Sunday, September 03, 2006

R' Ashlag Ch. 61 (Part 3)

Chapter Sixty-One:

Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag's "Introduction to the Zohar"

-- as translated and commented on by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman




"(But to understand that, and to see how that explains why the earlier generations weren’t granted the Zohar or a non-materialistic commentary to it that removes one of the major stumbling blocks to a proper understanding of it, we’d need to examine the following.) Our sages explained (that the 6,000 years of this world was to be divided thusly from the start: there would first be) "2,000 years of *Tohu*(formlessness, as in “And the earth was formless and void” [Genesis 1:2], then there’d be) 2,000 (years) of Torah, and then 2,000 (years) of the days of the Messiah” (Sanhedrin 97A) ... "
-- The Talmudic sages agreed that history -- the goings-on in the single partzuf that comprises the universe as we know it -- would be comprised of a beginning, middle, and end stage; but rather than designate them by their partzuf-specific names CHaBaD, CHaGAT, and NeHY, they categorized the three epoch periods of time as one of formlessness, another of Torah, and the third as that of the Messianic Era.

"... (which illustrates the following). Throughout the course of the first (two) millennia, which correspond to the “beginning” or “CHaBaD” (or “formless” element of the partzuf and of its history), the lights (manifest there) were very slight, and were considered (to be like) a head without a body, with Nefesh-light alone."
-- Toggling back and forth between terms, we’d depict Rabbi Ashlag as saying that the first, topmost course of history and its beginning was rather dark, formless and all potential. But why would that be so, given how close it was to pre-creation's all-G-dliness?

"(That’s so) because there’s a converse relationship between lights and vessels."
-- “Lights” are the spiritual content of things that are themselves termed “vessels” or “containers”. The classic analogy is that of the relationship between the soul and the body, where the soul is dubbed the body’s “light” and the body is taken to be the soul’s “vessel”. Being the integrated cosmic configuration that it is, the single partzuf that makes up all that we know is a combination of lights and vessels in various lay-outs.

"For when it comes to vessels, the rule is that the higher vessels grow first in the partzuf, whereas when it comes to lights, the opposite is true -- the lower lights become engarbed first in the partzuf."
-- It’s simply a given that this single partzuf’s higher vessels grew in size and capacity before its lights did, and that its lesser lights were “engarbed” -- stored-away, and set aside for later use -- within the partzuf before its higher lights were.

"Thus, as long as only the higher parts of the vessels existed, meaning the CHaBaD vessels, then only the Nefesh-light could be engarbed in the partzuf, which are the lowest lights. And that’s why the first (two) millennia are referred to as *Tohu*."
-- That’s to say that the reason the first historical epoch didn’t have the Zohar, though they seemingly should have, was simply because only the higher vessels (CHaBaD) and the lower lights (Nepesh) were in place there and then. So, while the people there (the vessels) were greater, the illuminations (the lights) were dimmer; hence the whole epoch was rather formless and only all-potential.

(c) 2006 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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