Thursday, June 21, 2012

Don’t Say “Water, Water!” - Rebbe Nachman on Truth: Likutey Moharan I, 51 - Part II

Translation (bold) and Musings (tentative) by Dovid Sears

To read Part I, click here.

Rebbe Nachman now turns to discuss the process of purification (taharah) and the restoration of the lost unity that prevailed prior to creation—right here in this world. The key to this is eliciting Divine Providence, which is accomplished through truthfulness.

Before creation, when creation existed in potentiality (so to speak), before it came forth into actuality, everything was entirely one (echad), entirely true (emes), entirely good (tov), and entirely holy (kodesh).

In Sichos HaRan 55 Reb Noson quotes the Rebbe as saying that we only call the reward of the World to Come “good” because we have no other way to describe it. However, the word is inadequate, because the World to Come transcends any limited conception. “The most we can say of the Future World is that it is good, but in truth, ‘no eye has seen it—only [that of] God alone’ (Isaiah 64:3, as quoted in Berakhos 34b).” (Reb Noson also alludes to this concept in his discussion of the “Supernal Delight (No’am HaElyon) and the “Supernal Eden” (Eden HaElyon) in Likutey Halakhos, Minchah 6:4.)

In the present lesson, the Rebbe uses all four terms in the nondual sense.

Even the term “tahor” (pure) would be inappropriate to use, since tahor only applies when there is tumah (impurity).

That is, purity and impurity are “two sides of the same coin.”

As it is written, “You will be purified of all your impurity” (Ezekiel 36:25).  However, when all is one, the aspect of “many intrigues,”—i.e., multiplicity— which is the prerequisite of evil and impurity, is not present.

For taharah/purity is the intermediary between the holy and the impure; through it, impurity is rectified, as it is written, “You will be purified of all your impurity” (ibid.).

This is the paradigm of free will (bechirah) which is an intermediary between two [opposite] things. This does not apply before creation, for then all was absolutely one. And in Oneness, there can be no free choice, which is the aspect of taharah/purity. 

Elsewhere, Rebbe Nachman observes, “This world was created only for the sake of free will (bechirah)” (Sichos HaRan 300). The Rebbe also discusses the paradox of free will vs. Divine foreknowledge in Likutey Moharan I, 21.

When the Holy One brought forth creation from potentiality to actuality, the aspect of taharah/purity immediately came into existence. For when He brought forth [creation] from potentiality to actuality, there were two things: the paradigm of the One and that of creation. Then there could be free will, which is the aspect of taharah/purity, which interfaces with Oneness, because it is close to it. 

Taharah is “close” to the Divine Unity because it is an extension of the good which characterizes the primordial reality.

It still hasn’t reached the state of “many intrigues,” which is evil and impurity. However, it contains an impression (reshimu)—that is, a predisposition—and an indication of its coming into existence (hishtalshelus), in that now it is able to devolve—thorough the hierarchy of the spiritual “worlds” down to this lowly “World of Action,” which is the arena for human free will—until it becomes evil and impurity. Thus, it is written in the Zohar (I, 48a, and elsewhere) that the primary “grasp” of impurity is from the “Left Side.”

The term “grasp” (achizah) is used throughout the Zohar and other kabbalistic texts to describe the relationship between the unholy and the holy, the external and the internal, etc.

The “Left Side” is the force of din; it denotes the constriction of the unitary Divine light, severity and harsh judgment. The terminology of “right” and “left” describes the dialectical tension between opposite principles: light and darkness, chesed (loving-kindness) and din, expansion and contraction, giving and receiving, and all such pairs of opposites on all planes.

However, the Left Side is not inherently evil. Indeed, creation couldn’t take place without it. But because it represents the constriction of the Divine light, it is the metaphysical source of the evil and impurity found on the lower levels of creation.

For purity hints to the existence of impurity; it is an indicator of the chain of cause-and-effect that will culminate in impurity. Therefore, it is possible to refine and elevate the impure to a state of purity, since it developed from purity, as in “You will be purified of all your impurity” (loc. cit.).

Because the two opposites share a common point of origin, the positive can elevate and transform the negative to is own essence. This also implicitly tells us that the positive is primary, while the negative is secondary.

Along these lines, I seem to remember reading in the Rebbe’s name that if a person would only take a good look within himself, he would see that evil is not intrinsically part of his nature, but something external. I have not yet succeeded in locating this source, but it seems consistent with the discussion of the Evil Inclination in Likutey Moharan I, 72.

Thus, the main grasp of impurity comes from the aspect of purity, which is the aspect of free will, as mentioned above. And purity is the aspect of the “left,” which is the aspect of Levi, as in “And you shall purify the sons of Levi” (Numbers 8:6). For Levi is the aspect of the “left,” as is known.

The Zohar (III, 176b) relates the Kohanim to the right side, which corresponds to the sefirah of Chokhmah, and the Levites to the left side, which corresponds to the sefirah of Binah. Among other things, Binah is the source of holy melody. Thus, the Levites composed and played music in the Holy Temple, as part of the purification process accomplished by the sacrifices. Also see Likutey Moharan I, 226 and 237.

In a more esoteric sense, Chokhmah is unitary, thus it is represented by the letter yud in the Name YHVH, which is one simple point; Binah is the origin of duality, thus it is represented by the letter heh in the Name YHVH, which has two sections. (See Part I of this essay, in the discussion of silver and gold as aspects of Chokhmah and Binah.)

Therefore, the main grasp of impurity is derived from the aspect of the left, since the left is the aspect of purity; from there impurity derives its grasp.

And all of this—the aspect of the left / purity / free will, from which devolves the impure / evil and opposition / falsehood—all of this is drawn from the paradigm of “After Creation,” when creation came forth from potentiality to actuality. For then, so to speak, there were two paradigms, Oneness and creation, as mentioned above.

Perhaps the Rebbe says “so to speak” because even in the Vacated Space, which divides Before Creation and After Creation, God is hidden; see Likutey Moharan I, 64.

Thus, the main grasp of falsehood, which is impurity, is due to estrangement from Oneness; that is, from the paradigm of After Creation.

Yet through Divine Providence (hashgachah), even after the act with which God brought forth [the universe] from potentiality to actuality—all things remain in a state of unity with Him. [It is just that] evil derives nurture from the “residue” of Divine Providence, from “over the shoulder,” as is known.

That is, God’s guiding hand in creation remains present even in the realm of evil, but in a hidden manner; see Likutey Moharan I, 33. By contrast, the tzaddikim reveal God’s Providence in their lives openly. The Rebbe discusses Divine Providence in at least ten lessons, including Likutey Moharan I, 234 (which discusses the manifestation of Divine Providence in the lives of the tzaddikim).

The Zohar (III, 184a) uses the metaphor of giving something “over the shoulder” to describe how God relates to those whose intentions are evil or impure. One whose intentions are holy receive life and blessing in a manner described as “face to face.”

He is far from Oneness.

At the beginning of this lesson, the Rebbe stated that “falsehood damages the eyes, both physically and spiritually”—physically, in that the blood becomes turbid, causing tears that weaken one’s vision; spiritually, in that falsehood distances a person from God and the open manifestation of Divine Providence. He finds himself stranded in the predicament of disunity.

However, through truthfulness, God’s Providence is manifested upon a person; as it is written, “My eyes are upon the faithful of the earth” (Psalms 101:6). And through falsehood, which is evil, one removes God’s Providence from himself; as it is written, “One who speaks falsehood shall not endure before my eyes” (ibid. 101:7). He derives vitality only from “over the shoulder.”

Thus we see that one who desires—after “somethingness” (yeshus) [came forth from nothingness (yesh me-ayin)] and after the act that brought forth [the universe] from potentiality to actuality—that everything should be absolutely one; that “father and son”—i.e., Creator and creation—should be as one, as previously, when everything existed in potentiality—he should guard himself from falsehood. Through this, God’s Providence will be upon him, and everything will be entirely one.


We hope to complete Part III, which will be the conclusion of this teaching, in the near future, with Hashem’s help.

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