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Michael Laitman, PhD

A Ladder to The Zohar

To understand the words of the Holy Zohar, one should first ... be cleaned of self love. ...Otherwise, there are Klipot that hide and block the truth in the words of the Holy Zohar.

Baal HaSulam, Shamati [I Heard], Article No. 89 [1]


The story of The Book of Zohar begins some 1,800 years ago in a tiny, dimly lit cave in Peki'in, in the Western Galilee, Israel, where Rashbi and his son, Rabbi Elazar, hid from the Roman emperor. For thirteen years they prepared themselves for the writing of the book that would change the face of history.

The years passed and Rabbi Shimon and his son completed the correction that they had to complete and came out of the cave. Eight other Kabbalists joined Rabbi Shimon and his son and together they studied and wrote The Book of Zohar.

This is how I am arranging you: Rabbi Aba will write, Rabbi Elazar will learn verbally, and the rest of the friends will speak in their hearts.

The Book of Zohar, Haazinu [Give Ear], Idra Zuta, Item 27

Among Rashbi’s students was Rabbi Aba, a Kabbalist with a special gift. He was the only one who knew how to write the words of his teacher in such a way that they would be both revealed and concealed. The Book of Zohar refers to that gift as “Disclosing in secret.” [2]

Legend has it that the manuscript of The Zohar was hidden in a cave near Zephath, and after a few centuries was discovered by Arabs living in the area, who were delighted to find paper—which was a rare commodity in those days. When one of the Kabbalists of Zephath bought some fish in the market, he was astounded to discover the contents of the text of The Zohar on the wrapping paper of the fish. As soon as he discovered it, he bought all the “wrapping paper” that was still available and compiled the pieces into a book.

The Book of Zohar that we have today is only a small part of the original because much of it was never retrieved. The pieces that were found and compiled into The Book of Zohar that we have today were passed on secretly among Kabbalists from generation to generation until early in the 14th century. At that time, the widow of Rabbi Moshe De Leon inherited the manuscript from her husband. “He probably told her nothing of the prohibition to disclose, and she, by chance, put it up for sale.” [3]

Some mistakenly attribute the writing of The Zohar to Rabbi Moshe De Leon himself, but the Kabbalists explain that this is a mistake: “All those who know the ins and outs of the holy Book of Zohar, that is, who understand what is written in it, unanimously agree that the holy Book of Zohar was written by the Godly Tanna (sage) Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Only some of those who are far from this wisdom doubt this pedigree and tend to say, relying on fabricated tales of opponents of this wisdom, that its author is the Kabbalist Rabbi Moshe De Leon, or others of his time” (Baal HaSulam, “Introduction to The Book of Zohar,” Item 59).

Since then, The Book of Zohar has been present, but only in our generation is it truly being revealed, thanks to Baal HaSulam’s commentary. Baal HaSulam explains that the generation of the authors of The Zohar was the only generation in which the desired wholeness had been attained, that is, all 125 spiritual degrees. And because our generation should achieve the same perfection, it has been given the chance to unlock The Zohar.

Prior to the days of the Messiah, it is impossible to be granted all 125 degrees. ...An exception is Rashbi and his generation, the authors of The Zohar, who were granted all 125 degrees in completeness, even though it was prior to the days of the Messiah. It was said about him and his disciples: “A sage is preferable to a prophet.”

Hence, we often find in The Zohar that there will be none like the generation of Rashbi until the generation of the Messiah King. This is why his composition made such a great impact in the world, since the secrets of the Torah in it occupy the level of all 125 degrees.

Baal HaSulam, “A Speech for the Completion of The Zohar”

[1] Baal HaSulam, Shamati [I Heard], Article No. 89, “To Understand the Words of the Holy Zohar.”

[2] And we also find in The Book of Zohar, that Rashbi (Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai) instructed Rabbi Aba to write the secrets, because he knew how to reveal with intimation. ...For each secret that Rashbi disclosed in the wisdom, he would cry and say, “Woe if I tell; woe if I do not tell.” ...This means that he was in distress from both angles: if he did not reveal the secrets of the Torah, the secrets would be lost from the true sages... And if he did reveal the secrets, unworthy people would fail in them for they would not understand the root of the matters and would eat unripe fruit.

Hence, Rashbi chose Rabbi Aba to write because of his wisdom in allegories, arranging matters in such a way that it would be sufficiently revealed to those worthy of understanding them, and hidden and blocked from those unworthy of understanding them. This is why he said that Rabbi Aba knew how to disclose in secret. In other words, although he revealed, it still remained a secret to the unworthy. (Baal HaSulam, “General Preface,” Item 1)

[3] Baal HaSulam, “Messiah’s Shofar

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