The Zohar/Rav Brandwein Writings
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Introduction to the Zohar, Lesson 3, Parshas Yisro, 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.
We will summarize Section 1. In Section 1, there are five questions and it is possible to divide them into two groups: questions 1 and 2, and questions 3, 4, and 5. The first two questions relate to us. What is our essence; what is the potential power hidden within us? This immediately forces the second question: what is our role, since when we know the hidden power within us, we will know how and why it is necessary to make use of it.
The other three questions relate to the Creator, may He be blessed. The third question is: when we deeply think about ourselves, we see that there is no complete person in our world. Every person has qualities that are incorrect and unrefined. Furthermore, there are creatures that harm and do damage to people. For example, the behavior between fellow man, all of the thefts, murders, and wars, etc. How is it possible that He created creatures such as these improper ones, for “He made us, and we are to Him?”
On the other hand, when we think deeply about creation and we see this amazing formation, as it is written, “For I will see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have established,” how everything is set in order in a wondrous fashion, the sea, the desert, mountains, rivers, plants, and animals, how everything is made in a remarkable harmony, the pathways of the sun and moon, as it says in Yeshaya (40,26) “Raise up your eyes to the heights and see who created these, He that brings out their host in number, He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and for that He is strong in power, not one will be absent.” We understand how the Creator is wondrously wise and everything is complete and perfect.
Herein is a contradiction from existence itself against the behavior of the life of existence between people. There are those who wish to interpret this paradox and say that there are two active domains, the domain of Good and the domain of Evil. This view produces multiple gods. But the basic outlook of Judaism is, “Hear Israel, Hashem is our Lord, Hashem is One,” as it is written in the prophets (Yeshaya 45,7), “He forms light and creates darkness, makes peace and creates evil; I am Hashem, the one who makes all of these.” Therefore, it is impossible to accept this interpretation.
Likewise, the fourth and fifth questions are questions relative to the Creator. “According to what the intellect dictates is that Hashem, may he be blessed, is the Good One, who does good, and there is none higher than He,” since all evil, or anyone who causes evil to another, is produced because they have a lack and they want to fill in that lack, even at the expense of others. But the Creator, may He be blessed, who has no lack, and certainly, no one can complete Him, for everything is the work of His hands. Therefore, the intellect dictates that “He is Good and does good.”
“How could He create from the outset so many creatures which suffer and are afflicted, all the days of their being? Isn’t the way of the Good One to do good, and at least not to cause so much evil,” since Hashem, may He be blessed, did not create the world and then abandon and neglect it. But rather, His Providence over His creations is constant and eternal as it is written (Yirmiyahu 32), “Great in counsel and mighty in work, whose eyes are open upon all the ways of people, etc.”
The fifth question is, “How is it possible that from the Eternal, which has no beginning and no end, can produce creatures which exist, perish, and disintegrate?”
It is written in Pirkei Avos, “Know from where you have come, and to where you are going.” This means that already in the drop, from which we were formed, there is the root of non-eternalness. Therefore, it is putrid, and in the end, the body rots. But this is with regard to people, since even the father is not eternal. But the Creator, who is eternal, how can there be produced from Him creatures which are temporal and disintegrate?
Before we move on to Section 2, let us add and say that there is a philosophical viewpoint, which says that the Creator, may He be blessed, is so lofty and does not relate at all to the creatures, so it would be a waste of time for us to ask questions about the nature of creation, or the purpose of the Creator in creation. Moreover, as a result of this viewpoint, they reached the conclusion that there is no obligation to keep His Mitzvos or to serve Him, since He is so lofty, for He has no connection with the creatures. The Kabbalists have rejected this viewpoint, as we say in our prayers, “Our Father, Our King”. It is true that He is very lofty like a king, but he is also our father, and we are like his children, who are able to come close to their father and connect with him. The questions are not for the purpose of philosophy. But, if we understand His ways, we will know how to come close to Him, to fulfill His Mitzvos, and to attach to Him.
“In order to clarify this in a complete way,” in order to clarify the five questions in Section 1, “We need to first introduce some inquiries, and not Heaven forbid in the place which is forbidden, which is about the Essence of the Creator, may He be blessed,” as it is written in the Book of Iyov, ‘If one inquires of G-d, will you find Him?’ and as it is written in Tehillim, ‘and to His greatness, there is no searching,’ since no mind can grasp Him at all, and, consequently, we have no thought or conception of Him, may He be blessed, but only in the place where the inquiry is a Mitzvah, which is the investigation of His actions, may He be blessed, as is commanded upon us in the Torah, “Know the Lord of your father and serve Him,” and as it says in the Song of Unity, “From Your actions, we recognize You.”
We see here two distinctions: the investigation of the forbidden place, which is in His Essence, and the investigation of the permissible place, which is even a Mitzvah, which is in His actions.
What is the designation Essence? All of our recognition and sensation is through the five senses within us, and the meeting between the senses and what is beside ourselves is our recognition. For example, the sense of taste in our mouth, with salt or sugar, according to them, we designate if it is sweet or salty. This means that all of the names and designations are given as a result of the combining of the senses with the essence that comes in contact with them. However, we are unable to define any essence by itself, this means not according to our senses. Therefore, we do not know if this substance by itself is truly salty or sweet, for only through the combination, where the essence of the substance comes in contact with the senses, can we know anything. This is what is written that regarding Essence, the inquiry there is a forbidden place, for even if we want to investigate the matter above our grasp, our investigation is only according to the contact with our senses. So too, when we describe a person as a doctor or cobbler, this is only according to the activities, which we receive from them, but of their personal activities, which they do for themselves, we do not know. Therefore, our investigation is only according to the actions and activities, which we receive. Forbidden (Assur) comes from the word “bound” in chains.This principal teaches us that the Torah does not deal with theoretical enquiries, detached from reality or from the practical, for only what is tied to the benefit of serving Hashem is what the Torah deals with, and not with philosophical, mystical inquiries.