HaShem Is G-d

Adapted from a Chassidic discourse in the year 5657

Of Rabbi Shalom DovBerזצ”ל

The fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe

By Rabbi Amiram Markel

 

The Torah states, “You shall know this day and set it upon your heart that HaShem, He is Elokim, in the heavens above and on the earth below, there is nothing else.” The Zohar’s comment on this, that “HaShem and Elokim are all one”, is well known. However, at first glance it is not readily understood how they are all one. As known, and as stated in several places in Midrash and Zohar, the four letter ineffable name of HaShem is the source of Divine revelation and is the aspect of the attribute of mercy. This is the aspect of Divine revelation in a manner of kindness and mercy without limitation whatsoever. Rather, as will be explained, the source of all limitation is the name Elokim, whereas the name HaShem is Divine revelation in a completely limitless fashion. The name Elokim, on the other hand is the aspect of judgment and restraint, in that it restrains and conceals the revelation of light. The end result is many different levels of revelation and concealment. Therefore, being that restraint and concealment brings about multiplicity, the name Elokim may be used in the plural sense, as opposed to the name HaShem, which is only singular, since He is the Singular Being.

Moreover, according to Kabbalah the name HaShem is the source of the lights of the Sefirot of Atzilut (the emanated world), whereas the name Elokim is the source of their organs. Being that the Divine light is characteristic of the Luminary, therefore just as the Luminary is simple, indivisible and limitless, so is His light. (This is because the light always adheres to the Luminary from which it emanates, just as the light and ray of the sun is never disconnected from the sun.) Therefore, just as the Luminary is essentially simple, limitless and indivisible, so is His light.

However, the name Elokim is the source of the organs of the Sefirot of Atzilut, within which the Divine light becomes restrained, hidden and limited in that it comes in a manner of separate characteristics, such as insight (Chochmah), kindness (Chessed) etc. This concealment is due to the organs, even though, on the other hand, the organs of the ten Sefirot reveal the light invested in them. For example, in a human being, the brain in the head reveals the light of the intellect invested within it, the eye reveals the light of vision and the heart reveals the emotions, all of which are spiritual and intangible, in and of themselves.

The same concept applies supernally in HaShem’s relationship to His world, as it states in Zohar, “Chochmah is the brain, Chessed is the right arm etc., in that the organs of the sefirot reveal their lights etc. This is the primary purpose of the organs of the Sefirot; to reveal the light as it acts through them, similar to the organs of the human body in relation to the faculties of the soul. Actually, both characteristics of the organs are true, that on the one hand they reveal the light of the Sefirot of Atzilut and on the other hand, they hide and conceal it.

However, the light that is revealed through them is light as it relates to worlds. The organs of the ten Sefirot of Atzilut illuminate and reveal light within the world of Atzilut. Then, by means of the filter (Parsa) that separates between Atzilut and Briyah, the light becomes revealed in the world of Briyah. The same principle holds true from Briyah to Yetzirah and from Yetzirah to Asiyah. Nonetheless, the light revealed in them is not the light of the Self as it actually is, because as explained above, the light bears the characteristics of the Luminary. Just as the Luminary is absolutely simple and unlimited, so is His light. This being the case, in essence the light is above relating to worlds. This is because every world, even the world of Atzilut with its various levels and chambers, is tangible and limited relative to the intangible limitlessness of HaShem.

If this is so regarding the world of Atzilut, which emanates from Him and adheres to Him, as light adheres to its luminary, then it certainly is so regarding the worlds of Briyah, Yetzirah and Asiyah (creation, formation and action) which are like garments separate from the body. They certainly are limited and as known, the limited is absolutely not comparable to the unlimited. From this we see that the Divine light, as it is itself, is beyond any relativity to worlds whatsoever. From this it is understood that the light as it is revealed into the worlds through the organs of the Sefirot is not the essential light itself, but is rather only an external radiance of it, because the organs hide and conceal the light of the Self. However, it is specifically the concealment of the light of the Self that makes it possible for the external light as it relates to worlds to be revealed and act within them. It is therefore understood that they conceal the light of the Self and reveal the external light and that the one is dependent on the other. In other words, it is specifically because the light of the Self is hidden that the external light can be revealed.

This fact, that the organs do not reveal the light of the Self, may be understood from the letters of speech which reveal a person’s intellect. However, the letters only reveal the externality of his intellect rather than his inner intellect as it exists within himself. Being limited vessels they cannot transmit the full inner intent of the self. This is to say that being that letters are limited vessels for the conveyance of meaning they are therefore incapable of revealing the full inner intent of the self of the soul. All they reveal is the externality of the mind, rather than the inner mind itself. Likewise, in regard to the supernal organs as they exist in Atzilut, they too only reveal the external, whereas the Divine light of the inner Self remains hidden within them.

This may further be understood from the faculties of the soul as they are invested in the organs of the human body, such as the faculty of intellect within the brain of the head to conceptualize or the faculty of sight of the eye to see etc. Certainly, before being invested in the brain and eye, these faculties pre-existed in the soul. However their existence was very high and refined compared to their state of being in the physical organs. All in all, in this higher state the faculty of sight did not affect vision of anything other or external to the self, as it does once it is invested in the body.

This was likewise the case with the faculty of intellect. Rather than conceptualizing physically as it does in the brain, it conceptualized spiritually, similar to the comprehension of the souls in Paradise (Gan Eden). This is because before being invested in the body, the intellectual faculty of the soul existed as the light of the self which was above relating to gross materiality. Likewise, the soul beheld the spiritual rather than the material with its faculty of vision. Only afterwards, once these faculties become invested in the physical organs, the light of the self becomes concealed and all that is revealed of them is the externality of their light as it is revealed and acts upon something other and external to the essential self etc. This conforms to the general principle that the revelation of the essential self affects concealment relative to another, whereas the concealment of the essential self affects revelation relative to another.

From this example we may understand how it is regarding the supernal organs of Atzilut. Even in the world of Atzilut, its organs conceal the light of the Self and only reveal its externality. Moreover, it is specifically because they conceal the inner light of the Self that they can reveal the externality of the light to affect their desired effects, as was mentioned above about the soul in relation to the organs of the body. This is specifically brought about by the name Elokim, which is the attribute of judgment and restraint that restrains and conceals the light. This applies to all the concealments in all the worlds, which are the filters and screens that differentiate one world from another.

It even applies to each world, in and of itself, such as the screens in the world of Atzilut proper. There are screens in Atzilut itself which differentiate between the intellect of Atzilut and the emotions of Atzilut and between the emotions and the actualization. Likewise, there is a screen between Atzilut and Briyah and in Briyah itself there are the screens between its intellect and its emotions and between its emotions and its actualization. Furthermore, there is a screen between Briyah and Yetzirah and a screen between Yetzirah and Asiyah. Moreover, each world in and of itself has the above mentioned screens between its intellect, emotions and actualization. All of these restraints and concealments result from the name Elokim. On the other hand, all revelations result from the name HaShem.

According to this explanation these two names, HaShem and Elokim, seem to be opposites of each other, the one being the source of revelation and the other being the source of concealment. This being the case, how are they “All one”, as the Zohar states?    However, this may be understood through self-contemplation and introspection, as the verse states, “From my flesh I shall behold G-d”, and as the Torah states, “Let us make man in our image and in our likeness”. In other words, man was made in the image and likeness of the Supernal. Therefore, by examining and contemplating the faculties of the human soul, we can infer how it is supernally.

Now as known, the power to reveal and the power to limit and conceal also exist in the soul. For example, intellectual conceptualization, which is a matter of revelation, comes from the heyulie power of intellect in the soul, which is the ability to conceptualize all manner of concepts. As known, all concepts are drawn from this ability to conceptualize. On the other hand, the soul also possesses the power to limit the parameters of every concept. As known, every concept or intellectual argument, no matter how broad, has its parameters and limitations. It can only be taken so far and when applied beyond its limits, it leads to false and wrong notions. Likewise, when several logical arguments are considered, some of which permit and some of which forbid; if the various arguments are not clearly defined, a final decision can never be concluded. For example, it is impossible to bring the arguments of the Talmud into practical application unless the opposing arguments are clearly defined. Only then can one recognize the preponderance of one argument over another and arrive at a correct and proper Halachic decision.

This may also be understood from the relationship between a teacher and a student. In such a case, the teacher is the source of influence and the student is the recipient. Now of necessity, the teacher must restrain, conceal and limit his own intellect to the capacity of the student, because if he would give over the concept in the deep and broad way that he understands it himself, it would be beyond the student’s capacity. Rather, he must conceal the depth of his own understanding and reveal only what the student can relate to. Therefore, the teacher must restrain his own mind from elaborating and expanding on the concept too much, lest it be beyond the capacity of the student’s mind to receive. In other words, he must tailor the influence, even in his own mind, according to the vessel of the student. From this we see that within the soul there is the power to limit the intellect.

Now, this power to limit also exists in the heyulie ability to conceptualize itself, from which all manner of intellectual concepts are revealed. It also is the source that delineates the parameters of all concepts. These two powers of the ability to conceptualize are its Chesed and Gevurah. Its Chesed is the source of its power to reveal concepts and its Gevurah is the source of its power to limit them. This example sheds light on how it is Supernally regarding the two names HaShem and Elokim, which represent the Divine power to reveal and the Divine power to limit, both of which are drawn from the essence and being of Ohr Ein Sof, blessed is He (The Infinite Light). Just as the Divine power to reveal, which is the name HaShem, is drawn from Ohr Ein Sof Himself (as explained above that light adheres to its luminary and is similar to it), so too, the Divine power to limit and restrain, which is the name Elokim, is likewise drawn from Ohr Ein Sof Himself.

This is the Divine power of Ohr Ein Sof (The limitless Light) to limit, as explained in the book Avodat HaKodesh, that Ohr Ein Sof is the ultimate perfection and just as He can act in an unlimited fashion, so too, He can act in a limited fashion. Because if we would say that He can only act in an unlimited fashion, we would be limiting Him and lessening His perfection. Rather, just as He can act in an unlimited fashion, so too, He can act in a limited fashion. This is the matter of the name Elokim, which is the power of Ohr Ein Sof Himself to limit. This being the case, since the name Elokim is literally an aspect of Ohr Ein Sof Himself, as is the name HaShem, therefore it is understood that the name Elokim does not conceal the name HaShem.

This is because of the general principle that the self cannot cover over itself, just as a person cannot cover himself with himself. This principle actually has a practical application in Halacha (Torah Law).  Concerning the subject of wearing a head covering, the Shulchan Aruch[1] states that merely covering one’s head with one’s hand is ineffectual (whereas, if his friend covers him with his hand, it is an effective covering). The reason is because the self cannot cover itself. In the same manner supernally, regarding the name Elokim which is an aspect of Ohr Ein Sof Himself; it does not cover over and conceal the name of HaShem, because, as stated, the self cannot cover itself. This is why HaShem and Elokim are all one; because both are aspects of Ohr Ein Sof Himself and are therefore not opposites at all. This is because though the name Elokim is the power of restraint, nonetheless, it in no way restrains or covers over the name HaShem.

However, at first glance this is not understood. Is not the whole raison d’être of the name Elokim to restrain and conceal? If so, how can we say that it does not conceal at all or that it does and does not at once!?! However, this may be understood by the example of a teacher-student relationship in which the gap between them is very great, such as a great sage trying to teach a child a deep concept. Obviously, the child’s mind is tiny relative to the mind of the sage and cannot compare in its capacity to conceive deep, subtle and abstract concepts. How can the teacher accomplish such a feat? He must restrain and conceal his own deep and profound insights on the subject and focus only on revealing an external and abridged glimmer of it tailored to the student’s capacity. On the other hand, if he would reveal the full depth and breadth of his profound insight into the subject as he himself understands it, not only would the student not reach any depth of knowledge, but on the contrary, he would become completely confused and understand nothing at all.

Moreover, not only does the teacher need to simplify and abridge his explanation, but more so, he must dress it in examples and analogies, which in essence are foreign to the concept itself. In doing so, he covers and conceals the concept, just as a garment covers the body, since it is something separate and apart from it. In the same manner, an analogy is something separate and apart from the analogue and covers over it. Albeit, it is only through this that the student grasps the analogue. (This is because the analogy is patterned to fit the analogue, just as a garment is patterned to fit the body and the better the analogy the closer the fit. Because of this the concept is specifically understood through its analogy.)

This is the meaning of the rabbinic dictum, “One should always teach his student in short form.” In other words, he should tailor his words according to the student rather than teach him according to the depth and breadth of his own understanding. He needs to find a short form in which the whole inner meaning as he understands it is concealed. On the other hand, this does not mean that the inner, essential meaning is absent, for if that were the case it would not be a short form, but a different concept altogether. Rather, what is meant here is that he teaches him the essential concept, but in short form. The entire depth of his conceptualization and insight into the subject is present, except that it is extremely hidden and can only be extracted through a precise analysis of his words.

This is similar to the teachings of the Mishnah which were transmitted to us by our holy Rebbe, Rabbi Yehudah the Prince. It encompasses the whole depth, length and breadth of the analytic dialectics of our sages, but in very concise, abbreviated form to bring it closer to our minds. However, all the depth, length and breadth are there, as we see that the Gemara, in all its intricacies and profundities is entirely reconstructed through the deep analysis of the Mishnah. In the same manner, the full depth of the teacher’s insight is present in his teachings except that it is hidden to the recipient who only grasps the external concept as it relates to him.

Now, the teacher’s ability to restrain and conceal his essential intellect is from the power to limit within his ability to conceptualize, as explained above. However, the restraint and concealment only affects the recipient. The teacher himself, on the other hand, is completely unaffected. In other words, the restraint which brings about the concealment of what is above the student’s mind, so that what is on his level may be revealed to him, in no way affects the knowledge of the teacher himself. His own knowledge remains the same, because the only reason he limits the teaching at all, is for the benefit of the student. This being the case, even as he gives over the allegory he sees the full depth of the concept being conveyed. Not only is he aware of the full depth of the concept, but more so, even in the details of the allegory, which only dresses the concept, he sees all the details of the analogue, literally as it is in his own mind, divested of any garment, restraint or concealment.

(By way of example, the earth is an allegory for the supernal aspect of Malchut (Kingship) as in the rabbinic dictum, “The kingdom of the earth is similar to the kingdom of the firmament.”  This includes the details of the earth, including its diameter, mass, spherical shape etc., and the fact that it causes all manner of vegetation to grow etc. All this is an allegory for the aspect of Malchut of Atzilut which brings the creatures of Briyah, Yetzirah and Asiyah into being out of nothing. The teacher therefore sees all the details of the analogue, which is Malchut of Atzilut, within the physical details of the earth. Through this he sees how the physical has no existence in and of itself, separate and apart from its spiritual root and source in Atzilut. Rather, it is merely the supernal level as it materializes through the limitless power of HaShem, and in reality the allegory and the analogue are one thing, except that the one is spiritual and the other is physical. Because of this, he sees all the details of the analogue in the analogy. In other words, he literally perceives G-dliness through the physical! This is brought about by HaShem’s limitless power to limit, which is the name Elokim. Through dressing his intellectual insight in garments and concealments, the G-dly matter is brought into actual tangible perception for him.)

In conclusion, we find that relative to the teacher there is no concealment altogether. Rather, concealment only applies from the angle of the recipient. This is because to him only the externality of the concept is revealed, whereas its inner, essential depth remains hidden. However actually, even in relation to the student, the concealment is not a true concealment, because after all, it is only through this that the concept can be conveyed to him. If the teacher would reveal the concept as he knows it himself without constraint, it would totally be beyond the capacity of the student to receive and would only cause confusion, as explained above. On the contrary, it is specifically through the restraint and concealment that the concept is conveyed and revealed. Therefore it is not a true concealment.

Actually, even the inner depth of the teacher’s mind can be revealed to the student through his teachings, as our sages stated, “A person does not reach the full meaning of his teacher’s knowledge until forty years of contemplation.” This means that after forty years he can reach it. What is meant here by the teacher’s knowledge is the inner, essential intent and point of his teachings, as our sages stated in regard to Rabbi Meir that the sages of his generation could not reach the ultimate depth of his knowledge, which Rashi interprets as “His essential point and intent.”

The explanation is that even though he teaches in short form, nonetheless, the full depth and import of his insight is present. However, only the externality of his insight is immediately apparent to the student, whereas the essential insight is hidden and can only be revealed through deep contemplation and analysis of his words. In other words, the whole depth, length and breadth of this knowledge, as he knows it himself, is hidden in the teaching, so that if the student contemplates its full import and ramifications, he will eventually come to the essential insight, understanding and knowledge of the teacher himself. That is, he will understand it the way the teacher understands it. This being the case, if the student contemplates and applies himself to a thorough analysis of his teacher’s revealed words he will eventually come to the full inner depth and essential insight which his teacher intended to reveal in the first place. That is, he will understand it as his teacher understood it before he restrained himself to bring out the teaching.

Moreover, even the analogy becomes transparent for him, because once he understands the analogue deeply through contemplating the analogy; he perceives the inner insight literally as his teacher does. In other words, through the depth of the details of the analogy he arrives at the inner intent and point of the analogue to its ultimate depth. In doing so, the analogy becomes transparent for him and the full import of the analogue becomes revealed, so that he senses and perceives the G-dliness of it, literally. At this point the student becomes his teacher’s equal in the knowledge and comprehension of the inner intent.

However, the difference between them is that for the teacher it is in a way of direct light, whereas for the student it is in a way of reflected light. In other words, the depth of the analogue is the teacher’s starting point. He then draws it down and dresses it in the analogy, which causes him to perceive it tangibly. On the other hand, the starting point of the student is the analogy with its external explanations and from there he draws it back to the analogue until he understands its inner depth and intention to the point of tangible perception.

From the above it is understood that the teacher’s power to limit, in that he restrains and conceals his insight into short form consisting of analogies, is not a true concealment. In truth, he does not conceal at all, because through his words the student ultimately receives the whole inner depth that the teacher intended to reveal. Rather, the true intention of the concealment is specifically to reveal! This is because, as explained above, if the teacher would reveal the full depth of the concept as he understands it himself, the student would become completely confused and incapable of receiving anything, even the external explanations. It is specifically through revealing the external aspect of the concept, through examples and analogies which conceal its inner depth that the student can gradually arrive at the full meaning and intent of the teacher. The teacher brings down the concept specifically to make it possible for the student to climb to higher and higher levels of understanding until he understands it fully.

Now, from all the above we can understand how it is supernally in regard to the names HaShem and Elokim. The name Elokim is the attribute of restraint and concealment, in that it restrains and conceals the light of the name HaShem, thus making it possible for worlds to come into being. As explained above, the name HaShem is the source of unlimited revelation, because since the light adheres to the Luminary it bears all the properties of the Luminary. Just as the Luminary is unlimited, so is His light. This being the case it has no relativity to worlds, since by definition all worlds, even Atzilut, are tangible and limited to some degree and there is no comparison between the limited and the unlimited.

On the other hand, the worlds cannot come into being without the revelation of Ohr Ein Sof, blessed is He, for as known, every action comes about specifically through the revelation of the power of the actor to act. However, as mentioned above, the revelation of Ohr Ein Sof is limitless and beyond relating to worlds. This then, is the function of the name Elokim, to restrain and conceal the light of HaShem. That is, it conceals the inner, essential light of the name HaShem, which is the light of Ohr Ein Sof, Blessed is He, so that only an external illumination radiates from Him. This external illumination vests within the organs of the ten Sefirot of Atzilut as the separate qualities of insight (Chochmah) and kindness (Chessed) etc., and specifically relates to worlds. This is similar to the teacher constraining his own intellect in order to relate to the intellect of the student.

Then, by means of the externality of the organs of Atzilut and the filter (Parsa) that separates Atzilut from the created worlds of Briyah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, illumination relative to the limited worlds is drawn down to bring them into being out of nothing. However the concealment brought about through the name Elokim in no way affects or conceals from Ohr Ein Sof Himself, as explained above in the example of the teacher and student. From the teacher’s angle there is no concealment. For him, the full depth of intellect and insight is revealed, even as it is within the concept and allegories that he brings down.

From this we understand how it is supernally, so to speak. From the angle of Ohr Ein Sof, blessed is He, there is no restraint or concealment altogether. Ohr Ein Sof exists in the space the world occupies after the restraint that brought it into being, just as He did before the restraint, as HaShem states in scripture, “I fill the heavens and the earth” and “Can a person conceal himself in a hidden place so that I will not see him?” In other words, even after all the concealments Ohr Ein Sof is completely present, because there is no place at all devoid of Him, as king David said, “If I ascend to the heavens, there You are; if I spread my bed in the grave, here You are.” In other words, even where G-dliness is totally hidden, like a grave, Ohr Ein Sof, blessed is He, is there. Rather, the concealment only applies to the creatures who do not behold the revelation of the Limitless One’s light, blessed is He. However, for Ohr Ein Sof Himself, there is absolutely no concealment.

Now, in reality this is not a true concealment even from the angle of the creatures. On the contrary, it conveys and reveals the light to the lower level. (Actually, these two matters are interdependent. In other words, if there was concealment relative to the teacher, there would also be concealment relative to the student, and since it is not concealment relative to the teacher, it also is not concealment relative to the student. The only difference is that for the teacher it is in a way of direct light, whereas to the student it is in a way of reflected light, as explained above.)

The explanation of the matter is that limited worlds could not come about simply by the revelation of the name HaShem itself, since it is unlimited revelation. It is specifically through the name Elokim that the light of HaShem is drawn down and revealed to the worlds, bringing them into being and enlivening them according to their capacity. Nonetheless, their coming into being is through the name HaShem, who alone is the source of all being. In other words, though the Torah states, “In the beginning Elokim created the heavens and the earth”, nonetheless, this only means that limited beings, such as the heavens and the earth and all therein, were brought into being through the restraint and concealment of the name Elokim, but that their actual being is from the name HaShem, who is “The Eternal Being who brings everything into being”, as the name HaShem means. This is because all being depends on His being and there can be no being without His being.

Even the division of time into present, past and future, which comes about through the restraint and concealment of the name Elokim, is from the name HaShem, because He always is and all being is His. This is the meaning of the verse, “HaShem rules, HaShem ruled, HaShem will rule forever and ever”. In other words time, which constitutes the divisions of the present, past and future and was brought about through the power to limit of the name Elokim, depends on HaShem, the “One Who always Is”, as the name HaShem means. As we observe, the three names of HaShem in this verse that relate to ruling in the present, past and future, have the same letters and numerical value as הוה והיה ויהיה – “Is and Was and Will be”. From the above we see that both time and space come from the name HaShem through the name Elokim. This is the fact that the name HaShem draws down influence and illumination into all worlds and creatures to give them their existence and vitality, which is felt by every creature, since every creature recognizes its own existence and vitality. This vitality is the light of HaShem as it is drawn down to the creatures through the name Elokim.

As mentioned above, this may be compared to the teacher-student relationship. Even though the intellectual illumination absorbed in the student’s mind only comes after the restraint and concealment of the essential concept as it exists in the mind of the teacher and is dressed in allegories and examples, nonetheless, the light of the teacher’s intellect becomes absorbed in the mind of the student to enlighten him. In the same manner, the light and vitality that enlivens every creature is the light of the name HaShem as it is drawn down through the name Elokim. (However, there is also concealment here, in that the creature is unaware that its vitality is actually Divine vitality. Nevertheless, in reality this is not actual concealment, because in truth it is Divine vitality, which a Jew can sense tangibly if he contemplates it deeply, as mentioned above.)

From all of the above we find that the concealment of the name Elokim is not a true concealment, but that the contrary is true. It is specifically the name Elokim that brings the Divine light to the lower levels, that is, to limited creatures that have no relativity to the limitless light of the name HaShem. It is specifically through this that the light of HaShem radiates within them and as explained regarding the teacher-student relationship, this gives the student the ability to eventually come to the inner, essential depth of the teacher’s insight. This was explained above about the rabbinic dictum that, “A person does not reach the full meaning of his teacher’s knowledge until forty years of contemplation.”

In the same manner, every Jew has the potential for the revelation of the inner, essential limitless light of the name HaShem to illuminate his soul in a revealed aspect. However, as explained above, this only comes through much toil and effort. He must invest himself fully, both spiritually and physically to remove all the concealments and obstacles that are in his way. Nonetheless, if he applies himself, he has the ability to reach the highest heights and have a revelation of the inner aspect of Ohr Ein Sof Himself, which is higher than the external revelation that is the source of the worlds!

Now, to explain this we must first broach the subject of trial and adversity, as in the verse, “For HaShem your G-d tests you.” A Jew is tested whether or not he will hold his ground and resist the temptations that impede his awareness of HaShem. However, we need to understand this. What is HaShem’s upper intent in this?

Now, it is explained elsewhere, that before the soul descended into the body, it was in the supernal realm, in the lower or upper paradise (Gan Eden). There it comprehended G-dliness through the ray of HaShem’s presence as it radiates into the upper Gan Eden in the world of Briyah or the lower Gan Eden in the world of Yetzirah. In that state it was enraptured with love and fear of HaShem and sublimated to Him, as in the verse, “By the Living G-d, before whom I stood”, which refers to the supernal realm where there is only standing (as opposed to this lower world where there is sitting and standing). The standing referred to here is the aspect of sublimation to HaShem (similar to the sublimation one should have during the Amidah prayer). The soul then descended innumerable levels until it became invested in a physical body in this world. It thus became distant from the light of HaShem, so to speak, in that it no longer perceives G-dliness as it did before. This is because in the lower worlds only a tiny glimmer of G-dy light radiates due to all the restraints and concealments.

Moreover, because the soul is in a physical body, whatever G-dliness it perceives is through physical perception. It therefore cannot compare at all to the spiritual perception it had of the Divine light when it was in the supernal realm. From this we see that there are two differences between how the soul perceived in the supernal realm as opposed to how it perceives in this realm. Firstly, in the upper realm there is a higher level of Divine light and revelation. Secondly, there the soul perceives spiritually, whereas here it perceives physically. Because of this, the soul’s love and fear of HaShem in this world cannot compare to its love and fear in the spiritual realm. Furthermore, the soul descended to a level in which HaShem’s countenance is extremely concealed. In other words, in this world there are numerous concealments that hide HaShem’s light and holiness. These concealments are the source of the trials and adversity that a Jew faces, because HaShem’s presence is not readily apparent to him. Therefore, great toil and effort is needed to stand against the adversity and reveal HaShem’s Divine light. All this indicates the tremendous descent of the soul into this physical world.

Now, HaShem’s upper intent in this descent and all the trials and adversity that result from it, is specifically to bring the soul to a higher level than it was at first, before descending into this physical world, when it was in the lower or upper Paradise (Gan Eden). However, we need to understand how this is and how it is brought about. As said above, the tests come about because of the concealments that cover over and hide the truth, because if a person would know the truth as it actually is, it would not be a test for him at all. The only reason the test exists is because the truth is hidden and concealed and through passing the test, the truth is revealed.

An example is the test that our father Avraham went through when he was thrown into the fiery furnace. Now, he did not know that he would not be burned. Had he known, it would have not been a test. On the contrary, he was sure he would be burned, because the nature of fire is to burn. However, as known, nature (הטבע) has the same numerical value as Elokim (86). In other words, all the laws of nature are defined by the concealments brought about through the power of restraint of the name Elokim. This is what brings about the many divisions and delineations between the forces of nature, such as the nature of fire to burn or of water to extinguish fire, or the fact that by nature fire is hot and water is cold.

However, from the angle of the name HaShem which is the aspect of limitlessness, the limitations and delineations of fire and water are nonexistent, so that it could be that water does not extinguish and that fire does not burn, similar to Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa’s statement, “May He who told oil to be combustible tell vinegar to be combustible.” It could also be that fire and water do not cancel each other out, such as what the sages commented on the verse, “He who makes peace in His heights”, that Michael, the minister of water and Gavriel, the minister of fire do not cancel each other out. Similarly, at times fire burns water, as in the incident of Eliyahu the prophet with the prophets of the Baal. All these are examples of that which is higher than nature, which is a revelation of the limitlessness of Ohr Ein Sof. Because HaShem is limitless, the limitations of nature do not exist for Him.

On the other hand, the world is generally conducted according to the limitations brought about by the name Elokim. In other words, even though it is HaShem who brings about all being, nonetheless, He does so through the light of HaShem as it radiates through the name Elokim; in an aspect of concealment which brings about limitations and delineations. This is the matter of the limitations of nature, in that fire burns and water extinguishes fire.

Now, as explained above, Avraham never imagined that HaShem would act towards him in a manner higher than nature. Nevertheless, though he faced great opposition and adversity from Nimrod and his supporters, he stood the test and did not move from his resolve never to separate himself from G-dliness. He stood against all obstacles and adversity and against all concealments and let himself be thrown into the fiery furnace, rather than separate himself from G-dliness for even an instant.

A miracle occurred and he was saved. That is, by passing the test he divested himself of the concealments of the name Elokim (86) which are the garments of nature (86), thus revealing the limitless light of Ohr Ein Sof, and as explained, from the limitless angle of Ohr Ein Sof, fire does not burn. The fact that the limitless aspect of Ohr Ein Sof was revealed was in direct response to his passing the test. Otherwise, the regular conduct of the world, in which only an external revelation of the name HaShem occurs through the name Elokim, would have continued in its normal fashion.

In other words, it is specifically through passing the tests that the true limitlessness of the name HaShem, over and above the name Elokim, is revealed. By resisting the limitations brought about through the name Elokim, each Jew according to his level overcomes them and comes to the revelation of the limitlessness of Ohr Ein Sof which is above nature, just as it was in the test of Avraham. This principle holds true every time a Jew is tested and overcomes the natural concealments of the world that obstruct him from fulfilling Torah and mitzvot. By resisting all adversity and occupying himself wholeheartedly in Torah and mitzvot, rather than allowing himself to be separated from G-dliness, he comes to a revelation of Divine light higher than nature.

It is specifically for this reason that the soul descended to be invested in a physical body in this physical world, a world that is limited by the laws of nature. Moreover, according to the external conduct of the world, it could appear to a person that he must act according its laws to survive. For example, a person could come to believe that to be successful he must invest all his time into his business and that he would suffer monetary loss by taking an hour or two out of his day to pray or learn Torah. Furthermore, he may come to believe that to be successful he must employ all sorts of deceit and subterfuge rather than conducting his business honestly. This is because he thinks that if he would deal honestly he would suffer loss, since in general, his competitors do not act this way.

However, nothing can be farther than the truth. In actuality, the essential conduct of the world, in and of itself, does not stand in opposition to a Jew being occupied in Torah and mitzvot and in conducting himself honestly and truthfully. As explained above, all the garments and concealments do not actually cover over and conceal G-dliness. Rather, one’s ultimate purpose is to resist any obstacle or adversity; to pray as he should, to have set times for the study of Torah every day, to keep his distance from falsehood, avoiding dishonest and deceitful schemes and to always conduct himself in purity and truth, not permitting any wrongdoing to enter his business affairs etc. Through standing strong in these things, he merits the revelation of Divine light that is above nature.

Simply speaking, he will behold with his own eyes that when he conducts himself according to Torah and mitzvot and occupies himself in the study of Torah and in deep devotional prayer, he will lack nothing. On the contrary, through this a higher, supernal light will be revealed and felt in his soul. Rather, he will come to recognize that all the influence and vitality he receives comes from the revelation of a Divine light that is higher than the restrained light that conducts the world and that according to his effort and devotion to HaShem, he rises to higher and higher levels. This then, is the purpose of the tests, as it states, “For HaShem your G-d tests you.” The ultimate purpose is to reach the aspect of the revelation of Ohr Ein Sof that is higher than nature.

In conclusion, the whole purpose of a Jew is to unify HaShem and Elokim through the sure knowledge that in truth, the name Elokim does not at all cover and conceal the name HaShem, because the name Elokim is no less Ohr Ein Sof Himself than the name HaShem, and as explained above, the self cannot cover over the self. Rather, a Jew must recognize that all existence comes from the name HaShem, as the name HaShem means, “The Eternal Being who brings everything into being”, and that the garments and concealments of the name Elokim in truth do not conceal. On the contrary, they make it possible for the revelation of the light of HaShem to give existence and vitality even to limited creatures on the lower levels. This being the case, whatever situation a Jew may find himself in, he should always know that Divine light and vitality is drawn to him from the name HaShem. Therefore, he should always adhere and unify himself to the Divine light and vitality of HaShem that is drawn to him, rather than the garments and concealments, in and of themselves, through which it is drawn. Moreover, specifically when the adhesion and unity to HaShem comes through overcoming adversity, a Jew comes to an even higher level of revelation, this being a revelation of Ohr Ein Sof which is altogether above nature.


[1] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, siman 91

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*