From all of the above we can understand the statement, “The path of the wicked is like darkness, they know not on what they stumble”. “The path of the wicked [is like darkness]” is allegorical to one who is traveling in darkness and trips on a piece of wood or a stone without knowing over what he stumbled. If there was light he would not stumble over it at all, because he would be careful of it. It is specifically because of the darkness that he does not know over what his feet stumble.
Likewise, in the analogue it is understood that there are two types of evil. The first is that he sees and feels it within himself, when he becomes aroused in a felt way, for the object of his desire. In other words, he knows over what he stumbles and he is therefore capable of guarding himself from it. If he desires to do so, and guard his soul with knowledge and free choice, he is fully capable of not following this damaging path, in which he will certainly be injured. This is as it states, “See, I have placed before you this day life and good, and death and evil”. In other words, he sees two paths before him with his eyes. The first path is the path of life and goodness, and the second is a path of death and evil. He will choose the path of life and will flee from the path of death, because he has eyes, and he can see and distinguish between the two. This sight is the aspect of the sight of the light of Chochmah, which may be spelled, Koach Mah – the power of what [i.e. sublimation and subjugation to G-d] which is found in his Divine soul. This is as known, that Chochmah – Wisdom is called light [since it illuminates], and is the aspect of the sublimation to the G-dly “nothingness” which is found in every Jew, for it radiates in his soul. This then is the meaning of, “See, I have placed before you”, in a way of sight and recognition.
However, if he does not see and recognize in a way of sight, of Chochmah, this is because he has blemished the letter Yud [which corresponds to the Chochmah] of his soul. He therefore walks in darkness, and will certainly stumble and become ensnared in evil and death, without even knowing or feeling it, whatsoever. This is like one who travels in actual darkness, not knowing over what he may stumble and fall, as mentioned above. This is what is called the aspect of “the depth of evil”, which is the opposite of the “depth of good”, as known.
This matter may be understood according to what was stated before concerning the matter of the casting off the Heavenly yoke, in that he follows the whims of his heart. This casting off of the Heavenly yoke is the source of all the lusts of his soul. Furthermore, we explained before that following after the whims and desires of his heart comes only as a result of casting off the Heavenly yoke. In other words, he removed the desire to accept upon the Heavenly yoke upon himself, and is lacking in this even in the way of a desire for a desire. [A desire for a desire is like a general self perception, which is the source of all of a person’s particular desires, as explained elsewhere.] Because of this, he will automatically come to falling to the whims and desires of his heart. That is, because he has cast off the Heavenly yoke the yoke of strange masters is placed upon him, as explained previously. This is because he has been cut off from his source in the aspect of the Yechidah which is above intellect and reasoning. This is called the depth of evil.
Because of this, power is given over to the external shells of evil, which are called “kitrin d’misavoota – the crowns of filth”, which are the gates of impurity. They cause his soul to become impure with extraneous lewd thoughts, even when he does not desire them by choice and knowingly. Rather, they come by themselves, because of the rule of “strange masters”, as explained before. This is the meaning of “Derech rasha’im k’aphelah – the path of the wicked is like darkness”.
In order to understand this with greater clarity, we must understand that there are two types of darkness. There is Ophel (אופל) which is masculine, and there is Aphelah (אפילה) which is feminine, and is higher than Ophel – אופל. Ophel – אופל of Kelipah is masculine, and is therefore the aspect of the influencer of all types of concealed evils. This is called hidden influence [of evil], which is above all intellect and reasoning, for it is not seen or felt at all. This is like the verse, “You know the people that they are in evil”, that they are encompassed by evil, i.e. that the evil encompasses them from all sides in a concealed fashion, as stated, “They compassed me about; indeed they surrounded me”. These are the encompassing lights of the external shells of evil, from the aspect of Keter [the desire and pleasure, which are encompassing lights] of these external shells. This is when extraneous evil thoughts come upon a person, without his knowledge or awareness. In other words, this comes from the concealed desire which is above the awareness of Da’at. In other words, it is above his conscious control. It is called an encompassment which encompasses and surrounds him from all sides, and he does not know or feel it at all. It is so natural and embedded in his being, that he is unaware of it. In the terminology of the Talmud this is “when one becomes so accustomed to the sin that it he feels as if it is permissible, without feeling it [to be a sin] at all.”
Likewise, the Sages explain the verse, “The sins of my heels surround me”, that these are the sins which a person tramples with his heels. In other words, he becomes so accustomed to transgressing them, that they become regarded as permissible to him, and he does not feel it to be sinful at all. Likewise in this case, regarding this surrounding encompassment of evil, which is concealed in his soul, and encompasses him from his head to his feet, what is above his head is called, “Above Da’at – awareness” and what is below his feet is called, “Below Da’at – awareness”. This is like someone who does something in the way of a nature, without any awareness. For example, regarding his thoughts which are not for G-d, he does not feel them at all, for they are “only natural”. Or, this is like a person who transgresses a commandment without any intent of rebelling and casting off the Heavenly yoke, but rather he does it without any awareness at all. This is because of his lack of feeling for it, that it is a sin, and it is as if he tramples it with his feet. He is repaid “on the days of evil, which are the days on which the judgments rule and the prosecutors demand and are listened to”, then, “the sins of my heels surround me, above my head”. This is also like the verse, “My sins have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me”, which is the aspect of the encompassing lights of evil mentioned above. This is what is called Ophel – Darkness (אופל), that it darkens and conceals, as in the aspect of the depth of evil, in a concealing and encompassing way.
For, it is known that for everything which G-d created, he also created its opposite. [In other words, everything that exists on the side of the Holy has something corresponding to it on the side of evil.] On the side of Holiness, this encompassing light is called the Upper Wonder – פלא [which shares the same letters as אפל – the darkness of the side of evil]. The terminology of “wondrousness” is an aspect of concealment, something which is hidden from the intellect and reasoning. This is called the upper darkness, as it states, “He places darkness on His side”, or like the verse, “He that dwells in the concealed place of the most high, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” It is here that the Divine soul resides and is concealed, as in the following verse, “I will say to the L-rd, who is my refuge etc” and as stated, “my covering etc”. It is from this level where salvation comes, as in “He will deliver thee from the snare of the fowlers”. This “snare” is compared to the sins which a person tramples with his heels, so that his heels become ensnared, like one who becomes ensnared in a trap, as in the verse, “Like birds who are snared in a trap”. Then, the previous verse continues, “He will deliver thee from the snare of the fowlers, and from the noisome pestilence”. The “noisome pestilence” is the aspect of the hidden death, which is caused by the sins “which have gone over my head”, mentioned above.
From this upper encompassment of the Holy side, there is no influence or sustenance to the external forces whatsoever. In other words, one whose essential point of his desire is attached and connected above to G-d, as mentioned earlier when speaking about one who is pure, “Shall not fear the terror at night; nor the arrows that fly by day; nor the pestilence that walks in darkness; nor the destruction that wastes at noonday”. This verse speaks of the influence of the external forces in the attributes of day and night (i.e. both revealed and concealed evils), but the pure person shall not fear them. This is because, “Under His wings you will find refuge”. This refers to the encompassing lights of Binah – Understanding, which invests until below the feet. [This refers to the garment of the Chashmal, which is called the “protector of the emotions”, but refers to it specifically as it is after rectification-Tikkun, in which the “cloak of leather” is turned to a “cloak of light”, as explained elsewhere]. This is as stated, “Spread the Sukkah of your peace upon us, and conceal us in the shadow of your wings” in order that “the satan should be removed from before us and from behind us”. [It is explained elsewhere that the Sukkah refers to the encompassing lights of Binah.] This is called “protection from the outside”, which refers to the protection from revealed evil of the emotions and action, that “your evil afflicts you”, with the attribute of judgment and revealed afflictions.
(Now, the “refuge” of the aspect of the encompassing lights of Keter of Holiness, protect one even from the concealed evil, from “the snare of the fowler”, and from “the fear of the night”, which are the judgments that dominate the body because of the evil which he has perpetrated in actuality. Furthermore, they protect from the “the arrow which flies by day”, which are the judgments which dominate the soul, to blemish it in a revealed way. In other words, just as an arrow kills the body, these “arrows” cause blemishes in the thought, and in the emotions of the heart. The verse then continues, “Nor the pestilence that walks in darkness; nor of the destruction that wastes at noonday”, darkness and noonday are two opposites. One is of the ultimate darkness while the other is the ultimate light. The darkness refers to when he is completely concealed in actual evil, because he actively darkens and conceals the G-dly light of his soul and it is hidden and concealed from him. This is like one who draws upon himself licentious and evil thoughts and sins. This is drawn from the aspect of Ophel – אופל (darkness), which is called “the influencer of every type of evil and concealment”, to darken the light. (This was explained previously with the explanation of Ophel – אופל, which is masculine (the influencer), and Aphelah – אפילה, which is feminine (the recipient).)
The evil thoughts which he draws upon himself cause the light of his soul to slowly be extinguished, to the point where he literally reaches “the gate of death”. This is the explanation of “the pestilence that walks in darkness”, i.e. the aspect of spiritual death, which kills and destroys in a concealed way, without him knowing or feeling it at all. This is like a person who is injured in darkness, and does not know who or what caused him this injury. This is called אפל – the darkness of the side of evil, which is the opposite of פלא – The Upper wonder, on the side of Holiness. (Nonetheless, the destruction of the pestilence comes with strength and power, in the heat of the day, which is called “noonday”. This is like when at times his inclination overpowers him with a great and overpowering heat, until within him he is burning with lust. This is because the external shells of evil overpower him with powerful might, to heat him up with the fire of these evil lusts. This is as explained elsewhere on the verse regarding Tamar, “take her out and let her be burned”, in the flames and heat of the sun. In other words, this refers to the exile (Galut), in which “we are swallowed up by masters besides You”, who influence the Jewish people with powerful might, like the verse, “Israel is swallowed up”. Its only rectification is by burning, to burn up the evil at its source. This is during the heat of the day with the enslavement of earning a livelihood with great difficulty and toil, as in the verse, “with the sweat of your brow”.)
All of the above may be compared to two types of weapons of war. One is concealed, to attack the enemy from a hidden place, like from the forest or pits, without him knowing where the arrows come from. The second type of weapon of war is with the might of throwing fire upon the enemy etc. (This is like it states, “the sun has scorched me” in the heat of the day, and as stated by the Zohar, “Mighty judgments are the strength of the sun” etc.) About all of these aspects of evil, the psalm continues, “A thousand shall fall at your side… but it shall not come near you… because, You Havayah are my refuge… the young lion and the crocodile you shall trample under foot.” In other words, it is not enough that the external forces shall not receive any influence or sustenance from the “heels”, like the matter of “a snake is curled on the heels of Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa, rather, even more than this, “you shall trample” them. This is as stated, “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel”.)
Now, the aspect of Aphelah – אפילה (darkness) is the aspect of the feminine. In other words, it is the place of darkness. Therefore the darkness automatically darkens there. This is because it is a receptacle for darkness. This is even worse than the darkness itself, because of the fact that there is no possibility for the light to shine there. This is not the case with the aspect of darkness itself, which is only the absence of light. In the case of darkness itself, when the light reaches there, it will radiate and light up the darkness, as in the verse “And it was a cloud and darkness, and it enlightened the night”. This is also as is explained elsewhere about the benefit of light which radiates the darkness, so that the darkness itself radiates. That is, when the concealed encompassing lights of Holiness which were mentioned earlier, are revealed.
Now, the explanation of the matter is that one who is a receptacle, to receive from the concealed evil at all times, which is called “Ophel – Darkness (אופל) of Kelipah”, which was explained above, it is within his power to draw upon himself this encompassing influencer of the external shells of evil. In other words, he draws upon himself many extraneous lewd and evil thoughts from the influencer of “darkness”. This is the aspect of Malchut (the feminine vessel) of Keter (the source and influencer) of Kelipah. This is much worse than the influencer itself. [One main reason for this is that since it is known that Malchut represents the letters and the vessels which bring something out into revelation, here too, it is specifically the fact that he is a receptacle and vessel to bring out evil into actuality and revelation. This is worse than the influence itself. Without the receptacle, the influence would have no venue for revelation.]
This aspect, of the receiver and vessel of evil is called Aphelah – אפילה, with a Heh –‘ה, making the word feminine, which is the aspect of “the receiver”. The reason it is worse, is because her source is actually higher than the darkness of the external shells of evil itself. [This is as known that the source of the vessels is higher than the source of the light. It is specifically because of this that the vessels have the capability to contain the light and influence.] Therefore, the light of Holiness does not shine there at all, not even the concealed light of the upper encompassing light of Holiness (which is called Peleh (פלא) – Wondrousness, as mentioned above). This is the meaning of, “They are in evil”, that they are a recipient to receive the influence of every type of evil (from the aspect of gross iniquity, mentioned earlier). This is also the meaning of what is said about the redemption from Egypt, “from darkness to a great light”, i.e. that they were taken out of the fifty gates of impurity and evil.
We now may understand the meaning of the verse, “the path of the wicked is like darkness”. Because, the wicked, who are in an aspect of “casting off the Heavenly yoke”, which is completely above intellect, reasoning and choice, as explained earlier, become recipients for “the crowns of impurity”, to become contaminated with every type of impurity which is influenced upon them. The impurity of these people is even stronger than the impurity of the influencers. This is the meaning of “the path of the wicked is like darkness – אפילה” which is a feminine terminology which denotes a recipient. In other words, they travel on a crooked path which is concealed in the encompassing light of the external shells of evil, and they do not know on what they will stumble.
This is like the allegory of one who is traveling in darkness, who stumbles on every type of stumbling block, but he does not know or feel it at all, and it appears to him as if he did not stumble at all. This is higher and worse than the “pestilence that walks in darkness”, for in that case he at least feels the death of his soul, only that he does not know where it comes from, and who has damaged him. In this case though, the intent of the verse “they do not know on what they will stumble”, is not just that he does not know with what he has stumbled. Rather, the intent is that he does not even know that he has stumbled at all.
This is similar to the above explained matter, about the sins which he tramples with his heels. This is the reason why to the wicked, a (sin the size of a) mountain appears to be as narrow as a hair, because of the force of their easiness in casting off the Heavenly yoke. This is because “the path of the wicked is like darkness – אפילה”. In other words, the aspect of the highest level, the Yechidah of their souls is in darkness, to the point that they are called “dead” even during their liftimes. This is as stated, “The light of the wicked shall be extinguished”. Therefore, automatically, “they do not know on what they stumble”, for “they are in evil”, as explained above, in an aspect which is higher than reason, which is apparent in the stumbling of their feet, which is below reason, for they are one and the same, as mentioned earlier.
In contrast, “the path (אורח) of the righteous is straight and well lit”, this being the opposite of the crooked paths of the wicked. (The explanation of a crooked or winding path is that it is a downward spiral of concealment upon concealment of G-dliness. Just as there are “hidden paths of good” there are “hidden paths of evil”. Furthermore the terminology אורח – path, is feminine, which is the aspect of the recipient [i.e. the Righteous are recipients for holiness].) In contrast, it is explained that דרך – path, is masculine, the aspect of the influencer which influences to אפילה – the feminine recipient of the external shells of evil. This is as stated, “And you will bruise their heel”, which refers to the time of the “heels of Moshiach” [these being our times], which is called, “the sins of my heels”. For, in general, the Jewish people are like a body, as is known [and in this final generation we are like the “heel” of the body]. Because of this, as known, in these generations the wicked overpower and control, with evil prosecution, for “they do not know that they stumble”, and there is a great concealment of G-dliness, as mentioned above. The rectification for this darkness is not with the light of pleasure, desire or intellect in the service of G-d, but only with tears, as will soon be explained.