R’ Ashlag’s “Introduction To The Zohar”: Ch. 42


            We’ve now explained the five worlds (of Adam Kadmon, Atzilut, Briah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah) that incorporate all of existence from the Infinite Himself to this world. We saw that they’re all interconnected and that each world contains five worlds — the five (cluster Sephirot of) Keter, Chochma, Binah, Tipheret, and Malchut, in which are engarbed in the five (supernal) lights of Nephesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya, and Yechidah, which correspond to those five worlds.

As we’ll see below, when something is said to “engarb” something else that means to say that the thing that’s overlaid serves and derives from the more exalted thing hovering over it. Thus we now learn that the Nephesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya, and Yechidah all derive from and serve Adam Kadmon, Atzilut, Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah. We’ll soon see the significance of this.


            Now, aside from the five (cluster) Sephirot of Keter, Chochma, Binah, Tipheret, and Malchut found in each and every world, the four spiritual grades of mineral, vegetable, animal, and verbal are found in each as well.

Like many of the ancients who were also concerned with the makeup of the spiritual realm and at a loss as to how to depict it, the Kabbalists likewise used commonplace material phenomena to explain the workings of the heavens. And so they came to use the mineral world as symbolic of inert, apparently lifeless and less evolved phenomena; the vegetable world as representative of more dynamic and evolved ones; the animal world as a step above all that; and humankind (known as the “verbals”, since our ability to enunciate and think is what is most outstanding about us) as the most perfected of all. And as we’ll soon see, they spoke of “clothing” to depict things that come into contact with a phenomenon that still-and-all don’t participate in their being; of “hallways” as emblematic of things that also surround a phenomenon, yet don’t approach it directly; and of palaces (not used in our text) as representative of far more distant surroundings that while vital nonetheless don’t come into direct contact with the phenomenon under discussion whatsoever.

In any event, the point here is that we’ve come to see just how conjoined our souls, the Sephirot and the supernal worlds are with each other (along with the letters of God’s Name). We’re about to start to explore how they all combine with the mitzvah-system by connecting that all with the four grades of being.

            For, the human soul corresponds to the verbal grade here, the animal grade corresponds to angels in this world, the vegetable grade corresponds to the world’s “clothing”, and the mineral grade corresponds to its “hallways”, and they’re all interwoven.

Parenthetically, one of the reasons why the animal grade is said to correspond to angels in this world, curiously enough, is because there’s a rather exalted class of angels that are termed “Chayot” which are usually translated as “Living Entities” (from “chaya”) but which could also indeed be translated as and thus taken to be “animals”, since they’re tantamount to brute creatures in relation to God’s Holy Presence which they serve (notwithstanding their exalted place in our own eyes).

The point is that we’re each part human, animal, and angel, and overlaid by fibrous pieces of “clothing” (i.e., bodies, personalities, etc.), and surrounded by all manner of inanimate extraneous hallway-like things (i.e., surroundings, belongings, etc.). And the lot of it is interconnected and interdependent.

Nonetheless …

            The verbal stage which corresponds to human souls is engarbed in the five Sephirot of Keter, Chochma, Binah, Tipheret, and Malchut here, which are this world’s Godliness. The animal stage, which is the world’s angels, engarbs human souls; the vegetative stage, which are its “clothes”, engarbs the angels; and the mineral stage, which are its “halls”, encircles them all. (Now, what) “engarbed” connotes is that the overlaid entity serves the thing hovering over it, and derives from it.

That’s to say that our spiritual-physical-situational self is viscerally intertwined with the Sephirot and higher worlds, and with Godliness itself. And while there’s a hierarchical relationship between them as we’ll soon see, at bottom, each member of our being supports the whole.


            But as we explained in regard to this world’s actual physical minerals, vegetables, animals, and verbals, the (first) three grades — mineral, vegetable, and animal — didn’t emerge for their own sake, but only so that the fourth grade, humankind, could derive and advance thanks to them. Hence, their whole raison d’être is to serve man and help him advance.

See Ch. 39.

            The same is true of all the spiritual worlds. Their mineral, vegetable, animal, and verbal beings likewise only emerged in order to serve them and help the verbals in that world, which (corresponds to) the soul of man, advance. That means to say that they all aid — (serve and) help advance — man’s soul.  

(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

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