These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Wearing Holy-Glasses

Posted on April 14, 2013 by Jeff Amshalem

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From my blog:
Marc Chagall’s “The Dance”

Marc Chagall’s “The Dance”

A teaching from Zeev Wolf of Zhitomir, Or HameirParshat Kedoshim.

 וַיְדַבֵּר יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר: דַּבֵּר אֶל כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם God spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all of Israel and say to them, ‘Be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.’”Leviticus 19:1-2

Why was it necessary to gather all of Israel for this teaching? Our sages said that the greater part of Torah depends on this parshah. Now it is well known that the desire to create us arose in God’s simple will before the desire to create the world for us, for all of creation is for the sake of the joy and delight that God expected to receive from the souls of the righteous, for great is their power to “liken the form to its Maker” (1). This power consists of their clarity of intellect with which they perceive the supernal lights, which have emanated from the highest heights to the lowest levels of Creation, right down into human pleasures such as eating, drinking, sleeping, and every single pleasure there is in the world. The righteous do all of these things in Wisdom and Knowledge (2), to perceive the higher in the lower, the transcendent in the concrete.  Instead of doing these things for their own pleasure, they do them in order to raise the emanated lights to their source and root, the place of unity. For wherever they look, the righteous have the power to see only the divinity manifest there. They strip away the material form and dress everything in a spiritual form; this is the meaning of “likening the form to its Maker.” A person who does this “is to be called holy,” and is indeed worthy of the title (3). Every single one of us has the ability to do this, mending the higher worlds by raising the emanated lights to their place in the divine unity, each person according to his or her soul’s attachment to the Shekhinah, to G!d made manifest in this world. For, as the sages said, “One does much and one does little — it is all the same, so long as you direct your heart to heaven” (4)…

When we turn our thoughts to the greatness of God, then we become a dwelling for divinity in the world and a vehicle for “the side of holiness.” But when we turn to bad thoughts (God forbid), then we become a vehicle for “the Other Side,” for the “other gods,” the forces of impurity (5). This is why the Torah’s instructions for being holy contain the command, “Do not turn to idols or make molten gods for yourselves; I am the LORD your God.” Never let your thoughts turn away from God, so that you do not turn the things around you into “idols” or yourselves into “molten gods.” Then the LORD will be “your God” — literally your God, for you will draw God’s own lordship and divinity upon yourselves. May the LORD in His great mercy show us the way to divine knowledge, and keep us true in our service, in purity and holiness, now and forever, amen, may it be so for all time.

1) Vayikra Rabbah 24:5 and Bereishit Rabbah 1:4 & 27:1; In the last midrash, the rabbis say “How bold are the prophets who liken the created form to its Maker,” meaning that they use concrete metaphors to describe G!d. Here the Or Hameir stands the phrase on its head and reverses the process, turning the concrete back into God. In this he follows his teacher Dov Ber the Maggid of Mezeritch, who said that G!d’s act of turning divinity into the material world is amazing, but our act of turning the material world back into divinity is even more wondrous.   2) The Or Hameir is not referring to common wisdom and knowledge, obviously, but to the mystical, even divine, Wisdom and Knowledge embodied in the sfirot of Hochmah and Da’at, key words associated with this ability of joining everything to its divine Source in Ayin, “Nothingness.”   3) Isaiah 4:3   4) Menachot 110a   5) While all of the universe is truly united in God, in the lower worlds the  enlivening forces of divinity are divided between “the side of holiness” and “the side of impurity,” often called “the Other Side,” to avoid naming it. The closest comparison I can think of is “the Light Side” and “the Dark Side” of Star Wars or, maybe better, the Mystics and the Skeksies of The Dark Crystal — two movies which go a long way towards explaining the Kabbalistic understanding of the universe.