Thursday, August 05, 2004

R' Ashlag Ch. 9

Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag's "Introduction to the Zohar"

-- as translated and commented on by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman


Ch. 9


"Hence, it’s a change of tsurah that 'hews' (things apart) on a spiritual level the way an ax hews two material objects; and it’s the difference between their tsurot that determines their 'distance'."

"From this we can see that when the aforementioned willingness to accept pleasure was implanted in our souls -- which doesn’t exist in the Creator; after all, from whom can He receive? -- that very change of tsurah in our souls 'hewed' us from G-d’s essence the way an ax hews a stone from its mountain."

"And that change of tsurah consequently transformed our souls from the order of Creator into that of creations."

-- R' Ashlag is saying (and quite clearly so) that were it not for the fact that our souls were granted the "ratzon l'kabel", there'd be nothing to differentiate them from G-d! But make no mistake about it, that's not to say that you and I are actually G-d "except for this one small detail", because that's simply not true.

-- You and I, as we experience ourselves in and present ourselves to the world, are nothing other than manifestations of a unique conduit of the ratzon l'kabel. Our unfathomable essence in its pristine state, on the other hand -- our soul -- was actually subsumed in G-d's Being before the ratzon l'kabel came into being, and was thus at one with His indivisible Self. But the fact is that it expereinced something utterly transformative which G-d's Being didn't expereince, i.e., that it became willing and able to accept rather than only bestow, set our souls as apart from Him as any two things could be, and allowed one to remain Creator and the other to be a seperate created entity. Our souls would still be conjoined with Him had the ratzon l'kabel not come into being, but since it did (and purposefully so) we're no longer a part of the great Divine Mix.


"That not withstanding, everything our souls derives from G-d’s light is still-and-all culled directly from His Essence and is 'yesh' from 'yesh'."

-- This is a rather arcane point. First off, "light" itself represents anything bestowed on us from G-d. It's an expression of the idea of endlessly and effortlessly issuing forth things from the core of one's being the way the sun issues forth sunlight.

-- Next, the statement that something is bestowed upon us from "G-d's light" means to say that it comes only indirectly from G-d (i.e., from His light rather than from Himself). R' Ashlag's ironic statement that it's "still-and-all culled directly from His Essence" means to say that though it's indeed thus coming to us through an intermediary, it's still from G-d Himself at bottom, much the way a recorded message from a friend is still a "direct" message from him.

-- Yesh ("something [you could put your fingers on]") refers to a tangible material entity as opposed to "ain" ("nothing [you could put your fingers on]"), which refers to an inchoate nonmaterial entity. G-d is by definition utterly "ain" (which is of course not to deny His existence but rather to eschew any physicality on His part). Thus, whatever is bestowed from Him is "merely" actual and derives from G-d's light which is also "merely" actual (since it's a product of G-d Himself rather than Himself).

-- The gist of it the matter is that everything that we accept through the medium of our ratzon l'kabel is only indirectly from G-d, and the act of accepting itself *dis*connects and differentiates us from Him.

"It thus follows that any G-dly light that our souls accept into their vessels (i.e., within our willingness to accept things) is itself indistinguishable from G-d’s very Essence, because our souls receive it 'directly' from His Essence, as 'yesh' from 'yesh'."

-- "Light", as we said, represents anything bestowed on us from G-d, which we accept into our "vessel", i.e., our "selves", which we termed before as "manifestations of a unique conduit of the ratzon l'kabel". The point is that anything material that we accept is still-and-all directly from G-d, even though our having accepted it set us apart from Him.


"So, again, the only difference between our souls and G-d’s Essence is the fact that our souls are a 'part' of it. For the amount of light our souls accept into their vessels (i.e., within our willingness to accept things) has already been differentiated from G-d, since it came about by the change of tsurah known as the willingness to accept which then made it a 'part', as a consequence of which it went from a 'whole' to a 'part'."

"So once more, the only difference between them (i.e., our souls and G-d’s Essence) is that one is the 'whole' and the other is a 'part', like a stone hewn from a mountain."

"Reflect upon (the ramifications of) this carefully, for it’s impossible to expand upon it, it’s so sublime."

(c) 2004 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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