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Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam)

Introduction to the Book, From the Mouth of a Sage

It is known from books and from authors that the study of the wisdom of Kabbalah is an absolute must for any person from Israel. And if one studies the whole Torah and knows the Mishnah and the Gemarah by heart, and if one is also filled with virtues and good deeds more than all his contemporaries, but has not learned the wisdom of Kabbalah, he must reincarnate into this world to study the secrets of Torah and wisdom of truth. This is brought in several places in the writing of our sages.

This is what The Zohar writes in the interpretation to the Song of Songs, explaining the verse, “If thou know not, O thou fairest among women,” which our sages interpreted as a soul that comes before the Thrown after one’s demise.

The Creator tells it: “If thou know not, O thou fairest among women.” Although you are the fairest among women and virtuous in good deeds more than all the souls, if you do not have knowledge in the secrets of Torah, “go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock,” leave here and never return to this world. “And feed thy kids, beside the shepherds' tents,” go there to the seminaries and learn the secrets of Torah from the mouths of the disciples of our sages.

We must understand their words, conditioning one’s perfection on the study of the wisdom of truth. Seemingly, how is it different from the other words of the revealed Torah? We found nowhere that one is obligated to understand all the subjects of the Torah, and that he will not be completed if one subject in the Torah is missing. Moreover, our sages said that it is not the study that is the most important, but the act. Our sages also said, “One does much, the other little, as long as they aim their hearts to Heaven,” and there are many such sayings.

In order to attain the depth of their above words, we must first understand what has been written many times in The Zohar and the Tikkunim (Corrections of The Zohar), wisely and daintily: “The Torah, the Creator, and Israel, are one.” This seems very perplexing.

Before I elucidate their words, I will notify you that our sages have defined a great rule for us, regarding all the holy names and appellations in the books. These are their golden words: “Anything that we do not attain, we do not define by a name.”

Interpretation: It is known that there is no thought and perception in Him whatsoever, as it is written in the article “Elijah Started” in the beginning of the Tikkunim of The Zohar. For that reason, even the thought of the “Self” of the Creator is forbidden, much less the speech.

All the names we call Him do not refer to His Self, but only to His Lights, expanding from Him to the lower ones. Even the holy name, Ein Sof (Infinity), presented in the Kabbalah books, is also regarded as Light that expands from His Essence.

But since He determined that His Light, which expands from His Self, will be attained by the lower ones as Ein Sof, we shall therefore define it by that name. Yet, this does not refer to His Essence, since there is absolutely no perception or thought in Him. Thus, how shall we define Him by a name and a word, since all that we do not attain, we do not define by a name?

Any novice in the wisdom of truth must contemplate the above great rule before any scrutiny in a book of Kabbalah, that even the thought is forbidden in His Self, since there is no perception in Him whatsoever. Thus, how do we mention a name or a word in Him, which indicates attainment?

However, it is a great Mitzva to examine and research in His illuminations, which expand from Him, which are all the holy names and appellations brought in the books. It is an utter must for any person from Israel to study and understand the secrets of Torah and all the ways of His bestowal upon the lower ones, which are the gist of the wisdom of truth and the future reward of the souls at the end of correction.

It is written in the words of our sages, in The Zohar, and the Tikkunim that all the Upper Worlds and all the Holy Sefirot of the five worlds AK and ABYA have been prepared ahead of time in quantity and quality to complement the children of Israel. This is so because the soul of one from Israel is a part of God Above and “The end of an act is in the preliminary thought.”

It arose in His Simple Will to delight with reward for their labor. And for that reason, the entire reality expanded before Him by way of a sequence of causes and their consequences in the descent of the degrees through the worlds AK and ABYA. Finally, they elicited two discernments clothed in one another: the soul from the concealments of heaven, which expands and robes the corporeal body.

The essence of reality expanded through the last degree, which is the corporeal body with a soul. Similarly, the concatenation was made by way of cause and consequence, relating to the essence of the existence of reality, which is the ways of His bestowal that hang down by gradations.

Thus, the Upper Light is Higher than High and will ultimately expand and come to the soul clothed in the corporeal body in this world, as it is written, “for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying: 'Know the Lord'; for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them.”

It is written by our sages and in The Book of Zohar, “The whole Torah is the names of the Creator.” All the stories and the laws and the sentences, all are His Holy Names.

According to the explained above, that “Anything that we do not attain we do not define by a name,” you will thoroughly understand the meaning of the Holy Names of the Creator. These are the attainments that expand from Him to His servants, the prophets and the righteous, each according to his merit, as it is written, “we are distinguished, I and Thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.”

This distinguishing comes to us through the reception of the Torah and the keeping of Mitzvot, first only in the revealed way. It has the merit of purifying our bodies and enhancing our souls to such a measure that we become worthy of attaining the whole Torah and its Mitzvot as His Names. This is the whole reward intended for the souls at the end of correction. However, it is in this world, too, as it is written in the Gemarah, “You will see your world in your life.”

That explains to us why he calls the 613 Mitzvot 613 counsels in several places in The Zohar, and in many other places in The Zohar he calls the 613 Mitzvot “613 deposits.” This is so because at first, one must keep the Torah and the Mitzvot in order to purify his body and enhance his soul. At that time, the 613 Mitzvot are as 613 counsels for him, “tips” by which to gradually purify and be awarded coming before the King, and receiving the Light of his face. This is because keeping Torah and Mitzvot gradually purify him, until he is rewarded with the Light of the King’s face.

Also, it is written similarly in the Gemarah: “The Creator cares not if one slaughters at the throat or slaughters at the back of the neck? Rather, we were given the Torah and Mitzvot only to purify Israel.”

However, after one has been sufficiently purified and merits the Light of the King’s face, one’s eyes and soul open and he is awarded the attaining the 613 Sacred Lights found in the 613 Mitzvot. These are His Holy Names, the ones he can attain.

By keeping each of the Mitzvot, one takes the part of the Light deposited in that Mitzva, since the Mitzva is a Kli (vessel) where the Light is clothed, meaning a Holy Name that belongs specifically to that Mitzva. This is the meaning of “The Mitzva is a candle and the Torah—Light.”

At that time, he calls the 613 Mitzvot “613 commandments (deposits).” It is like one who deposits good stones and gems in a vessel and says to his loved one: “Take this Kli for yourself but guard it from thieves and robbers.” Thus, they only speak of the vessel, but their primary intention is the precious stones deposited there.

It is known in the books of Kabbalah that the meaning of the Holy Name, “The Holy One Blessed be He” or Kudsha Brich Hu (the same name in Aramaic) brought by our sages and in The Zohar, is named after the HaVaYaH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey). This Holy Name contains all the Holy Names until one Higher than High. Thus, we learn that “The Torah and the Creator are one,” albeit the masses do not see Him in the Torah, but only stories, sentences, and laws.

Indeed, I have already explained that “apples of gold in settings of silver” is how the 613 deposits are called, as our sages said, “The whole Torah is the names of the Creator.” Hence, the Torah and the Creator are one.

Yet, there are general and particular, where the Creator is the assembly of all the names, and the general Light, and the Torah is divided into 613 Lights. It follows that all of them together are one, and are the Creator Himself.

Now there still remains for us to explain the discernment of Israel. First, you must understand the matter of multiplicity of separate forms in spirituality, meaning how they are divided and in what. Corporeal things are separated by a knife and such, or time and place separate and distinguish them. Yet, this is unthinkable in spirituality, as it is known to be above time and place.

However, know that the whole difference in spirituality between the Upper Lights is only in the disparity of form. For example: the mental souls in people are certainly divided into separate souls. Each individual has a different soul.

Yet, the essential difference between them is nothing more then stemming out of their disparity in form, that the soul of one is good, the other’s is bad; one has acquired wisdom, and the other folly, etc. Our sages say about that, “As their faces differ from one another, their views differ from one another.”

Now we can understand that if all people were to come by equal concepts and inclinations, without any difference whatsoever, all the souls of all the people would be regarded as one soul. Its value would be like the light of the sun: the light clothes in all the inhabitants of the world, yet we do not discern that there are separate forms in the sunlight. Similarly, one conceptual soul would robe many bodies, since places do not separate at all in spiritual matters if there are no separate forms in their qualities.

Now we shall come to the actual scrutiny: It is known that the meaning of the souls of the children of Israel is that they are a part of God Above. The soul cascaded by way of cause and consequence and descended degree-by-degree until it became suitable to come into this world and clothe the filthy corporeal body.

By keeping the Torah and observing its Mitzvot, it ascends degree-by-degree until its stature is completed, and it is fit to receive its reward from The Whole. This has been prepared for it in advance, meaning attaining the holy Torah by way of the Names of the Creator, which are the 613 deposits.

Now you can see with your own eyes that “The Torah and Israel are one.” And the only difference between the Torah and the soul is due to the disparity of form in the soul, which has been reduced to a very, very small Light, and the Torah is Simple Light that expands from His Essence, whose sublimity is endless, as it is written “The Torah and the Creator are one.”

However, when the soul is complete in its full stature and receives the Torah by way of His Names, namely attains all the Light deposited in the Torah and Mitzvot, you find that, in any case, the Light of the soul is equal to the Light of Torah. This is because it has already attained all the Light in the Torah.

It is still considered incomplete as long as there is some deficit in attaining a small and subtle part of the general Light of the Torah. This is because all its Light has been prepared for the souls, as I have explained above, “All that we do not attain, we do not define by a name.”

And since the Light has been prepared for the attainment of the soul, and the soul did not attain all of it, it is therefore deemed incomplete, as in, “I will keep the whole Torah except one thing. Certainly, he is a complete wicked.”

However, such as that you can declare in the keeping of the Torah and Mitzvot in attaining the 613 deposits. It is incomplete when lacking even one thing, great or small.

Hence, it will finally come to complete perfection, namely attain the whole Light of the Torah. At that time, there will be no disparity of form between the Light of the soul and the Light of Torah anyhow. Thus, you find, daintily, that “The Torah and Israel are one,” literally.

Because there is no difference or disparity of form between them, they are literally one. And since we have already proven that “The Creator and the Torah are one,” and now we have proven that “The Torah and Israel are one,” it is therefore evident that “The Torah and the Creator and Israel are one.”

From all the above, you find that there are two parts in the Torah and Mitzvot:

A. The Torah and Mitzvot as they appear to all, being the keeping of Mitzvot and the study of Torah in the form of 613 counsels. These have the power to purify and cleanse the body, and enhance the merit of the soul, to be worthy and merit receiving the Light of the King's face, as the soul was in its root, before it diminished and came into this base body in the base world.

B. Keeping the Mitzvot and studying the Torah in the form of 613 deposits, namely the matter of attaining His Names and the full reward of the souls.

The merit of the latter part over the former is as the merit of Heaven over Earth. This is because the first part is mere preparation, and the second part is the actual completeness and the purpose of Creation.

This explains our above question about the words of our sages, that even if a person excels in Torah and good deeds more than all his contemporaries, if he has not learned the secrets of Torah and the wisdom of truth, he must reincarnate in the world.

We asked, “What is the difference between this subject in the wisdom of truth from other subjects in the Torah?” We found nowhere that one is compelled to engage in all the topics in the Torah. On the contrary, we have found opposition to that in many places, such as, “One does much, the other little, as long as they aim their hearts to Heaven,” and also, “It is not the study that is important, but the act.”

Now the matter is clarified—the whole part of the revealed Torah is but a preparation to become worthy and merit attaining the concealed part. It is the concealed part that is the very wholeness and the purpose for which man is created.

Hence, clearly, if a part of the concealed part is missing, although one may keep the Torah and observe its commandments in the revealed part, he will still have to reincarnate to this world and receive what he should receive, namely the concealed part, by way of 613 deposits. Only in that is the soul completed, the way the Creator had predetermined for it.

You can therefore see the utter necessity for anyone from Israel, whoever he may be, to engage in the internality of the Torah and in its secrets. Without it, the intention of Creation will not be completed in him.

This is the reason why we reincarnate, generation-by-generation through our current generation, which is the residue of the souls upon which the intention of Creation has not been completed, as they did not attain the secrets of the Torah in the past generations.

For this reason, they said in The Zohar: “The secrets of Torah and its mysteries are destined to be revealed at the time of the Messiah.” It is clear to anyone who understands, that since they will be completing the intention of Creation, they will be awarded the coming of the Messiah. Hence, inevitably, the secrets of the Torah will be revealed among them openly, since if the correction is prevented they will be compelled to reincarnate.

This will explain to you what we should ask about this interpretation in general, for who am I and who are my fathers that I have been awarded making the interpretation to expand the knowledge of the hidden secrets in The Zohar and the writings of the Ari? Moreover, why have we thus far found no other to interpret this wisdom as openly as me?

Now you can see that because our generation is really the time of the Messiah, and we are all standing at the threshold of the complete correction, and the only prevention is the complete abandonment of the wisdom of truth in this generation, due to the difficulty of the language and the dispersion of the matters.

In addition to all that, there is the smallness of the mind and the abundant troubles in our generation. Hence, when the Lord wishes to hasten the redemption of our souls, He has passed a privilege onto my hand to disclose the measure in this interpretation, and the will of God succeeded in my hand.

And I had another reason for making this open interpretation, as it is written in The Zohar, “One must learn a little even from nonsense,” as it is written, “as far as light excelleth darkness.” After I completed my time in the city of Warsaw in the state of Poland, confined to my chamber, having nothing to do with the darkness of my surroundings, I have been blessed with settling in the Holy City of Jerusalem.

And when I walked among the people here, I saw the poverty of my people, the poverty of their mind. Their foolish laughter was in my ears as the noise of pots under the city, mocking and trampling the heart and soul of our yearnings, slandering the Lord, His Law, and His people in a loud voice, without any wisdom, understanding, and knowledge in the wisdom of Kabbalah at all. Rather, it is an assortment of words and names, no sense and no moral, only literal words.

It is a privilege to chatter idle words in the written text with complete faith that they are holy things, and that thus the purpose of Creation will be completed upon us. And when those who engage in the literal texts with complete faith increase in number, the Messiah King will come at once, for by that the whole correction will be completed, and nothing more is needed.

Finally, I met with the famous ones among them, people who have already worn out their years delving in the writings of the Ari and The Zohar. They have so succeeded that they have become proficient and conversant in all the writings of the Ari.

They have a reputation as being the holiest people in the land. I asked them if they had studied with a Rav who attained the internality of the matters. They answered: “Heavens, no! There is no internality here whatsoever, but accurate texts, given to us, and nothing more than that, God forbid.”

I asked them if Rav Chaim Vital had attained the internality of the matters. They replied: “He certainly did not attain more than we do.” I then asked them about the Ari himself. They answered: “He certainly did not know the internality more than us at all, and all that he knew, he had passed on to his disciple, Rav Chaim Vital, and thus they came into our hands.”

I mocked them: “How then were the matters composed in the heart of the Ari without any understanding and knowledge?” They replied: “He received the composition of these matters from Elijah, and he knew the internality, since he is an angel.” Here my wrath poured out on them, for my patience to be with them had ended.

And when I saw that their folly had found roots in nearly everyone engaging in this wisdom at this time, woe to the ears that so hear, “Will he even force the queen before me in the house?”

The Holy Zohar had already mourned bitterly the denial of the sinners in their souls, saying that there are no internal secrets in the Torah, as it is written in Parashat Vayerah: “Has the Torah come to show us fables and historic tales? Such stories and fables are found among other nations, too.” Our sages said that they uproot the plantations, for they only take Malchut.

What would the authors of The Zohar say in view of the culture of such sinful people, denying that there is any knowledge or wisdom in the words of The Zohar and the wisdom of truth themselves? They say about the very secrets of the Torah that there is no knowledge or perception revealed in this world, but merely empty words. Thus, they have come to force the Holy Divinity inside the King’s palace. Woe unto them, for they have caused their souls harm.

Our sages said that the Holy Torah mourns before the Creator: “Your sons have turned Me into a song in public-houses.” But they do not even make of the Torah a semblance of a song, only frightening words to any listener that arise contempt and wrath.

Furthermore, they wish to be rewarded like Phinehas, saying that they do it in complete faith. The writing says about them: “Forasmuch as this people draw near, and with their mouth and with their lips do honor Me, but have removed their heart far from Me,” and this is the reason for the ruin of the First Temple.

The devil still dances among us, precisely at the time of the Messiah, the time of the end of the secrets of the Torah. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts came as fire that will not quench in my bones. Because of that, I have been awakened to disclose the gown to such an extent that they will know that there is wisdom in Israel.

This has been among the primary reasons that made me come to this explanation. You must see in every purpose and every goal that it is utterly simple. All the wit, the cleverness, and the many issues form during the preparation, until the goal is reached. For example, when one wishes to sit in a house, he needs wit and knowledge in the design, in artisanship, and in the quality, and quantity of the rooms and the possessions.

The final goal is but a simple thing—to dwell there. This is the meaning of the words, “according to the beauty of a man, to dwell in the house.” It is a simple thought, without any concepts and proliferation, and without wit, but a simple will.

Know that all the sophistications in the knowledge are mostly mistakes that should fall before the truth. Yet, the truth itself is simple, without any wit.

There is a secret in that, principally being the iron wall that separates us from our Father in Heaven: There are things that are hidden because of their great height and depth, and there are things that are hidden because of their extreme subtlety, like flies in the air, too thin to be seen.

Since His Light is such Simple Light that the human mind, which feels only a tiny portion of something, simply does not perceive. It is like the smaller things from that measure, requiring an actual tool to see.

This is so because although not all of the depth of the height and the depth of the width are perceived, you can nonetheless perceive the proximate. However, with subtle things, it seems as though they do not exist at all, since you do not attain even the slightest bit of them.

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