AN ANTHOLOGY OF THOUGHT & EMOTION... Un'antologia di pensieri & emozioni
הידע של אלוהים לא יכול להיות מושגת על ידי המבקשים אותו, אבל רק אלה המבקשים יכול למצוא אותו

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

THE WAY OF LIFE

Moses Chaim Luzzatto's The Way of the Tree of Life

Translated by Jenny Marmorstein
(an article from Tradition)

One of the most fascinating aspects of the impact of the "counter-culture" upon the intellectual climate of our time is renewed interest in all phases of mysticism. The Editors are therefore pleased to make available to our readers Mrs. Marmorstein's translation of one of the Jewish classics in the field.

INTRODUCTION

Chaim Luzzatto who was born in 1707 to a prosperous Paduan family. He received distinction in sacred and profane learning but his mystical preoccupations resulted in persecution, and he sought refuge in Amsterdam where he ground diamonds for a living. He died of the plague in Safed in 1747. As for his posthumous reputation, he has been hailed as the forerunner of both Hasidism and neo-Hebrew literature and his Mesilat Yesharim is still very popular. However, since this work does not overtly acknowledge his mystical commitment, its popularity, together with the claims commonly put forward on his behalf, tend to obscure his immediate aim. Thanks to a renaissance talent harnessed to the Kabbalah, he was in a position to play an influential role in the distribution of Lurianic concepts and insights from small groups of adepts to the widest circles of literate Jews. The following work, in English for the first time, represents this aspect of his endeavour. Based on the magnum opus of Luria's outstanding disciple, Chaim Vital (1543-1620) it contains an outspoken defence of mystical study and an ardent call to engage in it. 


THE WAY OF THE TREE OF LIFE 

Man's Creator and Guide has made and formed him with the capacity to attain greater insight than the Ministering Angels.

According to our Masters of blessed memory (Bereshit Rabbah 17), He told them that "man's wisdom is greater than yours." When man desires understanding in his own fashion, God allows him to reach, even up to the highest heavens, secrets of the world which the Ancient-of-Days has veiled. Yet his advantage depends on himself, for he is free to choose either to grow wise and acquire knowledge or to remain stripped of all wisdom despite powers of reasoning. 

There are two factors in understanding - human intellect and the Torah which aids human intellect. Concerning the Torah, it was said: "Is not My word like fire, says the Lord" (Jeremiah 23: 29). He thus informed us that the Torah is an actual light bestowed on Israel for illumination. Unlike other branches of wisdom and profane sciences which can be mastered through mere intellectual effort, the Torah is a sacred entity with an exalted presence in the loftiest of heights; and when a man occupies himself with it here below, it is a light illuminating his soul so as to convey him to the loftiest treasuries, those of the Creator, blessed be His Name, through the powerful lustre which it sheds. This is what the Sage meant by "Torah is light" (Proverbs 6: 23) - actual light, not merely wisdom or an illusion of light but actual light, for such is the Torah's reality Above that when it enters a soul, light enters it, just like a ray of sunshine enters a house. 

Furthermore, the Torah has been accurately and aptly compared to fire. Take a live coal which has not burst into flame but retains its flame concealed and enclosed inside it. When one blows on it, it flares up and spreads, and different shades of color, which could not previously have been seen, appear. Yet they all originate from the live coal. Similarly, the letters and words of the Torah, like live coals, remain obscure when you fist set them alight: and it is only after persistent effort that a great flame, colored in several shades, leaps up - the elements of knowledge that lie concealed in the midst of the letter in question, as the Zohar explains in relation to the Hebrew alphabet. This is no mere parable but the literal truth, for the letters we find in the Torah correspond to the 22 lights that exist Above; and these celestial lights shine down upon the letters, whereby the sanctity of the Torah is extended to scrolls of the Torah, phylacteries and door-posts and all sacred writings. The holier the manner in which they were written, the more intensely does the illumination of these lights rest on their letters. Accordingly, a Torah scroll with one blemish is wholly blemished, since the illumination does not rest on it in a manner suitable for the transmission, through reading from it, of sanctity to the people. 

To return to the subject, although the lights resting upon the letters contain all the particular aspects of each letter, all that reaches the soul of anyone looking at these letters is one obscure light, as in the case of the live coal; but the more diligently one studies them, the more brightly do these lights shine, until they flare up like the flame from the live coal. Such is the purport of the Mishnaic teaching "Turn it this way and that, for everything is to be found in it" (Avot 5: 22), namely that those engaged in the study of Torah must keep on turning until it flares up like a real fie. Just as various shades of color appear in the glow of a flame, many important matters are included in this light's flame. The Torah has many aspects. The view has long been accepted that every soul in Israel is rooted in the Torah, so that there are 600,000 explanations of the whole of the Torah corresponding to the 600,000 souls of Israel. This is what we mean by the Torah splitting into numerous sparks: fist it glows, then all the lights pertaining to the matter appear, and those very lights illuminate in 600,000 ways the 600,000 of Israel. This is the mystery of "like a hammer splits a rock" (Jeremiah 23:29).

Accordingly, we see that despite the infinity not only of the Torah but even of each of its letters, it is necessary to inflame it so that it flares up. Human intellect has been similarly fashioned so that its power of comprehension is great only when it glows with the power of thought. Concerning this it is written: "The Lord grants wisdom, from His mouth come knowledge and understanding" (Proverbs 2: 6), for all that exist were made by the speech of the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is written: "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made" (Psalms 33:6). His mouth is the root of all things created and also that which sustains them, and the breath of His mouth is the influence extending to all things created from the Source that brought them forth. Accordingly it was said: "For not on bread alone does man live, but on all that goes forth from the Lord's mouth man lives" (Deuteronomy 8: 3). This is the breath that goes forth and sustains, and it is clothed in edible things required by man for nourishment. 

Wisdom has already been set by the Holy One, blessed be He, in the hearts of all men, but in order that it might grow, His mouth which sustains it, has to fan it vigorously. Just lie fire flaring up when it is fanned, wisdom glows when the influence descends from the Divine mouth like a drought, so that the knowledge and understanding already, although imperceptibly, enclosed in it become apparent, for only wisdom, which is intellect on its own, had previously been perceptible. Understanding is the intellect's mode of perception, linking one thing with another and basing one thing on another, and knowledge is the result emerging from all these processes; but these fulfill their functions only through the draught with which the Supreme mouth fans them. Thus while wisdom has already been granted and the Divine mouth merely sustains it, knowledge and understanding have to renew themselves, and only through the power of the puff from the Divine mouth can the manifestation of knowledge and understanding be constantly renewed. That is what Elihu meant when he said: "Surely there is spirit in man, and the Almighty's breath gives them understanding" (Job 32: 8). As in "the breath is like a stream of sulphur" (Isaiah 30:33), the word is derived not from Neshamah (soul) but from Neshimah, the breath of the mouth or the blowing of the wind, and it is this, not days or years, which bestows insight. 

Consequently, man has had the duty of reflection imposed on him, for if he does not reflect and deliberate, wisdom will not come to seek him out, and he will remain in darkness without knowledge and walk in vain paths and gloom. Eventually he will have to account before the Supreme King, the Holy One, blessed be He, for having failed to make use of the power of wisdom with which He had endowed him in order to enable him to excel. This is surely due to the enticement of the evil impulse, the Other Side, who makes every effort to defeat man both in this world and in the next, knowing full well that if man fails in this respect, he can scarcely repent and recover, since knowledge of the truth strengthens the soul and removes the evil impulse from it, and nothing weakens the soul in the face of the evil impulse so much as ignorance. If only knowledge were wide and firm in the hearts of men, they would never sin, the evil impulse would not draw close enough to rule over them, just as it does not rule over the angels. Yet since the Holy One, blessed be He, wished men to possess the evil impulse in order to have an even chance of being conquered by it or conquering it, he set knowledge among them, enclosed like the live coal and with the capacity to spread like the flame. 

The choice is in man's hands. Our Sages of blessed memory interpreted the verse "Therefore the rulers say, come to Cheshbon" (Numbers 21 :27) as meaning that those who seek to rule their impulse must take stock of the world (T.B. Baba Batra 78b); for those who do not seek to rule their impulse will never set themselves this task, but only those who seek to rule their impulse will undertake such a reckoning and teach others to do the same. Surely one who spends most of his years calculating the results of his purely temporal undertakings should devote at least one hour to substantial reflection on the nature of man, the reason for his entry into the world, what is required of him by the Supreme King, the Holy One, blessed be He, and the final end of all his affairs. That is the best and surest remedy against the evil impulse. It is easy, effective and fruitful for man to put aside all other thoughts for at least an hour a day in order to concentrate on the matter I have mentioned. Let him ask himself: How did the forefathers of the world behave so as to cause the Lord to take such delight in them? How did our teacher, Moses, on whom be peace, behave? How did David, the Lord's anointed, and all our great predecessors behave? He will then understand the advantage of emulating them throughout his life, and his thoughts will turn to examine his own current condition and compare it with the path trodden by those eminent figures of antiquity. Yet supposing that the impulse is so overpowering that he cannot contend with what is too strong for him? It was such an eventuality that frightened the holy Rabbi Simon bar Yohai so much that he shrieked like a crane: "Woe to mankind that the Holy One, blessed be he, is a captive with them in Exile. 'He turned here and there and found that there was nobody there,' for they were all attending to their own affairs and following their own paths" (Tikkunei Hazohar 10). Briefly, it is extremely difficult for the man who does not reflect on these things to attain perfection, but for him who does, it is very near. Sages who think of them constantly and with growing intensity and never avert their minds from them, succeed in all their actions; but even a man with little free time should at least fix a daily period, whether short or long, for reflection, for then he will succeed in his ways and acquire insight. 

Since you now know that it is your duty to contemplate and understand, I will begin to explain the matters which you should contemplate and investigate. 

The first investigation you should undertake concerns the Divine motive for the whole magnificent work of creation. Do not reply: What is man that he should pursue the King in order to discover His train of thought! Since Scripture has testified that "Thy thoughts are exceedingly profound" (Psalms 92:6), it would seem arrogant and presumptuous to claim ability to find out the intention of the Emanator, blessed be His Name! On the contrary, it has been said in this connection: "The Lord's secret is shared with those who fear Him, and His covenant is to be made known to them" (Psalms 25: 14). This mystery embraces the whole matter of actions which He has performed and is performing, all the laws of creation which He has established for the heavens and the earth and all their effects, for all these numerous and great works surely have a single aim and object. Such is the mystery mentioned in the above verse. The laws laid down for this purpose constitute the covenant to which the verse refers, the covenant which allows every creature to preserve its form undeviatingly. According to the twenty-first? of the Tikkunim, there is an allusion to it in the word bereshit (in the beginning) whose letters, when rearranged, make brith esh (a fiery covenant). But in order to understand these laws, one must begin with an inquiry into the importance of the different categories of creation. Inanimate objects, plants and animals are clearly not the most important, since there is no ultimate advantage in their actions and they have neither intellect nor understanding. This leaves men and angels; and if you examine their affairs, you will find that men are of primary and angels of secondary importance. This is the mystery expressed by the Psalmist: "Lord, our Master, how glorious in Thy Name throughout the earth, bestow Thy splendor above the heavens" (Psalms 8: 2). The Psalmist was accurately aware that the Holy One, blessed be He, receives power, as it were, from the actions of men, in order to benefit them and all creatures; and that, too, is the mystery of "Grant strength unto God" (Psalm 68:35). Similarly, our teacher Moses said: "You have forgotten the Rock who begot you" (Deuteronomy 32:18), from which we learn that Israel's actions add force to His might Above. The order of stimulus, according to the statute laid down by the Emanator, blessed be His Name, is that when Israel acts below on earth so as to increase the power of the Holy One, blessed be He, the increased power reflect its splendor among the attendant angels who stand ready to carry out the actions which He has been stimulated to perform. Accordingly, whenever the Holy One, blessed be He, is stimulated to act, the matter is manifested among his attendants entrusted with the implementation of the actions which He has been stimulated to perform, through the radiance that reaches Him from us. 

Now, to return to the root of the matter, since the radiance in them derives from the stimulus of the King and the stimulus of the King from Israel's behavior, Israel is the essence of the whole of creation. "How glorious is Thy Name throughout the earth" relates to the power received by the Holy Name on earth through the mystery of "Grant strength unto God" which I have mentioned. "Bestow Thy splendor above the heavens" relates to the splendor involved in the stimulus and spread above the heavens among the attendant angels there. It explains a further great remedy that is performed through men, since it is said: "Through the mouths of babes and sucklings hast Thou founded strength" (Psalms 8: 3). Since angels have no evil impulse, their actions are unable to remove it, but men who have an evil impulse can remove it. So what did God do in order to give them the additional power required for the achievement of this remedy with special vigor? He allowed them the uncircumsized years, which comprise the whole of the period prior to man's entry beneath the yoke of the commandments during which the Other Side is more closely attached to them, in accordance with the mystery of "Folly is bound up with the heart of youth" (Proverbs 22: 15). During that period, transgressions are ignored; but, on the other hand, study of the Torah is very highly rated. Such is the notion of the utterance of the mouth of schoolchildren putting a complete stop to the Other Side, which explains the verse "Through the mouths of babes and sucklings hast Thou founded strength . . . in order to put a stop to an enemy." The root of the verb envisages a man engaged in an activity coming to a halt; it applies not to angels who, since the evil impulse has no power over them, cannot put a stop to it and can only banish it, but only to men. I will now explain the expression "strength." 

The Torah is called "strength," as is well known, for it leads power to holiness through the mystery of "Grant strength unto God." Before a man is born, he is taught the whole of the Torah with a view to enabling his soul, before its entry into the body, to be permeated by the whole Torah so that it might find a proper remedy through all the degrees of sanctity. Yet, on its departure into the world, an angel comes and draws him on so as to provide a hold for the evil impulse, for he would otherwise be swept away by the force of sanctity and revert to being like an angel without the aforesaid remedy of putting a stop to the Other Side. Consequently, the light of the Torah is then concealed within him, and the Other Side has power over him. This period is called his uncircumsized years, during which it is necessary to discipline him, as it is said: "The rod of reproof shall keep it far from him" (Proverbs 22:15) and also: "You shall smite him with the rod and deliver his soul from perdition" (Proverbs 23: 14). Perdition is the foreskin to which our Sages referred when they said: "Separation from the foreskin is like separation from the grave" (T.B. Pesahim 92a). It is a real grave, for since darkness prevents the Supreme light from reaching it, it can be described as actually dead in the grave. Such is the mystery of "He has set me in dark places like the dead of old" (Lamentations 3:6). 

In the beginning, although the foreskin of the body is removed after eight days, the inward foreskin, the foreskin of the heart, is removed only after thirteen years and a day. Throughout that period, therefore, the child is exempt from the commandments; but he should nevertheless be disciplined as I have said, for this causes the foreskin to be thoroughly separated from him so that it may leave him altogether at the appointed time. That is why Scripture speaks of keeping it far from him and not of removing it from him, since it cannot be removed but should leave when the time comes. There is a resemblance with the Beating in the Grave: the beating is due to the close link with the Serpent's filth which beating alone can remove - the righteous who remedy themselves properly, keep it away from themselves so effectively that there is no need for beating. The boy, since folly is bound up with him, likewise requires beating in order to keep him away from this link and association, for then when the time comes for it to depart, it will depart once and for all - and if he walks along a good path, he keeps it away by himself. Now at this time, i.e., the time for keeping the foreskin away, the utterance proceeding from his mouth can subdue the Other Side and crush it violently so that the power of the Torah which he received before he was born, returns and develops. Once he has fully received that power, he can act, and he is therefore responsible for fulfilling the commandments.

You know, of course, that the world rests on the utterance of children's mouths. Since the Torah gets weaker at times and stronger at times - weakening among mankind owing to sinners and, particularly, the mixed multitude within Israel, as is stated in the Tikkunim - the Holy One, blessed be He, has made their utterance, in which there is no sin, into a foundation for the Torah; and the Torah grows stronger though it, since it has been long prepared for the very purpose of extending the power of the Torah, as mentioned above. Accordingly, "founded" in "Through the mouths of babes and sucklings hast Thou founded strength" relates to the actual laying of the foundation, "on account of Thy foes" refers to the mixed multitude, "to put a stop to an enemy" means the suspension of the Other Side's activity, and "an avenger" hints at the mystery of the Serpent, which takes revenge and bears a grudge, for since the Serpent's legs were cut off, as we are told in "You shall walk on your belly" (Genesis 3: 14), it tries to take revenge by pursuing the legs - the reason for the Rabbis' knees weakening (T.B. Berakhot 6a). It involves the mystery of the upper legs supporting the body upon which depends the Torah's supporting power whereby it is held firm so that it does not totter, through the mystery of "And those who support it shall be kept erect" (Proverbs 3: 18). Thus we find the Serpent pursuing the legs in order to deprive the Torah of its support, Heaven forbid, for the Serpent is the falsehood that does not prevail while the Torah is the truth that prevails. The Serpent desires to take revenge by preventing the Torah from having a support in Israel so that it might depart and be forgotten among them. The utterance of children's mouths constitutes an effective remedy, for they are actually involved in those upper legs called "children under instruction," as is explained in the Zohar, they are the supporters of truth within the mystery of "truth prevailing." Such is the meaning of "to put a stop to an enemy and avenger."

Now since the main remedy lies in the hand of man and not in the hand of the angels, we be certain that he is the essence of the whole of creation and infer that this alone is the purpose for which man was created, and the activity to which he should devote himself. So it was from the very beginning when God "placed him in the Garden of Eden in order to cultivate and guard it" (Genesis 2: 15), which our Sages of blessed memory explain as referring to the positive and negative commandments. They were all to be performed in a state of rest (i.e., without inward strife) as our Sages deduced from the root of the word meaning "And He placed him." Only after man had sinned was he to walk along two paths after two different guides - as our Sages put it: "Woe unto me from my Creator, woe unto me from my impulse" (T.B. Berakhot 61a). It is clear to you, then, that whatever man does in the Lord's service, he does for the purpose for which the Creator, blessed be His Name, created him; everything else. is done in obedience to the accusing Serpent, which delights in his absorption in other matters, with a view to keeping him distant from his Creator, blessed be His Name, by distracting him from His service. Man was punished by having to endure this state of affairs, as we see from "and you shall serve other gods" (Deuteronomy 11: 16); for man is led along the path which he wishes to walk, and since he originally chose to listen to the Serpent, the verdict pronounced on him was that he should not be free from its yoke but bear it as long as is decreed upon him. This decree - "By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread" (Genesis 3: 19) - represents the worst of all forms of torment for the soul whose longing is still for its Source.

The wise man who understands matters correctly, will, through his insight into origins, perceive that all the affairs of this world amount merely to man's involuntary subjection to the Serpent's view, whereby he cannot remain on one path in the Lord's service day and night but has to follow the vanities of this world. Let him, therefore, choose the minimum of evil, restrict his worldly activity as far as he can and try to engage in the study of the Torah and the service of God to the utmost. Eliphaz explained the matter to Job: "For affliction does not come forth from dust" (Job 5:6). The reason why it is written "And the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground" (Genesis 2:7) - it would have sufficed to say either dust or ground - is that Scripture wished to clarify two aspects of man. The fact that man's name has been derived from the word meaning ground and not from the word meaning dust relates to the connection between the ground and himself: the influence poured out from Above descends from the heavens upon the earth, and man subsequently receives it. This mystery is that below, through the mystery of the juncture of the upper lights, through the mystery of "masculinity and femininity," the influence composed of both of them (i.e., heaven and earth) emerges, for this accords with the Supreme order. It is the mystery of "a land where there shall be no dearth of bread for you to eat" (Deuteronomy 8: 9) and likewise of "He who brings bread out of the earth," which alludes to the Supreme influence.

Man is called "a tree of the field," as the commentators on the verse "for man is a tree of the field" (Deuteronomy 20: 19) explains, because he really originates from the earth like a tree. Accordingly, man's substance is dust; he clings to the ground, the place from which he derives his strength, and is therefore called by its name. But none of these things would have caused man trouble and toil, even though Adam's evil impulse was exactly like a spider's web, as our Sages of blessed memory have said (T.B. Sukkah 52a) with references to the verse "Woe unto those who extend iniquity with cords of vanity" (Isaiah 5: 18 ). Gross though his substances is, this is not the cause of the strength of the evil impulse now within him. Nor does the ground, the place which receives the influence, cause the trouble and toil required for receiving food. "For affliction does not come forth from dust, nor from the ground does trouble sprout" (Job 5:6). Trouble emerges from guilt, for thus it became his destiny to toil so intensively as to distract him from pursuing the end for which he was created. What the ground did not do to man who came out of it, woman did; for when he came out of the ground, it was without trouble, but when born of woman he came out to trouble. Here an important principle is illustrated, namely, that trouble arose after men had begun to beget children. "Cain is a nest of defilement," as they explain in the Zohar, since while Adam had been defied through his sin, the main effect of the Serpent's filth was upon the children of Eve, for it had cast filth upon her. Thus birth was for trouble, and Cain became a cultivator, for the ground had already been cursed on account of man, as it is said: "Accursed be the ground because of you" (Genesis 3: 1 7). When man had been fit for relief from all trouble, the ground was inevitably blessed so that its fertility grew. Now it was cursed, and Cain, who emerged into the condition of trouble, cultivated it.

Originally, demons and all degrees of defilement were concentrated in the femininity of the Great Abyss and prevented from roaming round the world, but with Adam's fall, the demons rose from their place to occupy the whole world, as our Sages of blessed memory said: "They stood around us like the ridge surrounding the field" (T.B. Berakhot 6a). This was because man had already been prepared to be harmed, Heaven forbid. Accordingly, one can infer that while man had been created neither for trouble nor for preoccupation with it, his submission to the Serpent's view prevents his escape from its sway before the ultimate end. As Solomon said: "It is an evil matter that God has given men so that they may be afflicted by it" (Ecclesiastes 1: 13). It is an evil matter that actually falls in the category of evil, and one from which they cannot be free until the time of the complete remedy. The idea is also expressed in the Midrash: "Where are you - what has happened to you that yesterday you followed My view and now the Serpent's?" (Bereshit Rabbah 19). For originally man could devote himself to the purpose of the Creator, blessed be His Name; but once he had sinned, he was involved in any activity that the Serpent might put in his way. Therefore, man should surely despise all worldly affairs and aspire only to what accords with the purpose of the Creator, blessed be His Name. Whatever worldly tasks may be incumbent on him he should perform without the slightest enthusiasm but mechanically as if a demon were coercing him. That was the conclusion of Eliphaz:" Surely I should enquire of God and address my words to Him" (Job 5:8) - I should abandon the vain follies of the whole world, inquire of God and arrange my affairs in accordance with the purpose that He had intended in creating me. Acknowledge, then, that all you need desire and seek is how to act in accordance with the purpose intended for you by your Creator. Now I shall explain to you clearly the path you must follow in order to get a correct grasp of wisdom. Listen to it and take heed.

First of all I will explain the meaning of reward for man's service and righteousness before the Lord. The body is the subject of the whole matter. Since the body is darkened, it is near the Other Side, which has a relationship to it. Now it is the will of the Emanator, blessed be His Name, that His holiness should not extend to or rest on a place where the Other Side has a claim or relationship. Holiness, then, was not to rest on the body; but the soul entering into it can perform by its means deeds through which it is remedied. That is the function of the commandments, which correspond to parts of the body. Every commandment is an invitation to holiness to come and rest upon the part of the body that undertakes that particular commandment, i.e., that part of the body is redeemed, and holiness rests on it. Now you understand why man was created as a compound of two creations - body and soul. On the one hand, service of such a kind can only be performed through something that has a relationship to evil, as I explained in the previous section with reference to human superiority over angels; on the other, a prisoner does not release himself from prison, i.e., anyone with evil in him cannot free himself from it unaided. Therefore, the Holy One, blessed be He, made the body in which there is evil, and placed in it the soul which is pure, so as to remedy it and redeem it from the Other Side. That is the intent of the Sages when they said that one must proclaim the Holy One, blessed be He, King over every organ. For the Holy One, blessed be He, does not want His holiness distributed over the bodily organs, in view of their relationship to evil, until they themselves proclaim Him King over them by means of the commandments, as has been said above.

Elihu expressed this idea when he said: "Gaze at the heavens and see, and look at the skies high above you - if you act righteously, what do you give Him?" (Job 35:5,7). First of all he wanted to tell him that the Emanator, blessed be He, undergoes not the slightest change as a result of the activity of those below, and he used the heavens as an argument in the same way as Isaiah - "just as the heavens stand high above the earth" (55:9). When one star is aligned with another up above among the constellations, they produce good on earth through their glance. Others, when they are aligned, produce harm, Heaven forbid. Yet there is not the slightest change in the heavens between the time of the one glance and that of the other. The heavens persist in their course and places and remain unaffected regardless of whether good or, Heaven forbid, harm result from them. Although they exist to influence the earth - indeed, that task comprises the whole of their function - they are in no way changed by their exertion of influence. From this you can deduce that the Emanator doe not undergo the slightest change as a result of exercising his influence. Despite the certainty that He does not need his creatures, it might be imagined that, thanks not to necessity but to His own volition, through His desire to observe and watch over His creatures in order to punish and reward, some change is thereby effected in Him, Heaven forbid. Elihu told Job that this was not the case, that the Emanator, blessed be He, has acted, is acting and will act only in His perfection, and that His perfection consists of doing what is best and restoring all evil to good. He acts in His perfection while the heavens act in their course so that everyone is affected in accordance with their deeds without Him deviating from His perfection.

This is the significance of the heavens' height above the earth: though they exert influences on it, they are well above its affairs and do not change in accordance with change in its activity. Accordingly, Elihu said: "Gaze at the heavens and see, and look at the skies high above you." The heavens are called heavens because they serve as the Royal Throne, as we find in "The heavens are My throne" (Isaiah 66-1) and "The heavens are the Lord's heavens" (Psalms 115: 16). This simply means that the throne is loftier than all human affairs. The skies are called by that name because they exert influence. As our Sages of blessed memory put it, "they pound manna for the righteous" (T.B. Hagigah 126). Yet even in this respect they are ultimately loftier than human affairs and do not change in accordance with their changes. It is all the more obvious that the Emanator, blessed be He, does not change - "if you act righteously, what do you give Him?" Yet while "for a person like you there is your wickedness" (Job 35:8), means that man in the early state is close to the Other Side, evil pertains to him and, if he does not behave well, he remains as he is, subdued beneath the sway of the Other Side, so that the Emanator, blessed be His Name, whose perfection is expressed in repelling evil, repels him, and holiness does not spread over him, the continuation of the verse, "and for a human being your righteousness," means that if he remedies himself, a likeness to human appearance, i.e., the presence of holiness in every limb will dwell on him; and along this path the height of perfection lies when human beings rise at the Resurrection, for then the soul will be within the body that it has remedied and purified, and that will be the essence of its reward, eternal perfection.

Let me now begin telling you the way you should go in the light of these things and this end. The two fundamental forms of service required by man in order to purify himself from the defilement of substance and proclaim the Divine Presence King over his organs, as stated above, come under the headings of integrity and fortification.

We shall explain integrity first, because it is a means of fortification, as King David, upon whom be peace, said: "As for me, I shall walk in my integrity, redeem me and favor me" (Psalms 26: 11) . You have already heard how, through its very nature, the body is close to the Other Side how, evil pertains to it and how it must redeem itself from evil. This can be achieved only through the power of integrity whereby holiness can be extended over it. This is the meaning of "And I will pour forth - a spirit of favor and supplication" (Zechariah 12:10). A thread of grace is extended on the part of holiness to anyone from whom defilement is distant, and favor towards him is incumbent upon those above and below. This, too, is the meaning of "And Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord" (Genesis 6:5), for the rest did not find favor owing to the defilement that was darkening them; but he was ready to receive the light of holiness. Accordingly, "redeem me and favor me" implies that holiness will only favor those who are redeemed.

You must know that the Other Side has nevertheless only a slight hold on the body, since only a very small part pertains to it, as our Sages of blessed memory implied: "The evil impulse is like a spider's web" (T.B. Sukkah 52a). Above even, the Other Side feeds only on the lowest of all levels, a mystery represented by the letter Taw in the alphabet, whose lowest foot is this low level from which sustenance is drawn; and that is the reason being bent. Since the body assembled from the twentytwo letters of the alphabet contains what is assembled from the bent foot of the letter Taw, there is room for domination by the Other Side; but when man is redeemed from the Other Side, he then straightens this bent foot, for he restores evil to good and makes all of it good and holy. "My foot stood evenly" (Psalms 26: 12) means that through the power of integrity this remedy had been achieved, through the mystery of the Taw of tamim (flawless) which had been bent and was now straight so that it stood evenly which had not previously been the case. This is the whole of the service incumbent on man. On account of the evil in the body it was said: "Walk modestly with your God" (Micah 6:5). Secrecy was essential, since, in the face of the evil impulse' jealousy and accusations, public display would have been impossible. Yet once this obstacle had been straightened out, "In assemblies will I bless the Lord" (Psalms 26: 12). It was fitting for him to bless after his purification, since the Other Side can only take hold and accuse if there is a place that affords him a hold. "Watch your foot when you go to God's house" (Ecclesiastes 4:17). First watch the foot of the Taw in order to straighten it. Afterwards, you can go to God's house. Alternatively, the Emanation of Majesty is called "house," and we have already said that the Other Side has a hold on the lowest level of Majesty. The verse's intent may therefore be: watch your foot when you go to the "house," i.e., in order to remedy the foot that has a hold in the house which is in the category of Majesty, and once you have performed the above-mentioned remedy through integrity, integrity will provide a fortification for holiness. For at the present time the Divine Presence is found in the mystery of "a fortress flying in the air." It is the mystery of "and the spirit of God hovers over the face of the water" (Genesis 1: 2), hovering over its children in order to deliver those worthy of being delivered; but when all are remedied, it shall be called "a strong fortress," as in the verse "The Lord's Name is a strong fortress to which a righteous and exalted man runs" (Proverbs 18:10). If the remedy is performed in integrity, it confers strength on the Divine Presence, so that it may be called "a strong fortress" to which a righteous man runs, the basis of righteousness being exaltation above the reach of the Other Side. It seems to me, with reference to the saying of our Sages of blessed memory "the knees of the Rabbis are weak" (T.B. Berakhot 6a) - that, with the remedy, the Sages of the Torah will be neither weary nor weak. For then there shall be fulfilled the verse "and Saviours shall ascend Mount Zion" (Obadiah 1: 21), which refers to the two Messiahs, who with all that they have separated will ascend from the midst of the "shells" together with the Divine Presence. "To judge the mountain of Esau" means that the Other Side will be removed from the earth." "And to the Lord shall be the Kingdom" refers to the union and alignment of the Holy One, blessed be He, and His Presence. "On that day the Lord shall be one and His Name one" (Zechariah 14:9). Amen, may God act thus, Amen, Nesah, Selah, Amen, Selah.

From these sayings you will understand and realize though your pure reason that only occupation with the Torah can heal our plight, for occupation with the Torah alone weakens the power of the Other Side. We have been told that in the days of that great and saintly mystic, Rabbi Samson of Ostropol, when there was the dread Decree of the year 5408 (168), Heaven have mercy on us, the aforesaid Rabbi summoned the Other Side and asked: Why do you accuse our people, the Children of Israel, to a greater extent than all the nations? The Other Side replied: If you give up three things - the Sabbath, circumcision and study of the Torah - I will withdraw my accusation. Immediately the aforesaid Rabbi answered: Let as many more perish and as many more again rather than that a single letter of our Holy Torah be given up, Heaven forbid. So realize the truth of all the doctrines that I have put before you. Study of the Torah is a deadly poison for the evil impulse and the Other Side. Yet for our brethren of the House of Israel it is the elixir of life. The ruin of our glorious Sanctuary and our Exile from our land were due to the guilt incurred through neglect of the Torah, as is indeed made clear in our Holy Torah: "And all the nations shall ask why the Lord treated this land in such a manner - and they shall answer that it was because they forsook the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers" (Deuteronomy 29:23). The "covenant" is the Torah. We find, in fact, that while the Holy One, blessed be He, was prepared to condone idolatry, sexual immorality and bloodshed, he would not condone rejection of the Torah, as it is said "because they forsook My Torah" (Jeremiah 9:12) and, in all clarity, "and Me have they forsaken and My Torah have they not kept" (Jeremiah 16: 1 1 ), which our Sages of blessed memory interpreted as: "Would that they had forsaken Me and Kept My Torah" (TJ. Chagigah, ch. 1 halakhah 6). Accordingly, all the anger of the Holy One, blessed be He, against His people, Israel, was on account of the Torah. With regard to any effect, only the producer can understand its basis, quality and character. He understands the effect, its quality and the purpose for which it was effected. Therefore the Holy One, blessed be He, who produces all effects, in His awareness that occupation with the Torah is the foremost of all remedies, has often warned about it and directed against us all this anger because His Torah was forsaken. We have the general principle that for every generation in whose days the Sanctuary has not been rebuilt, it is as if the Sanctuary had been destroyed in its days. (TJ. Yoma, ch. 1 halakhah 1). Since, possessed of free-will, they had it in their power, through their good deeds, to effect the re-building of the Sanctuary but did not do so, they are considered as if the Sanctuary had been destroyed in their days. Similarly with our freedom to reject evil and choose good and perform great remedies by means of occupation with our Torah, should we refrain - then we cause the damage done through the prevalence of the Other Side, Heaven forbid. Study of True Wisdom, i.e., study of the Kabbalah, is foremost among all the remedies. As the holy Rabbi Simon ben Yohai of blessed memory so clearly said, "though it Israel will go out of Exile" - through the merit of Kabbalistic study, Israel shall go out of the Exile.

This is the Torah which the angels coveted when they said: "Bestow Thy splendor on the heavens" (Psalms 8:2). It was to the Kabbalah that they referred and not to the literal meaning of the Torah, since they knew, in the light of Moses' answer to them, that the literal meanings of the Torah do not concern them. Nevertheless, the Holy One, blessed be He, did not give it to them but to Israel. Why? Surely thanks to the knowledge of the Holy One, blessed be He, that occupation with this branch of learning is the foremost of all the remedies, and that this remedy cannot take place through angels, as we have explained at length in previous sections, since they have no choice but act solely under compulsion. For this reason it is written: "And I will grant you paths between those who stand" (Zechariah 3:7). The angels are called "those who stand" because they always stand on the same level. But to men, since they have the choice, the remedy through occupation with the Torah offers a chance of change; and the Torah was thus given to Israel for the very purpose of allowing these remedies to be effected through them. We can add another reason. It is known that if anyone sins, it is useless for his friend to repent on his behalf. As the Zohar says, "Rise out of respect for old age" (Leviticus 19: 32) means "out of respect for your own old age;" and the commentators explain that repentance should not be delayed until old age, for when a man has grown old, he is like a different person altogether and no longer the same sinner, whereas penitence is required of the man who sinned. Therefore, "out of respect for your own old age," rise in your youth from the drowsy slumber imposed by the follies of the age in order to stir yourself in repentance with a view to an old age of real excellence. Similarly, since corruption originated through man, the angels cannot possibly remedy what man has corrupted. As you know, all souls were united in Adam's soul: when he sinned, he blemished his own soul, and all souls were blemished at the same time; and it was for the very purpose of remedying what they had corrupted that the remedy was entrusted to Israel.

Now, son of man, understand well what lies before you, look and perceive how all the great remedies are within your reach through occupation with the Torah and True Wisdom. This wisdom is left in a corner without anyone seeking or desiring it, despite Scripture's proclamation - "and they shall desire the Lord their God and David their king" (Hosea 3:5). Let it not be like a lost article that is unwanted, but like one that is wanted. We need to desire the remedies whereby all kinds of corruption are to be remedied, because the Messiah will come as a result. This remedy is within our reach. What are we going to do for the day of reckoning? Our Sages of blessed memory have said: "Judge every man charitably" (Avot 1 :46). Among our brethren of the House of Israel there are several different groups. One group says: "God's glory lies in concealment" (Proverbs 25:2) - you have no business with what has been concealed. A second group says: I am afraid to approach the Sanctuary because of the great fie - the shell in front of the fruit - which surrounds holiness in order to ensnare wretched and desolate souls, in the same way as those who followed the error of the Gazelle in adultery and blasphemy were ensnared, so that they came to serve other gods and denied the God of Israel and His Torah. Among them were Sages well-versed in the Torah, who were nevertheless smitten when they entered the Orchard, for the Other Side encountered them and seduced their hearts by displaying falsehood as truth and disguising it as the words of the Living God. Since no falsehood can endure without originally professing to be true, they made prominent use of the sayings of the holy Rabbi Simon ben Yohai of blessed memory, turned them upside down and attributed a lot of nonsense to great men. Since this wisdom is liable to endanger body and soul, we do not wish to approach it, and our intention is for the sake of Heaven. The third group says: Although I should dearly like to study this wisdom, the profundity of its content and my own limited intellect make it impossible for me to do so. All these three groups claim on judgement day that they are in the right. I would say that in judgement there is a right of reply. There is a suitable reply for each of these groups. The plea of the fist has been demolished, as is clear from the decision of the eminent Rabbi Isaac Deltash in the preface to the Holy Zohar. I too have elaborated on this subject in the preface to a work entitled "The Zeal of the Lord of Hosts" from which you can see that their words lack substance. The second group's plea has also been demolished in the aforesaid work, from which you can see that the words of the sect composed of those who have erred and deny the Living God, are of the utmost folly and without substance, whereas the words of the holy Rabbi Simon ben Yohai are correct. Straight are the Lord's paths, righteous men follow them and transgressors stumble on them. The third group's plea is not really a plea at all - that because one does not understand, one should not want to understand! You have no right to demand full knowledge. "You shall meditate on it day and night" (Joshua 1 : 8) says Scripture - not "You must understand it day and night." If you understand, well and good; if not, you have earned the reward for study; and from the Zohar we have proof that even if one does not understand it, the language alone benefits the soul.

However, I have produced a cure for their malady. I have added to this work what I found in an ancient manuscript - "138 Keys to Wisdom," most valuable keys to True Wisdom. But accept this rule - first learn and then explain, first see that you understand the literal meaning of the words and afterwards go over them again in order to understand their real meaning, so that the aforesaid "138 Keys to Wisdom" may be fluent in your mouth and in your heart. In this way you will be able to follow all the books of True Wisdom confidently with complete comprehension of every word and merit the arrival of the Redeemer, speedily in our own days. Amen. May this be the Divine Will, Selah.