[Discussion of origin of Zohar transferred - click here]
[part II click here]
Part 1 In response to the post I wrote regarding Asher Meza an anonymous commenter made two claims in the name of Rav Triebitz:
1) That the AR”I’s Kabbalah or at least elements of it were pagan.2) That Rav Triebitz holds that there is a machloket between the AR”I and the GR”A.
Initially I rejected both assertions out of hand. The first assertion I rejected because Rav Chaim Kanievski(following a tradition of the Ashkenazi Rabbanim of Jerusalom) wrote in regards to the DorDaim who hold the same view, that anyone holding such a view is an Apikoros in all respects, and should be treated accordingly(Nezer Chaim p 176). So I personally considered it a mitzvah to give the benefit of the doubt to a renowned and respected Posek, against such a claim from an anonymous commenter. When I communicated with Rav Triebitz regarding it, he said, “I don't recall saying that the Ari's understanding is pagan, chas v'shalom.” Which was to be expected.
Regarding the second point I initially rejected the claim because, I could not access the named shiurim to verify, and as it goes against virtually all the Mekubalim, both Ashkenazi and Sephardi for the last 200yrs, I saw no reason to give it credence without verification. Having spoken with Rav Triebitz he does indeed say such, and it is a chiddush that he brings in the name of Rav Weintraub ZTzUK”L. Which is a subject I would like to explore. First it should be noted that I sent Rav Triebitz a number of clarifying questions, and I am still awaiting his response. Secondly it should be noted that even if in the end Rav Triebitz and I disagree on whether this is in fact a real machloket(I will explain shortly), that I have the utmost respect and appreciation for the Rav and mean him no disrespect. If we do disagree in the end, Elu V’Elu.
However before we can delve into the subject at length there is need of several introductions so that the subject itself can be, at least somewhat understood.
First we must understand the chain of tradition of the Kabbalah of the AR”I. This is brought is several books. The new Eitz Chaim which was prepared from the Kitvei Yad of the Rashash has this as an introduction, the Chida brings this in his sefer Shem HaGedolim and Rav Yaakov Hillel wrote a sefer on the subject called Kuntres Kitvonei L’Dorot. In short the Eitz Chaim that we have today was not written by Arizal, nor was it written by Rav Chaim Vital, it was compiled by Rav Meir Papperesh in 1646/5406. Rabbi Chaim Vital authored a number of works. He wrote what is known as the eight Gates, and Sefer HaDrushim, which he handed over to his son Rav Shmuel Vital(who along with Rav Yaakov Tzemach and Avraham Azulai were students of the Marchu, and eventual Rabbanim of Rav Parpparish). However, he had a number of works buried with him. It wasn’t until some time later, as the Chida writes in Shem HaGedolim, that on account of dream that both Rav Tzemach and Rav Azulai had that they were able to excavate the grave and remove those works. Which would be known as Kehillat Yaakov, Otzrot Chaim, Adam Yashar and Mavo Shaarim. They were Rav Chaim Vital’s personal notebooks. By combining them with some other previous notebooks that were in the hands of Rav Shmuel Vital, Rav Meir Papperish was able to author what is today known as Sefer Eitz Chaim, and sefer Pri Eitz Chaim. Those two works would make their way to Europe and into the hands of the Gaon, the Besht and others.
For some reason, uknown to us today, Rav Papperish did not use Sefer Mavo Shaarim(which is considered Rav Chiam Vital’s most explicit and understandable work, and also the very last that he authored). Nor did the rest of the eight Gates make it to Europe in the lifetime of the Gaon. So to a certain extent the Gaon was also under-informed as to the Kabbalah of the Ari.
Second since the Eitz Chaim was written from an amalgamation of the notes of Rav Chaim Vital that he had made over the course of some eighty years, from the very beginning of his study with the Arizal, until the very end of his life, there are several internal stirot to which Rav Chaim Vital writes in Madura Batra(Tzrik Iyun). To which in several places the Rashash and other commentators tell us that these things were not misunderstood by the Rav, but that one would have to search all of the places he discusses said topic to understand what the Rav was actually saying.
In regards to the Sheverah(the topic at hand) this is a quite a complex inyan. Shortly after the Kerem Shlomo moved to Eretz Yisrael he wrote to the Ben Ish Hai to ask how could find himself a Rav in Kabbalah. The Ben Ish Hai’s response is recorded at the beginning of Daat U’Tevunah and I will bring part of it here:
How will I know who is a Hakham Muvhak that I can rely upon and sit before him to learn this wisdom(Kabbalah) and I said to him: Take in your hand Sefer Nahar Shalom and ask him what is written there and ask the Hakham, the Mekubal what is written there in the introduction… If he is able to explain the words of Rabbeinu HaRashash with from the various places in books of the Rabbeinu HaAri, if he divides them and takes them one by one, and if you says to you that he received it from a Rav… then you can trust him… Also ask him if in his mind the words of the Rashash and the Ari are in agreement…
This is an important piece to our understanding for two reasons. First Rav Yaakov Hillel, in his sefer Sefat HaYam, Shaar Alef, Anaf Dalet brings in the name of Rav Wentraub that this is as well as being able to answer the four difficulties that the RaShaSh raises in his not there are essential to anyone who wants to speak authoritatively on the Eitz Haim(btw I am sure the Rav Triebitz meets both of these criteria).
Reason being that in having a thorough knowledge of that piece of Rehovot HaNahar, and the Sheverah will show that Rabbeinu Chaim Vital was mechalak on himself. Also if understood correctly we see the necessary weighting of the texts in attempting to understand these seeming Stiras(contradictions) in the Kitvei HaAri.
In a sense, we can say(as does Rav Yaakov Hillel), somewhat tongue in cheek, that the Rashash is mechalak on Rabbeinu Chaim Vital, even though the Rashash denies that fact in his own sefer. What was he supposedly mechalak with? The other writing of Rabbeinu Chaim Vital! However, in the end there is a general rule of learning Kabbalah, which is that we always try to be macria, not mechalek. Meaning that when we find what seem to be contradictions we try to adjust our understanding so that they both fit. There is a place to be mechalek, which is to understand individual points, but at the end of day, the point is to understand the emet in the words, which the holy Mekubalim for generations have said can only be when one is macria.
Another elemental aspect that needs to be discussed is that the Arizal was not zoceh to moser his entire Kabbalah to his students or to Rabbeinu Chaim Vital. Rav Yaakov Hillel writes on this inhis sefer Ahavat Shalom(there focusing on the Rashash). Others have written on it extensively. It is generally accepted(if not universally so) that the sparks of the Arizal’s soul returned in four individuals in order to finish his revelation of Kabbalah, at a time when the generations were once again worthy. Those four individuals, who lived roughly at the same time, were the Ramchal, the Besht, the Gra and the Rashash. In which each of them focused a particular aspect of the Kabbalah of the Ari and brought it to it’s completion. Thus to ultimately understand the Kabbalah we must be macria those four understandings. Much of the Leshem’s work, probably one of the greatest Mekubalim of previous generations is precisely that. He brings together the understands of the Gra, the Rashash and the Ramchal for instance.
One final note, Rav Eprhaim Goldstein says in the name of Rav Weintraub that it takes a minimum of five years before one begins to gain any real benefit or understanding of his study of Kabbalah. I have heard in the name of Rav Kaduri that it takes a minimum of 15yrs, and still longer in the name of Rav Tzion Brakha. The point is, Kabbalah is one of the hardest areas of Torah to study. One should not think that either from reading these posts, or from listening to Rav Triebitz’s shiurim that they gain anything other than the most basic introduction of introductions. There simply are no short cuts to learning Torah in general and learning Kabbalah in particular.