“AWAKE AND SING” by HaHalban (Rabbi Chaim HaKohen z"l)

One of the great Kabbalists and Torah educators of our time Rabbi Chaim HaCohen, known as the "Halban" passed away this week The following is a translation of a chapter in one of his books. In memoriam.

Tzvi Fishman, | updated: 07:24

Judaism החלבן ז"ל
החלבן ז"ל
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One of the great Torah educators and renowned Kaballists of our time, Rabbi Chaim HaCohen Prachia, known as the "Halban" passed away this week On several occasions I asked his students for permission to translate some of his many books into English, but I didn't merit the privilege. To my knowledge, no book has been translated to date. The following rare translation is a chapter I submitted as a writing sample. May his memory be for a blessing. 

 
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TWO ASPECTS OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE

According to the secrets of Torah, the world of every Jew is divided into two aspects – the external and the inner. The external aspect includes all facets of his personal life - what he knows about himself from the time of his birth until the present. This picture of himself gives him a sense of overall identity and independent being, and causes him to focus his service of G-d on his own perfection.

In contrast, the inner aspect is his point of connection and attachment to the Shechinah (Divine Presence), which is the all-encompassing, collective body of souls of Am Yisrael (the Nation of Israel), past, present, and future. This means that all of the Jewish People are united in one, complete body, whereby every individual Jew is like a cell of this overall organism, a spark within a great bonfire, or like a drop of water in a vast sea. In this perspective, a man doesn’t have an independent identity and existence. Rather, he is like a cell or an organ in the body. In the same way that the entire purpose and activity of the cell is directed to the welfare of the body, and not towards itself, so too, the inner purpose and activity of every member of the Israelite Nation is for the welfare of Clal Yisrael, the Nation as a whole, and not for his own, personal existence.1

In the ideal situation, the external aspect of a Jew’s life should be like a garment to his inner essence, so that every individual Israelite reveals, in his private life, the great light which shines in the overall Nation, the light of the Shechinah, which is the secret of the soul of Am Yisrael.

And while the external aspect is much more prominent and obvious to the eye, in truth, the inner aspect is the principle essence and identity of a Jew, even if it be invisible and hidden within him. For, in reality, the hidden is always the main aspect, as is known to those who study the secrets of Torah. Who of us is greater than our G-d, May His Name Be Praised, and He is the Most Hidden, the Most Secret, the Most Unfathomable, hidden from all eyes, and He is certainly the Essence and Source of all worlds.א    

A man’s task in this world is to fight against the illusions to which the majority of men cling, against the fanfare and glitter which mesmerizes his eyes and heart, persuading him that the physical world which he sees all around him is the true and ultimate reality. Rather, he is to fortify himself and attach himself, in the depths of his heart, to the voice of his soul, and to the hidden, inner realm within him, in order to make it, the inner realm, the main aspect of his life. This matter should be obvious to all. ב

א  See, “Leshem,” Shavo V’Achlama, Hakdamot V’Shaarim, 7,1,3. 

ב  See, “Orot HaKodesh,” Vol 2, Pg. 307 and following.

Thus, a man’s essence is his hidden, inner aspect, which is his portion in the Shechinah, and not his private, external personality and life. This resembles the metaphor we mentioned, wherein every cell of the body has a life of its own, and also a value and purpose in relation to the body as a whole. This is true for every Jew. He has a sense of self, as a separate, independent being, and also a deeper essence, which is a spark of the light of the Shechinah, a cell and organ of the great body of Clal Yisrael, the entire Nation of Israel. 


THE SECRET OF THE EXILE

The Exile (Galut) of the People of Israel from their Land, in its inner meaning, is death, as set forth in the Prophet Yehezkiel’s vision of the “Dry Bones,” where the Galut is described as a graveyard. Concerning our state in Exile, the Sages state: “Zion (the Nation of Israel) is compared to a corpse, as it says, ‘I set you in dark places, like the dead of the world’”2 (Midrash Eicha Zuta, 1:16). Death involves the decomposition of the entire body into scattered pieces. Regarding Clal Yisrael, it means that only the external side of our life remains, which is the private, individual side of our lives, for in Exile, we are no longer one body, but rather broken organs; cells scattered and separated, one from the other, to the four corners of the globe. In the “Likutei HaGra,” at the end of “Safra D’Tzniuta,” the Gaon of Vilna states: 

“Since the Temple was destroyed, our spirit and our crown departed, and only we remained, the body without the soul. And exile to outside the Land of Israel is a grave. Worms surround us there, and we do not have the power to save ourselves. They, the idol worshippers, it is they who devour our flesh. In every place, there were great Jewish communities and Yeshivot, until the body decayed, and the bones scattered, again and again. Yet always, some bones still existed, the Talmidei Chachamin (Torah Scholars) of the Israelite Nation, the pillars of the body – until even those bones rotted, and there only remained a rotten waste which disintegrated into dust. Our life turned into dust. And now we hope for the rising of the dead. ‘Shake off the dust and arise…’ (Yishayahu, 52:2.) And an exalted spirit will rest upon us.” 

This is the decomposition of our national body which transpires in Galut. Therefore, outside of the Land of Israel, the only service of G-d which remains is in the secret of the external aspect, centering exclusively on the Tikun (rectification) of the individual. The reason for this is because, in the Exile, a person cannot rise up to the higher level of existence inherent in the inner aspect of our beings, owing to the Nation’s destruction. In this disembodied state, our perspective of life is based totally on the private, external aspect; as independent, solipsistic, individuals, striding forward with our own personal concerns and destinies in This World and the World to Come. Therefore the worship of G-d only focuses on a person’s private, individual improvement, because this is the only Tikun that can be attained during the generations of Galut, while the service of G-d, on a national level, by all of the Nation, is an impossibility without our own Land, and this is a part of the curse of Galut,3 the nullification of the inner aspect of the Nation, which is only relevant at the time of Redemption (Geula) when the Jewish People dwell in their own Land, as the “Zohar” states on the verse, “And who is like Your People Israel, one Nation in the Land” (Shmuel 2, 7:23) – “They are only called one when they are in the Land of Israel” ג (Zohar, Part 3, 93B).4            

ג  “Since Knesset Yisrael (the Congregation of Israel) is now in Exile, it is not called one, so to speak. When is it called one? When Israel will go forth from the Exile, and Knesset Yisrael will return to its place (the Land of Israel) to unite with the Holy One Blessed Be He. This is what is meant by the verse, ‘On the day, the L-rd shall be One, and His Name shall be One,’ (Zechariah, 14:9). One without the other is not called one… It can be understood that the Holy One Blessed Be He with Knesset Yisrael is called One; however, Israel below, when they are established as their likeness above, how can they be called one? When they are in Jerusalem below, they are called one. How do we know this? Because it is written, ‘One Nation in the Land,’ (Shmuel 2, 7:23). Certainly in the Land they are one Nation. With it (the Land), they are called one, but not on their own. Behold, it could have been written only, ‘And who is like Your Nation, like Israel, one Nation…’ [without the rest of the verse, ‘in the Land,’]. However, this is to teach that they are only called one when they are in the Land, when they are united with this Land, as their likeness above. For this reason, everything is connected, one with the other, in one union. How fortunate is Israel’s portion.”  

   

REDEMPTION AND THE SECRETS OF TORAH

It is stated again and again in the Zohar, and in other holy texts dealing with the inner secrets of Torah, that in the future, the secrets of Torah will be revealed in all of their light and lofty exaltedness, and through this, Israel will go out from the Exile, accompanied by Hashem’s great mercy.5 The understanding of this matter is dependent on the things we have been learning, for the secret of the inner Torah (Pinimiut HaTorah) is that it is the Torah of the Shechinah. This means that it isn’t a Torah which speaks only to the individual soul, to a spark of the whole, but rather a Torah which speaks to the entire body of Am Yisrael, which is the secret of the Shechinah. This all-encompassing Torah comes to guide the souls of the Nation in the secrets of the inner worship of G-d, which is the work of the “cell” and the “organ” in the overall “body” of the Shechinah, and not merely their private functioning, centered about themselves and their own wellbeing. 6  

This is the deep matter which constantly appears in all the vast reaches of the inner Torah, and which is well known to all those who study its esoteric treasures, the secret of, 

""לשם יחוד קודשא בריך הוא ושכינתיה

“For the sake of the unification of the Holy One Blessed Be He and His Shechinah.”

The recital of this Kabbalistic intention before performing a mitzvah guides us to direct all of our actions toward the rectification of the Shechinah, and not to our isolated selves. This is the secret of, “Avodah Tzorech Gavuah,” or, “Worship for G-d’s Sake,” which is explained in Kabbalistic texts. ד This is a great matter of Divine worship, to serve G-d through one’s inner soul, which is not detached from the Shechinah or from Am Yisrael, but is rather the literal serving of the entire Nation of Israel, through the individual’s share in the whole, like a cell which functions on behalf of the entire body, this being the prime purpose of the cell and its reason for being.

This is the exalted level of life of the Geula (Redemption), when the entire Nation of Israel dwells in its Land, the level illuminated by the understandings of the inner Torah, the secret of the service of the Shechinah (Avodat HaShechinah), rather than the service of scattered and unattached cells. The essence of Redemption depends on this, that we return to live on this level, and it is precisely through the study of the Zohar and the secrets of Torah that we rise to this lofty height.

ד  See, “Avodat HaKodesh” by Rabbi Meir Ben Gabai, Part 2.

TWO STAGES OF REDEMPTION

Behold, in our day and age, Hashem has remembered His People, and, amongst awe-inspiring wonders and miracles, we have returned to our Land after a long and bitter Exile. Blessed be the L-rd, who shed His kindness upon us, resurrecting us from death to life, from darkness to life, and from subservience to the yoke of the gentiles to freedom in Eretz Yisrael, which, in the fulfilment of prophecy, is giving forth her fruits in abundance to her children who are returning home. ה  

The Prophet Yehezkiel explains that the Geula comes in gradually unfolding stages (Yehezkiel, Chapters 36-37). The first stage is the ingathering of the exiles, which is the secret of gathering all of the organs of the body together, so that they function in unison for the wellbeing of the whole. This is the secret understanding of, “and the bones came together, bone to bone,” (Yehezkiel, 37:7). This gathering together in neighboring proximity is something we have witnessed in our time with the ingathering of our scattered exiles from the four corners of the earth to live together, side-by-side, in the Land of Israel.

ה  See, Sanhedrin 98A: “Rabbi Abba says, There is no clearer sign of the Exile’s end than this, as its says, ‘But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to My People Israel, for they will soon be coming,’” (Yehezkiel, 36:8) Rashi: “When the Land of Israel gives forth its fruits in abundance, the end of the Exile is near, and there is no greater revealed sign of the end of the Exile than this.”

After this stage, a spirit of life appears, the infusion of the soul into all of the organs, uniting them as one entity that is no longer merely a collection of organs situated one next to the other. This stage brings the true bonding, nullifying the state of separate and disjointed organs, and giving birth to the organism’s complete manifestation, the complete living body, revealed in the life of the Nation of Israel in its Land, and in the re-emergence of the Shechinah, which was as if dormant in the Exile. 

These two stages are clearly described in the “Vision of the Dry Bones,” (Yehezkiel, 37: 7-8), as the Prophet states: 

“And as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to bone. And as I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up on them, and the skin covered them above; but there was no breath in them.” 

This is the initial stage, bringing the bones into connection with each other, along with the appearance of sinews and flesh, which represents the beginning of new life in the form of separate, individual vitality for each organ. This is no longer merely a dead bone with no attached flesh. Now it shows signs of revitalization and growth. However, all this is still without the spirit of life which mobilizes the organs of the body to function in a harmonious unity and wholeness. After this comes another prophecy (there, 9-10), pointing to a second stage of Redemption which stands by itself, with the appearance of the enlivening spirit: 

“Then He said to me, Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man, and say to the spirit, Thus says the L-rd G-d: Come from the four winds, O spirit, and breathe upon these corpses that they may live. So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the spirit came into them, and they lived, and stood up on their feet, a very great host.”

The Gemara teaches that the description of the lifeless bones which the Prophet brings to life is a metaphor. Rashi explains: “A metaphor – to hint to them about the Exile. Just like a dead man comes to life, so Israel will return from the Galut,” (Sanhedrin 92B. Rashi, there.)

At this point, Hashem explains to the Prophet that the metaphor represents the Nation of Israel rising up from the Exile, which is a state of death, to Redemption, which is the awakening to renewed life: 

“Then He said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole House of Israel; behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost; we are cut off. Therefore, prophesy and say to them, Thus says the L-rd G-d, Behold, O My People, I will open your graves, and cause you to rise up from out of your graves, and bring you into the Land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the L-rd, when I have opened your graves, O My People….” (Yehezkiel, 37: 11-13).

Thus, the first stage is the opening of the graves and the Aliyah (rising up) to the Land of Israel. This parallels bringing the scattered bones into proximity, one next to the other, while the general spirit of life has not yet appeared to merge the organs into a unified whole. The second stage follows with the infusion of the spirit in the body, as the prophecy concludes:

“And I shall put My spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own Land; then you shall know that I the L-rd have spoken, and performed it, says the L-rd.” (There, 14)

This is the order of the Geula which we are experiencing in our time – first comes the physical resurrection of our Nation, in our return to our Land and the rebuilding of our national body; and thereafter follows the spiritual renaissance with the Nation’s return to the Torah. The spirit appears only after we rise up and return to the Land. Only then will we be able to truly rest on our own holy soil, when we will understand the secret of our Redemption, take possession of our Land, and cleave to our mission - as we will discuss in subsequent chapters. 





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