Monday, August 07, 2006

R' Ashlag Ch. 58 (Part 1)

Chapter Fifty-Eight:

Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag's "Introduction to the Zohar"

-- as translated and commented on by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman




"But I know the reason (why observant people don’t delve into the esoteric side of the Torah). It’s mainly because faith has largely abated (in our day and age) over-all, especially when it comes to faith in our holy ones and sages in each generation."
-- Not having access ourselves to the holy and wise, we doubt their very existence. While we might concede to there being exceptional people who are somehow comfortable with eternity, at ease with piety, and linked to G-d, and others who are profuse in genius and able to grasp dreadfully large amounts of information, we nonetheless know the difference between them and the holy and wise. For while the former are mystical and brilliant, the latter are impelled by forces much further away and far more inward. And we don’t see them around us.
-- But the holy and wise do exist; they do. But being ... holy and wise ... , they eschew much of what we surround ourselves with and cherish, so we never get the chance to meet them. That’s to say that they’re still where they’ve always been, but we’re not. Consequently our collective paths no longer cross, and we assume that they don’t exist. As a consequence, we’ve lost faith in G-d, too; since it’s the holy and wise who best suggest Him to us.
-- The observant have their faith and they sometimes even catch sight of the holy and wise (since they and the observant visit some of the same places now and then), still and all the observant don’t delve into the esoteric side of the Torah for the following reason.

"(They don’t delve into it) also because the books of Kabbalah and the Zohar are full of bodily depictions, so people are afraid of making the mistake of lapsing into anthropomorphisms and of thus losing more than they’d gain."
-- Such books often focus not only on bodily depictions, but on Divine dimensionality as well, if you will; and on things far, far too human for angels, souls, and aspects of G-d Almighty’s own Being to be concerned with when taken literally.
-- So the thinking is that it’s much more dangerous to possibly lapse into heretical thoughts reading such things than it would be beneficial to be inspired by them, since there are other much more discreet and quite valuable works to draw upon for inspiration that don’t present such a threat.
-- (We cited another reason, though, in 57:2 -- what we termed the clash between emphasizing boundaries and denying them. For while, as we indicated, halacha postulates and sets boundaries, Kabbalah eschews it; so observant people don’t engage in Kabbalah as a rule. But rather than conflict, Rabbi Ashlag’s explanation and my own are one and the same. For the problem with bodily depictions and the like is that they seem to affix physical and mortal boundaries to the Divine, which are anathema to observant sensibilities since they’re far beyond the halachic horizon.)

(c) 2006 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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