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All who arouse souls of converts are from the side of chesed, such as Abraham and Moses.

The Making of Converts

The Making of Converts

Gate of Reincarnations: Chapter Thirty-Four, Section 3a

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Shammai the Elder sinned through his strictness - many potential converts came to him and he did not convert them, as the Sages write. (Shabbat 31a) As a result, he reincarnated into Shimon ben Azzai, who did not marry (Ketubot 63a) but created many souls of proselytes through his Torah learning, just as Abraham ‘the man of chesed ’ did. As it says in the portion Lech Lecha: "And the souls he made in Charan.1" (Gen. 12:5)

For all who arouse souls of converts are from the side of chesed, which was Abraham while separated from his wife,2 since she was barren. Also Moses created souls for converts while he was away from his wife, since he is in the secret of the chesed of Abel.

Abraham himself is the first of converts.

Abraham himself is the first of converts. He left his land, the place of his birth, and the house of his father. (Gen. 12:1) Those he influenced to convert are called "the pledged people of Abraham." (Hagiga) "You gave...chesed to Abraham." (Hagiga) "Pledged" implies something donated out of one’s own volition, from a motion of chesed. So those not born into a family and situation of knowing G‑d awaken to leave their surroundings and pledge their life to truth.

Through this, the gevurot of Shammai were sweetened and changed to chesed. Therefore, the letters (of Shimon/ShMAVN) are the ShM from Shammai and AVN/avon [transgression] - alluding that Shimon ben Azzai was the tikun for Shammai who pushed away converts.

‘Ben Azzai’ means ‘son of the brazen one’. "Why was the Torah given to Israel? Because they are brazen." (Beitza 25b) "You are standing here today...those that are here today, and those that are not here today." (Deut. 29:9-14) Anyone who converts, it is known that his soul did stand on Mt. Sinai, and that he does have holy brazenness. Shimon ben Azzai brought down souls that are truly connected to the Torah and are worthy of conversion.

Ben Azzai was known for his remarkable attachment to Torah.

Ben Azzai was known for his remarkable attachment to Torah. It was so much that he could not get married. He ascended into the aspect of Moses, who left his wife below to remain totally above - as if married to the supernal heights. This state is called the relation to the ‘upper Shechinah’. This way of doing things is another form of rectifying the lights of Tohu: When their individual, singular quality of not bearing to remain in the vessel and departing above is used to scale attachment to a very high level that is in truth too great to come down.3

The average person is earth bound, and so bound to rectify things in an earthly way. The major part of the soul--birur process is made through marriage and the couple’s relations. (Likutei Halachot Pirya Virivya) However, the select individuals who are more connected to above than below make the birur through almost solely through celestial means...

Ben Azzai operated this way.4 Coming from the same place as the two fallen angels Aza and Azael, whose names also come from the root az [brazen], and harnessing that energy in the right manner, he subjugated that negative flow from the world. This negated the dark influences that surrounded the fallen sparks and left them free to be magnetized to the holiness - as proselytes.

The word for converts is gairim, which is also used in the sense of sojourner. (Ex. 18:4) Gairim, who leave their backround and established lifestyle for higher pursuits, are as lifetime sojourners.5 The intense, boundless lights of Tohu are also as sojourners that don’t fit into a world of limitations.6 The self-sacrifice of gairim grants them ready access to these lights. Ben Azzai was busy with these types of tikunim.

[Translation and commentary by Perets Auerbach.]

Footnotes
1.
The simple meaning is that he brought people to know G‑d and this is counted as if ‘making’ them. A step deeper, it also includes that his spiritual acts actually created souls. Therefore does it say “And the souls he made”. This was done both through his Torah learning and through being with Sarah. (Zohar I Lech Lecha)
2.
This needs to be understood, for the Zohar states that before Sarah gave birth, they gave birth above to the souls of gairim - through their relations?
3.
The primary place of this is Atik [the Ancient One], the internal aspect of keter. It also means aloof, just as an elder is aloof by means of his outstanding experience and knowledge. “There is no feminine aspect in Atik.” (Zohar III Naso Idra Raba) And so one who ascends there remains as if aloof and celibate.
4.
The other tzadikim mentioned here were also in this category at least during the period that they were separate from their wives. Moreover, the Zohar teaches that everyone married has some connection to this aspect at the time that they are away from home.
5.
For this reason the Torah warns about them in many places: Both to refrain from hurting them and to actively take care of them. (Deut. 26:12)
6.
Saichel [consciousness] is a gair in this world.” (Maharal)
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria […Ashkenazi ben Shlomo] (5294-5332 = 1534-1572 c.e.); Yahrtzeit (anniversary of death): 5th of Av. Buried in the Old Cemetery of Tzfat. Commonly known as the Ari, an acronym standing for Elohi Rabbi Yitzchak, the
G-dly Rabbi Isaac. No other master or sage ever had this extra letter Aleph, standing for Elohi [G-dly], prefaced to his name. This was a sign of what his contemporaries thought of him. Later generations, fearful that this appellation might be misunderstood, said that this Aleph stood for Ashkenazi, indicating that his family had originated in Germany, as indeed it had. But the original meaning is the correct one, and to this day among Kabbalists, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria is only referred to as Rabbenu HaAri, HaAri HaKadosh [the holy Ari] or Arizal [the Ari of blessed memory].
Yitzchok bar Chaim is the pseudonym of the translator, an American-born Jerusalem scholar who has studied and taught Kabbala for many years. He may be contacted through: webmaster@kabbalaonline.org. He translated the Ari's work, "Shaar HaGilgulim;" his translation into English (but with much less extensive commentary than offered here). Information about his translation in book form may be obtained through www.thirtysevenbooks.com
Rabbi Chaim Vital c. 5303-5380 (c. 1543-1620 CE), major disciple of R. Isaac (Yitzchak) Luria, and responsible for publication of most of his works.
Rabbi Peretz Auerbach, originally from New York, has been living and learning Torah and kabbala in Jerusalem for 18 years. He teaches at Shvu Ami beit medrash, lectures in Kabbalah and chassidut at the Jerusalem Connection and Heritage House and to private groups. Rabbi Auerbach is also a talented musician. He is currently working on an all new translation of the Zohar into English with extensive commentary as well as a disc entitled "Music, Meditation and Mysticism."
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