If Thou Know Not, O Thou Fairest among Women
Based on the essay from The Book of Zohar, “The Wisdom a Man Needs” (New Zohar with the Sulam Commentary, Song of Songs, item 482).
“If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock and feed thy kids, beside the shepherds' tents” (Song of Songs 1:8).
“Anyone who goes to that world without knowing the secrets of the Torah, even if there are many good deeds in him, is taken outside all of the gates of that world.
“Come and see what is written, If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, the Creator replies to the soul: If you have come without looking in the wisdom before coming here, and you do not know the secrets of the Upper World, go thy way, you are not worthy of entering here without knowledge. Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, meaning reincarnate in the world, and you will know by the footsteps of the flock.”
New Zohar with the Sulam Commentary, Song of Songs, Vol. 10
In a profound and mysterious essay, the author of The Book of Zohar, Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai (Rashbi), explains the above text in the book, The Song of Songs. The Song of Songs is a Kabbalistic text dealing solely with one’s perception of the Upper Worlds. This composition describes the states that a soul experiences as it climbs up the spiritual ladder, from the first degree to the complete and eternal bonding with the Upper Force, the Creator.
Rashbi reveals what happens to an individual whose earthly life has terminated without having begun the correction process of one’s soul. In such a state, the soul returns to the spiritual world as “a point in its spiritual root.”
This soul begins to experience reality through special senses, but it can only experience a tiny fraction of the spiritual reality, since it did not evolve spiritually. Rashbi explains that at this point, the soul feels that the Upper Force is “speaking” to it.
In Kabbalah, the term “speaking” means “revealing.” A soul that experiences the spiritual world discovers that the purpose of creation is to bring it to perfection and eternity, just like the Creator. But when a soul that did not evolve in our world rises to the Upper World, it feels only the gap between its own qualities and the qualities of the Creator. Such a soul senses how remote it is from realizing its vocation. When this happens, a soul begins to want to close the gap and correct itself in order to achieve wholeness and eternity.
In The Book of Zohar, this state is described as the Creator “speaking” to the soul, telling it, “If thou know not, O thou fairest among women.” Rashbi explains this saying in the following way: “If you have come without looking in the wisdom before coming here, and you do not know the secrets of the Upper World, go thy way; you are not worthy of entering here without knowledge. Go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, meaning reincarnate in the world.”
To exist in the Upper World, a soul must have equal qualities to those of the Creator. For this to be, the soul should develop its quality of loving and giving. This is why a soul that did not correct itself is told to leave, return to the corporeal reality, be born in a physical body, grow, and achieve a state where it stands on its own and can decide which path to take.
According to the greatest Kabbalists, such as the Rashbi, the Holy Ari, and Baal HaSulam, the wisdom of Kabbalah is the only means by which a soul can begin to discover the spiritual world. This is why Rashbi stresses that we must all know the secrets of the Torah; i.e., the Kabbalah. When we begin to implement the wisdom of Kabbalah in our lives, we correct our souls and equalize our qualities with the Creator’s quality of love and benevolence.
When this happens, our souls are rewarded with all the wondrous secrets of creation—the Thought of Creation. The next time such a soul stands before the Upper Force, it will achieve perfect and everlasting bonding with It. Moreover, in that state, it will not have to return to this world “by the footsteps of the flock.” Instead, it will experience the full grandeur of the spiritual reality.