The Essential Kabbalah
Daniel C. Matt
· The opening chapter of Genesis appears to describe the
creation of the world, but it alludes to a more primal beginning ö the
emanation of the sefirot, their emergence from the Infinite, or Ein
Sof (literally "Endless")·
Ein Sof: God as Infinity:
Each of us emerges from Ein Sof and is included in it.
We live through its dissemination. It is the perpetuation of existence.
The fact that we sustain ourselves on vegetation and animal life does
not mean that we are nourished on something outside of it. This process
is like a revolving wheel, first descending, then ascending. It is all
one and the same, nothing is separate from it. Through life branches out
further and further, everything is joined to Ein Sof, included and abiding
Delve into this. Flashes of intuition will come and go,
and you will discover a secret here. If you are deserving, you will understand
the mystery of God on your own.
Anything visible, and anything that can be grasped by
thought, is bounded. Anything bounded is finite. Anything finite is not
undifferentiated. Conversely, the boundless is called Ein Sof, Infinite.
It is absolute undifferentiation in perfect, changeless oneness. Since
it is boundless, there is nothing outside of it. Since it transcends and
conceals itself, it is the essence of everything hidden and revealed.
Since it is concealed, it is the root of faith and the root of rebellion.
As it is written, "One who is righteous lives by his faith."
Emanating from Ein Sof are the ten sefirot [tree of life
diagram]. They constitute the process by which all things come into being
and pass away. They energize every existent thing that can be quantified.
Since all things come into being by means of the sefirot, they differ
from one another; yet they all derive from one root. Everything is from
Sin Sof; there is nothing outside of it. ·
· Ein Sof cannot be conceived, certainly not expressed,
though it is intimated in every thing, for there is nothing outside of
it. No letter, no name, no writing, no thing can confine it. The witness
testifying in writing that there is nothing outside of it is: "I
am that I am." Ein Sof has no will, no intention, no desire, no thought,
no speech, no action ö yet there is nothing outside of it.
YOUR FOREHEAD should not be tense at all but rather
always resemble the forehead of the Will, so that you soothe everyone.
Even if you come across angry people, soothe and calm them with your goodwill.
For the forehead of the Will constantly accepts and soothes the harsh
powers, reintegrating them. So should you soothe those overwhelmed by
anger. Induce them with goodwill, drawing on great wisdom to extinguish
their anger before it transgresses the boundary and causes damage, God
forbid. Model yourself on the Will, which emanates from the wondrous wisdom
in the forehead of the Ancient One, from where it soothes everything.
Derive the power to be genial with others. If your character is somewhat
harsh, people will not be soothed. This is why the Mishnah teaches: "If
the spirit of people delights in someone, so does the spirit of God."
YOUR EARS should always be tuned to hear the good,
while rumors and gossip should never be let in, according to the secret
of sublime listening. There, no harsh shouting enters, no tongue of evil
leaves a blemish. So listen only to positive, useful things, not to things
that provoke anger.
YOUR EYES should not gaze at anything disgraceful.
Rather, they should always be open to notice those who suffer, to be compassionate
toward them as much as possible. When you see a poor person suffering,
do not close your eyes in the slightest. On the contrary, keep him in
mind as much as you can; arouse compassion for him - from God and from
YOUR FACE should always be shining. Welcome each
person with a friendly countenance. For with regard to Keter Elyon, the
supernal crown, it is said: "In the light of the kingâs face is life."
No redness or harsh judgment gains entrance there. So, too, the light
of your face should never change; whoever looks at you will find only
joy and a friendly expression. Nothing should disturb you.
YOUR MOUTH should produce nothing but good. The
words you speak should be Torah and an expression of goodwill. Never generate
angry or ugly words, curses or nonsense. Let your mouth resemble the upper
mouth, which is never closed, never silent, never withholding the good.
Speak positively, always with benevolent words.
All of thee good qualities gather under the banner of
humility, each one constituting a limb in Keter above. When you wish to
draw near to the upper worlds, to resemble God, to open the fountains
to those beneath, you must become proficient in these chapters.
It is impossible, of course, to conduct yourself according
to these qualities constantly. Accustom yourself to them little by little.
The essential quality to attain, the key to them all, is humility, for
this is the very first aspect of Keter, under which all the rest are subsumed.
If you constantly strive to attain this quality, all the others follow
in its wake. For the first quality of Keter is that it considers itself
as nothing in the face of its emanator. So, too, you should consider yourself
as actually nothing. This will lead to the attainment of all the good
I have found an effective potion for the cure of pride.
This consists of training yourself to do two things. First, respect all
creatures, recognizing in them the sublime nature of the Creator, who
fashions human beings in wisdom and whose wisdom inheres in each created
thing. Second, train yourself to bring the love of your fellow human beings
into your heart, even the wicked, as if they were your brothers and sisters,
even more, until the love of all human beings is firm in your heart. Love
even the wicked, thinking: "I wish that they were righteous, turning
back to God, making themselves desirable to the Omnipresent." In
this way your heart will turn toward the good, and you will train yourself
to contemplate the carious good qualities.
HOW SHOULD you train yourself in the quality of
Supernal wisdom, though concealed and transcendent, spreads
over every single thing that exists. Concerning this, it is said: "How
manifold are your works, O God! In wisdom you have made them all."
So should your wisdom be accessible to all. Teach people what will be
useful to them, according to each oneâs capacity, pouring out to each
as much wisdom as you can. Donât let anything deter you.
Wisdom has two faces. The upper face turns toward Keter;
not gazing below, it receives from above. The second face, the lower one,
turns below to gaze at the sefirot, emanating its wisdom to them. You
too should have two facets. The first is your aloneness with God, to increase
and refine your wisdom. The second, to teach others some of the wisdom
that God has pored out upon you. As Wisdom emanates to each sefirah according
to its dimensions and need, so should you emanate to each person according
to the dimensions of his mind, whatever he can handle, what addresses
his needs. Be careful not to give more than the mind of the recipient
can hold, to prevent any mishap, just as the highest sefirah does not
exceed the limits of its recipient.
Let your compassion extend to all creatures, neither despising
nor destroying any of them. For Wisdom spreads over all created things:
mineral, vegetable, animal and human. Each was created in Wisdom. Do not
uproot anything that grows, unless it is necessary. Do not kill any living
creature, unless it is necessary.
HOW SHOULD you train yourself in the quality of
By returning to God. Nothing is more important, for this
corrects every flaw. As Binah, Understanding, sweetens all powers of judgment,
neutralizing their bitterness, so should you return to God and correct
each flaw. If you meditate on returning every day, you stimulate Binah
to illumine each day. In consequence all your days join in returning,
that is, you integrate yourself within Binah, who is called Returning.
Each day of your life is adorned with the mystery of supernal return.
Do not say that returning is good only for the holy portion
within you: the evil portion, too, is sweetened, in the manner of this
quality. Do not think that because you incline toward evil there is no
remedy. This is false. If you do well, rooting yourself in Returning,
you can ascend there through the goodness rooted there. For the root of
every supernal bitterness is sweet: you can enter through this root and
make yourself good. Thereby you transform the bad deeds themselves into
good; your intentional sins turn into merits. The misdeeds you committed
have been accusing you from the Left Side. Once you return completely,
you raise those deeds and root them above. Those accusers are not annihilated
but ameliorated, rooted in holiness.
HOW SHOULD you train yourself in the quality of
The basic way you enter the mystery of Hesed is by loving
God to the extreme, not abandoning devotion for any reason at all, since
nothing attracts you in the least, compared to loving God. So first attend
to the demands of your devotion; the remainder of your time is for whatever
else you need.
"Who is a hasid? One who acts in love toward
God." In expressing love to creatures here below, intend that you
are mending up above, after the same pattern. You thereby bestow love
Imagine that your are light:
Whatever one implants firmly in the mind becomes the essential
thing. So if you pray and offer a blessing to God, or if you wish your
intention to be true, imagine that you are light. All around you ö in
every corner and on every side ö is light. Turn to your right, and you
will find shining light; to your left, splendor, a radiant light. Between
them, up above, the light of the Presence. Surrounding that, the light
of life. Above it all. A crown of light ö crowning the aspirations of
thought, illumining the paths of imagination, spreading the radiance of
vision. This light is unfathomable and endless.
Thought reveals itself only through contemplating a little
without content, contemplating sheer spirit. The contemplation is imperfect:
you understand ö then you lose what you have understood. Like pondering
a thought: the light of that thought suddenly darkens, vanishes: then
it returns and shines ö and vanishes again. No one can understand the
content of that light. It is like the light that appears when water ripples
in a bowl: shining here, suddenly disappearing ö then reappearing somewhere
else. You think that you have grasped the light, when suddenly it escapes,
radiating elsewhere. You pursue it, hoping to catch it ö but you cannot.
Yet you cannot bring yourself to leave. You keep pursuing it.
It is the same with the beginning of emanation. As you
begin to contemplate it, it vanishes, then reappears; you understand ö
and it disappears. Even though you do not grasp it, do not despair. The
source is still emanating, spreading.
Whoever attains the mystery of cleaving to God will attain
the mystery of equanimity, and if one attains the mystery of equanimity,
one will attain the mystery of aloneness. Having attained the mystery
of aloneness, this person will attain the holy spirit. And from there,
prophecy, and he will prophesy the future.
As for the mystery of equanimity, Rabbi Avner told me
A lover of wisdom came to one who secluded himself in
meditation and asked to be accepted as one of them. The master of meditation
replied, "My son, may you be blessed from heaven, for your intention
is good. But let me know: Have you attained equanimity or not?"
He responded, "Master, clarify your words."
He explained, "My son, if one person honors you and another humiliates
you, are the two equal in your eyes or not?"
He answered, "By the life of your soul, my master! I do feel pleasure
and satisfaction from the one who honors me and pain from the one who
humiliates me ö but I am not vengeful nor do I bear a grudge."
The master said, "My son, go away in peace. For as long as you have
not attained equanimity and still feel humiliation from something done
to you, you are not ready for your thought to be linked on high. You are
not ready to come and seclude yourself in meditation. But go and humble
your heart further, genuinely, until you attain equanimity. Then you can
What are we?
The greater you are, the more you need to search for your
self. Your deep soul hides itself from consciousness. So you need to increase
aloneness, elevation of thinking, penetration of thought, liberation of
mind ö until finally your soul reveals itself to you, spangling a few
sparkles of her lights.
Then you find bliss, transcending all humiliations or
anything that happens, by attaining equanimity, by becoming one with everything
that happens, by reducing yourself so extremely that you nullify your
individual, imaginary form, that you nullify existence in the depth of
your self. "What are we?" Then you know every spark of truth,
every bolt of integrity flashing anywhere.
Then you gather everything, without hatred, jealousy,
or rivalry. The light of peace and a fierce boldness manifest in you.
The desire to act and work, the passion to create and to restore yourself,
the yearning or silence and for the inner shout of joy ö these all band
together in your spirit, and you become holy.
Ein Sof, Hebrew, Infinity
Ein Sof Literally, "there is no end," "Endless,"
Infinity. Ein Sof is the designation of the Absolute, God as infinite
being, beyond the specific qualities of the sefirot.
Sefirot: The stages of divine emanation, aspects of Godâs
I am that I am: The divine name revealed by God to Moses
in Exodus 3:14