In order to comprehend what a particular sage, kabbalist, or prophet meant, it is necessary to be familiar with the historic context within which he wrote and lived, with his personality, point of view, and even the manners and customs implicit in the text.
Only then will it be possible to extract its more universal, human message.
Although the words were originally intended for the writer’s contemporaries, all generations of Jewish sages expressed themselves by means of imagery conceptualization of abstractions.
If we approach the task in the proper way, we, too, shall be able to find the general meaning.
Once we grasp what they were saying for their own time, we shall be able to understand what they are still telling us today.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz