Michael Laitman, On Quora: “What are some basic understandings you should have before reading the Zohar?“
Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), who wrote the Sulam (Ladder) commentary to The Zohar, wrote four introductions to The Zohar in order to provide us with a sturdy foundation for approaching the book.
Without thoroughly understanding the concepts that Baal HaSulam describes in these introductions, it is impossible to reach an accurate understanding of The Zohar, as well as approach its reading effectively to advance toward its attainment.
The Zohar describes the spiritual world, i.e., the desires, intentions and actions of the created being when in contact with the Creator.
Since we exist in an opposite corporeal reality, we understand nothing about the spiritual world.
We are born and raised in an egoistic human nature, which aims to benefit itself alone, with no consideration of others.
Thus, when we read The Zohar with no prior preparation, it appears as if it is written in a foreign language (even if we read it in our native tongue), with strange fables and other depictions that seem to be codified.
No matter how much we try to make connections with what we read in The Zohar, if we have no perception and sensation of the spiritual world, through an opposite giving sense to our inborn receptive senses, then we have no access to understand and feel what The Zohar truly describes.
In addition, both The Zohar itself and various Kabbalists discuss the notion of The Zohar’s revelation in our times, that specifically in our era, more and more people will feel a need for what The Zohar contains.
If our egoistic nature of receiving for self-benefit alone was replaced with a spiritual one of love and bestowal, we would immediately understand what The Zohar describes. Reading The Zohar with such an inclination would then reveal more and more layers of the spiritual world to us.
However, is there anything we can get from The Zohar while we lack the spiritual nature, locked in the human ego?
What we can get is called “Segula,” a special kind of remedy. Reading the book, not understanding a single word, attracts forces from the spiritual world it describes. If we approach reading The Zohar with the intention to transform our nature—from egoistic to altruistic, corporeal to spiritual—then the book serves to illuminate upon us a special light called “Ohr Makif” (“surrounding light”), which acts on us to ignite that transformation.
The spiritual forces from the reading work on us, gradually leading us to the revelation of the spiritual world, to access the quality of love and bestowal that fills reality.
Since The Zohar was written by a group who attained the highest degrees of attainment of the spiritual world, and who shared a nature of love and bestowal, then only by attaining a similar nature can we understand and feel what The Zohar depicts.