Robin Diamond
Robin Diamond

Light of Redemption Throughout History Pt 1: Rabbi Mendel Kessin

The Zohar says that the Ohr Mashiach will be felt in the Gregorian calendar year of 1240, which is equivalent to the Hebrew year 5000. Those dates are equivalent to the sixth day on the Creation Calendar, the eve of Shabbat, the beginning of the preparation for the Sabbath. So it makes a lot of sense for that time to be propitious for the Ohr to come into Creation.

The way Jews take the Ohr Rishon–messianic light out of the klippa, out of its prison, is through toil and self-sacrifice to learn Torah. That means that, by the year 5000, that would have been accomplished. In other words, the Messianic Light was, by then, beginning to emerge from its klippa, from its concealment and, obviously, that is historic. It sounds nice, but how do we see this in history? Where do we see this in the actual historical record? The truth is that we do, very much so, and this tells us a lot of very important ideas about what history is all about.

The Power of the Messianic Light.

You can think of the Messianic Light as a magnifying glass. If you take a magnifying glass and put it over something, you are able to see the object with much greater depth, enlarging the tiny details that one might overlook in terms of what’s really going on down there. The Messianic Light is called a shefa, a force that enables you to see any kind of wisdom in terms of its ultimate cause, its incredible internal structure. It enables you to understand this reality down to its bottom-most level where the cause lies, where its reality is.

Keep in mind that when this Ohr Rishon comes down, it is not merely intended for Jews. The Creation has a concealed internal structure, whether of the spiritual universes that Kabbalah talks about or whether of the physical phenomena that science talks about. It is all the handiwork of G-d. Once it begins to emerge, it is a revelation of wisdom, as we shall see. For anyone who studies science, it’s the equivalent of mankind’s attempt to understand the underpinnings of all human knowledge.

I’ll give you an example of the internal structure, of the framework. If, for instance, you are studying biology – the study of different life forms – and you were to train the magnifying glass of the shefa (the enormous force of the Ohr Rishon) upon the studied material, you would immediately become aware of the ultimate cause of life. How is that? Well, you get down into molecular biology, DNA, and so on. You begin to see what’s going on at the most intricate, basic level. You see the structure of biophysical reality.

Five Levels of Reality
We can describe five levels of reality in terms of the physical world. There’s what’s called the “macro,” the large structure of the universe. There’s the “micro” which is obviously something you need a microscope to look at — that is, the detailed view of the universe. Then there is the “nano” level. The nano universe is the universe viewed from the perspective that is slightly larger than atoms, a view of one-billionth of a meter. Science today is all about that nano level, the manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supra-molecular scale. The big revolution in science is all about nano-technology; what they can do with that is awesome. The scientists manipulate chemicals and whatever else at that level. Below the nano level is the “atomic” level, because a nano doesn’t look at anything smaller than a molecule. At the atomic level, one has the ability to view, to understand, and to manipulate atoms. The fifth and final level is called the “subatomic” where you are now into subatomic particles: electrons, neutrons, protons, quarks.

Observation at Fundamental Levels
The Ohr Rishon enables a person to understand the various levels of physical existence, their relatedness, their intricacy, and their structure. If you’re into biology, you see down to the genetic level, the DNA of life. If you’re into physics, you understand the entire world of atoms, subatomic particles, energy, forms of energy, fields of energy, and so on. If you’re into astronomy, you’re able to look out, billions and billions of light-years away, which is what astronomers are now capable of doing: It appears that astronomers have the ability to look into the universe up to twelve billion light-years away! Indeed, their accumulated knowledge implies that the observable universe is 13.7 billion light-years old.

Of course, the knowledge of distance is also the knowledge of time because it takes a light wave 106,000 miles a second, or 300,000 meters per second, to traverse space. The light of a star, for example, takes many years to reach Earth. There could be a star that is one hundred light-years away. The amount of time it takes light to travel one year is a unit of measure. One light-year is six trillion miles. So, if you are looking at a star which is one hundred light-years away, that’s 100×6 trillion. In other words, we don’t even know if that star still exists because that light left the star a long time ago. The farther the object, the further back in time is the object you are observing.

My main point is that the concept of the shefa, of the Ohr Rishon, is the ability to observe and study, within any discipline, and physical phenomenon down to its most basic level. It is the totality of knowledge, almost. That started in 1240, approximately. Before then, there was a limited vision of the internal structure of the Creation.

Scientific Method
Aristotle dominated science for 2000 years. He was what’s called an “armchair scientist” in the sense that he relied on logic to explain what happens in the world. But in 1240, Roger Bacon launched the scientific method; he broke away from Aristotle. It is as though he proclaimed: “Enough of this sitting business! We have to experiment!” And yes, Roger Bacon and his approach emerged the very year that the Ohr Rishon began to descend, initiating the ability of man to perceive internal structures, the inner reality of existence.
That was an incredible advance. Aristotle held the world in his grip until then. That’s why the world never really moved much since Aristotle for the ensuing 2000 years. Bacon’s contribution insisted that, if you want to know anything, you can’t just think about it and contemplate it; you need to experiment, and that’s when the world of science really took off. And Bacon lived in the year 1240. Is this by accident? That’s the scientific world or, if you want, the secular world.

Jewish World
At that time, what was going on in the Jewish world? Just around then, the Zohar was “discovered” by Moshe De Leon* in 1290 -1292, soon after the year 1240. The Zohar is the classic part of the main kabbalistic text that describes many universes and is the study of the cause of physical reality, the reality of G-d, basically. It describes and explains the spiritual forces that are concealed within the universe. With these developments arising in the world, both in the Jewish sphere and in the secular sphere, you suddenly have the ability to look into this extraordinary wisdom; you are exposed to a completely different and comprehensive level of understanding.

In Hebrew, this essential wisdom is known as chochmah. When you look at anything with chochmah, there are two aspects to it: First, there is the subject matter, the substantive aspect. What is the material we are talking about? Called the “chomer “–content, the material (aspect) is one component alongside “tzurah”–form. So, chochmah is both the material and the form; it is the subject matter and its structure, the ability to organize and to connect the dots of all the ideas that you know. This is critical to appreciate when you get around to applying the third ingredient—the methodology—to the study of whatever aspect of reality you are examining. Beginning to recognize the relationship among ideas is, essentially, the method of analysis.

The human mind does two things: it analyzes, meaning it breaks down a subject, and it synthesizes, meaning it puts together singular aspects of the subject. Both aspects are the operation of the mind, how the mind achieves, how it reaches understanding. The only thing the human mind has to know about anything can be summed up in a couple simple questions, namely: What is it, and how is it connected, related to, everything else? The answer is a definition, a statement that describes the true nature of something. The definition of something is a categorical description of an entity’s attributes and the synthesis of those attributes. In essence, the scientific method began to undertake these intellectual operations.

Influence of the Zohar: Content and Form
In the world of Torah, the chomer – the substantive content – was the Kabbalah, because that’s what the Zohar is: the revelation that Judaism is based on a much deeper understanding of the Creation than meets the eye. You see the spiritual forces that G-d uses to create and to manage everything. However, there was something else going on beyond the chomer that had to do with the tzurah (the ‘form’) and, specifically, as it related to Torah.
Around the year 1240, there began a revolution in the tzurah of Torah. That is to say, there developed a novel way to approach the study of this ancient and holy text thanks to the writings of the well-known medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher and halachist (codifier of Jewish law) who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages, namely, Moses Maimonides (acronym: RaMBaM, 1135-1204).

One of the major works written by the RaMBam was called “Mishnah Torah” and it was a revolutionary piece of work. He composed a concise presentation and review of the Oral Law brought down in the Talmud. While the Talmud discusses the intricacies of Jewish law as it affects all aspects of (Jewish) life and ritual, the Mishnah Torah brings down the answers to all the issues that might arise. That is to say that Maimonides determined directly from the Talmud, with its numerous opinions and diverse views, the final ruling on Jewish law on any given matter. The intriguing, and somewhat inexplicable, aspect of the work was that Maimonides did not indicate the specific question(s) to which he was referring or the methodology that he employed to arrive at his answers—the “definitions” of the law.

What the Rambam did was more than give answers: He organized the answers into a completely different way of looking at the subject matter. He changed the format of the Talmud because the Talmud, in many ways, is fragmented. Maimonides’ approach reflected the following notion: He might have said to himself, “I’m going to change the tzurah; I am going to change the entire view or format of the Talmud into a magnificent (new) structure.” It was something that had never been done.

True, Rabbi Yitzchak Alfasi* (known as the “Rif”) had taken the first major step in codifying the laws of the Talmud. He had worked on the legal passages and authoritative opinions of the Talmud, deleting the intricate discussion of the Talmudic rabbis and all non-legal material, organizing them in, more or less, the same order and form, quoting them in the very words as they were presented in the Talmud and, where necessary, indicating the law. This was, indeed, a monumental achievement in determining the final, definitive Jewish law. Rabbi Alfasi’s method of codification, however, followed the seemingly haphazard arrangement of the Talmud, which is not a topical system whereby all laws of the same subject are grouped under the same heading. As the years passed, there was, indeed, a pressing need for a more systematically arranged, clear-cut, practical code.

At this time, it was the crowning accomplishment of RaMBam, also referred to as Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon to present the first comprehensive, all encompassing, topically arranged code of Jewish law, distinguished by its matchless clarity and lucidity.

Ohr Rishon: Inspirational Force
A need is a need, but why did the RaMBam do that? Rather, under what Divine inspirational force was he operating? And the answer is the Ohr Rishon. The same year that the Ohr Rishon comes down, you have, both in secular science and in Judaism, its manifestations and some measure of the Torah comes out of the klippa. It begins to emerge or escape from that force that restrained it, that held it back from revealing the true revelation of reality. Was this an accident? I think not. Moreover, as we progress in time, once the Messianic Light begins to emerge, it emerges; it is on its way. It represents an incredible development in our understanding of the form and content of reality.

Moving Along in the Secular World:Certainty of Knowledge

Let’s move a little further on. The year 1240 is equivalent to Thursday night at 6pm on the Cosmic Clock. Further and further into night, right before dawn Friday, there are new ideas in the secular world that also radically changed the whole idea of Messianic Light.

It is important to understand, in the context of our discussion, that Sir Francis Bacon’s scientific method (see above) introduced, “inter alia,” the notion of “induction,” the ability to see a fragment and to make generalizations based on that fragment culminating in a total picture. Add to that the experiment based on empirical data in order to test a hypothesis. A hypothesis is nothing more than a calculated explanation of a phenomenon that is observable. Let’s assume you do the experiment and you have the explanation. The hypothesis is something you think about even before you get into the experiment. If the outcome(s) works consistently, they become the basis of a theory. If it the outcomes can be consistently replicated, then they are founded in a law. This is what’s known as the “certainty of knowledge.”
But what Bacon discussed in this context was that a hypothesis is really a function of induction. In other words, you assume an explanation of a particular phenomenon, but by induction you go from the particular to the general. We anticipate that the phenomenon will operate in terms of the experiment(s) that were just conducted. Therefore, what you can do is design new experiments and hope that they will be consistent with the ones that you just did. That’s induction.

The Method of Discovery is Key

But the Ohr Rishon is not just information and it’s not the method of discovering information; tzurah is the method of discovery. So note: I’m stressing that the methods of analysis and synthesis that are used to find the information are almost as important as the information itself. The methodologies enable the making of new discoveries again and again. Without the method you can go home. If you have the method, a way to do it, you can apply that method to anything – and that’s what Francis Bacon did.

Back to the Jewish World, the Torah World.
In this period, beyond the contribution of Maimonides (the rationalist), you also have probably one of the greatest revolutions in the propagation of the esoteric knowledge in Kabbalah. This was due to the influence of the holy Ari (The Lion), Rabbi Isaac (ben Solomon) Luria Ashkenazi (1534 –1572), the foremost rabbi and Jewish mystic of the Middle Ages. This prolific sage explained the texts of the Book of the Zohar that as we have come to learn, is incredibly cryptic. However, not everything in the Zohar is strictly Kabbalah because the book is really more in the nature of a midrash (a homiletical treatise), largely associated with the teachings of the great mystic and sage, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. *
The Kabbalah of the Zohar is largely expressed in codes that employ metaphors though you rarely know to what the metaphors actually refer. Moreover, what is really challenging is that you cannot really extend the metaphors. So along comes the Ari and he extended the metaphors, opening up the Kabbalah. That’s a major advance in the Ohr Rishon’s influence – and it was not an accident.

It was a reconstruction, a restructuring of the entire knowledge of the Torah that had never happened before. And after Maimonides’ opus magnum, a stream of commentaries on this work followed. In addition, there were numerous commentaries on the Mishna and the Gemara that comprised the Talmud. So, both the material content and the form are emerging. Remember that the Ohr Rishon acts upon three components: (1) chomer (the material content, the topic itself), (2) the tzurah (the form it takes – the entirety of its structure and systems) and (3) the method to use in order to achieve an overall perspective of the studied material.

Part 2 coming….

About the Author
Robin is a retired Language Arts high school teacher who taught in the Los Angeles Unified District for 25 years. After retiring in 2010, she hurriedly made aliyah in 2011.
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