The Zohar/Rav Brandwein Writings
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Introduction to the Zohar, Lesson 2, Parshas Beshalach, 5765, Jan. ‘05
By our Honorable and Holy Master, Teacher and Rebbi, Rabbi Avraham Brandwein, Of Yerushalayim, Israel, may he live long and happily, Amen.
Good! Now we will continue the lesson inside, following the introduction which we gave last week, regarding the matter of questions, from where do they flow (and originate). We said that there are questions which flow from the brain, from the intellect, through deep thought, and there are questions which flow from the experience of life, and these are truly the most important questions, since they come from the trials and experience of life, and they are the questions of reality, which people are burdened from.
Now, we will begin to read inside, from the Introduction to the Sefer HaZohar of the Baal HaSulam, Section 1, it is written here, “It is my desire, in this introduction, to clarify several seemingly simple matters, in other words, matters which the hands of everyone have touched (and examined) and much ink has been spilled, in order to clarify them. Yet, with all this, still we have not reached a clear and sufficient knowledge of them.” In other words, these questions, all generations are burdened by them, and essentially, they cause a lack of quiet, a lack of comfort, a lack of personal peace, when a person essentially does not know the manner in which all of creation operates, since we find a righteous person who suffers, and an evil person who prospers. When a person goes in the good way, seemingly they should live a peaceful life, yet in the end, their life is not peaceful, there are sufferings and Heaven forbid illness and anguish, in a particular manner and also in a general manner, in all of the world. Therefore, we have still not reached a clear and sufficient knowledge in them, why essentially this is the way of the world.
Rabbi Ashlag now begins to clarify the questions from the foundation. Therefore, the first question, question 1: what is our Mahus (Essence)? This means to say that this is truly the most important question, to know what is our essence. What is the meaning of Essence? Let us suggest an example: when we see a person, or a person sees another person, they only see the body of the person, their externalness. However, what is the inner makeup of that person, what are their characteristics, what are their actions, what are their viewpoints? The manner of relating to another person must always be according to the inner content of the person. Moreover, the body is only an external vessel, since what mainly powers the body and its actions, is the inner thought, the inner desires. Therefore, when we look at everything, and we want to know exactly what it is, then we deeply contemplate on the inner essence. This is called Mahu, “what it is”, like it says in Ethics of the Fathers, (unique, essential teachings of Sages, which allowed us to relate to them by what they said) and the statement of the Pesach Hagadah, “The wise son, “Ma-Hu Omer, (what does he say), the evil son, what does he say?” In other words, what is his inner substance, his inner characteristics? His essence is what he expresses in speech, with his mouth, which is already an external vessel that all hear and see. Consequently, the first main thing is to know, what is our essence, what is our inner essence. Furthermore, the reason it is important to know what is our inner essence is that when we know what is our essence, we will thereby know towards what achievements we are capable of reaching. We will know what we are able to demand from ourselves and what we should aspire to, and what are the powers that are within us. Therefore, the foremost matter, which we necessarily must first know, is what is our essence.
It is understandable, that after we know what is our essence, then according to this we can also come to the second question: “what is our role.” In other words, if we have specific powers and abilities within us, certainly this power has a role in the world. This is the second question, what is our role. However, here the question is more expansive. We can say, the flow of the question is as follows: “What is our role in the long chainlike existence, where we are small links of it.” Before we explain the question, essentially, the question asking, “What is our role,” we cannot ask such a question without first establishing that in our existence of all creation, there is a Creator, who is Hakadosh Baruch Hu, who created creation. Moreover, if, heaven forbid, there was no creator, who could say there is any role for us? Once we establish that the creation and also us were made by the Creator, that “He made us and we are to Him,” as it says in the verse, that Hakadosh Baruch Hu made us, Havaya Elokim created man, consequently, the Creator did not create something without a purpose or goal. Therefore, after this premise, which we establish with a complete faith, that Hakadosh Baruch Hu created us, consequently, this already necessitates the second question: if so, what is our role, since Hakadosh Baruch Hu would not create without a purpose, to live a life without meaning. Therefore, after this premise that Hakadosh Baruch Hu created us, here immediately is asked the question, “What is our role,” since He would not create something without it having some role.
Now we need to contemplate another matter, that the role of a person is not just a role for the seventy years of their life, since a person is essentially one link from all of the chainlike existence. What is the meaning of chainlike existence? Hakadosh Baruch Hu created Adam HaRishon, as it is written, that Elokim created the man, in the image of Elokim He made the man. Adam is essentially the root of all mankind, the general all-inclusive level of mankind, like a root, which always contains in it all that comes afterwards. Let us suggest the example of the seed of a tree, which contains within it all that will come out in particular afterwards. Within the seed is contained the tree, the kind of tree, the branches, the leaves, the fruit and the blossoms; all are included in the root. It is called the root, since it includes in it all that comes after it.
Since everything comes from the root, therefore, all of mankind, all souls of people, are included already in Adam Harishon. This is what Chazal say that Adam Harishon was as tall as up to the heavens. In other words, he included everything. Therefore, when Adam sinned, the sin then included all of mankind. Mankind, which came after Adam, is already the particularization of the parts, which were contained in the general inclusive soul of Adam HaRishon. For example, if we have a coin or bill of $100, it is understood that the smaller coins are already included in the large coin. For example, a bill of $100, the bills of $50, $20, or cents are all included within this bill of $100. This is already the particularization, which has come out from potential into action, so we are able to see each particular part.
This is the difference between all of mankind and Adam HaRishon. When Adam HaRishon was the only one in the world, he contained all of the souls of people. Therefore, when he sinned, all mankind, which would come out in particular from him, sinned. Therefore, the Tikkun and repair of the sin is done by way of all mankind, throughout the generations. Each one repairs their portion, and in the future, all souls will combine once again into one soul, as the soul was in the body in Adam HaRishon. However, in the future, all will already be repaired. So, essentially, every person is a small part of the soul of Adam HaRishon. Therefore, all of the chainlike existence, which is all of the generations from Adam HaRishon until the future to come, which is called the completion of the repair, when all will be repaired, all of us are a chain. The meaning is that each one is attached to the next. This means, a person cannot say, “I saved myself,” or, “I can do what I want, since I am not bound to other people.” Regarding this matter, Chazal have already said that this is like people traveling on a boat, while one is drilling a hole in their room on the boat. They say to him, “What are you doing, you are drilling a hole, we will all drown in the sea, the water will enter!” He replies, “Why do you care, I am drilling in my room!” What the parable is coming to show is that the role of every person, besides the role of repairing oneself at a particular level, this role, to repair, is essentially a part of the general repair of all mankind. Therefore, a person does not live for themselves; a person essentially lives not just for their own good, but for the good of all of creation. We see in reality that a person, most of their years, they work and toil, but in the end, those who benefit from their effort are essentially the following generations. A person does not get sufficient pleasure from their effort, so essentially a person is a part of the chainlike existence. This essentially contradicts the viewpoint that each person could say, “I will do what I want.” A person cannot say they will do what they want, because they have upon them a debt and responsibility, not just to themselves, but to all of mankind.
This is the question, which is stated here, what is our role in a particular manner, and also in the long chainlike existence. This refers to what we designate as the 6,000 years, which is our existence from Adam Harishon, until the completion of the repair. This is the time that we need to repair the transgressions and sins, since essentially Adam HaRishon did not do this alone, but each soul, every person, is a part from that sin of Adam HaRishon; we are small links from it. Furthermore, if we take out one link from the chain, then all of the chain falls apart, at the spiritual level and the physical level. What the prior generations put out in effort, learned and discovered, is what we benefit from. We benefit from what is already prepared, due to their wisdom, and what they have already put out in effort. In the same way, we put out effort and bestow this upon the coming generations. Therefore, essentially, all of this existence, that we see, is one chain, which cannot be broken. They are like links of a chain, one attached to the other. So too, every generation is attached to the previous generation and also continues to the coming generations. Therefore, every generation and every particular being is like a link from this chain. Consequently, they also carry that same responsibility both for good and Heaven Forbid for bad. This is the greatness of our responsibility.
Therefore, when we contemplate this responsibility, our view of the world also becomes different. We see that we do not live personal individual lives for ourselves, but the main thing is for others, for the entire world, for the coming generations, and also from the previous generations. Then, this is the second question, what essentially is our role, what do we have to do, what do we need to repair, in order to repair ourselves, and also be able to emanate to the coming generations. Therefore, in our times, what are we able to provide to others and to all of the world. This is a very important question.
Afterwards, we come to the third question: “Behold, when we look at ourselves, we feel we are imperfect, out-of-order and lowly, to the point that there is nothing like us to denigrate, and when we look at the Maker who made us, it would necessitate for us to exist in the highest levels, like which there is none as praiseworthy, since it must be that from a perfect Maker perfect products come out.” Here, the question stands in contradiction to what we think is reality and existence at the level of nature. We see that in nature there is great wisdom, that even until today, as much has been investigated, still we have not reached the depth and the final point of each particular detail. Everything is in its place, one completes the other, one protects the other. This is the wisdom of nature, how everything exists. For example, the sun comes out firmly established in a set time, the moon shines, the globe of the Earth spins; so too with every particular detail. Therefore, the Creator that created this creation and even nature itself, He was certainly the most wise. However, this is with regard to the essence of nature, i.e. the essence of existence. But, on the other hand, when we look at creation, we see that there are creatures, which are out-of-order or corrupt. All evil and suffering comes as a result of people behaving in a very violent manner, with violence, thievery, murder or trickery.So, if Hakadosh Baruch Hu created all of creation and also us, then why do we see on the one side that He is the great Wise one, and all that He created, he certainly created for good, then how is it possible that, from the behavior of people, we see that we are out-of-order and lowly. Behold, it is not possible that from a wise and complete Maker come out products that are not perfect. For example, a very wise carpenter will not produce a rickety table, a chest that cannot stand, or a broken chair. If a maker produces ruined products, it is a sign that they are not a perfect maker. But, Hakadosh Baruch Hu, who is completely perfect, true perfection, and therefore his name is Shalom, a term of Shleimus completeness, then how is it possible that He created creatures which are out-of-order and lowly. They are not perfect; one damages the other, one causes evil to the other. Therefore, this is the paradox that we see, that on one side the Creator is a perfect Creator, and on the other side His creatures appear lacking perfection. Yet, from a perfect Maker, it is necessitated to produce perfect creatures!