A 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 times.
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
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.
In 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.
Part 1 (of 2)
I. Sea Screen
What is the secret of the Splitting of the Sea? Certainly
there must be a reason why the Israelites had to cross the dry seabed.
A column of fire led the Israelites out of Egypt. This
"angel fire" brought them before the Sea of Reeds (Yam Suf).
Now, the direct route from Egypt to Israel was along the Mediterranean
coast. This course cuts through ancient Philistine. Yet, "G-d did
not bring them by way of the land of the Philistines, because it was near"
Commentators suggest that had the Israelites attempted to traverse militant
Philistine territory, the locals would have attacked. Then the Jews would
have retreated to Egypt. That would have nullified the exodus from Egypt.
This interpretation, however, fails to explain why G-d
led them specifically to the Sea of Reeds, when He could have chosen a
different escape route.
The explanation can't be because G-d wanted to drown
the Egyptians, for G-d is omnipotent and has many ways to eliminate the
Egyptians. For example, G-d could have stricken them with a fatal plague.
From the above it is obvious that the drowning of the
Egyptians was a secondary effect. The true reason for the crossing of
the Sea was to benefit the Israelites. Crossing the Sea prepared them
to receive the Torah on Mount Sinai.
How was the Splitting of the Sea a preparation for the
Giving of the Torah? We must first comprehend the secret of the sea. The
Zohar reveals that "Just as there is a physical sea, there is a higher,
spiritual sea. Ships traverse that spiritual sea, rising and descending".
The nature of the spiritual sea can be understood from
the physical sea. The Sages said, "Everything that exists in the
sea also exists on land." However, sea creatures can't survive on
land even for a short time. Similarly, land creatures can't be submerged
in the sea for even a short period. The seawater would suffocate them,
just as sea creatures would asphyxiate from the air on land.
At first glance this makes little sense. Since land and
sea creatures are of a common species, as the Talmud said, why do their
natures contradict one another? For a milieu which provides life to one
category of creatures, results in the certain death of the other.
Kabbala explains that the sea constrains and covers the
creatures that are absorbed within it. It is impossible for them to receive
the Earth's air. Sea creatures can only receive their life force from
the water in the sea.
The sea also serves as a limiting force regarding land
creatures. It prevents them from receiving their life force from the sea.
G-d established the sea as a boundary which limits and conceals sea creatures
from land creatures. Sea creatures can't ascend to the land and land creatures
are unable to descend into the sea.
Suppose G-d had created the world differently? In this
hypothetical scenario, it would have been possible for sea creatures to
survive by breathing the Earth's air, and land creatures could have entered
the oceans and lived from seawater.
But what did happen? G-d caused the waters of the sea
to rise. This concealed the sea creatures and prevented them from being
visible from the land. At the beginning of Creation, G-d decided to separate
land creatures from sea creatures. And this division was enacted to the
An understanding of the spiritual sea is now possible.
The "Higher Sea" refers to the World of Emanation (Atzilus).
This World is also called the Yam Suf. The word "Suf" also translates
as the Hebrew term for end or limit (Sof). The Higher Sea, then, represents
the lowest or final level of the World of Emanation. Hence it serves as
a screen which separates the World of Emanation from the next World, the
World of Creation.
Emanation connotes the revelation of Divine Light directly
from G-d. Its lights and vessels are, so to speak, nothing new. For they
previously existed in a template-hidden form. Then G-d emanated them from
this concealed state into a revealed one. These revealed lights and vessels
are the ten attributes or sefirot of the World of Emanation.
Atzilus is based on the Hebrew word for closeness. Emanation
is near to G-d. Its characteristics are similar to
G-d's. Just as G-d is Infinite, so too are Emanation's lights and vessels.
However, Emanation's infinity is limited to its world. That means its
infinite lights don't shine outside of the World of Emanation.
The system of cause and effect begins only in the World
of Creation. Its lights and vessels are first brought into existence from
a slight radiation of Emanation vessels. Once the process has started,
Creation's light and vessels bond to give birth to the spiritual creatures
contained in its world.
Below the World of Creation stand the spiritual Worlds
of Formation and Action. They too are brought into existence by an external
aspect of Emanation's vessels. And their light and vessels likewise produce
the splendor of their World's creations.
The lower three worlds of Creation, Formation and Action
are considered finite creations. On the other hand, the World of Emanation
is infinite in nature. Naturally there must be a barrier to separate infinity
from finitude. Kabbala describes a series of veils that serve this purpose
by separating the World of Emanation from the World of Creation.
This sea-screen prevents the light of the World of Emanation
from descending into the World of Creation. It also does not allow spiritual
entities from the world of Creation to ascend to the World of Emanation.
This parallels the above-mentioned allegory: sea creatures cannot survive
on land and land creatures can't live in water.
What, then, is this spiritual sea-screen?
There are ten attributes in every stage of Divinity.
The final attribute is called Kingship. Kingship in the World of Emanation
serves as the faculty of Divine Speech.
King David said in Psalms, "By the word of G-d
the heavens were made" (Psalms 33:6)."The word of G-d""
refers to the Ten Utterances of Creation. For example, "G-d said:
Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3), "G-d said: Let there be a
firmament" (Genesis 1:6). Each of the Ten Utterances was in fact
a specific emanation originating from a corresponding sefirah of the World
For instance, the verse "Let there be light"
caused light from the attribute of Kindness of the World of Emanation
to shine down into the physical world. Thus all of the Divine lights of
the World of Emanation were enclothed within Supernal Speech. As is known,
letters of speech cover and conceal that which is contained within them.
That's why Supernal Speech is called the sea, similar to the sea's waters
that cover all that is inside them.
Human speech illustrates this concept. Hidden within
mans' words are his will, intelligence and emotions. For when a person
communicates words of love and kindness, wisdom, delight and will, the
spirituality of these attributes are not felt by the recipient. He doesn't
sense the essence of these faculties, as they are in and of themselves.
Rather, he only hears the inanimate letters of speech. These letters resemble
the physical breath of the mouth.
The recipient can only discern the speaker's will, intelligence
or emotions from the tangible letters of speech. These spiritual expressions
reach the receiver in a concealed fashion. What's more, their essential
nature has been completely changed. For now physical letters conceal within
themselves the essence of the speaker's will, intelligence and emotions.
Just as a physical sea conceals that which is hidden
within it, so too the Divine Lights of Will, Wisdom and Emotions of the
World of Emanation are concealed within the letters of Supernal Speech.
Supernal Speech's letters conceal Emanation's lights
to the extent that the very creatures that they bring into existence -
through the Ten Utterances - lack any comprehension of the essential nature
of these lights. This, despite the fact those lights are present, albeit
in a hidden fashion, within the letters which actually create these creatures!
How is this possible? Created entities are continuously
brought into existence by the 'physical' breath of the letters of Divine
Speech. And those letters conceal the supernal light inside them. King
Solomon hints to this in Ecclesiastes, "All the rivers flow into
the sea" (Ecclesiastes 1:7). Solomon is alluding to the supernal
attributes of the World of Emanation. Their light is revealed within the
supernal sea, which is Kingship of the World of Emanation. That's why
Kingship is also referred to as the Great Sea, since Emanation's lights
are infinite in nature.
Kingship, which is the final attribute, prevents the
revelation of Emanation's lights into the lower worlds and also receives
within itself the sum of their illumination. Thus Solomon made use of
the parable of rivers flowing into a sea.
This, then, is the reason why the souls and angels of
the World of Emanation are unable to descend into the Three Lower Worlds
of Creation, Formation and Action. The Lower Worlds correspond to dry
land, labeled by the Zohar as the Revealed World.
In the Revealed World, spiritual and physical creatures
obtain their life force and actual existence from the letters of Supernal
Speech. But those letters serve the dual function of creating finite beings
and at the same time concealing from them what is above.
Fish that are absorbed in the sea can't enter the realm
of land; they cannot live from the Earth's air. Likewise, the souls and
angels of the World of Emanation can't descend and acquire vitality from
the life force contained in Speech.
The opposite also applies. Souls and angels from the
Three Lower Worlds can't ascend to the World of Emanation. If they tried,
they would be utterly nullified by Emanation's Infinite Light. This resembles
the inability of land creatures to survive in the sea.
The cause for this spiritual scenario is the Sea of Reeds.
Supernal Speech -- Yam Suf / Sof - the final level of the World of Emanation,
acts as a veil. It conceals and separates the World of Emanation from
the World of Creation. This spiritual curtain prevents Emanation's infinite
light from shining down into the Three Lower Worlds. It also stops created
entities from ascending to the World of Emanation.
The Zohar's reference to a Lower and Higher Sea is now
understood. For both the physical and spiritual seas possess similar properties
of concealment and separation.
[on to Part 2]
[Rabbi David Rothschild, a resident of Tsfat, is the
founder and editor of Nefesh Magazine.]