Introduction to the Sefer Esser Sefirot by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag

English Translation by Benai Baruch Organization

Commentary by chanoch ben yaacov

chanoch's Commentary

Rabbi Ashlag who is a gilgul (reincarnation) of the ARIzal took the writings of Rabbi Chaim Vital and reorganized them into an easier method of learning them. The result is the Sefer Esser Sefirot.We are starting with the Introduction which is referred to as the Hakdamot in Hebrew. It actually is considered the highest study of Kabbalah by itself- the Hakdamot. We will try to do justice to this study.

1) At the outset of my words, I find a great need to break an iron wall that has been separating us from the wisdom of Kabbalah, since the ruin of the Temple to this generation. It lies heavily on us and arouses fear of being forgotten from Israel.

However, when I begin to speak to anyone about this study, his first question is, “Why should I know how many angels are in the sky and what their names are? Can I not keep the whole Torah in all its details and intricacies without this knowledge?”

Second, he will ask, “The sages have already determined that one must first fill one’s belly with Mishnah and Gemarah. Thus, how can one deceive himself that he has already completed the whole of the revealed Torah, and lacks only the wisdom of the hidden?”

Third, he is afraid that he will turn sour because of this engagement. This is because there have already been incidents of deviation from the path of Torah because of engagement in Kabbalah. Hence, “Why do I need this trouble? Who is so foolish as to place himself in danger for no reason?”

Fourth: Even those who favor this study permit it only to holy ones, servants of the Creator. And not all who wish to take the Lord may come and take.

Fifth, and most importantly, “There is a conduct in our midst that, when in doubt, keep this: Do as the people do,” and my eyes see that all those who study Torah in my generation are of one mind, and refrain from studying the hidden. Moreover, they advise those who ask them that it is undoubtedly preferable to study a page of Gemara instead of this engagement.

chanoch's Commentary

Rabbi Ashlag is asking the question why do people ot study the hidden concealed Torah but for the last 2000 years study the Gemara. The Mashiach has not come through this study. Rabbi Phillip Berg suggests why not try this study the other method has not been successful.

Rabbi Ashlag is giving the typical answers to the questions surrounding the study of the concealed Torah. He will eventually answer these questions and blockages erected by people. We will notice - not yet of course - that Rabbi Ashlag uses a round about logical discourse to answer these blockages. Let us move on and start to address these subjects.

2) Indeed, if we set our hearts to answer but one very famous question, I am certain that all these questions and doubts will vanish from the horizon, and you will look unto their place to find them gone. This indignant question is a question that the whole world asks, namely, “What is the meaning of my life?” In other words, these numbered years of our life that cost us so heavily, and the numerous pains and torments that we suffer for them, to complete them to the fullest, who is it who enjoys them? Or even more precisely, whom do I delight?"

It is indeed true that historians have grown weary contemplating it, particularly in our generation. No one even wishes to consider it. Yet the question stands as bitterly and as vehemently as ever. Sometimes it meets us uninvited, pecks at our minds and humiliates us to the ground before we find the famous ploy of flowing mindlessly in the currents of life as always.

chanoch's Commentary

The only true answer to the question, "What is the meaning of my life?" can only come from the study of Kabbalah - the concealed Torah. He is telling us if we ignore the objections we will find the answer to this question and also blow these objections away since they all stem from the negative system.

3) Indeed, it is to resolve this great riddle that the verse writes, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Those who keep the Torah and Mitzvot correctly are the ones who taste the taste of life. They are the ones who see and testify that the Lord is good, as our sages say that He created the worlds to do good to His creations, since it is the conduct of the Good to do good.

Yet, those who have not yet tasted the taste of life in keeping Torah and Mitzvot, cannot feel and understand that the Lord is good. As our sages say, when the Creator created us, His sole purpose was to benefit us. Hence, we have no other counsel but to keep the Torah and Mitzvot correctly.

It is written in the Torah (Parashat Nitzavim): “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil.” This means that prior to the giving of the Torah, we had only death and evil before us, as our sages say, “The wicked, in their lives, are called dead.’” This is because their death is better than their lives, as the pain and suffering they endure for their sustenance is many times greater than the little pleasure they feel in this life.

However, now we have been granted Torah and Mitzvot, and by keeping it we are rewarded with the real life, joyful and delightful to its owner, as it is written, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Hence, the writing says, “See, I have set before thee this day life and good,” which you did not have in reality at all prior to the giving of the Torah.

And the writing ends, “therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed.” There is a seemingly repeated statement here: “choose life, that thou mayest live.” Yet, it is a reference to life in keeping Torah and Mitzvot, which is when there is real life. However, a life without Torah and Mitzvot is harder than death. This is the meaning of the words of our sages, “The wicked, in their lives, are called dead.’”

The writing says, “that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed.” It means that not only is a life without Torah joyless to its owner, but one also cannot delight others. One finds no contentment even in one’s progeny, since the life of his progeny is also harder than death. Hence, what gift does he leave for them?

However, not only does one who lives in Torah and Mitzvot enjoys his own life, but he is even happy to bear children and bequeath them this good life. This is the meaning of, “that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed,” for he receives additional pleasure in the life of his progeny, of which he was the cause.

chanoch's Commentary

It has been 3300 years since the Torah was given to the 70 Nations. All 3300 years the definition of Life has not been clear. The definition of Good has not been clear. And clearly the definition of their opposite words has not been clear. Every religion in the world has not even touched upon what Rabbi Ashlag says so easily. Before the Torah there was no life and there was no good. Without the Torah and Mitzvot there is no good and there is no life. Contemplate these statements and reread section 3. From this one can get a glimspe for the first time of the greatness of Rabbi Ashlag and also the importance is studying Torah and doing the Mitzvoth with the proper Kavenah.

4) Now you can understand the words of our Sages about the verse,“therefore choose life.” It states, “I instruct you to choose the part of life, as one who says to his son: ‘Choose for yourself a good part in my land.’ He places him on the good part and tells him: ‘Choose this for yourself.’” It is written about this, “O Lord, the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup, Thou maintainest my lot. You placed my hand on the good fate, to say, ‘This take for you.’”

The words are seemingly perplexing. The verse says, “therefore choose life.” This means that one makes the choice by himself. However, they say that He places him on the good part. Thus, is there no longer choice here? Moreover, they say that the Creator puts one’s hand on the good fate. This is indeed perplexing, because if so, where then is one’s choice?

Now you can see the true meaning of their words. It is indeed true that the Creator Himself puts one’s hand on the good fate by giving him a life of pleasure and contentment within the corporeal life that is filled with torment and pain, and devoid of any content. One necessarily departs and escapes them when he sees a tranquil place, even if it seemingly appears amidst the cracks. He flees there from this life, which is harder than death. Indeed, there is no greater placement of one’s hand by Him than this.

And one’s choice refers only to the strengthening. This is because there is certainly a great effort and exertion here before one purifies one’s body to be able to keep the Torah and Mitzvot correctly, not for his own pleasure, but to bring contentment to his Maker, which is called Lishma (for Her Name). Only in this manner is one endowed with a life of happiness and pleasantness that come with keeping the Torah.

However, before one comes to that purification there is certainly a choice to strengthen in the good way by all sorts of means and tactics. Also, one should do whatever his hand finds the strength to do until he completes the work of purification and will not fall under his burden midway.

chanoch's Commentary

Most people have never read these words of the Sages. and those who have read them have not understood them. We today do not keep the Mitzvoth Lishma as Rabbi Ashlag tells us. Yet God has given us some respite in the process of Gilguliim - Reincarnation. Some lives allow us to improve our process and walking the path towards the level of consciousness called Lishma. Are you in one of those respites? Are you striving to reach one of those respites?

5) According to the above, you will understand the words of our Sages in the Masechet Avot: “Thus is the path of Torah: Eat bread with salt, drink little water, sleep on the ground, lead a sorrowful life, and labor in the Torah. If so you do, happy you will be; happy in this world and happy in the next world.”

We must ask about their words: How is the wisdom of Torah different from the other teachings in the world, which do not require this asceticism and sorrowful life, but the labor itself is enough to acquire those teachings? Even though we labor extensively in the Torah, it is still not enough to acquire the wisdom of the Torah, except through the mortification of bread with salt and a sorrowful life.

The end of the words is even more surprising, as they said, “If so you do, happy you will be; happy in this world and happy in the next world.” This is because it is possible that I will be happy in the next world. But in this world, while I torment myself by eating and drinking and sleeping, and lead a sorrowful life, would it be said about such a life, “happy in this world?” Is this the meaning of a happy life in this world?

Masechet Avot is the section of the Talmud called Pirkei Avot. - Ethics of the Fathers. This is actually a mistranslation and a corruption of the depth of this section of the Talmud. People consider this the closest the Talmud comes to the teachings of the Zohar and the Kabbalah. Again this is a corruption.

chanoch's Commentary

Pirkei Avot means Section of the Fathers. The fathers are not teaching ethics and morals since the Torah does not teach ethics and morals. To teach ethics and morals lowers the goal of humanity. The goal of humankind is to become divine. To become close to God meaning to become LIKE God. But which attribute of God. There are 10 races of Angels created prior to man. Each of them has one attribute of God. Human kind has the potential to become all 10 attributes. This is what the Fathers are teaching in the Pirkei Avot. That you can learn to live all 10 attributes of God. Until you do this you are in the process. This process will take 49000 years. We are just in the twelve thousand plus of those years. I will stop here for questions.

6) However, it is explained above that engagement in Torah and Mitzvot correctly, in its strict condition, is to bestow contentment to one’s Maker and not for self-gratification. And this is impossible to achieve except through great labor and exertion in purifying the body.

The first tactic is to accustom oneself to not receive anything for one’s pleasure, even the permitted and necessary things for the existence of one’s body, such as eating, drinking, sleeping, and other such necessities. Thus, one will detach oneself completely from any pleasure that comes to him, even in the necessities, in the fulfillment of one’s sustenance, until he leads a sorrowful life in its literal meaning.

And after one becomes accustomed to that, and his body possesses no desire to receive any pleasure for itself, it is now possible for him to engage in the Torah and keep the Mitzvot in that manner, too, in order to bestow contentment upon his Maker and not at all for his own pleasure.

When one acquires that, one is rewarded with tasting the happy life, filled with goodness and delight without any blemish of sorrow, which appear in the practice of Torah and Mitzvot Lishma. It is as Rabbi Meir says (Avot 6), “Anyone who engages in Torah Lishma is granted many things. Moreover, the whole world is rewarding to him, the secrets of Torah are revealed to him, and he becomes as a flowing spring.”

It is about him that the verse says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” One who tastes the flavor of the practice of Torah andMitzvot Lishma is endowed with seeing the intention of Creation by himself, which it is to do only good to His creations, as it is the conduct of The Good to do good. Then he rejoices and delights in the number of years of life that the Creator has granted him, and the whole world is rewarding for him.

chanoch's Commentary

The Kabbalists teach that we can not control the world only our reaction to what happens to us while we are in this world. Therefore Rabbi Ashlag is not saying that we are not supposed to receive wealth or health or pleasure. In fact we are supposed to receive this so that we can learn how to receive it properly - in a manner that gives contentment to his maker.

What is the concept of contentment to his maker all about?

I will tell you know and know that you will not comprehend this at all. Your Maker is the vessel since that is what made the agreement with the fulfillment in the Endless World. You are the vessel so you are the Maker. What gives you contentment gives the Maker contentment. What you desire is what the maker desires. This is contrary to the teachings of western religions. This is part of the corruption of eastern religions since religions are created by man prior to the completion of the 49000 years.

Here is a hint: receiving pleasure is not contentment of the Maker. Receiving pleasure is the purpose of the creation of the Creatures. What is the meaning of contentment of the Maker?

7) Now you will understand the two sides of the coin of engagement in Torah and Mitzvot: On the one hand, it is the path of Torah, meaning the extensive preparation one must make to prepare the purification of his body before he is actually rewarded with keeping Torah and Mitzvot.

In that state, he necessarily engages in Torah and Mitzvot Lo Lishma (not for Her name), but mixed with self-gratification. This is because he has not yet purified and cleansed his body from the will to receive pleasure from the vanities of this world. During this time, one must lead a sorrowful life and labor in the Torah, as it is written in the Mishnah.

However, after one completes the path of Torah, has already purified his body, and is now ready to keep the Torah and the Mitzvot Lishma, to bring contentment to his Maker, he comes to the other side of the coin. This is the life of pleasure and great tranquility, to which the intention of Creation – “to do good to His creations” – refers, meaning the happiest life in this world and in the next world.

chanoch's Commentary

This is the meaning of the teachings of the Sages that the world that is coming can be brought into this world. When this is accomplished one person at a time that person no longer lives with the Tetragrammaton. He now has the metaphor of Yood Hey Yood Hey.

PLease note: i have not reached this level either, just tasted it a few times in my life.

8) This explains the great difference between the wisdom of Torah and the rest of the teachings in the world: Acquiring the other teachings in the world does not benefit life in this world whatsoever. This is because they do not even render mere gratification for the torments and suffering one experiences during life. Hence, one need not correct one’s body, and the labor that he gives in return for them is quite sufficient, as with all other worldly possessions acquired in return for labor and toil.

However, the sole purpose of engagement in Torah and Mitzvot is to make a person worthy of receiving all the goodness in the intention of Creation, “to do good to His creations.” Hence, one must necessarily purify one’s body to merit that Godly goodness.

chanoch's Commentary

The rest of the teachings in the world includes all of the teachings of religion and all of the teachings of science and all of the teachings of how to earn a living in this world. Unless of course one realizes that these teachings are also Torah!

9) This also thoroughly clarifies the words of the Mishnah: “If so you do, happy you will be in this world.” They made this precision deliberately, to indicate that a happy life in this world is only for those who have completed the path ll of Torah. Thus, the mortification in eating, drinking, sleeping, and a sorrowful life that are mentioned here apply only while being on the path of Torah. This is why they meticulously stated, “Thus is the path of Torah.”

And when one completes this path of Lo Lishma in sorrowful life and mortification, the Mishnah ends, “…happy are you in this world.” This is because you will be granted that happiness and goodness in the intention of Creation, and the whole world will be rewarding for you, even this world, and all the more so the next world.

chanoch's Commentary

Please do not perceive a separation between all of the above and what is below. It is all one Hakdamah - forward or preface or introduction. It may seem like the subject has changed. It has not changed.

10) The Zohar (Beresheet p 31b) writes about the verse, “And God said: ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light,” there was Light for this world and there was Light for the next world. This means that the acts of creation were created in their full stature and form, meaning in their fullest glory and perfection. Accordingly, the Light that was created on the first day came out in all its perfection, which contains the life of this world, too, in utter pleasantness and gentleness, as expressed in the words, “Let there be light.”

However, to prepare a place of choice and labor, He stood and concealed it for the righteous at the end of days, as our sages say. Hence, they said in their pure tongue, “Let there be Light for this world.” However, it did not remain so, but “let there be Light for the next world.”

In other words, they who practice Torah and Mitzvot Lishma are rewarded with it only at the end of days, during the end of days, after the end of the purification of their body in the path of Torah. Then they are rewarded with that great Light in this world, too, as our Sages said, “You shall see your world in your life.”

chanoch's Commentary

The coming of Mashiach called "End of Days" does also come to each individual whenever they do Torah and Mitzvot Lishma. The opportunity is to maintain Torah and Mitzvot at this level of Lishma.

11) However, we find and see in the words of the sages of the Talmud that they have made the path of Torah easier for us than the Sages of the Mishna. This is because they said, “One should always practice the Torah and Mitzvot, even Lo Lishma, and from Lo Lishma he will come to Lishma, because the Light in it reforms him.”

Thus, they have provided us with a new means instead of the penance presented in the above- mentioned Mishnah, Avot: the “Light in the Torah.” It bears sufficient power to reform one and bring him to practice Torah and Mitzvot Lishma.

They did not mention penance here, only that engagement in Torah and Mitzvot alone provides one with that Light that reforms, so one may engage in Torah and Mitzvot in order to bring contentment to his Maker and not at all for his own pleasure. And this is calledLishma.

chanoch's Commentary

For those of you who do not understand the terminology - The Talmud is a commentary on the Mishna which are ealier teachings by approximately 300 to 600 years. The Mishna are actually notes of earlier teachings still. Thus the notes are incomplete and the Talmud attempts to clarify the teachings. Yet Rabbi Ashlag is saying here that the Talmud teaches that we do not need to live a minimalist lifestyle and wait until we absorb this idea into our lives. He is teaching that the unsaid explanation in the Mishan is do the Torah and Mitzvot and that will purify your body after a while. How long is a while? Not yet said.

12) Yet, it seems we must question their words. After all, we have found a few students whose practice in Torah did not help them to come to Lishma through the Light in it. Indeed, practicing Torah and Mitzvot in Lo Lishma means that one believes in the Creator, in the Torah, and in reward and punishment. And he engages in the Torah because the Creator commanded the engagement, but associates his own pleasure with bringing contentment to his Maker.

If, after all one’s trouble in the practice of Torah and Mitzvot, he will learn that no pleasure or self-benefit came to him through this great exertion and strain, he will regret having made all these efforts. This is because from the very beginning, he has tortured himself thinking that he, too, would enjoy his exertion. This is called Lo Lishma.

Nonetheless, our Sages permitted the beginning of the practice in Torah and Mitzvot in Lo Lishma, as well, because from Lo Lishma one comes to Lishma. However, there is no doubt that if this student has not been rewarded with faith in the Creator and in His law, but still dwells in doubt, it is not about him that our sages said, “from Lo Lishma he will come to Lishma.” It is not about him that they said that by engaging in it, “the Light in it reforms” them.

This is so because the Light in the Torah shines only to those with faith. Moreover, the measure of that Light is as the measure of the force of one’s faith. Yet, to those without faith it is the opposite, for they receive darkness from the Torah and their eyes darken.

chanoch's Commentary

Does it seem that Rabbi Ashlag is teaching here something that goes against my commentary above at section 8? You will come to realize that is only a surface reading. Read on and you will be able to reconcile the two surface teachings.

To reconcile the surface teachings one needs to learn the difference between Emunah - faith; Bitachon - Trust; and Vaday - Certainty.

13) Sages have already presented a nice allegory about the verse, “Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! Wherefore would ye have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light” (Amos 5). There is an allegory about a rooster and a bat that were waiting for the Light. The rooster said to the bat: “I am waiting for the Light because the Light is mine. But you, why do you need the Light?”(Sanhedrin 98b).

Clearly, those students who were not endowed with coming from Lo Lishma to Lishma, due to their lack of faith, did not receive any Light from the Torah. Thus, in darkness they walk and shall die without wisdom.

Conversely, those who were imparted complete faith are guaranteed in the words of our sages that because they engage in the Torah, even in Lo Lishma, the Light in it reforms them. They will be imparted the Torah Lishma, which brings a happy and good life in this world and in the next world, even without the prior affliction and sorrowful life. It is about them that the verse writes, “Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord, and I will make thee to ride upon the high places of the earth.”

chanoch's Commentary

This teaching by Rabbi Ashlag is referring to the religious world that is teaching the letter of the law and ignoring the spirit of the law. This is the real cause of the death of the 24000 students of Rabbi Akiva. Think about this for a minute. If you were Rabbi Akiva having spent 40 years building a base of students who died could you start over? Rabbi Akiva did start over with a change. He taught the spirit as well as the law. This is what my teachers do today. This is what i am doing still - with the help of HaShem.

14) Concerning such a matter as the above, I once interpreted the saying of our sages, “He whose Torah is his trade.” The measure of his faith is apparent in his practice of Torah because the letters of the word, Umanuto (his trade), are the same (in Hebrew) as the letters of the word, Emunato (his faith).

It is like a person who trusts his friend and lends him money. He may trust him with a pound, and if he asks for two pounds he will refuse to lend him. He might also trust him with one hundred pounds, but not more. Also, he might trust him enough to lend him half his properties, but not all his properties. Finally, he may trust him with all his properties without a hint of fear. This last faith is considered “whole faith,” and the previous forms are considered “incomplete faith.” Rather it is partial faith, whether more or less.

Similarly, one allots oneself only one hour a day to practice Torah and work out of the measure of his faith in the Creator. Another allots two hours, according to the measure of one’s faith in the Creator. The third does not neglect even a single moment of his free time without engaging in Torah and work. Thus, only the faith of the last one is whole, since he trusts the Creator with all his property. The previous ones, however, their faith is still incomplete.

chanoch's Commentary

Do you study Torah Lo Lishma? Do you expect to reach the stage of Lishma by doing the Torah and Mitzvot Lo Lishma? Study section 14 in depth and then go to learn with the asceticism mentioned by the sages above.

Rabbi Ashlag is reminding us that it takes complete faith and certainty to reach LIshma from Lo Lishma.

15) Thus, it has been thoroughly clarified that one should not expect that engagement in Torah and Mitzvot in Lo Lishma will bring him to Lishma, except when one knows in one’s heart that he has been granted faith in the Creator and in His Torah appropriately. This is because then the Light in it reforms him and he will attain “the day of the Lord,” which is all Light. The sanctity of faith purifies one’s eyes to enjoy His Light until the Light in the Torah reforms him.

Yet, those without faith are as bats. They cannot look at the Light of day because the daylight has been inverted for them to a more terrible darkness than the darkness of the night, as they are only fed in the darkness of night.

In this manner, the eyes of those without faith are blinded to the Light of God; hence, the Light becomes darkness to them. For them, the potion of life is turned into a potion of death. It is about them that the writing says, “Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! Wherefore would ye have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light.” Thus, first, one must make one’s faith whole.

chanoch's Commentary

How can one create a total level of faith and certainty in the creator? Use as an example what Rabbi Ashlag reminded us about above. Lend a $1 and then 2. Do not give all of your wealth to one person without testing them in small amounts first.

Have you tested the Creator yet? If the answer is no he tests me you are following a wrong path, in my opinion.

16) This answers yet another question in the Tosofot (Taanit p 7): “He who practices Torah Lishma, his Torah becomes to him a potion of life. And he who practices Torah Lo Lishma, his Torah becomes to him a potion of death.” They asked, “Yet, they said, ‘One will always practice the Torah, even in Lo Lishma, and from Lo Lishma he will come to Lishma.’”

According to the explained above, we should divide it simply: One who engages in Torah for the Mitzvah of studying Torah, and believes in reward and punishment, but associating self-pleasure and benefit with the intention to bring contentment to his Maker, the Light in it will reform him and he will come to Lishma. And one who studies not for the Mitzvah of studying Torah, because he does not believe in reward and punishment in that measure, to labor so for it, but exerts only for his own pleasure, it becomes a potion of death for him, since for him, the Light in it is turned to darkness.

chanoch's Commentary

What is your consciousness regarding faith - trust - certainty?

17) Hence, the student pledges, prior to the study, to strengthen himself in faith in the Creator and in His guidance in reward and punishment, as our sages said, “Your landlord is liable to reward you for your work.” One should aim one’s labor to be for the Mitzvot of the Torah, and in this way, he will be imparted the pleasure of the Light in it. His faith will strengthen and grow through the remedy in this Light, as it is written, “It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones” (Proverbs 3:8).

Then one’s heart shall rest assured that from Lo Lishma he will come to Lishma. Thus, even one who knows about himself that he has not been rewarded with faith, still has hope through the practice of Torah.

For if one sets one’s heart and mind to attain faith in the Creator through it, there is no greater Mitzva than that, as our sages said, “Habakkuk came and stressed only that: ‘the righteous shall live by his faith’” (Makkot 24).

Moreover, there is no other counsel than this, as it is written (Masechet Baba Batra p 16a), “Rabbi said: ‘Job wished to rid the whole world of judgment. He said before Him: ‘Oh Lord, Thou hath created the righteous; Thou hath created the wicked; who holds You down?’’” And Rashi interprets there: “Thou hath created righteous by means of the good inclination; Thou hath created wicked by means of the evil inclination. Hence, none are saved from Thine hand, for who holds You down? Coerced are the sinners.” And what did the friends of Job reply (Job 15:4)? “Indeed, you do away with fear, and impair devotion before God, the Creator has created the evil inclination, He has created for it the spice of Torah.” Rashi interprets there: “Created the Torah, which is a spice that revokes ‘thoughts of transgression,’” as it is written (Kidushin p 30), “If thou cometh across this villain, pull him to the Beit Midrash (seminary). If he is hard, he will soften. Hence, not coerced are they, for they could save themselves.”

chanoch's Commentary

I should have mentioned this earlier. When ever you read "reward and punishment" know that Rabbi Ashlag used the words that mean Cause and effect. There is no reward and / or punishment in Torah and Mitzvot. This is the truer meaning of Lishma.

18) Clearly, they cannot rid themselves of the judgment if they say that they received that spice and still have thoughts of transgression, meaning that they are still in doubt and the evil inclination has not yet melted. This is because the Creator, who created it and gave the evil inclination its strength, evidently knew to create the remedy and the spice liable to wear off the power of the evil inclination and eradicate it altogether.

And if one practices Torah and fails to remove the evil inclination from himself, it is either that he has been negligent in giving the necessary labor and exertion in the practice of Torah, as it is written, “I have not labored but found, do not believe,” or perhaps one did put in the necessary amount of labor, but has been negligent in the quality.

This means that while practicing Torah, they did not set their minds and hearts to draw the Light in the Torah, which brings faith to one’s heart. Rather, they have been absent-minded about the principal requirement demanded of the Torah, namely the Light that yields faith. And although they initially aimed for it, their minds went astray during the study.

Either way, one cannot rid oneself of the judgment by arguing coercion, for our sages strictly state, “I have created the evil inclination; I have created for it the spice of Torah.” If there had been any exceptions in that, then Job’s question would remain valid.

chanoch's Commentary

Why is the phrase the Torah is created as a spice to be used against the Evil Inclination?

Food without spice is bland and no one eats this unless there is no choice. There is always a choice since free will is an important aspect of Creation. Spice is used to entice one to eat. Torah is a spice and we should always keep that in mind. It is not the goal into itself but an enticement to the goal.

19) Through all that has been explained thus far, I have removed a great complaint about the words of Rabbi Chaim Vital in his introduction to Shaar HaHakdamot (Gate to Introductions) by the Ari, and the introduction to ThеTree of Life. He writes, “Indeed, one should not say, ‘I shall go and engage in the wisdom of Kabbalah before he engages in the Torah, Mishnah, and Talmud.’ This is because our sages have already said, ‘One should not enter the PARDESS unless he has filled his stomach with meat and wine.’”

This is like a soul without a body: it has no reward or act or consideration before it is connected in a body, when it is whole, corrected in the Mitzvot of the Torah, in 613 Mitzvot.

Conversely, when one is occupied with the wisdom of the Mishnah and Babylonian Talmud, and does not give a share to the secrets of Torah and its concealments, as well, it is like a body that sits in the dark without a human soul, God’s candle, which shines within it. Thus, the body is dry and does not draw from a source of life.

Thus, a wise disciple, who practices Torah Lishma, should first engage in the wisdom of the Bible, the Mishnah, and the Talmud, as long as his mind can tolerate. Afterwards, he will delve into knowing his Maker in the wisdom of truth.

It is as King David commanded his son Solomon: “know thou the God of thy father and serve Him.” And if that person finds the study of the Talmud heavy and difficult, he is better off leaving his hand off it once he has tested his luck in this wisdom, and engage in the wisdom of truth.

It is written, “A disciple who has not seen a good sign in his study within five years will also not see it” (Hullin p 24). Thus, every person whose study is easy must dedicate a portion of one or two hours a day to study the Halachah (Jewish code of laws), and explain and interpret the questions in the literal Halachah.

chanoch's Commentary

This is why when i am asked what to study i recommend Chok Israel. This is a series of daily study created by the ARIzal. It takes less than an hour a day except on Friday which can be competed on Shabbat. It includes all ten levels of Torah. 1. The 5 Books of Moshe; 2. The Prophets; 3. The Writings; 4. The Mishna; 5. The Gemara; 6. The Zohar. 7. Halacha; 8. Rashi Commentary; 9. Ethical Teachings from Sefer Chasadim; 10. Mussar which is not included in the Chok Israel. Here is the website for the online source of Chok Israel.

20) These words of his seem very perplexing: he is saying that before one succeeds in the study of the literal, one should already engage in the wisdom of truth. This contradicts his former words that the wisdom of Kabbalah without the literal Torah is as a soul without a body, having no deed, consideration, or reward.

The evidence he brings of a disciple who did not see a good sign is even more perplexing, for our sages said that he should therefore abandon the study of Torah. But certainly, it is to caution him to examine his ways and try with another Rav or in another portion. But he must certainly not leave the Torah, even the literal Torah.

chanoch's Commentary

Remember the questions Rabbi Ashlag asked early in this discussion. These questions were really excuses for not studying Kabbalah. This section and the section below it No 21 are teaching us that there is no reason to not study Kabbalah. Not only that but it is necessary to study Kabbalah.

21) It is even more difficult to understand, both in the words of Rabbi Chaim Vital and in the words of the Gemara. It is implied in their words that one needs some specific preparation and merit to attain the wisdom of Torah. Yet, our sages said (Midrash Raba, Portion “And This Is the Blessing”), “The Creator said unto Israel: ‘Regard, the whole wisdom and the whole Torah is easy: anyone who fears Me and observes the words of the Torah, the whole wisdom and the whole Torah are in his heart.’”

Thus, we need no prior merit here; and only by virtue of fear of God and the keeping of Mitzvot is one granted the whole wisdom of the Torah.

22) Indeed, if we examine his words they will clarify before us as pure heavenly stars. The text, “he is better off leaving his hand off it, once he has tested his luck in this [revealed] wisdom,” does not refer to luck of wit and erudition. Rather, it is as we have explained above in the explanation, “I have created the evil inclination; I have created for it the spice of Torah.” It means that one has delved and exerted in the revealed Torah, and still the evil inclination is in power and has not melted at all. This is because he is still not saved from thoughts of transgression, as Rashi writes above in the explanation, “I have created for it the spice of Torah.”

Hence, he advises him to leave his hands off it and engage in the wisdom of truth, for it is easier to draw the light in the Torah while practicing and laboring in the wisdom of truth than in laboring in the literal Torah. The reason is very simple: the wisdom of the revealed is clothed in external, corporeal clothes, such as stealing, plundering, torts, etc. For this reason, it is difficult and heavy for any person to aim his mind and heart to the Creator while studying, so as to draw the Light in the Torah.

It is even more so for a person for whom the study in the Talmud itself is heavy and arduous. How can he remember the Creator during the study, since the scrutiny concerns corporeal matters, and cannot come in him simultaneously with the intention for the Creator?

Therefore, he advises him to practice the wisdom of Kabbalah, as this wisdom is entirely clothed in the names of the Creator. Then he will certainly be able to easily aim his mind and heart to the Creator during the study, even if he is the slowest learner. This is so because the study of the issues of the wisdom and the Creator are one and the same, and this is very simple.

23) Hence, he brings good evidence from the words of the Gemarah: “A disciple who has not seen a good sign in his study after five years will also not see it.” Why did he not see a good sign in his study? Certainly, it is only due to the absence of the intention of the heart, and not because of any lack of aptitude, as the wisdom of Torah requires no aptitude.

Instead, as it is written in the above study: “The Creator said unto Israel, ‘Regard, the whole wisdom and the whole Torah is easy: any one who fears Me and observes the words of the Torah, the whole wisdom and the whole Torah are in his heart.’”

Of course one must accustom oneself in the Light of Torah and Mitzvot, and I do not know how much. One might remain in waiting all his years. Hence the Braita warns us (Hulin 24) to not wait longer than five years.

Moreover, Rabbi Yosi says that only three years are quite sufficient to be granted the wisdom of the Torah. If one does not see a good sign within that length of time, one should not fool himself with false hopes and deceit, but know that he will never see a good sign.

Hence, one must immediately find himself a good tactic by which to succeed in achieving Lishma and to be granted the wisdom of the Torah. The Braita did not specify the tactic, but it warns to not remain seated in the same situation and wait longer.

This is the meaning of the Rav’s words, that the surest and most successful tactic is the engagement in the wisdom of Kabbalah. One should leave one’s hand entirely from engagement in the wisdom of the revealed Torah, since he has already tested his luck in it and did not succeed. And he should dedicate all his time to the wisdom of Kabbalah, where his success is certain.