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Kabbalah

The Tree of Life

The Commentary of Kabbalist Y. Ashlag
on
The 'Tree of Life' by Ari


BEAR IN MIND THAT BEFORE THE EMANATIONS WERE EMANATED AND THE CREATURES WERE CREATED, THE UPPER SIMPLE LIGHT HAD FILLED THE ENTIRE EXISTENCE AND THERE WAS NO EMPTY SPACE WHATSOEVER....


THE INNER LIGHT


Spacer Bear in mind that all the wisdom of the Kabbalah deals with spiritual topics, which do not occupy time or space. Disappearance or vanishing of anything until it is no more, permutation, change - all are utterly impossible in the spiritual realm. The manifold phases and differences referred to in this wisdom are not meant to convey the idea that the first phase disappeared or that it assumed a different phase; by "difference" is only meant that another phase is added, and the first phase remains. In later chapters "contraction" is some times referred to as "restriction". The two terms are used interchangeably as before. The incident of disappearance or change can only occur within the nature of material objects. One of the greatest pitfalls for students of the Kabbalah is that they are liable to conceive of topics dealt with through material expressions, as having limitations of time, space and possibility of change, but the authors have used such expressions only as symbols, or hints, in order that they might grasp the concept of the upper roots therefrom. It is prerequisite in this study that we explain each word in its spiritual color or interpretation, divesting it of its material connotation as we eliminate the picture of space, time and change, for these are only within the nature of material incidents It would be well advised for the reader of these pages to memorize all explanations presented here.


BEFORE THEY WERE EMANATED

The concept of the phase of spiritual time is thoroughly explained in the coming chapters.


UPPER LIGHT

This is the Light which is extended from the substance of the Creator. Bear in mind that all names and appellations discussed in the wisdom of the Kabbalah concern only the Light extended from the Creator's Substance and not the Substance Itself, for truly speaking, we have neither word.... nor thought of expression by which to speak Of His Substance.

The general rule is that all that is beyond our conception is beyond our means to name, and we urge the reader to remember this rule so that he may not be obstructed or deluded.



HAD FILLED THE ENTIRE EXISTENCE

The author here is apparently discussing the existing condition before the worlds were created. What kind of existence was there at that time, which the exalted Light had to fill ?

The matter is as follows: all the worlds, and all that is in this world, all the creatures of the universe, in whatever age they were to exist, before they ever entered into this world, with all the souls now on earth, and those that are destined still to be created, together with their complete curve of development until the final goal of completion and perfection - were all previously included in the world which is called "Endless", "En Soph", with their beauty and all their fulfillments.

Due to what we have just learned, we must discriminate between two periods in general existence:

Period 1: When all things are fixed and exist in the Endless World, in all their perfection and beauty.

Period 2: When these are arranged in a descending order, assuming a new form of five worlds (according to our view) after the first restriction (tzimzum), named as follows:
Spacer 1.World of Adam Kadmon
Spacer 2.World of Atzilut
Spacer 3.World of Briah
Spacer 4.World of Yetzirah
Spacer 5.World of Assiya

This is what the author means, when he states: "The exalted Light which is extended from His Substance had filled the entire existence". That is, It filled the General Being, which is arranged and existed in the Endless World, before the restriction and subsequent withdrawal of Light.

When the Exalted Light had completely filled all the worlds and souls in such a manner that there was no empty space left that required anything added for correction or perfection then everything was in its peak of glory, beauty and perfection.



EMPTY SPACE

The author explains that before the worlds were created, when only the Endless World existed, and before the occurrence of the contraction, there was no vacuum. There was no space that had in it a defect or inferiority which required any kind of correction or improvement for its perfection, because the Exalted Light filled the Endless World completely.

As it is the nature of the Supreme Light to meet all the demands of the entire universe and its creatures, no single space was left where the creatures of the lower world could add anything to improve or correct and thus reveal their efficiency. Only through the contraction of the Light could there be revealed a fallibility, leaving a definite place for correction and improvement.

And the reader must beware, in reading this, of adjudging this material tangible space, for the author is discussing spiritual values, which are intangible.




NAMELY AS EMPTY ATMOSPHERE, A HOLLOW, OR PIT, FOR EVERTHING WAS FILLED WITH THAT SIMPLE, BOUNDLESS LIGHT, AND THERE WAS NO SUCH PART AS HEAD, AND NO SUCH PART AS TAIL; THAT IS, THERE WAS NEITHER BEGINNING NOR END, FOR EVRYTHING WAS SIMPLE OR SMOOTH LIGHT BALANCED EVENLY AND EQUALLY IN ONE LIKENESS OR AFFINITY. AND THAT IS CALLED THE ENDLESS LIGHT.


EMPTY ATMOSPHERE


This does not refer to the atmosphere of this mundane world, but to that "air" of which earth's atmosphere is but a copy; there is a sort of spiritual atmosphere which assumes the figurative name of "atmosphere". Still the whole is one.

Observe that there are two kinds of Light in each complete celestial phase. They are first, the Light of Wisdom, and second, the Light of Grace, or Mercy. The Light of Wisdom is the substance of the phase, or its essential life. The Light of Grace is only that Light which clothes the Light of Wisdom, encompassing it as an outer covering, for wisdom has no means by which to enter the phase before it is clothed in the garment of Grace, which must be in that phase.

As times, when the phases are in their "small" state, (state of diminution) they possess only the Light of Grace. We must understand that this Light of Mercy, or Grace, is called Atmosphere, Spirit. When it is by itself, without the Light of Wisdom, it is defined by the figurative name of "empty atmosphere", for it is void of the Light of Wisdom, and yearns most ardently for the latter to be drawn into it, so that it may be filled with it.

The author tells us that before the worlds were ever created, in the Boundless World, there was no such discrimination as "empty atmosphere", because the Endless World is infallible and free from any trace of defect.



HOLLOW OR PIT

In order to define this word, it is necessary that you first understand the quality or nature of a spiritual vessel. What is it? It is the emanated being, receiving its abundance or substance necessary for life from the Emanator. It is inevitable that the emanated being should desire and crave this abundance from the Creator.

Bear in mind that the measure and intensity of the will to receive characterizes the general substance of the emanated being. Anything that the emanated being possesses outside of this substance has no relation to its essence; it belongs to his form, or essence of abundance which he receives from the Creator. Moreover this substance conditions the breadth and height, the "koma" in Hebrew of each emanated being, phase or sephira (divine attribute).

The extension of the upper Light of the Emanator is limitless, but the emanated being himself makes a limit to its proportions in accordance with his own attitude or behaviour. He can receive of abundance only in accordance with his desire and will to receive. That is the actual measure which functions in spiritual matters, as there is no such things as compulsion.

The emanated being consists solely of the will to receive. Because of its will, it abandoned the boundaries of the Emanator and came into existence as a separate being. It was identified as a severed being through the will to receive, since there is no trace of such a will in the Emanator. How could a will to receive function in the Emanator, for from whom could He receive?

In later chapters we explain that this will to receive has four grades, which proceed from the small, potential, and embryonic stage, which is its first grade, to the fourth grade where it is in its full development, with an active capacity of recipiency. This last grade, in its complete perfection, is found only in the Endless World, before the creation of all the worlds.

This perfect will to receive of the Endless World underwent a restriction, or "zimzum". This will be thoroughly outlined in later discussions, but here let us remark that the "will" became entirely empty of the Infinite Abundance, as compared to what it possessed previously in the Endless World. After the withdrawal of the Light it remained a vacuum. That is what the author means when he says that before the universe was created, the Endless World did not contain an inkling of this vacuum .



FILLED WITH THAT BOUNDLESS LIGHT

That is to say, nothing whatsoever could be added to, or placed within, that world.


NO SUCH PART AS HEAD

The matter of head, or tail, will be explained in later chapters.


SIMPLE OR SMOOTH LIGHT

This means that there is no nuance or grade, such as smallness or greatness, for everything was equal, as will be explained later.


EVEN OR BALANCED IN ONE LIKENESS OR AFFINITY

This is to say, there is no differentiation into different grades of purity, lucidity or thickness by which forms could be discerned; differentiation or measure came into being only with the innovation of the Zimzum. This too will be explained later.


THE ENDLESS LIGHT

We have no concept, whatsoever, of the Endless World. In adopting this name of "endless" therefore, we must bear in mind that usually a name hints at or instructs as to the idea we are trying to refine. Since we have not even an inkling of understanding of that world, we fittingly call it the "Endless World".

The best explanation of the matter lies in the fact that this name "Endless" defines the difference between the "Endless World" and all the worlds that are below it. The restriction of light occurred outside the "Endless World", and following this first restraint the function of limiting became operative in all the worlds that are beneath the Endless World. In whatever place it reveals its action, it blocks the Light from that particular space, concealing It so that It stops at that boundary.

Therefore every boundary or limit which might occur in each extension of Light ,and in every single phase, results from the power of the first restriction. It is through this effect which the restraint incurs, that the revelation and manifestation of all beings, all manifold discriminations, differentiations, and changes takes place everywhere.

Because this restriction does not exist in the Endless World; limitation does not function there, and thus it is called "Endless"; The name "Endless" teaches us that in the "Boundless World" there does not exist any kind of end or limit, whatsoever.

From this we infer that the "Endless Light" of the Boundless World is Simple and Smooth, and that It is of equal similitude. One is the cause of the other, that its similitude is due to its quality of simplicity and smoothness. Since there is no end or boundary to the Light of the Endless, It must be equal throughout.




AND WHEN IN HIS SIMPLE AND SMOOTH WILL THE DESIRE TO CREATE THE WORLD AND TO EMANATE THE EMANATIONS, TO BRING TO LIGHT THE PERFECTION OF HIS DEEDS AND HIS NAMES AND HIS APPELATIONS,WHICH WAS THE CAUSE OF CREATION OF THE WORLD.


IN HIS SIMPLE AND SMOOTH WILL THE DESIRE AROSE


In attempting to define and distinguish a "Will" in the Endless World, it must be remembered that it is far beyond the capacity of human conception or imagery. As you already know from previously-explained assertions, it is a foreordained circumstance that in each and every emanated being there shall exist a will, or desire to receive abundance from the Creator.

In the Endless, that Will is Simple and Smooth, as is conveyed in the veiled words: "He is One and His Name is One".

As is stated in Chapter One of "Rabbi Eliezer the Great", and as it is also explained by the author in the following pages, the Light of the Endless is summed up in the word "He" and the will to receive, which must necessarily exist in the Endless World, is stated as "His Name". They both serve, that is, "He" and "His Name", in the capacity of concepts of a simple, absolute Unity; they have no break or separation of any kind between them.

Truly, you must not draw a parallel between the "separation" or "unity" discussed here and the same terms when applied to tangible substance, such as is severed by means of division and motion, for the spiritual entity does not occupy any space whatsoever. Be constantly aware of the fact that spiritual separation is brought about only by diversity of phase or condition. If a certain spiritual entity happens to acquire a supplementary phase which is different from its original one, then immediately there is a transformation, a new phase is entered upon by the spiritual entity. It abandons its unified state of absolute, original simplicity and from being one assumes two distinct and separate phases. Their remoteness from each other depends upon the degree of diversity which now exists in the two phases which were formerly one.

Just as separation of tangible objects, or their union, is accomplished either by removing them from each other, or by bringing one part nearer the other, in space, so with spiritual entities is either separation or union achieved through transformation which sever, or affinity which unites one phase with another. Commit all this to memory, as it is the first clue to the Wisdom.

You should now understand the secret of the earlier utterance that "He and His Name are One" and also the absolute and infallible unity in the Endless World. We wish to particularly emphasize that this identicalness of "He" and "His Name" makes for infallible unity, and is one of the most wondrous and astonishing powers of the Creator.

We have now explained the distinction existing between the Emanator and that which is emanated. An emanation is revealed because of the diversity phase in the Light extended. The will to receive is possessed by the emanated being, but it does not exist in the Emanator. It creates a diversity of phase between Emanator and emanated one, severing or discriminating the latter from the Former and causing the emanated one to acquire its own particular name.

In this study it is possible to err and think that the Endless Light, which is named "He" is not entirely united with the Endless which is named "His Name", which refers to the will to receive. Truly speaking, the Supreme Light which is extended from His Substance, named "He", has the nature of imparting only, lacking any phase of recipiency. But the Endless World, which bears the appellation of "His Name" contains the will to receive, and due to this, its phase must be differentiated from the Endless Light - and we know that diversity of phase means severance.

In the face of this dilemma we hear the explicit and emphatic utterance of Rabbi Eliezer the Great that "He" and "His Name" are in absolute pure unity; that no discrimination or severance of any description separates them.

Although there must necessarily be injected a semblance of diversity of phase between "He" and "His Name", as we are taught above, nevertheless this diversity is utterly indiscernible there. We may not have any idea of such a phenomenon, yet it is precisely so, beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Concerning this matter, the Zohar states that no human brain or intelligence can grasp anything whatsoever of the infinite Light or its Vesse1, as It is beyond human mental or intellectual powers.




BEHOLD HE THEN RESTRICTED HIMSELF, (14) IN THE MIDDLE POINT WHICH IS IN HIM, PRECISELY IN THE MIDDLE, HE RESTRICTED THE LIGHT.


RESTRICTED HIMSELF


You already know the inner meaning of the words "He" and "His Name", which denote "Light" and "Its receptacle". Although a diversity of phase exists, in the form of a will to receive, which is comprised in the Endless, nevertheless it does not execute any cleavage between the Vessel and Its Light, and They are in absolute, simple unity.

Yet, despite all our commentaries proving the likeness and identity of both Light and Vessel, the existing diversity of phase caused the creation of the worlds, in order to reveal the perfection of His Deeds, His Names and His Appellations.

By creation of the worlds, with their involutions down to this mundane world, a proper place is prepared for divine service in Torah and its precepts, (not for the purpose of meriting a reward, but for the sole purpose of imparting delight to the Creator.) Souls then become fit to invert their will to receive (which severs and separates them from the Creator) into a will to impart (which resembles the will of the Creator) and by this means to attain the highest degree of devotion and unity. As that stage of unity is reached by souls, their will to receive has already been stripped from them, for they have acquired instead a will to impart. They become altruists instead of egotists. The will to bestow is like the will of the Creator, Himself.

You have already been fully instructed on the point that similarity or equality of phase engenders the unity of spirits, and therefore likeness of phases unites all worlds with their Origin.

This is what Rabbi Isaac Luria means when he states : "In His Simple Will the desire arose to create"; "arose" refers to a state of purity and absolute union. The will to receive, which in the Endless is called the "Kingdom of the Endless" or "His Name", was completely united with the Upper Light, yet, in a manner of speaking, It felt the necessity of being enhanced so as to merit exaltation of its phase to absolute affinity with the Supreme Light. It must relinquish its ample will to receive in order to be able to unite and be one with the Supreme Light, since only similitude of phase can effect unity.

All this is explained in the definition of the word "arose". That is to say, the "Kingdom of the Endless had risen. This means that the "simple smooth will" had risen and had linked itself to the Supreme Light; this indicates that it renounced its actual will to receive.

The author refers to this also when he says that "He then restricted Himself", etc. it has already been explained in the comment on the words "empty atmosphere" that the entire measure of abundance and Light, which is to be extended to the emanated being, is estimated according to the intensity of desire to receive which this being possesses. Since Kingdom of the Endless restrained itself then, and diminished its will to receive, eventually the light and its abundance was withdrawn of itself, due to this diminishing of the will. Thus the rising of the will caused the withdrawal of the Light, and the abundance therefrom.



IN THE MIDDLE POINT WHICH IS IN HIM.

This is an unusual expression; since there is no "beginning" and no "end", how can we assume a middle?

The truth of the matter is, as we have already stated, that even in the Endless there must necessarily exist a kind of will to receive, but as asserted above regarding the simple and smooth Will, the Will of the Endless has no distinctions of grades, nuances, or degrees ; no smallness and no largeness.

Because the will to receive which exists there is not defined as a difference of phase such as would lead to a separation, it is therefore not inferior to the Upper Light.

You must bear in mind that it is necessary for the Supreme Light to be extended in four grades in order to reveal in the emanated being this "will to receive" in its full capacity, fixed and enduring.

The reason there is a need for four grades or degrees is as follows: the will to receive was inherent in the Light simultaneously with its extension from the Root or Source; due to this new will of recipiency, the Light departed from the Emanator and acquired its own particular name. It is extended from the Emanator, and if we were to assume that the diversity of phase, which is the will to receive, were not comprised in that Light, it would still be considered as "Emanator", and not as extension, which is remote and separate from the Creator. A difference in spirits cannot even be imagined, except by the diversity of phase.

Indeed, as long as the will to receive is not revealed or aroused by the emanated being itself, it is still not set or established in this new phase. The emanated being itself must crave abundance. Then only is it considered that the will to receive is actually manifested by the emanated one. It is only possible for this craving to occur when a lack is felt. Then the will to receive is revealed by the being, itself, and at that moment the vessel of recipiency is permanently completed.

You must bear in mind too that all extensions of Light from the Emanator, while comprising a will to receive that Light, are also with a will to impart. If we were to assume that the extended Light lacked the will of bestowal, then the Emanator and the emanated one would be eternally separated, and there would be an unbridgeable chasm between the Creator and the creature. A complete diversity of phase would set them as far apart as the poles.

It is necessary that each Light extended from the Creator should contain a will to impart or bestow, in order that It should remain in close relation and affinity with the Creator. When this will to impart is revealed by the emanated being, it eventually causes the Ample Light to be extended from the Emanator, and It comes as if by invitation of the newly arisen will. The will to impart is the cause of that extension, and this new, extended Light is defined in every space as the Light of Mercy, or Grace.

The first extension from the Emanator of Light, in Which is included the will to receive, is always called the Light of Wisdom. or the Light of Substance.

Remember well these two Lights. And you should know that the second Light, the Light of Mercy, is infinitely inferior in quality to that of the first Light, the Light of Wisdom. This is because It is extended through the effort of the emanated being, through the latter's own exertion and endeavor, because it wants to make its phase resemble that of the Emanator. All its endeavors and exertions are born of the desire to attain the capacity of imparting and bestowing.

The first extension, the Light of Wisdom, is extended directly from the Emanator. the emanated being has no share in producing its extension ,and therefore it is inestimably superior to the Light of Grace.

From this you can understand the four different variations or gradations which are comprised in each emanated being. At the outset the Light is extended and departs from the Creator, as the Light of Wisdom. Only the will of recipiency is included in It, which is distinguished as the first discrimination ,or stage. Now an exertion is made in that Light, which is defined as the will to impart, to bestow; and this effort induces the Light of Mercy to be drawn to Itself. The exertion is defined as the second stage of the "will".

Through this exertion of Wisdom ,the Light of Mercy is amply extended. The process will be discussed at length in a later chapter. It constitutes the third discrimination.

After these three gradations are completely executed and manifested, the potential power of the will to receive is again aroused, and once again It draws the Light of Wisdom. This last exertion of the will to receive, which causes the Light of Wisdom to be drawn to it, is the final effort in the process of completing and establishing the will of recipiency in the manifested, or emanated, being.

The will to receive is revealed at last as desire and craving. At that particular time when the phase had no Wisdom at all, but was possessed only of the Light of Mercy, (after the three stages mentioned) in other words, when there was cause for the emanated being to desire and crave the Light of Wisdom, then its desire became actual and intense. Such hunger or craving establishes in the created being a will to receive, bringing that will to its final completion as the vessel of recipiency. But although the first stage of the will to receive was comprised in the first extension which is called the extension of the Light of Wisdom, that will was not effected by the power of the "phase" itself. Hence we have the fixed rule that the vessels of recipiency are never completed in any of the three preliminary gradations of the will to receive, but only in this fourth gradation or stage ,which is also defined as the second exertion of the "phase". At this time the capacity of the will to receive is fully completed.

At this point it is well to define the four gradations which are found in each and every emanated being, just discussed. They are as follows:


Spacer 1.The first extension, which is considered to be the first stage of the will.

Spacer 2.The first exertion, which is defined as the second stage of the will.

Spacer 3.The second extension, which is defined as the third stage of the will.

Spacer 4.The second intense exertion, which is the fourth and last stage; it is the full capacity of the will; which is defined as the complete "vessel of recipiency" of the phase.


The two extensions are discriminated as "masculine", because they consist of the abundance which is extended from the Emanator. The first extension is the abundance of the Light of Wisdom, and the second extension is the abundance of the Light of Mercy.

The two exertions of will made by the emanated being itself are defined as "feminine", or the feminine polarity of the phase, because they represent in the emanated being the capacity of striving. The exertion of the will is born of the vital force of effort in the second and fourth stages.

Thus, the nature of the first exertion is the awakening in the emanated being of the will to bestow, to experience self-deprivation, and this exertion is the root or cause for the Light of Mercy to be manifested, as outlined above.

The second exertion is the awakening in the emanated being of the will to receive. This will, once accomplished, is the final and complete vessel of recipiency in the phase. The vessel of recipiency is always called the fourth stage.

This fourth grade of the will is called the "Middle Point of the Endless", and is the "Middle Point" about which the author speaks when he says that a restriction was executed upon it.

In the phrase "He restricted Himself in His Middle Point", the Middle Point" is so named because it is the vessel of recipiency for the Endless Light, Which is beyond measure and beyond boundary. Hence this "vessel" is designated as a point within and in the middle of that "Endless Light", with the Light uniting with it, encompassing it, and circling it endlessly, because only in this manner is it possible for the Middle Point to hold the Supreme Light, Which is immeasurable and limitless.

This is not the case with the vessel of recipiency, which appeared after the contraction, which is beneath the Endless, namely in the lower emanated beings. The vessels of recipiency which exist in these lower emanated beings are distinguished by their different mode of receiving their Light; for they contain their Lights within, that is, in the interior of the vessel. In other words, the wails of the vessel, (by which is meant their four phases) exert a boundary and a limit on the Light which they possess; and this is due to the thickness of these vessels. But in the Endless there is the Light and the Vessel in absolute simple unity, as in the capacity of "He is One" and "His Name is One". Therefore no boundary whatsoever is incurred by the vessel, which it retains, and its Light is described as "Endless".

You have now a full description of the real meaning of the "Middle Point", which is in the Endless. It is not meant as a central point or place, as though dealing with a tangible object which is perceptible to our senses. That fourth degree alone which is included in the Infinite, is called the "Middle Point"*, because of its capacity to hold the Light of the Infinite. The contraction which occurred on this "Middle Point" has already been explained.

In all other beings, the fourth degree in relation to the infinite is but a limited vessel.



AND THE LIGHT HAS WITHDRAWN TO THE (16) SIDES AROUND THE MIDDLE POINT. AND THERE HAVE REMAINED (17) ANEMPTY SPACE, ATMOSPHERE AND A VACUUM SURROUNDING THE EXACT MIDDLE POINT.


AND THE LIGHT HAS WITHDRAWN TO THE


Spiritual distance has been explained earlier. It was also declared that in the Endless no distance of any kind intervened between the Middle Point, which is the receptacle, and the Light. Indeed, after the Light withdrew from this "middle point", immediately a different phase from that of the Light was revealed, because the Supreme Light has no discrimination whatsoever of a "will to receive".

But the "Point" may be discriminated as a "will to receive", which is already different from the Light and since their phases were diverse they are separated one from the other, precisely according to this difference or diversity. This is the author's meaning when he says: "The Light has withdrawn".



SIDES AROUND THE MIDDLE POINT.

The four above-mentioned grades or stages are called sides, and the author instructs us that although the restriction occurred only in the "middle point", that is, in the fourth grade, yet the Light departed from all the four grades, because there can be no subdivision in spiritual matters. It is impossible for a portion of the Light of the emanated being to depart from it and the rest to remain; consequently the Light departed not only from the Middle Point itself, but also from the three preliminary grades as well.


AN EMPTY SPACE, ATMOSPHERE AND A VACUUM.

This has already been explained.



WAS EQUALLY BALANCED AROUND THAT MIDDLE EMPTY POINT IN SUCH A MANNER THAT THE VACUUM WAS CIRCULAR AND IN COMPLETE BALANCE AND SAMENESS ALL AROUND. IT WAS NOT IN THE SHAPE OF A CUBE, WHICH HAS STRAIGHT ANGLES. BECAUSE THE BOUNDLESS ALSO WITHDREW HIS LIGHT IN A CIRUCULAR FORM EQUALLY ON ALL SIDES, DUE TO THE FACT THAT THE ENDLESS LIGHT ITSELF IS EQUAL, THAT IS, SINCE THE ENDLESS LIGHT IS IN COMPLETE OMNIPARITY, IT FOLLOWS THAT IT MUST CONTRACT ITSELF IN OMNIPARITY ON ALL SIDES.


THIS CONTRACTION (RESTRICTION) WAS EQUAL.


This means that there were no distinguishable grades, such as small or great ones. Since a change appeared in the "middle point", due to the departure of the Light, it was inevitable that immediately there should be revealed the three minor preliminary grades of the will to receive, each smaller than the other, according to the grade of difference existing in each.

For example ,the third grade is purer than the middle point, because of the intensity or power of will to receive, which is smaller in each successive grade. The second grade is less intense than the third grade, and the first grade is the purest of all, because the capacity of its will to receive is less than in each of the grades which follow it.

Thus, we find distinctions of grades, such as smallness or greatness. Why, then, does the author say that the restriction was equal all around the Point?

The answer is that the restriction did not cause the Middle Point to be discerned as a boundary. In other words, if the cause for the Light's withdrawal from the Point had been due to its preestablished diversity of phase, then it would have been distinguished as a limit or boundary because of extreme diversity to the Light. This would indicate a most inferior grade, one which could not be surpassed in ampleness of will to receive.

We should then be obliged to speak of the three earlier grades as being superior to the Middle Point, and each one more meritorious than the next.

As this was not the case, and the restriction was not executed because of diversity of phase existing in the Point, it is out of the question. We are still discussing the most exalted realm, the Kingdom of the Endless, where there is no trace whatever of any diversity of phase between the Point and the Light, as they are both of a Simple, Smooth Unity, according to the meaning given in the assertion that '"He is One and His Name is One".

The restriction was executed only because there had arisen in His Simple Will to create the worlds which means that in the Kingdom of the Infinite there was an aspiration towards equality with the Infinite which is destined to be revealed through the creation of the worlds. In other words a recipiency which serves as a means to an end namely the worship of God and fulfillment of Torah and precepts where the phase of recipiency could eventually operate to impart or bestow joy and delight to the Creator. In such a condition of "will" resides the most exalted virtue of total bestowal.

On the one hand it is complete and absolute bestowal, on the part of the created being. The will is only to render joy to the Creator, with no admixture of personal desire or ulterior motive. This phase of recipiency is completely on a par with the Supreme Light of the Emanator, and causes the being to become united with the Creator in a perfect Union. On the other hand, this being can even increase his will, or the intensity of his desire to receive, since in truth it is a disposition of recipiency which has an immeasurable and boundless capacity for bestowal.

Thus the will is transformed to receive functions with the intention of consequent bestowal, and may be defined as the ideal of true altruism.

We find this ideal elaborated in the treatise of the Talmud (Kdushin, P.7) wherein it is stated that the law of a marriage ceremony requires that the man present a wedding ring to the bride; the bridegroom must hand it to the bride, and by that procedure she becomes his legal wife. Such is the established Mosaic law.

The Talmud cites an odd event which is entirely contrary to the law, saying that if she gives the marriage money or ring to him, and he expresses the traditional phrase 'You shall by this become betrothed to me", etc., she then also becomes legally married. The Talmud further points out that this is only permissible when the groom is highly meritorious.

Now, although the law requires just the contrary, as it is explicitly written in the Pentateuch: that the husband is obliged to give the coin or the marriage ring, nevertheless, because the man is meritorious, then the ceremonial procedure may be reversed. The Talmud explains this by saying that through her recipiency the marriage is achieved. What difference does it make if that which is received is the ring or the honor she receives in having a renowned person accept her present? The marriage is accomplished by her delight in receiving something, and since she receives the pleasure of being honored by virtue of his acceptance of the ring or money, such a marriage too is legal, even if she gave something to him, instead of his bestowing the ring or money to her, as the Torah requires.

We learn from this that his recipiency was actually bestowal, and it was valid. Even for the achievement of a legal marriage ceremony. Instead of giving her a coin or ring, which would delight or benefit her by its material value, he gave her spiritual delight by honoring her. and this is just as valid as the coin, if not more so. Hence we learn that recipiency on the condition of imparting. as in the case quoted above from the Talmud, constitutes absolute, complete bestowal and not recipiency. Here we have the meritorious person receiving money from her, despite the statement in the Torah that "he must hand it into her hand". But he is receiving the money only with the intention of rendering delight to the woman, that she shall be honored through his recipiency.

Thus we become aware finally of the essential cause or motive for the restriction, which was the need for the phase of recipiency, with its condition of imparting or bestowing, which was to be revealed by means of the created worlds. It was not due to any thickness or diversity which was felt in the "Middle Point", as there was no thickness nor even a trace of diversity in it whatsoever, and no limit ever took place in the Middle Point. For this reason, it is entirely out of the question to discriminate smallness or largeness, and that is why the author asserts that the restriction or withdrawal of Light was of absolute equality.



IN A CIRCULAR FORM EQUALLY ON ALL SIDES

The meaning of this is that inevitably a sort of image appeared there, due to the restriction (although this restriction was everywhere equal and was not due to diversity of phase). Indeed, after the restriction and the withdrawal of the Light from the Middle Point, it was revealed that the Supreme Light could not unite with it, because of the large degree of recipiency found in the Middle Point. Because of it, this Middle Point became inferior in degree to what it had been in the Endless, and it was then designated as a boundary or limit. This latter designation denotes an unsurpassable density.

Thus, this Middle Point remained a vacuum, not worthy or fit to contain the Light, whereas the three prior phases, which are of consecutive degrees of merit and clarity, are still fit to contain the Light, even after the restriction.

Yet, notwithstanding all that we have explained, the Middle Point was not intended as a kind of "end", or limit just because it could not contain the Light. The author therefore emphasizes that the hollow space left there after the restriction was circular; he conveys the idea that there was no absolute end or limit, but rather that kind of end which we find at the exact centre of a circle.

Thus, you can picture those four phases as four circles, each embracing the other as do the shell or layers of an onion. The innermost circle is the fourth grade; it is encompassed by the third grade; the third grade in turn is surrounded by the second grade; and the second grade by the first. Arranged in this manner, you cannot discriminate between them, saying that one is above, or one beneath, one right and another left. The first grade, which the upper half of the circle surrounds, is above all the grades, yet, in its lower half, it is found to be beneath all of them. In this manner, we find that although by its upper part it is above all, by its lower part it is beneath them all. It is the same with the remaining phases.

Hence there is no such thing here as "above" and "beneath" "right" or left". No one of them excels another, and thus they are all equal and in perfect affinity. Thus the author emphasizes that the restriction was not due to any diversity of phase.




IT IS A WELL KNOWN FACT THAT IN MATHEMATICS, OR GEOMETRY, A SPHERE OR CIRCLE IS THE MOST BALANCED AND UNIFORM FIGURE. THIS IS NOT TRUE OF THE CUBE WITH ITS ANGLES, OR OF THE TRIANGLE OR ANY OTHER FORM THAT MIGHT BE CONSIDERED. (IT WAS THEREFORE NECESSARY FOR THE MIDDLE POINT TO BE RESTRICTED IN THE FORM OF A CIRCLE) AND BEHOLD AFTER THE RESTRICTION MENTIONED ABOVE IT DREW FROM THE ENDLESS LIGHT ONE LINE, DIRECT FROM HIS CIRCULAR LIGHT (25) FROM ABOVE DOWNWARDS, AND IT GRADUALLY DESCENDED BY EVOLUTION INTO THAT HOLLOW OR VACUUM.


THE CUBE


This means that if there were to be discriminations of above, beneath, right or left, it would be a cube with its four sides, stages, that would be under consideration. But truly speaking this was not the case, for it was in the image of a sphere, which has no such differences or degrees, that the restriction was made.


THE TRIANGLE

This deals with the degree of a phase which only has three grades and lacks the fourth; that is to say it only has three sides; the apex, the right and left angles, and it lacks the fourth side, which is at the bottom. Hence, this degree is likened to the image of a triangle.


AFTER THE RESTRICTION

Do not be deluded into thinking that because the Middle Point was deprived of its Light, a certain transformation or diversity was exerted in the Endless. In spiritual matters, concealment, destruction or permutation do not exist especially on such an exalted plane.

By the restriction a new quality, or entity was introduced which supplemented and cloaked or wrapped the Endless World, and it was thus that the Endless World remained in its entire Simple Smooth Unity, just as it was before the restriction.

As in the sense of "He is One and His Name is One", the restriction was executed on the Middle Point and is to be conceived of as the manifestation of a newly revealed world, where from the Light was withdrawn, leaving a "hollow space", a vacuum, as defined above. In that vacuum were emanated all the worlds.



IT DREW A LINE OF LIGHT FROM THE ENDLESS THE INFINITE LIGHT

This action must not be thought of in the light of what a superficial grasp of the idea would indicate. It is not as though we speak of a conscious, limited being, who could at first act in one way and later change from his first mode of action to another. Such a materialistic Secular assumption would be extremely misleading, as the Creator is not subject to incidents and diversities. As it is said in the Scriptures. "I, God, have not changed".

Although we are not here discussing the Creator's substance, but only the Light which is extended from Him, nevertheless, since there is no diversity, incident or motion in the substance of the Creator, this implies that such must also be the nature of the Light which is extended from Him as long as it does not touch the emanated being. As long as the Light does not reach the particularized function of being clothed or comprised in the vessels It is still one with the Creator. Only after contact with the vessel does It withdraw ltself from His Very Essence into the new, distinct emanated being, which receives from Him.

We have previously explained that the whole new revelation namely what is "existence from non-existence" consists chiefly of the vessel of the emanated being, namely the "will to receive" which exists in it. This will, although of a spiritual nature, is nevertheless a newly-revealed phase, and is an incidental event which could never operate or function in the Substance of the Creator. But it is not so with the Light which is clothed in the emanated being. It is not new. It is extended from His Essential Substance as existence from existence. Nevertheless. the reaction of the vessel to the Light - upon receiving it - stamps something new upon the Light also, and this is incidental.

You must know that all discussions dealing with revelations, discoveries and evolutionary processes of grades concern only the reaction of the vessel and its recipiency from the Supreme Light, for only the vessel is subject to the manifold diversities and states of expansion and increase.

Regarding the Light Itself, It is always found in a state of absolute rest; motionlessness. This is because It is extended from the Substance of the Creator and has the same tranquil static nature.

At this point we must again reiterate that the reader of these pages should try to thoroughly understand and remember all that is taught through this entire discussion.

From what we have already said, you should understand that the Supreme Light does not cease even for a single moment to shine upon the emanated beings, nor is it influenced or subordinated by any circumstantial incident or revelation. The Light remains ever motionless, and all discussions here about the restriction and withdrawal of Light are only meant to convey the idea that the many stages of the Light are relative to the reaction and recipiency of the vessel, which is called the Middle Point.

In other words, although the Supreme Light has never once ceased to shine, following the restriction the vessel did not receive anything of His Shine. It deprived itself; it restrained its will to receive in its fourth grade, which is precisely the Middle Point, though it did not do so in the first three grades. The will to receive is of less intensity there and the will to bestow has more sway. Thus, the restraint of the will to receive the Supreme Light did not incur any reaction whatsoever upon the Light and there was no change in its mode of bestowal.

As the Light shines in the Endless World, so does It shine in all the worlds, including this mundane restricted world as well as following it, and It never ceases to shine for even a moment. It is the vessels themselves which make any changes that occur, for they receive their sustenance or abundance according to their capacity, namely, according to the precise measure of their will to receive.

You will now comprehend the author's statement that "It drew a line from the Endless Light". The vacuum itself, or the vessel which was emptied of the Endless Light, caused this drawing of the Line from the Endless Light.

This means that the capacity of the fourth grade for receiving Light, after the restriction, is but a "line of light" in comparison with its abundance of light that filled the vessel of the previous full capacity of recipiency. Prior to the restriction, the Light filled the entire fourth grade, but now that the fourth grade has given up its capacity of receiving, only the three preliminary grades, in which the will is weak, now function.

Thus, what is now received by this vessel from the Infinite is considered as only a "line of light" and the entire space of the vessel remains empty of the Light. The Light now being received is insufficient to fill the complete vessel. The lack of Light in the vessel, as we have already seen, is due to the absence of the fourth grade, which had restricted itself.

By this we verify the fact that the Upper Light does not cease when the restriction takes place, or does not change its capacity of bestowal - extending only a line of Light - as this change is wholly the result of the diminution which was executed in the vessel. This diminution made it impossible for the vessel to receive anything but a very small measure, or line, of Light, according to the capacity of its will. For this alone is its measure.



FROM HIS CIRCULAR LIGHT

The symbolic use of the circular image has been previously explained. It conveys to us the idea that the Supreme Light, even after the restriction, remained in circular form so that no grades or degrees could be detected in It, and all the four grades are equally meritorious to the Light.

Although the four grades, by themselves, vary in merit, in relation to the Light they are all alike and reflect similar impressions upon It. This is because the new revelation and incident do not function in the Supreme Light, and the manifold mutations which have been mentioned concern the vessels alone.



FROM ABOVE DOWNWARD

Bear in mind that this does not refer to tangible space, but carries the meaning that the grade which is clearer and superior in degree is named "above" and the one that is thicker and of lower grade is said to be "below", or "downward".

The diversity of phase that exists is the cause of separation between the emanated being and the Creator. You are also aware, by now, that this diversity of phase or "will to receive" is not revealed at once, but begins by the slow process of evolvement from gradation to gradation, through four successive stages, until in the fourth stage the most ample and complete will to receive is made manifest.

Hence, we may infer that any phase of the "will to receive" which is lacking or deficient in power of recipiency (due to its weakness of desire) as in the case with the first of the four grades, is considered nearer the Creator than that phase which has an abundant will to receive. It is more tenuous and therefore purer and superior to the other three grades which follow it, for its diversity of phase in relation to the Creator is not so great as theirs.

In the second stage the will to receive is greater than in the first, and it is therefore considered as more remotely separated from the Creator ,thicker and of a lower degree. This goes on from stage to stage until we find that the fourth stage is the most remotely separated of all from the Creator; it is the thickest and lowest of all in grade.

By this explanation you can see that which the author meant when he said that the line was drawn from "above, downward", or from the first grade to the fourth, excluding the fourth grade, which is the lowest of all, which had restricted its will to receive Light.

This discussion of "from above downward" is a new concept in our studies revealed by the extension of the line of Light. Before Its appearance (that is, at the time of the restriction) there was no such distinction; only after the Light was received in the form of a "line", meaning that the vessel did not receive the Light in all four grades, but only in the first three and the fourth stage revealed as inferior, dense and of low grade. Through this also the three preliminary grades were estimated and it was possible to define their degree of purity, in view of their relative closeness to the Emanator. At the time of the restriction this was not so, for when the Light evacuated all four grades simultaneously no discrimination between grades could be made; no differences between the grades were as yet discernible.




THE UPPER HEAD OF THE LINE WAS EXTENDED FROM THE ENDLESS HIMSELF, AND IT CONTACTED HIM. VERILY, THE END OF THAT LINE BELOW DID NOT CONTACT THE ENDLESS LIGHT. THE LINE WAS DRAWN AND EXTENDED BELOW, AND IN THAT VACUUM HE EMANATED, CREATED, FORMED AND MADE ALL THE COLLECTIVE WORLDS. (The Tree of life, Chapter 1, Par. I.)


THE UPPER HEAD


This refers to the first of the four grades, as outlined above.


AND IT CONTACTED HIM

Since the first grade, which is the Upper Head, is very close to the Endless, or the Emanator, it is considered to be touching Him. There is not enough diversity of phase revealed in the first grade to sever it from the Creator.


BELOW, AT THE END, IT DOES NOT COME IN CONTACT WITH THE ENDLESS LIGHT.

Below, at the end, conveys the meaning that the fourth grade, which of all the grades is most remotely separated from the Creator is inferior to all; that it does not receive the Supreme Light now, and due to such diversity it necessarily does not touch the Endless Light, but is severed from it.


EMANATED, CREATED, FORMED AND MADE.

The words designate the four worlds, which are called:

Spacer ATZILUT

Spacer BRIAH

Spacer YETZIRAH

Spacer ASSIYA

These comprise all the worlds, which are so many as to be innumerable. These four worlds are drawn from the four different grades. From the first grade comes forth the world of Emanation; from the second grade the world of Creation; from the third grade the world of Formation, and from the fourth grade the world of Action.




PRIOR TO THE FOUR WORLDS, THERE WAS ONLY THE ENDLESS. IN THE FORM OF "HE IS ONE AND HIS NAME IS ONE", IN A WONDROUS CONCEALED UNITY FOR IT IS BEYOND THE POWER OR CAPACITY OF EVEN THOSE ANGELS WHO ARE NEAR HIM TO CONCEIVE OF IT. THEY HAVE NO CONCEPTION OF THE ENDLESS, BLESSED BE HE. THERE IS NO INTELLECT CREATED WHICH COULD CONCEIVE, OF HIM, SINCE HE HAS NO PLACE, AND NO BOUNDARY, AND NO NAME. (The Gates of the Sages, Sabbath.)


PRIOR TO THE FOUR WORLDS.


This refers to the four worlds called: Emanation, Creation, Formation and Action, and these comprise all worlds in general. Before the restriction there was no such division as four worlds, one higher than the other in merit. Everything was in complete and pure unity. There was no discrimination in grades between the Light and its vessel or receptacle, for all was unity, as taught above; that is, "He is One and His Name is One."


HE IS ONE AND HIS NAME IS ONE.

"He" points to the concept of the Supreme Light, and "His Name" teaches us of the phase of, the will to receive, which inevitably exists there.

"Shmoh" is His Name, whose numerical value is 346, equaling the numerical value of "ratzon" or "will", whose value is also 346. This indicates that His Name and Will are numerically equal, because they are one and the same thing. "His Name" is synonymous with "Will", and therefore they bear the same meaning. "His Name" is the will to receive, and the will to receive is "His Name". Hence "He" means abundance, or the Endless Light, and "shmoh" means the will to receive.

The commentary of Kabbalist Y. Ashlag
on 'The Tree of Life' by Ari





The Wisdom of Kabbalah


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