning and be one with the Creator at once? Why do we have to discover Him through bad properties?
Furthermore, the Zohar says that before the body rots entirely, the soul cannot ascend to its place in Heaven, while there are still remnants of it. That is until all intentions “for one’s own sake” disappear; the soul will not be resurrected and merged with the Creator in the similarity of properties.
Even more bewildering is what our sages said of the dead bodies that are destined to rise with their flaws, so that they will not be mistaken for others.
Although we say that the bodies, desires, death, and resurrection refer to intentions, one still finds it extremely difficult to perceive it correctly.
There arises a question: Why should we go through it all? Mortification of our intentions seems clear enough. Transformation of the intention “for one’s own sake” into the intention “for the sake of the Creator” is clear too. The problem is different: unless the bodies remain in their flaws, we will not be able to make them similar to the Creator.
The Creator will then cure their flaws. We ought to understand why it is important to Him that they will not be mistaken for other bodies…
Someone should know if the body is different or not; only after that will the Creator correct and revives it. When we reach the stage called “resurrection of the dead bodies” (our dead desires), we clearly understand that this is our body and nothing has changed in it except one thing: the realization that we rid ourselves from our past intentions and now we wish to obtain the intention for the sake of the Creator. As it is said, the Creator then cures their flaws.
We ought to understand why it is so important to the Creator that they will not be mistaken for other bodies that he would recreate their flaws and then cure them.
Besides the resurrection of the body, there should be a realization of flaws. When they are dead and we have none of them left in us, we should then retrieve them, have them manifest within us in order to give each of them up and correct it.
What does this process look like?
I initially have egoistical intentions, on which I perform a Tzimtzum (Restriction). I have no desire to be in any way connected with them. I get rid of them and remain empty. After the Tzimtzum, how can I correct them in me?
After I buried all of these dead intentions and they decomposed completely I now begin to resurrect them. I have gained strength and acquired a screen. While excavating each of my egoistical intentions from the ground I say: “Here is my true original property – the intention for my own sake. Now I will transform this intention “for my own sake” into the intention “for the sake of the Creator”.
In other words, my egoistical intention comes back to life, and I correct it into a positive one, because I need to make a Tzimtzum on the way.
Previously all of my past intentions were 100% negative, so I eliminate them. I remain empty, i.e., I stop using any of my intentions, and let them “decay”. I then resurrect them. In what form? I revive them in a negative form, although not the entire 100%. I correct just 1%, and gradually reach 100%.
1 – I come to the realization of evil;
2 – I remain empty, perform Tzimtzum Aleph.
The person must go through these stages. Resurrection of the dead should take place in him after he executed Tzimtzum and obtained the screen.
Let us read it again.
Fifth Inquiry refers to the “resurrection of the dead”.
Since the body is so despicable, it is doomed to perish and to be buried.
This includes a complete realization of evil, of my primordial egoistical desires.
Why then does the body return and rise at the “resurrection of the dead” (after I buried it and it remained empty) ? Could the Creator not delight the souls without it?
No, He cannot.
Furthermore, the Zohar says that before the body rots entirely (until all of my desires die and rot in the ground) , the soul cannot ascend to its place in Heaven, while there are still remnants of it (I will not be able to fill myself with the light).
Even more bewildering is what our sages said of the dead bodies that are destined to rise with their flaws...
Why should I revive all of my negative desires? This seemingly returns me to my negative properties.
... so that they will not be mistaken for others. I should admit that all of them are my natural properties.
The Creator will then cure their flaws. I should realize that I would never be able to cure these flaws by myself. They can only be cured if I realize them as evil and ask the Creator for a remedy.
We ought to understand why it is so important to the Creator that they will not be mistaken for other bodies that he would recreate their flaws and then cure them (why should these desires be the same as before?).
We should comprehend the resurrection of the dead in this manner alone, and the way it should be realized.
Therefore, little by little we become accustomed to the Baal HaSulam’s writings and try to understand the flow of his thoughts. We just need to absorb all that we read. It does not matter how much of it we comprehend. We simply wish to be close to him. To the extent of our desire, the light will descend upon us from the level on which he explains it all.
Our will to be on that level is called “understanding”, “attainment”. While studying “The Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot”, we read the well-known paragraph 155. It says, “The Ohr Makif shines upon the person who wants to attain the higher level. Such an attainment can only be achieved if we ascend to it and become a part of that level”.
When we speak about spiritual forms, objects, conditions, actions and states, let us try to be on that level, and not on the level of this world. Leave your “head” in this world. You should simply try to rise there with your desire. This effort will stimulate the emanation, the release of the Higher Light that will elevate us there. One must learn to work with the heart, not with the head.
Our sages said that man is the center of reality, that the Upper Worlds and this corporeal world and everything in them were not created but for him (The Zohar, Tazriya, 40).
Man is in the center of the universe.
[The Kabbalists] obliged man to believe that the world had been created for him (Sanhedrin, 37). It is seemingly hard to grasp, that for this small human…
By his material size, and by his power in this world, in this universe, man is utterly insignificant. Whatever level we take (vegetative, animal or human), he does not represent something special. In comparison with his poor nature, he is more selfish and evil. So what is his advantage?
Moreover, for what does he need this entire Universe?
Concerning man’s value in comparison with the Universe, the Baal HaSulam says:
He who grasps no more than a wisp of this world's reality, much less of the Upper Worlds, whose height is immeasurable, the Creator troubled Himself to create all this for him. Yet why would man want all that?
Vast, endless galaxies and spiritual worlds: why is all of this necessary? If it is made for man, at some point he has to use it, manage it, and somehow establish contact with it. However, where is he on this Earth with its various cataclysms? Where is he in our small (compared to others) galaxy, in this entire infinite universe? If we take our entire universe, our world in comparison with Upper Worlds, it is a tiny disappearing particle in the Infinity.
In the upshot, man, the only intelligent, yet the worthless being in our universe, is the center of all worlds! He is destined to command them in the future. It depends on man in what condition they will be. The Kabbalists say that he is directly connected with them. Is he in this state now? For what does he need it? What does he gain from it?
Why was it created for man?
Why did the Creator make it so that the person cannot comprehend what he can gain if he rules over the entire universe and all the Upper Worlds? He feels no need of this to be happy. However, all of this is created for man. Only by using it will he achieve the ultimate state.
This is the last inquiry we have to make. If we complete this research, we will be able to answer the questions that the Baal HaSulam raised at the beginning of this Introduction and understand why we need the Book of Zohar. This is only the Foreword to the book.
Afterwards, while reading the Book of Zohar, we will know what we should do with the help of the book in order to attain all of these states.
4. In order to understand these questions and inquiries, one should start by looking at the end, i.e.,, at the purpose of creation. For nothing can be understood in the middle of the process, but only at its end.
This is a necessary condition. If we want to understand something, we should be sure to know what is going to be at the end. Yet how can we know this? In our world, we do not know about any state beforehand. Could we possibly harm ourselves if we had known the outcome in advance? How could we do anything if we had not anticipated some benefit?
Our problem is that we never know the end in anything. The only thing we know in this small animate world is to give advice to our children: “do this, don’t do that”. However, they do not listen to us. In our life, we cannot see the end of the next level or its consequences. We normally act without listening to others, and our children do not listen to us, even though we know exactly the right answer. In addition, the entire humanity does the same.
How can we agree with this thought of the Baal HaSulam : in order to understand these questions and inquiries one should start by looking at the end of the action, i.e., at the purpose of creation. The purpose is the result for the sake of which the creation was created.
For nothing can be understood in the middle of the process, but only at its end.
This is true. The Creator looks at us from “the end of creation”, not from its beginning.
He conceives all of His with regard to us and draws us closer to Himself. That is a perfect approach. I am unable to do that in our world. If I only knew in advance the results of what I am doing now and could make corrections to improve it; if I could know the result and see that I should not wish it, there would be nothing better. Yet how can I achieve that?
“The Study of the Ten Sefirot” describes in the following way: our spiritual advancement depends on the condition called “ Olamcha Tireh be Hayeha” – “you will see your world in your life time” (Heb.).
It is said: “will see,” and not “will receive”. Even on this level, the person can see the future world (his future state) from afar. When he does, he can justify his path, receive energy, understanding and strength to rise above his egoistical desires, to acquire “the desire to bestow” and to work on his correction.
“Foreseeing the purpose of creation” and planning your actions and steps from that level is a compulsory condition. Without it, we will never make any correct move and our spiritual life would be exactly the same as our life in this world. The spiritual life does not tolerate things like that.
Every time I find myself in an initial position, I am obliged to ascend to the next state “plus one”, to the next level. I have no clue how to do this and I do not know what my condition is going to be pertaining to this level. I need to see it in advance (1), and after that decide upon my actions (2). Only then can I work on it (3). This is the only way to do things right.
If I commence to act without knowing my next state, it will always be fallacious, because from the level I am on now, with my intellect and knowledge, I cannot possibly know what is on the next level, because it is higher. In the initial position, everything that I have in me is opposite to this level because here I am a big egoist. There I am a big altruist, but I do not desire it at all.
Based upon the prerequisites, principles, and desires that I have in me I cannot imagine my future. It is so opposite to me that whatever I imagine as being there is unattainable. My nature would not allow me to do this. However, even if it did, I would not aspire to it. I would keep away from it.
That is why I somehow need to see my next level. I need to understand and accept it inside of me. I should ask the Creator to help me from Above, to give me the Ohr Makif, so that in my third action I would move up to a higher level.
If I do not do that, I would advance in the spiritual world in the same way as in our world, making unsuccessful attempts all the time. Every next step of mine would be less successful then the previous one. Instead of ascending, I would go down more and more. Therefore, the Baal HaSulam writes:
One should start by looking at the end, i.e., at the purpose of creation. For nothing can be understood in the middle of the process, but only at its end. Moreover, it is clear that there is no act without purpose, for only the insane can be found to act purposelessly.
People always act with a purpose, so if I wish to ascend spiritually, this should become my purpose. I should acquire new strength, intellect, and properties, which I do not have. I cannot do this with my present properties.
I know that there are “know-alls” who scorn the method of Kabbalah (who believe that they know better ways), saying the Creator created reality, but then left it to the mercy of fate; because of the worthlessness of the creatures, it is not fitting for the exalted Creator to watch over their petty little ways. Had the Creator left me here, I would have never been able to rise to the next level. Why?
Indeed, without knowledge they have spoken, for it is not possible to comment on our nothingness and lowliness before we decide that we have created ourselves with all our tarnished natures. But while we decide that the Creator, who is perfect in every way, is the one who created and designed our bodies (our properties), with all their admirable and contemptible attributes, surely from under the hand of the perfect worker there cannot emerge an imperfect act, since each act testifies to its performer. What fault is it of a bad garment, if some no-good tailor made it?
Of course, this is the tailor’s fault. If we have some bad properties, it is clear to us that it is the Creator’s fault. Here the Baal HaSulam offers us a parable from the Talmud (Ta’anit 20).
This is a tale of Rabbi Elazar, the son of Rabbi Shimon, who came before a most ugly man…
Rabbi Shimon wrote “The Book of Zohar”. His son was one level higher than Rabbi Shimon was. Having reached the level of his father, he found an even uglier, lower level in himself. It was so ugly that he could not help saying (to himself) : “You are so ugly!” The man replied, “Go and tell the craftsman who made me – how ugly is this instrument you have made”.
If you have a grudge against some of your properties, turn to the Creator. He is the One who created them and He is the One who would correct them.
Hence, those who claim that because of our nothingness and lowliness, it is not fitting for Him to watch over us, and therefore He has left us, do nothing more than publicly display their ignorance. Try to imagine, if you had met some man who would create creatures precisely so that they would suffer and agonize their whole lives as we do. Not only that, but he cast them behind his back, not wanting even to look after them, to help them a little. How contemptible and low would you regard him? Can such a thing be thought of Him?
The paradox we see here remains a paradox so far.
5. Therefore, common sense… (the Baal HaSulam tells us about it from the level he reached) dictates that we grasp the opposite of what appears to be on the surface… (what can be seen with the naked eye) and decide that we are truly noble and worthy creatures...
Indeed, we are so huge, so great, we can rule over our entire world and the spiritual worlds that are in absolute harmony with the Creator, in complete likeness with Him. We are truly in this state, but we feel just a tiny part of it that is called “this world”. Indeed, we are now in a perfect, great state.
There is no end to our immeasurable importance; we are actually worthy of our Maker. For if you wish to find faults in our bodies, then behind all the excuses that you give yourself, it falls only on the Creator who created us and the nature within us. For it is clear that He created us.
He also knows all the ways that stem from our nature and the attributes He created in us. It is as we have said that we have to contemplate the end of the act. Then we will be able to understand it all. As the saying goes: “Do not show a fool an unfinished work”.
Because of our lessons, you will see the answers to all the inquiries and questions and all that will be left for you to do is realize it all. I hope that it will be a result of our studying. What is necessary for that? I repeat, by no means should you consider Kabbalah as a usual science. Though Kabbalah is a science, it instructs you how to correct yourself and achieve eternity and perfection.
This is why the work of your mind is insufficient. You ought to desire your own changes with your heart and be on the level where the Baal HaSulam is. He is teaching us now from that high level.
Question: I see my defects and try to correct them. I turn to the Creator, the only One who can correct them. I understand the method. The question is how can I speed up the process?
Everything you do is correct and, by the way, you actually do nothing. Why? It is because eventually, under the influence of suffering, and of contemplation, you would have found it necessary to turn to the Creator.
Our problem is in shortening time. In the chain that we should pass, we can only control time. All we can do is speed up the process with the help of a group. You need additional forces to turn to the Creator, so that the Creator would correct you more intensely.
This additional strength can come from your friends, who have the same purpose and agree to interact with you to join all forces to turn to the Creator. This is the only means available, and without it, you cannot accelerate your development.
In the end, the realization of all our actions comes to one thing: how to make our group more direct, more serious, and more intense. Strive to make your friends from the group like fighters who are always standing for our idea, for the Goal. You will then see how many states you go through in one day and you will have enough strength to do that. In just a few weeks, you will not recognize yourself. You will reach much higher levels!
It depends on all groups and on each separate group. Every group will get as much as it puts into the whole process.
Question: Can I see the next step?
I can see it, but only in a way that seeing it would not affect me negatively and I would not wish it selfishly, for myself. How can I adopt the next spiritual level in order to receive strength from it, to have the method of correction so that it will not obstruct my personal ascent? I want it to remain in me, as my own properties, as if I create this next level within myself. After all, I need to become similar to the Creator. This similarity means creating me on the next level, giving birth to myself.
To this end, I need to get the material for my birth from the next level. It means desires and strength to turn them into properties of bestowal. I am still very small, but I acquire my spiritual form. I can only obtain this from the AHP of the higher level. Hence, we perceive the AHP of the higher level in different variations; now luminous, now devoid of the light. We should stick to it, because it is our Creator. This is how we see Him. We should constantly cling to Him like a leech regardless of how bad or good, repulsive or attractive He may seem in our feelings; we simply must hold on to Him all the time.
A group can play a very important role in this. It always reminds me of what I need to do. I need a group alarm clock. This is not the kind of an alarm clock you carry on your wrist and fail to pay attention to. If your group were constantly thinking about it, you would always remember the goal and aspire to it. This way you would hold on to the AHP of the higher level so fast that it will pull you in against your will.
There is no other alternative. Our main task is to overcome this first level, because reaching it means crossing the Machsom. Afterwards, we already begin to feel the Creator. This is a very different kind of work.
Only group work can help, when all its members constantly strive to stay on this higher level. It does not matter how we imagine it. We should be obsessed with the Creator; only this will lead us to the Goal.
Question: Why did the perfect Creator have to create something? Was it perhaps in order to achieve even greater perfection?
He did it to bestow.
Question: How can we see our future state? Without seeing, there is no ascent, yet we cannot see!
We should accept it without seeing, because it comes from the Creator, not because we see and like it. In other words, we should accept it in our vessels of bestowal, in the intention “for the sake of the Creator”, because He desires it. We need to ask for strength to accept it without seeing.
Question: My next level is opposite to me. Does it mean that what I can “see in this life” happens to be just a tiny part of the level closest to my properties? Otherwise, it will repel me and not attract me.
This is precisely why the revelation of the AHP of the higher level is defined as a spiritual downfall. If the person realizes that, he immediately finds strength to master this AHP.