History of Kabbalah: Baal HaSulam – Kabbalah for Our Times

Baal HaSulam, Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag, was the greatest Kabbalist of our generation who wrote books intended specifically for our times. This means that for the first time in history, he presented Kabbalah in a way that allows any person to reveal the spiritual, Upper World.

To fully appreciate the significance of his life’s work, we only need to remember that reading Kabbalistic texts composed prior to Baal HaSulam – whether the Torah, The Book of Zohar, and others – is practically ineffective for a beginning student. This is because they are mostly written in a way that only other Kabbalists can understand. In contrast, anyone can derive practical benefit from reading Baal HaSulam’s texts.

What makes his writings so practical for us? Being a Kabbalist of the highest level, he knew how to write books that will serve as a ladder for the person reading them: as you read them, gradually, step by step, you “climb” out of your regular perception and begin feeling the Upper World. In other words, Baal HaSulam created a practical method for developing our latent sense of spirituality. By using this method, we gradually begin perceiving beyond our physical world and feeling the hidden part of reality—the Upper World.

All through his life, Baal HaSulam, worked and studied for up to 18 hours a day, and left us with an enormous legacy, the key to the greatest Kabbalistic book ever written – The Book of Zohar. Most people who know anything about Kabbalah know that The Book of Zohar is the greatest and yet the most mysterious, incomprehensible book of Kabbalah. It was written two thousand years ago, but only a handful of individuals have been able to understand this book.

The Book of Zohar itself states that it will be revealed particularly in our generation, that in our times it will be used to elevate humanity to an unprecedented level of existence. Baal HaSulam made these words a reality by writing his Sulam (ladder) Commentary on The Book of Zohar. Here is how he describes this work:

“And I have named that commentary The Sulam (Ladder), to show that the purpose of it is… that if you have an attic full of goods, then all you need is a ladder to reach it, and then all the bounty of the world is in your hands.”

In this commentary, he explained the hidden meaning of every part of The Zohar and wrote several introductions to it, guiding the reader through the book. In effect, he created a completely new Kabbalistic teaching – a practical method that can be used by anyone to attain the Upper World, regardless of age, nationality, gender, or geographical location.

The wisdom of Kabbalah has been passed down through many generations, from one Kabbalist to another, until it reached Baal HaSulam, who made it available to all. Today, anyone who wishes to reveal the spiritual world is able to do so thanks to Baal HaSulam’s clear, modern prose. Here is an excerpt from another of his main works, Talmud Eser Sefirot (The Study of the Ten Sefirot):

“You must therefore understand and perceive that all the names and appellations, and all the worlds, Upper and lower, are all one simple Light, Unique and Unified. In the Creator, the Light that extends, the thought, the operation and the operator, and anything the heart can think and contemplate, are in Him one and the same thing.