Revelation of the Divine
God told Moshe, “I am Y-H-V-H. I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak,
and to Ya’akov, by the name of E-l Shadd-ai, but by My name, Y-H-V-H,
I was not known to them.” (Shemos 2:1)
Many people have pondered the all-profound question of, “What’s life
about?” For the most part, life is distracting enough that people do not
have to ask the question, let alone answer it. However, once in a while,
somewhat rare philosophical moment, the question does get asked by many
people, and in an even rarer philosophical moment, it gets answered.
Answered, yes, correctly, unlikely.
Well, at least very watered down, but that is not their fault. Rather, it
the result of the Jewish people not having enough clarity themselves about
the reason for Creation, and therefore, not getting the message out to the
of the world, to each person on the level of understanding he can
We are the light unto nations, and it is this light, in particular, that we
are supposed to emanate, and with which we illuminate.
It is, in two words, Gilui HaShechinah—the revelation of the Divine
Presence, as this week’s parsha indicates. The Divine Names, to which this
week’s parsha refers, are ways to measure the level of intensity of the
which, ideally, is supposed to become increasingly brilliant with
each successive generation. The unfolding of history, ideally, should be
uncovering of the Divine Presence that inhabits and enlivens every single
aspect of Creation.
That was really the entire exercise of the 10 Plagues. As God had told
Moshe Rabbeinu in Parashas Shemos, Pharaoh was not going to be moved
to free the Jewish people until the 10th Plague, that of the death of the
first born. If so, then why go through all the previous nine? What were
meant to accomplish, besides act as the build up to the 10th plague itself?
The answer is, that each subsequent plague was a turn of the valve, soto-
speak, that allowed more of the light of God to enter the world, and
hence, a greater revelation of the Divine Presence. As the Leshem explains,
by the time the 10th plague came, the revelation of God was so strong that,
had the Jewish people stayed any longer, it would have destroyed all of
for good (Sha’arei Leshem, p. 408). At that stage, freedom was an automatic
As we see from the journey in the desert, though a slave may dream of
freedom, he can’t always live it after having been enslaved for so many
years. The oppression wears him down, until he can’t help but look at the
world in terms of his work, and the powers-that-be in terms of those who
oppress him. He becomes blind to the reality of God.
The switch back is not an overnight process. Thus, when it came to the
Akeidah, God requested, in stages, that Avraham perform the test (Rashi,
Bereishis 22:1). The shock of asking Avraham all at one time, to sacrifice
Yitzchak, would have made Avraham Avinu jump to a yes answer immediately,
without having worked through the issue, not much of a test. The gilui—
revelation—had to happen at a pace that Avraham could adjust to, so
that he could maintain his senses in the face of such a level of
On the other hand, the Midrash teaches, when God spoke to the Jewish
people who stood at the base of Mt. Sinai, the revelation was so
the nation died as a result. God then revived them with a special dew
used for resurrecting the dead, but after hearing the second commandment
from God Himself, they died again, only to be revived once more. At that
point, they appointed Moshe Rabbeinu to speak on their behalf and to
the rest of the Torah for them.
It is the same with entering the realm of Pardes—Pshat, Remez, Drush,
and Sod. Each level of Torah is a higher revelation of God, and should a
person delve deeper into Torah than he is ready to, it can damage him,
killing him, as happened to Ben Azzai, or causing the person to lose his
sanity, as in the case of Ben Zoma, or, making him into a heretic, as in
case of Elisha ben Abuya (Chagigah 14b).
Where there is kedushah, there is revelation, and where there is
there is kedushah. To be exposed to either is to be impacted by it, and
if the vessel is not prepared to receive such exposure, the results can be
damaging. Just as some materials must be treated before being exposed to
extreme heat, the body must be treated before it can be exposed to high
of holiness and revelation.
Hence, all the preparation that the Kohen Gadol went through in advance
of his entry into the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. He remained holy
all the time, all year round. However, on Yom Kippur, by going into the
Holy of Holies, the additional level of revelation could kill him, and
least those who became Kohen Gadol through less worthy means. Not being
true high priests, they could not go through the proper preparation, and
therefore, their bodies could not handle the exposure to such an intense
level of holiness.
This was not only true of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur, but for all of
us as well since then. As we know, all year round, when saying the Shema,
we say the second verse silently to ourselves, because, as tradition
it really belongs to the angels, and should they hear it, well, who knows
what they’ll do to us!
However, on Yom Kippur, we bravely and lovingly shout out the verse
without fear of any Heavenly repercussions. For, we are told, due to our
preparations, fasting, and prayer, we become like angels for the day, and
earn the right to say that which belongs to the angels. When the real
hear us call out their line, and they look down to see who is saying it,
are satisfied with what they see, and we can continue on with the rest of
holy activities for the day.
However, what is really going on is that, as a result of all the Yom Kippur
laws and traditions, we become spiritually refined. Kabbalistically, this
one of the reasons why the Kohen Gadol took the regular incense mixture
from the rest of the year, and ground it up extra fine for Yom Kippur. It
the refinement of the judgment, because we ourselves became more
It is not our soul that requires refinement, for it is Divine light
Rather, it is our body that is refined, and by becoming a better vessel
Divine light that is within it, it becomes a better vessel to receive the
Divine light that is outside of it, that is, for Divine revelation. And,
if a person keeps
moving down this path, then eventually, he will reach the level of
Rabbi Pinchas Ben Yair said: Diligence leads to cleanliness, cleanliness
leads to purity, and purity leads to separateness, and separateness leads
to holiness, and holiness leads to humility, and humility leads to dread of
sin, and dread of sin leads to piety, and piety leads to the Holy Spirit …
Hence, when the revelations/plagues began, they did so with the Plague
of Blood, which in Hebrew is spelled: Dalet-Mem. These two letters are the
final two letters of the word “adam,” the Hebrew word for “man,” because
the physical source of man’s life is the blood running through his veins
arteries. Therefore, blood represents the physical component of man, which
can be no different than that of the animals around him.
That leaves the letter Aleph, which stands for God, because it is comprised
of two Yuds and a Vav, the gematria of which of 26, that of God’s
holy four-letter Name. It also represents the number one, and since God is
one, it alludes to His Presence in Creation, and within man, that is, his
Since, we are told, the Jewish people, while being spiritually submerged
in Egyptian exile, descended to the 49th level of spiritual impurity, they
all but obliterated the Aleph part of their being. Therefore, each
plague, from the first one, which was the Plague of Blood, to tell them
they had become, until the eighth one, which was the Plague of Locusts,
was to resuscitate the Aleph, and restore it, giving those who were
the status of an adam.
The ninth plague, the Plague of Darkness, was to remove those who
would not let themselves be impacted, because they wanted to stay behind
in Egypt. Eight plagues, apparently, as the number itself indicates, should
have been enough to elevate the Jewish people out of the mundane reality
of hester panim, to the revealed reality of a true adam, the gematria of
which is equal to 45, the same as the word geulah, which
For, this is the true path to redemption. Redemption is a light, it is a
revelation of God in the world, and for those who can withstand, it is
elevating and redeeming. For those who are not able to receive the light
it can damage them (Nedarim 8b). Therefore, all that happens in
advance of a redemption is to warn us of its impending arrival, to increase
our ability to be exposed to such a high level of Divine light.
It accounts for what has been occurring down in Gaza for the last few
weeks. The Israeli leadership may not be impressed, but the Israeli
have been far less than was projected before the war, and this is
many of the soldiers, and some of the media. The words “miracles” and
“wonders” re being used quite frequently, thank God.
But something else is happening. The religious world has become more
unified amongst itself, and with many of the secular soldiers, many of whom
have asked for tzitzis, and have put on tefillin before going to the
the expression goes, there are no atheists in a foxhole, and even less so
when the foxhole belongs to the Jewish people.
Not everyone may understand what it is that they are feeling, or they
may simply assume that it is just the fear of harm, or worse, that is
them towards mitzvos. However, to those who understand how God runs
His world, all of it is because of the increasing spiritual light that is
allowed to enter Creation, as it makes the final turn into the direction
Text Copyright © 2009 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.