A Glimpse of Radiance
The Book of Zohar is the most mysterious, and at the same time most significant book of Kabbalah. In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that The Book of Zohar, written 18 centuries ago, was made for our time. Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam) opened it to us and rekindled what has long been forgotten from our hearts.
The depth of the wisdom in The Book of Zohar is locked behind a thousand doors.
--Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), “Preface to the Book of Zohar”
Since the dawn of humanity, unique individuals climbed the spiritual ladder and achieved the highest level of bonding with the Upper Force, the Creator. We call those people “Kabbalists.”
Through this bonding, they came to understand that the whole of reality, from the highest spiritual worlds down to our world, is founded on love and bestowal. They realized that there is nothing in the world except for this Force, and that everything that happens in reality was made only to bring humanity to permanent existence with this sensation.
Kabbalists have searched and found the answers to every question they asked—the purpose of our lives, the structure of the world, and how we can determine our destiny. They wrote about what they discovered in books such as Raziel Hamalaach (The Angel Raziel), Sefer Yetzira (The Book of Creation), Etz Chaim (The Tree of Life), and others.
Of all the books, the most seminal, mysterious, and profound is The Book of Zohar (The Book of Radiance). Its author is the great Kabbalist Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai (Rashbi). The Book of Zohar describes the hidden system of the Upper Guidance. It depicts the worlds, the great powers that govern them, and how one who chooses to study Kabbalah affects his or her own fate and that of humanity.
The Zohar also explains how every event cascades from the Upper World to ours, and the dressings it acquires here. But what makes The Zohar unique is the fact that it was not written for its contemporaries; it was rather intended for a generation that would live two millennia later—our generation.
Removing the Covers
Our generation stands at the very threshold of redemption, if we only know how to spread the wisdom of the hidden in the masses.
--Baal HaSulam, “Messiah’s Horn”
The 20th century has brought unprecedented changes. These opened the door to a whole new phase, which the greatest Kabbalists have been describing for centuries in their writings. The greatest change of all is that in this century, Kabbalists state that studying Kabbalah is not only permitted, it is a must!
It is written in The Book of Zohar itself that the wisdom of Kabbalah would begin its spreading from the year 1840. The great 18th century Kabbalist, The Vilna Gaon (GRA), wrote in his book Kol HaTor (Voice of the Turtledove) that the process of the revelation of the Kabbalah would begin in 1990. In his book, Even Shlomo (Solomon’s Rock), Chapter 11, he even stated that redemption depends primarily on the study of Kabbalah.
The great Kabbalist, the Rav Kook, the first Chief Rabbi in the land of Israel (then called Palestine), explained that “the great spiritual questions that were once resolved only for the great and the excellent, must now be resolved to various degrees within the entire nation” (Eder HaYaker ve Ikvey HaTzon, p. 144).
But it was Baal HaSulam who turned the words of the Kabbalists from a vision to a tangible reality. He clearly saw that the time had come to allow everyone to study The Book of Zohar. He claimed that by studying The Zohar, the whole of humanity would rise and attain the spiritual world.
With this vision in mind, Baal HaSulam devoted himself to composing a comprehensive, accurate, and systematic interpretation of The Book of Zohar. His goal was to unveil the book to the public and make it suitable for the souls of our generation.
In the introduction to his commentary on The Zohar, he explained why he wrote it: “I have named the commentary HaSulam (the ladder) to indicate that the function of my commentary is as the function of any ladder. If you have an attic filled with abundance, you need only a ladder to climb it, and all the bounty in world will be in your hands.”
Accelerating the Spread of the Wisdom
All the Kabbalists dreamed of our generation, when all of humanity could discover the wondrous things they already had. They prayed that through reading the authentic sources they had left for us, we, too, would achieve bonding with the Upper Force, as did they. In his commentary on The Book of Zohar, Baal HaSulam threw us a rope, “a life buoy.” In doing so, he paved our way to a future of abundance and prosperity.
Baal HaSulam called upon us to give greater weight to engagement in the wisdom of Kabbalah, and accelerate the spreading of the wisdom. He knew that only the wisdom of Kabbalah could elevate the world to the spiritual realm and into the eternity that Kabbalists had been experiencing throughout the generations.
Webster’s Dictionary defines a generation as “a group of individuals born and living contemporaneously (at the same time).” In Kabbalah, however, a generation is a spiritual phase. According to great Kabbalists such as the Holy Ari, our generation—our spiritual phase—began in the 16th century.
The longer we wait with the spiritual ascension our generation is meant to achieve, the greater will be our discomfort. The spiritual realm, which determines what happens in our world, will increase its pressure on us until we decide to achieve this realm for ourselves.
In the words of the great Kabbalist Rabbi Avraham Azulai (in his introduction to the book, Ohr ha Chama (Light of the Sun)), “I have found it written that the above decree to not openly engage in the wisdom of truth was only for a time—until the end of the 1490. From then on … the sentence has been lifted, and permission was given to engage in The Book of Zohar. And from the year 1540 it is has become praiseworthy to engage in great numbers since it is by virtue of this the Messiah King will come, and not by another virtue. It is inappropriate to be negligent.”