It is necessary for a person to involve himself or herself in Torah and mitzvot with intention, in order to receive the light of Ruach, according to their capacity. Likewise it is necessary for the person to deal with the innermost aspect of Torah according to his or her capacity so that they may receive the light of Neshama at their level. The same applies to one's understanding the reasons of the mitzvot; even the smallest light in the reality of holiness cannot be completed without their involvement. If the spiritual leaders of our generation have removed themselves from this wisdom, then it is little wonder that the whole generation stumbles on account of them…
From here you will understand the nature of the dryness and the darkness which is to be found in the Judaism of our generation. There was nothing like it at all in previous generations. This is because even those people who take their religious life seriously have abandoned the study of the secrets of the Torah, that is to say, the Kabbala. Maimonides gives a true example of this: He asks us to imagine a line of a thousand blind people going on a journey who are led at the head of the line by at least one person who can see. They can still be sure that they are going in the right direction. They will not fall into any snares or traps in their path since they are following the one who can see. But if the one person who can see is missing, they will undoubtedly stumble over every obstacle laid in their path and they will all fall into a dark pit.
This is exactly our situation. If at least the people who are the spiritual leaders of our generation would occupy themselves with the innermost aspect of Torah, the Kabbala, they would draw to themselves a complete light from the Ein Sof, Blessed be He. As a consequence, the whole generation would be able to follow after them. Everyone would be sure of their way and would not stumble. But if the spiritual leaders of our generation have removed themselves from this wisdom, then it is little wonder that the whole generation stumbles on account of them. From the great sorrow that I feel, I cannot write any more on this.
I know that the reason that this has arisen is mainly due to a lessening of faith in general and, in particular, a weakening of faith in the great tzadikim and masters of previous generations. The books of Kabbala and the Zohar are full of images drawn from the physical world, and so people became afraid that they might not understand this imagery in the correct way and fall into a form of idolatry… The explanation of the words of the Ari and of the Zohar have only been openly revealed in this generation…
We both can and should ask at this point why the Zohar was not revealed to earlier generations. They were, undoubtedly, higher souls than the later generations and more suited to it. We can also ask why the explanation of the Zohar was only revealed at the time of the Ari and not to the Kabbalists who preceded him. The most astonishing puzzle of all, however, is why the explanation of the words of the Ari and of the Zohar have only been openly revealed in this generation and not prior to it?
The answer to these questions is that the world is one spiritual entity, which divides up into three parts within the time period of its existence. There is a head part, a body part and a tail part, which divides in accordance with the sefirot as follows: chochma, bina and daat being the head; chesed, gevura and tiferet being the body; netzach, hod and yesod being the tail part. According to the sages, the head part of the spiritual entity corresponds to the stage of chaos; the body part corresponds to the stage of Torah, and the tail part corresponds to the days of the Mashiach.
In the first time period of the world's existence, namely the head part, the lights were few and considered only as potential lights; they were of the quality of Nefesh.
In any spiritual entity, the growth of the vessels of that entity always occurs in the opposite order when compared with the incarnation of the lights, the general rule being that the highest vessels grow first, whereas, for the lights, the opposite applies. The lowest lights enter the spiritual entity initially. Thus, so long as only the highest vessels are present - that is those related to the sefirot of chochma, bina and daat, only the lights of Nefesh - the lowest lights - can come down to be enclothed within these vessels. Thus the first time period of the world is designated by the sages as the stage of Chaos.
Then came the second time period of the world. The vessels that evolved at that time relate to the sefirot of chesed, gevura and tiferet. The vessels enclothed the light of Ruach in the world which is the Torah. Thus, the sages designated this time period as the stage of Torah. During the time of the Ari, in which the lower vessels were forming, the higher light became revealed…
In the final period of the world's existence, the last vessels of netzach, hod, yesod and malchut enter, and then the light of Neshama is enclothed in the world. Neshama is a greater light, and thus this period is called the days of the Mashiach.
This process applies for any spiritual entity. When the highest vessels, chochma, bina, daat, together with chesed, gevura and tiferet are in the entity, that is from the head until the level of the chest, then the lights are still covered and they do not begin to shine with the revealed illumination of the light of G‑d until the lower vessels are ready. These are netzach, hod, yesod and malchut, which belong in the spiritual entity from the level of the chest and downwards.
So, therefore, concerning the spiritual entity that constitutes the world, before its vessels of netzach, hod, yesod and malchut began to emerge - which is to say in the last period of its existence - the wisdom of the Kabbala in general and of the Zohar in particular was hidden from the world. However during the time of the Ari, in which the lower vessels were forming, the higher light became revealed through the divine soul of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (the Ari), who was able to receive this great light. He was able to reveal the underlying principles of the book of the Zohar and of the wisdom of the Kabbala to the extent that he superseded all those who had preceded him. In our generation we are close to the completion of the last period of the world…
Since, however, the vessels were not yet completed in his time, the world was still not ready for his words, and, thus, his teachings remained available only to a few very special individuals of great accomplishment who did not have permission [from Above] to reveal their understanding to the world.
However, in our generation we are close to the completion of the last period of the world. Therefore, we have been permitted to reveal the teachings of the Ari and those of the Zohar in a most significant measure to the world. From our generation onwards, the words of the Zohar will begin to be revealed more and more until their whole measure is revealed according to the will of G‑d.
[From "In the Shadow of the Ladder" by Mark and Yedidah Cohen, Introduction to the Zohar, paragraphs 56-61]
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Ten Powers of the
Soul (in the First Steps section)
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