Yehuda Ashlag

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Yehuda Ashlag (18861954) was a Kabbalist who lived in Jerusalem from 1922 until his death in 1954, who received the name Baal HaSulam (The Master of the Ladder) for his Sulam commentary on The Zohar. He advanced while writing the commentaries, and published his primary work, Talmud Eser Sefirot (The Study of the Ten Sefirot), which is considered the predominant Kabbalistic study text for our generation. He worked as an Orthodox rabbi, and was born in Warsaw, Poland, to a family of scholars connected to the Chassidic courts of Prosov and Belz.


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On Love for the Fellow Man

"When humanity will reach its goal, regarding the success of the bodies, namely they will reach the perfect level of love for one another, then all the bodies will unite to one body and one heart, and only then all the hoped for happiness at its highest peak, will be revealed to humanity" Source text: The Freedom

On Human Nature

"It is well known to researchers of nature that one cannot perform even the slightest movement without motivation, meaning without somehow benefiting oneself. When, for example, one moves one’s hand from the chair to the table it is because one thinks that by putting one’s hand on the table one will thus receive greater pleasure. If one would not think so, one would leave one's hand on the chair for the rest of one's life without moving it an inch, all the more so concerning greater efforts." Source text:The Peace

On Thoughts and Desires

"A thought is an upshot of the desire. When someone thinks about what he wants, he does not think of something undesirable. For example, a person never thinks about the day of his death. On the contrary, he will always contemplate his perpetuity, for this is his desire. Thus, one always thinks of what is desirable.

However, there is a specific function to the thought: it intensifies the desire. The desire is still; it does not have the strength to expand and take action. Yet, when one thinks and contemplates a matter, and the desire asks of the thought to provide some counsel and advice to carry out the desire, the desire thus grows, expands and performs its actual work.

It turns out that thought serves desire, and desire is the “self” of the person. Now, there is a great self, or a small self. A great self dominates the small selves. He who is a small self has no dominion whatsoever, and the advice is to magnify the self through the diligence of the thought on the desire, since it grows to the extent that one thinks of it." Source text: A Thought is an Upshot of the Desire


On Politics

"The duration of every political phase is just as long as it takes to unveil its shortcomings and evil. While discovering its defects, it makes way for a new phase, liberated from these failings. Thus, these impairments that appear in a situation and destroy it are the very forces of human evolution, as they raise humanity to a more corrected state.

In addition, the faults in the next phase bring humanity to a third and better state. Thus, persisting successively, these negative forces that appear in the situations are the reasons for the progress of humanity. Through them it climbs up the rungs of the ladder. They are reliable in performing their duty, which is to bring humankind to the last, most wanted state of evolution, purified of any ignominy and blemish." Source text: The Solution


On Human Development

"There is a positive force, meaning constructive, and a negative force, meaning negative and destructive. They create and complement the entire reality in general and particular through their harsh and perpetual war with one another. As we have said above, the negative force appears at the end of every political phase, elevating it to a better state, and thus the phases follow one another until they reach their ultimate perfection.

Let us take planet Earth as an example: first, it was but a ball of fog-like gas. Through the gravity inside it, it concentrated the atoms in it, over a period of time, into a closer circle. As a result, the ball of gas was turned into a liquid ball of fire.

Over eons of terrible wars between the two forces in Earth, the positive and the negative, the chilling force in it was finally triumphant over the force of liquid fire, and cooled a thin crust around the Earth and hardened there.

However, the planet had not yet grown still from the war between the forces, and after some time the liquid force of fire overpowered and erupted in a great noise from the bowels of the Earth, rising and shattering the cold hard crust to pieces, turning the planet into a liquid ball of fire once again. Then an era of new wars began until the cool force overpowered the force of fire once more, and a second crust was chilled around the ball, harder, thicker and more durable against the outbreak of the fluids from amidst the ball.

This time it lasted longer, but at last, the liquid forces overpowered once again and erupted from the bowels of the Earth, breaking the crust in pieces. Once more, everything was ruined and became a liquid ball.

Thus, the eons interchanged, and every time the cooling force was victorious, the crust it made was thicker. Finally, the positive forces overpowered the negative forces and they came into complete harmony: the liquids took their place in the abdomen of the Earth, and the cold crust became thick enough around them to enable the creation of organic life as it is today.

All organic bodies develop by the same order. From the moment they are planted to the end of the ripening, they undergo several hundred situations due to the two forces, the positive and the negative, and their war against each other, as described regarding the Earth. These wars yield the ripening of the fruit.

Every living thing begins also with a tiny drop of fluid, and through gradual development over several hundred phases by the power of the tug-of-war, finally reaches… …a great ox fitting for every labour, or a grown person fit for his tasks. However, there should be yet another difference between the ox and the human: today, the ox has already reached its ultimate phase of development. For us, however, the material force is yet insufficient to bring us to completion because of the contemplative power in us, which is thousands of time more valuable than the material force in us. Thus, for humans there is a new order of gradual development, unlike any other animal; it is the gradual development of human thought.

In addition, being a social creature, the individual development is not enough. Rather, one’s ultimate perfection depends on the development of all the members of society." Source text: The Solution


What is Corporeality?

"Anything that is perceived and sensed by the five senses, or which takes time and space, is called 'Corporeal.'" Source text: Talmud Eser Sefirot—Part 2, Table of Questions for the Meaning of Words, question #14

What is Spirituality?

"The term “Spirituality” as it is expressed in books of Kabbalah, means that it is devoid of any corporeal contingency, meaning time, space, imagination, and so on. Sometimes, this term indicates only the Ohr Elyon (lit. Upper Light) in the Kli (lit. Vessel), although a Kli is also completely spiritual in every way." Source text: Talmud Eser Sefirot—Part 2, Table of Questions for the Meaning of Words, question #66

On Shame with regard to Receiving

"It is much like a rich man, who takes a man from the market and feeds him and gives him gold and silver and all desirables every day. And each day he showers him with more gifts than the day before. Finally the rich man asks: Do tell me, have your wishes all been fulfilled? And the man from the market replies, not yet, for how pleasant and wonderful it would be if all those possessions and precious things came to me through my own work as they came to you, and I would not be receiving the charity of your hand. The rich man told him then: In this case, there has never been born a person who could satisfy your wishes.

It is a natural thing, because on the one hand he experiences great pleasure and he enjoys them more and more as the rich man showers them upon him, but on the other, it is hard for him to tolerate the shame at the excessive goodness that the rich bestows upon him. That is because there is a natural law that the receiver feels shame and impatience upon receiving free gifts from the giver out of compassion and pity. From here extends a second law, that never will anyone be able to satisfy the needs of his friend to the fullest, because ultimately he cannot give him the nature and the shape of self-possession, that only with it the desired perfection is attained." Source text: The Revelation of Godliness


On the Meaning of Life

"Indeed, if we set our hearts to answer but one very famous question, I am certain that all these questions and doubts will vanish from the horizon, and you will look unto their place to find them gone. This indignant question is a question that the whole world asks, namely, “What is the meaning of my life?” In other words, these numbered years of our life that cost us so heavily and the numerous pains and torments that we suffer for them, to complete them to the fullest, who is it that enjoys them? Even more precisely, to whom do I give delight?

It is indeed true that historians have grown weary contemplating it and particularly in our generation. No one even wishes to consider it. Yet the question stands as bitterly and as vehemently as ever. Sometimes it meets us uninvitingly, pecks at our mind and humiliates us to the ground before we find the famous ploy to flow mindlessly in the currents of life as yesterday." Source text: Introduction to Talmud Eser Sefirot, item 2


On Eternal Bestowal and Transient Reception

"Since the essence of the body is but a will to receive for itself, and all its manifestations and possessions are fulfillments of that corrupted will to receive, which had initially been created so as to be exterminated from the world in order to come to the complete third situation at the End of Correction, therefore making it transitory and mortal. It is, along with all its possessions, as a fleeting shadow, leaving nothing when it is gone.

And since the essence of the soul is but a will to bestow, and all its manifestations and possessions are fulfillments of that will to bestow, which already exists in the eternal first situation and in the future third situation, therefore it is immortal and irreplaceable. The soul, with all its manifestations is eternal and exists forever. Absence does not apply to them upon the departure of the body. On the contrary, the absence of the corrupted form of the body, greatly strengthens it, thus enabling it to rise to the Heavens. Thus we have clearly shown that the persistence in no way depends upon the concepts it has acquired, as philosophers claim, but its eternality is in its very essence, meaning in its will to bestow, which is its essence. And the concepts it acquires are its reward, not its essence." Source text: Introduction to the Book of Zohar, item 24


On Above Reason

"No mind of a creature can attain Him." Source text: Talmud Eser Sefirot—Part 1, Chapter 2, item 30

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