Monday, July 12, 2004

R' Ashlag Ch. 8

Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag's "Introduction to the Zohar"

-- as translated and commented on by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman


Chapter 8


"So let's now plumb the depths of the kabbalists’ viewpoint we cited in the third inquiry (in Ch. 2). We were struck by their statement (there) that our souls are a part of G-d much the way a stone is a part of the mountain it's hewn from, the only difference being that one is a 'piece' while the other is the 'whole'."

-- What does the statement that "our souls are a part of G-d" mean? G-d certainly can't be subdivided, because if we assumed that He *could* be then we'd be forced to arrive at certain inanities like the idea that everyone is, say, a trillionth of G-d. But if that were so, then G-d would only be an aggregate of His parts, and as soon as one would be missing, He'd be that much less-than perfect. But that's absurd since G-d is perfect and whole, "one, sheer, complete, total, unalloyed, and indivisible" (2:1).

"For after all, it's one thing to say that a stone can be hewn from a mountain by an ax made for that purpose -- but how could anyone say anything like that about G-d? And *with what* were our souls 'hewn' and withdrawn from Him in order to become created entities?"

-- There's also the dilemma of what tool one could ever use to separate a "part of G-d" from "the rest of Him". It would obviously have to be stronger than Him, which is also absurd, by definition.


"But now we can understand this for ourselves: for just as (something physical like) an ax can hew and separate physical things from each other, (something intangible like) a difference of *tsurah* can likewise separate two spiritual things from each other. Let's illustrate that. While we'd consider two people who love each other as being 'attached' to each other and a single entity (for all intents and purposes), on the contrary we'd consider two people who hate each other as being as disparate as east is from west."

-- This is a complex paragraph, with many points made. Let's begin by defining terms. One's *tsurah* {*tsurot* in the plural} is his make-up and character, which is to say his physical, intellectual, and emotional selfness -- your impalpable "you", and my impalpable "me". And we'lll add that a tsurah is termed "spiritual" even though it has nothing to do with one's soul because it refers to a person's intangible personal qualities.

-- Now, the Hebrew term for "attachment", *d'vekut*, usually alludes to the sort of selfless and utterly amorphous adhesion onto the Divine that the righteous long for and sometimes achieve. It's taken to be the fulfillment of a great degree of adoration for G-d and is often depicted as swooning before the Divine Presence. The closest everyday experiences we have of it are great and whole camaraderie or romantic love. But R' Ashlag will present us with an entirely different understanding of the term.

-- His point here is that when one person's make-up, and character is aligned with another's, the two are very compatible and they're thus great friends or in love with one another, and are "attached". Contrarily, if their make-up and characters are *in*compatable, there's an intangible psychic breach between them that's just as real as the breach between two hewn stones. Hence, what attaches people to each other is the likeness of their tsurot.

"It wouldn't be a question of their physical proximity so much as a compatibility of tsurot."

-- Their physical proximity wouldn't have anything to do with their attachment, since they could be "close" to each other on an emotional, psychic level even if they were worlds apart if their tsurot were on par. After all, they'd be compatible because of the high degree of affinity between them.

"For when their tsurot are so identical that each loves what the other loves and hates what the other hates they in fact love one another and are 'attached' to one another. But if they have disparate tsurot -- meaning that one of them loves something that the other hates (and vice versa) -- then the more disparate they are, the farther from and less attached are they to each other. As such, if they're comprised of opposite tsurot and each one loves what the other hates and vice versa, then they're as distant from each other as east is from west, which is to say, utterly so."

-- So what is it that attaches us onto G-d? It must be the things we have "in common" with Him. Apparently, then, when we're at variance with Him we're distant from Him. Recall, though, that G-d is everywhere; so in fact the only way anyone could ever be said to be "distant" from Him would be in his make-up and character.

(c) 2004 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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