Monday, January 14, 2013

“A Thin Thread of Metal Before the Infinite”

Painting by Helen Frankenthaler

“A Thin Thread of Metal Before the Infinite”
From “Tzaddik” (Chayei Nefesh), no. 280
Translation and annotation by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum 
© Breslov Research Institute 

“A Thin Thread of Metal Before the Infinite”

Reb Noson writes:

Sunday 25th Nissan, 5570 (1810). The Rebbe had been talking to me about the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and how original they were. The whole story of the Baal Shem Tov was entirely without parallel.[1] Nothing similar had been known before, except perhaps to some degree in the works of the Ari [Rabbi Isaac Luria], of blessed memory.

This led the Rebbe to discuss the writings of the Ari, which he praised in glowing terms for the awesome revelations they contain, as is well known. The Rebbe had been studying the Likutey Torah of the Ari,[2] which contains remarkable teachings.

He gave as an example the Ari’s comment on the verse in Genesis 22:23: “Shmonah eleh, these eight did Milkah bear,” where he discusses “eight times “these,” etc.[3]

The Rebbe went on to say: “What nobody ever notices is that all their revelations only concern Asia [Minor]. All the events discussed took place only in Asia. Yet the truth of the matter is that the Torah contains an account of everything in the Universe. There is nothing which the Torah does not speak about.[4] Thus, we find Germany mentioned in the Torah.[5] It is just that the Torah does not make an entire story out of everything. At times, things are mentioned only to be ignored subsequently. Only where the Torah wants to does it give us the whole story, as in the case of Laban, etc. Nevertheless, the Torah contains allusions to everything; it is just that the sages of former times only revealed what concerned Asia. Yet the truth is, many nations existed in other parts of the world even prior to the revelation of the Torah. At the time the Torah was given, there were many faraway nations that had knowledge of the Giving of the Torah through communications routes which existed then. Thus, the state of Saxony had been in existence even before the days of Abraham. Hungary, too, was a very ancient country, and the same goes for other countries outside Asia. However nothing is said about these countries. The places which are mentioned—Egypt and so on, and “these eight” that Milkah bore—are all in Asia. Yet the Torah contains allusions to all things because Moses had knowledge of everything.”

The Rebbe went on to say that all the events which take place in this world contain allusions to things of the highest order. Nothing in the world is without significance. The world is never still for a moment. There is constant movement and change, and every single detail has a meaning. But, it is no more than the faintest hint in relation to the Ein Sof, the Infinite.[6] Nothing in the world is more than a faint allusion in relation to what will be in the future, when the renewal of the world comes about.

The Rebbe then said that everything that happens, is merely “working a thin thread of metal” in relation to the Infinite. The Rebbe spoke at length about this, but it is impossible to explain it in writing because we are dealing with very exalted matters concerning the mysteries of God’s dealing with the world. Those who heard these things from the Rebbe directly could perhaps have a glimpse of an understanding of the import of his words even if they could not really grasp them fully.

[1] The disciples of the Baal Shem Tov once remarked, "If all the Ari's greatness is what is mentioned in the Shevachey HaArizal, then we have seen far more greatness frorn the Baal Shem Tov."
[2] Likutey Torah contains Kabbalistic interpretations on the Torah according to the kabbalah of the Ari. This work is part of Rabbi Meir Popper's edition of Rabbi Chaim Vital's writings. First published in Zholkove, 1775.
[3] Eleh” equals 36, and 36 x 8 = 288, the number of "sparks" that fell during the "Breaking of the Vessels." "Milkah" refers to the "King." See Shaar HaHakdamot, Shaar RPCh Nitzotzin; Etz Chaim, Shaar RPCh Nitzotzin; Shaar HaPesukim, VaYera; Likutey Torah, VaYera.
[4] See Zohar III, 221a; cf. Taanit 9a; Chullin 139b.
[5] The name “Ashkenaz” in Genesis 10:3 is traditionally accepted as a reference to Germany.
[6] See Rabbi Chaim Vital, Etz Chaim, Drush Igulim v'Yosher, 5; cf. above (“Tzaddik”): sections 240, 243.

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