With an Eye on Eternetiy - Chapter 2
With an Eye on Eternity
This Book in One Big Document
Just as the Master of the Universe with His infinite ability created physical entities which our eyes see, He also desired and created other creations superior to all these which our physical senses neither feel nor perceive. Just as He allotted those physical entities [which our senses are able to discern] a set of specific laws and limitations, so too He allotted to these superior beings a different set of properties which are most suited to their particular status and purpose. All this He has done according to the dictates of His wisdom. Those entities which are bound by a specific set of known limitations which comprise natural law and which possess characteristics which our senses are able to grasp are called physical [creations]. Those which are free of such constraints are called spiritual. The boundaries and laws of these spiritual creations were designed to fit and reflect their particular purpose, as we shall explain.
It should be noted that it is not just in the realm of the physical that there are various species, and depending upon the characteristics of any particular species, a discrete set of laws govern. The same is true of the spiritual entities. That is, [first] there are different kinds, although all of them belong to the category of the spiritual. [Second] in accordance with the various kinds which were created, there are diverse laws which apply to each kind. Nonetheless, a general rule runs through this whole category: their true reality and their properties are not comprehensible to us. [This is because of their intangible, metaphysical makeup. One must realize that the spiritual world is actually an invisible world.] We only know of their existence and something about them from the Torah. This knowledge has been passed down to us through our prophets and Sages of blessed memory through the Oral Law.
The varieties in this category are divided into three group:
One) Transcendental Forces,One) The Transcendental Forces are spiritual entities devoid of physical bodies, pure [referring to their essential substance which is far removed from those substances which make up our lower earthly world], and extremely superior to anything we know; they are truly closest to the Divine Presence of Hashem.2 Upon them He rests His spirit at all times, and they are called by specific names according to their level. Some examples are "The Wheels of the Throne" or ophanim and similar names.
Two) Angels, and
Two) The Angels are spiritual beings which were created to serve as the agents of the Creator in all that He wishes. Each one is appointed and assigned to a specific area by Divine Will. The angels fall into various hierarchical levels. Each level has its particular set of laws and limitations. These are based upon what best fits that level as programmed by Divine Wisdom.
The angels are all servants of Hashem and serve as the executors of His Will. All the things which happen in the world are discharged through them, both the good and the bad. From this perspective, they are divided into two groups: the group of good and the group of evil angels. Good angels are those appointed to produce positive benefits for the world; they bring about both physical and spiritual good. Evil angels are those charged with executing evil; they do so in both the physical and spiritual realm. Those appointed to "channel down" evil are also called "Angels of Harm" and mazikim [literally "damaging agents"].
Three) Souls are spiritual entities which are destined to enter into physical bodies and to be attached and fused with them in a major fusion. These souls are governed by individual laws which differ as a function of their status and the particular state in which they are found. By state we mean that souls pass through various states, for they have an existence outside of the human body and an existence within it.
Souls exist outside of the body in one of two kinds [of states]:
one) existence before they enter the body. [What we have been taught by the Oral Law of Torah which was passed down through the chain of our prophets and great sages is this: All souls were created during the six days of creation. This includes both the souls which have already entered the bodies of human beings and those too which await such entry throughout the period that the world will exist. The to-be-implanted souls are stored in a repository in the upper world where they reside in a particular sphere and state and await the time when they will be sent down to the lower world to be fused with a particular human body. There are various levels among all of these souls - some are greater than are others. Moreover, varying abilities and characteristics are assigned to the souls. This accounts for the broad range of difference found among men in the areas of their chosen endeavors, their intrinsic talents, and their varying degrees of intellect. Which soul is assigned to which body is dependent on many factors. Some of the factors involved are known to us and some are known only to Divine wisdom.]
two) existence after exiting the human body. [This refers to the state of the soul after death.]
In any given state, souls are bound by specific limitations and prone to varied and diverse occurrences which are most suitable for their immediate particular state.
Still another category of created beings exists which lies in between the physical and spiritual. It possesses only some of the limitations of the physical world and its matter. The name of this variety is demons (sheidim).
They possess some of the properties of corporeal bodies but are not exactly like our corporeality. They also possess some characteristics of the spiritual world but also are not identical to those belonging to the world of spiritual beings. This category, too, includes various levels and varieties; the laws and limitation which govern them are based on their particular status.
[Some readers who lack a rich Torah background may find it difficult to accept the notion that such spiritual beings share our world, and they may be tempted to classify it as "old wives-tales" or fairyland stuff. But, hear this: There is an abundance of incontrovertible proof affirmed by men of scientific statue and others belonging to other intellectual disciplines that spiritual beings do exist in our world. The annals of the Royal British Psychic Society, for one, (among thousands of other prestigious and reliable published findings) bulge with documented cases which substantiate the existence of such destructive beings as poltergeists and all sorts of other spiritual entities. People whose knowledge of the origin and nature of the real world stems from Torah do not require such proofs. For them, the Torah, which describes the existence of such creatures, is sufficient; the Torah constitutes the Creator's own signed blueprint of the world and requires no additional backup. Only those who as yet are distant from the broad expanse and depths of Torah require the crutch of scientific opinion to delimit their beliefs. While our Torah fully respects the wisdom of pure, unbiased, scientific knowledge, that acceptance holds true only when we are dealing with tangible areas of the physical world. Opinions in these areas carry considerable weight in halacha (Jewish law). However, when it concerns such issues as the meaning of life, knowledge which relates to the intangible spiritual realms of the universe, the essence of man and his soul, or a philosophy of life and a system of ethics or morality, here scientific opinion carries little "clout." In these areas a scientist may speak more foolishly and illogically than do simple laymen, provided the laymen's thinking is based on healthy common sense. The reason for the paradoxical gap between the scientific community's thinking and the lay community's thinking - at least that portion of it which seeks some overall meaning in life and seeks the true purpose of life - stems from a most common human frailty, the tendency of the heart to manipulate and twist the mind to suit the drives and desires of the flesh. Why the scientist who is endowed with a fine mind suffers from this weakness more than does the layman requires a lengthy explanation. We will deal with that question in a future volume of Torah concepts, (b'ezras Hashem).]
There is nothing here in our lower world - whether a fixed entity or passing phenomenon - which does not have some type of corresponding factor in the upper world among the Transcendental Forces. Similarly, there is nothing here in our lower world over which there are not appointed agents who belong to the category of the angels. These angels administrate and modify matters and events according to the Decree of the Master of the Universe. What these Higher Entities accomplish in the lower physical world is called Influence. All Influences which originate in the Higher Entities and focus upon the needs of the lower world pass through the stars. Consequently, the stars are the closest source of influence on the lower world. However, all influences passing through the stars are limited to that which was transmitted to them from above.
The Master of the Universe gave to all of these spiritual entities the license to act and affect various segments of our lower physical world. Their influence is not constrained by natural law and is activated by specific and known means in our lower world. These specific means were provided and designated by the Creator to serve as causes for such effects. (This will be explained in the coming paragraphs.)
Not one of these spiritual forces has the power to do all that it might wish to do. Each one is subject to limitation and boundaries. It is only within the framework of the constraints and limitations and solely through those particular, assigned means that the spiritual forces can carry out the tasks which are delegated to them.
In the realm of upper world influences [of utilizing or tapping the functions of these spiritual forces] some means are open to us and some are forbidden to us. These options are defined within the Sefer Yetzirah ["The Book of Formation," which is a permissible area] and the use of sorcery [which belongs to the forbidden, (maaseh keshafim)].
[The RamChal focuses here on the unconventional option of "utilizing or tapping the spiritual forces of the upper world" and notes that these can be used to serve us either by permitted or forbidden means. What the RamChal intends by this is that these spiritual forces can also be used in an extraordinary and irregular fashion. That is, the normal and conventional way to invoke the spiritual forces is through the performance of the Torah and mitzvohs or the violation of the Torah and mitzvohs. Such a positive or negative approach is part of a structure, ongoing, lifelong process which produces a continuous flow of good or bad consequences. However, the spiritual forces can also be invoked in extraordinary and irregular ways.
The irregular way to influence these forces of the upper world in a "blitz" fashion and to produce an immediate and radical result would be by utilizing the Sefer Yetzirah or sorcery. This, of course, is not the conventional and desired course which the Creator has chosen for the average man to use. The recourse to the Sefer Yetzirah is a prerogative reserved for the great and holy men of stature to use in unusual and extenuating circumstances. Great and holy men may resort to these extraordinary means in emergencies to help an individual or group. On the prohibited side, too, is the option of the roshoh, the base man, to utilize sorcery for personal benefit or to unleash evil consequences upon others. Man is equally free to attain potent results in the world by either enlisting the entity of holiness and purity or by enlisting the forces of evil and pollution. The "equal opportunity" follows from the creator's open-ended design of His world. Man can choose to affect his own life and that of the world as a whole through the use of the forces of evil or holiness.
No one can successfully enter the inner chambers of Torah knowledge without first reaching a level of special greatness. That special greatness is shown by the mastery of the conventional, revealed realm of Torah (niglah) which makes one worthy of acquiring the wisdom of kabbalah. Then he must personally be taught this knowledge by a great Torah scholar, one to whom the knowledge was passed down by another living link in the chain of gedolim of previous generations. The chain can be traced back, link by link, to Moshe Rabeinu. It is both ludicrous and dangerous to study kabbalah without first (a) becoming a statured talmid chochom in every area of revealed Torah knowledge and (b) acquiring the qualities which identify the refined and those of perfected character of the highest order. Ludicrous because it is comparable to a man who is prepared to spend years calculating the number of stars in the heavens - to enrich his knowledge of the universe - but (in his own perimeter) he is so ignorant that he has no idea how many teeth make up a set in an adult's mouth. Dangerous because studying kabbalah is like studying a coded book. By mistakenly thinking he has "broken the code," one draws from this study both false assumptions and conclusions. He will attribute to our Torah, concepts, ideas, and theories which are totally foreign to the Torah and which contradict true Torah teachings.
The unprepared man also steps with the muddy boots of unrefined character and minimal Torah knowledge into the holy of holies. People such as this are ejected very quickly. The swift boot down from the heights of the Holy Mountain to the valley below can shatter the frail skeletal structure of whatever Torah accomplishment has been achieved - and leave a spiritual cripple lying at the foot of the Mountain. Such outcomes we see quite frequently in the case of impatient baalei teshuvah who have barely licked the spoon of basic Torah study and go on immediately to kabbalah to do "their own thing" because they either lack or simply reject the proper guidance in their studies.
Those so-called "scholars" who go ahead and teach kabbalah to a baal teshuvah, not withstanding his raw state, are about as reliable and authoritative in regard to their mastery of kabbalah as the average Chinese laundryman is in regard to his qualifications for teaching the Sefer Yetzirah.]
2 The term Hashem is used to denote G-d. It literally means "The Name," referring to that specific name which we do not wish to use freely because of its sacredness and holiness - G-d's name. Therefore, we use the term "The Name" which is understood to be a substituted for that unique and one-of-a-kind name that requires special treatment and deliberation before use in its proper form.
This Book in One Big Document
The Kest-Lebovits Jewish Heritage and Roots Library
and is distributed by Feldheim Publishers
© 1994 Rabbi Yehudah Lebovits
Ohr Somayach Institutions is an international network of Yeshivot and outreach centers, with branches in North America, Europe, South Africa and South America. The Central Campus in Jerusalem provides a full range of educational services for over 685 full-time students. The Jewish Learning Exchange (JLE) of Ohr Somayach offers summer and winter programs in Israel that attract hundreds of university students from around the world for 3 to 8 weeks of study and touring.
Ohr Somayach International. Send comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org