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Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam)

Introduction to the Preface to the Wisdom of Kabbalah

1) It is written in The Zohar, Vayikra, Parashat Tazria, p 40, “Come and see, all that exists in the world, exists for man, and everything exists for him, as it is written, ‘Then the Lord God formed man,’ with a full name, as we have established, that he is the whole of everything and contains everything, and all that is Above and below, etc., is included in that image.”

Thus, it explains that all the worlds, Upper and lower, are included in man. And also, the whole of reality within those worlds is only for man. And we should understand these words: Is this world and everything in it, which serves him and benefits him, too little for man, that he needs the Upper Worlds and everything within them, too? After all, they were created solely for his needs.

2) To explain this matter to the fullest, I would have to introduce the whole of the wisdom of Kabbalah. But in general, matters will be sufficiently explained within the book, so as to understand them. The essence of it is that the Creator’s intention in Creation was to delight His creatures. Certainly, as soon as He contemplated creating the souls and delighting them abundantly, they immediately emerged from before Him, complete in form and with all the delights He had planned to bestow upon them. This is because in Him, the thought alone completes, and He does not need actions as we do. Accordingly, we should ask, “Why did He create the worlds restriction by restriction down to this murky world, and clothe the souls in the murky bodies of this world?

3) The answer to that is written in The Tree of Life—“to bring to light the perfection of His deeds” (The Tree of Life, Branch One). Yet, we need to understand how could it be that incomplete operations would stem from a complete Operator, to the point that they would require completion through an act in this world?

The thing is that we should distinguish between Light and Kli (vessel) in the souls. The essence of the souls that were created is the Kli in them, and all the bounty that the He had planned to impart them with and delight them is the Light in them. This is because since He had planned to delight them, He necessarily made them as a desire to receive His pleasure, since the pleasure and delight increase according to the measure of desire to receive the abundance.

And know that that will to receive is the very essence of the soul with regard to the generation and elicitation existence from absence. This is considered the Kli of the soul, while the joy and the abundance are considered the Light of the soul, extending existence from existence from His essence.

4) Explanation: Creation refers to appearance of something that did not exist before. This is considered existence from absence. Yet, how do we picture something that is not included in Him, since He is almighty and includes all of them together? And also, one does not give what is not in Him.

As we have said, the whole Creation that He created is only the Kelim (plural for Kli) of the souls, which is the will to receive. This is quite clear, since He necessarily does not have a will to receive, as from whom would He receive? Hence, this is truly a new Creation, not a trace of which existed previously, and is hence considered existence from absence.

5) We should know that unification and separation applied in spirituality relate only to equivalence of form and disparity of form. This is because if two spiritual objects are of the same form, they are united, and they are one, and not two, since there is nothing to separate them from one another. They can only be discerned as two when there is some disparity of form between them.

Also, to the extent of their disparity of form, so is the measure of their distance from one another. Thus, if they are of opposite forms, they are considered as remote as the east from the west, meaning the greatest distance we can picture in reality.

6) But in the Creator, there is no thought or perception whatsoever, and we cannot utter or say anything with regard to Him. But since we know You by Your actions, we should discern that He is a desire to bestow, since He created everything in order to delight His creatures, and bestow His abundance upon us.

Thus, the souls are in oppositeness of form from Him, since He is all bestowal and has no will to receive anything, while the souls were imprinted with a will to receive for themselves. And we have already said that there is no greater oppositeness of form than that.

It follows that had the souls remained with the will to receive, they would forever remain separated from Him.

7) Now you will understand what is written (The Tree of Life, Branch One), that the reason for the creation of the worlds was that He must be complete in all His actions and powers, and if He did not execute His actions and powers in actual fact, He would seemingly not be considered whole. This seems perplexing, for how can incomplete actions emerge from a complete operator, to the extent that they would need correction?

From what has been explained, you can see that the essence of Creation is only the will to receive. On the one hand it is greatly deficient, since it is opposite in form from the Giver, which is separation from Him, but on the other hand, this is the entire innovation and the existence from absence that He had created, by which to receive from Him what He had planned to bestow upon them.

Yet, had they remained separated from the Emanator, He would seemingly be incomplete, for in the end, complete operations must stem from the complete Operator.

For this reason, He restricted His Light and created the worlds restriction by restriction down to this world, and clothed the soul in a worldly body. And through the practice of Torah and Mitzvot, the soul obtains the perfection it lacked prior to Creation—the equivalence of form with Him. Thus, it will be fit to receive all the abundance and pleasure included in the Thought of Creation, and will also be in complete Dvekut (adhesion) with him, in equivalence of form.

8) The matter of the Segula (power) of Torah and Mitzvot to bring the soul to Dvekut with Him applies only when the engagement in it is not in order to receive any reward, and only to bestow contentment upon his Maker. This is so because then the soul gradually acquires equivalence of form with its Maker, as will be written below concerning Rabbi Hanina’s words in the beginning of the book (“Preface to the Wisdom of Kabbalah”).

In all, there are five degrees — Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Haya, Yechida (NRNHY)—that come from the five worlds called AK, Atzilut, Beria, Yetzira, and Assiya. Also, there are five particular degrees NRNHY, which come from the five particular Partzufim (plural for Partzuf) in each of the five worlds. Then there are five sub-particular NRNHY, which come from the ten Sefirot in each Partzuf, as will be written in the book.

And through Torah and Mitzvot to bestow contentment upon the Maker, one is gradually rewarded with the Kelim in the form of desire to bestow, which come in these degrees, degree by degree, until they achieve complete equivalence of form with Him. In that state, the Thought of Creation, to receive all the pleasure, tenderness, and abundance that He had planned for them is carried out. Additionally, they receive the greatest reward, since they are awarded the true Dvekut, since they have obtained the desire to bestow, like their Maker.

9) Now it will not be difficult for you to understand the above words of The Zohar, that all the worlds, Upper and lower and everything within them, was created only for man. This is so because all these degrees and worlds came only to complement the souls in the measure of Dvekut that they lacked with respect to the Thought of Creation.

In the beginning, they were restricted and hung down degree-by-degree and world after world, down to our material world, to bring the soul into a body of this world, which is entirely to receive and not to bestow, like animals and beasts. It is written, “A wild ass’s colt is born a man.” This is considered the complete will to receive, which has nothing in the form of bestowal. In that state, a man is regarded as the complete opposite of Him, and there is no greater remoteness than that.

Afterwards, through the soul that clothes within one, he engages in Torah and Mitzvot. Gradually and slowly, from below Upwards, he obtains the same form of bestowal as his Maker, through all the discernments that hung down from Above downwards, which are but degrees and measures in the form of the desire to bestow.

Each Higher degree means that it is farther from the will to receive, and closer to being only to bestow. In the end, one is awarded being entirely to bestow and to not receive anything for himself. At that time, one is completed with true Dvekut with Him, for this is the only reason why man was created. Thus, all the worlds and everything in them were created only for man.

10) Now that you have come to know all that, you are permitted to study this wisdom without any fear of materialization. This is because the students are very confused: on the one hand, it is said that the ten Sefirot and the Partzufim, from the beginning of the ten Sefirot of Atzilut to the end of the ten Sefirot of Assiya,are complete Godliness and unity.

But on the other hand, it is said that all these worlds are generated and appear after the Tzimtzum (restriction); but how can this even be conceived in Godliness? And there are also the numbers and Above and below and other such changes and ascents and descents and Zivugim (couplings). But it is written, “I the Lord do not change.”

11) From what is clarified before us, it is clear that all these ascents, descents, restrictions, and the numbers are only regarded as Kelim (vessels) of the receivers—the souls. And we should distinguish between the potential and the actual in them, like a person who builds a house—the end of the act is in his preliminary thought.

But the quality of the house in his mind does not resemble the house that should actually be built, since the conceived house is spirituality, a conceptual substance, and is considered the substance of the thinking person. At that time, the house is only a potential. But when the building of the house begins in actual fact, it acquires an entirely different substance—that of wood and bricks.

Similarly, we should discern potential and actual in the souls. The beginning of their emergence from the Emanator into “actual” souls begins only in the world of Beria. And their integration in Ein Sof, prior to the Tzimtzum, with respect to the Thought of Creation, as written in Item 2, concerns only the “potential,” without any actual manifestation.

In that sense, it is said that all the souls were integrated in Malchut de Ein Sof, called “the middle point,” since this point is included in “potential” in all the Kelim of the souls that are destined to “actually” emerge from the world of Beria downwards. And the first restriction occurred only in this middle point, meaning precisely in that discernment and measure considered the “potential” of the future souls, and not at all in itself.

You should know that all the Kelim of the Sefirot and the worlds, through the world of Beria, which hang down and emerge from this point, or due to its Zivug de Hakaa, called Ohr Hozer, are also considered mere potential, without any essence of the souls. But these changes are destined to subsequently affect the souls whose essence begins to emerge from the world of Beria down, since there they have not yet departed the essence of the Emanator.

12) And I shall give you an allegory from the conducts of this world. For example, if a person who covers and hides himself behind clothes and garments so his friend would not see him and notice him, can it even be conceived that he himself would be affected by the concealment made by all the garments he is covered with?

Similarly, take the ten Sefirot we call Keter, Hochma, Bina, Hesed, Gevura, Tifferet, Netzah, Hod, Yesod, Malchut as an example. These are only ten coverings by which Ein Sof is covered and concealed. The souls that are destined to receive from it will be compelled to receive by those measures that the ten Sefirot allot them. Thus, the receivers are affected by this number of ten Sefirot, and not by His Light, which is one, unique, and unchanging.

The receivers divide into ten degrees, precisely according to the qualities of these names. Moreover, even these coverings we spoke of pertain only to the world of Beria and below, since this is where the souls that receive from these ten Sefirot are found. But in the worlds AK and Atzilut, there is no existence even to the souls, since there they are only in potential.

Hence, the ten above coverings in the ten Sefirot govern only in the three lower worlds, called Beria, Yetzira, and Assiya. But in the worlds BYA, the ten Sefirot are considered Godliness through the end of Assiya, just as in AK and ABYA, and as prior to the Tzimtzum.

The only difference is in the Kelim of the ten Sefirot: in AK and Atzilut, they do not even disclose their dominance, since they are only in “potential” there, and only in BYA do the Kelim of the ten Sefirot begin to manifest their concealing and covering force. But in the Light in the ten Sefirot, there is no change whatsoever due to these coverings, as was written in the allegory. This is the meaning of “I the Lord do not change.”

13) We might ask, “Since there is no disclosure of the essence of the souls of the receivers in AK and Atzilut, what do those Kelim, called ten Sefirot, serve for, and whom do they conceal and cover in those measures?”

There are two answers to that: The first is the hanging down, as you will find inside the book. The second is that the souls, too, are destined to receive from those ten Sefirot in AK and Atzilut, through the ascension of the three worlds BYA to them (as will be written in Item 163 in the “Preface to the Wisdom of Kabbalah”). Hence, we should discern these changes in the ten Sefirot in AK and Atzilut, as well, according to the Light that they are destined to shine upon the souls once they rise there with the worlds BYA, for then they will receive according to the degree in those ten Sefirot.

14) Thus, we have thoroughly clarified that the worlds, the generation, the changes, and the number of degrees, etc., were said only with respect to the Kelim that give to the souls, and conceal and measure for them, so they can gradually receive from the Light of Ein Sof in them. But they do not affect the Light of Ein Sof itself in any way, since no coverings affect the one who is covered, but only the other, who wishes to feel it and receive from it, as said in the allegory.

15) In general, we should discern these three discernments in the Sefirot and Partzufim wherever they are: Atzmuto (His Self/Essence), Kelim, and Lights.

In Atzmuto—there is no thought or perception whatsoever. In the Kelim—there are always two opposite discernments: concealment and disclosure. This is so because in the beginning, the Kli covers Atzmuto in a way that these ten Kelim in the ten Sefirot are ten degrees of concealments.

But once the souls receive these Kelim under all the conditions in them, these concealments become disclosures for the attainments of the souls. Thus, the Kelim contain two opposite discernments, which are one. This is because the measure of disclosure in the Kli is precisely like the measure of concealment in the Kli, and the coarser the Kli, the more it conceals Atzmuto, and reveals a Higher degree. Thus, these two opposites are one.

And the Lights in the Sefirot refer to that measure of degree suitable for appearing for the attainment of the souls. Since everything extends from Atzmuto, and yet, there is no attainment in Him, but only in the qualities of the Kelim, there are necessarily ten Lights in these ten Kelim, meaning degrees of revelation to those receiving in the qualities of those Kelim.

Thus, His Light and His Essence are indistinguishable, except that in His Essence, there is no attainment or perception whatsoever, except for what comes to us from Him through clothing in the Kelim of the ten Sefirot. And in that respect, we refer to anything that we attain by the name, “Lights.”

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