Thursday, 8 February 2018

Mose Cordovero's Ethics of the 10 Sefirot (Tomer Devorah)


From The Palm-Tree of Deborah
For Keter, see:
Tomer Devorah, part I
Chapter III: Attaining the Qualities of Chokmah
How should a man train himself to possess the quality of Wisdom? Behold, Supernal Wisdom, though it is hidden and exceedingly exalted, is spread over all creatures. Concerning this it is said: 'How manifold[1] are Thy works, O Lord! In wisdom Thou has made them all.' So, too, it is proper for man that his wisdom be ready to benefit all. He should be an effective teacher of men, to each according to his powers, influencing each as much as he possibly can without in any way preventing him. Behold, Wisdom has two faces. The higher face turns toward the Crown, it does not gaze downwards but recieves from above. The second face, the lower one, turns downwards to control the Sephiroth, emanating of its wisdom to them. So, too, man should have two faces: the one, his solitude with his Creator in order to add to his wisdom which the Holy One, Blessed is He, has poured upon him.

Chapter IV: Attaining the Qualities of Binah

How shall a man train himself to acquire the quality of Understanding? It is to be acquired by returning in perfect repentance[1], than which nothing is more important, for it rectifies every flaw. Just as it is the function of Understanding to sweeten all judgments and to neutralize their bitterness so man should repent and rectify every flaw. He who thinks of repentance all his days causes the Supernal Understanding to illumine all his days so that all his days are in repentance, that is to be included in Understanding which is Repentance, and the days of his life will be crowned according to the secret of the Supernal Repentance. 

Chapter V: Attaining the Qualities of Chesed

How shall a man train himself to acquire the quality of Lovingkindness? The main way in which man can enter into the secret of Lovingkindness is to love God with perfect love so as not to forsake His service for any reason whatsoever for nothing has any value at all for him compared with the Blessed One's love. Therefore, he should primarily attend to the requirements of God's service and the rest of his time may be for other needs. This love should be firmly fixed in his heart whether he recieves good at the hands of the Holy One, Blessed is He, or whether he recieves sufferings and rebukes. These latter, too, he should look upon as tokens of God's love. As it is written: 'Faithful are the wounds of a friend[1] .'

Chapter VI: Attaining the Qualities of Gevurah

How should man train himself to acquire the quality of Power? Know that all actions which excite the evil inclination actually stir up the strong Powers. Therefore, man should not excite the evil inclination, so as not to awaken the Powers. The reason is that man is created with two inclinations, good and bad: the one belongs to Lovingkindness, the other to Power. However in the Zohar to the first section of Genesis[1] it is stated that the good inclination was created from the sake of man himself, the evil inclination for the sake of his wife. See how sweet are his words. Behold Beauty, the merciful quality[2], turns to the Right and all its conduct is with the Right, the good inclination. But the Female[3] is of the Left and Her conduct is with Power. It is, therefore, proper not to bestir the evil inclination for man's own sake because this bestirs the Power in Supernal Man and so destroys the world. Hence, every excitement of man towards Power and the evil inclination makes a flaw in Supernal Man. From which one can observe how ugly is anger and such-like, for it causes the strong Powers to prevail. In truth the evil inclination should be bound and tied down so that it is not incited to any bodily act whatsoever, not for the desire of cohabitation, not the desire of money, nor towards anger, nor towards honor in any way.

Chapter VII: Attaining the Qualities of Tiferet

How should a man train himself to acquire the quality of Beauty? There is no doubt that the quality of Beauty is to be found in the study of the Torah[1]. However, great care must be taken that man does not exalt himself in pride because of the words of the Torah, in order that he does not cause great evil. For just as he elevates himself in pride he causes the quality of Beauty, which is the Torah, to elevate itself and remove itself upwards, God forend. But he who abases himself over words of Torah causes Beauty to descend and lower itself to pour out its influence upon those beneath. Now behold, there are four Sephiroth[2], embracing three qualities, below Beauty. First, he who proudly exalts himself over his pupils causes Beauty to raise itself and be exalted over Endurance and Majesty, for they are those learned of the Lord[3], the pupils of Beauty. But he who lowers himself to teach in love causes Beauty to lower itself to the Pupils and give of its influence to them. Therefore, a man should be pleasantly disposed towards his pupils, to teach them as much as they can absorb and, in his merit, Beauty will pour its flow into the Pupils according their capacities, in fit measure. 

Chapter VIII: Attaining the Qualities of Netzach, Hod, and Yesod

How should a man train himself to acquire the qualities of Endurance, Majesty, and Foundation? With regard to the Tikkunim of Endurance and Majesty some of the qualities apply to both of them together, others to each one distinctively. Behold, first of all it is necessary to help students of the Torah and to support them either with money or deeds, so as to provide them with the things they require for their work, to prepare their food, and to fulfill all their desires, so that they do not cease in the study of the Torah. He should take care not to disparage their learning so that they do not weaken in their study of the Torah, but should honor them and praise their good deeds in order to encourage them in their work. And he should provide them with books with which to work and with a house of study. All such aid and support to those who study the Torah depends on these qualites; each person should do all he can, whether little or much. In short, whatever he does to honor the Torah and to strengthen it with speech, which his bodily actions and with his wealth, and to arouse people's hearts to the torah that they engage in its study, all this is firmly held and rooted in these two Sephiroth for they are known as 'them that lay hold upon her' and 'that holdeth her fast'[1]. 

However, how should man train himself to acquire the quality of Foundation? A man must be on his guard against the kind of speech which brings to thoughts of sin, so that he should not be visited by a seminal emission. Needless to say, he should not speak obscenities but he should take care not to utter even clean words if they give rise to sexual thoughts. And this is contained in a careful examination of the verse: 'Suffer not[6] thy mouth to bring thy flesh unto guilt,' this is, take care not to suffer the mouth to give speech which can bring sin to the holy flesh, the sign of the covenant[7], with seminal emission.

Chapter IX: Attaining the Qualities of Malkuth

How should a man train himself to acquire the quality of Sovereignty? First and foremost he should not be proud in his heart[1] because of all that is his, but he should behave constantly like a beggar, standing before his Creator as a poor man begging and offering supplication. Even if he is wealthy he can train himself to behave in this way by considering that none of his possesions are attached to him and that he is forsaken requiring the mercies of Heaven at all times, for all he has is the bread he eats, and he should humble his heart and afflict himself. Especially at the time of prayer[2], for this is a wonderful aid. Of the opposite it is said: "Then thy heart[3] be lifted up, and thou forget..' For the forgetting belonging to the Outside Ones[4] is found there. David behaved in this way to great extent when he said: "For I am solitary[5] and afflicted." For all the people of his household have themselves to consider. What are they all to him? What can even his wife and children do for him when he is judged before the Creator or when his soul departs? Can they accompany him beyond the grave? Of what use are they to him from the entrance of the grave and onwards? He should therefore humble himself and perfect himself according to the secret of this quality. A second method is explained in the Zohar[6] and it is very important. He should exile himself from place to place for the sake of Heaven and in this way he will become a chariot to the Exiled Shekinah. He should imagine: 'Behold I have gone into exile but, behold, my utensils go with me. What shall be with the honor of the Most High seeing that the Shekinah is in exile without Her utensils which are lacking as a result of the Exile?' Because of this he should be satisfied with as little as possible, as it is written 'Prepare thee stuff for exile'[7] and he should humble his heart in exile and bind himself to the Torah and then the Shekinah will be with him.