Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Mikveh of the Fiftieth Gate: A Shavuos Teaching



Likutey Moharan I, 56, sec. 7
Translated by Dovid Sears
This is a difficult excerpt from a complex lesson, but well worth studying, especially in preparation for the coming Yom Tov.

The holiday of Shavuos represents an extremely great and exalted level of consciousness, which is supernal loving-kindness and great compassion; for the extent of compassion depends upon the extent of divine perception (da’as). This is because at the Giving of the Torah, the Holy One, blessed be He, appeared as an Elder full of compassion” (Rashi on Exodus 20:2).[1]

“Elder” refers to one who possesses a composed mind (yishuv ha-da’as; see Kinim 3:6; Zohar III, 128b). This determines the extent of compassion, as we have stated. Thus, Shavuos [which commemorates the time when God was revealed as an “Elder full of compassion,”] is characterized by supernal loving-kindness and great compassion.

This is also the paradigm of the mikveh of Shavuos,[2] which is the aspect of the mikveh of the Fiftieth Gate—the highest gate of the Fifty Gates of Binah / Understanding,[3] the aspect of supernal loving-kindness and great compassion.

Therefore, the mikveh saves from all troubles, as it is written, “The Hope (Mikveh) of Israel, Who saves her in a time of trouble” (Jeremiah 14:8).[4] For it is supernal loving-kindness, which saves from all troubles. This is why the mikveh purifies from all impurities, as it is written, “And I will sprinkle upon you purifying water, and you will be purified” (Ezekiel 36:25).[5] For “there is no suffering without sin” (Shabbos 55a). Thus, the mikveh, which delivers from all trouble and all suffering, purifies from all forms of impurity and all sin.

This is the paradigm of MaN (Aramaic: manna),[6] which corresponds to the aspect of “exalted consciousness”; because the manna is the aspect of da’as.[7]

This corresponds to “an open statement (ma’amar pasu’ach), extended trustworthiness (ne’eman pashut)” (Shabbos 104a).[8] An “open statement” is the aspect of revealing da’as, for speech is the medium through which da’as is expressed; as it is written, “Da’as and understanding are from His mouth” (Proverbs 2:6).

In Egypt, da’as was in exile, as it is written, “However, I did not make Myself known to them by My Name YHVH (Exodus 6:3); thus, speech was also in exile. This is the aspect of [Moses’s description of himself as] “difficult of speech and difficult of language” (ibid. 4:10).[9] However, when they left Egypt, when da’as went out of exile, speech came forth and “opened up.” This is the meaning of an “open statement”: speech opened up and revealed da’as.

Through the revelation of da’as, the perception of God’s trustworthiness spreads forth and it becomes apparent that He is trustworthy—He promises and He acts. This is the aspect of “extended trustworthiness”: His trustworthiness spreads forth. In Egypt, where da’as was in exile, His trustworthiness did not spread forth, and it was not apparent. Accordingly, Rashi explains the verse: “ ‘However, I did not make Myself known to them by My Name YHVH’—I was not known by My true quality.” Since higher consciousness was not revealed in Egypt, His trustworthiness was not apparent; for loving-kindness depends upon da’as, as we have said.

This is the aspect of ANOKHY (Exodus 20:2),[10] the initial letters of which our Sages interpret to mean “Yehiva Kesiva Ne’emanim Amareha . . . My giving, My writing, Her statements are trustworthy” (Shabbat 105a).[11] [The initial letters of “ANOKHY” corresponds to this phrase.] Through the Giving of the Torah, the “statement” [i.e., holy speech] was opened and da’as was revealed, and through this, God’s trustworthiness spread forth. This is the aspect of “ne’emanim amareha . . . her statements are trustworthy,” corresponding to “extended trustworthiness (ne’eman pashut), an open statement (ma’amar pasu’ach),” discussed above.

This is also the aspect of MaN (manna), which is an acronym of “Ma’amar Ne’eman (a trusted statement),” corresponding to “an open statement (ma’amar pasu’ach), extended trustworthiness (ne’eman pashut).” For the manna embodies the paradigm of great da’as. Therefore, “the Children of Israel ate the manna for forty years” (Exodus 16:35)—because “at the age of forty, one gains understanding (binah, as in the Fifty Gates of Binah / Understanding)” (Avos 5:21).

NOTES

1. In the Kabbalah, the term “elder (zaken)” is related to the sefirah of Keser, which transcends all harsh judgments and is the source of the Thirteen Divine Attributes of Mercy. These Thirteen Attributes are symbolized by the beard, which in Hebrew is “zakan.” The word zakan is related to zaken, “elder.”
2. A mikveh is a natural body of water or man-made pool that meets certain halakhic requirements, which enables a person or object to regain a state of ritual purity (taharah). This water is symbolically related to the “river that came forth from Eden,” mentioned at the beginning of Genesis.
3. Our Sages state that the world was created through “Fifty Gates of Binah / Understanding,” all but one of which were revealed to Moshe Rabbenu (Nedarim 38a). The Zohar and other kabbalistic works relate these Fifty Gates of Binah / Understanding to the fifty times that the Exodus is mentioned in the Torah (see Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Shiur Komah, Hakdamah, Parshah 92). Thus, there is a deep connection between the revelation of the mysteries of creation and the Exodus, which culminated in the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, when the entire nation attained prophecy. According to the Arizal (see Sha’ar ha-Kavannos, Shavuos, Drush 1), the mikveh into which it is customary to immerse on Shavuos morning is related to this awesome level of the Fiftieth Gate—which ultimately will be made available to all Israel with the proliferation of da’as in the Messianic Age.
4. The word mikveh also can mean “hope.” Thus, the verse from Jeremiah, which refers to God as the “Hope of Israel,” may be understood homiletically to allude to the mikveh in which one immerses to attain purity.
5. That is, just as God will purify all humanity through water in time to come, when divine knowledge will fill the world, so the mikveh purifies even today.
6. The word “MaN” is spelled “mem-nun.” In context of this lesson, these letters are an acronym for “mikveh nun,” the Mikveh of the Fiftieth Gate.
7. By eating the manna from heaven during their forty years in the desert, the Children of Israel attained higher levels of consciousness. The manna was the ideal food, possessing none of the spiritual or even physical problems associated with ordinary food.
8. The Gemara renders each letter of the Hebrew alphabet interpretively. This cryptic phrase is what it has to say about the letters mem and nun. The Rebbe goes on to elucidate this idea in keeping with his teaching about the exile and redemption of consciousness (da’as).
9. This refers to Moshe’s speech impediment, which was only manifest during the period of Egyptian exile. After the Exodus, the Torah never again mentions this problem. This implies that Moshe stuttered because holy speech in a transpersonal sense was in exile in Egypt. With the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, speech was rectified (Zohar II, 25b).
10. This is the first word of the Ten Commandments, which begin ANOKHY / I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of Egypt…” (ibid.).
11. The letters of the word ANOKHY, when read backward, are an acronym of Yehiva Kesiva Ne’emanim Amareha . . . My giving, My writing, Her statements are trustworthy.” This interpretation suggests that with the word ANOKHY,” God gave His approbation to the words that followed. The emphasis on the trustworthiness of God’s word in this interpretation of the Talmudic Sages lends support to Rebbe Nachman’s lesson.

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