Now, this “point in the heart” doesn’t become manifest before age 13, only afterwards, (and only) when you begin to engage in Torah (study) and (the observance of) mitzvot.
That is, though we’re each born with this most basic albeit hindmost part of a soul, it still and all only hovers in the background until we become 13 and grow to be responsible for mitzvah-observance. And it only truly comes into its own and becomes manifest when we do in fact engage in mitzvah-observance and Torah study. We’re taught however that all of us are mitzvah-observant to some degree or another (see Berachot 57A), so this last point shouldn’t be seen as discouraging those of us who don’t observe the mitzvah-system outright so much as reassurance that we each play a role in it all.
It does though begin to develop and to display itself outright even if you do so (i.e., engage in mitzvah-observance) without (lofty) intentions, which is to say, without the sort of love and fear (of God) that’s only warranted of one who serves a king; and even (if you engage in them) less than altruistically.
We’re said to serve God outright and to be near-at-hand to Him when we engage in His mitzvot and study His Torah. The realization of that should strike us deeply with either a sense of reverence or of love (or both), and should encourage us to do our best at it and to fulfill it in as high-minded a manner as we can. The point in our heart still and all manifests itself even if we engage in mitzvot in rather humdrum, even self-serving ways.
For (in point of fact, we’re taught that) mitzvot needn’t be fulfilled with any intentions, for even random (mitzvah-related) acts are qualified to purify your ratzon l’kabel — but only to the lowest degree, i.e., (on the) mineral (level).
That’s to say that if we do though engage in mitzvot perfunctorily or with an agenda of our own (either for reward, or for recognition and the like), our ratzon l’kabel will be purified indeed, but only to a minimum, mineral-level degree.
Now, the extent to which you purify the mineral part of your ratzon l’kabel is the very extent to which you build-up the 613 parts of the point in your heart, which is the mineral (aspect) of your nephesh.
We begin to purify the mineral, lowest, most demanding aspect of ourselves that only wants to take-in by first honestly taking note of it in our being, and by engaging in mitzvot, whose aim is to foster bestowance. (We’ll explain the 613 parts of our soul shortly.)
And when you fulfill all 613 mitzvot on a tangible level…
Since that can only actually be carried out by the entire Jewish Nation in the course of history in fact — seeing as some mitzvot can only be fulfilled by Cohanim or Leviim, for example, others can only be fulfilled while the Holy Temple is operational, etc., — Ashlag’s implying that once you play your part in the fulfillment of all 613 mitzvot, then…
… you (begin to) perfect the 613 organs of the point in your heart, which is the mineral (aspect) of your nephesh.
Since its 248 spiritual-organs are bolstered by fulfilling the 248 imperatives, and its 365 spiritual-tendons are bolstered by avoiding the 365 prohibitions, and it becomes a complete partzuf of a holy nephesh. Then the soul ascends upward and engarbs the sephirah of Malchut in the spiritual world of Asiyah.
There are 613 mitzvot in all (and 613 parts of our soul, as we indicated): 248 “imperatives” — things we’re obliged to do, like be honest for example, observe the Shabbat, etc.; and 365 “prohibitions” — things we’re obliged to avoid doing, like eating un-kosher foods, stealing, etc.
When we do our part as members of the Jewish Nation to fulfill all 248 imperatives we bolster the 248 “spiritual-organs” of our mineral soul; and when we do what we can to avoid the 365 prohibitions we bolster the 365 “spiritual-tendons” of our mineral soul, and thus bolster all 613 of its parts (see 45:2 for another insight into these 613 spiritual-organs).
We then cultivate a complete spiritual system known as a “partzuf” (literally, “face”, but perhaps best conceived of as an entire and integrated organism with a face or “presence” of its own). While it’s indeed a partsuf and thus significant, it’s nonetheless a partsuf of the lowest order in that it’s attached to the lowest level of the soul, lowest grade of being (mineral), lowest sephirah (Malchut), and the lowest spiritual world (Asiyah), since it’s rooted in our only beginning to purify the lowest aspect of our ratzon l’kabel.
All the various spiritual aspects of mineral-ness, vegetable-ness, and animal-ness found in that world, which correspond to the sephirah of Malchut of Asiyah, serve and aid the partsuf of the human-level nephesh there.
Up to this point, your having done your part to fulfill mitzvot with the full thrust of your mineral-ness, vegetable-ness, and animal-ness will have solidified your soul and enabled it to attain a portion of the human level of Asiyah (the lowest world). Your portion in it is dependent on something, though. For…
That’s only to the extent that the soul had trained them (i.e., the aspects of mineral-ness, vegetable-ness, and animal-ness in your being). For all insights (you’d have given them) nourish (the soul) spiritually and give it the wherewithal to grow and mature enough to draw down the light of the sephirah of Malchut of Asiyah well enough to enlighten your body. And that full light then helps you in your Torah and mitzvot efforts and enables you to reach (even) higher levels.
That’s to say that your soul-advancement all depends on how much you’d wizened and enlightened your inner mineral-ness, vegetable-ness, and animal-ness as to what matters in this world and what doesn’t.
For if you’d struggled to concentrate on your relationship to God, and thus used your innate mineral-ness, vegetable-ness, and animal-ness to serve that end, then your observance and your very being will grow to greater and greater heights.
Now, as we indicated, a point of the light of nephesh comes upon and is engarbed in you as soon as you’re born. The same is true in this instance as well, for as soon as a holy partzuf of nephesh comes upon you, a point from a higher level is produced along with it, which is to say that the last degree of the light of a Ruach of Asiyah …
… which is a level up from the nephesh of Asiyah …
… then engarbs itself in the inner recesses of the partzuf of nephesh.
And you ascend accordingly.
And so it is with each level. Each one that comes about is automatically accompanied by the lowest degree of the next higher one, since that’s (the import of) the connection between the higher and lower (worlds), all the way through to the highest levels. That’s how this point itself is able to rise to the next level thanks to (the input of) the one above it.
The gist of the matter is that all worlds are inter-linked; you need only take hold of one from the bottom and you’re then able to climb higher and higher, as this instance illustrates.
(c) 2012 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman
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Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has also translated and commented upon “The Path of the Just” and “The Duties of the Heart” (Jason Aronson Publishers).