Wednesday, June 16, 2004

R' Ashlag Ch. 7

Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag's "Introduction to the Zohar"

-- as translated and commented on by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman


Chapter 7


"Now that we know that, we can begin to fully and clearly explain our second inquiry."

-- That is, now we can finally understand what it is that wasn’t found in Him originally but was created by Him out of sheer nothingness.

"For we’ve determined that there’s in fact a phenomenon that’s clearly not a part of G-d’s essence, which can thus be said to have been created utterly anew rather than out of anything else."

-- That’s to say that since G-d doesn't need anything it follows that the need to derive pleasure is clearly something extrinsic to Him and thus utterly original. So it must play a unique and purposeful role in creation. And besides, ...

"Now that we know for certain that G-d’s intent when He created the world was to bestow pleasure upon His creatures, it’s clear that He necessarily had to have created a willingness to accept all the pleasure and goodness He’d planned for them. Thus it’s the willingness to accept (all that) that wasn’t a part of G-d’s essence before He placed it in our souls. After all, from whom could He receive?"

-- ... and what could He be lacking?

"So He did indeed create something anew that wasn’t part of His Being."


"In light of His intent when He created the world we can now understand that there was no need to create anything other than that willingness to accept things. For it’s all He needed to (create in order to) fulfill His intent to create the world, which was to bestow us with favors."

-- We've only alluded to it till this point but we'll now expand upon our willingness to accept things, since it's a major theme in R' Ashlag's system. It's termed the "ratzon l'kabel" in Hebrew and it can be translated as our willingness, wish, or intent to accept, receive, or take things. At bottom it comes down to our tendency to catch rather than throw, eat rather than cook.

-- But don't make the mistake of thinking that it's fully and exclusively a symptom of our spoiled or self-centered nature, for it goes far deeper. In fact, sometimes it's a rather healthy need at that. Consider inhalation and exhalation. I just naturally will, wish, and intend to accept, receive, or take in oxygen all the time; and I only "give it back" when I exhale in order to be able to inhale again -- or so it seems. But as every schoolchild knows, when I exhale I proffer carbon dioxide into the air which in fact feeds. And besides, if I didn't inhale, I'd die. I likewise ingest food for seemingly selfish reasons, but I'd also die if I didn't (and the body's waste matter is also useful). The list goes on and on.

-- Still and all, though, our wish to take-in rather than give-out *is* selfish and self-serving for the most part. For as we all know, while immaturity and crudeness are marked by selfishness (by an utter exploitation of the ratzon l'kabel), maturity and refinement are marked by self*less*ness. And we're called upon to transcend the ratzon l'kabel in ways we'll discuss later on.

-- In fact, it's the ratzon l'kabel that sets us apart from G-d, who needs nothing and grants everything (as we pointed out). That having been said, though, it's still true that G-d purposefully created the ratzon l'kabel, so it must fulfill a role in His plans. In fact it does, and a supremely high one at that: it serves as the medium through which G-d's intention to bestow us with favors plays itself out. After all, if I didn't want to take, then my Benefactor couldn't effectively give (see 6:2).


"Nonetheless the complete fulfillment of His intentions for the world -- which is to say, all the goodness He had in mind for us -- originated directly from His essence. So He (really) didn’t need to create it anew (or, 're-create' it), since it originated in something that already existed and became the great willingness to accept things that dwells within us (literally, 'in our souls')."

-- His point is that since all we tend to do (with exception) is take-in and all G-d does indeed do is give-out, it necessarily follows that our urge to take-in is the only thing G-d created outright, out of the blue, which is apart from Him. For everything else comes directly from Him and is a manifestation of His will to give-out -- a purposeful "prop" for G-d's wish to bestow us with favors.

"Thus it becomes absolutely clear that all of creation, from start to finish, is nothing other than (the creation of) the ratzon l'kabel."

-- R’ Ashlag has thus satisfied both his first and second inquiries (see 2:2,3) which in short were, how could there ever be a completely original creation apart from G-d’s Being, and just what is it? The ratzon l'kabel is that thing, and it was purposefully created by G-d to be separate from Him so as to allow us to enjoy His beneficence.

(c) 2004 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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