Foreword to The Book of Zohar
1) The depth of wisdom in The Book of Zohar is enclosed and locked behind a thousand locks, and our human tongue is too poor to provide us with sufficient, reliable expressions to interpret one thing in this book to the fullest. Also, the interpretation I have made is but a ladder to help the examiner rise to the height of the matters and examine the words of the book itself. Hence, I have found it necessary to prepare the reader and give him a route and an inlet in reliable definitions concerning how one should contemplate and study the book.
2) First, you must know that all that is said in The Book of Zohar, and even in its legends, are denominations of the ten Sefirot, called KHB [Keter, Hochma, Bina], HGT [Hesed, Gevura, Tifferet], NHYM [Netzah, Hod, Yesod, Malchut], and the combinations of their denominations. Just as the twenty-two letters in the spoken [Hebrew] language, whose combinations suffice to uncover every object and every concept, the concepts and combinations of concepts in the ten Sefirot suffice to disclose all the wisdom in the book of heaven.
However, there are three boundaries we must be very prudent with and not exceed while studying the words of the book. First, I will offer them in brief, and then I shall elaborate on them.
3) First boundary: There are four manners in the ways of learning, called a) “matter,” b) “form in matter,” c) “abstract form,” and d) “essence.” It is the same in the ten Sefirot, as I will explain below. Know that The Book of Zohar does not engage at all in the essence and the abstract form in the ten Sefirot, but only in the matter in them, or in the form in them, while clothed in matter.
4) Second boundary: We distinguish three discernments in the comprehensive, Godly reality concerning the creation of the souls and the conduct of their existence. These are 1) Ein Sof [Infinity], 2) the world of Atzilut, 3) the three worlds called Beria, Yetzira, and Assiya.
You should know that The Zohar engages only in the worlds BYA [Beria, Yetzira, Assiya], and in Ein Sof and the world of Atzilut, to the extent that BYA receive from them. However, The Book of Zohar does not engage in Ein Sof and the world of Atzilut themselves at all.
5) Third boundary: There are three discernments in each of the worlds, BYA:
The ten Sefirot, which are the Godliness that shines in that world;
Neshamot [Souls], Ruchot [spirits], and Nefashot [life]1 of people;
The rest of reality in it, called Mala’achim [angels], Levushim [clothes, dresses], and Heichalot [palaces], whose elements are innumerable.
Bear in mind that although The Zohar elucidates extensively on the details in each world, you should still know that the words of The Zohar always focus on the souls of people in that world. It explains other discernments only to know the measure that the souls receive from them. The Zohar does not mention even a single word of what does not relate to the reception of the souls. Hence, you should learn everything presented in The Book of Zohar only in relation to the reception of the soul.
Since these three boundaries are very strict, if the reader is not prudent with them and takes matters out of context, he will immediately miscomprehend the matter. For this reason, I have found it necessary to trouble myself and expand the understanding of these three boundaries as much as I can, in such a way that anyone can understand.
6) You already know that there are ten Sefirot, called Hochma, Bina, Tifferet, and Malchut, and their root, called Keter. (They are ten because the Sefira [singular for Sefirot] Tifferet contains six Sefirot, called Hesed, Gevura, Tifferet, Netzah, Hod, and Yesod. Remember this in all the places where we are used to saying ten Sefirot, which are HB TM.)
In general, they comprise all four worlds ABYA, since 1) the world of Atzilut is the Sefira Hochma, 2) the world of Beria is the Sefira Bina, 3) the world of Yetzira is the Sefira Tifferet, and 4) the world of Assiya is the Sefira Malchut. In greater detail, not only does each and every world have ten Sefirot HBTM, but even the smallest element in each world has these ten Sefirot HB TM, as well, as it is written in the introduction [to The Book of Zohar] in Items 44, 51, and 61.
7) The Zohar compared these ten Sefirot, HB TM, to four colors. These are 1) white for the Sefira Hochma, 2) red for the Sefira Bina, 3) green for the Sefira Tifferet, 4) black for the Sefira Malchut (as is written below, Beresheet Bet, Item 27).
It is similar to a mirror that has four panes painted in the four above colors. Although the light in it is one, it is colored when traversing the panes and turns into four kinds of light: 1) white, 2) red, 3) green, and 4) black.
Also, the light in all the Sefirot is simple Godliness and unity, from the top of Atzilut to the bottom of Assiya. The division into ten Sefirot HB TM is because of the Kelim [vessels] called HB TM. Each Kli [sing. for Kelim] is like a fine partition through which the Godly light traverses toward the receivers.
For this reason, it is considered that each Kli paints the light a different color. The Kli of Hochma in the world Atzilut transports white light, meaning colorless, as the Kli of Atzilut is like the light itself, and the light of the Creator does not undergo any change while traversing it. This is the meaning of what is written in The Zohar about the world of Atzilut: “He, His life, and His self are one.” Hence, the light of Atzilut is considered white light.
But when it traverses the Kelim of the worlds Beria, Yetzira, and Assiya, the light changes and dims as it travels through them to the receivers. For example, the red light symbolizes Bina, which is Beria; the green light, like the sunlight, is for Tifferet, which is the world of Yetzira; and the black light is for the Sefira Malchut, which is the world of Assiya.
8) In addition to the above, there is a very important intimation in this allegory of the four colors. The upper lights are called Sefer [book], as it is written in The Book of Creation, Chapter One, Mishnah One, “He created His world in three books: A book, an author, and a story.” It is also written, “The sky will be rolled up like a book” (Isaiah 34).
The disclosure of the wisdom in each book is not in the white in it, but only in the colors, meaning in the ink, from which the letters in the book, in the combinations of wisdom, come to the reader. On the whole, there are three kinds of ink in the book: red, green, and black.
Correspondingly, the world of Atzilut, which is Hochma, is all Godliness and is like the white in the book. This means that we have no perception in it whatsoever, but the whole disclosure in the book of heaven is in the Sefirot Bina, Tifferet, and Malchut, which are the three worlds BYA, as they are considered the ink in the book of heaven.
The letters and their combinations appear in the three above-mentioned kinds of ink, and it is only through them that the Godly light appears to the receivers. At the same time, we must note that the white in the book is the primary subject of the book, and the letters are all “carried” on the white in the book, and had it not been for the white, the existence of the letters and all the manifestations of Hochma in them would not be possible whatsoever.
Similarly, the world of Atzilut, which is the Sefira Hochma, is the primary subject of the manifestation of Hochma, which appears through the worlds BYA. This is the meaning of the verse, “In wisdom You have made them all.”
9) We said above, in the third boundary, that The Zohar does not speak of the world Atzilut in and of itself since it is regarded as the white in the book, but according to its illumination in the three worlds BYA, since they are like the ink, the letters, and their combinations in the book. It is so in two manners:
Either the three worlds BYA receive the illumination of the world Atzilut in their own place, at which time the light is greatly reduced as it passes through the Parsa below the world Atzilut until it is discerned as mere illumination of the Kelim of Atzilut.
Or through the ascent of the worlds BYA above Parsa, to the place of Sefirot Bina, Tifferet, and Malchut of Atzilut, when they clothe the world of Atzilut, meaning receive the light in the place where it illuminates, as it is written in the Preface [“Preface to the Wisdom of Kabbalah”] from Item 155 onward.
10) Yet, the allegory and the lesson are not quite comparable because in the book of wisdom in this world, both the white and the ink in its letters are lifeless. The disclosure of the wisdom induced by them is not in their essence itself but outside of them, in the mind of the scrutinizer.
However, in the four worlds ABYA, which are the book of heaven, all the Mochin in the spiritual and corporeal realities are present in them and extend from them. Thus, you should know that the white in it, which is the carrier in the book, is the learned subject matter itself, while the three colors of the ink elucidate this subject.
11) Here we should learn these four manners of perception, presented above in the first boundary. These are 1) matter, 2) form clothed in matter, 3) abstract form, 4) essence.
Yet, I shall first explain them using tangible examples from this world. For example, when you say that a person is strong, truthful, or deceitful, etc., you have the following before you:
His matter, meaning his body;
The form that clothes his matter, meaning strong, truthful, or deceitful;
The abstract form. That is, you can shed the form of strong, truthful, or deceitful from the matter of that person and study these three forms in and of themselves, unclothed in any matter or body, meaning examine the attributes of strength, truth, and deceitfulness, and discern merit or demerit in them, while they are devoid of any substance.
The person’s essence.
12) Know that we have no perception whatsoever in the fourth manner, the essence of the person in itself, without the matter. This is because our five senses and our imagination offer us only manifestations of the actions of the essence, but none of the essence itself. For example, the sense of sight offers us only shadows of the visible essence as they are formed opposite the light. Similarly, the sense of hearing is but a force of striking of some essence in the air. The air that is rejected by it strikes the drum in our ear, and we hear that there is some essence in our proximity. The sense of smell is but air that emerges from the essence and strikes our nerves of scent, and we smell. Also, taste is but a result of the contact of some essence with our nerves of taste.
Thus, all that these four senses offer us are manifestations of the operations that stem from some essence and nothing of the essence itself.
Even the sense of touch, the strongest of the senses, separating hot from cold and solid from soft, all these are but manifestations of operations in the essence; they are but incidents of the essence. This is so because the hot can be chilled, the cold can be heated, the solid can be turned to liquid through chemical operations, and the liquid into air, meaning only gas where any discernment in our five senses has been expired. Yet, the essence still exists in it, since you can turn the air into liquid once again, and the liquid into solid.
Evidently, the five senses do not reveal to us any essence whatsoever, but only incidents and manifestations of operations from the essence. It is known that anything that we cannot grasp in our senses, we also cannot imagine. And what we cannot imagine will never appear in our thoughts and we have no way to perceive it.
Thus, the thought has no perception whatsoever in the essence. Moreover, we do not even know our own essence. I feel and know that I take up space in the world, that I am solid, warm, and that I think, and other such manifestations of the operations of my essence. But if you ask me what is my own essence, from which all these manifestations stem, I do not know what to reply to you.
You therefore see that Providence has prevented us from attaining any essence. We attain only manifestations and images of operations that stem from the essences.
13) We do have full perception in the first manner, which is matter, meaning the manifestations of operations that manifest from every essence. This is because they quite sufficiently explain to us the essence that dwells in the substance in such a way that we do not suffer at all from the lack of attainment in the essence itself.
We do not miss it, just as we do not miss a sixth finger in our hand. The attainment of the matter, meaning the manifestation of the operations of the essence, is quite sufficient for our every need and learning, both for attaining our own being and for attaining all that exists outside of us.
14) The second manner, form clothed in matter, is a satisfactory and clear attainment, too, since we acquire it through practical and real experiments we find in the behavior of any matter. All our higher, reliable knowledge stems from this discernment.
15) The third manner is abstract form. Once the form has been revealed to us while clothed in some matter, our imagination can abstract it from any matter altogether and perceive it regardless of any substance like the virtues and the good qualities that appear in ethics books, where we speak of properties of truth and falsehood, anger, and strength, etc., when they are devoid of any matter. We ascribe them merit or demerit even when they are abstract.
You should know that this third manner is unacceptable to the prudent erudite, since it is impossible to rely on it one hundred percent, since being examined while not clothed in matter, they might err in them.
Take, for example, one with idealistic morals, meaning one who is not religious. Because of his intensive engagement in the quality of truth while in its abstract form, that person might decide that even if he could save people from death by telling them a lie, he may decide that even if the whole world is doomed, he will not utter a deliberate lie. This is not the view of Torah since nothing is more important than saving lives (Yoma 82).
Indeed, had one learned the forms of truth and falsehood when they are clothed in matter, he would comprehend them only with respect to their benefit or harm to matter. In other words, after the many ordeals the world has been through, having seen the multitude of ruin and harm that deceitful people have caused with their lies, and the great benefit that truthful people have brought by restricting themselves to saying only words of truth, they have agreed that no merit is more important than the quality of truth, and nothing is more contemptible than the quality of falsehood.
And if the idealist had understood that, he would certainly agree to the view of Torah and would find that falsehood that saves even one person from death is far more important than the entire merit and praise of the abstract quality of truth. Thus, there is no certainty at all in those concepts of the third manner, which are abstract forms, much less with abstract forms that have never clothed in any substance. Such concepts are nothing but a waste of time.
16) Now you have thoroughly learned these four manners—matter, form in matter, abstract form, and essence—in tangible things. It has been clarified that we have no perception whatsoever in the fourth manner, which is the essence, and the third manner is a concept that might mislead. Only the first manner, which is matter, and the second manner, which is form clothed in matter, are given to us by the upper governance for clear and sufficient attainment.
Through them, you will also be able to perceive the existence of spiritual objects, meaning the upper worlds ABYA, since there is not a tiny element in them that is not divided by the four above manners. If, for example, you take a certain element in the world of Beria, there are Kelim there which are of red color, through which the light of Beria traverses to the dwellers of Beria. Thus, the Kli in Beria, which is the color red, is considered matter, or object, meaning the first manner.
Even though it is only a color, which is an occurrence and manifestation of an operation in the object, we have already said that we have no attainment in the essence itself, but only in the manifestation of an operation from the essence. We refer to that manifestation as essence, or matter, or body, or a Kli, as written in Item 13.
The Godly light, which travels and clothes through the red color, is the form clothed in the object, meaning the second manner. For this reason, the light itself seems red, indicating its clothing and illumination through the object, considered the body and the substance, meaning the red color.
And if you want to remove the Godly light from the object—the red color—and discuss it in and of itself, without clothing in the object, this already belongs to the third manner—form removed from matter—which might be subject to errors. For this reason, it is strictly forbidden in studying the upper worlds, and no real Kabbalist would engage in this, much less the authors of The Zohar.
It is even more so with regards to the essence of an element in Beria, since we have no perception whatsoever even in the essence of corporeal objects, all the more so in spiritual objects.
Thus you have before you four manners:
The Kli of Beria, which is the red color, considered the object, or the substance of Beria;
The clothing of the Godly light in the Kli of Beria, which is the form in the object;
The Godly light itself, removed from the object in Beria;
The essence of the item.
Thus, the first boundary has been thoroughly explained, which is that there is not even a single word of the third and fourth manners in the whole of The Zohar, but only from the first and second manners.
17) Along with it, the second manner has been clarified. Know that as we have clarified the four manners in a single item in the world of Beria, specifically, so are they in the general four worlds ABYA. The three colors—red, green, black—in the three worlds BYA, are considered the substance or the object. The white color, considered the world of Atzilut, is the form clothed in matter in the three colors called BYA.
Ein Sof in itself is the essence. This is what we said concerning the first manner, that we have no perception in the essence. This is the fourth manner, concealed in all the objects, even in the objects of this world (as written in Item 12). When the white color is not clothed in the three colors in BYA, meaning when the light of Hochma is not clothed in Bina, Tifferet, and Malchut, it is abstract form, in which we do not engage.
The Zohar does not speak in this manner whatsoever, but only in the first manner, being the three colors BYA, considered substance, namely the three Sefirot Bina, Tifferet, and Malchut, and in the second manner, which are the illumination of Atzilut, clothed in the three colors BYA, meaning light of Hochma, clothed in Bina, Tifferet, and Malchut, which are form clothed in matter. These are the two that The Book of Zohar is concerned with in all the places.
Hence, if the reader is not vigilant, restricting his thought and understanding to always learn the words of The Zohar strictly under the two above-mentioned manners, the matter will be immediately and entirely miscomprehended, for he will take the words out of context.
18) As the four manners in the general ABYA have been explained, so it is in each and every world, even in the smallest item of some world, both at the top of the world of Atzilut and at the bottom of the world of Assiya, because there are HB TM in it. You find that 1) the Sefira Hochma is considered “a form,” and 2) Bina and TM are considered the “matter” in which the form clothes, meaning the first and second manners that The Zohar engages in. But The Zohar does not engage in the Sefira Hochma when stripped of Bina and TM, which is form without matter, and much less with the essence, considered the Ein Sof in that item.
Thus, we engage in Bina, Tifferet, and Malchut in every item, even in Atzilut, and we do not engage in Keter and Hochma of all the items, even in Malchut of the end of Assiya, when they are in and of themselves, unclothed, but only to the extent that they clothe Bina and TM. Now the first two boundaries have been thoroughly explained. All that the authors of The Zohar engage in is matter or form in matter, which is the first boundary, as well as in BYA, or the illumination of Atzilut in BYA, which is the second boundary.
19) Now we shall explain the third boundary. The Zohar engages in the Sefirot in each and every world, being the Godliness that shines in that world, as well as in every item of the still, vegetative, animate, and speaking, being the creatures in that world. However, The Zohar refers primarily to the speaking in that world.
Let me give you an example from the conducts of this world. It is explained (in the introduction [to The Book of Zohar], Item 42) that the four kinds, still, vegetative, animate, and speaking in each and every world, even in this world, are the four parts of the will to receive. Each of them contains these own four kinds of still, vegetative, animate, and speaking. Thus, you find that a person in this world should nurture and be nourished by the four qualities—still, vegetative, animate, and speaking—in this world.
This is so because man’s food, too, contains these four qualities that extend from the four qualities, still, vegetative, animate, and speaking in man’s body. These are a) wanting to receive according to the necessary measure for one’s sustenance; b) wanting more than is necessary for sustenance, craving luxuries, but restricting oneself solely to physical desires; c) craving human lusts such as honor and power; d) craving knowledge.
These extend to the four parts of the will to receive in us:
Wanting the necessary provision is considered the still in the will to receive.
Wanting physical lusts is considered the vegetative in the will to receive since they come only to increase and delight one’s Kli [vessel], which is the flesh of the body.
Wanting human lusts is considered the animate in the will to receive since they magnify one’s spirit.
Wanting knowledge is regarded as the speaking in the will to receive.
20) Thus, in the first quality—the necessary measure for one’s sustenance—and in the second quality—the physical desires that exceed one’s measure for sustenance—one is nourished by things that are lower than the person—the still, the vegetative, and the animate. However, in the third quality, the human desires such as power and respect, one receives and is nurtured from his own species, his equals. And in the fourth quality, knowledge, one receives and is nurtured by a higher quality than one’s own—from the actual wisdom and intellect, which are spiritual.
21) You will find it similar in the upper, spiritual worlds since the worlds are imprinted from one another from above downward. Thus, all the qualities of still, vegetative, animate, and speaking in the world of Beria leave their imprint in the world of Yetzira. And the still, vegetative, animate, and speaking of Assiya are imprinted from the still, vegetative, animate, and speaking of Yetzira. Lastly, the still, vegetative, animate, and speaking in this world is imprinted from the still, vegetative, animate, and speaking of the world of Assiya.
It has been explained in introduction [to The Book of Zohar], Item 42, that a) the still in the spiritual worlds are called Heichalot [palaces]; b) the vegetative is called Levushim [clothes or dresses]; c) the animate is named Mala'achim [angels]; and d) the speaking is considered the Neshamot [souls] of people in that world; e) and the ten Sefirot in each world are the Godliness.
The souls of people are the center in each world and are nourished by the spiritual reality in that world, as the corporeal speaking feeds on the entire corporeal reality in this world. Thus, the first quality, which is the will to receive one’s necessary sustenance, is received from the illumination of Heichalot and Levushim there. The second quality, the animate surplus that increases one’s body, is received from the quality of Mala'achim there (see Tikkuney [corrections of] The Zohar, Tikkun [correction] 69). These are spiritual illuminations beyond one’s necessary measure for sustenance, to magnify the spiritual Kelim in which his soul clothes.
Thus, one receives the first quality and the second quality from lower qualities than one’s own, which are the Heichalot, Levushim, and the Mala'achim there, which are lower than the souls of people. The third quality, which is human lusts that increase one’s spirit, is received in this world from one’s own species. It follows that one receives from one’s own species, too, from all the souls in that world. Through them, one increases the illumination of Ruach of his soul.
The fourth quality of the desire—for knowledge—is received there from the Sefirot in that world. From them, one receives the HBD to one’s soul.
It follows that man’s soul, which is present in each and every world, should grow and be completed with all the qualities that exist in that world. This is the third boundary we have mentioned.
We must know that all the words of The Zohar, in every item of the upper worlds that are dealt with, the Sefirot, the souls, and the Mala'achim, the Levushim, and the Heichalot, although it engages in them as they are for themselves, the examiner must know that they are mentioned primarily with respect to the measure by which the human soul there receives from them and is nourished by them. Thus, all their words pertain to the needs of the soul. And if you learn everything according to this line, you will understand and your path will be successful.
22) After all that, we have yet to explain all these corporeal appellations explained in The Book of Zohar concerning the ten Sefirot, such as up and down, ascent and descent, diminution and expansion, Katnut [smallness/infancy] and Gadlut [greatness/adulthood], separation and Zivug [mating], and numbers and so forth, which the lower ones induce through their good or bad deeds in the ten Sefirot.
These words seem perplexing. Can it be that Godliness would be affected and would change in such ways because of the lower ones? You might say that the words do not refer to Godliness itself, which clothes and shines in the Sefirot, but only to the Kelim of the Sefirot, which are not Godliness, but were rather generated with the creation of the souls to conceal or reveal degrees of attainment in the proper ration and measure for the souls to bring them to the desired end of correction. This resembles the mirror allegory with the four panes that are painted in four colors: white, red, green, and black. And there is also the white in the book and the substance of the letters in the book.
All this is possible in the three worlds BYA where the Kelim of the Sefirot are renewed and are not Godliness. However, it is not at all correct to attribute this to the world of Atzilut where the Kelim of the ten Sefirot are also complete Godliness, one with the Godly light within them.
It is written in the Tikkunim [corrections]: “He, His life, and His self are one.” 1) He pertains to the essence of the Sefirot, which is Ein Sof [infinity]. 2) His Life pertains to the light that shines in the Sefirot, called “light of Haya,” for the whole of the world of Atzilut is considered Hochma, and light of Hochma is called “light of Haya.” This is why it is called “life.” 3) His self pertains to the Kelim of the Sefirot. 4) Thus, everything is complete Godliness and unity. How then is it possible to perceive these changes that the lower ones induce there? At the same time, we must understand that if everything is Godliness in that world, and nothing of the generated creatures is to be found there, where do we discern there the three above discernments in the Tikkunim of The Zohar, He, His life, and His self, since it is utter unity?
23) To understand this, you must remember the explained above in Item 17. It explains that a necessary object is an essence that we have no perception of, even in the corporeal essences, and even in our own essence, all the more so in The Necessary One.
The world of Atzilut is a form and the three worlds BYA are matter. The illumination of Atzilut in BYA is form clothed in matter. Hence, you see that the name Ein Sof is not at all a name for the essence of The Necessary One, since how can we define by a name or a word what we do not attain?
Since the imagination and the five senses offer us nothing with respect to the essence, even in corporeality, how can there be a thought or a word in it, much less in The Necessary One Himself? Instead, we must understand the name Ein Sof as defined for us in the third boundary, that all that The Book of Zohar speaks of pertains precisely to the souls (as written in Item 21).
Thus, the name Ein Sof is not at all The Necessary One Himself, but pertains to all the worlds and all the souls being included in Him, in the thought of creation, by way of “The end of an act is in the preliminary thought.” Thus, Ein Sof is the name of the connection in which the whole of creation is connected until the end of correction.
This is what we name above in the introduction [to The Book of Zohar], Item 13, “the first state of the souls,” since all the souls exist in Him, filled with all the pleasure and the softness, at the final height they will actually receive at the end of correction.
24) Let me give you an example from the conducts of this world: A person wants to build a nice house. In the first thought, he sees before him an elegant house with all its rooms and details, as it will be when its building is finished.
Afterward, he designs all the details of the plan of execution. In due time, he will explain every detail to the workers: the wood, the bricks, the iron, and so on. Then he begins the actual building of the house to its completion, as it was arranged before him in the preliminary thought.
Know that Ein Sof pertains to that first thought in which the whole of creation was already pictured before Him in its utter completeness. However, the lesson is not quite like the example because in Him, the future and the present are the same. In Him, the thought completes, and He does not need tools of action as do we. Hence, in Him, it is actual reality.
The world of Atzilut is like the details of the thought-out plan that will later need to manifest when the building of the house actually begins. Know that in these two—the preliminary thought, which is Ein Sof, and the contemplated design of the details of execution in due time—there is still not even a trace of the creatures since this is still in potential, not in actual fact.
It is likewise in humans: Even though they calculate all the details—the wood, the bricks, and the metal—that will be required for carrying out the plan, it is essentially a mere conceptual matter. There is not even a trace of any actual wood or bricks in it. The only difference is that in a person, the contemplated design is not regarded as an actual reality. But in the Godly thought, it is a far more actual reality than the actual, real creatures.
Thus, we have explained the meaning of Ein Sof and the world of Atzilut, that all that is said about them is only with respect to the creation of the creatures. However, they are still in potential and their essence has not been revealed at all, as with our allegory about the person who designed the blueprint, which does not contain any wood, or bricks, or metal.
25) The three worlds BYA, and this world, are considered the execution from potential to actual, such as one who builds one’s house in practice and brings the wood, bricks, and workers until the house is completed. Hence, the Godliness that shines in BYA clothes the ten Kelim KHB HGT NHYM to the extent that the souls should receive in order to reach their completion. These are real Kelim with respect to His Godliness, meaning they are not Godliness but are generated for the souls.
26) In the above allegory you find how the three discernments of one who contemplates building a house are interconnected by way of cause and consequence. The root of all of them is the first thought since no item appears in the planned blueprint except according to the end of the act, which emerged before him in the preliminary thought.
Also, one does not execute anything during the building but only according to the details arranged before him in the blueprint. Thus, concerning the worlds, you see that there is not a tiny generation in the worlds that does not extend from Ein Sof, from the first state of the souls, which are there in their ultimate perfection of the end of correction, as in “The end of an act is in the preliminary thought.” It follows that all that will manifest through the end of correction is included there.
In the beginning it extends from Ein Sof to the world of Atzilut, as in the allegory where the blueprint extends from the first thought. Each and every element extends from the world of Atzilut to the worlds BYA, as in the allegory, where all the details stem from the blueprint when they are actually executed during the building of the house.
Thus, there is not a single, tiny item that is generated in this world and does not extend from Ein Sof, from the first state of the souls. From Ein Sof, it extends to the world of Atzilut, meaning specifically associated to the thing actually being generated in this world. From the world of Atzilut, the generation extends to the three worlds BYA where the generation appears in actual fact, where it stops being Godliness and becomes a creature, and to Yetzira and Assiya until it extends to the lower one in this world. Understand this thoroughly and compare everything to what is done while building a house for a corporeal person, and then you will understand well.
It follows that there is no generation in the world which does not extend from its general root in Ein Sof, and from its specific root in Atzilut. Afterward, it travels through BYA and adopts the form of a creature, and then it is made in this world.
27) Now you can understand that all these changes, described in the world of Atzilut, do not pertain to Godliness itself but only to the souls to the extent that they receive from Atzilut through the three worlds BYA. The meaning of the actuality of that world is in the relation of the blueprint to the preliminary thought, which is Ein Sof.
However, both in Ein Sof and in the world of Atzilut, there is still nothing in terms of the souls, just like there is nothing of the actual wood, bricks, or metal in the blueprint of the person who designs it. The existence of the souls begins to manifest in the world Beria. This is why the Kelim of the ten Sefirot, which actually allot the ration to the souls, are necessarily not Godliness but are renewed since there cannot be any changes or numbering in Godliness.
Hence, we attribute the three colors—red, green, and black—to the Kelim of the ten Sefirot in BYA. It is inconceivable that they will be discerned as Godliness since there is no renewal in Him whatsoever.
However, the light clothed in the ten Kelim in BYA is simple Godliness and unity, unchanged at all. Even the light clothed in the lowest Kli in Assiya is complete Godliness, without any change at all. This is because the light itself is one, and all the changes made in its illumination are made by the Kelim of the Sefirot, which are not Godliness. In general, they comprise the three above shades. In particular, numerous changes were made of these three shades.
28) Yet, the Kelim of the ten Sefirot of BYA certainly receive from Atzilut every little item and detail of the changes, since there is the blueprint of all the details that will unfold in the actual building of the house in BYA. Hence, it is considered that the Kelim of the ten Sefirot HB TM in BYA receive from their corresponding feature in the HB TM in Atzilut, meaning from the blueprint there.
This is so because every detail in the execution stems from every detail in the blueprint. Hence, in this respect, we name the Kelim of Atzilut “white,” although it is not at all a color.
Nevertheless, it is the source of all the colors. And like the white in the book of wisdom, where although there is no perception of the white in it, and the white in the book is meaningless to us, it is still the carrier of the entire book of wisdom for it shines around and inside each letter and gives each letter its unique shape and every combination its unique place.
And we might say the opposite: We have no perception of the substance of the red, green, or black letters. All that we perceive and know of the substance of the letters of the book is only through the white in it. It is so because through its illumination around and within each letter, it creates shapes in them, and these shapes reveal to us all the wisdom in the book.
We can compare it to the ten Sefirot of Atzilut: Even though they resemble the white color, it is impossible to discern anything in them, neither a number nor any change or other such appellations. Yet, all the changes necessarily come from the ten Kelim of the Sefirot of Atzilut in the illumination of the white to the worlds BYA, which are the three colors of the substance of the letters, although there are no Kelim there for itself, as it is all white. It is like the allegory of the white in the book with respect to the letters and their combinations, since its illumination to BYA makes the Kelim in them.
29) From what has been explained you will see that the Tikkunim of The Zohar divide the world of Atzilut into three discernments—He, His life, and His self—although it is simple unity there, and there is nothing of the creatures there. “He” pertains to Godliness as it is in itself, in which we have no perception, and it is imperceptible, as has been explained in all the essences, even the corporeal ones (as written in Item 12). His self pertains to the ten Kelim HB TM there, which we have likened to the white in the book of wisdom.
Even a number cannot be noted in the white for there is no one there to make a number as it is all white. Yet, we not only attribute a number to them, but all the changes that appear in BYA, which are the substance of the letters, are first found in the Kelim HB TM in Atzilut itself.
However, it is only in the manner of the white, which gives all the shapes of the letters in the book, while there is no form in it itself. Thus, you find that the white is divided into myriad forms, although in itself it has no form. Similarly, the ten Kelim in Atzilut are detailed with numerous changes, according to their illumination in BYA, as in the blueprint executed in the actual work of building the house.
Thus, all these changes, carried out in BYA, are only from the illumination of the Kelim of the ten Sefirot HB TM of Atzilut. And the multitude of changes we find in the white relate to the receivers in BYA. With relation to Atzilut itself, it is like the white in and of itself, unclothed in the ink in the letters; no number and nothing at all is found in it. Thus, we have thoroughly explained the self, which are the Kelim, which, in themselves, are simple unity, as is He.
30) His Life pertains to the light that is clothed in the white, which is the above-mentioned Kelim. We understand this light only with respect to the souls that receive from Atzilut and not in the Godliness itself. “He” means that when the three worlds BYA rise to Atzilut with the souls of people, the light they receive there is considered light of Hochma, called “light of Haya.”
It is in that respect that we name the light there “His life.” This is also the meaning of what is written in the Tikkunim of The Zohar, that “He, His life, and His self are one.” All these three discernments relate to the receivers, where His self is the illumination of the Kelim in the place of BYA under the Parsa of Atzilut, since the light of Atzilut will never go below the Parsa of Atzilut, but only the illumination of the Kelim. The quality “His life” is the illumination of the light of Atzilut itself when BYA rise to Atzilut. And “He” pertains to the essence of Godliness, which is completely unattainable.
The Tikkunim of The Zohar say that although we, the receivers, should discern these three qualities in Atzilut, it nonetheless pertains only to the receivers. Yet, with respect to the world of Atzilut itself, even “His self” is considered “He,” meaning the essence of Godliness. For this reason, there is no perception whatsoever in the world of Atzilut itself. This is the meaning of the white color in which there is no perception for itself, and it is all utterly simple unity there.
31) The Zohar describes the Kelim HB TM in Atzilut as growing or diminishing by people’s actions. Also, we find in The Zohar (Bo, p 32b), “Israel… give anger and strength to the Creator,” meaning it is not to be taken literally in Godliness itself, as there cannot be any changes in Godliness whatsoever, as it is written, “I the Lord do not change.”
Yet, since the thought of creation was to do good to His creations, it teaches us that He has a desire to bestow. We find in this world that the Giver’s contentment grows when the receivers from Him multiply, and He wishes to proliferate the receivers. Hence, in this respect, we say that the Mochin in Atzilut grow when the lower ones are given the bestowal of Atzilut, or that they nurture it. Conversely, when there are no lower ones worthy of receiving His abundance, the Mochin diminish to that extent, meaning there is no one to receive from them.
32) You might compare it to a candle. If you light a thousand candles from it, or if you light none, you will not find that it caused any changes in the candle itself. It is also like Adam HaRishon: If he had progeny of thousands of offspring like us today, or if he had no progeny at all, it would not induce any change at all on Adam HaRishon himself.
Likewise, there is no change at all in the world Atzilut itself, whether the lower ones receive its great abundance lushly or receive nothing at all. The above-mentioned greatness lies solely on the lower ones.
33) Thus, why did the authors of The Zohar have to describe all those changes in the world of Atzilut itself? They should have spoken explicitly only with respect to the receivers in BYA, and not speak so elaborately of Atzilut, forcing us to provide answers.
Indeed, there is a very trenchant secret here: This is the meaning of “and by the hand of the prophets have I used similitudes” (Hosea 12). The truth is that there is a Godly will here, that these similitudes, which operate only in the souls of the receivers, will appear to the souls as He Himself participates in them to greatly increase the attainment of the souls.
It is like a father who constrains himself to show his little darling child a face of sadness and a face of contentment, although there is neither sadness nor contentment in him. He only does this to impress his darling child and expand his understanding so as to play with him.
Only when he grows will he learn and know that all that his father did was no more real than mere playing with him. So is the matter before us: All these images and changes begin and end only with the impression of the souls. Yet, by the will of God, they appear as though they are in Him Himself. He does that to enhance and expand the attainment of the souls to the utmost, in accordance with the thought of creation, to delight His creatures.
34) Let it not surprise you that you find such a conduct in our corporeal perception, too. Take our sense of sight, for example: We see a wide world before us, wondrously filled. But in fact, we see all that only in our own interior. In other words, there is a sort of a photographic machine in our hindbrain, which portrays everything that appears to us and nothing outside of us.
He has made for us there, in our brain, a kind of polished mirror that inverts everything seen there, so we will see it outside our brain, in front of our faces. Yet, what we see outside of us is not a real thing. Nevertheless, we should be so grateful to His Providence for having created that polished mirror in our brains, enabling us to see and perceive everything outside of us, for by this He has given us the power to perceive everything with clear knowledge and attainment, and measure everything from within and from without.
Without it, we would lose most of our perception. The same is true with the Godly will, concerning Godly perceptions. Even though all these changes unfold in the interior of the receiving souls, they nevertheless see it all in the Giver Himself since only in this manner are they awarded all the perceptions and all the pleasantness in the thought of creation.
You can also deduce this from the above parable. Even though we see everything as being in front of us, every reasonable person knows for certain that all that we see is only in our own brains.
So are the souls: Although they see all the images in the Giver, they have no doubt that all those are only in their own interior and not at all in the Giver.
35) Since these matters are at the core of the world, and I fear that the examiner will misperceive them, it is worth my while to trouble further and bring the golden words of The Zohar itself in these matters and interpret them to the best of my ability.
These are his words (in the portion Bo, Item 215) in his immaculate style: [Aramaic] “Should one ask, ‘It is written, ‘For you saw no image.’’” [Hebrew] “Should one ask, ‘But it is written in the Torah, ‘For you saw no image,’ so how do we depict names and Sefirot in Him?’ [Aramaic] He will answer him, ‘We saw this form.’ [Hebrew] He will answer, ‘I saw this form, as in the words, ‘and the image of the Lord does he behold.’’”
This means that the Sefira Malchut, where all the souls and the worlds are rooted, since she is the root of all the Kelim, by way of, “The ones that receive from her, and must acquire the Kelim from her,” she is considered an image to them, as was said about her, “and the image of the Lord does he behold.”
[Aramaic] Even that picture does not exist in its place but descends to Malchut on people and spreads over them, and will be seen by each one according to one’s seeing and one’s vision and imagination, and this is “and by the hand of the prophets have I used similitudes.” [Hebrew] Even this image, which we name in the Sefira Malchut, is not in her place with respect to herself, but only when the light of Malchut descends and expands over the people. At that time, it appears to them, to each and every one, according to their own appearance, vision, and imagination, meaning only in the receivers and not at all in the Sefira Malchut herself. This is the meaning of “and by the hand of the prophets have I used similitudes.”
[Aramaic] Because of this, He will say, “Although I manifest to you in your forms, to whom will you liken Me, that I should be equal?” [Hebrew] Because of this, the Creator tells them: “Although I manifest to you in your forms, in vision and imagination, yet, ‘To whom will you liken Me, that I should be equal?’” [Aramaic] Before the Creator created a form in the world and depicted an image, He was unique, without a form or similitude. [Hebrew] After all, before the Creator created an image in the world, and before He formed a form, the Creator was unique, formless, and imageless.
[Aramaic] One who recognizes Him prior to creation, that He is outside the form, must not make for Him a shape or a form in the world, not in the letter Hey and not in the letter Yod, or even in the holy name, or in any letter and dot in the world. This is the meaning of “For you saw no image.” [Hebrew] And one who attains Him there, prior to the degree of Beria, which is Bina, where He is beyond any similitude, it is forbidden to ascribe Him a form or an image in the world, neither in the letter Hey nor in the letter Yod, or even call Him by the holy name HaVaYaH, or by any letter or dot.
This is the meaning of the verse, “For you saw no image.” In other words, the verse “For you saw no image” pertains to the ones rewarded with attaining Him above the degree of Beria, which is Bina. This is because there is no form or imagination whatsoever in the two Sefirot Keter and Hochma, meaning Kelim and boundaries, as written in Item 18. The Kelim begin from the Sefira Bina downward.
This is why all the implications in letters, in points, or in the holy names are only from Bina downward. They are also not in the place of the Sefirot themselves, but only with respect to the receivers, as with the Sefira Malchut.
36) (There seems to be a contradiction in their words: First they said that the forms extend to the receivers only from the Sefira Malchut, as he says “but only when the light of Malchut descends and expands over the people,” which is the meaning of “and by the hand of the prophets have I used similitudes.” But here he says that the forms extend to the receivers from Beria down, meaning from Bina downwards.
The thing is that indeed, the form and the similitude extend only from Behina Dalet, which is Malchut. From her the Kelim extend to the place of the receivers and not at all from the first nine Sefirot, which are Keter, Hochma, Bina, and Tifferet, as it is written in the “Preface to the Wisdom of Kabbalah,” Item 58.
Yet, the association of the quality of judgment with mercy was made in the world of Tikkun. This means that He raised the Sefira Malchut, considered the quality of judgment, and brought it into the Sefira Bina, regarded as the quality of mercy, as it is written in the “Preface to the Wisdom of Kabbalah,” Item 58.
Hence, from that time on, the Kelim of Malchut have become rooted in the Sefira Bina, as he says here. For this reason, The Zohar begins to speak from the actual root of the images, which are the Kelim. It says that they are in Malchut, and then it says that they are in Beria because of the association that became the world of correction.
Our sages also said, “In the beginning the Creator created the world in the quality of judgment; He saw that the world cannot exist, He associated with it the quality of mercy.” Know that the ten Sefirot KHBTM have many appellations in The Book of Zohar, according to their manifold functions.
When they are called Keter, Atzilut, Beria, Yetzira, and Assiya, their function is to distinguish between the anterior Kelim, called Keter and Atzilut, meaning Keter and Hochma, and the posterior Kelim, called Beria, Yetzira, and Assiya, meaning Bina, Tifferet, and Malchut. This discernment emerged in them by the association of the quality of judgment with the quality of mercy, as it is written in the “Preface to the Wisdom of Kabbalah,” Item 183.
The Zohar wishes to insinuate the matter of the association of Malchut in Bina. Hence, The Zohar calls the Sefira Bina by the name Beria. This is so because prior to that association, there was no image or form in Bina, even with respect to the receivers, but only in Malchut.
37) It continues there: [Aramaic] But after it made that form of the Merkava of the upper Adam, it descended there and was called HaVaYaH since it recognized it in its qualities, in each and every quality. [Hebrew] After it made that form of the Merkava of the upper Adam, it descended and clothed there. It is named in it in the form of the four letters HaVaYaH, meaning the ten Sefirot KHBTM. This is because the tip of the Yod is Keter, Yod is Hochma, Hey is Bina, Vav is Tifferet, and the last Hey is Malchut, so they would attain Him through His attributes, meaning the Sefirot, in every single attribute in Him.
38) Explanation of the matters: From Beria on, meaning from Bina, after it had been associated with the quality of judgment, which is Malchut, the images and the forms extend to the receivers, which are the souls, though not in her own place but only in the place of the receivers.
He says that at that time he made the form of the Merkava of the upper Adam and descended and clothed in the form of this man. In other words, the whole form of man in his 613 Kelim extends from the Kelim of the soul, since the soul has 613 Kelim, called “248 organs and 365 spiritual tendons,” divided into five divisions according to the four letters HaVaYaH and the tip of the Yod:
Her Rosh is considered Keter.
From Peh to Chazeh it is Hochma.
From Chazeh to Tabur it is Bina.
From Tabur to Sium Raglin it is the two Sefirot Tifferet and Malchut.
Additionally, the Torah, as a whole, is considered Partzuf Adam, pertaining to the 248 Mitzvot [commandments] to do, corresponding to the 248 organs, and the 365 Mitzvot not to do correspond to the 365 tendons. It contains five divisions, which are the five books of Moses, called “The image of the Merkava of the upper Adam,” meaning Adam of Beria, which is Bina, from which the Kelim begin to extend in the place of the souls.
He is called “upper Adam” because there are three qualities of Adam in the Sefirot: Adam of Beria, Adam of Yetzira, and Adam of Assiya. However, in Keter and Hochma there is no similitude at all that could be named by some letter and dot or by the four letters HaVaYaH. Since here it speaks of the world of Beria, it makes the precision of saying upper Adam.
At the same time, you must always remember the words of The Zohar, that these images are not in the place of the Sefirot Bina, Tifferet, and Malchut, but only in the place of the receivers. Yet, because these Sefirot dispense those Kelim and Levushim so they would know Him in His qualities, so the souls would attain Him through the light that extends to them by measure and boundary according to their 613 organs, we therefore call the givers by the name “Adam,” as well, although there they are merely in the form of the white color (see Item 8).
39) It should not be puzzling for you since the four letters HaVaYaH and the tip of the Yod are five Kelim, since the Kelim are always called “letters,” and they are the five Sefirot KHBTM. Thus, it is clear that there are Kelim in Keter and Hochma, as well, implied by the tip of the Yod and the Yod of HaVaYaH.
The thing is that the similitudes and the attributes it speaks of, which are the Kelim, begin from Beria downward, meaning only the three Sefirot Bina, Tifferet, and Malchut, and not in Keter and Hochma, meaning from the perspective of the essence of the Sefirot.
Yet, it is known that the Sefirot are integrated in one another. There are ten Sefirot KHBTM in Keter, KHBTM in Hochma, KHBTM in Bina, as well as in Tifferet and in Malchut.
Accordingly, you find that the three Sefirot Bina, Tifferet, and Malchut, that the Kelim come from, are found in each of the five Sefirot KHBTM. Now you see that the tip of the Yod, which is the Kelim of Keter, indicate Bina and TM that are included in Keter.
The Yod of HaVaYaH, which is a Kli of Hochma, indicates Bina and TM included in Hochma. Thus, the Keter and Hochma included even in Bina and ZON do not have Kelim, and in Bina and TM included even in Keter and Hochma, there are Kelim.
In this respect, there really are five qualities of Adam. The Bina and TM in all five Sefirot dispense in the form of the Merkava of Adam. For this reason, there is 1) Adam in the quality of Keter, called Adam Kadmon, and there is 2) Adam in the quality of Hochma, called “Adam of Atzilut.” 3) There is Adam in the quality of Bina, called “Adam of Beria,” 4) Adam in the quality of Tifferet, called “Adam of Yetzira,” and 5) Adam in the quality of Malchut, called “Adam of Assiya.”
40) [Aramaic] He is called El, Elokim, Shadai, Tzvaot, EKYEH, so they would know Him in each and every attribute, how He leads the world with power and grace according to people’s work. [Hebrew] He named Himself El, Elokim, Shadai, Tzvaot, and EKYEH, so that every single attribute in Him would be known. The ten names in the Torah that are not to be erased pertain to the ten Sefirot, as it is written in The Zohar, VaYikra, Item 168:
The Sefira Keter is called EKYEH.
The Sefira Hochma is called Yod-Hey.
And the Sefira Bina is called HaVaYaH [punctuated Elokim].
The Sefira Hesed is called Kel.
The Sefira Gevura is called Elokim.
The Sefira Tifferet is called HaVaYaH.
The two Sefirot Netzah and Hod are called Tzvaot.
The Sefira Yesod is called El Hay.
The Sefira Malchut is called Adni.
41) [Aramaic] If His light does not spread over all the people, how will they know Him and how will there be “The whole earth is full of His glory”? [Hebrew] Had His light not expanded on all creations by seemingly clothing in these holy Sefirot, how would the creatures come to know Him, and how would they keep the verse, “The whole earth is full of His glory”? In other words, by this it explains the Godly desire to appear to the souls as if all these changes in the Sefirot are in Him. It is in order to give the souls room for sufficient knowledge and attainment in Him, for then the verse “The whole earth is full of His glory” shall come true, as was said above in Item 33.
42) [Aramaic] Woe unto he who ascribes to Him any attribute, even those attributes of His, much less those of people, whose foundation is in the dust, for they are fleeting and worthless. [Hebrew] Yet, woe unto one who ascribes any measure to Him, who would say that there is a measure in Him for Himself, even in these spiritual measures by which He appears to the souls. It is all the more so in the corporeal measures of the human nature, which are made of dust, and are transitory and worthless.
As we have said above, in Item 34, although it is a Godly wish for the souls to see that the changes in them are in the Giver, it should nonetheless be clear to the souls that there is no change or measure in Him whatsoever. It is only a Godly wish that they will imagine so, as it is written, “and by the hand of the prophets have I used similitudes.”
And should they err in that, woe unto them, for they will instantly lose the Godly abundance. It is even more so with the fools who ascribe to Him some incident of the transitory, worthless flesh and blood incidents.
It would benefit the reader to learn all the rest of this Zohar, which explains the matter of the ten Sefirot and the three worlds BYA, as this is not the place to elaborate further.
Translator’s note: The usual translation for both Neshama and Nefesh is Souls, but here I had to choose a different word for Nefesh to distinguish it from Neshama.↩︎