The Teaching of the Kabbalah and Its Essence
What is the wisdom of Kabbalah? As a whole, the wisdom of Kabbalah concerns the revelation of Godliness, arranged on its paths in all its aspects—those that have been revealed in the worlds and those that are destined to be revealed, and in all the manners that can ever be revealed in the worlds, to the end of time.
The Purpose of Creation
Since there is no act without some purpose, it is certain that the Creator had a purpose in the creation set before us. The most important thing in this whole diverse reality is the sensation given to the animals—that each of them feels its own existence. And the most important sensation is the noetic sensation, given to man alone, by which one also feels what is in the other—others’ pains and comforts. Hence, it is certain that if the Creator has a purpose in this creation, its subject is man. It is said about this, “All of the Lord’s works are for him.”
But we must still understand what was the purpose for which the Creator created this lot. Indeed, it is to elevate him to a higher and more important degree, to feel his Creator like the human sensation, which is already given to him. And as one knows and feels one’s friend’s wishes, so he will learn the ways of the Creator, as it is written about Moses, “And the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.”
Any person can be as Moses. Undoubtedly, anyone who examines the evolution of the creation before us will see and understand the great pleasure of the Operator, whose operation evolves until it acquires that wondrous sensation of being able to converse and deal with one’s Creator as one speaks to one’s friend.
From Above Downward
It is known that the end of the act is in the preliminary thought. Before one begins to think about how to build a house, one contemplates the apartment in the house, which is the purpose. Subsequently, one examines the blueprint to make it suitable for this task.
So it is with our matter. Once we have learned about the purpose, it is also clear to us that all the conducts of creation, in its every corner, inlet, and outlet, are completely prearranged for the purpose of nurturing the human species from within it, to improve its qualities until it can sense the Creator as one feels one’s friend.
These ascensions are like rungs of a ladder, arranged degree by degree until it is completed and achieves its purpose. And you should know that the quality and quantity of these rungs is set in two realities: 1) the existence of material substances, 2) the existence of spiritual concepts.
In the language of Kabbalah, they are called “from above downward” and “from below upward.” This means that the corporeal substances are a sequence of disclosure of His light from above downward—from the first source, when a measure of light was cut off from His essence and was restricted Tzimtzum by Tzimtzum [restriction by restriction] until the corporeal world was formed out of it with corporeal creatures at its very bottom.
From Below Upward
Afterward begins an order from below upward. These are all the rungs of the ladder by which the human race develops and climbs until it reaches the purpose of creation. These two realities are explained in their every detail in the wisdom of Kabbalah.
The Necessity to Study Kabbalah
An opposer might say, “Therefore, this wisdom is for those who have already been rewarded with a measure of revelation of Godliness, but what necessity can the majority of the people have for knowing this sublime wisdom?”
Indeed, there is a common opinion that the prime goal of religion and the Torah is only the cleansing of actions, that all that is desired concerns observing the physical Mitzvot [commandments] without any additions or anything that should result from it. Had that been so, those who say that studying the revealed is sufficient are right in matters that concern the practice.
Yet, this is not the case. Our sages already said, “Why should the Creator mind if one slaughters at the throat or at the back of the neck? After all, the Mitzvot were only given to cleanse people.” Thus, there is a purpose beyond the observance of practices, for the practices are merely preparations for this purpose. Hence, clearly, if the actions are not arranged for the desired goal, it is as if nothing exists. And it is also written in The Zohar: “A Mitzva [commandment] without an aim is like a body without a soul.” Hence, the aim, too, should accompany the act.
Also, it is clear that the aim should be a true aim, worthy of the act, as our sages said about the verse, “‘And I will set you apart from the peoples, that you should be Mine,’ so your separation will be for My Name. Let not one say about pork, ‘It is impossible.’ Rather, let one say, ‘It is possible, but what can I do that my Father in heaven has sentenced me?’”
Thus, if one avoids pork because of abomination or because of some bodily harm, this aim does not help at all for it to be considered a Mitzva, unless one has the unique and proper intention that the Torah forbade. So it is with every Mitzva, and only then is one’s body gradually cleansed by observing the Mitzvot, which is the desired purpose.
Hence, the study of physical conducts is not enough; we need to study those things that produce the desirable intention: to observe everything with faith in the Torah and in the Giver of the Torah, that there is a judgment and there is a Judge.
Who is so foolish as to not understand that faith in the Torah and in reward and punishment, which have the Segula [power/merit/quality] to yield this great thing, require much study in the proper books? Thus, even before the act, a study that qualifies the body is required, to grow accustomed to faith in the Creator, His law, and His Providence. Our sages said about this, “I have created the evil inclination; I have created for it the Torah as a spice.” They did not say, “I have created for it the Mitzvot as a spice,” since “Your guarantor needs a bondsman himself,” as the evil inclination desires licentiousness and will not let him observe the Mitzvot.
The Torah as a Spice
The Torah is the only spice to annul and subdue the evil inclination, as our sages said, “The light in it reformed them.”
The Majority of the Words of the Torah Are for Study
This reconciles why the Torah speaks at length about parts that do not concern the practical part but only the study, meaning the introduction with the work of creation, the whole of the book of Beresheet [Genesis], the book of Shemot [Exodus], most of Devarim [Deuteronomy], and needless to say, legends and commentaries. Yet, since they are what the light is stored in, his body will be cleansed, the evil inclination will be subdued, and he will come to faith in the Torah and in reward and punishment. This is the first degree in the observance of the work.
A Candle Is a Mitzva and the Torah Is Light
It is written, “A candle is a Mitzva and the Torah is light.” As one who has candles but no light to light them sits in the dark, one who has Mitzvot but no Torah sits in the dark. This is because the Torah is light by which the darkness in the body is illuminated and lit up.
Not All Portions of the Torah Are of Equal Light
According to the Segula [power/merit] mentioned in the Torah, that is, considering the measure of light in it, it is certain that the Torah should be divided into degrees according to the measure of light that one can receive from studying it. Clearly, when one ponders and contemplates words of Torah that pertain to the revelation of the Creator to our fathers, they bring the examiner more light than when examining practical matters.
Although they are more important with respect to the practices, with respect to the light, the revelation of the Creator to our fathers is certainly more important. Anyone with an honest heart who tried to ask to receive the light of the Torah will admit to this.
Necessity and Unfolding of the Expansion of the Wisdom
Since the whole of the wisdom of Kabbalah speaks of the revelation of the Creator, naturally, there is none more successful teaching for its task. This is what the Kabbalists aimed for—to arrange it so it is suitable for studying.
And so they studied in it until the time of concealment (it was agreed to conceal it for a certain reason). However, this was only for a certain time, and not forever, as it is written in The Zohar, “This wisdom is destined to be revealed at the end of days, and even to children.”
It follows that the above-mentioned wisdom is not at all limited to the language of Kabbalah, as its essence is a spiritual light that emerges from His essence, as it is written, “Can you send forth lightning, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are,’” referring to the two above-mentioned ways: from above downward and from below upward.
These matters and degrees expand according to a language suitable for them, and they are truly all the beings in this world and their conducts in this world, which are their branches. This is so because “You have not a blade of grass below that does not have an angel above, which strikes it and tells it, ‘Grow!’” Thus, the worlds emerge and are imprinted from one another like a seal and imprint, and all that is in one is in the other down to the corporeal world, which is their last branch, but contains the world above it like an imprint of a seal.
Thus, it is easy to know that we can speak of the upper worlds only by their corporeal, lower branches, which extend from them, or of their conducts, which are the language of the Bible, or by secular teachings or by people, which is the language of Kabbalists, or according to agreed-upon names. This was the conduct in the Kabbalah of the Ge'onim since the concealment of The Zohar.
Thus, it has been made clear that the revelation of the Creator is not a one-time revelation but an ongoing matter that is revealed over a period of time, sufficient for the disclosure of all the great degrees that are revealed from above downward and from below upward. On top of them, and at the end of them, appears the Creator.
It is like a person proficient in all the countries and people in the world. He cannot say that the whole world has been revealed to him before he has completed his examination of the last person and the last country. Until one has achieved this, he has not attained the whole world.
Similarly, the attainment of the Creator unfolds in preordained ways. The seeker must attain all those ways in both the upper and the lower. Clearly, the upper worlds are the important ones here, but they are attained together because there is no difference in their shapes, only in their substance. The substance of a higher world is finer, but the shapes are imprinted from one another, and what exists in the higher world necessarily exists in all the worlds below it, since the lower one is imprinted by it. Know that these realities and their conducts, which the seeker of the Creator attains, are called “degrees,” since their attainment is arranged one atop the other, like rungs of a ladder.
The spiritual has no image; hence, it has no letters with which to contemplate. Even if we declare in general that it is simple light, descending and extending to the seeker until one clothes and attains it in the amount sufficient for His revelation, this, too, is a borrowed expression. This is so because everything that is called “light” in the spiritual world is not like sunlight or candlelight.
What we refer to as light in the spiritual world is borrowed from the human mind whose nature is such that when a doubt is resolved in a person, one discovers a kind of abundance of light and pleasure throughout the body. This is why we sometimes say “the light of the mind,” although this is not so. The light that shines in those parts of the substance of the body that are unsuitable for receiving resolved scrutinies is certainly something inferior to the mind. Hence, those lower, inferior organs can receive it and attain it, too.
Yet, to be able to name the mind by some name, we call it “the light of the mind.” Similarly, we call the elements of the reality of the upper worlds “lights,” as they bring those who attain them abundance of light and pleasure throughout the body, from head to toe. For this reason, we may call one who attains, “clothing,” for he has clothed that light.
We might ask, Would it not be more correct to call them by names used in scrutiny, such as “observation” or “attainment,” or express ourselves with expressions that emphasize the phenomena of the contemplating mind? The thing is that this is nothing like the conducts of the intellectual phenomena, since the mind is a particular branch among all the elements of reality. Hence, it has its own ways of manifestation.
This is not so with degrees, as they are a complete whole, which contains all the elements that exist in a world. Each element has its own particular ways. For the most part, the perception of matters in degrees is similar to the perception of animate bodies: When one attains some essence, one attains the whole of it, from head to toe.
If we judge by the laws of the contemplating mind, we can say that he has attained everything he could attain in that essence, and even if he contemplated it for another thousand years, he would not add to it even an iota. Yet, in the beginning it is very similar to… meaning he sees everything but understands none of what he sees. Yet, by the passing of time he will have to attain additional matters, similar to Ibur [conception/impregnation], Yenika [nursing], Mochin [adulthood], and Ibur Bet [second Ibur], and then he begins to feel and use his attainments in every way he wishes.
However, in truth, he did not add a thing to the attainments he had achieved in the beginning. It is rather like ripening: Previously it was unripe, so he could not understand it, and now its ripening has been completed.
Thus, you see the big difference from the conducts of the phenomena of the mind. For this reason, the definitions we are accustomed to use will not suffice for us with phenomena of the mind. We are compelled to use only the conducts that apply to corporeal matters, since their shapes are completely similar, although their substance is utterly remote.
Four Languages Are Used in the Wisdom of Truth
Four languages are used in the wisdom of truth:
The language of the Bible, its names, and appellations.
The language of laws. This language is very close to the language of the Bible.
The language of legends, which is very far from the Bible, since it has no consideration of reality. Strange names and appellations are attributed to this language, and it also does not relate to concepts by way of root and its branch.
The language of Sefirot and Partzufim. In general, sages had a strong tendency to conceal it from the ignorant, since they believed that wisdom and ethics go hand in hand. Hence, the first sages hid the wisdom in writing, using lines, dots, tops, and bottoms. This is how the [Hebrew] alphabet was formed with the twenty-two letters before us.
The Language of the Bible
The language of the Bible is the primary, rudimentary language, perfectly suited for its task, as for the most part, it contains a relation of root and branch and is the easiest language to understand. This language is also the oldest; it is the Holy Tongue, attributed to Adam ha Rishon.
This language has two advantages and one disadvantage. Its first advantage is that it is easy to understand, and even beginners in attainments immediately understand all that they need. The second advantage is that it clarifies matters extensively and deeply than all other languages.
Its disadvantage is that it cannot be used for discussing particular issues or connections of cause and consequence because every matter must be clarified in its fullest measure, as it is not self-evident to which element it is referring, unless by presenting the matter in its entirety. Hence, to emphasize the smallest detail, a complete story must be presented. This is why it is unsuitable for small details or for connections of cause and consequence.
Also, the language of prayers and blessings is taken from the language of the Bible.
The Language of Laws
The language of laws is not of reality, but only of the existence of reality. This language is taken entirely from the language of the Bible according to the roots of the laws presented there. It has one advantage over the Bible: It greatly elaborates on every matter and hence points to the upper roots more accurately.
However, its great disadvantage compared to the language of the Bible is that it is very difficult to understand and is the most difficult of all the languages. Only a complete sage, called “entering and exiting without harm,” will attain it. Of course, it also contains the first disadvantage, as it is taken from the Bible.
The Language of Legends
The language of legends is easy to understand through the allegories that perfectly fit the desired meaning. In superficial examination, it is even easier to understand than the language of the Bible. Yet, for complete understanding, it is a very difficult language as it does not confine itself to speaking in sequences of root and branch, but only in allegories and marvelous wit. However, it is very rich in resolving abstruse and odd concepts that concern the essence of the degree in its state, for itself, which cannot be explained in the languages of the Bible and laws.
The Language of Kabbalists
The language of the Kabbalists is a language in the full sense of the word: very precise, both in terms of root and branch and concerning cause and consequence. It has the unique merit of being able to express subtle details in this language without any limits. Also, through it, it is possible to approach the desired matter directly, without the need to connect it with what precedes it or follows it.
However, despite all the sublime merits that you find in it, there is a great drawback in it, that it is difficult to attain. It is almost impossible to attain it except from a Kabbalist sage and from a sage one who understands with his own mind. This means that even one who understands the rest of the degrees from below upward and from above downward with his own mind will still not understand anything in this language until he receives it from a sage who has already received the language from his teacher face to face.
The Language of Kabbalah Is Contained in All of Them
The names, appellations, and Gematrias belong entirely to the wisdom of Kabbalah. The reason they are found in the rest of the languages, too, is that all the languages are included in the wisdom of Kabbalah, since they are all particular cases that the other languages must be assisted with.
But one should not think that these four languages, which serve to explain the wisdom of the revelation of Godliness, evolved one at a time, over time. The truth is that all four appeared before the sages of truth simultaneously.
In truth, each consists of all the others. The language of Kabbalah exists in the Bible, such as the standing on the Tzur [rock], the thirteen attributes of mercy in the Torah and in Micah. To an extent, it is sensed in each and every verse. There are also the Merkavot [chariots/structures] in Isaiah and Ezekiel, and atop them all The Song of Songs, which is purely the language of Kabbalah in its entirety. It is similar in laws and in legends, and all the more so with the matter of the unerasable holy names, which bear the same meaning in all the languages.
The Order of the Evolution of the Languages
There is a gradual development in everything, and the easiest language to use is one whose development is completed before the others. Hence, the first products were in the language of the Bible, as it is the most convenient language and was very prevalent at the time.
Following it came the language of laws, since it is completely immersed in the language of the Bible, as well as because it was needed in order to show the people how to implement the laws.
The third was the language of legends. Although it is found in many places in the Bible, too, it is only as an auxiliary language because its wit rushes the perception of matters. However, it cannot be used as a basic language, as it lacks the precision of root and its branch. Thus, it was rarely used and hence did not develop.
Even though legends were used extensively during the time of the Tannaim and the Amoraim, it was only in conjunction with the language of the Bible, to open the words of our sages—Rabbi… started, etc., (and other suffixes). In truth, expansive use of this language by our sages began after the concealment of the language of Kabbalah during the days of Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai and shortly before his time, meaning seventy years prior to the ruin of the Temple.
The last to evolve was the language of Kabbalah. This was so because of the difficulties in understanding it: In addition to attainment, one needs to understand the meaning of its words. Hence, even those who understood it could not use it since, for the most part, they were alone in their generation and had no one with whom to study. Our sages called that language Maase Merkavah [structure/chariot] since it is a special language by which one can discuss the details of the Harkavot [structures/compositions] of the degrees in one another, and not at all with any other.
The Language of Kabbalah Is Like Any Spoken Language, and Its Advantage Is in the Meaning Contained within a Single Word
At first glance, the language of Kabbalah seems like a mixture of the three above-mentioned languages. However, one who understands how to use it will find that it is a unique language in and of itself from beginning to end. This does not pertain to the words, but to their instructions. This is the whole difference between them.
In the first three languages, there is almost no instruction to a single word, allowing the examiner to understand what the word implies. Only by joining several words, and sometimes also portions, can their content and instruction be understood. The advantage in the language of Kabbalah is that each and every word in it discloses its content and instruction to the examiner in utter precision, no less than in any other human tongue: Each word carries its own precise definition that cannot be replaced with another.
Forgetting the Wisdom
Since the concealment of The Zohar, this important language has gradually been forgotten, as its users became fewer. Also, there was a cessation of one generation where the receiving sage did not convey it to an understanding receiver. Since then, there has been an immeasurable deficit.
You can evidently see that Kabbalist Rabbi Moshe de Leon, who was the last to possess it and by whom it was revealed to the world, did not understand one word of it, since in those books where he introduces pieces from The Book of Zohar, it is evident that he did not understand the words at all, as he interpreted it according to the language of the Bible. He completely confused the understanding, although he himself had a wonderful attainment, as his compositions demonstrate.
So it was for generations: All the Kabbalists dedicated their entire lives to understanding the language of The Zohar but could not find their hands or legs, since they forced the language of the Bible on it. Hence, this book was sealed before them as it was to Rabbi Moshe de Leon himself.
The Kabbalah of the ARI
This was so until the arrival of the unique Kabbalist, the ARI. His attainment was above and beyond any boundary, and he opened the language of The Zohar for us and paved our way in it. Had he not passed away so young, it is hard to imagine the amount of light that would be drawn out of The Zohar. The little we have been granted with has paved a way and inlet, and true hope that over the generations our understanding would grow to fully grasp it.
Yet, you must understand the reason why all the great sages who followed the ARI abandoned all the books that they compiled in this wisdom and in the commentaries on The Zohar, and nearly prohibited themselves even from seeing them, and dedicated their lives to the words of the ARI. This was not because they did not believe in the sanctity of the sages preceding the ARI; God forbid that we should think so. Anyone with eyes in the wisdom could see that the attainment of those great sages in the wisdom of truth was immeasurable. Only an ignorant fool could doubt them. However, their logic in the wisdom followed the first three languages.
Although each language is true and fitting in its place, it is not completely fitting, and quite misleading to understand the wisdom of Kabbalah contained in The Zohar using these orders, since this is a completely different language, since it was forgotten. For this reason, we do not use their explanations, either the explanations of Rabbi Moshe de Leon himself or those of his successors, as their words in interpreting The Zohar are not true, and to this day we have but one commentator—the ARI.
In light of the above-said, it follows that the internality of the wisdom of Kabbalah is no different from the internality of the Bible, the Talmud, and the legends. The only difference between them is in their explanations.
This is similar to a wisdom that has been translated into four languages. Naturally, the essence of the wisdom has not changed at all by the change of language. All we need to think of is which translation is the most convenient for conveying the wisdom to the reader.
So is the matter before us: The wisdom of truth, meaning the wisdom of the revelation of Godliness in His ways to the created beings, like secular teachings, must be passed on from generation to generation. Each generation adds a link to its predecessors, and thus the wisdom evolves. Moreover, it becomes more suitable for expansion in the public.
Hence, each sage must pass on to his students and to the following generations everything he has inherited in the wisdom from earlier generations, as well as the additions with which he himself has been rewarded. Clearly, the spiritual attainment—as it is attained by the attaining—cannot be passed on to another, and all the more so be written in a book, since spiritual objects cannot come in letters of the imagination whatsoever (even though it is written, “…and by the ministry of the prophets have I used similitudes,” it is not literally so).
The Order of Conveying the Wisdom
Thus, how can one who attains convey one’s attainments to the generations and to students? Know that there is only one way for this: the way of root and branch. All the worlds and everything that fills them, in their every detail, emerged from the Creator in one, unique, and unified thought. And that thought alone hung down and created all the many worlds, creations, and their conducts, as explained in The Tree of Life and in Tikkuney Zohar.
Hence, they are all equal to one another, like seal and imprint, where the first seal is imprinted in all of them. As a result, we call the closer worlds to the thought about the purpose, “roots,” and we call the farther worlds from the purpose, “branches.” This is so because the end of the act is in the preliminary thought.
Now we can understand the common idiom in the legends of our sages: “and watches it from the end of the world to its end.” Should they not have said, “…from the beginning of the world to its end”? Yet, there are two ends: an end according to the distance from the purpose, meaning the last branches in this world, and 2) an end called “the final purpose,” since the purpose is revealed at the end of the matter.
But as we have explained, “The end of the act is in the preliminary thought.” Hence, we find the purpose at the beginning of the worlds. This is what we refer to as “the first world,” or “the first seal.” All other worlds stem from it, and this is why all creations—still, vegetative, animate, and speaking—in all their incidents exist in their fullest form right at the first world. And what does not exist there cannot appear in the world, since one does not give what one does not have.
Root and Branch in the Worlds
Now it is easy to understand the matter of root and branch in the worlds. Each of the manifold still, vegetative, animate, and speaking in this world has its corresponding part in the world above it, without any difference in its form but only in its substance. Thus, an animal or a rock in this world is a corporeal matter, and its corresponding animal or rock in the higher world is a spiritual matter, occupying no space or time. However, their quality is completely the same.
And here we should certainly add the matter of relation between matter and form, which is naturally conditioned on the quality of form, too. Similarly, with the majority of the still, vegetative, animate, and speaking in the upper world, you will find their similitude and likeness in the world above the upper. This continues through the first world where all the elements are completed, as it is written, “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.”
This is why the Kabbalists wrote that the world is at the center of everything, indicating the above, that the end of the act is the first world, meaning the goal. Also, the remoteness from the goal is called “the descent of the worlds from their Emanator” down to this corporeal world, the farthest from the purpose.
However, the end of everything corporeal is to gradually develop and achieve the goal that the Creator had designed for it, meaning the first world. Compared to this world, which we are in, it is the last world, meaning the end of the matter. This is why it seems that the world of the purpose is the last world, and we, people of this world, are in between them.
The Essence of the Wisdom of Truth
Now it is clear that as the emergence of the living species in this world and the conduct of their existence are a wondrous wisdom, the appearance of the Godly abundance in the world, the degrees and the conduct of their actions, unite to create a wondrous wisdom far more than the science of physics. This is so because the science of physics is merely knowledge of the arrangements of a particular kind existing in a particular world. It is unique to its subject, and no other science is included in it.
This is not so with the wisdom of truth. Because it is knowledge of the whole of the still, vegetative, animate, and speaking in all the worlds, in all their instances and conducts, as they were included in the thought of the Creator, that is, in the purposeful subjects, for this reason, all the teachings in the world, from the least of them to the greatest of them, are wondrously included in it, as it equalizes all the various teachings, the most different and the most remote from one another, as the east from the west. It makes them all equal, meaning until the orders of each teaching are compelled to come by its ways.
For example, the science of physics is arranged precisely by the order of the worlds and the Sefirot. Similarly, the science of astronomy is arranged by that same order, and so is the science of music, etc. Thus, we find that all the teachings are arranged in it and follow a single connection and a single relation, and they are all like the relation of the child to its progenitor. Hence, they are contingent upon one another; that is, the wisdom of truth is contingent upon all the teachings, and all the teachings are contingent upon it. This is why we do not find a single genuine Kabbalist without comprehensive knowledge in all the teachings of the world, since they acquire them from the wisdom of truth itself, as they are included in it.
The Meaning of Unity
The greatest wonder about this wisdom is the integration in it: All the elements of the vast reality are incorporated in it until they come into a single thing—the Almighty, who contains them together.
In the beginning, you find that all the teachings in the world are reflected in it. They are arranged within it precisely by its orders. Subsequently, we find that all the worlds and the orders in the wisdom of truth itself, which are immeasurable, unite under only ten realities, called “Ten Sefirot.”
Afterward, these ten Sefirot arrange in four manners, which are the four-letter Name. Then, these four manners are included in the tip of the Yod, which implies the Ein Sof [Infinity/no end].
In this way, one who begins in the wisdom must begin with the tip of the Yod, and from there to the ten Sefirot in the first world, called “the world of Adam Kadmon.” From there one sees how the numerous details in the world of Adam Kadmon necessarily extend by way of cause and consequence by the same laws we find in astronomy and physics, meaning constant, unbreakable laws that necessarily stem from one another, hanging down from one another, from the tip of the Yod down to all the elements in the world of Adam Kadmon. From there they are imprinted by one another from the four worlds by way of seal and imprint until we arrive at all the elements in this world. Afterward, they are reintegrated in one another until they all come to the world of Adam Kadmon, then to the ten Sefirot, then to the four-letter Name [HaVaYaH], up to the tip of the Yod.
We could ask, “If the material is unknown, how can we scrutinize it rationally”? Indeed, such as that you will find in all the sciences. For example, when studying anatomy—the various organs and how they impact one another—these organs have no similarity to the general subject, which is the whole, living human being. However, over time, when you thoroughly know the wisdom, you can establish a general relation of all the details upon which the body is conditioned.
So it is here: The general subject is the revelation of Godliness to His creations, by way of the purpose, as it is written, “…for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord.” However, a beginner certainly has no knowledge of this general subject, which is conditioned by all of them. For this reason, one must acquire all the details and how they impact one another, as well as their causes by way of cause and consequence, until one completes the whole wisdom. When one thoroughly knows everything, if he has a refined soul, it is certain that he will ultimately be rewarded with the general subject.
Even if he is not rewarded, it is still a great reward to acquire any perception of this great wisdom whose advantage over all other teachings is as the value of their subjects. As the advantage of the Creator over His creations is valued, so this wisdom, whose subject is Him, is far more valuable than the wisdom whose subject is His creatures.
It is not because it is imperceptible that the world refrains from contemplating it. After all, an astronomer has no perception of the stars or the planets but only of their movements, which they perform with wondrous wisdom that is predetermined in wondrous guidance. Similarly, the knowledge in the wisdom of truth is not more hidden than this, as even beginners thoroughly understand the moves. Rather, the whole prevention was because Kabbalists very wisely hid it from the world.
I am glad that I have been born in such a generation when it is permitted to disclose the wisdom of truth. And should you ask how I know that it is permitted, I will reply that it is because I have been given permission to disclose. That is, until now, the ways by which it is possible to publicly engage and to fully explain each word have not been revealed to any sage. And I, too, have sworn by my teacher not to disclose, as did all the disciples before me. However, this oath and this prohibition apply only to those manners that are given orally from generation to generation, back to the prophets and before. Had these ways been revealed to the public, they would have caused much harm, for reasons known only to us.
Yet, the way in which I engage in my books is a permitted way. Moreover, I have been instructed by my teacher to expand it as much as I can. We call it “the manner of clothing the matters.” You will see in the writings of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai that he calls this way “giving permission,” and this is what the Creator has given me to the fullest extent. We deem it as dependent not on the greatness of the sage, but on the state of the generation, as our sages said, “Little Samuel was worthy, etc., but his generation was unworthy.” This is why I said that my being rewarded with the manner of disclosing the wisdom is only because of my generation.
It is a grave mistake to think that the language of Kabbalah uses abstract names. On the contrary, it touches only upon the actual. Indeed, there are things in the world that are real even though we have no perception of them, such as the magnet and electricity. Yet, who would be so foolish as to say that these are abstract names? After all, we thoroughly know their actions, and we do not care at all that we do not know their essence. In the end, we refer to them as subjects of the actions related to them, and this is a real name. Even an infant who is just learning to speak can name them, if he only begins to feel their actions. This is our law: All that we do not attain, we do not define by name.
The Essence Is Not Perceived by the Corporeal Beings
Moreover, even the things that we imagine we attain by their essence, such as rocks and trees, after honest examination we are left with zero attainment in their essence, since we only attain their actions, which occur in conjunction with the encounter of our senses with them.
For example, when Kabbalah states that there are three forces, 1) body, 2) animate soul, 3) soul of Kedusha [holiness], this does not refer to the essence of the soul. The essence of the soul is fluid; it is what psychologists refer to as “self” and materialists as “electric.”
It is a waste of time to speak of its essence, as it is not arranged for impression through the touch of our senses, as with all corporeal objects. However, by observing in the essence of this fluid three kinds of actions in the spiritual worlds, we thoroughly distinguish between them by different names, according to their actual operations in the upper worlds. Thus, there are no abstract names here, but rather tangible ones in the full sense of the word.
The Advantage of My Commentary over Previous Commentaries
We can be assisted by secular teachings in interpreting matters in the wisdom of Kabbalah since the wisdom of Kabbalah is the root of everything and they are all included in it. Some were assisted by anatomy, as it is written, “From my flesh shall I see God,” and some were assisted by philosophy. Latterly, there is extensive use of the wisdom of psychology. But all these are not considered true commentaries since they do not interpret anything in the wisdom of Kabbalah itself, but only show us how the rest of the teachings are included in it. This is why the readers cannot be assisted by one place in another place. …even though the wisdom of serving the Creator is the closest wisdom to the wisdom of Kabbalah from all the external teachings.
And needless to say, it is impossible to be assisted by interpretations according to the science of anatomy, or by philosophy. For this reason, I said that I am the first interpreter by root and branch, and cause and consequence. Hence, if one were to understand some matter through my commentary, he can be certain that wherever he finds this matter appears in The Zohar and in the Tikkunim, he can be assisted by it, as with the commentaries on the literal where you can be assisted by one place for all the other places.
The style of interpreting according to external teachings is a waste of time because it is nothing more than a testimony to the genuineness of one over the other. An external teaching needs no testimony, as Providence has prepared five senses to testify to it, and in Kabbalah one should (nevertheless) understand the argument of the litigator prior to bringing testimony to the argument.
The Style of Interpreting According to External Teachings
This is the source of the mistake of the Rav Shem Tov: He interpreted The Guide for the Perplexed according to the wisdom of Kabbalah, and he did not know, or pretended not to know, that the wisdom of medicine, or any other wisdom, could be interpreted according to the wisdom of Kabbalah no less than the wisdom of philosophy. This is so because all the teachings are included in it and were imprinted by its seal.
Of course, The Guide to the Perplexed did not refer at all to what the Rav Shem Tov interpreted, and he did not see how… in The Book of Creation, he interpreted the Kabbalah according to philosophy. I have already proven that such a style of commentaries is a waste of time, since external teachings need no testimony, and it is pointless to bring testimony to the truthfulness of the wisdom of Kabbalah before its words are interpreted.
It is like a prosecutor who brings witnesses to verify his words before he has explained his arguments (except for books that deal with the work of the Creator, since the wisdom of serving the Creator truly needs witnesses to its truthfulness and success, and we should be assisted by the wisdom of truth).
However, all the compositions in this style are not at all a waste. After we thoroughly understand the wisdom itself, we will be able to receive much assistance from analogies, how all the teachings are included in it, as well as the manners by which to seek them.
Attaining the Wisdom
There are three orders in the wisdom of truth:
The originality in the wisdom. It requires no human assistance, as it is entirely a gift of the Creator, and no stranger shall interfere with it.
The understanding of these sources, which one attains from above. It is like a person before whom the whole world is set, yet he must exert and study to understand this world. Although he sees everything with his own eyes, there are fools and there are wise. This understanding is called “the wisdom of truth,” and Adam ha Rishon was the first to receive a sequence of sufficient knowledge by which to understand and to successfully utilize the maximum of everything he saw and attained with his eyes.
The order of this knowledge is given only from mouth to mouth. And there is also an order of evolution in them, where each can add to his friend or regress (whereas in the first discernment everyone receives equally without adding or subtracting, like Adam, in understanding the reality of this world. In viewing it, all are equal, but this is not so in understanding it—some evolve from generation to generation and some regress). And the order of its conveyance is sometimes called “conveying the Explicit Name,” and it is given under many conditions, but only orally and not in writing.
This is a written order. It is a completely new thing, since besides containing much room for the development of the wisdom, through which each inherits all the expansions of his attainments to the following generations, there is another magnificent power in it: All who engage in it, although they still do not understand what is written in it, are purified by it, and the upper lights draw closer to them. This order contains four languages, as we have explained above, and the language of Kabbalah exceeds them all.
The Order of Conveying the Wisdom
The most successful way for one who wishes to learn the wisdom is to search for a genuine Kabbalist and follow all his instructions, until one is rewarded with understanding the wisdom in one’s own mind, meaning the first discernment. Afterward, one will be rewarded with its conveyance mouth to mouth, which is the second discernment, and after that, understand in writing, which is the third discernment. Then, one will have inherited all the wisdom and its instruments from his teacher with ease and will be left with all his time to develop and expand.
However, in reality there is a second way: Through one’s great yearning, the sights of heaven will open before him and he will attain all the origins by himself. This is the first discernment. Yet, afterward, one must still labor and exert extensively until he finds a Kabbalist sage before whom he can bow and obey, and from whom to receive the wisdom by way of conveyance face to face, which is the second discernment.
Then comes the third discernment. Since he is not attached to a Kabbalist sage from the outset, the attainments come with great efforts and consume much time, leaving little time to develop in it. Also, sometimes the knowledge comes after the fact, as it is written, “and they shall die without wisdom.” These are ninety-nine percent and what we call “entering but not exiting.” They are as fools and ignorant in this world, who see the world set before them but do not understand any of it, except for the bread in their mouths.
Indeed, in the first way, too, not everyone succeeds, since after being rewarded with attainment, the majority of them become complacent and cannot subjugate themselves to their teacher sufficiently, as they are not worthy of the conveyance of the wisdom. In this case, the sage must hide the essence of the wisdom from them, and “they shall die without wisdom,” “entering but not exiting.”
This is so because there are harsh and strict conditions in conveying the wisdom, which stem from necessary reasons. Hence, very few are regarded highly enough by their teachers for them to find them worthy of this thing, and happy are the rewarded.