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July 18, 2024

The One Book that Everyone Interested in Spirituality Should Read

The One Book that Everyone Interested in Spirituality Should Read

Why The Book of Zohar Is So Important for Your Spirituality

Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai (Rashbi) was the author of The Book of Zohar, which was written in the second century CE. It is the most important work of Kabbalah and considered to be its primary and most fundamental textbook. Rashbi lived between the Talmudic period and that of The Zohar and is regarded as a great researcher of both human nature and the upper world. He is also among the most important sages of the Talmud (his name is mentioned there some four thousand times). He was proficient in the languages of both the Talmud and Kabbalah, and he used both of them to describe the upper system of management, how the events of the present and the future are made to happen there—all the innovations and transformations—and how they come down from there to our world and manifest themselves in the clothing of this world.

The Zohar explains which actions influence the rest of the world from here below. Rashbi was the first Kabbalist to describe the reactions that we get from above for our thoughts. He described how they operate in the upper world and thus affect the unfolding of future events that are to descend to us. The Zohar is crucial to us because it encircles all the possible circumstances throughout human history.

 

The Unique Circumstances Behind the Writing of The Zohar

Before Rashbi began to write The Zohar, he established around him a group of disciples, where the soul of each disciple corresponded to a certain spiritual degree in the upper world. There were nine students, and he was the tenth. Together they formed one collective soul, corresponding to the complete structure in the spiritual world called the Eser (ten) Sefirot.

Thus, although Rashbi is the author of the book, each and every one of the students represents one of the attributes of the spiritual world he describes. He built a sort of prism, through which the simple upper light descends to our world and divides into ten parts, which are then divided into ten inner Sefirot. Their story is in fact a description of how those ten spiritual properties or forces come upon our world and lead it and how each person can use these forces for his or her own benefit and for others.

 

Why The Zohar Is Often Misunderstood

Rashbi said he could not have written the book by himself. He was supposed to write the book for the last generations and, in the meantime, conceal it so that it would only be revealed in the 16th century. To write this book in such a way that the intermediary generations would pass it by, he used his disciple Rabbi Abba. Rabbi Abba began writing the book while hearing and studying it from his teacher, but he wrote it in such a way that those who read it perceive only the outermost layer of the book.

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Forget the Da Vinci Code, Discover the Torah Code

Forget the Da Vinci Code, Discover the Torah Code

What Secrets Lie in the Torah?

People search for all kinds of codes in the Torah and find all the possible interconnections among its parts. Indeed, the parts of the Torah are interconnected in an infinite number of ways— the number of the letters, the words, the verses, and the phrases have been calculated. Recently, a fantastic work of calculation analyzed the inner structure of the letters and parts of letters. But those calculations give us nothing. They don’t teach us what stands behind each symbol or dot, or the shape of the letters and their combinations.

 

What the Dots and Lines in the Torah Mean

The Torah was first written as a single word with no spaces. Only later was that single word divided into individual words and the words into letters, and those letters were further broken down to their parts. In the end, these parts become a point and a line that extends from it. A black point on a white background symbolizes the source of the light: the light emanates from the single point. If the light descends from the upper force, from the Creator to the creature, it is a vertical line; if the force is ascribed to the entire creation, it is a horizontal line.

This is all the information that we get from the Creator. All the possible combinations between dots and lines depend on those two signs sent to us from the Creator:

  • The vertical line—a personal sign sent to humankind by the Creator
  • The horizontal line—a general sign sent to humankind by the Creator
  • All the situations in between

All the signs combined created the code for the relationship between God and humankind, and at any moment things can appear different because at any moment the soul is in a dif- ferent state.

 

Why The Book of Zohar Is the Key that Unlocks the Torah

A person who looks at the letters of the Torah, provided he or she has learned to read it correctly, can see his or her own past, present, and future through the combinations of dots and lines. But to see these things, one needs a key. With it, one can read the Torah like a tour guide to the spiritual world as opposed to simply a historic episode. This key is found in The Zohar, which interprets the Pentateuch and explains exactly what Moses meant by writing the Torah.

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The Conclusion of the Renaissance Ends the Concealment of Kabbalah

The Conclusion of the Renaissance Ends the Concealment of Kabbalah

How Kabbalah Was Kept Secret Up Until the Renaissance

In tune with the shifts that took place at the onset of the Renaissance, Kabbalists began to remove the veil from the wisdom of Kabbalah, or at least to speak in favor of removing it. Since the writing of The Book of Zohar, Kabbalists have set up various obstacles before those who wished to study. It began with Rashbi’s concealment of The Zohar and continued with declaring all sorts of prerequisites that one had to meet before receiving permission to study. The Mishnah, for instance, gives the apparently paradoxical instruction to avoid teaching Kabbalah to students who are not already wise and understand with their own mind, but the text does not specify how is one to come by wisdom if one is not permitted to study.

In the Babylonian Talmud, there is a well known allegory about four men who went into a PARDES (an acronym for all forms of spiritual study—Peshat (literal), Remez (Implied), Derush (interpretations), and the highest level being Sod, Kabbalah). Of the four, one died, one lost his sanity, one became heretical, and only one, Rabbi Akiva, who was a giant among Kabbalists—entered in peace and departed in peace. There are other deeper and more accurate explanations to this allegory, but the story was nonetheless used to intimidate and deter people from studying Kabbalah.

Another prerequisite that Kabbalists set up was to “fill one’s belly with” (be proficient in) Mishnah and Gemarah before one approaches the study of Kabbalah. To justify that condition, they cited the Babylonian Talmud, which warns that one must spend a third of one’s life studying the Bible, another third studying Mishnah, and the remaining third studying The Talmud.

This, of course, leaves no time to study Kabbalah, so when the time came for Kabbalists to permit the study, they had to “make room” in the day for the study of Kabbalah. Thus, Kabbalists such as Tzvi Hirsh of Zidichov, “detoured” the prohibition by declaring that every day, one must “fill one’s belly with” Mishnah and Gemarah, and then study Kabbalah.

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