THE KNOWLEDGE OF G-D
The Shattering of the Vessels
The Torah states, “G-d made a cloak of leather for Adam and his wife, and he clothed them.” This cloak is known as the aspect of the Chashmal which encompasses Zeir Anpin and Malchut of Atzilut, which are called Adam and his wife. Now, the word for “leather” in Hebrew, is “Or” (עור) and is spelled with an Ayin (ע). However, in the Torah of Rabbi Meir, this word was not spelled with an Ayin (ע) but with an Aleph (א). When it is spelled with an Aleph, it means “light” rather than “leather”. Therefore, in the Torah of Rabbi Meir, rather than saying that he clothed them with a cloak of “leather”, it says that he clothed them with a cloak of “light”. This will now be explained in great detail. In order to understand this, we must explain the matter of the “shattering of the vessels” (Shevirat HaKeilim) and their rectification (Tikun).
As explained, the “vessels” are the letters, and as stated in Etz Chaim, they shattered because of the over abundance of light, which they could not contain. The explanation of this is as follows. When one takes a very lofty idea, and attempts to explain it to a person who is incapable of grasping it, like a child, the idea will become garbled and confused in the child’s mind. This is because there is “too much light” for his vessels. In contrast, when he explains this same concept to a person of equal intellect as himself, there will be no “confusion of the letters”, because the idea can be contained by the vessels of the recipient. If he cannot “contain” and “grasp” the idea, there will certainly be a “confusion of letters” and the idea will become garbled in his mind etc. This is similar to dreams. In the dream state, the letters of the “fleeting thoughts of the heart” (Hirhoorei Leeba) that he had during the day, become garbled and confused. For example, a person who worried about his “salary” during the day may dream he is being attacked by a stalk of “celery” at night. This comes about because of the confusion of the letters of the thoughts that he had during the day etc. Because of this the Talmud states that, “Dreams speak nonsense”, because often they are a confusion of the thoughts he had during the day.
This confusion is called a shattering into many fragments. An example for this is a child who does not yet know how to read but knows the Alphabet. When he sees a word, all that registers in his mind is a conglomeration of disconnected letters that have nothing to do with each other. To him they are just individual letters, not words. At this point of maturity his mind cannot yet grasp the concept that the letters join to form words and sentences which are ripe with meaning. He grasps the letters as disjointed pieces almost devoid of any meaning. Likewise in a dream, each letter of the dream contains some of the light of the thoughts of the day, but only in a very minute way. This is because they are confused and disjointed, and do not contain the light of the thought as a whole. The shattering and crumbling can continue until the meaning is completely different than the original intent, as in the first example of a person who explains a lofty concept to someone who is incapable of grasping it. The idea can become so confused in his mind that he can actually understand it in a way which is the opposite of its original meaning.
This shattering comes about specifically because the lights are the lights of Tohu. As explained above, the lights of Tohu are essential lights and, therefore, their light does not diminish when revealed. An example for this is a professor who has a very deep and broad understanding of his field of studies. However, when he teaches his students, he is incapable of bringing the subject down to the level of the students, according to the capacity of their vessels. He can only explain it the way he understands it rather than in a way tailored to their capacity to understand. This brings about a “shattering”. Either the students will not understand the subject at all or their understanding of it will be erroneous. The error could be so extreme that their understanding could literally be the opposite of the true meaning. When those students themselves become teachers, the problem will be further aggravated since they will teach their students false imaginations and misconceptions, and will end up, literally calling darkness light. (To our great sorrow, this phenomenon has become so prevalent today in the field of Kaballah that in almost all cases both the teacher and the students are in error. This is a case of the blind leading the blind.) On the other hand, if the professor understands the subject properly and lessens his explanation according to the capability of the students, they will readily understand it without confusion. This is the sign of a true teacher. In addition, the fact that he can bring the subject down and explain it to anyone, is the sure sign that he truly understands it, at the very core of its essence, compared to a person who understands but cannot explain it to others.
The Cloak of Leather
It is specifically because of this “shattering” of the vessels that it is possible for things that appear to be separate and disconnected from G-d to come into existence, similar to a “garment” which is separate from its wearer and conceals him. This shattering is the source of the “Cloak of leather”. It is called a cloak of leather rather than to a cloak of light, because it conceals rather than reveals. The result of this concealment is that we have the appearance of being separate and apart from G-d. There is concealment of G-d, instead of revelation. However, not only is there a sense of separateness from G-d, there also is a state of confusion and the appearance of randomness and multiplicity, in which things seems disconnected from each other and from their source in the one G-d. One incident seems disconnected from another and one subject seems unrelated to another. For example, one field of science seems unrelated to another field of science. This phenomenon brings about confusion in the world as to the true nature of reality, because each ideology possesses a different piece of the “Truth” and even this small piece is in a state of total concealment. All this confusion is the result of the “Shattering of the vessels”. This is called the “Cloak of Leather”, which conceals the true nature of reality.
Another aspect of this “Cloak of Leather” is that it is like an allegory. An allegory is separate from the concept it conveys. The concept is only “enclothed” within it. Nonetheless, the source of the allegory is higher than the concept it is conveying because the allegory is capable of “containing” the concept and it is only through it that the concept may be grasped. If one were to explain the concept by itself, however, without the allegory, no matter how much he would explain it, it would not be grasped. However, as soon as it becomes “dressed” in an allegory, it may be grasped. This is why allegories are used. If one understands the allegory properly, he may even grasp the concept to its very depth. However, if the allegory is misunderstood, it has the opposite effect. It hides and conceals the concept rather than reveals it. When the allegory conceals the meaning within it, it is called, “A cloak of leather”.
The Cloak of Light
Now, as mentioned earlier, in the Torah scroll of Rabbi Meir, the word ‘Or’ was not spelled with an Ayin (ע) but with an Aleph (א), meaning ‘Light’, rather than ‘Leather’. In other words, rather than this “clothing” being a concealing garment, it is a revealing garment instead. For example, when one takes an allegory, which by its nature is a separate thing, and fails to analyze it to understand the inner meaning, then the allegory is separate and conceals. In contrast, when one takes the same allegory, analyzing and contemplating it, in an attempt to understand the analogue, then not only will the allegory not conceal the concept from him, but, on the contrary, it will shed light on it. The very same allegory which was a “Cloak of leather” that caused concealment becomes a “Cloak of light” that reveals.
The Sleep of Zeir Anpin
This revelation, in which the separate “Garment” itself shines, takes place only after the rectification (Tikun), which comes about through Mashiach Ben Yosef (Messiah the Son of Josef), as will be discussed.
The Torah is called Mashal HaKadmonie (The Primal Allegory). Now, it is stated that “G-d looked into the Torah and created the world”. This means that the world and all therein, is an allegory of an allegory. The Torah is an allegory on G-d and the world is an allegory on the Torah. The world was created according to our capacity to comprehend G-dliness through it. Because of the “Shattering of the vessels” the world appears to be separate from G-d and the truth of reality is concealed. To us, the singularity of G-d is hidden, but this is only because, like in the analogy of the child who only sees the disjointed letters of the alphabet, we do not yet know how to “read”. We do not understand how the letters come together to make up words and how the words come together to make up sentences and paragraphs, and that there is meaning there. We have not contemplated the allegory to understand and see that which is being allegorized. In our minds, even the fragments (The letters) which we do understand are scattered and we cannot understand the “meaning” within them. This is because we have not analyzed them and placed them in their proper order as “words” and “sentences”, so to speak.
For this reason Galut (Exile) is compared to a dream state in which the truth of reality is confused. The world, in general, is compared to Galut and is also like a dream. Even the tiny glimmers of truth that do come through to us are confused and out of order. This is because during sleep the intellect withdraws and all that remains are glimmers of the thoughts of the day. In the dream these glimmers of truth are confused and out of order. In contrast, the confusion dissipates immediately upon waking. Upon waking, reality becomes clear and apparent. This state of confusion below, in the world, where things seem fragmented from each other and certainly from the singularity of G-d, is the result of the lack of contemplation and the withdrawal of the intellect of Zeir Anpin. This state is called “Durmita D’Zeir Anpin” (The Sleep of Zeir Anpin). [In other words, the emotions are running rampant and not according to the dictates of the intellect.]
The Eight Kings of Tohu
The shattering of the vessels takes place in the “emotions of Binah” (Midot D’Binah). As explained earlier, the emotions of Binah are the “Therefore” and conclusion which results from the analysis. For example, one may analyze the matter of abortion. Now, the analysis itself may be totally correct and true. One accumulates the data and analyzes it etc. He examines and studies the facts repeatedly etc. Here there is no shattering of the vessels. It is only in the “Therefore” that one may arrive at conclusions which are completely divorced from the original intention, and may even be the opposite of it. The analysis on abortion itself is an analysis into the facts. One fact is that a child may grow up in an abusive home. Another fact is that his parents may not have the means to provide for him or that he may not receive a proper education etc. All these fact are true, and up to here the analysis is correct. However, in the conclusion of the “Therefore” there can be a “Breaking of the vessels”. A person could arrive at a “wonderful” solution. “Therefore, let us kill the children”.
The problem here is that the “conclusion” and “solution” become disconnected from the original intent and desire. In the example, the original intention is to benefit mankind, especially children, who are the most vulnerable members of society. The solution, however, creates a society which turns women, who by nature are nurturing and compassionate, to deny life to their own children etc. A solution more connected to the original intention could go along the lines of opening charitable organizations which would provide food, care, schooling etc. for these children.
It is clear that the shattering of the vessels takes place only in the “conclusion”, in the seven lower qualities, which are the emotions of Binah. In contrast, there is no shattering in the analysis of Binah of Binah itself, although it is the source of the “shattering of the vessels” which takes place in the conclusion.
Now, there are eight qualities which are associated with the “shattering of the vessels”. These are the eight lower sefirot of Binah. These are Binah of Binah, Da’at of Binah, Chessed of Binah, Gevurah of Binah, Tiferet of Binah, Netzach/Hod of Binah, Yesod of Binah and Malchut of Binah. These sefirot of Binah are known as the ‘Eight Kings of Tohu’.
They are called the eight kings of Tohu because the Torah states, “And he reigned and he died etc.”
in reference to the kings of the
these are the “Kings of Tohu”,
the one must die before the other can reign. As explained above, this is like
the example of a very narrow minded person who is incapable of compromise. If
such a person is kind, his kindness will know no restraint. Eventually, his
kindness breaks down and he goes to the opposite extreme of becoming very
is understood from the above that “death” only affects seven of the kings.
These are the seven lower kings of Tohu which
are the emotions of Binah. In the eighth king of Tohu,
which is Binah of Binah,
there is no actual death. This is
because, as explained above, pure, undiluted analysis, does not lead to a “shattering”.
On the contrary, it is the source of rectification. This will now be explained.
Mashiach Ben Yosef – Messiah the Son of Josef
The Torah calls Yosef “The Interpreter of Dreams” because it is he who interprets the dream, putting everything into its correct order, thus making sense of confusion and bringing out the true and correct meaning. “Yosef the interpreter of dreams”, represents the eighth king of Tohu which is Binah of Binah. In other words, when one thoroughly analyzes something which is in a state of confusion, examining its every facet repeatedly, turning it over and over in his mind and delving into its every particular, he will finally arrive at a flash of intuition which will bring everything together in its correct order, thus binding it as a complete unity. Because he went through the contemplation, the result is that he will receive an automatic flash of intuition into the “Truth of the reality of what is”.
This is because he is using his intellect, whereas when he was “asleep” his intellect was withdrawn. When he was “asleep” he did not contemplate or investigate the reality of what is. It was just a “dream” that passed him by, without his stopping to examine it for a moment. Even if he did contemplate it somewhat, he jumped to conclusions and did not analyze his conclusions, to make sure they were correct, or how they fit into the general scheme of things, etc. The eighth king of Tohu, however, does not die, as do the emotional sefirot of Binah. This is because in Binah of Binah, even when there is error, nonetheless, because of continued analysis and contemplation, the errors eventually are weeded out and uprooted. The analysis continues until, finally, true reality is revealed and understood. However, this is only so if the “Primal desire” of the person is to understand. However, if there are any ulterior motives, (as explained earlier, in the explanation of the ‘arms of Arich Anpin’) then he will not succeed, for his analysis will be a rationalization. It will not be objective, and will, therefore, not be true Binah (Understanding). Because of this, Binah of Binah, which is the eighth king of Tohu, is called Mashiach ben Yosef (Moshiach the Son of Yosef, The Interpreter of Dreams). This is because it is specifically contemplation and analysis which transforms the “Cloak of leather” into a “Cloak of light”. An examining mind and a comprehending intellect make the difference between a confused “dream” and the “waking state” of true reality revealed.
(From this we may also understand the verse in the Shema prayer, “Do not stray after your eyes or after your heart etc.” What your heart feels and what your eyes see may deceive you. However, the verse does not say do not stray after your intellect. This is because if something is honestly analyzed to its ultimate conclusion, the truth will ultimately be revealed.)
(Through Deep contemplation and analysis into the “Truth of what is”, new emotions are born. The “Cloak of Leather” is when the emotions are cut off from their source because they are based on the delusions of a confused intellect. Through the contemplation of Truth everything reconnects to its true source in G-d and his intellect gives rise to new emotions. These are the emotions of true love and awe of G-d, which are born out of a deep and profound attachment to G-d. This will be explained later at great length.)
The source of Nogah
Now, this “Cloak of Leather” which is called the Chashmal, specifically comes in a tangible and “concrete” way. This is similar to how an allegory is tangible and concrete relative to what is being allegorized. The Chashmal is also called by the term “Nogah”, which means, “Glowing”. This is because a small light which shines in the darkness has a far greater appearance of brilliance than a great light which shines in a place of brilliance, as the Talmud states, “Of what benefit is a candle glowing in broad daylight?” Its light is ineffectual and as naught. If one were to take the same candle into a dark room, on the other hand, its light would appear brilliant and it would be of great benefit. This is specifically because it is shining in a place of darkness. In actuality the candle sheds no more light in a dark room as it does in broad daylight. Rather, it is the contrast with the darkness, which is its opposite, that gives it the appearance of brilliance.
Now, the word Nogah has two meanings. It can mean, “To glow”, as in the verse, “Yagiyah Chashki (My darkness glows) or it can mean to, “Stand or jut out” or “Become pronounced”, as in the verse, “K’Asher Hogah Min HaMesilah (When he juts out of the path) or the statement, “HaHogeh Et HaShem (One who pronounces the Name of HaShem).
Actually, both these meanings are related. As in the example above, the candle light specifically “Stands out” and becomes noticeable in the dark. If not for the darkness it would be hardly recognizable.
Another example of this may be understood from the intellect. It is specifically when a concept becomes tangible through an allegory or an application, that it “Stands out’ and shines with brilliance.
When the light of analytical thought becomes tangible through the letters of thought, the depth of the concept stands out and becomes recognizable and comprehendible. Or as in the example of allegories, it is specifically through the allegory that the concept stands out in a way of comprehension, rather than if he were to attempt to explain it without an allegory. In general, the Nogah of the ten sefirot is the aspect of these qualities “Standing out” and “Being felt”.
Summary of the Shattering and Rectification
Before we begin to explain the Sefirah of Malchut (Speech and Action), let us recap what we have learned up to this point. From the above, we understand several matters pertaining to the shattering of the vessels;
1. The Shattering of the vessels takes place only in the seven lower emotions of Binah. However, although it may be the source of confusion, there is no “Shattering” in Binah of Binah (or Hitbonenut) itself. It is only in the conclusion of the “Therefore” that there can be an actual departure from truth.
2. The “Cloak of Leather” refers to the condition of the Chashmal before the rectification (Tikun), and brings about concealment, whereas the “Cloak of Light” refers to its condition after the rectification, and brings about revelation. These two “cloaks” are actually one and the same garment, except that after the rectification, it sheds light on the One who is enclothed in it (G-d), whereas before rectification it actually covers over and conceals Him. This is similar to an allegory. When we fail to realize the connection between the allegory and that which is being allegorized, the allegory conceals rather than reveals. In contrast, when we realize the connection, the very same allegory reveals the essence of the concept.
3. The “Shattering” is ultimately for a positive purpose. It creates the possibility of “Darkness” and “Confusion”. When the light of truth is seen within the darkness, its radiance and brilliance is more greatly recognized and appreciated. For example, if one were to instantly understand everything, without any toil or effort, there would be no pleasure and appreciation in it. It is specifically because he toiled and labored to understand that he derives great pleasure and appreciation when he finally does understand.
4. Another purpose of the “Shattering” is to give the possibility of existence to creatures that appear to be separate entities from G-d’s absolute unity and singularity. This is similar to the allegory which appears to be separate from that which is being allegorized. However, when the concept being allegorized is understood through the allegory, the allegory itself becomes a “Garment of Light”, which illuminates and sheds light on that which is being allegorized.
5. Another matter which arises from the “Shattering of the Vessels” is the concept of good and evil. Good means that G-dliness is revealed, evil means that G-dliness is concealed. In other words, when the allegory is connected to that which is being allegorized, it is good, for it is one with its source. However, when the allegory is separate from its source, it is evil, because it becomes a separate entity, with a sense of itself, separate and apart from G-d. This sense of self, as a being separate and apart from G-d, is the source of all evil, and in essence, is the belief in dualism and multiplicity, which is tantamount to idolatry.
(These two “Cloaks” are also known as Aspakelaria HaMe’irah and Aspaklaria SheLo Me’irah. In other words, it is either like a magnifying glass which magnifies the light, or it is like a mirror, in which one can only see his own reflection.)
6. The rectification (Tikun) of the shattering comes about specifically through intellectual investigation and analysis. This is the eighth king of Tohu, also known as Yosef the Interpreter of Dreams, or Mashiach Ben Yosef. This is because when one honestly contemplates and analyzes something to its very source, he will ultimately arrive at G-d. In other words, the allegory will reconnect to that which is being allegorized, dispelling all confusion and disunity.
7. Through the ultimate rectification, evil will be destroyed completely. As explained, evil is the absence Divine revelation. This being the case, when G-dliness is revealed evil ceases to be. When the allegory will be revealed as being one with that which is being allegorized, there no longer will be any sense of self, separate and apart from G-d’s absolute singularity.