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Through his learning he sweetened the Severities and changed them to Kindnesses, thereby creating souls for converts.

Rabbi Akiba

Rabbi Akiba

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

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However, Rabbi Akiva was from the root of Cain, as explained, from the aspect of the crown of gevura. (Through his learning) he sweetened the gevura and changed it to chesed, and (thereby) created souls for converts1 during the twenty-four years he was away from his wife, the daughter of Kalba. He had gone to learn Torah, and brought back with him twenty-four thousand students.2

The root of Rabbi Akiva’s own soul was from the penimiut of holiness.

The root of Rabbi Akiva’s own soul was from the penimiut [internality] of holiness. However, through earlier sin (in a past lifetime), it went to the kelipot, and subsequently returned to holiness. Even though he was called convert, he was not really a full convert.3

However, it is not that way for the rest of the souls of converts, which are mainly from the level of kelipa called kelipat noga [‘the twilight husk’]. Sometimes they can go in the direction of spiritual impurity, and other times they can return to holiness, as the Zohar says. (Zohar II Vayakhel)

Twilight is neither fully day nor night - it is a little of both; (Shabbat Ch. 2) there are souls mixed into this mixed state. They can go in either direction. Great is the merit of one whom through his mitzvahs draws such souls to the side of holiness. All of their accomplishments are accredited to him.

This is the secret of, "Converts are hard for Israel like thorns." (Yevamot 47b) (For at times they go to the wrong side.) For when a gentile comes to convert, a generation of souls from those righteous people in Paradise of the earth enters him, as mentioned in the portion Shelach. (Zohar III Shelach) After that, an actual soul from the children of Israel enters him, and he is then called a gair tsedek [righteous convert], since he now has a holy soul from malchut which is called tzedek. (See Likutei Moharan)

A gair who accepts the laws of the Torah out of his own volition draws this energy.

There are many expressions of malchut. "The law of malchut is law." (Baba Kama 113b) From it come the rules and regulations necessary to implement any given idea. Tzedek means righteousness - in the sense of one who follows the rules. So it is a malchut quality. A gair who accepts the laws of the Torah out of his own volition draws this energy.

The Rabbis call a gair ‘one who comes to take refuge underneath the wings of the Shechinah’. (Vayikra Raba 2:9) The Shechinah expresses through malchut. Propelled by the motion of coming from darkness to light, the gair soars to great heights - hence he is protected and graced by the wings.

The soul that he had while being a non-Jew is called the ‘soul of a convert’.4 However, even after the conversion and its return to good, still the kelipot have somewhat of a hold on it,5 and it can cause the other holy soul to sin. This is what it means, "like thorns to Israel", for it (sometimes) causes the other soul, which is called "Israel", to sin.

With this, you can understand the secret of Rabbi Akiva, who was originally a complete simpleton and who for forty years hated Torah scholars. He would say, "If someone would give me a Torah scholar I would bite him like a donkey!" 6 This was because of (the hold of the kelipot on) his original convert-soul, while his true soul from the side of holiness only acted righteously. Enough on this point.

[Translation and commentary by Perets Auerbach.]

Footnotes
1.
As mentioned, that it depends upon the quality of chesed. Especially since he turned gevurot, the source above of the kelipot, into chesed. (see Likutei Moharan II 8)
2.
They correspond to the twenty-four permutations of ADNY, the name of malchut. As mentioned by Hillel, Rabbi Akiva fixed malchut .and merited to manifest its energies. This is the reason the Ari.Zl mentions his students here. (Ketubot)
Rabbi Akiva was unlearned the first forty years of his life. Rachel saw the awesome potential of his soul. She asked him to marry her, on condition that he go away and be fully devoted to learning Torah. Her high connection and good will energized him while he was away from her/the lower Shechinah to jet to the upper Shechinah. In the mean time, he rocketed and went from a simple learner to a teacher. The tikun of malchut made through all this manifested in twenty-four thousand students.
He told them, “Mine and your (Torah acquirements) are hers”. This is why the Ari.Zl mentions that she is the daughter of Kalba, who was a wealthy man. When he heard that she wanted to marry a simple shepherd, he disowned her and they wed in poverty. Her tremendous self-sacrifice augmented the tikun to the staggering proportions of sustaining the Torah of generations.
3.
This requires clarification, for the Talmud calls him, “son of converts”? (Berachot)
4.
Which actually stood at Mt. Sinai, as mentioned
5.
They do not so easily relinquish grip on the energy of a soul.
6.
Donkey in Hebrew is 'chamor', which comes from 'chomer' - physical substance, a primal state of ignorance devoid of all spirituality. (Pesachim 49b)
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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