G-d told Moshe, “I am YHVH. I appeared to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Ya’akov by the name of E”l Shadd”ai, but by My name, YHVH, I was not known to them.” (Shemos 6:2-3)
The redemption of the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage was not only about freeing a slave nation. It was about fulfilling the very purpose of Creation, the reason for all that exists. Even the mission of being a light unto nations is a secondary task, a temporary means to an ultimate end that is the subject of many a Kabbalistic discussion.
For, a fundamental of Torah hashkofah is that G-d, being absolutely perfect and complete needs nothing, not from us or from anything else at all. Creation was made for man’s sake, to benefit him, to fulfill his own G-d-given needs and potential. Any need that G-d is perceived as having is one that He imposes on Himself – for our sake – so that we can have the pleasure and merit of giving something of ours to the Creator, even though everything but everything already belongs to Him.
Fine. After having stated that we can now join a discussion on this very point, and its relevance to this week’s parshah, which begins with a discussion about revelation and G-d’s Names, will become clearer towards the end. As before, the following is a translation from the work, Leshem Shevo v’Achlamah; my comments appear in square brackets.
The Rav [Arizal], regarding the purpose of the creation of the worlds, said: “We will clarify two inquiries with which the Kabbalists are involved. The first inquiry by the early and later wise men was to know the cause for the creation of the worlds, and they concluded that the reason for the thing was because He, May His Name Be Blessed, must be complete in all that He does, His abilities, and with respect to all of His great, lofty, and glorious Names. If His actions and abilities could not be actualized, then it would be as if He was not called complete, not in His actions, His abilities, His Names or His other Names.
For [example], the Great Name, which is the four-letter Name Hovayah . . .[Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh, which we do not pronounce today as it is written, or even speak out the letters as they sound.]
. . . is called this because it refers to G-d’s eternal existence – He was, He is, and He will always be – before anything that was created and after everything was changed into what it is.[The word hovah – Heh-Vav-Yud-Heh -means Present, and is actually one of the permutations of the actual Name itself. Thus it teaches that G-d is forever present.]
If the worlds had not been created and everything in them, this truth of G- d’s eternity, [that His existence spans] past, present, and future, could not be taught and He would not be called by the Name Hovayah.[The concepts of Past and Future only have meaning with respect to the existence of the Present. Therefore, if it is G-d’s will that the Name Hovayah be used with respect to His revelation, then it would necessitate the existence of something for which Past, Present, and Future could be a true reality.]
It is likewise with the Name Adnus [the Name that is spelled Aleph-Dalet- Nun-Yud, which is pronounced as it is spelled], which speaks of His mastery, that there are servants and He is the Master. If created beings did not exist, then He could not be called Master.
This is true of the rest of the Names too, and all the Secondary Names as well, such as Merciful (Rachum), Gracious (Chanun), Forbearing (Erech Apayim), which only have meaning if there are created beings who will call Him forebearing, or any of the other Names. Thus, once the world was created His actions and abilities were realized, and He could be called complete in all of His Names and Secondary Names, lacking nothing at all, G-d forbid.
Regarding this matter, it is explained well in Parashas Pinchas (257b), and this is what is said: The thirteenth mitzvah is Krias Shema . . . You should know that He who is called Wise, it is with respect to all kinds of wisdom, Understanding, with respect to all kinds of understanding . . . Rather, before He created the worlds He was called these things for the sake of the beings that would later be created . . . And in Parashas Bo it says: If He did not emanate His light then how could they have heard of Him and could “the earth is full of His Glory” be fulfilled?”
This is the end of the Rav’s first inquiry. (Biurim, Drushei Igulim v’Yosher, 1:1)
Thus, we find that we have been created to give meaning to the Names of G- d, to act as the fulfillment of that which He is said to do, to be and become the realization of His strengths. It’s a phenomenal concept that obviously needs further clarification, as, we shall see, the Leshem himself concludes.
And they gazed at G-d, yet they ate and drank. (Shemos 24:11)
The Leshem continues:
Even if his words are completely true in and of themselves, they nevertheless require investigation and explanation to see how they fit it with what is agreed upon by all the great wise men and investigators of the heart: The Holy One, Blessed is He, does not need to add to His completeness at all, and anything created cannot add to His Essence any form of completion at all. For, He is perfect in every respect, and we would be remiss to say that He needs something for His completeness to be revealed.[The Talmud tells us that G-d does not play games with His creations (Avodah Zarah 3a). That would imply that if we are here to realize a potential of some aspect of G-d, then it must be true and that would imply a lacking on some level for G-d, Chas v’Shalom! However, this goes against one of the most important fundamentals of Judaism, and therefore demands further elaboration.]
Furthermore, there is nothing that is on par with His Being; He never changes . . .[He is perfect and unchanging, unlike created things. What effect could we possibly have on G-d Himself?]
. . . that is to say that, after Creation, after He formed it and made it and it came to have actual being and truly exist, a true act because His actions are true, in any case it does not interfere with Him all; He is within all that exists.[One of the biggest miracles of all: physical Creation that has borders and limitations still cannot interpose between G-d and something else. It does not affect His sublime unity in any way.]
And His true Being remains without change just as it was prior to Creation, just as Rav Saadia Gaon explained in depth, as well as the Rambam in many places in Moreh Nevuchim. Thus, it would be a great lacking on our part to say that He, May His Name Be Blessed, receives any purpose from His creation, for nothing is equal to Him. The main point is that it would be wrong for us to say that He requires any purpose or completion.[Now the Leshem begins his own elaboration of the idea of the Arizal.]
It is written, “All the works of G-d are for His sake” (Mishlei 16:4), for all that has been created is for His own glory. However, this does not mean for His own end or good, G-d forbid, but rather, the deeper explanation is in order to reveal His light and Glory to those who are worthy.[In other words, G-d did not make Creation to bring any kind of good or completion to Himself. Rather, He created everything to act as a means to reveal His holy light to man, for our own sake. Thus, “for His sake” means for the sake of revealing His light.]
For, the revelation of the light and Glory of [G-d,] May He Be Blessed, is itself the pleasure, pleasantness, and radiance for all those merit to adhere to and unify with Him. And, He is the main pleasantness, radiance, and pleasure of eternal life in the World-to-Come (as it says in Brochos 17a): In the World-to-Come there is no eating or drinking . . . just the righteous sitting with their crowns on their heads [which are the light of the Torah and mitzvos that they were fortunate to have performed while in this world; from these are made the light of the crowns on their heads, each one according to his actions. This is why it says “their crowns,” that is, the crown that each one has prepared for himself personally], and they will derive pleasure from the radiance of the Shechinah, as it says, “And they gazed at G-d, yet they ate and drank” (Shemos 24:11).
Thus, the light of the Shechinah, for those who merit to look at it, is Itself the radiance and pleasure of the life of the World-to-Come. This is what it means “All the works of G-d are for His sake,” that is for the sake of His light, so that it should become revealed to those who are fitting.
All the works of G-d are for His sake. (Mishlei 16:4)
The Leshem continues:
Thus, Targum Yonason explains the word lemaneihu – for his sake – to mean: for those who listened to Him. It is likewise regarding what they established [with the blessing in the Sheva Brochos after marriage that states,] “everything was created for His Glory,” [that is,] to reveal His Glory. For, the revelation of the light of His Glory, May He Be Blessed, to those who are fitting is the radiance and pleasure of which there is none higher. Thus we find that when it says “All the works of G-d are for His sake” and “everything was created for His Glory,” it is not that they provide Him with purpose or good, G-d forbid, but that they are for the good of the righteous, as Targum Yonason has explained.
Thus, [G-d,] May His Name Be Blessed, does not require anything else at all, and we would be quite wrong to say that any created thing could increase His praise or completion.[This, of course, raises a problem with the words of the Arizal with which we began, as the Leshem now continues.]
All of this is not consistent with the words of the Rav mentioned previously, who said that all of His Names and Secondary Names indicate that He is completed through Creation, and that all the praise and elevation to which His Names allude are perfected through Creation; Creation adds praise, elevation, and completion that was not there before.
However, in truth, the matter is very deep, and we cannot speak about this too specifically. Nevertheless, the need forces me to say something to clarify the truth, though as briefly as possible, and He, May His Name Be Blessed, should atone [for us].[As an aside, the Leshem will employ this type of statement periodically. At a time in history when Kabbalah has become commercialized and treated like just another area of philosophy, the Leshem reminds us about the seriousness and holiness of the realm of Torah into which we have entered. We are not to be fooled by the usage of common words to explain lofty ideas, but we are, to the best of our ability, to live on a level of holiness necessary to be engaged in such a sublime area of Torah study and revelation of the Divine Light.]
We will begin distingushing three levels with respect to Him, May His Name Be Blessed.
First, there is His hidden Essence which gives rise to everything and is in everything, and is as it was before Creation. It includes all forms of perfection and praise and elevation in the most sublime way, and therefore we would be gravely mistaken to assign any praise or elevation to It, because It is His Essence and nothing can be added to His sublime unity which is perfect.[It is the nature of the human mind to compare one thing to another in order to understand its being. However, there is nothing to which the Essence of G-d can be compared, G-d forbid, and to do so would constitute idol worship. For, everything the human mind is able to grasp, even the most abstract concept, will, invariably, be reduced to limited terms at least on some level, something that is NEVER relevant with respect to the Essence of G-d.]
There are no words with which to speak about It, and no aspect of It which we can intellectually grasp, as the Rambam delves into in Moreh (Section 1, Ch. 51-53), and as the GR”A writes in his writings: Even thinking about It is forbidden (because then he creates a place beyond it, that is, a place that is void of Him, in order to contempate It when in truth It is hidden and there is nothing beyond It, G-d forbid). There is no looking at this, except in a very quick and occasional manner (ratzo v’shuv).[Human understanding requires one to distance himself from the idea somewhat, to get outside of the idea, so-to-speak, which is never possible with respect to G-d’s Esssence.]
The second level, G-d’s will to be revealed and the reality of that will, we refer to and call by a revealed Name. For, the specific desire and His will to reveal is Itself the revelation because It reveals some of His hidden truth through the reality of His desire to reveal.[This is still very abstract, but it means that whatever we can know about Creation, which is always completely a function of the will of G-d, is by definition a revelation of the will of G-d.]
Nevertheless, it is still not an actual revelation of Himself, but only of His desire to reveal. It is prior to the actual revelation and it is called Ain Sof . . .[Which means, Without End, signifying that even though we use a Name to refer to this revelation of Divine Will, we can still only refer to it in terms of what It is not, not in terms of what It is.]
. . . for the will exists to reveal at the root of the possibility of boundary and measurement, though Its actual reality is still in advance of the revelation. This is the level of Ain Sof, because It is above and exalted from any level of boundary or measurement, G-d forbid.[It is the constriction of this sublime light, called the Light of Ain Sof, that will result in the creation of the Challal, the spiritual hollow within which all of the sefiros will eventually be created, making our creation, and free-will, possible. Thus, this is still a very primordial stage of the Creation-process.]
Thus It is hidden, the root of all revelations, and It itelf is the level of Ain Sof, and therefore, in order to reveal at the root of the possibility of boundary and measurement, It constricted Itself, so-to- speak, at Its center point [at the level of the Malchus within it, which is the Heichel HaKodesh in line with the center, as mentioned in Sefer Yetzirah, Ch. 4]. At that point the tzimtzum – constriction – occurred, establishing a place to reveal the roots of all limited things that will eventually be made there.[Thus, at the center point of the Light of Ain Sof, a totally spiritual sphere was formed by the constriction of that light, and it was devoid of the Light of Ain Sof on the inside while being totally surrounded by the Light of Ain Sof on the outside.]
This place was maintained by the impression of light that remained there even after the tzimtzum.[For, nothing can exist if it does not have some aspect of the Light of Ain Sof within it, even if only a minimal amount that we cannot detect.]
The place forever remains there, because it surrounds it on all sides equally forever, and in this way it became possible for it to be the root of all boundaries and measures that would later be created there, according to the will of G-d, May His Name Be Blessed. (That is, as result of the Light of Ain Sof) always, for “At will He blows it and at will He dissolves it.”[This statement is taken from the Selichos of Yom Kippur.]
Thus, there is no absolute boundary or measure [for anything] at all, as it says, “He suspends the earth on nothing” (Iyov 26:7).[Nothing as in nothing specific or absolute in physical terms.]
For, every aspect of boundary is based upon the Ohr HaNissi – Miraculous Light – as we spoke about at length in Sefer HaKlallim, Klal 2; see there.[In other words, even though Nature seems fixed and quite automatic with phenomenal consistency, in truth it is really a function of ongoing moment- to-moment miracles. Therefore it can be subject to all kinds of change at a moment’s notice, as G-d wills, a will that Itself is without boundary or limitation and is called Ain Sof. That is the second level on which we relate to the reality of our Creator.]
“When they ask, ‘What is His Name?’ what shall I tell them?” (Shemos 3:13)
The third level is His revelation, May His Name Be Blessed, revealed through the Great Name, the one of four letters, Shem Hovayah, Blessed is He, and all the Names and Secondary Names that branch out from it.[It is like an upside down tree: Hovayah is the trunk so-to-speak, and all the other Names branch out from It as the light moves down to lower levels. Each new Name is actually the label of the light on that particular level after it has been filtered.]
He and His Name are One, because He Himself is revealed through this Name after it has been enclothed in Atzilus . . .[Atzilus is the fourth highest level of reality, and the last one on which there is unity between the Light of Ain Sof and the sefiros of that level. In the same manner that a soul is enclothed by the body, and the body in turn is enclothed with garments, so too do lesser levels of light envelope and enclothe higher levels of light, acting as filters or even veils for them. The Kabbalistic term for this reality is hislavshus – enclothement.]
. . . and It is revealed in this manner in order to be the root of all the potential and actions through which will be created, formed, and made all the worlds of BY”A.[This stands for: Beriyah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah, the three levels of reality underneath Atzilus and the basis of the physical world as we know it.]
There are countless creations, and each one is of a certain amount, measure, and boundary, as is the general working of history and all that occurs: each is measured and weighed and of a fixed amount in every detail. All of them are from His light which never ceases to sustain them each moment. However, it is all done through veils and different enclothements, as we explained in the Introduction to Sefer HaKlallim; see there at length.[It is always the Light of Ain Sof that sustains all of Creation, but not always in the most obvious or direct manner.]
Each one has its reason and all of them come from Him, May His Name Be Blessed, in the same manner that the actions of the body are the result of the soul within it. Likewise, is it with respect to all of the Names and Secondary Names through which He, May His Name Be Blessed is revealed, and which are in Atzilus – they are always the basis of all that occurs in BY”A; all of them are recipients of the flow of His Names and His revelations that are revealed. He is constantly revealed through them in Atzilus.[Atzilus, therefore, acts as the program and source of direction for the worlds of BY”A.]
This is what G-d told Moshe Rabbeinu regarding his request, “When they ask, ‘What is His Name?’ what shall I tell them?” (Shemos 3:13), The Holy One, Blessed is He, answered him, “My Name you wish to know? According to My acts am I called,” as Chazal have said in Shemos Rabbah (3:6).
Thus, all of His Names, May He Be Blessed, are themselves the roots of all possibilities for all that occurs, and only in this manner is He known through His Names which were revealed in Atzilus. They were revealed to behave as the potential for the acts and deeds which He did and constantly does in the worlds of BY”A; all of these revelations are just for the sake of the worlds of BY”A . . . to act as the cause of the effect for all that occurs and is made there . . .
. . . Thus we have clarified that which was apparent from the words of the Rav back at the beginning when he said that through Creation His Names and revelations are made complete, even though there is no possibility of Creation adding anything that wasn’t there prior to Creation – completion, praise, or elevation – with respect to His Essence, May His Name Be Blessed, Challilah v’Challilah.
For, all of His Names and revelations were revealed for the sake of Creation only, and even though He Himself is in His Names and revelations, still they are only that which is relevant to Creation, and not His Essence at all. Any completion, elevation, or praise revealed through Creation is only with respect to the revelation itself that is relevant to Creation, but not to His Essence that is beyong Creation, May He Be Blessed . . .[In other words, in Essence G-d is already perfect and lacks absolutely nothing. However, the amount of His light that He lets into Creation and reveals to mankind is in measured amounts, and this can fluctuate based upon the actions of man. We can do that which results in a greater revelation of the Light of Ain Sof, allowing, so-to-speak, G-d to deal with us on a more supernatural level and with a higher-level Name, or, G-d forbid, we can do that which conceals G-d’s light and reduces His overt involvement in the affairs of man. That is our choice and area of impact, and either way it does not affect the Essence of G-d or even the Light of Ain Sof beyond the Challal.]
. . . For example, [He is known by the following traits:] He gives existence to everything, or He is good and does good to all, and others such as, The Great, The Mighty, The Awesome . . .[These apply to revelations of G-d down in the realm of Atzilus, but not to the Light of Ain Sof or to His Essence. These are revelations of G-d and we can choose to act in ways that invoke or hide such traits, for our own benefit.]
It is likewise regarding all the blessings, shirah, praise, Hallel, or thanks mentioned in the songs of Dovid . . .[They are designed to help us increase the revelation of G-d’s light, again, for our own good.]
. . . and likewise with the acceptance of the Kingdom of Heaven, all Torah and mitzvos, and likewise all revelations of His Names and all revelations of His will and actions – all of them are only that which is relevant to Creation and for its benefit . . .[A little further on, the Leshem concludes:]
>From what we have said we can answer for the Rav. In the beginning he spoke about the PURPOSE (TACHLIS hakavanh shel habriyah) in creating the worlds, but in the end he spoke about the CAUSE (SIBAT habriyah haolamos), the cause of the creation of the worlds; he did not speak about the purpose at all. However, we have nevertheless mentioned in the course of the discussion that the purpose is to unify with His Names and revelations, to receive illumination and pleasure from their light. This is the only purpose of Creation. (Biurim, Drushei Igulim v’Yosher, 1:1)
Therefore, what’s in a name? When it comes to a Name of G-d, there is a specific light, one that can be affected by the deeds of men. There is a potential for the existence of something, a thing or an event, and in the case of this week’s parshah, the fulfillment of a promise to leave Egypt. We cannot affect the Essence of G-d or even the Light of Ain Sof. However, by what occurs down here, we can either see more or less of that light, and always for our sake, to our benefit, and not that of G-d’s Who’s perfection supercedes any aspect of Creation.
Have a great Shabbos,
Copyright © by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Project Genesis, Inc.
Rabbi Winston has authored many books on Jewish philosophy (Hashkofa). If you enjoy Rabbi Winston’s Perceptions on the Parsha, you may enjoy his books. Visit Rabbi Winston’s online book store for more details! www.thirtysix.org