The Experience of Reading in The Zohar
« The language of The Zohar remedies the soul, even when one does not understand what it says at all. It is similar to one who enters a perfumery; even when he does not take a thing, he still absorbs the fragrance. »
– Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sudilkov,
Degel Machaneh Ephraim [The Banner of the Camp of Ephraim], Excerpts
The Book of Zohar is a wonderful tool. It can open an entire world of wonderful and surprising revelations before us. The Zohar is like a gate to the actual reality, currently hidden from our senses. However, to use the power within it effectively, we must learn how to read in The Zohar properly. The five rules below will summarize the entire contents of the book and will help you prepare for the great journey in the paths of The Zohar.
FIRST RULE—THE HEART UNDERSTANDS.
Do Not Seek Intellectual Understanding
The Book of Zohar is studied with the heart, meaning through will and emotion. What does that mean? Unlike ordinary forms of study, which are based on intellectual processing of facts and data, here we must adopt a completely different approach. Studying The Zohar aims to evoke an internal change in us, and prepare us to receive the hidden reality.
The measure of our success depends only on the measure of our longing to discover and to feel that reality. Hence, there is no need for prior knowledge, skill, or any special intelligence. All that is required is to have a genuine desire to open one’s eyes wide, to open the heart, and to “devour” everything.
SECOND RULE—MAN IS A SMALL WORLD
Interpret the Words Correctly
The Book of Zohar contains many descriptions and concepts that we are familiar with from our world, such as “sea,” “mountains,” “trees,” “flowers,” “animals,” “people,” and “journeys.” It is important to understand that all those details, images, and events mentioned in the book do not speak of the outside world around us, but only about what occurs within us.
Hence, while reading The Zohar we should try to interpret the words within it as expressions of those internal actions that take place in the soul, to see the text as a bridge to our deepest desires and qualities.
THIRD RULE—THE LIGHT IN IT REFORMS
Seek the Light
We often hear that there is a special quality to The Zohar. This quality is a natural law of development that acts in all of life’s processes, and not some mystical, imaginary power.
Kabbalists explain that the corporeal world is entirely governed by the egoistic desire to exploit others, while in the spiritual world, only the intention to love and to give operates. Hence, we were given a special means whose function is to connect between the opposite worlds, or in other words, to direct our qualities according to the quality of loving and giving of the spiritual world—“the light that reforms.”
The way the light affects us is currently hidden from our understanding. This is why we refer to it as a Segula [power, remedy, virtue] or as a miracle. However, to Kabbalists, who know the spiritual world, there are no miracles here at all, only a perfectly natural process.
They explain that all we need is to read The Book of Zohar and wish for the power within it to affect us during the study. Gradually, we will begin to feel the inner change taking place in us thanks to that light. The spiritual world will be opened, and what first seemed to us a miracle will become a clear and straightforward rule.
FOURTH RULE—NOTHING DEFEATS THE WILL
We all know what efforts are required of babies to take their first steps in the world, and with what inspiring persistence they do it. They never give up, repeatedly trying until they succeed. Likewise, we should continue studying The Zohar with patience and persistence until we begin to “walk” by ourselves and discover the spiritual world. The system required for advancement has already been prepared for us in advance, and the only thing we must bring in is our great desire.
FIFTH RULE—AS ONE MAN IN ONE HEART
Bonding Is Key
The Book of Zohar was written by a group of ten Kabbalists who built a perfect Kli among them, a united will to discover the highest force in reality—the Creator. Only the internal connection between them, the love and the bonding, enabled them to breach the boundaries of the corporeal world and rise to the level of eternal existence that The Zohar speaks of. If we wish to follow them, we must try to build a similar bond among us, to search for the power of connection that existed among the students of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. The Zohar was born out of love, hence its renewed disclosure today will be made possible only out of love.
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For this chapter, which summarizes the book, we have selected special excerpts from The Zohar. In between the excerpts we added explanations, guidance as to the right intention during the reading, and more to help you connect to the light imbued in The Zohar.
It is recommended that you read this section slowly. The Book of Zohar, our guide to spiritual development, was not meant for superficial reading, but for relaxed reading joined with deep inner search.
“We create nothing new. Our work is only to illuminate what is hidden within.”
Menachem Mendel of Kotzk
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