on a complete discourse by
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi
by Rabbi David Rothschild
Chassidic discourse is the most developed form of the inner Torah. Every word
is sculpted by Divine Inspiration. Delivered to coincide with a weekly Torah reading
or Jewish festival, these discourses make a spiritual connection with auspicious
Concepts from Kabbala and Zohar are developed to perfection.
Their relevance to the Five Books of Moses and Tanach (Old Testament) as well
as passages from the Talmud is expounded upon. This reveals their "inner
These discourses presuppose a familiarity with Torah.
Perhaps for these reasons, only a handful has been translated into English and
published as books by the Kehot Publication Society.
Over the course
of two hundred years, the Lubavitcher Rebbes delivered thousands of discourses.
Now for the first time they are being made public on the Internet.
the texts that follow an attempt was made to abridge and elucidate their content.
To provide background information for difficult terms and concepts, additional
material from other Chassidic discourseshas been added. The remaining content
is a free translation.
1 (of 2)
Smoke played an integral
role when G-d gave Moses the Torah. "And Mount Sinai was completely a smoke
because G-d descended upon it in fire (Exodus 19:18). "And all the people
saw the thunder and lightning, and the sound of the shofar, and the mountain in
smoke; when the people saw it, they became uneasy and stood far away" (Exodus
20:15). "And Moses approached the thick darkness where G-d was" (Exodus
Kabbala reveals the secret of smoke (oshon). The three letters
of its Hebrew spelling are themselves the initial letters of three other words:
olom, which means world; shana, which means time; and nefesh, which means soul.
These three fundamental components of creation correspond to the Three Lower Worlds
of Creation (Briah), Formation (Yizirah), and Action (Asiah).
portrays the three building blocks of reality: space, time and soul. Space refers
to the lowest World of Action; time represents the World of Formation; and soul
corresponds to the World of Creation.
smoke provides an illustration for this concept. What produces smoke? A piece
of wood is composed of aspects of the four elements. Its predominate components,
though, are air, water and soil. When a flame is put to wood, the element of fire
consumes its spiritual elements of air, water and soil. Unable to persevere inside
the wood, the three elements return above to be subsumed within their particular
The wood's rising smoke is actually its former elements
of air, water and soil. While nature's fourth element of fire, burns up the wood.
Only ashes, derived from the element of soil, are left behind. Absolutely nothing
remains of the wood's aspects of air and water.
Wood serves as an analogy for the Three Lower Worlds. The World of
Creation corresponds to the element of air. Below Creation stands The World of
Formation, which represents water. And the bottommost World of Action manifests
the element of soil.
Fire, though, refers to the supernal World of Emanation
(Atzilut) where infinite Divine Light shines. Hence the aforementioned verse says,
"G-d descended upon it in fire." Divine fire descended into the Three
Lower Worlds and affected their purification and nullification. Then, in a refined
state, they ascended above.
Each of the Three Worlds returned to its original
source in the World of Emanation. There they merged into Emanation's revealed
light. What remained below? Only the coarsest aspect of The World of Action, which
corresponds to the most elementary aspect of soil, stayed behind.
Mount Sinai verse can be understood: "And Mount Sinai was completely asmoke
because G-d descended upon it in fire." What does 'completely denote in relation
to fire? After G-d's flame affected the spiritual incineration and cleansing of
the Three Lower Worlds, they "went up in smoke." Smoke manifested their
post-purification aspect. Only the Worlds' residue remained on earth.
more, the Three Lower Worlds utterly ceased to exist as independent entities.
For, by means of G-d's fire, they rose into the World of Emanation. There they
became one with Emanation's infinity. Even their spiritual state of being didn't
As mentioned earlier, the
Hebrew spelling of smoke stands for world, time and soul. What do these terms
actually refer to? G-d emits a diminished life-force to enact the creation process.
Each created realm receives its appointed measure of life-force, necessary for
its existence. The spatial extension of that life-force into a particular created
realm is called "world." The duration this life-force continues to operate
there is called "time." This means space-time is really a radiated G-dly
"Soul," generally speaking, refers to an aspect of Divinity
which is so transcendent that it is beyond the possibility of shining below. It
pertains to the ultimate source of the descending life-force: the attribute of
Kingship of the World of Emanation.
Emanation, as we have seen, remains,
even after Creation, adjacent to G-d's infinity. That's why its lights and vessels
illuminate end endlessly. It's just that a veil - representing the leap of value
from finitude to infinity, separates Emanation from the Three Lower Worlds. In
order to provide them with life-sustaining power, infinity must be metamorphosed
into a lower-level "finite" light (space-time). Following sundry constrictions
and coverings, Kingship of Emanation's life-force reaches the created Worlds.
But the seferah of Kingship, itself, doesn't abandon its position in Emanation.
An allegory for Kingship
of Emanation and the life force that descends from it is provided by reincarnation.
Sometimes a soul must endure rectification for misdeeds and the like. So G-d sends
it back into the world inside a plant or an animal. The entire essence of the
soul is trapped within the animal.
Souls are constructed of many levels,
one enveloping the next. For example, souls possess all the faculties of intellect
and emotions. They have spiritual powers such as the ability to think, speak and
act. Its core directs these faculties together with life empowering light, down
into the body. What occurs when the soul enters an animal's body? Animals don't
think, speak or write compositions. What happened to the soul's powers?
such circumstances, the hostage soul does not radiate its life-force or attributes.
Rather, the original core-state of the soul is, so-to-speak, squeezed into the
animal. It remains helpless, unable to illume forth its life-force.
Every Jew's essence of the soul remains above. Only a
slight radiation descends to enliven a body. Once inside, both body and soul-
radiation are united as one. But its original source -- the soul's essence --
remains existentially aloof from even the possibility of emitting life-force.
As mentioned earlier, the soul's source is in the attribute of Kingship
of the World of Emanation. Since Emanation precedes the creation of space-time,
soul essences encompass a person's consciousness. Sometimes, pangs of repentance
'trickle down' from the soul essence. This is especially true during the Days
of Repentance, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
In its sublime state,
the soul source resembles Kingship of Emanation. It too is abstracted above the
world: only its radiation forms space-time.
Mount Sinai's incineration, symbolized by the Hebrew word for smoke, included
the aspect of soul. If soul is beyond creation, how was it transformed into smoke?
Sinai manifested the corporeality of the Three Lower Worlds. Their existence,
we have seen, is actually the external aspect of Kingship's life-force. And when
Mount Sinai "completely" smoked - space, time and soul ascended to their
The downward expansion of life-force into each particular realm
refers to "world"; its duration is "time." And the life-force
itself is called "soul." This doesn't refer to the essence of the soul;
just it's radiated life-force. So life-force accomplishes three simultaneous tasks.
Its effluence is space-time. And it re-creates that space-time every instant from
a state of absolute void into the appearance of separate reality.
Light, symbolized by fire, consumed the worlds. Space-time and its life-force,
rose upward to their source in the essence of Kingship of Emanation. Previously
radiated life-force rejoined its ultimate origin - the essence of the soul. That,
which had been combined with the Lower Three Worlds now became nullified, enveloped
and unified with the "Supernal Oneness" of Emanation. The Zohar describes
this state as "being one with One."
[Rabbi David Rothschild is the founder and editor of Nefesh