R’ Ashlag’s “Introduction To The Zohar”: Ch. 21

1.

Now, don’t be led astray by the opinion of those philosopher who state that we’re essentially comprised of our reason; that our beings only exist and expand by dint of our ability to conceive of things; that our (continued) existence and after-life depend solely on the caliber of the concepts we’d acquired; and that if we don’t conceive of things, we won’t survive after death [1]. For that’s (simply untrue and) not a Torah perspective! And besides, it’s counter-intuitive; for as anyone who has ever tried to garner knowledge knows and senses, reason is something acquired rather than the acquirer himself.

This will be resolved in Ch. 24 below.

2.

As we explained, the essential makeup of both spiritual and material phenomena is nothing other than the ratzon l’kabel. And while we pointed out that our essences are (likewise) comprised of a full ratzon l’hashpia, that only comes into play after (a series of) reparations brought on by the “reverting light” that is granted it from the upper worlds from which it comes to us, as is discussed clearly in (Ashlag’s own) Peticha L’Chochmat HaKaballah (Ch’s 14-16, 19).

This last item is a rather arcane one, but suffice it to say that at one point in the creation process, the Celestial Light that shone downward upon creation came against a numinous screen which resisted it and forced it backward. The Celestial Light suddenly began to function as “Reverting Light”, and to act as a receiver rather than an imparter so as to allow for the creation of the ratzon l’kabel. But the entire process will be reversed, as Ashlag indicates, through a series of reparations, which will then lead to the emergence of the third era.

The point is that our essential makeup is our ratzon l’kabel as well (as a ratzon l’hashpia), which you’ll understand by seeing (what’s written) there.

3.

Indeed, the only thing that distinguishes one being (i.e., person or thing) from another is its will. For each being’s will determines what it needs, which then elicits the sort of thoughts and plans it would need to have and make in order to fulfill the needs its ratzon l’kabel demands (in the first place). For just as we each have different wills (i.e., each one of us has a distinctive ratzon l’kabel), we likewise have different needs, thoughts, and plans.

There are a number of points to be made at this important juncture. First that not only do their wills differentiate beings — their type of wills does, too. For while human beings have free wills, other beings have fixed wills. (Human free-will is the ideal in fact, it’s relative to person and circumstance, and it’s actually quite rare; but it’s nonetheless assured of to all fully functioning people. It’s rare because few of us act out on it, as most people are so overwhelmed by influences that they couldn’t truly be called “free” so much as free-enough to choose to be free. But that’s all beside the point.) In any event, what sets one free-willed human being apart from the others and fixed-willed beings apart from others is what he, she, or it wills.

But whatever your will, it’s always a will for things that will serve your own purposes, a ratzon l’kabel.

When humans will something, they set out to fulfill it (either consciously, or by dint of influence, pressure, etc.) by first considering what they’d need in order to do that, by then planning and setting out to get those things, and by acting upon those things so as to have their will fulfilled. When non-humans will something they likewise plan and set out to get those things, and they also act upon them. But the variances are boundless, needless to say.

As we’ll see in the next section, though, free-willed human beings invariably want things of a different caliber, which them sets them apart on whole other levels.

Let’s address one other esoteric detail about the above. This statement is actually a plain-worded delineation of the Kabbalistic system, in that our will corresponds to the highest, most sublime Sephira of Keter; all the thinking and planning we do to fulfill that will corresponds to the “superior” (rosh, in Hebrew) Sephirot of Chochma and Binah; and all we do to act out on all that corresponds to the “interior” (toch) Sephirot that follow them (Chessed, Gevurah, etc.). And it’s all in keeping with the statement in the Zohar that “everything in the world depends on will” (2, 162b).

4.

That’s why, for example, people whose ratzon l’kabel is rooted in animalistic desires alone only need, think about, and plan things that would satisfy those sorts of animalistic desires. For even though they’d be using their minds and reason just as (other) humans do, since it’s “satisfying enough for the servant to be like his master” (see Berachot 58B), (i.e., since they’re satisfied enough identifying themselves with), their animalistic reasoning, and with their minds being enslaved to and serving their animalistic will.

(It’s also why) those whose ratzon l’kabel are preoccupied by “human” desires for the most part — desires that aren’t found in animals, like desires for respect, or for power over others — channel the great majority of their needs, thoughts, and plans on satisfying those desires as much as possible.

(It’s also why) those whose desires are mainly for (more transcendent and lofty things like) knowledge channel the great majority of their needs, thoughts, and plans into satisfying those sorts of desires as much as possible.

Since everyone (and everything) is ratzon l’kabel– and pleasure-driven, and seeing too that some of us are rather body-oriented, others more ego-oriented, and others yet more ideal-oriented, Ashlag now delves a bit into the whole notion of how people respond to drives.

His contention is that … regardless of what drives us: physical delights, ego-satisfactions, or more metaphysical sorts of pleasures, like grasping deep and recondite concepts or experiencing sublime emotions … it all comes down to what we focus on. For while people driven by physical delights focus all of their resources on satisfying those sorts of urges (and are only too willing to subject themselves to that “master’s” whims), those driven by the need to satisfy their egos, and those driven by more transcendent and lofty urges focus all of their resources on satisfying those urges. Again, the point is that we’re each driven by a ratzon l’kabel regardless of how we express it. So no one can be criticized for his egocentricity, which is universal, so much as for his choices. But as we’d learned, there’s also the option to act out of a ratzon l’kabel al m’nat l’hashpia.

Notes:

[1] See Maimonides’ “Guide for the Perplexed” 1:1, 18, 41, etc.

(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

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