Unlocking the Zohar, Chapter 1 – Time to Act
« The whole of the wisdom of Kabbalah is only to know the guidance of the Higher Will, why It has created all these creatures, what It wants with them, and what the end of all the cycles of the world will be. »
Ramchal, Pitchei Hochma (Doors of Wisdom), Door no. 30
Humanity is ever developing. In ancient times, people’s needs were very basic: food, shelter, and procreation. These are natural desires, as well as existential needs. In time, greater needs and greater desires have arisen in us: for wealth, domination, respect, and knowledge.The Zohar is THE book of the wisdom of Kabbalah, the wisdom of truth. It is surfacing today to lead us forward to a higher dimension. Yet, what is so special about The Zohar and about the Kabbalah? Why is this wisdom taking center stage specifically for those living today?
Throughout history, we have been trying to satisfy the needs that emerged in us. We have been trying to find within these changes happiness, love, and a good life. Today, we see that this chase was futile. While each generation is more advanced materialistically, each also suffers more. The ubiquitous use of drugs and antidepressants as an escape are symptoms of our generation’s internal emptiness.
At each given moment, the media is presenting us with more and more temptations, which we then rush to satisfy. It may be a new piece of clothing, a car, a house, a better job, an academic title, a trip overseas, or even a good restaurant. But each time we obtain something, the pleasure dissipates shortly afterwards and we are left wondering, “What’s next?” Then the chase begins anew.
For how long? Today, more and more people are asking this question. And not only, “For how long?” but also, “Why?”
Why are our lives unfolding as they are? Why are we in a constant race, never actually finding any rest? Why does everything become dull and tasteless once we have obtained it? And in general, if this is what life is about and there is nothing we can do about it, why do we need it anyway?
There has never been such a state where questions about the purpose and meaning of life have arisen in so many people. In the past, we simply didn’t ask. We lived because we were born. But today, such questions that suddenly arise within us leave us restless, prodding us forward, and after years of searching we come to the wisdom of Kabbalah, the wisdom that teaches us how to receive much more from life.
Previously, we had no need for Kabbalah, hence its concealment. But today, our need for it is the primary reason for its appearance in our generation.
The second reason is the special situation we are in today. The development of technology and media has turned the world into a small village in which we are completely interdependent. Yet, at the same time, our egos and our hatred of one another are increasing.
It is becoming barely possible for us to tolerate others, beginning on the most personal level, where each member of a family needs a personal room, a personal car, and virtually a personal home. People find it very difficult to maintain relationships, and divorce rates are soaring. The family unit is falling apart the world over.
We are living together, cramped on a tiny planet, antagonistic towards each other and unable to get along. The amount of weapons of mass destruction accumulated worldwide have brought us to a perilous state where everything around us is unstable and unpredictable. It is safe to say that we have lost our ability to govern the world.
Looking forward, if we continue on our present path, it is unclear how we will survive. What kind of world are we leaving for our children? Today’s generation is the first in which people have stopped believing that their children will have a better life than their own!
With all this in the background, The Book of Zohar and the other sources of Kabbalah are appearing. They explain that the situation we now face has long been predicted.
The first time such a state occurred was thousands of years ago in ancient Babylon. The Biblical story about the Tower of Babel described people gathered in one place, wishing to build a tower whose top reached the sky. This was an expression of the great egoism that appeared among them, and the hatred combined with interdependence. It was precisely in that place and in that state that the wisdom of Kabbalah appeared.
The wisdom offers a very simple thing. It says that in addition to the reality we currently sense, there is another, more expansive reality, a higher one. From this higher reality, forces extend to our world and govern it. The development we have achieved over the generations was intended to bring us into recognizing the forces that operate on us and govern us.
When we discover this higher reality, we will understand that our development over thousands of years has taken place only to bring us to acquire and experience a more expansive sensation of reality. Thus, we will not remain in the confined state in which we live and die, live and die. Instead, we will know life in its eternal, broad, and boundless form.
Man was made to raise the heavens
Rabbi Menahem Mendel of Kotzk
In ancient Babylon, it was Abraham the Patriarch, a resident of Ur of the Chaldeans, who discovered that humankind’s program of development was prodding it toward discovering a new reality. Abraham realized that in the end, the material evolution of man on earth would exhaust itself, and humanity would discover that something beyond satisfying corporeal desires was required, and that without it, life on earth would be futile and meaningless.
Abraham discovered that at the end of the material evolution begins the spiritual evolution. Once he himself exhausted the desires we all possess, a new desire appeared in him—to understand the purpose of his life.
In Kabbalah, all of one’s earthly desires are regarded as “the heart,” while the desire to discover the meaning of life is described as “the point in the heart.” The point in the heart is a desire that awakens in our hearts and pulls us “upward.” That new desire led Abraham to discover the complete reality, the spiritual reality.
Abraham’s wisdom is called “the wisdom of Kabbalah,” and it describes the network of Nature’s forces and how we can study the program by which they affect us. The wisdom of Kabbalah describes rules, forces, and work formulae of the upper worlds.
Kabbalah explains how reality began to expand from the world of Ein Sof[infinity], through the worlds of Adam Kadmon [ancient man], Atzilut[Emanation], Beria [Creation], Yetzira [Formation], and Assiya [Action], down to our world. It speaks of how souls come down and “dress” in bodies in this world, and how we can cause our souls to rise from here back to the world of Ein Sof.
Abraham was the first Kabbalist to teach people how to discover the soul and gradually experience a higher world through it. There are five higher worlds, each with five degrees, each of which are then divided into five additional degrees. If we multiply 5x5x5, we will arrive at the 125 degrees by which we ascend in our feeling, understanding, and attainment until we discover the whole of reality.
That process takes place while we are here in our material bodies. When we achieve these higher worlds, reality becomes much broader and we feel the forces that operate on the world we are in. It is like a picture of embroidery. In the front is a picture, while the back displays all the connections among the threads that create the picture on the front.
When we observe our world and what is happening in it, we are merely observing the superficial picture. The wisdom of Kabbalah helps us see the depth of the picture. This is how we begin to understand the connections between things—why things happen and how we can affect one element through another element.
In other words, we not only see the image of this world, but we also begin to see the operating system. Only then can we control our lives and our fates, and arrive at the perfect state.
The wisdom of Kabbalah explains that our lives are built in such a way that troubles of all kinds present themselves before us, leaving us no other alternative but to know the operating system. If we do not achieve the higher dimension, discover the forces that affect us, and begin to manage our lives through them, we will not be able to cope in life. This is why this wisdom is manifesting itself—so we can know the upper worlds.
Kabbalah explains everything that has happened in human history: why we have developed one way and not another, and why all the wars and changes we have undergone took place. It also relates to the future and describes how we can evolve from this point on.
There are two paths before us:
- To escape from the bad—to evolve through a negative force that prods us from behind, as we have been doing throughout history: We would discover that something was missing and that we had no other choice but to exit the negative state and make a change.
- To be drawn toward the good—to evolve through a positive force that pulls us forward. This is what Kabbalah offers us: to evolve by discovering the good life and then understand how to achieve it through a wondrous adventure.
The sages of the Kabbalah have predicted our state in advance. They knew that without the Kabbalah we would not be abele to survive. They pointed to the end of the 20th century as the time when its wisdom would appear to all. They explained that if we did not shift from negative advancement to positive, we would be goaded into it mercilessly .
But we are faced with problems not only on the social level, but also on the ecological level, including volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, fires, intense heat waves, and cold spells. All these will come only to compel us to continue our development. Nature is shaking us up through a negative force so we will take the positive force into our hands.
To advance, we must first discover the forces that come down to here and affect us. We must learn how to penetrate Nature’s higher system if we are to govern these forces. Even when we wish to develop technologies to improve our lives, we must first study Nature and discover which hidden laws exist in it and how it governs. But because Kabbalah speaks of even higher forces, more concealed, the process of discovering them is far more complex. It is truly a fascinating process, and we will expand on it in the next chapter.
This wisdom is no more and no less than a sequence of roots, which hang down by way of cause and consequence, by fixed, determined rules, interweaving to a single, exalted goal described as “The revelation of His Godliness to His creatures in this world.”
Baal HaSulam, “The Essence of the Wisdom of Kabbalah”
Since Abraham’s time some 3,800 years ago, until approximately 2,000 years ago, the wisdom of Kabbalah was known only to the people of Israel. Since the ruin of the Temple approximately 2,000 years ago, through our generation, Kabbalah has been hidden from the public and has been secretly passed on from generation to generation among Kabbalists.
During the period when Kabbalah was concealed, various stigmas were attributed to it. It was considered mysticism, witchcraft, magic, etc., but no one knew what it was really about, hence the false notions. Also, the thriving present-day industry that uses the name “Kabbalah” to market services and products has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual essence of the wisdom of Kabbalah.
But the time of concealment has ended. Today, the original wisdom of Kabbalah is resurfacing for all people, regardless of age, sex, religion or race. Kabbalah is a higher science. It does not belong to any religion or faith, nor does it pose any boundaries or limitations to one who wishes to study it. Any person who wishes to understand the world he or she lives in, to know the soul, to know one’s fate and to learn how to govern it is welcome to study Kabbalah.
“If my people heeded me … they would delve in the study of The Book of Zohar … with nine-year-old infants” , said Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzhak Yehuda of Komarno as early as the 19th century. Following him, other Kabbalists recommended teaching this knowledge to children from a young age, giving them an explanation of the world that surrounds them, the connections among its parts, and the forces that affect it. Through such education grows a confident human being connected to the source of abundance, feeling in control of one’s life. Such a person knows how to best use these forces, and understands that life is unlimited.
The holy Zohar connects to Ein Sof [infinity].
Rabbi Moshe Israel Bar Elijahu, The Residue of Israel. 
The Book of Zohar is the seminal book of Kabbalah. It was written precisely when Kabbalah shifted from being an open doctrine to becoming a hidden one. The authors of The Zohar knew that the world would need this book thousands of years later, hence they concealed it immediately after writing it.
The Book of Zohar was actually written for this generation, to deliver us from a state of “spiritual exile,” the inability to perceive the upper force and the expansiveness of reality. If we wish to improve our situation, we must make The Book of Zohar the keynote book of our world, since The Zohar is more than a book, it is a means to connect us to the upper force.
When we learn how to read The Zohar correctly, we will discover that it is a means of receiving abundance, and we will see how, with its help, everything changes. Gradually, we will begin to feel that another force is present, a higher and good one, engulfing us, and the air is “imbued” with that force.
In conclusion: Nature has brought us to a special point in human development, a step before a new degree of existence. We are about to make a qualitative leap to the spiritual degree, and this is why the springboard—the wisdom of Kabbalah and primarily The Book of Zohar—is appearing before us.
In the depths of the human soul, the voice of the Lord is ever calling. The commotion of life may daze the soul so it does not hear that calling voice for the majority of one’s life, but it can never uproot the basis, the root, and the essence of that voice, which is indeed the very heart of human life … Even in those who strain to escape it and to silence it, the fleeing and the silencing only further disclose the inherent connection of the soul to that mighty voice, which never ceases to hum and to crave in their hearts, too. Indeed, all efforts to escape it and all tactics to silence it are in vain.
Rav Raiah Kook, Treasures of the Raiah, p 113
 Kabbalists refer to the two paths toward knowing the upper worlds as the “path of Torah” [path of light] and the “path of suffering.” In his “Writings of the Last Generation,” Baal HaSulam explains it in the following way: “There are two ways to discover the completeness: the path of Torah and the path of suffering. Hence, the Creator eventuated and gave humanity technology, until they have invented the atom and the hydrogen bombs. If the total ruin that they are destined to bring is still not evident to the world, they can wait for a third world war, or a fourth one and so on. The bombs will do their thing and the relics after the ruin will have no other choice but to take upon themselves this work … If you take the path of Torah, all will be well. And if you do not, then you will tread the path of suffering.”
For more on this topic, see Baal HaSulam’s “Introduction to The Book of Zohar » (item 16), “Introduction to the book, The Tree of Life” (item 7), and the essay, “The Peace.”
 Rav Yitzhak Yehuda Yehiel Safrin of Komarno, Notzer Hesed [Keeping Mercy], Chapter 4, Teaching 20
 Rabbi Moseh Bar Elijahu, Gate of Connection, Gate 1, Preaching 5, Article no. 2
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