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Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam)

The Meaning of Conception and Birth

1) Rules

General and Particular

The scrutiny of the educated in creation, in the first concept, is defined as emulating the work of the Creator. The work of the Creator is called “Providence,” or the “nature of creation.”

They are not called “body,” but rather “simple matter of flesh and blood in its still (inanimate) form,” completely amorphous. It is so because anything that is called by the name, “form,” is regarded as a spiritual force and is not a body.

This gives us a law by which all bodies are equal. However, as Earth is a single body that cannot be divided into many—for we do not find any change of form in it from one part to another—the still cannot be divided into many elements.

Also, all the power of multiplication in the world is a wonderful, spiritual force. For this reason, anything that is general is suitable and praiseworthy, for it comes from the spiritual force, and anything that is particular is contemptible and lowly. This designates the difference between a selfish person and one who is dedicated to one’s nation.

There is no doubt that the merit of the collective is defined by its power of multiplicity, for if we have decided that the power of multiplicity is a spiritual and important matter, then if the multiplicity is greater, he is more important.

It follows that one who is dedicated to one’s nation is more important than one who is dedicated to one’s town, and one who is dedicated to the world is more important than one who is dedicated to one’s nation. This is the first concept.

Birth in Spirituality

Therefore, as there is birth for an individual, in relation to the construction of the bodies, there is birth for the collective. This is done by renewal of the spiritual force, meaning development of the concepts is birth for the collective, for in the spiritual, disparity of form divides the worlds from one another. This birth means arriving at the world of correction.

The Exodus from Egypt Is Called Birth

If we are speaking of the multiplication in the spiritual essence, it is similar to the corporeal case of being born from the mother’s womb—which is a dark and spoiled world, with all kinds of filth and unpleasantness—into a world lit up by perfection, the world of correction.

By that we understand the meaning of the preparation as defined in the kingdom of the priests, who have come to it by the prophecy of Moses, and for which they were rewarded with freedom from the angel of death and the reception of the Torah. At that time they needed a new birth into the air of the enlightened world, called in the verse, “A pleasant land, good and broad.”

Born Dead

That newborn was born dead because after the pregnancy—which is the iron melting pot and the enslavement in Egypt—came the birth. But they were still unfit to breathe the spirit of life from the enlightened world, where they were guaranteed to come, until the count began, and the war with Amalek, and the trials with the water, etc., and they arrived at the Sinai desert. Sinai (as our sages said) means Sinaa (hatred), for they are pronounced the same, meaning the affliction entailed in every illness.

The Birth to Father and Mother

At that time they became worthy of breathing the spirit of life, and the prophecy, “And you shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” came true in them. First, the kingdom of priests, to revoke their personal possessions, and subsequently the holy nation, which is to bestow contentment upon their Maker through “love your neighbor as yourself.”

In corporeality, the newborn falls into loving and loyal hands, who are the father and the mother, who guarantee its sustenance and health. Likewise, once each one has been prepared with 600,000 who care for one’s sustenance, they breathe the spirit of life, as it is written, “And Israel encamped there before the mount,” and RASHI interpreted, “as one man with one heart.”

2) Posterior and Anterior

Man’s eyes are before him. This implies that he can look only to the future, in a manner of growth from below upward. However, he cannot look behind him, in the manner of conception, from above downward (as it is written about Lot, “Look not behind you”).

For this reason, man is denied any real knowledge because he is devoid of the beginning. He is like a book whose first half is missing, so its content cannot be understood at all. The whole advantage of those who attain is that they are rewarded with attaining the conception, too, meaning the progression from above downward.

Man includes everything, and it is evidently seen when he looks and contemplates something. Everyone knows that he is not looking outside his own body and ideas whatsoever, yet he attains the whole world, knows what people think, assesses how to be liked by them, and adapts himself to their wishes.

In order to know that, he only needs to look inside himself, and he already understands his contemporaries. It is so because everyone is equal, and a person contains all the people within. The restriction on one’s knowledge is that one does not know one’s own conception nor remembers anything from that time so as to be able to say anything about it.

The Fiftieth Gate

This is the meaning of the verse, “and you will see My back, but My face shall not be seen.” Moses attained the meaning of conception, meaning all the discernments from above downward, in full. It is called “the posterior of the spiritual worlds,” and all he lacked was to look at the “face,” as well, meaning to see the future through the end of the correction. This is called “fifty gates of Bina,” since the level of Bina is one hundred gates, and Bina is named by Kabbalists, Ima (mother), as she is the mother of the whole world. One who is rewarded with attaining all one hundred gates in her is rewarded with the revelation of completeness.

Their fifty gates from behind are the conception, meaning the progression from above downward, and their fifty gates from before are the necessary path of development through the end of correction. At that time, “The whole earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord,” and “They shall teach no more each man his neighbor and each man his brother saying ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.”

This is the meaning of Moses’ prayer, “Show me please Your glory,” meaning all fifty gates of Bina from within. And the Creator said to him, “You shall see My back”; it is enough that you see all fifty in My posterior, from above downward. “But My face shall not be seen,” since you will not see all the fifty from before, “For man shall not see Me and live,” meaning before it is due time, when the vessels have fully adapted and developed.

Prior to that, one must die by seeing this because the vessels will not be able to receive that great light and will be cancelled. This is the meaning of what is written, “Fifty gates of Bina (intelligence) were created in the world, and all but one were given to Moses.”

But in spirituality there is no lack. Rather, it is all or nothing, as in “A slightly broken vow is a completely broken vow.” But in the end, when the measure of the vessels grow and develop sufficiently, they will be fit for attaining the fiftieth gate. (You should also know that there are two kinds of attainment: prophecy and wisdom. With respect to wisdom, Moses attained what all the sages attained. But with respect to prophecy, he could not attain. It is about that that our sages said, “A sage is preferable to a prophet,” and they also said that Solomon attained the fiftieth gate.)

The Soul Begets the Body: Conception and Growth

We find two progressions in a sown wheat:

1) From the time it is placed in the ground, when it begins to strip itself of its form. This is regarded as begetting, until it becomes naught, meaning the substrate of negation of its progenitors’ form, and the actual becomes potential. Until then it is regarded as conception, extending from the progression from above downward.

2) When it comes to the final point, the growth begins. This is the progression from below upward, until it obtains the level of its progenitor.

General and Particular Are the Same

General and particular are as identical as two drops in a pond. It is so both externally, in the state of the planet in general, and internally, for even in the smallest atom we find a complete system of sun and planets circling it, just as in the universe. Likewise, man is the internality of the world, and you find within man all the images of the upper worlds, Atzilut, Beria, Yetzira, and Assiya. It is as Kabbalists said, “Atzilut is the Rosh (head), Beria is up to the Chazeh (chest), Yetzira is from there to Tabur (navel), and Assiya is from the Tabur down.

For this reason, there is a progression from above downward in man’s conception, too, meaning a slow expansion from the progenitor, the mother, until one completely detaches from her as one emerges to the world, moving from operating to operated, from the authority of the progenitor to one’s own authority.

At that time begins the progression from below upward, the days of nursing, when still attached to the mother’s breasts, until the form is fully completed in the final level of the progenitors.

However, Adam HaRishon (the first man) was a creation of the Creator. He was certainly not born from a woman, but from the dust of the earth, as were the rest of the first creations, who were formed from that dust, as it is written, “All was from the dust.” And yet, that dust extends from the upper worlds that precede it.

It is so because above, too, there are light and vessel. The light is in the forms in the reception, and the vessel is the will to receive those suitable forms. That vessel, which is the will to receive, is never constant, neither in terms of importance, nor in terms of an independent reality that stands in and of itself, but only with what it receives. For this reason, it has no more merit than what is being received.

For example, a poor man who wishes to acquire wealth is no more important than a poor man who is content with his lot and does not aspire for wealth. On the contrary, he is worse than him because the will to receive becomes one with the received matter, and they are only two halves of one thing. When each half is separated, it has no value in itself, which you can discuss with or negotiate.

3) What Is a Soul?

The Law of Development according to the Wisdom of Kabbalah

It is impossible to examine anything before you see it from its beginning to its end. And since one feels only what comes from within (just as physicians have found that the colors are not the same in both eyes, but there is rather an agreement here), therefore, first one must know oneself through and through, at least since the time of conception (impregnation) to the time of adulthood. And because this is not so, for one begins to know oneself only when becoming a complete human being, one is therefore devoid of the ability to self-scrutinize.

No Person Knows Himself

The second reason is that to know something you must primarily observe its negative qualities. And one cannot see one’s own faults (and to the same extent that one can borrow from what one sees in others, one looks in a mirror that does not illuminate). It is so because anything bad that one must receive comes to one as pleasure, for otherwise he would not receive it. Also, it is a law that wherever there is pleasure, a person does not regard it as bad, except after many experiences that develop in them. However, this requires days and years, as well as memory, conclusions, and observations, of which not everyone is capable. For this reason, no person knows himself.

But Kabbalists have attainment, and attain a matter in full. That is, they are rewarded with attaining all those degrees in reality that one can attain. This is considered that they have attained a matter in full, and that complete matter is called a “soul.”

That Soul Is the Possession of Adam HaRishon

I have already explained above, in item 2, that the worlds are attained in two ways—from above downward and from below upward. First, one attains from above downward, the hanging down of the soul. Subsequently comes from below upward, being the attainment itself.

The first progression is called Ibur (impregnation) because it is tantamount to a drop that gradually detaches from the father’s brain, and is impregnated in the mother until it emerges to the world. This is regarded as the last degree from above downward, meaning taking into consideration the cause of the newborn. After all, until then it was still connected in some part to its mother and father, meaning the cause, and as it came into the world it became independent, and this is the order from above downward.

And the reason for all that is that His thought is unique. Hence, all incidents are the same, and the general is similar to the particular.

Conception and Growth of a Body as a Soul

From the moment of one’s birth, when at the farthest point, begins the return to attainment, from below upward. This is called the “Law of Development,” and it follows the exact same ways and inlets that descended from above downward.

Kabbalists attain it, but to corporeal eyes they seem as ordinary states—slow, gradual—until one’s level grows to become like one’s father and mother. At that time one is regarded as having attained all the degrees from below upward, meaning a complete degree.

4) From Above Downward and From Below Upward

The Growth Testifies to the Conception

And since the two progressions, from above downward and from below upward, are as similar as two drops in a pond, we can understand the progression from above downward by observing the progression from below upward, which is the second progression of the development, namely the growth.

Thus, you find that there are four states in the four worlds, ABYA, beginning with Assiya, such as when examining the progression of the growth of a fruit from the planting to its complete ripening.

1) Before the signs of ripening appear in it, which are all the laws of the states in the fruit. This is the world of Assiya.

2) From the time when you can eat it and be satiated, although it is still tasteless. This is Yetzira.

3) From the time when some flavor can be detected in it. This is Beria.

4) From the time when its full flavor and beauty appear, and it is Atzilut. This order is from below upward.

Every Emanated and Born Comes in Two Ways

The whole issue of from above downward and from below upward that was explained in the four worlds, ABYA, applies even to the smallest item in the worlds, meaning in every cause and consequence. A cause is the father, the root, the agent. A consequence means that it was operated and done by the cause. For this reason, it is regarded as an offspring, a branch, or an extension and cause.

The meaning of these two progressions is understood in the particular just as in the general. From above downward is a way of separating the cause from its consequence until it emerges and becomes an authority on its own. And from below upward is the law of development that awakens it to grow from below upward until it attains its cause. That is, it becomes completely equal to it.

As we have explained above, the corporeal father and offspring that comes from the father’s brain to the birth is the time of the ascent from below upward. You should discern likewise in all four types: still, vegetative, animate, and speaking.

As it is in the emanation of the elements of spirituality, so it is in all the worlds. It is so because from one [Ehad (unique)] emerges the Yechida (also unique), and all the ways that that Yechida received necessitate all the subsequent successions, both in the general and in the particular.

5) Emulating Creation

Birth of the Happy Humanity

When looking at the seal of the work of creation, we find there the words, “Which God has created to do.” This means that the work of the Creator, which is set in the creation before us, is given to us in order to do and to add to it. Otherwise, the words “to do” would have been completely redundant and meaningless, and it would have to say, “For in it He rested from all His work which God has created.” So why were the words, “to do,” added here? It must be that this verse teaches us that the full extent of the work that the Creator has left in creation is in the exact measure, no more and no less, but the extent that enables us to perform its development and completion by ourselves.

In truth, our entire development in creation is but emulation of it. All the flavors and beauty of colors that we innovate and devise are but emulation of the tasteful colors that we find in colors. And likewise, from where does the carpenter know about making a four legged table, if not by emulating the work of the Creator, who has made creations that stand on four legs? Or, from where would he know about combining two pieces of wood if not by emulating the organs of the body, which are joined together, so he went and built in the wood accordingly?

People observe and study the reality set before us in perfect reason and beauty. Afterward, when they understand it, they emulate and do likewise. Subsequently, that example becomes a basis for another example, until man has created a handsome world full of inventions.

By looking at creation, planes were built with wings similar to birds. A radio was built to receive sound waves like the ears. In short, all of our successes are presented before us in creation and in reality as is, and all we need is to emulate it, and do.

Reality and the Existence of Reality Deny One Another

Reality—meaning reality in general, and all its parts that are created as creations in relation to that which belongs to their existence—we find that it is well set up, with every beauty and pleasantness, without any deficiency whatsoever. Truly, an enlightened world. But when we place opposite that the existence of this reality, meaning the manners by which these creations feed and sustain themselves, they are awry, disordered, tasteless, and very unrestrained. However, we have already explained about reality and the existence of reality in general in the essay, “The meaning of Unity,” and learn it from there.

Conclusion and Birth

From all this you should know that the general is always equal to the particular, that the Creator in and of Himself does not feel the multiplicity, as He is always in the singular authority, and you can conclude the benefit of the collective from that of the individual.

And as the existence and birth of the individual—which the Creator has set up naturally—is tested from the moment of birth and emergence to the place that the Creator has prepared, which is called “this world,” it is considered that He has made certain that one will fall into the hands of loyal lovers who will tend, heal, and care for all of one’s needs in complete devotion and love.

The same is true of the collective. If it wishes to be born and emerge to the world corrected for the whole collective, it is necessary to see that this general child falls into the hands of loyal parents who will love it just as devotedly as would a father and a mother, meaning through the commandment of love of others. This is similar to the preparation for the giving of Torah.

However, here we will engage only in the human species, and see how much of the pleasantness and good the work of the Creator has sets up concerning one’s existence, to keep one until one is worthy of being called upon, in the shape of a working human. And when we take the order of one’s own existence, how much of the loathed and terrible is in it—wherever one turns, one condemns, and one’s very existence is built on the ruin of one’s neighbor.

6) The Corrected and the Needy of Man’s Work

Which God Has Created to Do

Know that the Creator needed the work of creation only to the extent that human power could not work there. Similar to digestion, the Creator created everything in such a way that the digestion of the food in our stomach happens without effort on our part.

However, from the point where one can work—as this is all the flavor and contentment of the Creator, who wanted to enjoy His work, meaning to fashion creations that can add, delight, and please like Him, but has no wish whatsoever to cook our food, which is on the stove for us without our awareness, since we can do it by ourselves.

This is similar to a teacher and a student, where the whole intention of the teacher is to give the student the strength to be like him, and to teach other students, like him. Also, the Creator is pleased when His creations create and innovate like Him. Yet, our whole power to innovate and develop is not real innovation. Rather, it is a type of emulation. And the more the emulation matches the work of nature, to that extent is our level of development measured.

From this we know that we have the power to correct ourselves, the existence of reality, like nature’s pleasant example of reality. The proof of that is that if the Creator had not worked His full Providence in that discernment, too, for “Is the Lord’s hand short?” but it is rather necessary that in this place, which is our own correction, we are able to correct ourselves.

7) Movement as a Sign of Life

Still, Vegetative, Animate—Speaking

With regard to spiritual life, people are divided into two: 1) still, vegetative, animate; 2) speaking. The still, vegetative, and animate are regarded as completely lifeless. The speaking is regarded as living.

Life is the power of movement. It is known that the beginning of life is done by two completely opposite actions.

When the speaking is born, it is also regarded as lifeless, until it is awakened through pushes, since its vessels are ready to receive life and movement while still in the mother’s womb. Upon the emergence to the world, the air of the world affects it with chilliness to which it is not accustomed, which causes the awakening of the contraction.

And after the first contraction it must spread once more to its former measure. These two things—contraction and expansion—are the first step that gives it life.

However, sometimes, due to weakness of the birth, the fetus weakens and the contraction is not awakened in it, since the reception of the chilliness of the air of the world is too weak to affect its contraction. This causes it to be born dead, meaning that it still did not have a place and a reason for life—which begin with contraction—to clothe in it.

Without internal contraction there is no expansion. It is so because it by no means expands more than its boundary, so there is no movement. And the sign of a creature that is ready for the light of life is that it at least has the power to contract for some reason. At that time comes the light of life and makes the expansion, and the first movement of life occurs. For this reason, movement will not cease from it and becomes a living, moving being.

That first movement is called “a soul,” meaning the spirit of life that breathes in his nostrils, as it is written, “and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”

However, the still, vegetative, and animate do not possess that power to make an internal contraction, for whatever reason. And because this is so, it is impossible for the light of life to clothe in them and cause expansion.

He has given an inexorable law that without contraction and expansion, the vessel will not be able to expand beyond its boundary. For this reason, the still, vegetative, and animate are destined to be forever lifeless.

But the speaking is truly fit for life. However, it is born dead, as was said above, since it requires some reason and cause that will act upon it and at least make the first contraction. This happens to it by the cold air that comes to it from Torah and good deeds.

The Quality of the Contraction

The contraction should be by the power of the creature itself. We discern two kinds of contraction: 1) contraction as a result of an external cause, such as coolness; 2) contraction that comes from the vessel itself.

1) As you see when spanking and pressing the newborn to wake it up, although each press and spank causes a contraction in the newborn’s body, the expansion returns. It does not return because of the light of life, but because of the structure of the vessel itself, which must always maintain its exact boundary and custom. For this reason, when some element comes and presses it, the vessel has the power to return to its place, by the force that causes its positive boundary.

2) But if the contraction happens from within the vessel itself, and not due to an external cause, then it cannot return to its previous boundary whatsoever because the contraction that took place in it was from its own structure. Thus, it is impossible for it to return to its original boundary.

The Creator is the exception, meaning that a new, personal light should expand in it, return it to its custom, where that light is added to the original light, to be in it permanently. That is, each time it contracts, the light returns and causes it to expand to its previous size. That light is called “life.”

Two Contractions—Partial and General. Opposite Them, Two Expansions

The blood is the soul. It is so because the red color needs the white color to connect to it, and then it is called “blood.” Before it has permanently joined it, it is not regarded as blood because at that time there are lying and rising in it. This is so because its nature is O-Dem (two Hebrew words that mean “or blood” or “or stillness”), and then irregular rising is painted in it, which is only called “the color O-Dem,” from the words, “Be still for the Lord.” For this reason, the colors fall from it again and it becomes white, colorless, which is irregular lying (resting).

And when the two join, they become tendons of life’s blood.

When the two become tendons of life’s blood, making the contradictions in it, one becomes the living soul, meaning the O is cut off from the Odem (red), leaving Dam (blood) permanently. And yet, the lying and rising that were before conjoin even now, in this blood.

Hence, we discern two kinds in blood: red and white. That is, the same red and white that were operating one at a time before, have now conjoined and made that blood, which is called a “living soul.” Know that this is the meaning of the partial contraction and partial expansion, which are called Nefesh (soul) and Ruach (spirit).

However, that light, which made the expansion—the partial of the soul—is a general, wonderful upper light. For this reason, it fills and complements every kind of contraction inscribed in that structure.

It is known that there was already white in that body, in the part that is unfit to receive the O-Dem color (red), since ... of the red were robbed and fell when they join together in vain, etc. For this reason, once the light has completed the first expansion of the light of the above mentioned living soul, it refills that old contraction that was made in it initially. This is what is called “general expansion,” or “tendons of the brain,” extending from the red material, whose form has been completely wiped away.

This is the meaning of what is written, “And breathed into his nostrils” (in Hebrew it is written, “noses”), two noses. The first nose is of red-white. The second nose is of the white that is completely wiped away. “And the man became a living soul,” first out of the red-white nose, which is the blood and the first expansion, but finally it was the soul of life because it expanded in the second nose, as well, the wiped away white, which is a soul and regarded as GAR.

You should also know that the first expansion of tendons of blood relates to the bottom, bodily brain, called marrow, which is there. ...operating without one’s awareness since the intermediate state, from the first nose to the second nose, is the time of nurturing of ... ... and then the light works completely without one’s awareness, for he has not attained his soul.

And the second expansion in the tendons from marrows kept for it as the second oppositeness, which is called the “second nose,” is the relation of the upper brain: ... ... to the three Mochin that operate consciously in him. This is called ...

Oppositeness between Head and Body

It has been explained that in the tendons from the marrow, the red is on the right. This is the color and the being that is formed on this paper. The white is the complete left, for the second nose is also erased from it, and even the color disappears from it, so that the red is the being and the white is the absence.

The opposite of it is blood tendons, since the red is the left, meaning O that has been joined in advance, and as “river and maybe.” Conversely, although the white is lying, this image still becomes right and rising. For this reason, it is an eternal soul, which does no longer needs color. And the red color that remains and is inscribed in advance has now been put to the left, in Gevura. It is called Dam (blood) without the O (of Odem [red]), so that the white is on the right, for there no need, and the red color will not occur in it, and the red is regarded as left, only Gevura, which is called “blood.”

Here you need to understand that the Reshimo (recollection) of the abovementioned red in the first nose—and their tendons, which rose to the left, after the second nose, regarded as soul—is erased and permanently passes away from this structure. For this reason, the head, the brain, is white without any red at all.

Ibur (Conception)

During pregnancy, the fetus is merely a vegetative. Its movements are not regarded as movements of life, since the movements are done by its mother, of which the fetus is part.

Its environment is called “abdomen,” and the mother is the boundary of the environment that is cast upon it, and it eats what its mother eats, etc. And the birth begins with the head.

The Essence of Life

Knowing the living is the self-essence. Movement is defined by contraction (see above) for no creation can extend its boundary even as a hairsbreadth.

This extends from the head, for there the giving of this power is restricted to slightly less than its boundary, regarding the question.

You should know that as long as another force contracts it below its size, this does not make the inanimate animate. Rather, it must contract of its own. But how can this be while it is still inanimate? This requires a prayer to be rewarded with the upper force.

By that we can understand the concealed under the surrounding light, and the meaning of “for man shall not see Me and live,” for the living can move, and if it still cannot contract then it is not alive, but still. This is the meaning of “The righteous’ death is with a kiss,” meaning they lose the power of contraction.

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