An article from my column in Ynet: “Forever Following the Book”
Through sentences, words, and letters encoded in Kabbalah books, Kabbalists have opened the passage to a new dimension for us through which we can enter the story of our life and positively affect the events. The Hebrew Book Week held recently is a good opportunity to go on a magical journey following the books that have shaped our nation.
It is not without reason that the nation of Israel is called “The Nation of the Book.” Forever —books have been an integral part of our way of life, a key means accompanying our lives throughout the years of our development as a nation, as a society, and a country.
There does not refer to literature that burst on the scene just hundreds of years, and is dying out as technological developments penetrated our lives, but to different kind of books – books of Kabbalah, Holy books, also called “the language of the distinct, different, special.”
Holy books such as the Bible, the Talmud, The Book of Zohar, and the Midrash do not deal with rules of ethics and are not folk tales. They tell us about a special spiritual world. In addition to the great wisdom that flows from them these books, they also contain a special force, a real treasure, which can fulfill everything we desire, answer every question we have, and especially give meaning to our lives. But very few know how to discover this treasure. Those who do are the Kabbalists.
Kabbalists are ordinary people who have a great desire to discover the reasons for what is happening in our life and what our fate has in store for us, and they were the first to penetrate behind the scenes of our world. They discovered that there is a force of love and giving in reality whose only goal is to bring us to this sublime state, to be united in love and bestowal like this force itself.
They described the way to attain this in their books, the detailed guidance and the wonderful feelings they had, so that we can use it. Thus we too can read about this sublime force, about the “author” who writes the story of our lives, and learn how to change our lives for the better.
The Book of Human History
The first to feel the two worlds together, the nature of the world around us and the nature of the upper world, was Adam HaRishon (the first man), who described it in the first Kabbalah book he wrote called The Angel Raziel, “Raz” the secret language, that is, the revelation of the secrets of creation.
The book includes interesting drawings, and a person who reads it in depth immediately perceives that it isn’t a primitive man who hunted mammoths that wrote this book, but a great Kabbalist who tells us about the united soul called Adam, about its shattering into thousands of individual souls of all of humanity, and about its future connection in which they will reunite into one soul.
Dozens of books have been written by hundreds of Kabbalists, but the most outstanding book since Adam’s book is attributed to Abraham. Abraham did not intend to write a textbook but the Book of Yetzirah (Book of Creation) was basically a list of the major laws of how the spiritual world operates. Although the Book of Yetzirah is very special, it is still very hard to understand and light years away from us. It is thanks to the Book of Yetzirah and the method of connection between people, which he developed, that the nation of Israel grew and began to aspire for spirituality. Several generations later, Moses, the great Kabbalist, continued to lead the nation.
The Book of Books
Moses’ spiritual revelation gave him the power to take the children of Israel out of Egypt, and to lead them in the desert for forty years until they reached the borders of the Promised Land of Israel.
He describes the updated method for his generation in his book called the Torah, as in Light [Ohr]. In other words, it teaches how to enter the spiritual world with the Light, the divine force. By using this book, every person can reveal the image of creation and build his life toward the ultimate goal.
Although the Torah is written as a historical narrative about the exodus of the nation of Israel from Egypt, it is in fact is a description of a person’s exit from his lowly corporeal state called Egypt, and his ascent to a spiritual state called the “Land of Israel.” Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai said, “Woe to the man who says that the Torah was meant to tell a simple story and a folk tale. If the Torah was meant to tell a historical story, even the leaders of the world are better at that. Everything that is in the Torah is actually upper events and upper secrets” (The Book of Zohar). Moses used the language called the “language of the branches”—the names of objects, feelings, and actions of our world, but by that he referred to the roots of the upper world, to the concealed upper forces, to the entrances and exits of the forces of nature and even to their destructive effects.
If we look at the Torah not through it’s external shell, we will see a totally different picture, detached from the reality of this world. Instead of human figures like Moses and Pharaoh, animals, and different people, we will see the spiritual forces that operate on us, and will gradually be able to use them in order to ascend spiritually. The key to deciphering the Torah is actually in the books of Kabbalah, in The Book of Zohar.
The Book of Zohar or as Kabbalists call it “The Book” explains the five books of the Torah and tells us exactly what Moses meant. It is the basic and most important book in the wisdom of Kabbalah. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, Rashbi, the author of the Zohar, was the first Kabbalist who described how our thoughts and our reactions to the force that operates on us from Above rise back to the upper world, operate in it, and thus affect all the future events that will descend unto us.
Before writing The Book, Rashbi gathered a group of ten students around him, “a ten” since “the Torah can only be acquired in a group,” (Babylonian Talmud). The soul of every student matched a certain spiritual attribute in the upper world. When they connected into one soul, they were fully compatible with the Ten Sefirot, the whole structure that exists in the spiritual world. The true connection between these attributes has led to the revelation of the Light of the upper Zohar among the ten students.
“And Rabbi Shimon used to reveal the secrets of the Torah and the friends listened to his voice and responded to him in a connection each replying his share,” (Ramchal, “Adir Ba Meromim“). Because each of the friends represents an attribute of the spiritual world, their story which the whole Book of Zohar tells, is actually the description of the way these spiritual attributes descend into our world; how these ten forces lead this world; how every person can use these forces for his own sake and for the sake of others.
The Tree of Life
1,300 years later, the ARI received The Book of Zohar. He was given permission to renew the method that existed since the days of Adam. He absorbed all the Kabbalistic information since the time of Adam, processed it, and rewrote it so that the method for individuals became a method suitable for the masses. All the sources he absorbed and taught in Safed were later published as The Tree of Life, a book that teaches the way to the spiritual world and explains how we can ascend and attain eternity and wholeness. It also talks about what many are fascinated by, reincarnations. Reading and studying the ARI’s books immediately raises a person above the level of our world.
In addition to the Tree of Life, the ARI wrote twenty other books in which he presents all the laws of the creation using a clear innovative scientific method. In the introduction to his book he says that since the method was established, anyone can study Kabbalah, that the desire itself is the only criterion of whether a person can enter the spiritual world, and so with the science of Kabbalah, which he developed for his generation, anyone who has the desire to attain the goal of creation, regardless of age, gender, or nationality, can do so. Indeed after the ARI’s time many began to open up to Kabbalah and to climb the spiritual ladder to the upper world.
Eventually both The Book of Zohar and the ARI’s books were not intended for the systematic study of Kabbalah for the masses. Although Kabbalah is a science, there was no suitable textbook to study it until our century. The greatest Kabbalist of the 20th century, called Baal HaSulam after the Sulam Commentary he wrote to The Book of Zohar, emerged in order to fill the gap in Kabbalistic literature. He also explained all of the ARI’s books and compiled them in The Study of the Ten Sefirot, which is the major Kabbalah textbook of our time.
The Study of the Ten Sefirot includes everything all the Kabbalists who preceded him wrote throughout thousands of generations: Adam, Abraham, Moses, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and the ARI. He included many Hasidic writings and writings of contemporary Kabbalists and even referred to the views of the great philosophers of the world like Marx, Nietzsche, Locke, Darwin, Spinoza, Schopenhauer, and many others.
All we need to learn about how to create the future we desire is in the writings of Rav Yehuda Ashlag. “I am happy that I was born in a generation in which it is allowed to publicize the wisdom of truth,” says Baal HaSulam. “If you ask me how I know that it is allowed, I will reply that I was given permission to reveal and to explain every single word. This has nothing to do with the ingenuity of the sage himself but with the situation of the generation, and therefore I have said that I was awarded with the revelation of the wisdom because of my generation.”
A Call for a Change
At the end of the Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot, Baal HaSulam rightly asks whether the language of Kabbalah books is not quite understood, “Therefore we must ask, why then, did the Kabbalists obligate each person to study the wisdom of Kabbalah? Indeed, there is a great thing in it, worthy of being publicized: “There is a wonderful, invaluable remedy to those who engage in the wisdom of Kabbalah. Although they do not understand what they are learning, through the yearning and the great desire to understand what they are learning, they awaken upon themselves the Lights that surround their souls…Hence, even when he does not have the vessels, when he engages in this wisdom, mentioning the names of the Lights and the vessels related to his soul, they immediately shine upon him to a certain extent.”
However, they shine for him without clothing the interior of his soul, for lack of able vessels to receive them.
“Yet, the illumination one receives time after time during the engagement draws upon him grace from Above, imparting him with abundance of sanctity and purity, which bring him much closer to achieving perfection” (The Letters of Baal HaSulam).
From Ynet article 6/16/16