Through a Mirror Clearly
Once again, I’m doing a book review. This time of one of Rav Hillel’s books, אפקלריא דנהר”א Aspekluria D’nahara. This is Rav Yaakov Hillel’s commentary on the Rashash’s work Rehovot HaNahar. Currently only the first volume is in print. I have no idea how many volumes are planned.
First let me say a piece about Rehovot HaNahar. In Sefer Nahar Shalom on page 32a their are a series of questions from the Hakhamei of Tunis and the Rashash’s replies to their questions. One of their questions what how the Rashash arrived at his understanding of the Eitz Haim and what other works he relied upon. The Rashash replied that he relied upon only the Kitvei HaAri. Further to his response he said that he would send them a short pamphlet called “Rehovot HaNahar” which would lay out the foundational principles that he found throughout the Eitz Haim(and the rest of the Kitvei) that would enable them to understand the Kitvei has he had. Regarding sefer Rehovot HaNahar, Rav Kaduri said, “You can know all of the Kitvei HaAri Baal Peh with it’s meforshim. Until you have learned Rehovot HaNahar, you have not learned Kabbalah.” For this reason some Kabbalistic Yeshivot even start their students with that.
Coming back to Rav Hillel’s book. The first volume is 253 pages long. It covers only the first two and half pages of Rehovot HaNahar. So far I haven’t found a wasted word. Rav Hillel combines his enormous knowledge of Kabbalah along with his excellent teaching skills and superb writing style to fully elucidate the many complex issues that the sefer discusses. He has broken the sefer into three Simanim(chapters). Here are my translations of the chapter headings from the table of contents:
- Chapter 1- In it shall be explained that the shattering[of vessesls] was in [the aspect] of width, and in the particulars not in the general.
- Chapter 2- In it shall be explained what were the various aspects that came forth in the world of Nekudim and what were the aspects that were shattered
- Chapter 3- In it shall be explained the matter of clarification and rectification, and what is clarified and rectified.
These are all key foundations to the understanding of the Kabbalah, and Rav Hillel does and excellent job of laying them out and making them accessible. The commentary is broken into two pieces. נהרא ופשתא Nahara UPashsta which is a line by line interpretation and explanation of the text itself and מעמקי הים Mamkei HaYam which looks much more indepth(Iyun) at the various issues and brings his own special insights into the text.
As great as the text is, I would say that the book is worth it just for the introduction. He gives there a fairly in depth explanation of the four basic foundations that the RaShaSh bases his entire system on, and that the Ari himself, according to the RaShaSh and Rav Yaakov Hillel, bases his entire Kabbalah on. While his explanation is in depth it is also basic enough that a person can easily grasp these profound concepts.