Rabbi Aba praised Rebbe Shimon as the only one worthy to reveal the inner secrets of the Torah, stating that there would be no generation like the one in which he lived until the generation of the Mashiach. Nevertheless he went on to explain a little about the high level of spirituality achievable by any person, and about the pattern of life after death.

Come and see. It is written in "G‑d created man in His own image [in Hebrew, 'betzelmo'] (Gen. 1:27) He created him in the image ['tzelem'] of Elokim, He created him, male and female he created them.

That is G‑d created man in two forms. The first form is hinted at by the word "tzelmo", meaning "His image" from the side of Zeir Anpin. The second form is the tzelem of Elokim, referring to the level of malchut.

There are three worlds the Holy One blessed be He hides Himself in.

This is the level of G‑d that is knowable….

These are the worlds of Atzilut, Beriya and Yetzira. The physical world of Asiya is not discussed here.

The first world is the highest and most hidden of all. No one except He can gaze into it and comprehend it, as He is hidden within it.

This is the meaning of the verse "The secret things belong to G‑d, our L-rd". (Deut. 29:28)

The second world [Beriya] is connected to that higher world above.

They are connected via the sefira of malchut of Atzilut which connects with the next world of Beriya by transforming into the sefira of keter of Beriya.

This is the level of G‑d that is knowable and is able to be grasped [by the righteous]. This is alluded to in the verse "The gates of righteousness are an opening to Me. This is the gate to G‑d that the righteous shall enter." (Psalms 118:19) This is the second spiritual world.

The third world [Yetzira] is beneath the two others and separation [between good and bad] is found in it. This is the world in which the higher angels have their dwelling, and G‑d is both found and hidden. He is normally found there, but as soon as one seeks to peer at Him and grasp Him intellectually, He removes Himself from there and can't be grasped. Then all the angels ask, "Where is the place of His glory?" and say, "Blessed is the glory of G‑d from His place". (Ezekiel 3:12)

The presence of G‑d is not always revealed in this third world.

In a similar manner our text states "G‑d made man in His image." Man also can experience these three worlds.

Now they will be discussed from below to above. Since man grasps the Divine only through spiritual growth from his own restricted consciousness "below", the three ascending worlds referred to are different worlds than those spoken about earlier.

The first world [he can grasp] is called the World of Separation and man is found there and also not found there.

The Nefesh, or spiritual life-force of a person, is continually connected with his physical body as long as he is alive and when he dies it is no longer bound to him and "disappears".

Man is not found in that world, for when you want to look closely at him, he dies and can no longer be seen there.

The second world in ascending order is connected [more clearly] with the highest world. This is the Lower Garden of Eden of the Land.

This is the dwelling place of the spirits (or "ruchot", plural of "ruach", which is one of the 5 levels of spirituality in man: Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya and Yechida.)

This world is connected to another higher world.

There is a pillar in the Lower Garden of Eden that connects it to the Higher Garden of Eden in the world of Beriya.

Through the Lower Gan Eden it is possible to know and grasp the other [higher] world.

The third world [the Higher Garden of Eden which is the dwelling place of the Neshamas] is the higher hidden world [Beriya], which is hidden and sealed.

This world is the dwelling place of Imma, the malchut of Atzilut from which the Neshamas come from, and hence, return too after death.

No one knows or comprehends her, as is written, "The eye has not seen Elokim except for you [the prophet] for it will be done for those who await Him." (Isaiah 64:3) And all this is in the likeness of the supernal spiritual worlds.

The truth is that man exists in all these worlds, but the Infinite expands from "above" to "below", whereas man's consciousness has to ascend from below.

Thus it is written that man was created in the image of Elokim, and accordingly it is written "You are sons to G‑d your Elokim". (Deut. 14:1)

"Sons" because the souls of the Jewish people come from the unification made in the partzufim of the worlds of Beriya, Yetzira and Asiya which are the Father and Mother, or chochma and bina, of Jewish souls. This also explains why the Jews are called the "brains of the world" by the Zohar (parashat Mishpatim), since their source is in chochma and bina in these worlds.

There it has a different body of light prepared for it….

This is as we have explained, these souls are from the "image of Elokim", and they inherit a higher inheritance in accordance with their source. [Thus when they die physically, their Nefesh, Ruach and Neshama return each to their source.] This is also the reason that the Torah warns: "You are children of the L-rd your G‑d; you shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes [as a sign of grief]" (Deut. 14:1), because the soul is not lost. It now is found in higher, beloved spiritual worlds. Therefore you should be happy when they depart from this physical world [since they return to their roots on high].

And come and see. If Adam had not sinned, then he wouldn't have to taste the taste of death in the physical world before entering these [higher] worlds. But since he did transgress, man must die before he can enter these worlds.

His Ruach undresses itself from his physical body, and it [the body] is left behind in This World. Then the Ruach receives its punishment by bathing in the river Dinar [where it is purified of the pollution caused to it by the desires aroused by the physical world. This purification of attachment to worldly desires enables it to enter the Lower Garden of Eden.] Afterwards it enters the Garden of Eden of This World, and there it has a different body of light prepared for it. This body of light is in exactly the same form as the body was in the physical world. The Ruach puts it on and attunes itself to it, and that Lower Gan Eden is its regular dwelling place.

On every New Moon and Shabbat, the Ruach connects to its Neshama. It is elevated and is crowned in the highest of the upper worlds, as is written, "And it shall come to pass, that every New Moon, and every Shabbat, shall all flesh come to worship before me, says the L-rd." (Isaiah 6:23)

Perhaps this the basis of the custom to go to the gravesites of tzadikim particularly on the eve of New Moon and the eve of Shabbat, just as they are preparing to ascend to the higher worlds. It is also the reason why we do not go to the cemetery during those days themselves - there isn't anyone home!

[Zohar, p. 159a; translation and commentary by Simcha-Shmuel Treister]

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