Thursday, October 21, 2004

R' Ashlag Ch. 11 (sect. 2)

Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag's "Introduction to the Zohar"

-- as translated and commented on by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman


Ch. 11 (sect. 2)

"But once he engages in mitzvot from the age of thirteen on in order to please his Creator, he begins to refine his inborn ratzon l’kabel and to slowly transform it into a *ratzon l’kabel al m’nat l’hashpia* (i.e., a willingness to take in, in order to bestow). And that enables him to draw a holy soul downward from its root in the intentions behind creation, which passes through the system of holy worlds and engarbs itself in the individual (literally, “the body”). This is the period of repair (rather than ruin)."

"The individual then continues to climb various rungs of holiness of the Infinite’s intention's for creation, which then help him turn his ratzon l’kabel to a ratzon l’kabel al m’nat l’hashpia and to please his Creator rather than himself. And He thus gains an essential affinity with his Creator, since a ratzon l’kabel al m’nat l’hashpia is tantamount to out-and-out bestowance."

-- As R' Ashlag points out many times in his writings, mitzvot are depicted two different ways in the Zohar: as pieces of advice, or as deposits. He maintains that they're both, since they first *advise* us how to draw close to G-d (they say, "do this to draw close to Him, and avoid that to draw away from Him"), and then, once we take drawing close to G-d as the point of fulfilling mitzvot (rather than to accrue reward or for any other reason) they *deposit* G-d's Light in our being and we indeed draw close to Him.
-- Thus once a person begins to fulfill mitzvot from bar or bat mitzvah age and onward (in the course of the "period of repair") for the express purpose of pleasing and drawing close to G-d, he or she ceases to be self-centered and begins the long process of replacing his or her own self-serving desires with the desire to please G-d alone. Which is to say that the individual starts to transform his usual and quite normal willingness to only take-in to a willingness to take in, in order to give back in return.
-- Having started that process, he then merits a soul. But that calls for some explanation; for don't we all have souls?
-- As we'll find later on (starting in Ch. 34), there are five degrees of "soul". The lowest is the "nephesh", higher than that is the "ruach", higher yet is the "neshama" (the best-known term for the soul), higher yet is the "chaya", and then there's the "yechidah", which is the most sublime degree. As we'll find, one has to *earn* a neshama (to say nothing of a chaya and a yechidah), and one only comes to earn it by transforming his ratzon l’kabel to a ratzon l’kabel al m’nat l’hashpia.
-- Once one does that, he gains an affinity with G-d, who only bestows. Understand, though, that we humans aren't expected (or even encouraged) to achieve an out-and-out ratzon l'hasphia (a willingness to only bestow) and thus be G-dly; we're encouraged to achieve the aforementioned willingness to take in, in order to bestow, and once we do, then we will have become G-dly for all intents and purposes.

(c) 2004 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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