Baal HaSulam, “Introduction to The Book of Zohar,” Item 57: …Imagine that there are people who study Kabbalah and attract the light of Infinity, lead the generation after them and the people follow them, and then all will be sure they will never err on their path. But if, instead of Kabbalah, people prefer to study other parts of the Torah, no wonder that the whole generation errs through their fault. So deep is my grief that I am unable to continue speaking about it.
After the destruction of the Temple, there were still many people in constant attainment. Not all fell at once into concealment.
In fact, with the Shevirat ha Kelim (the breaking of the vessels), the highest Kelim descended below all, and those that were not as high don’t fall as low. Besides, there is also significance to the general mixing. Every Kli that falls drags the others after it and pushes those that fell previously even lower.
As a result, the original whole Kli, all parts of which were as a single person with one heart that revealed the Creator, in the shattering gradually lost the revelation as the vessels fell from their previous height. The Study of the Ten Sefirot (Talmud Eser Sefirot) talks about this in Section 7.
History, too, serves as an example. We see how the destruction happened gradually, stage after stage, layer after layer, and continued for a long time. Accordingly, after the destruction of the Temple, for a long time, the spiritual illumination still hadn’t disappeared. After more than a thousand years, during the time of the Ari, many people still maintained the consciousness, the spiritual sensation. It is possible to explain this partially through the great troubles of the exile that held people above the Machsom (the barrier).
Later, after the time of the Ari, a new awakening began, an ascent, a slight call for correction from the side of the Reshimot (remembrances). And therefore, the Baal Shem Tov conducted his work.
It would be possible to ask, “Who gave him permission to do this?” However, the Ari called for correction and suggested his students to “go up to Jerusalem.” Rabbi Chaim Vital also writes about this in Sefer HaHakdamot (The Book of Introductions), and in our day, Baal HaSulam wrote the Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot on the same basis.
So, for the Baal Shem Tov, there was a basis for beginning to act and awaken the people to inner work and corrections. He began to speak about the five spiritual worlds, about the Partzufim, about the Sefirot, about the Creator that is clothed in them, and so forth. Why did he and his students disseminate the new message among the people? It was because the crisis had ended by then.
Since then, since we are late with our corrections, we haven’t realized what has been given to us from above, just as we have encountered problems of a different type that have come from below.
Here we are talking about the Yeridat HaDorot (descent of the generations). This was discovered in the 19th century and especially in the 20th century. Despite the fact that the people received a push to return to the land of Israel, this hasn’t had any internal influence on us to this very day. The descent has continued, and we see how from year to year the people gave up the last connections of unity, even in the worst form. But in spite of it all, they are still holding it together. As of today, the shared values of the roots of the movement have disappeared without a trace, like the Kibbutz movement in the form in which it was born.
Baal HaSulam writes that all of this happens, of course, also among those who study the Torah. Instead of turning toward its interior, as all of the Kabbalists in all generations taught—as it was before the destruction of the Temple, according to the principle, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18)—they were drawn in an absolutely different direction where it was not possible to find love of others, mutual bestowal, and connection.
This is the reason for the situation we are now in. The generations descended lower, but the people still were not awakened. On the contrary, they continued to descend even lower, even in comparison to the state in which it was in the lands of the exile.
Indeed I have known the reason: that it is mainly because faith has generally diminished, especially faith in the holy men, the wise men of all generations. And the books of Kabbalah and The Zohar are full of corporeal parables. …And that is what prompted me to compose a thorough interpretation… (Item 58)
The books of the Kabbalists were written for Kabbalists, and the common man is not able to understand them. So, Baal HaSulam was compelled to write “The Sulam Commentary to The Book of Zohar.” This commentary, on condition that one learns it correctly, makes it possible for everyone to approach a true understanding and gradually advance toward the truth, to bring the concealed layers of The Book of Zohar down until it will begin to shine from within.
From the 4th part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 2/23/14, Writings of Baal HaSulam