The Wisdom of Israel Compared to External Wisdoms

Essay by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag

The Standard by which to Evaluate a Wisdom

The value of any wisdom in the world is according to the purpose that it yields. This is the goal to which all the scrutinizes aim. Therefore, a wisdom without some purpose is inconceivable except for infants playing games, since to pass the time they come and this is their purpose, according to their value. For this reason, a wisdom is not evaluated by keenness and proficiency, but according to the merit of the purpose that it yields.

chanoch adds: Rabbi Ashlag is telling us that all wisdoms have a goal. If this goal is based on physical issues then it is not a important wisdom. This pasuk also establishes a general criteria to evaluate wisdoms in comparing to other wisdoms.

You therefore find that any external wisdom is only for the purpose of corporeality, which is sure to be gone today or tomorrow. In that case, it is sufficient for the subject to be as the predicate.

chanoch adds: Wisdom that has a significant approach to physicality will disappear just as the physical worlds will disappear.

And although the wisdom has many advantages over these subjects, for wherever it is, it is nonetheless a spiritual element, but we have already said that it is evaluated by the purpose, which is its persistence for eternity. And if the purpose is transitory and fleeting, it is lost along with it.

chanoch adds: See the above comment.

Now we have a standard by which to gauge the significance of the wisdom of Israel compared to an external wisdom. It concerns only the understanding of the ways of the Creator over His creations and adhering to Him. It follows that the very essence of this wisdom relies on the Creator. And because the importance of the Creator compared to His creations, which He has created, is inconceivable, the merit of the wisdom of Israel compared to external wisdoms is also inconceivable.

chanoch adds: Rabbi Ashlag is explaining that any wisdom that is not eternal will be less valued than the Torah Wisdom since it is connected to the Creator.

And because the very essence of our wisdom is ever valid and eternal, our entire wisdom will also remain eternal. And because it concerns favoring approaching the Creator, which is the finest goal that can ever be perceived, one who engages in it, and certainly one who is rewarded with it, is the finest of the finest among the speaking species.

chanoch adds: Rabbi Ashlag is telling us that the goal of the Wisdom of Torah is to become closer to the Creator and that is the finest possible goal. In comparison to other wisdoms the Torah must be considered more valuable since its goal is to connect to the Creator.

Fools Have No Desire

But fools have no desire. Therefore, the house of Israel are few, as our sages have written, “A thousand people commence with the Bible [Torah], a hundred with the Mishnah, ten with the Talmud, and one of them comes out (to teach).”

chanoch adds: Are you a member of the house of Israel? This is not the same as Do you have a Jewish Mother? or did you convert to the Jewish religion in an orthodox manner? The house of Israel is a few people who have purified themselves. To answer yes you must be considered a permanent Righteous Person who always or almost always acts in Righeous Ways.

“I saw the children of the ascent, and they are few.” There are many reasons for it. But the main one is that all who begin with it wish to taste it in full, and the smallest of the measures of those fools is to at least know the righteousness of His guidance.

chanoch adds: It is very hard to have the patience to stay in the moment once one has tasted closeness to the Creator.

There is a sort of a must to know, and it can be made known, according to the spirit of the fool. But “What shall we do to our sister in the day when she is spoken for”? After all, our wisdom can be interpreted in every way, except for the way of the stomach, for the subjects of this wisdom do not need the way of the stomach. This is what we wanted to clarify, and we shall clarify it in a separate essay, for it is the beginning of the confusion and its end.

chanoch adds: what is the meaning of the "way of the stomach"? Adam and Chava did not have a stomach or any digestive system. In my opinion the "way of the stomach" means something that is connected to a physical wisdom.

You Shall Live a Sorrowful Life

Go and see, and you will find that there is one prerequisite to every wisdom, even to external wisdoms: “Live a sorrowful life.” It is a well-known thing that anyone who has merited the title “sage” disparages every worldly pleasure. According to the measure of the abstention that one’s soul chooses to tolerate due to the affliction of pursuing the wisdom, to that very extent does one find it.

Thus, we should ask one question regarding all the sages in the world together: Every love emerges from one’s own flesh and self, and returns to one’s own self and flesh. Thus, how do all the sages fail in loving wisdom, whose beginning and end is nothing but the labor of the flesh?

Indeed, any experienced person knows that the greatest of all the world’s imaginable pleasures is to win people’s favor. Obtaining this coveted thing is worth making every effort and worldly concession. This is the magnet to which the finest in every generation are drawn, and for which they trivialize the whole of the worldly life.

Also, each wisdom comes with its own terminology, whose progenitors have established and by which they explained their wishes. That language is a mediator—close to the wisdom itself and close to the ones engaging in it—since there is a great advantage to it in that it uses few words to explain many things.

chanoch adds: i have been taught by my Kabbalistic teachers that there is nothing wrong with pursuing wealth. If that wealth is pursued for selfish reasons it will create chaos in the life of the pursuer. Yet pursuit of the Wisdom of Kabbalah requires a lessening of the desire for oneself alone. Thus to pursue wealth along with pursuing Kabbalistic Wisdom requires that wealth to be pursued for the purpose of elevating others material benefit. Learn this lesson well and review it often.

The Carriers of the Wisdom of Truth, and the Carriers of an External Wisdom

According to the merit of the wisdom of truth, it is evident that the prerequisite that applies to any wisdom applies to it, as well, namely to disparage worldly life. But in addition to that is the need to disparage the collective magnet—people’s favor.

An external sage disparages worldly life in order to be saved from wasting one’s precious time on obtaining it. Such is the case with all the fools—due to their fondness of worldly life, they waste their time on it. The sage is saved from them like a fugitive due to his choice to ridicule worldly life. In return for this he will obtain wisdom during that same time.

chanoch adds: Due to His desire and His effort towards wisdom rather than materiality. Desire Wisdom and you will obtain that as well as material wealth and comforts. Pursue wealth and comforts you will receive this but not the wisdom to know how to use it in conformance with the Plan of Creation.

By that you can deduce regarding the sages of truth, that as long as they do not disparage the collective magnet—winning people’s favor—they are not at all ready to attain this wisdom. That person will waste the time on winning people’s favor and will as the fools who waste their time on worldly life. Such a person’s heart is not free to attain a pure and clean wisdom, and is unfit to win the Creator’s favor, and this is simple.

Now you can understand why our wisdom was undesirable to people in the world, and why they do not regard it even as an inferior wisdom. They are mistaken because of the different subjects, for the whole purpose of external wisdom is to win people’s favor. Therefore, they exert to cloak their wisdom with a superficial garment that even the fools will accept, since they are the majority, and they are the ones who make every famous person famous.

chanoch adds: Rabbi Ashlag makes a very good case that pursuing people's favor is less important to pursuing the Wisdom of Torah. Also Rabbi Ashlag states unequivocally that to pursue the Wisdom of Torah one must disparage pursuing the favor of the people. One must follow one's one path to discover truth. Truth will never be found in the favor of people, is my opinion.

Concealing the Wisdom of Truth from the Fools

But the sages of truth had no interest in showing part of the wisdom to an extent that the fools will accept, since these fools have no desire. I wish to say that even if the sages of the generation strove to educate them about the truth so they would accept it, still, not because of that will they commence with the Torah.

chanoch adds: People will start to learn the Wisdom of Torah when their pursuit of wealth fails - when their pursuit of the favor of people fails - when they have failed and must pick themselves up off the floor. Learn this lesson well so that you do not have to fall down to the floor.

The fool has no desire unless by the revealing of his heart and matters that are close to him, namely that relate to worldly pleasures. I have already explained that the fool does not remain in folly due to his loathing of the wisdom, but due to his nearness to people’s delights, for his whole life will not suffice to satisfy half his wishes. For this reason, he has no time for wisdom, even if he likes it, and even if the sages who are famous in external wisdoms were regarded as fools and worldly compared to this wisdom due to their nearness to winning people’s favor, which in relation to this wisdom is tantamount to worldly lusts and bodily satiations.

Our Sages Did Not Disclose Development from the Wisdom of Truth

Because of it, our sages did not disclose to the fools any development from the wisdom of truth, for it is a great offense, as our sages said, “As one is commanded to say what is heard, one is also commanded not to say what is not heard.” And it is also written in The Zohar in many places: “Woe if I say; woe if I do not say. If I say, the unworthy will know how to serve their master,” etc. Because of the importance of the wisdom—to avoid needlessly making it empty words in the mouths of the fools, as those who are fed by the passion of their hearts will not be nourished by the brightness of the Shechina [Divinity] for certain, as our sages said, “All whose heart is proud,” etc.

This is the reason why each time the wicked Malchut spreads over the generation—our holy Torah is promptly sentenced to be burned, as has happened to us several times, and even in our generation. It was so because they had loathed the wisdom of His uniqueness, which is always sour in the eyes of the fools, as I have explained that they do not find any purpose in it by which to satisfy their foul lusts. On the contrary, they are robbed because of it, for they cannot enjoy, and they do not enjoy the incest in public—the only thing that pacifies their hearts.

chanoch adds: In history there have been many times and in many locations that the Torah or the Talmud has been burned. In Rabbi Ashlag's time the Torah scrolls were being destroyed due to the mistaken belief that the letter Tzadi was not written properly within these scrolls. It was through his efforts and finding a scroll that proved the truth that the Tzadi can be written in a Torah Scroll in two different ways was the Torah scrolls saved for us to learn this wisdom. If something can happen to destroy the Wisdom of the Torah then the value of winning peoples favor will always prove to be a false goal. May it always be true.