Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Listening to the Unheard Sound

Here are two excerpts from Likutey Halakhos related to chapter 5, as found in the  Breslov Pirkey Avot (Breslov Research Institute).

Listening to the Unheard Sound

The world was created with ten utterances. And what does this teach us? Could it not have been created with one utterance? However, it is to exact punishment from the wicked, who destroy the world that was created with ten utterances, and to give a good reward to the tzaddikim, who sustain the world that was created with ten utterances (Chapter V, Mishnah 1).

Reb Noson: A sound and its echo are basic paradigms, the power of free choice being rooted in the paradigm of the echo. As the Mishnah states, The world was created with ten utterances… and as it is written, “With the word of God the heavens were made, and with the breath of His mouth, all of their hosts” (Psalms 33:6). The “word of God” and “breath of His mouth” allude to the paradigm of the sounds and words that are part of the Ten Types of Song.

The root of the Evil Inclination is disbelief in God, heresy, and falsehood. In several teachings, Rebbe Nachman states that the Evil Inclination is synonymous with the terms “other gods” and “heresies” —for the root of the Torah and mitzvot is faith. As it is written, “Habakkuk came and established them on one [foundation]: the tzaddik shall live by his faith” (Makkos 24a), and “All of Your mitzvot are faithful (literally, ‘faith’)” (Psalms 119:86). The antithesis of this is that the root of the Evil Inclination and all evil desires and transgressions is damaged or misapplied faith: the paradigm of “other gods” and “heresies.”

All this derives from the echo, for if everyone heard the direct sound, there would be no power of free choice. It was with this voice that God created all worlds and continues to sustain them—for “His word lives and endures forever…” (Isaiah 40:8), according to the explanation of our master, the Baal Shem Tov, of blessed memory. (Translator: See Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, Sefer HaTanya, Sha’ar HaYichud V’haEmunah, chap. 1, citing a well-known oral teaching of the Baal Shem Tov; also cf. Rabbi Chaim of Chernowitz, Be’er Mayim Chaim, Bereshit, s.v. Vayikhulu. It is God’s creative word that continually brings the universe into existence ex nihilo.)

If everyone were to hear the direct sound, there would be no free will because it would be immediately apparent that God Himself enlivens the world with the “breath of His mouth.” Moreover, we would become absolutely nullified. (Translator: A similar teaching is attributed to the Baal Shem Tov in Kisvey Kodesh 21a, cited in Sefer Baal Shem Tov al HaTorah, Bereshis 3.) Even at the time of the Giving of the Torah, when the Jewish people attained extremely lofty levels of spiritually refinement, they cried, “Today we have seen that when God speaks to man, he can still survive. But now, why should we die? If we hear the voice of God any more, we shall die!” (Deuteronomy 5:21-22).

Thus, the main perception of Godliness that we can attain is from the paradigm of the echo. This is bound up with fear and judgment, as the verse states, “O God, I just heard about You and I was afraid…” (Habakkuk 3:2); and this is the paradigm of free choice, since hearing about God’s greatness primarily comes from the echo.

So, yes, we have free choice, but one who is truly wise will grasp the truth, just as the Patriarchs of the World grasped the truth. They were able to perceive the source of the echo and realize that the echo possesses no essential existence—the ultimate reality is only the direct sound (Likutey Halakhos, Piryah V’Rivyah 3:19, abridged).


Reb Noson: The essence of the direct sound cannot be revealed or the world would be utterly nullified. Thus, the Mishnah states, The world was created with ten utterances… Our Sages note that the phrase “And God said…” is mentioned only nine times in the first chapter of Genesis, and conclude that the first verse, “In the beginning…” also must be counted as a saying. However, this only begs the question: why does this first divine saying not include the phrase “And God said…” like the other nine sayings?

This is because the first saying corresponds to the direct sound, which includes all ten divine sayings and all possible worlds, from the highest to the lowest. Everything is included in the paradigm of first verse of Genesis, which is known as the Concealed Utterance, and which encompasses all creation. Because it is the direct sound, it is not a saying like the rest. The direct voice cannot be heard or grasped at all.

Only after this all-inclusive direct sound did the echo come into being. God then combined the two sounds to form a third sound, and with this He created everything. This is the paradigm of the other nine sayings of Genesis, and the paradigm of all the sounds that it is possible for us to hear. (Translator: Reb Noson seems to imply that nine is the number three squared. This alludes to the Kabbalistic concept that the sefiros of tikkun are structured according to three vertical columns, which correspond to thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.)

Prior to this it was not possible to recognize the details of creation in their specificity, for the first divine saying was hidden to the utmost degree. However, now, this is our main task: to accomplish the reunification of everything within the paradigm of the first word of creation. In so doing, we return everything to its point of origin—to know and to believe that everything comes from God alone, and that the echo has no true existence except that which it derives from the direct sound.

This is the paradigm of the Ten Types of Song that correspond to the ten sayings of Creation. Through them, the good is refined from the bad, and faith from heresy, for they bind and combine all sounds, the echo with the direct sound, until they form the paradigm of the melody that draws the heart closer to God. Holy melody redeems the heart from false beliefs and passions that emanate from the echo, restoring the echo to the direct sound. Through music, the soul cleaves to God, and all Creation ascends to its supernal source.

Therefore, music is associated with what the Zohar calls the “side of the Levites.” All sounds in the world are part of the paradigm of the echo in relation to the supernal direct sound. By combining the echo with the direct sound, everything becomes transmuted to the direct sound, which is the essence of all things. This is accomplished primarily by holy music (Likutey Halakhos, Piryah V’Rivyah 3:21, abridged).

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