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ZOHAR, 
THE BOOK OF SPLENDOR

GERSHOM SCHOLEM

THE HIDDEN MEANING OF THE TORAH

Rabbi Simeon said: If a man looks upon the Torah as merely a book presenting narratives and everyday matters, alas for him! Such a torah, one treating with everyday concerns, and indeed a more excellent one, we too, even we, could compile. More than that, in the possession of the rulers of the world there are books of even greater merit, and these we could emulate if we wished to compile some such torah. But the Torah, in all of its Words, holds supernal truths and sublime secrets.

See how precisely balanced are the upper and the lower Worlds. Israel here below is balanced by the Angels on high, concerning whom it stands written: “who makest thy Angels into wind” {Ps. 104:4}. For when the Angels descend to earth they don earthly garments, else they could neither abide in the world, nor could it bear to have them. But if this is so with the Angels, then how much more so it must be with the Torah: the Torah it was that created the Angels and created all the worlds and through Torah are all sustained. The world could not endure the Torah if she had not garbed herself in garments of this world.

Thus the tales related in the Torah are simply her outer garments, and woe to the man who regards that outer garb as the Torah itself, for such a man will be deprived of portion in the next World. Thus, David said: “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy Law” {Ps. 119:18}, that is to say, the things that are underneath. See now. The most visible part of a man are the clothes that he has on, and they who lack understanding, when they look at the man, are apt not to see more in him than these clothes. In reality, however, it is the body of the man that constitutes the pride of his clothes, and his soul constitutes the pride of his body.

So it is with the Torah. Its narrations which relate to things of the world constitute the garments which clothe the body of the Torah; and that body is composed of the Torah’s precepts, Gufey-Torah {bodies, major principles}. People without understanding see only the narrations, the garment; those somewhat more penetrating see also the body. But the truly wise, those who serve the most high King and stood on mount Sinai, pierce all the way through to the soul, to the true Torah which is the root principle of all. These same will in the future be vouchsafed to penetrate to the very  soul of the soul of the Torah.

 

See now how it is like this in the highest World, with garment, body, soul, and super-soul. The outer garments are the heavens and all therein, the body is the Community of Israel and it is the recipient of the soul, that is “the Glory of Israel”; and the soul of the soul is the Ancient Holy One. All of these are conjoined one within the other.

Woe to the sinners who look upon the Torah as simply tales pertaining to things of the world, seeing thus only the outer garment. But the righteous whose gaze penetrates to the very Torah, happy are they. Just as wine must be in a jar to keep, so the Torah must be contained in an outer garment. That garment is made up of the tales and stories; but we, we are bound to penetrate beyond.

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