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Window of the Soul: The Kabbalah of Rabbi Isaac Luria

Window of the Soul: The Kabbalah of Rabbi Isaac Luria

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by James D. Dunn

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Rabbi Luria was one of the most gifted of kabbalistic mystics. After the Jewish people were driven from Spain in 1492, it was his vision that disclosed the inner worlds of the spirit & of their evolution that led to the ultimate birth of the cosmos, & it is this evolution that reflects the origin & history of souls.


Rabbi Luria was one of the most gifted of kabbalistic mystics. After the Jewish people were driven from Spain in 1492, it was his vision that disclosed the inner worlds of the spirit & of their evolution that led to the ultimate birth of the cosmos, & it is this evolution that reflects the origin & history of souls.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Isaac Luria (1534-72) was one of the most important exponents of the Jewish mysticism of the Kabbalah in the modern world. For Luria, whose name and teachings led to the founding of a new school of mystical understanding, proper study of the Torah could lead the soul and ultimately the world toward healing and oneness with God. Weiser's new publication presents selections from Nathan Snyder's translations of Luria's teachings. Fascinating, complex, and gnomic, Luria (and the Kabbalah) are not for beginners, but this new gathering should prove important for the growing roster of Kabbalists in this country. For most collections.

—Graham Christian

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Window of the Soul

The Kabbalah of Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534—1572)

By James David Dunn, Nathan Snyder

Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 2008 James Dunn
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57863-428-6


Preparing for Kabbalah

Translated and edited by Zechariah Goldman Special thanks to Yrachmiel Tilles Ascent of Safed, Ari Road & Beck Lane, P.O. Box 296, Zefat, Israel

I the author, adjure on the great name of G-d, anyone into whose hands these [kabbalistic] pamphlets fall, that he should read this introduction. If his soul desires to enter the chamber of this wisdom, he should accept upon himself to complete and fulfill all that I write, and the former of Creation will testify upon him, that to him will not come damage to his body and soul, and to all that is his, and not to others, because of his running after good, and one who comes to purify and come close, first before everything fear of G-d, to attain fear of punishment, for awe of G-d's greatness that is the more internal fear, he will not attain, except from the maturation of wisdom.

His essential involvement in this knowledge should be to eliminate the thorns from the vineyard, for those who engage in this wisdom are therefore called tenders of the field. And certainly the evil shells will be aroused against him, to seduce him and to cause him to sin; therefore, he should be watchful that he not come to sin even unintentionally, so that they will have no relation to him. Accordingly, it is necessary to guard against [adopting] leniencies [in Torah law], for the Holy One Blessed Be He is exacting with the righteous, like a thread of hair. For this reason, he needs to abstain from meat and wine during weekdays, and he needs [to heed] the admonition of "turn from evil and do good; and pursue peace."

Pursue peace: it is necessary to seek peace, and not to be demanding in one's home, whether for an insignificant or a significant matter and certainly a person should not succumb to anger, G-d forbid!

And he needs to distance himself to the ultimate distance [from evil].

Turn from Evil

To be cautious in all the details of the commandments, and even the words of the Sages for these are included in [the negative commandment] do not stray [from the word that I [G-d] command you].

To rectify the damage [one has done] before one goes to the coming world.

To be careful not to get angry even when disciplining his children; in principle, he should not get angry at all.

In addition, he needs to be watchful of arrogance, specifically in matters pertaining [to his observance] of Halacha for the power [of arrogance] is great, and in this regard arrogance is a terrible sin.

With every pain he suffers, he should examine his deeds, and [then] return to Gd.

He should also immerse [in a mikva] at the necessary time [as soon as possible after any seminal emission].

He should also sanctify himself during marital relations so that he should not [egoistically/sensually] benefit.

There should not pass any night, [where he does not] think every night what he did during the day, and [he should] confess [and repent].

He should also minimize his business dealings, and if he has no livelihood, except through business, he should intend that Tuesday and Wednesday from noon and on, the intention should be [that these times are set aside] to the service of his Creator.

Any speech that is not of a mitzva and necessary, he should refrain from, and even in a matter of a mitzva he should desist [from speaking] during prayer.

And Do Good

To awaken at [Torah defined] midnight to recite the order [of the Tikkun Chatzot] in sackcloth and ashes, and great crying, and with intention [fulfilling], all that comes out of his mouth. And afterwards he should immerse in Torah for whatever time he can be without sleep, and at least a half hour before dawn, he should awaken to immerse in Torah study.

He should go to the synagogue before dawn, before the obligation of talit and tefillin, to be watchful that he should be one of the first of the ten [men that make a minyan].

Before entering [the synagogue], he should accept upon himself the positive commandment "and you shall love your neighbor as yourself," and only then enter.

To complete the hint [alluded to in the word] tzadik [tzadi = ninety; dalet = four; yud = ten; kof = 100] every day, that is [comprised of] ninety amen's, four Kedushot, ten Kadishes, 100 Blessings.

Not to interrupt his awareness from [the sensations of holiness and consciousness emanating from] his tefillin during prayer, except for Amida and while engaged in Torah study.

It is necessary to be wrapped in talit and tefillin when he immerses himself in Torah study [during the day and afternoon].

To meditate, during prayer, on the [kabbalistic] intentions, as it is written in Etz Chaim.

That he always places before his eyes the [Divine] Name, a product of four [letters] Havaya(h) [Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey] and he should veer from it, as it is written I have placed G-d before me always.

That he meditatively focus while reciting all the blessings, and specifically the blessings before enjoyment [made over eating in general].

His labor in Torah needs to be, Pardes, and do not think that they will reveal to him secrets of Torah when he is empty of knowledge, as it is written [in Scripture that] [G-d] gives wisdom to the wise. And one needs to be cautious that he not let escape from his mouth anything of this wisdom, that he has not heard from a man who is not worthy to depend on, as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his colleagues have warned.

Anatomy of the Creation

Special thanks to Yrachmiel Tilles Ascent of Safed, Ari Road & Beck Lane, P.O. Box 296, Zefat, Israel

From Likutei Torah (Chumash HaAri, Bereishit, p. 6) in the writings of the Arizal.

Translation and commentary by Avraham Sutton "In the beginning, G-d created the heavens and the earth ..." (Gen. 1:1)

In man himself, we also find Earth and Heaven. The diaphragm [right below the solar plexus] divides the organs of breathing [the respiratory system] from the organs of digestion. In the larger universe, this [diaphragm] corresponds to the firmament [atmosphere] that is spread out over the Earth.

The diaphragm is thus seen as separating between the more spiritual aspects of the body [Heaven] and the lower, more physical aspects [Earth].

Above it [the diaphragm] we thus have the heart, the lungs, the brain, etc., while below, we have the more corporeal and gross physical [organs]. According to this, the upper half of a person is the "heavenly" half, and the lower half is the "earthly" half. Man, in this sense, is a miniature world.

We see this in the verse, "Let us make Man in our image and in our likeness" (Gen. 1:26), wherein the G-dly Tzelem ["image"] refers to soul of man. The soul, in other words, is what the Torah calls [the real] man [Adam]. This is seen in another verse that states, "Do not anoint the flesh of a man ..." (Num. 30:32). The Torah indicates clearly that the "clothes" are not the man.

At the beginning of Shaarei Kedusha, Rabbi Chaim Vital similarly writes:

It is known to the masters of the sciences that a person's body is not his essence [but rather a vehicle for his soul]. The body is therefore referred to as "Man's flesh," as in the verse, "Cover me [my essence] with skin and flesh, and surround me with bones and sinews." (Job 10:11) It is also written, "Do not anoint the flesh of a man ..." (Num. 30:32).

The inner being is the true self, while the body is merely a garment.

[In both these verses] we find that the inner being is the true self, while the body is merely a garment with which the soul covers itself while [sojourning] in this world. At the moment of death, when the soul departs, this garment is removed, and it is clothed in a pure, clean, spiritual garment. It is thus written, "Remove the soiled garments ... and you shall be clothed in fine robes"; (Zach. 3:4) these "fine robes" are none other than the "rabbinical mantle" [in Aramaic, chaluka d'rabbanan, or spiritual energy body with which the soul is clothed when it enters the Garden of Eden].

Just as a tailor makes a suit of clothes to fit a person's physique, so did the Holy One Blessed Be He make the body as a garment to clothe the soul. And just as a suit is cut and tailored according to the exact proportions of a person's limbs, so did the Holy One make the body according to the pattern of the soul. The body thus has 248 organs/limbs, along with 365 blood vessels that connect them and transport life-giving blood from one to the other, similar to a system of pipes.

With regard to the body, the verse states, "Let us make ..." [indicating the level of asiyah]. For, indeed, the body is made from materials provided by the physical world. The same is [partially] true of angels. When they descend to our lower world, they too must "dress up" in a body that conforms to the laws of this material plane.

Concerning the ability of angels to "dress up" in a physical form, the Zohar states: "It has been established: These [angels are able to exist in this world because they] appear to humans in human form. And if you should ask: How do they transform themselves thus? They transform through many colors [energy frequencies]. When they are ready to actually descend, they dress up in [take on the molecular structure of] the Earth's atmosphere, and they appear as humans." (Zohar I:58a)

In another place, the Zohar makes an important connection between the way angels descend into our world and the way that we (our souls) ascend into the spiritual dimension: "[At the moment of death] the spirit [ruah] separates [and divests itself] of the lower soul [nefesh in order to [rise up and] enter the lowest level of the Garden of Eden [the world of yetzirah There it 'clothes' itself in the atmosphere of that Garden, in exactly the opposite manner that the supernal angels 'clothe' themselves in physicality when they descend to this world." (Zohar 1:81a)

These angels are of the level of ruah [the world of yetzirah] about whom it is written, "He makes His Messenger-Angels Spirits" (Ps. 104:4). This means that He makes the Messenger-Angels of yetzirah descend to the world of asiyah—Action [the physical world] as messengers. The ruah-Spirit of Man, on the other hand, goes up from the physical world to the lowest level of the Garden of Eden and "wears" the garb of that dimension. She [the soul] is refined there and has tremendous pleasure, ...

This is why the three angels who visited Abraham appeared to eat.

The Zohar (I:102a), Talmud (Bava Metzia 86b), and Midrash (Bereishit Rabba 48:14; Shemot Rabba 47:5) all cite the famous teaching that, "One should never deviate from the customs of the place he visits" (the Jewish equivalent of: "When in Rome do as the Romans"). Concerning Moses, it is written, "He remained there with G-d [on the mountain] for forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water" (Ex. 34:28), and "I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights, without eating food or drinking water." (Deut. 9:9) The Midrash asks: Is it possible for a human being to go without food and drink for so long [and not die]? Rather, Moshe went up to Heaven where there is no food, so he did not eat. [The Midrash adds at the end of 47:5: So how did he survive if he didn't eat? He was nourished by the radiance of the Divine Presence. And do not be surprised. For the Angels above that carry the Divine Throne are similarly nourished from the radiance of the Divine Presence.] Conversely, when the angels descended to Abraham, they seemed to eat and drink, as it is written, "He stood over them and they ate under the tree" (Gen. 18:8). The Midrash and Zohar both exclaim: Do you think that those supernal beings really ate? It only seemed that they were eating! Since angels are fire, the food was consumed as they put it in their mouths. All the while it seemed that they were eating like normal humans.

The same is true of the soul of man. [In order to be born] it must dress up in the atmosphere of this world.

This explains, as well, why the verse is spoken in the plural, "Let us make...." The soul is from the Blessed One. [In order to be born] it descends and dresses up in the atmosphere of the worlds [or actually dresses "down" in and through the various atmospheres of each lower world/dimension, each of which contributes another garment which the soul dons as it approaches our gross physical plane of existence].

[Speaking to these various levels and their angelic inhabitants, G-d] thus says, "Let us make a garment for man, i.e., the soul, with which he will be able to descend into the dimension of asiyah." Man will then be "in our image" [in Hebrew, be'tzalmenu, from the word Tzelem, referring to the spiritual image of the angels, and "in our likeness" [in Hebrew, ki'demutenu], referring to the physical garments within which they [the angels] clothe themselves when they enter the atmosphere of this world.

We thus see that man consists of two aspects: Adam Elyon, Superior Man—the soul— and Adam Tachton, Inferior Man—the body.

The Ten Sephirot

The Sacred Name: The Tetragrammaton

The four-letter Ineffable Name of God (YHVH), signifying the eternal and transcendent revelation of God.

The Sacred Faces

Arikh Wills existence through all worlds.

Anpin: The Patient One, large face.

Abba: God the Father; intuitive insight; fully articulated form.

Ima: God the Mother; intellectual powers; emotions; Creation.

Zey'ir Light of grace. Individual leadership of divine attributes. Coexists with, yet

Anpin: is independent of that which is part of him self—the Nukva. The Impatient One, the small face. Male counterpart of Nukva.

Nukva: True and direct root of created beings.

Not connected in existence, yet indivisible in life and spiritual growth with Ze'ir Anpin. Female counterpart of Ze'ir Anpin. Develops from the sefira malkhut, the kingdom, the active divine presence within.

Indwelling Worlds

Adam Infinite and purest light of Creation.


Atsilut: Deepest immanent world that is closest to the Infinite Light. World within, as a storm of unformed primordial matter, below atsilut.

Beriah: The spiritual abode of seraphim.

Jezira: Immanent world whose primordial matter receives form; the spiritual abode of living beings mentioned in Ezekiel's vision of the Merkava.

Asiyah: Immanent world of matter, receiving "form" from the higher world of jezira. It is limited by its spiritual and physical dimensions as we see them now in our own cosmos.

Levels of the Soul

Yechidah: Soul's one-ness with ultimate level of consciousness in the Divine One.

Chayyah: Soul's life force within moral consciousness.

Neshamah: Soul's intellect within sustained existence.

Ruah: Soul's breath within the heart of love and emotions.

Nefesh: Soul's blood within the body in this world of living beings.


Before the study of the Ari, Rabbi Isaac Luria.

May his merit, protect us. Amen.

Master of the Universe, Lord of Lords, Father of mercy and forgiveness, we bow before you, God, our God, and God of our fathers, You who have brought us near to Your law and to the worship of Your divine service and have given to us a share in the secrets of Your holy law and worship of Your divine service. What are we and what are our lives worth that you give us such a great grace as this? Because of Your mysteries, we lay down our supplications before you so that you might forgive all of our sins and transgressions. And do not let our sins separate us from You. And may it be your will, God, our God and God of our fathers that you prepare our hearts to fear and to love You. And may your ears listen to these our words and may You open our hearts so that they are not denied the secrets of Your law. And may our studies be pleasant before the Seat of Your honor like the savory smell of a sacrifice. And may You emanate the light of the source of our souls over us during all of our examinations. And let gleam the sacred sparks of holiness among your blessed servants who receive these Your words in the universe. Bestow upon us the goodness and the merit of their fathers, their learning, innocence and holiness, so that we do not stumble among these holy words. And in their goodness let our eyes be enlightened in what we study, as is written in the words of the kind Psalmist of Israel "Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold." (Ps. 119:18) This is because God will give wisdom, knowledge and understanding from His mouth. "Let what I say and what I think be pleasing before You, God, my Rock and my Redeemer."

Excerpted from Window of the Soul by James David Dunn, Nathan Snyder. Copyright © 2008 James Dunn. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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