Sunday, April 10, 2005

R' Ashlag Ch. 19 (sect. 4)

Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag's "Introduction to the Zohar"

-- as translated and commented on by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman


Ch. 19


"In point of fact, though, all the world's trials and tribulations are only phantasms displayed before our eyes in order to prod us to undo the wrongful husk of the body (i.e., our ratzon l’kabel) and to accept upon ourselves the proper tsurah of the ratzon l’hashpia."

-- Each and every cataclysm and calamity we'd ever suffered, we'll learn, was nothing but a fable and was as misleading as a nightmare. All it ever did was serve as a study in what matters and what doesn't, what's immutable and what ephemeral. And the lesson we'll draw from it is this: the only reason we ever suffered was because we were always and only self-absorbed. And only now (we’ll say in the third era), when we're no longer self-absorbed and are fully blessed and content instead, do we know how true that all is.

"But as we've said, (following) the path of trial and tribulation (in contradistinction to following the path of Torah and mitzvot) will (also) grant us the means to assume the better tsurah (of a ratzon l’hashpia)."

-- That is, we'll all perforce become selfless, as we've said; and we'll always have the option of learning the above lesson by means of experiencing trial and tribulation on our own and then “getting it”. But R’ Ashlag’s implication is that we could learn the very same lesson -- though more painlessly and expeditiously -- by drawing upon the wisdom of Torah which teaches us that and by living out its life-lessons through the mitzvah system.

"Nonetheless know that fulfilling interpersonal mitzvot (mitzvot bein adam l’chavero) takes precedence over fulfilling the more sacramental ones (known as mitzvot bein adam l’Makom), because (in the end) our bestowing upon others (by fulfilling interpersonal mitzvot) will have us bestow upon G-d (too, as a matter of course)."

-- His final point here is that we're nonetheless to know that there are mitzvot, and there are mitzvot.
-- There are the more ceremonial ones (like donning Tephillin, observing Shabbat, eating Matzah on Passover, etc.) that are relatively easy to fulfill since they only require that we do what G-d -- who is invisible, never complains, and is never unreceptive or ungrateful -- asks us to; and there are the interpersonal ones (like giving charity, visiting the sick, loaning money, etc.) that are more difficult, since they demand that we contend with others’ own self-interests which always run counter to our own.
-- In any event, the sort of muscular rowing against the deafening flux of egos we'd have to engage in to satisfy another's needs while subduing our own would serve us better in the end, since it would help us achieve a ratzon l’hashpia, and make it easier for us to acquiesce to G-d's will when that goes against the grain.

(c) 2005 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

(Feel free to contact me at )

AT LONG LAST! Rabbi Feldman's translation of "The Gates of Repentance" has been reissued at *at a discount*! You can order it right now by logging onto (or by going to and searching for it). Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has translated and commented upon "The Gates of Repentance", "The Path of the Just", and "The Duties of the Heart" (Jason Aronson Publishers). And his new work on Maimonides' "The Eight Chapters" will soon be available from Judaica Press.
His works are available in bookstores and in various locations on the Web.
Rabbi Feldman also offers two free e-mail classes on entitled "Spiritual Excellence" and "Ramchal".