Chapter 3: Corrections Through the Ages
The Evolution of the Correction Method
The Great Fall, and the Seeds of Redemption
The exile after the ruin of the Second Temple stemmed from unfounded hatred, but it also served a twofold purpose. The first was that the exile was an incentive to further develop the correction method. Since Moses’ Torah no longer sufficed to maintain the nation’s spiritual level, it was time to adapt the method to the current condition of the people—being in exile, and more egotistic than during Moses’ time. The second purpose of the exile was for Israel to mingle with other nations, to spread the “spiritual gene” throughout the world, and thus enable the correction of the whole of humanity, as Abraham initially intended.
Around the time of the ruin of the Second Temple, two seminal corpuses were composed. One was the Mishnah, and the other was The Book of Zohar. The former, along with the Bible, became the foundation of virtually all Jewish wisdom from that day on. The latter, on the other hand, was concealed soon after its writing, and remained hidden for more than a thousand years, until it appeared in the hands of Rabbi Moses de Leon.
The authors of the Mishnah, the Gemarah, and the rest of the writings of our sages provided the exiled people of Israel with guidance on both the spiritual and the physical levels. While the writings narrate spiritual states, they can just as readily be perceived as physical commandments.
Because the laws that our sages instructed originated from spiritual laws, they were applicable in physical life, just as Israel had applied them prior to the ruin of the Temple. In this way, Jews maintained some level of connection with the spiritual level of the past, albeit without the actual attainment of the source and origin of the laws.
Rabbi Menahem Nahum of Chernobyl wrote in regard to Israel’s disconnect from the spiritual level and loss of attainment of the Creator: “The reason for the exile is the ruin of the Temple in general and in particular. Israel have [become] so corrupted that they caused the expulsion of the Shechina [Divinity] from the general Temple. The particular [personal] Temple is within their hearts … and through the departure from the particular Temple [Divinity] … [they] departed from the general Temple and the exile arrived.”[i]
In the same spirit, Jonathan Ben Natan Netah Eibshitz wrote, “In the First Temple, Divinity did not move from the Temple because the exile was for a short time. But in the second ruin, which is for a prolonged period of time, the Shechina [Divinity] departed altogether.”[ii]
And while the majority of Jews focused on maintaining a connection with spirituality on the level instructed to them by the sages of the Mishnah and the Gemarah, there have always been those exceptional few who simply could not settle for blind observance of commandments. The questions that drove Abraham to discover the Creator were burning within them; their points in the heart had not been quenched, and they were driven to the deepest of all studies, the wisdom of Kabbalah.
[i] Rabbi Menahem Nahum of Chernobyl, Maor Eynaim [Light of the Eyes], Beresheet [Genesis].
[ii] Jonathan ben Natan Netah Eibshitz, Yaarot Devash [Honeycombs], Part 1, Treatise no. 13 (contd.).