We live in such times today where the more we develop without cultivating unifying relations among each other, then the more a repugnant stench of division and hatred darkens our lives. Today, more than ever before, we need to nurture genuine love above our divisive drives, the kind of love that the Torah depicts and that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai expounded on in the cave with his nine friends.
For 13 years, Rabbi Shimon and his son Rabbi Elazar dwelt in a cave in Peki’in. Later, eight more wise disciples joined them, and collectively, they wrote The Book of Zohar—a commentary encompassing the Torah, the Prophets and the Scriptures.
Upon delving into The Zohar‘s intricate interpretations by that ten, we can recognize the high level of the Torah’s encryption. The simplistic historical narrative with numerous plots and human characters, both good and bad, is by no means the sole way to comprehend it.
In the introduction of The Book of Zohar, written while Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Elazar were secluded in the cave, there exists a distinct article named “Rabbi Shimon’s Exit from the Cave.” This piece beautifully illustrates how physical history intertwines with spiritual teachings.
Historically set around 2,000 years ago during Roman rule in Israel, the story narrates Rabbi Shimon and his son Elazar evading the Romans, seeking refuge in a Galilean cave. Despite the cave’s ruin by an ancient earthquake, the story remains untouched by time:
Rabbi Pinhas was regularly before Rabbi Rehumai, by the shore of the Sea of Galilee. A great and elderly man was Rabbi Rehumai, and his eyes grew weak. He said to Rabbi Pinhas, ‘Indeed, I heard that Yochai, our friend, has a gem, a good stone, a son. I looked in the light of that gem, and it is as the illumination of the sun from its sheath, illuminating the entire world.’” – Zohar for All, “Rabbi Shimon’s Exit from the Cave.
This peculiar story portrays the Kabbalistic sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s son, a young boy revealing himself as a luminous wonder and a true Torah disciple. At a deeper level, it shows that unveiling the inner essence of The Book of Zohar requires a connection between generations, between “fathers” and “sons.”
Further along, the article describes Rabbi Pinhas attempting to contact the missing Rabbi Shimon, resorting to nature’s elements for communication. He reaches out not through chirping birds but via spiritual means, connecting with Rabbi Shimon through a degree known as “Chai” (Heb. “animate”), foreseeing his emergence from the cave and the placement of The Book of Zohar heralding the Messiah’s era.
When the ten friends finished composing The Zohar and exited the cave, Rabbi Shimon ordered its burial until the generation capable of ending spiritual darkness, destruction and exile—initiated and continuing since his days—would arise. In this awaited generation, there would be people who would grow an awareness of the evil of the egoistic human nature, which divides people from one another and from the source force of nature that the sages of The Zohar had revealed. Such people would go on to seek a higher form of unity among themselves and with nature’s force of love, bestowal and connection—as The Zohar anticipated.
Now that The Zohar has been revealed on a mass scale, Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam) crafted a commentary named the “Sulam” (“Ladder“). This Sulam commentary of The Zohar is crucial for ascending to the lofty treasure that it unlocks. Its discovery and arrangement indicate the era of the Messiah, i.e., the era when the upper force of love and bestowal emerges to “pull” (“Messiah” from the Hebrew word for “pulling” [“Moshech”]) us out of our egoistic and divisive relations in an ever-flourishing ascent to absolute love, as it is described in the Torah and The Zohar:
There is love, brotherhood, and truth in the Torah. Abraham loved Isaac; Isaac loved Abraham; and they were embraced. And they were both gripped Jacob with love and brotherhood and were giving their spirits in one another. The friends should be like them and not blemish them, for if love is lacking in them they will blemish their value above, that is, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” – Zohar for All, Ki Tissa [When You Take], Item 54.