THE KNOWLEDGE OF G-D
The Soul of Man
It is clear that there is a force which enlivens the body. The external body itself is nothing more than an inanimate vessel which contains and is animated by this force. This is readily observable by the fact that when one passes away, G-d forbid, his body remains intact, but without any life force. At this point the body no longer has the faculties of a living being. The brain no longer thinks nor do the eyes see. It can no longer smell with its nose nor hear with its ears, nor can it move its limbs. The heart no longer beats nor does the blood surge through the veins. There are no feelings and emotions; no love, no fear, no pleasure, anguish, anticipation, joy or regret. In short, there is no consciousness whatsoever. The body becomes a mass of decaying flesh, an empty shell devoid of life, a shadow of its former self when it was vibrant and vital.
This matter is so self-evident that even a chicken or a vulture can distinguish between a living creature and one that is dead, between a body that has the breath of life invested in it and one that does not. Most importantly, it is this very breath of life, the soul, which is the actual vitality and consciousness of the person and which is his actual identity. The body itself is like a garment for the soul, and just as it is with a garment, it becomes animated only when the soul is invested in it. Every action of the physical limbs is merely a result of the control of the soul. Every desire, thought or emotion, is merely a function of the soul and is completely caused and controlled by it, and upon the soul’s departure the faculties also immediately depart with it.
The Soul of Creation
From the above, it is understood that there must be a soul which animates and enlivens the physical body. Now, just as this is so in man, who is a microcosm, likewise, in the macrocosm, it appears that there is a force which enlivens and animates the entire universe. For the physical universe is no more alive than the body of man, and yet we see from observable phenomena, such as the revolutions of the stars and planets, the multitudes of living organisms on our planet, and even the atomic and subatomic particles, that everything is moving. There is nothing in the universe which is stationary, but rather, everything is teeming with activity. But where does all this activity come from, for just as man’s body cannot move itself, so too, no body in the universe can move itself?
From this it appears that there must be a force which propels and enlivens the universe. Were this life force to be removed, the universe would be like a body without a soul. Just as we can clearly see that everything that takes place in the physical body of man comes from the soul, so too, in the macrocosm, it must be this life force; the soul of the world, if you will, which animates everything in the universe. Everything that takes place must be a direct result of this enlivening force which causes it.
An example is the influence of the sun on our planet. Everything on our planet gets its sustenance and life force from the sun. If the rays of the sun were too intense or not intense enough, everything would die. Were the sun too close, we would all burn up and were it too far, we would all freeze. The weather on the planet is a direct result of the influences of the sun. The clouds are caused by the evaporation of ocean water and the winds are whipped up through the collision of warm and cold atmospheric fronts. The weather, in turn, determines how our crops will grow, whether the year will be bountiful, or whether it will be a year of food shortages, G-d forbid. Even the supply of meat and poultry will be determined by the weather, for the cattle and the poultry must eat the grasses and grains. Furthermore, the milk production is determined by the heat. During hot seasons the milk cows will produce less milk which will be of lower quality, etc.
Likewise, the influence of the sun powers our entire economies. The weather caused by the sun, determines the amount of money spent on heating or air conditioning. One will need to purchase clothes suited for the weather; warm clothes for the winter and cool ones for the heat of the summer. Moreover, food prices will be determined by its availability, all of which is dependant on the weather. The weather, in turn is dependant on the rays of the sun, the tides of the moon and other planetary influences. The entire planet is dependant on these forces. Were theses influences greater or smaller than necessary, world chaos would erupt. But, in actuality, the sun, moon and planets, in and of themselves, are no more alive than anything else in the universe, and certainly no more than the human body. Therefore, it appears that there must be a controlling force which is their life force and the life force of everything else in the universe. This force makes the world tick. It makes its heart beat, so to speak.
The Source of All Existence
We concluded above that the universe and everything in it, including the human body, appears to have an animating force within it to enliven it, and that without this force it would be nothing more than dead matter. However, it is actually more than this, for the physical body of man and the materiality of the world cannot exist in and of themselves, without a force compelling them into existence at all times. Every physical thing, whether it is the human body, the planet Earth, the entire galaxy or the whole universe, is limited. A physical thing, by its very definition, has a beginning and an end. It has a beginning and end both in time and space. A physical thing, by definition, is three dimensional. In order for it to exist in space, it must have length, width and depth. Anything with length, width and depth is measurable and therefore limited. This means that the universe has a beginning and an end.
There also is a beginning and an end to
the time of the universe. Time itself is a created thing. There was infinite
timelessness before the universe existed, there will be infinite timelessness
after it ceases to exist, and the duration of its existence is limited. No
matter how much time the universe will exist, relative to the infinity that
precedes it and the infinity that follows it, its existence is literally
insignificant. It is not even a bleep on the radar screen of existence. We
therefore see that the existence of the universe is not intrinsic to it. It
does not have to exist. On the contrary, its existence is an anomaly which must
be imposed upon it, by a being whose existence is intrinsic and above time.
This being is G-d. Just as in the splitting of the
The Inner Self of Man
If we would strip away all the properties of man, we would be left with the quintessential self of the person, for one’s arms are not him, his legs are not him and neither is his torso. Neither the outer nor the inner organs are him. Neither is his will and desire nor is his thought him. He is not his understanding nor is he his emotions, nor his actions. Will is an effect, not a cause. There must be an inner identity of the one who is willing in order for will to be. This inner identity is, likewise, the thinker who thinks the thoughts, the feeler who feels the feelings and the actor who acts the acts. For, all these faculties; pleasure, will, insight, analyses, focus of attention, kindness, sternness, mercy etc., are effects rather than causes. When we strip away all these faculties, we find that there is the simple singular quintessential self of the person who is above and beyond the sum total of all his faculties, and that this quintessential self is not made up of any of these qualities.
Let us examine the power of desire. Desire cannot exist on its own. For desire to exist, there must be someone desiring, but a person’s identity cannot be defined as his desire. This is clearly understood, since if he changes his desire, his identity does not change. He remains the same person with a different desire. We, therefore, see that desire is external to his inner self. His inner self might be enclothed in the desire, but the desire is not him.
The same principle may be applied to the power of movement. The quintessential self cannot be identified as movement. Movement is one out of many abilities that the self possesses, such as the power of sight, the power of hearing, the power of smelling, etc. To say that a person is his movements would therefore be erroneous. Furthermore, though he is the one moving, the movement is not him. When he does a kindness, such as giving charity, it is not the movement of his hand that did the kindness. Rather, he himself did the kindness, through the movement of his hand.
From all the above, we may conclude that the self of the person, his identity, is an absolute quintessential singularity which is above the sum total of its parts and is not made up of qualities altogether. Being that this is the case, how is it that these qualities exist within it? If in the soul, all that exists is the singularity of the self, how can distinct qualities exist? Although, on the one hand, as demonstrated above, we cannot say that they exist there, on the other hand, we cannot say that they don’t exist there, because if they don’t, where did they come from? As we mentioned above, these qualities don’t have an existence of their own. There must be a person who desires, thinks and feels etc. Since all these qualities come out of the quintessential self of the person, they must somehow be there, otherwise how could they come about?
For example, if a person does
many acts of kindness, we know that he is kind in the essence of his soul. If this was not so, then how did desires to do acts of kindness arise? Where did the kind
thoughts come from, and what brought about kind emotions in his heart? Finally,
why did he do kind deeds? We see from
this, that indeed, the whole chaining down (Seder
Hishtalshelut), from the original will of the
kindness, to the intellect of the kindness, the feelings of the kindness, and
the thought, speech and action of the kindness, originate in the quintessential
singularity of the self, and are included and exist there as well.
We now have a contradiction. On the one hand, we stated that the quintessential singularity of the self is an absolute simple essence not made up of parts at all. On the other hand, we stated that in order for all the qualities to exist, they must be there too. In order to understand how they can be there and not be there, all at once, we must first thoroughly comprehend the difference between an ability (heyulie) and a potential (Ko’ach).
Heyulie and Ko’ach- Ability and Potential
There are two types of potentialities. The first is called a “Heyulie” – “ability”, and the second is called a “Ko’ach” – “potential”. The example usually given to explain the difference between these two potentialities is the difference between how fire exists in a coal as opposed to how it exists in a flint. There is potential fire in a coal. This potential energy is measurable. One can calculate, by the size and density of the coal, exactly how much energy may be extracted from it, how long it will burn, how much heat it will produce etc. The energy in the coal is limited. As soon as it is burned up, it no longer contains any energy. In contrast, the fire in the flint cannot be measured. It is unlimited. As many times as one hits the flint, that is as many times as it will bring out fire, and yet, there is no potential fire in the flint. The coal is an example of a Ko’ach – a potential. The flint is an example of a Heyulie – an ability.
Another example of these two types of potentiality is a rubber-band. When a rubber-band is stretched taut, there is potential energy in it. One can actually calculate and measure the potential energy in it and determine exactly how far it will fly when released. The potential energy is limited. Depending on how taut the rubber-band is, that is as far as it will fly and no farther. This is the ko’ach – the potential, in the rubber-band. Now, included in the rubber-band is also a heyulie power. This heyulie is the ability of the rubber-band to spring back. This ability is immeasurable, for as many times as it is stretched taut and released, that is how many times it will spring back. It does not have a potential for only one thousand springing motions, for instance, which become used up and reduced each time it is released, until all its power to spring is used up. No matter how many times it springs back, its ability to spring is not reduced. Furthermore, the rubber band possesses this heyulie to spring back, at all times, even when it is not stretched taut. Even when it is simply resting in the cabinet drawer, it still possesses the ability to spring back, and yet, there is no spring in the rubber-band, even in the form of potential energy.
This is similar to the power of speech, which is also a Heyulie ability. As much as a person may speak, it does not at all reduce his ability to speak. It is not that a person is born with the potential for five million words and that, as he speaks, he depletes his power of speech, until he runs out of words and becomes mute. Rather, his ability to speak is infinite, and the only factor which limits it, is his limited life span. Furthermore, even when he is sleeping, and his power of speech is “resting”, he still possesses the ability to speak. This is so, even though during sleep he is unconscious, and has no intention to speak.
The Singular Essence of the Soul
Now that we understand the difference between a heyulie (ability) and a ko’ach (potential), we may now understand how the above mentioned faculties simultaneously do and don’t exist in the singular essence of the soul. A case in point is the power of movement. Even before one moves at all, he possesses the power of movement in his essential self. There, it is not separate from the essence of his soul, whatsoever. Now, even though, when it is revealed out of the self, in a particular movement, it divides into several differentiated details of the composite movement, it is impossible to say that all the particular movements were “included” or “unified” within the essential power of movement, as it is in the soul. This is because, as it is in the soul, before being revealed in any particular movement, it was not yet within the definition of “movement” altogether.
It did not exist as the distinct
quality of “movement” for in the soul there is no movement whatsoever. There, all that exists is the essential self
of the soul. Nonetheless, because we can
clearly see, that when this power is revealed in actual movement, there are an
infinite number of possible movements that could have been made, had conditions
warranted it, we are forced to say, that every detail of every possible
movement, is included as a heyulie (ability), in the essential self of the soul.
Another example of this may be drawn from the influx of life force from the soul to enliven the body. Though, once it becomes invested in the body, it is revealed as several differentiated faculties, such as the power of sight in the eyes, the power for hearing in the ears, etc., certainly, while this life force was still in the essence of the soul, all that existed was the essential singularity of the soul, similar to what was stated above about the power of movement. Nonetheless, we cannot say that these faculties were not included there. We cannot say that the spiritual power of sight to the eye and the spiritual power of hearing to the ear, the power to smell to the nose and the power of thought to the brain, were not there, for if that were the case, where did they come from? We can clearly see that every person possesses these qualities in the respective parts of the body, but before the influx of the soul into the body to enliven it, all of these functions were included in the self of the soul as heyulies (abilities). In other words, they did not have an actual existence there at all, but were rather the ability to bring them about.
This is similar to the above mentioned power of speech. All the words that a person will say during his life time have their source in the power of speech of the soul, but they exist there in a way of abilities. The power of speech is able to bring out all these words, but they don’t have an existence there in a way of a ko’ach (potential). There is no storehouse of potential words within the power of speech, which becomes depleted as the words come out. Rather, all that exists is the essential singularity of the soul.
All the qualities, including the power of speech, are so totally one with the self that they are undifferentiated from the soul itself. Before the influx of the soul into the body, there is only the singular simple essence of the soul itself. For this reason it cannot be defined as “inclusion” or “unification”, which implies the convergence of the many into one. This is not so, since, in the first place, they are in a way of an absolute singularity. Only later, when the intention to enliven the body comes up, are these qualities “highlighted”, so to speak, as a preparation for the influx into the body. Only then can we speak of the “unification” or “inclusion” of the powers of sight, hearing, feeling, smelling etc., in the soul.
Nonetheless, as the faculties exist in the very essence of the soul, as it is, unrelated to an influx into the body, only the essence of the soul exists. This is because the essence of the soul is completely beyond and unrelated to the influx into the body. In comparison to the essential self of the soul, the influx, which enlivens the body, is just another ability of the soul, similar to all its other abilities. In the soul itself, nothing at all has come out into revelation, as of yet. All that exists is the self of the soul, which includes the powers in it, in a way of heyulies (abilities). This is the most essential state of the soul.
A Highlight in the Singularity
Now, in order for distinguishable qualities to be revealed from this quintessential singularity, there must be intention. Whereas prior to intention, the quintessential soul is not within the definition of relating to a body, nonetheless, upon intent, these qualities are “highlighted”, so to speak, as a preparation for the influx of life into the body. The qualities now relate to being revealed. A case in point is the intent to reveal kindness, from the essential heyulie desire for kindness, through a specific act of kindness. It has not actually been revealed yet. Rather, it is in preparation to be revealed, for he now desires to do a kind deed. The opportunity may not have yet arisen, but the desire for it has arisen in his simple will, but it is still totally within himself.
Nonetheless, one particular quality has become “highlighted” and is distinguishable from the others. Here it is applicable to use the terminology of “inclusion” and “unification” in regard to the many details of this quality. For instance, if the general quality is the desire to do a kindness, this includes the intellect of the kindness, the emotions of the kindness, and the thought, speech and action of the kindness etc. We would say that they are all one within the quality of kindness.
Another example of this is when a
person daydreams. He thinks about
himself in his dream house. It has a
huge kitchen, a banquet hall to serve his guests, a ballroom to entertain them,
an extensive library, billiard rooms, an Olympic size swimming pool straddled
by five different Jacuzzis of varying temperatures and sizes, plus many other
fancies. All the details of the details
are there as well. The kitchen has a sink,
the sink has a faucet and the faucet has knobs, and so on. But what he is really thinking about is not
so much the details, as much as his own self in his dream house. His daydream includes all the details though,
but all of it has yet to be realized.
The details of this general desire have yet to become concrete and
finalized. There are many possibilities, and all the possibilities are included
in his daydream.
The Estimation within Himself
Following the above mentioned stage, in which a specific quality and desire is “highlighted” as a preparation to being revealed, there comes a third stage. In this third stage, all the details of the desire which has emerged, have already been estimated and finalized and are ready for actualization. He has resolved to act upon his desire, but as of yet, it is all still within him. He is about to do it, but since nothing has actually been done yet, the entire line of action may still be aborted. He may change his mind in the last moment or something might delay him from doing it just yet. In the analogy of the desire for a dream house, this is when the person has already worked out and finalized all the details for it, in himself. He has decided what color it will be, what type of wallpaper each room will have, the style of flooring and decor, etc. Everything is decided to the finest detail, but he might not have the funds, and that is stopping him from putting it into action.
Returning to the analogy of the power of movement, this is when a person is about to move his hand to reach for a bottle of soda resting on the table. At this point, besides his desire for the soda, he has completely calculated the entire movement that he is about to make, all the way to the final action of drinking the soda, which fulfils the originating desire. Though this calculation is to the finest detail of the action, it is still completely within him and cannot be differentiated from the self. Now, just as he is about to reach for the bottle, someone else reaches for it and grabs it first. His own movement is aborted and never sees the light of day. It never comes out from the potential to the actual altogether. We see, then, that in this stage, because the action is about to come out into actualization, all its components are there, to the finest details, as distinct abilities. Nonetheless, they are in no way outside of and distinct from the soul and have no real being on their own. Therefore they are said to be distinct qualities without being. Since this is only the preparation for actualization, but no action has yet come out, it may still be delayed or aborted altogether.
In regard to the analogy of the influx of the life force of the soul to enliven the body, this is the stage when the soul is about to become invested in the body to enliven it, but has not yet actually come out.
The Essential Light of the Soul
Now, being that all awareness; the awareness of pleasure and desire, of insight, comprehension, interest and emotions, as well as the awareness of all the other faculties, such as seeing, hearing, smelling etc., have their source in the quintessential self of the soul, we must say that it, in itself, is aware. This is the awareness of the soul of itself, that is, the self-knowledge and consciousness of the soul. This is the essential light of the soul. It is similar to light, because the property of light is to reveal the reality of what is. For instance, a person may be standing in a dark room in front of a deep pit. Because it is dark, he does not recognize the danger he is in. He does not recognize the reality of what is. The moment the light is switched on, he immediately sees the pit, recognizes the danger and steps back.
Now, though this self awareness is the essential light of the soul, it is not the actual essence of the soul, just as a ray of light is not the luminary itself. Rather, the property of light is that it reveals the luminary from which it emanates. In the same way, this essential light of the soul is a revelation of the essence from which it emanates. Nonetheless, it is not outside of the self, but is, rather, the revelation of the self to the self.
The Infinite Light
G-d knows Himself. His self-knowledge is infinite because He is infinite. This self-knowledge is called, Ohr Ein Sof (The Infinite Light). Though this self-knowledge reveals the essence of G-d, it itself, is not the essence of who He is, but is rather His infinite revelation. Nonetheless, it is not outside of Him, but is, rather, the revelation of Himself to Himself.
This can be further understood by the statement, “Before the creation of the world, there was He and His name alone.” (Pirke D’Rabbi Elazar, Chapter 3). The word “He” refers to G-d Himself and “His name” refers to the Infinite Light, the revelation of Himself. The effect of a name is that it draws out and reveals the identity of the one being called. When a person is called by name, it draws out his essential self, his identity, so that his attention is turned toward the caller. Furthermore, a name identifies that which is called by it. However, a name is not the thing itself, it only brings to light the identity of the thing named. Another similar aspect of a name is what the Tanach states in regard to King David, that he, “Made a name for himself”. This is to say that he became well known. Likewise, in reference to G-d, “His name” means His self-knowledge. G-d knows Himself and, so to speak, this is how He would identify Himself. This may be discerned from the tetragrameton, the four letter proper name of G-d. This name, Y-H-V-H, is made up of the three letter root, HVH, which means, “To be”, plus the prefix Y, which modifies the verb and makes it a constant. The name Y-H-V-H therefore means, “The true Being, who was, is and will be, at once, and is the source of all being”. This is to say that it is the infinite revelation of G-d Himself. Since the Ohr Ein Sof is the revelation of G-d, as He truly is, therefore it bears all his properties. Just as He is a simple quintessential singularity with no parts, so is his light. Conversely, just as He is Kol Yachol, that is, He has infinite abilities (Heyulies), so does his light.
From the analogies above concerning the human soul, we may
now understand the three matters mentioned above, as they apply to the Infinite
Light. The first is called Yachid - singular. This level includes all ten sefirot, but here they are called, Esser Sefirot HaGnoozot (The ten hidden sefirot). This is because they
are completely hidden in the essence of the Infinite Light and cannot be
distinguished from it at all. This is
similar to the analogy of the power of kindness or the power of movement as
they are in the quintessential singularity of the soul. Likewise, above, in the essential singularity
of the Ohr Ein Sof, the ten sefirot
are there as well, in a way of a heyulie, and
are indistinguishable from the essence of the Infinite Light. At this level, it is impossible to speak of a
“unification or inclusion of qualities”, that the ten sefirot are as one, since all
that exists is G-d’s absolute and total
singularity. Nonetheless, we cannot say
that the ten sefirot
do not exist there, because
if they do not, where did they come from?
Rather, we must say that they do exist there, but that their existence
is in a way of a heyulie – an
ability. They have no actual
existence apart from G-d’s quintessential
singularity, and are totally indistinguishable from Him. About these sefirot
it states in the Zohar, “He is wise, but not with a
knowable wisdom, He is understanding, but not with a
knowable understanding etc. He is not of
any of these qualities altogether.” (Patach Eliyahu).
Now, the difference between the essential singularity of the Ohr Ein Sof and the essential singularity of the human soul, is as follows; Since the human soul is limited, therefore its heyulies are limited, whereas, since G-d is infinite, the heyulies of the Ohr Ein Sof are unlimited. For example, the heyulie of a flint is limited to bringing out fire. No matter how many times one hits the flint, it will never bring out water. Likewise, the human soul possesses limited heyulies. It is limited to human abilities. A man does not have the heyulie to fly like a bird. Neither does a bird have the heyuli to speak like a man. In contrast, the heyulie of the Infinite Light, is not limited in any way whatsoever. G-d is Kol Yachol (He has infinite abilities).
The second level in the Infinite Light is called Echad (One). Here, an intention arises, the desire to do a kindness. This desire is “Highlighted”, so to speak, within the singularity. Now, this desire for kindness is comprised of ten qualities. There is the desire for the kindness (Keter of Chesed), the insight of the kindness (Chochmah of Chesed), the understanding of the kindness (Binah of Chesed), the emotions of the kindness (Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod and Yesod of Chesed) and the deed of the kindness (Malchut of Chesed). All the sefirot are, therefore, present and we may now speak of them as unified and included as one within the essence. This desire to do kindness is the source of the source of Creation. This is because Creation is a form of revelation and all revelation is a function of the quality of kindness (Chesed). In contrast, the quality of restraint (Gevurah) is the withholding of revelation. For example, when one is happy, he becomes outgoing and uninhibited in revealing his thoughts and feelings to others. If a person is depressed or angry, on the other hand, he becomes withdrawn and introverted. Likewise, above, the fact that there is a desire for creation and revelation is a function of the quality of kindness. This intention for kindness becomes “Highlighted” and recognizable, so to speak. Because the desire to do kindness, along with all it’s implied sub-qualities, such as the insight of the kindness and the understanding of the kindness etc, is now “highlighted”, this level is called Echad, which is the Hebrew word for “one”. The word Echad – אחד, hints at the inclusion and unification of the ten sefirot as one simple unity. The value of the letter א – Aleph is 1. This hints at the first sefirah which is Chochmah. The value of the letter ח – Chet is 8. This hints at the eight sefirot under Chochmah (from Binah through Yesod). The letter ד – Dalet signifies the sefirah of Malchut. (The word דל – ‘Dal’ means poor. Malchut is called “poor” since it has nothing of its own and receives everything from the other nine sefirot. This will be explained later.) As mentioned before, on the level of Echad, it is applicable to use the terminology of ‘unification’ or ‘inclusion’, whereas, in the higher level of Yachid, only the absolute quintessential singularity exists.
Nonetheless, on the level of Echad, the sefirot only exist as “implied” abilities
within the “simple unity” of Ohr Ein Sof.
This is not a “composite unity”,
such as a group of individuals who make up the unit of a nation. In the case of
a nation, the members remain as separate individuals under the banner of the
“concept” of a nation. There is no actual entity of a nation. Here the general
entity is a “legal fiction” and the particulars are real. Neither is the simple
unity of Echad
similar to the “composite unit” of a continent, in which the general unit is
real but its particulars are “legal fictions”. For instance the continent of
Kadmon – Primordial/Preceding
The third level of the Infinite Light is called Kadmon (Primordial or Preceding). Here, all the details, to the finest detail, of Creation have been determined and established. All that is left is to bring it into actuality. This level corresponds to the analogy of a person who is about to move his hand to reach for a bottle of soda. The resolve to get the soda has been established and the entire process necessary to acquire it has been estimated within himself, down to the last detail. He knows exactly how much strength he will use, what movements he will make and exactly how far he will have to reach, and he is ready to do so. Likewise, above, Kadmon is the estimation within G-d, of the entire process of creation. Exactly what will be necessary to bring about the final result of the original desire for Creation, is in place and about to proceed. Nonetheless, nothing at all has actually happened. It is all still totally within and inseparable from him.
Now, it must be pointed out that these three levels of Yachid, Echad and Kadmon are themselves only heyulie abilities of the Ohr Ein Sof and do not have any actual existence there. Only the quintessential Self of Ohr Ein Sof exists, as an absolute simple singularity. Nonetheless, as explained above, though we cannot say that they exist there, we cannot say that they do not.