R’ Ashlag’s “Introduction To The Zohar”: Ch. 15

1.

Now, when you reflect upon these three eras you discover that they’re fully and utterly interdependent; and so much so, that if one were to somehow not exist, the others couldn’t exist either.

To put it another way, it will be found, quite astonishingly, that if one of these eras in fact exists, then the two others must exist, too; for the three are the sole ingredients of the only dish there is. It thus follows then that if we who now experience the second era exist, then the first and third eras must exist, too.

2.

So if for example the third era — when the tsurah of receiving is overturned to one of bestowing — were not to come about, it would necessarily follow that the first era couldn’t have come about in the Infinite’s Being either.

We’d have expected Ashlag to begin with the first era, but he starts instead with the third one, because that’s the one we have to look forward to, and the one we’re to set our course by.

For all the perfection contained there (in the first era) only came about because it’s due to exist in the third one; so it was as if it already functioned (there, in the first era). In fact, all the perfection depicted in that (first) era is actually something of an image of the future one (projected) onto that (first) one. In any event, if the future (era) were to somehow be abolished, (the first one) couldn’t exist either. For, it’s only because the third era is to exist that the first one did.

3.

Now, that’s all the more so true if the second (i.e., the present) era were to be undone. For it’s the one in which we strive to achieve everything that will come to fruition in the third era; in which we do everything that (either) repairs or impairs (the spiritual order of things); and in which we continue (to hone) the (different) levels of (our) souls. After all, how would the third era ever come about (if this one were somehow undone)? So we see that the third era needs the second one (as well).

And the same is true of the first era, which is (already) in the Infinite and where the perfection found in the third era (already) functions. It must conform to that (same principle); it too must demonstrate the (existence of the) second era as well as the third one in all its perfection.

Let’s draw an analogy to families in order to understand all this as best we can. It goes without saying that were it not for my grandparents I wouldn’t exist; yet it’s also true that if I (or my siblings and cousins) weren’t born, my grandparents might as well not have existed for all intents and purposes; since they would have been nothing more than a breeze blowing past a minor character in an epic drama, for all intents and purposes, since they’d have only come and gone (unless they’d have done something momentous in their lives, and would thus at least have been a character in the drama).

In much the same way, it stands to reason that if the first era (in which everything is bundled and set for delivery) hadn’t existed, then neither the second (in which the package is to be toyed with, probed, and used), nor the third (in which everything that was bundled is to finally be delivered, no worse for wear) could have existed. But it also stands to reason that if the second or third eras themselves didn’t exist, that the first one might as well not have existed either since it didn’t produce anything of endurance.

And besides, while the first and third eras (which are mirror images of each other and sort of alter egos) are utterly indispensable in the grand scheme, they still and all depend on the second era. For it — the second era — is the flowering of the kernel that is the first, and the blossoming of the fruit that is the third. So without it, the first and third will have been fallow and bone-dry.

It’s vital to realize, though, that that’s not to say that God depends on us, as this might seem to imply — and that without our efforts in era two His “plans” in era one and their manifestation in era three would be doomed. It only means to say that His wishes for this world (and not He Himself) would have been stymied in a manner of speaking. But since the three eras are indeed utterly interdependent, and His plans and their manifestation are sure and inevitable, nothing we do or don’t do could affect that in the end.

4.

It also follows that the (existence of the) first era itself made it necessary for the two antithetical systems (i.e., the four worlds of holy-A.B.Y.A. and their counterpart, the four worlds of defiled-A.B.Y.A.) to exist in the second era, which then allows the body with its corrupt ratzon l’kabel to come about by means of the impure system (i.e., the four worlds of defiled-A.B.Y.A.).

For all that enables us to rectify it. In fact, if there hadn’t been a system of impure worlds, we wouldn’t have a ratzon l’kabel to rectify (in the first place) and to thus arrive at the third era, since one can’t repair something he doesn’t already have.

That is, were it not for the first and third eras, reality as we know it now, including ourselves, our overarching willingness to take-in without giving back, and the dilemmas of the spirit all that entails couldn’t come about either. And we couldn’t overcome all that and bask in triumph in the face of a hard-won battle as we inevitably will. For how dare crow in victory when you’d been handed the metal on the sneak?

5.

We needn’t ask, though, how the impure system could manage to exist (at all) in the first era (which is utterly Godly and antithetical to impurity). For it’s the very existence of the first era that allows for the (existence of the) impure system, and allows for it to be sustained in that form in the course of the second era.

Ashlag is now re-addressing the arcane question he’d touched on right before this of how evil could exist in God’s presence, which seems so contradictory (see Ch. 12). In short his answer is that evil only exists in the first era (albeit in an inchoate, latent state) because, again, it’s only thanks to the first era that the second one can exist; so if the first one didn’t contain that latent evil, we couldn’t experience it — and manage to overcome it — in the second.

(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

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