Text of conversation
Today’s lesson is about the disclosure of the wisdom of Kabbalah. This is a problematic topic because we’ve never really heard of such a thing throughout all of the generations.
The wisdom of Kabbalah is the most ancient of all wisdoms. It goes back to the times of Abraham the patriarch, which is the 18th century BC, 3800 years ago.
Abraham the patriarch was just like anyone else in Babylon, in Ur of the Chaldees. He was a Bedouin tribesman who discovered Godliness—something completely outside of this world—and wrote a book about it called Sefer Yetzira (The Book of Creation), which is actually the first book on the wisdom of Kabbalah.
There were many more Kabbalists after him—his disciples, his sons, his grandsons—and they all engaged in it, until the second disclosure of the wisdom of Kabbalah by Moses, during the exodus from Egypt. Moses was a great Kabbalist who wrote the book of Torah for us, where he too expressed his own revelations in the Upper World, but in a different way.
Abraham wrote in the language of names, Sefirot and Partzufim, while Moses expressed himself in a different language—the language of branches—because everything in this world comes from Above, from a Higher World, as it is written, “There is not a blade of grass below that has not an angel above that strikes it and tells it to grow.” Hence there is a complete correlation between all the items of the Upper World and the items of our world.
In our world we have a language and denominations, and names for every item before us, and we can take these names and seemingly go up a level, to a Higher World and use these names to describe everything that happens there. That’s what Moses did and it is called the “language of branches.”
We have the book of Torah thanks to that. People in this world think it talks about this world, about history, romance, all sorts of journeys and incidents. However, those on a Higher Plane—at which Moses was writing about—can see that Moses didn’t write about this world, but about what’s in the Upper World, Upper Governance, Higher Providence; the souls, how they ascend and descend; incarnations, and the entire Upper System. That’s what he really wrote about and thus the Torah is the second book.
Next comes the Book of Zohar that everyone knows about. It is the most well-known book on the wisdom of Kabbalah. Though no one understands it, still, it’s very well known.
The Zohar is written in the language of Midrash. That’s a different language, not like Abraham who wrote his book in Sefirot and in the language of names, and unlike Moses, who wrote in the language of branches, using words of this world. The Zohar is written like fiction, imaginary and poetic. It seemingly speaks about this world and the Upper World, but it’s a language of legends, called the “language of Midrash.”
After The Zohar, we have many more books. We have the book of Bahir in the middle, and we come to the disclosure in the middle-ages in Safed by the Holy Ari, who wrote nothing himself, but his teachings or what’s left of them, are the writings of Rav Chaim Vital, his disciple, who marks the beginning of contemporary Kabbalah.
Then comes the time of Chassidut, and the evolution of the wisdom of Kabbalah in the 17th and 18th centuries, until it evolves to Baal HaSulam, who is our contemporary. Baal HaSulam wrote the interpretations to the Zohar and the writings of the Ari, and expressed the Kabbalah in a contemporary language. He wrote The Study of the Ten Sefirot (Talmud Eser HaSefirot) as a scientific book, academically and very precise; with a glossary, questions and answers. It is a complete textbook suitable for our time.
But if we look at those giant Kabbalists, those pillars—Abraham, Moses, Rabbi Shimon, Ari — none of them wanted to disclose the wisdom, except for Baal HaSulam. There were many more Kabbalists in between them. There were Kabbalists in every generation, but not one of them was so concerned with disclosing this wisdom to everybody.
Only this last Kabbalist, Baal HaSulam, he and Rav Kook who was also a great Kabbalist and lived in Israel until 1935, when he passed away. They were both very anxious to promote the disclosure of the wisdom of Kabbalah.
And there’s a question: should the wisdom of Kabbalah be disclosed or not, on the one hand? On the other hand, we can see that this wisdom is already here. Although the debate continues: should it be revealed, should it not be revealed. There are opinions for and against, somehow, its disclosure has come and it is opening, and the world comes and takes an interest in this wisdom.
So we need to ask: is it the right thing or not, with respect to this wisdom?
Here, we can turn to the ancient sages, not just Jews, but from the nations of the world, like Plato and Aristotle who are mentioned in Rav Butril’s Introduction to the Book of Creation. He says that they too did not wish to disclose their wisdom; be it physics, mathematics, or whatever it was that they knew then.
This is what they wrote—I am quoting from the Introduction to the Book Panim Meirot Umasbirot (The Tree of Life), beginning with "Indeed."
Indeed we find mysteries, even in the wisdoms of secular sages of past generations. It is written in the Introduction of Rav Moshe Butril, in his interpretation to the book of Creation, an essay, in the name of Plato, who warned his disciples, thus, ‘Do not give the wisdom to one who doesn’t know its merit.’ And so warned Aristotle ‘Do not give the wisdom to one who isn’t worthy of it, lest it shall be robbed." And the sages interpreted that, ‘if a sage teaches wisdom to someone who isn’t virtuous toward it, he robs this wisdom and destroys it.
So we see that not only with the wisdom of Kabbalah, but in all other wisdoms, the real sages who cared for the knowledge, wanted to conceal it.
Baal HaSulam explains to us why they wished to conceal it. If a man knows the forces of nature and how to exploit them, the question arises: will he use them for better or worse?
We see that with every discovery in science, the scientist is seemingly neutral. His knowledge in itself is the wisdom of the Light; pure science. However, when it comes to applying it, people usually do bad things with it and even they end up regretting it, but this is what’s been happening throughout history. The development of wisdom is always directed first towards war and things that are bad for people.
If so, it isn’t wise to disclose the wisdom. But when can you? At what point?
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