Thursday, May 23, 2013

Body and Soul – Present and Future

By Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto
Translated from Hebrew by Choni





Section One
Translator’s Note:
My childhood Jewish education left me with the impression that the Biblically promised resurrection, where those who lived will live again, was a kind of grand finale to humanity’s existence. From that point onward, everything greyed out into an eternally happy ever after. Reading a small, yet highly impactful, excerpt embedded in the midst of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto’s voluminous writings has brought me to realize that the resurrection is not intended to be a grand finale at all. Rather, it is just one of many phases in the midst of a whole relationship dynamic between the human body and the soul – extending millennia and beyond.
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (1707–1746) was a highly prolific writer in the areas of Jewish spiritual development, thought and Kabbalah. Based on this impactful excerpt, it really seems like the adage "a sage has an advantage over a prophet" applies to him; meaning that since logic is more readily available than prophecy, a sage can sometimes be more insightful than a prophet. In this excerpt, Rabbi Luzzatto seems to have articulated further into the future than any Biblical prophet. Though the excerpt is just a tiny selection from among his many writings which explain the timeline of humanity’s existence, in this passage his futuristic vision is uniquely breathtaking.
Throughout his writings, he presents a timeline divided into two general periods: work and reward. Each period has its own program.[1] During the period of work, human beings are given free will, which sets up a struggle between obedience and temptation. By overcoming temptation, humans earn their future attachment to the Creator.[2]  Following this era, comes the period of reward, which commences with messianic era, flows into the period of the resurrection and continues onward in a step by step progression with the body gradually losing itself in the soul – "folding into the soul". During this time period, freewill will be gradually phased out and the higher levels of divine attachment will be gradually phased in.
The excerpt outlines the whole process in five basic steps:
1)    Years 0 to 6,000 parallel the Bible’s six days of creation. During this 6,000 year period Adam and Eve descended from the Garden of Eden and human history, as we know it, began. This period continues onward through the various stages of the messianic era, which contains the era of resurrection as a later stage. During this period the body is totally in control and the soul is like a “guest”. As of this writing, we are in year 5,773 on this 6,000 year time frame.
2)    Years 6,000 to 7,000 parallel the seventh day of creation, the Shabbat (i.e. Sabbath). During this period, earth will be a “water world”. The saintly will be “water mobile” on devices, called “wings”. The human body will still be recognizably biological, but the soul will be in control, while the body will be like a “guest”. The spirituality of the soul will be sufficient to sustain the body and the saintly won’t need earthly means to exist.
3) Years 7,000 to 8,000 the world will exist in a renewed state – one not recognizable to us today. The body begins to fold into the soul, by losing its denser aspects.  (Although highly unlikely, there seems to be some minor support for claiming that Rabbi Luzzatto may have held that the resurrection occurs in this phase rather than in step one.[3])
4)    Years 8,000 to 9,000 the body continues to lose itself into the soul, by now losing its more refined aspects. All that remains of the body is a vestigial general root.
5)    Years 9,000 to 10,000 the vestigial root totally folds into the soul. The body is entirely absorbed into the soul and causes no further darkness for the soul. Unobstructed, she can now shine in her full capacity.


Section One Endnotes:


[1] The periods of work and reward is a subject explained extensively in Rabbi Luzzato’s works “The Way of God” and “The Knowing Heart”.
[2] Human beings are incapable of constantly receiving free handouts without feeling debilitating pangs of shame when facing their benefactor. A bigger gift will evoke even more intense the shame than a small one. Since there is no bigger gift than the soul’s attachment to the Creator, if given out for free, the pain of the shame is bound to undermine any pleasure received. Since the Creator is the ultimate of perfection, He wanted His gift to be perfect. Therefore, the Creator devised a means of earning this gift, so it can be received as perfectly as He intended. By earning the gift of attachment, any potential for shame would be erased – as it’s no longer a free handout. The system for earning this gift is a life lived according to the Torah. - see “The Way of God” pages 36 through 43 of the Feldheim edition 1999.
[3] In his book “The Way of God”, Rabbi Luzzatto seems to link the reunion of body and soul with the renewal of the world (which on this time line is 7,000 - 8,000) - see pages 52 and 53 of the Feldheim edition 1999. The Kabbalist Rabbi Menachem Kranz rejects this understanding and feels that Rabbi Luzzatto is communicating too generally here to definitively draw such an unconventional conclusion. 

Additionally, the translated excerpt here, seems to explicitly link the resurrection with stage one.






Section Two


The Translation:
When the body is in control the soul is lacking.[4] To the degree that the body is in control, the soul lacks the capacity to embrace some levels of spiritual light. In accordance with the degree that the body loses control, the soul embraces higher levels of light. Currently control is given over to the body, lowering the soul, a condition which allows humans to have an evil inclination.[5] After the period of free choice, the soul will ascend from this degraded state to dominate the body, purifying it level after level, until the body returns to a state of such great attachment to the soul that its imperfections will no longer be labeled or enumerated. The body will be totally folded into the soul, shining with her light, attached to its higher root.
This is a very high level, when considering that currently, in this world, the body is in control like a landlord, while the soul is like a mere sojourner to the area. Furthermore, the human body is capable of at least being spiritually attuned and not spiritually blocked. Currently, the body is spiritually blocked, like a beast. This state is rooted in the worlds that emerged after the vessels shattered.[6] The descent of the primordial kings, their shattering and ruination set the stage at the root level for destruction and ruination both in man and his deeds.[7]
However, when the body becomes spiritually attuned, it can attain purity and holiness, just like one eating Biblically sanctified foods [8]– regardless of the fact that it’s accomplished via the body, as the body is in control. This state is rooted in the spiritual level of individualistic points, which existed prior to the vessels shattering.[9] It’s the state of spiritual attunement that will exist at the time of the resurrection, when the divine name B”N will return to being S”G, as it was before the vessels shattered.[10] This is a tremendous spiritual purification for human bodies. However, the purification will remain bodily oriented because humans will still exist in our familiar earthly realm, as the renewal of the world won’t occur until after the seventh millennium.   
During the second stage in this process, the body starts to cede control. This does not mean that the body’s strengths will disappear, only that the body will be carried by the strength of the soul. In the previous stage, the soul behaved like a sojourner and the body like a permanent fixture in the land. This condition will be reversed. The soul will be in control and the body will be like a sojourner in the land. This resembles the situation of our Teacher Moses, peace be upon him, at the time when he ascended to paradise to receive the Torah. He didn’t forfeit his bodily strengths. He merely complied with “local custom”...[11] Similarly in the seventh millennium, when the world has not yet been renewed, there’s no need for the body to change its ingrained biology. The Holy One will make wings for the saintly and they will float over the waters. The holiness of the soul will be sufficient to sustain dense earthliness, allowing the saintly to forgo earthly provisions for sustenance – even though the world has not yet been renewed. This future stage is rooted in the bound world, where there’s a real vessel, capable of receiving spiritual lights.[12] That’s why on the earthly realm, there will be a real human body. However, the body will be carried by the power of spiritual lights which take over like a landlord, while the vessel/body becomes like a mere overnight lodger – reduced to a single vessel, containing all vessels suppressed within.[13]
Following this second stage is a third one, when the world is completely renewed.[14] Then the body will lose its ingrained nature and imperfections. Only the soul alone remains in control. In the world familiar to us, we can know and discern details. That’s why from the world of divine emanations and below, we can discern all the details on the tree of life.[15] However, from the seventh millennium onward we only know generalities and it’s impossible to know such realities as they truly are. We only know that the soul returns and ascends from her degraded state, while the body continually changes, losing its imperfections and is no longer in control. In continuity with the pattern of prior stages, mentioned earlier, the body must first lose its denser aspects and remains as if given a root in the world of the primordial man’s nose – which is only six alephs.[16] [17]This sums up the third stage that we just spoke of.
After this, there’s a fourth stage, where the body loses even its finest aspects. There remains only a generalized root, lacking in specific abilities – for “general and specific” is a consistently used standard of comparison. During this stage, it is as if the body is given a root in the world of the primordial man’s ear, which has only one hey.[18]
Following this, there’s a fifth stage, where the body loses even its generalized aspects which it possessed in the world of the primordial man’s ear – causing no further darkness to the soul at all. For it no longer has any control, but folds up into the soul, totally subservient to her.[19] The soul now shines with all her aspects in total perfection. It is as if given a root via the lights of the primordial man’s hair, which is not understood by us at all – for we cannot extend our comprehension to a place where any aspect of body is no longer rooted.[20]

~ “Sefer Da’at Elokim”, pages 33 & 34, part of a long footnote quoting Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto[21]



Section Two Endnotes:


[4] Being spiritual, the soul does not share in many of the body’s limitations. When the body is in control, it imposes it’s limitations on the soul – not allowing the soul full expression.
[5] This evens the playing field between the body and soul. Otherwise, the soul naturally has the advantage.
[6] The narrative of the “shattering of the primordial vessels” is long and involved. Briefly, Kabbalah teaches that everything in creation is comprised of a light and a vessel containing this light. The light is like a soul and the vessel is like a body. This soul and body relationship of light and vessel is a pattern that is continuous throughout creation – from the highest heights to the lowest depths. It is as true for the highest spiritual realm as it is for the lowest earthly of realm.
At a very early stage of creation, the formative building blocks (known as sefirot) of one of the highest spiritual of realms shattered. The name of this realm in Hebrew is “atzilut”. In English this realm is roughly translated as, “The world of emanation.”  The lights were too powerful for the vessels of this realm to take and they burst. The vessels couldn’t process these pure lights because they harboring elements that really belonged to lower realms, which contaminated them and compromised their purity.
From the shards of these vessels’ explosions, the lower realms were created. Now the elements that belonged to the lower realms were suitably placed. However, the event also caused some elements that really belonged in atzilut to settle in the lower realms. As the saying goes, “Too much baby was thrown out with the bathwater.”
These elements need to be elevated back to atzilut. Otherwise, their lack consigns atzilut to a state of disrepair. Their elevation is effected through human lives lived according to the guidance of the Torah. Until atzilut is restored, it cannot shine spiritual lights in a wholesome state. Spiritual lights which flow through can only reach the lower realms with lacks and/or distortions. Generally speaking, once atzilut is restored, the messiah arrives.
[7] Since there are distortions and/or lacks in the spiritual lights flowing through atzilut, human life is filled with imperfections which lead to temptations. This sets up the scenario for humans to have free choice and earn their eventual attachment to the Creator, without being shamed by free handouts of spiritual favors.
[8] Biblically sanctified foods mean foods that are imbued with a holiness that requires them to be eaten in special sanctified conditions. Examples of such foods would be portions of certain sacrifices that are offered at the Holy Temple or offerings of the first fruits.
[9] This is the restored world of atzilut in the higher realms, which is mirrored by the messianic era on the earthly realm. The spiritual level of individualistic points and the early stages of the messianic era are the same event seen from the viewpoint of two different levels of reality.
[10] B”N and S”G are two different versions of God’s four lettered name spelled in Hebrew yud-hey-vav-hey and known in English as the Tetragrammaton. Each of these four letters can be fully spelled out in their own right. The letter “yud” can be spelled “yud vav dalet” and the letter “hey” can be spelled out in one of three ways: “hey yud”, “hey hey” and “hey aleph”. The letter “vav” can be spelled “”vuv yud vav”, “vav aleph vav” or “vav vav”. B”N is the Tetragrammaton spelled out in a way that it numerically equals 52, “yud vav dalet – hey hey – vav vav – hey hey”. S”G is the Tetragrammaton spelled out in a way that it numerically equals 63, “yud vav dalet – hey yud – vav aleph vav - hey yud”. Before the vessels shattered, the name that later became B”N was first S”G. After the full restoration of atzilut the name B”N will once again become S”G.
[11] The Friedlander edition of “Sefer HaKelalim” inserts here that the opposite happened when Abraham was visited by three angels disguised as human guests. The angels behaved like earthly humans because they conformed to the “local custom”. It’s possible that the above version used in the translation skipped over this brief passage, possibly because it was deemed unnecessary for the purposes of annotating the work “Sefer Da’at Elokim”.
[12] The “bound world” is a realm of revelations radiating from primordial man’s mouth. It’s called “bound” because all the ten vessels for the ten divine lights (meaning, sefirot) are not yet well formed. As a result, they are not well differentiated. So the ten potential vessels are still jelled together as one vessel; hence, the term “bound”. This state is described as “ten lights in one vessel.”
[13] Because the vessels are not well differentiated, outward expression is limited and curtailed, i.e. suppressed. Whether in a relationship between “vessels and lights” or between “body and soul”, the one who communicates best will likely be the dominant party in the relationship. During the years 0 to 6,000, the body was the better communicator. So it dominated. During the years 6,000 to 7,000, the soul will be the better communicator. So it will dominate.
[14] This is the “new heavens” and “new earth” mentioned in Isaiah 65:17.
[15] By the tree of life he means channels which flow the lights of holiness from the highest spiritual realms downward through all intermediate spiritual realms and even further downward, finally manifesting in our physical realm.
[16] Primordial man is a realm even higher than the world of emanations or in Hebrew atzilut. As mentioned in a prior end note, the world of atzilut needs to be restored. Once restored, a messianic era follows where humanity receives lights and blessings from the restored atzilut. In future stages of this messianic era, even atzilut is transcended as a source of lights and blessings. During this future time, lights and blessings will start to stream in from a realm beyond atzilut, called, Primordial Man. As with all realms primordial man has many levels. The levels mentioned here in the excerpt, from lowest to highest, are called mouth, nose, ears and hair. Revelations from each of these levels occupy their own unique millennia.
 
[17] The flow of light from primordial man’s nose is an even higher revelation than the flow from his mouth. The mouth radiates a vessel to reach downward into the lower realms. The revelations from the nose are too elevated to even possess a vessel designed to bring about contact with lower realms. With its revelation of six alephs, the nose plays a supportive role towards building the vessels that later shattered. However, this support alone was insufficient to grant these vessels permanency.
[18] The streams of light from primordial man’s ears are even higher revelations than the streams from his nose – as the location of ears are higher up than nostrils. Whichever vessels received revelations from the each ear’s letter hey did not shatter. Unlike the other vessels, which shattered, they were granted permanency.
Notice that the ears transmit less letters than the nose. This is because higher up there’s more unity and less division.
[19] A noted Kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Schatz, shared with me that it’s possible to understand the “body totally folding into the soul” as the body and soul merging together and becoming a single entity. They become seamlessly one and the same, as a droplet that merged into a large puddle.
I asked Rabbi Schatz why Rabbi Luzzatto didn’t use terminology like “becoming one”. He explained that such language wouldn’t have worked for Rabbi Luzzatto’s written style of expression. However, that’s what he meant. Being in the western culture, he tried to express himself for his audience in the language of linear logic.
[20]  As a whole, the spiritual realms follow an anthropomorphic pattern. The upper realm is called primordial man because it’s the first step of the anthropomorphic pattern. Reaching above the head, the hair begins to edge outward beyond what can be anthropomorphically traced. Hence, there’s no model to grasp it with. This is why Rabbi Luzzatto is very reluctant to explain this level.
[21] The cited source for this excerpt is “Sefer HaKelalim”, Section 1, Part 9. I checked the Rabbi Chaim Friedlander’s edition of “Sefer HaKelalim”. There are several minor variations in language, but, nothing material. It should be noted that “Sefer HaKelalim” is a compilation of foundational writings culled from the vast sea of Rabbi Luzzatto’s literary output. As of this translation, I have not seen the authentic original. However, since the quotes come from good sources, I trust that they are reasonably verbatim.





Section Three
Afterword:
Rabbi Nissim Peretz of blessed memory [22] explained in a class I attended that each period is dominated by a spiritual flow from a different realm or world.  Generally speaking, the period of work is marked by spiritual lights flowing to us from the world of emanation via three lower worlds. These three lower worlds process the lights by downgrading their intensity to make them compatible with the needs of the physical world.  Following this phase is the period of reward, which is marked by spiritual lights flowing from an even higher realm, the world of primordial man. Within the primordial man are various levels mentioned in the above translation. In ascending order they are the bound world, the world of the primordial man’s nose, the world of the primordial man’s nose, the world of the primordial man’s ear and the lights of the primordial man’s hair.
The world of emanation has two phases a broken phase and a repaired phase. This realm broke during an event called the shattering of the vessels or the shattering of the primordial kings. As a result, the channels conveying spiritual lights into our realm are seriously compromised – leaving our realm in a partial spiritual darkness. This state allows humans free choice. Through choosing good deeds and kindness, the vessels or kings eventually become repaired and spiritual attunement returns. This is the repaired phase, which is referred to in the above translation as the spiritual level of individualistic points. During this phase the messiah arrives and sometime later on the resurrection occurs. This phase ends at the year 6,000 on the Jewish calendar (we are currently in 5773) and then feeds into the seventh millennium, revelations from the bound world – the world that’s entirely Shabbat.



Section Three Endnote:
[22] Rabbi Nissim Peretz o.b.m. was the late dean of Yeshivat Beth El in Bnei Braq. He was a devoted student of eminent Kabbalist Rabbi Mordechai Sharabi. In the summer of 2001, he came to Brooklyn, NY for a personal matter and discovered an “underground” of Torah scholars immersed in the study of Kabbalah. Realizing that they were grasping at advanced works before having been granted an introduction to the basics in an organized manner, Rabbi Nissim Peretz devoted that whole summer, three hours nightly for five nights a week, to properly introduce them to the fundamentals. It was in the context of these classes that I heard him make this statement.



~O~