One of the most crucial questions regarding messianism concerns the nature of Torah, namely law, in the days of the Messiah.
The later parts of the Zohar, Raya Mehemna (the Faithful Shepherd) and Tikkunei Zohar, are dedicated to envisioning the imminent end of days and the new reality. The ancient biblical symbols of the tree of life and the tree of knowledge, also referred to as the tree of death, are taken to describe the difference between the unredeemed world and the days of Messiah.
Placed in the centre of paradise, the trees represented a higher, cosmic order that governed our world. Originally, the cosmos was ruled by the tree of life that represents the pure force of sanctity that permeates all the worlds as the origin of life; this is the divine force that isn’t obstructed by any limitations of evil or death.
Adam’s sin brought about the rule of the tree of knowledge that divided the world into the separate spheres of sacred and profane, live and dead, the licit and the forbidden. Wickedness became an inherent part of human volition, and the purpose of the laws, as we know them, is to limit, as best we can, the influence of the tree of life.
The writers of Raya Mehemna and Tikkunei Zohar distinguish between the Torah of Briah, that is of the unredeemed world of Creation, and the Torah of Aziluth, namely that of the upper world of emanation (the divine emanations of the Tree of Life).
The Messiah will restore the Torah of Aziluth that preceded that of Creation. But how can we imagine this Torah?
The great Safed Kabablist, Moshe Cordovero (1522-1570), writes in his Shi’ur Komah (Measurement of Height):
The Torah in its innermost essence is composed of divine letters, which themselves are configurations of divine light. Only in the course of a process of materialization do these letters combine in various ways. First they form names, that is, names of God, later appellatives and predicates suggesting the divine, and still later they combine in a new way, to form words relating to earthly events and material objects.
The original Torah is the infinite potentiality of possible meanings, and yet, of no definite meaning at all…
This view, shared by other kabblists, anchors the anarchic, antinomian tendency inherent in messianic thought: that the Torah of Aziluth annuls that of Beriah. Such a view characterized messianic figures, like Sabbatai Zevi or Jakob Frank, who announced that the violation of the Torah is its fulfillment.
This point takes us to the gate to the Torah of Aziluth in theory, and in practice – to its “actualization,” namely the story of Sabbtianism…