After the dust literally settles from the incident of the golden calf (Moshe ground it down to dust and added it to water to have people drink to prove their guilt or innocence), Moshe Rabbeinu returned to God on top of Har Sinai for another 40 days and 40 nights to get forgiveness for the rest of the nation that survived. Successful, and sensing that it was a time to make requests from God, He made the following one as well:
He said: “Show me now Your glory!” (Shemos 33:89)
And what a request it was. It may sound simple enough, but it is the basis of many a very deep kabbalistic discussions. Most of us are used to thinking about God as if He is human, God forbid, and don’t give much thought to terms that apply easily to physical beings, but not easy at all to God. Traits, such as glory are limited and God is infinite, so how can it apply to God?
To help with this, I am going to share a translation I am currently working on. It is from the great mekubel, Rabbi Shlomo Elyashiv, zt”l, (1841-1926), known as the “Leshem,” whose yahrzeit happens to be on the 27th of Adar, b”H. This is from one of his works called “Biurim.”
THE RAV Z”L said regarding the intended purpose of the creation of the worlds:
We will clarify two inquiries with which the kabbalists have been involved. The first inquiry investigated by the early and later chachamim was to know the reason for the creation of the world; which reason was [the basis for Creation]. They concluded that the reason for it was because He, may His name be blessed, must be complete in all His works and abilities, and with respect to all of His names of greatness, loftiness, and gloriousness. If His works and abilities had not been actualized, He could not, so-to-speak, be called complete, not in His works, not His names or His other names. For [example], the Great Name, which is the four-letters of Hovayah, is called this because it refers to God’s eternal existence: He was, He is, and He will always be, before Creation and after it is changed into what it was. If the worlds had not been created and everything in them, it would not be possible to see the truth of His eternity, [that He spans] past, present, and future. He could not be called the name Hovayah, as mentioned before. It is likewise with the name Adnus, called this to teach about His mastery, that He has servants and He is Master over them. If there weren’t created beings, then He could not be called the name Adon. It is similar regarding all the rest of the names, and likewise all the nicknames like Rachum—Merciful, Chanun—Gracious, Erech Apayim—Forbearing. He could not be called these names except if there are created beings in the world that can call Him forbearing, and similarly with respect to all of the nicknames. However, once the worlds were created, then His, may He be blessed, works and abilities were actualized, and He could be called complete in all of His kinds of works and ability, and all the names and nicknames could be complete without any lack at all, God forbid. This reason is explained well in Sefer HaZohar in Parashas Pinchas 257b. It says: The thirteenth mitzvah…is Krias Shema. Know that He is called Wise in all the kinds of wisdom, Understanding in all the kinds of understanding, etc. Rather, He was called all these levels before He created the world for what would be created in the future. If created beings would not exist in the world, then why would He be called Merciful, or Judge? Rather, it was for the sake of the future creations, etc. And in Parashas Bo, the second printing, it says: If He did not emanate His light on all creation, then how could they know Him, and could [the verse] “the earth is full of His Glory” (Yeshayah 6:3) be fulfilled?”
This is the end regarding the Rav’s first inquiry, may he remembered for blessing for life in the World-to-Come. If his words, z”l, are all truth of truths, truth to itself, nevertheless they require sweetening and explanation to see how these words equal what has been agreed upon by all the Gedolei Chachamim of investigators of the heart, that The Holy One, Blessed is He, does not need any created thing at all, and all of Creation does not add any completion to His essence, because He is absolutely complete, and we would be remiss in saying regarding Him that He needs something else to reveal His completeness through them.
REGARDING HIS TRUE essence, may His name be blessed, He has no equal with anything else, and His essence never changes. That is, all of Creation, after He created it, formed it, and made it into something of substance and actual existence as they have established, “the Worker of Truth whose work is truth,” nevertheless does not interpose before Him at all since He is everything and is in everything. His true essence is unchanged from before Creation, as Rav Sa’adia Gaon has explained in depth, and the Rambam in many places in Moreh [Nevuchim]. Therefore, we would be remiss to say that He, may His name be blessed, receives purpose from His creation since they do not equal Him at all. The main point is that we would be remiss to say that He requires any purpose or completion.
When it is written, “All the works of God are for His sake” (Mishlei 16:4), and what they composed, “everything has been created for His glory,” it does not mean however to His own end or good, God forbid. More profoundly, it [means that all of Creation] is for the sake of revealing His light and glory to those worthy of this. The revelation of His light and His glory, may He be blessed, is itself the pleasure, pleasantness, splendor, and radiance for all those merit to cling to and unify with Him. It itself is the main pleasantness, splendor, and enjoyment of 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 [they are the lights of the Torah and the mitzvah they were able to perform while in this world. The light of the crowns on their heads is made from this, each according to his actions, as it says “their crowns, etc.,” that is, the crown each prepared for themself] and they will enjoy the splendor of the Shechinah, as it says, “And they gazed at God, yet they ate and drank” (Shemos 24:11).
We learn from this that the light of the Shechinah, for those who merit to see it, is itself the splendor and pleasantness of all life in the World-to-Come. This is what it says, “All the works of God are for His sake,” that is, for the sake of [the revelation of] His light to be revealed to those who are worthy of it. Targum Yonason there on the word lemanayhu—for His sake—explains it similarly: to those who listened to Him.
It is also similar regarding what they composed, “everything was created for His glory.” The revelation of the light of His glory, may He be blessed, that He reveals to those who are worthy of it, is itself the highest level of splendor and pleasantness, as mentioned previously.
THUS WHEN IT writes, “All the works of God are for His sake” and they composed “everything was created for His glory,” the intention is not that it is for his purpose or His good, God forbid, but for the benefit of the righteous, as Yonason interpreted. In any case, He, may His name be blessed, does not require another at all, and we would be remiss to say that Creation adds to Him praise or completion.
All of this is not like what the Rav mentioned before, that all of the meaning of His names and nicknames are completed because of Creation, and all praise and elevation which His names teach about are completed as a result of Creation; Creation adds praise, elevation, and completion that was not there previously.
This matter in truth is very deep and we cannot speak about it in detail at all. The need to clarify the truth however necessitates us to speak about in any case, [but] as briefly as possible. He, may His name be blessed, in mercy will atone.
We begin by differentiating, with respect to Him, may His name be blessed, three levels. One is His true hidden essence, may His name be blessed, which is everything, is in everything, and is the same as before Creation. His essence includes all perfection, all praises and elevation in simple unity. Therefore, we would be remiss to use any praise or elevation with respect to this, because everything in essence is in Him, and nothing within Him can add to His simple, perfect unity that is absolutely complete.
There are no words with which to speak about this [level], no idea [that describes it] and mind to grasp it, as the Rambam dealt with in depth in Moreh [Nevuchim in] Section 1, Ch. 51 [and] 53. The GR”A wrote about it and this is what he said in his Likut: Even thinking about it is forbidden (because it is like giving a place beyond it, that is, a place that is empty of and unoccupied by Him in order to contemplate it; in actuality there is nothing beyond His hidden truth, God forbid). There is no thinking about this except by “running and returning.”
For the rest of this translation and annotations go to http://www.shaarnunproductions.org/leshem.html.
My Writing, Your Book
HI! ALTHOUGH I have been aware of your presence during my entire writing career, I never openly acknowledged it. I just figured that whether you came to read my book on purpose or accidentally, you wanted to hear what I had to say. If you liked it, you’d continue reading. If you didn’t, you would put down the book.
What do I have to say? Things that I want to share with people. Things that I find fascinating or life-altering. Things that I believe need to get out there, with the hope that you would be happy that I wrote the book, at least by the end of it. Was I right? I really don’t know.
Most of us Torah-based authors don’t know how our readers react. When I scan the shelves of Jewish book stores, I often see titles of books that make me wonder why the authors wrote about those particular subjects. Then I realize it was likely the same considerations that inspire me to choose my own topics.
It’s not that we don’t want tons of people to read our books. We DO. And it’s not that we wouldn’t like to make a good parnassah from book sales. If ONLY! It’s just that, unlike for many authors in the non-Torah world, readers and sales are not the driving forces behind writing and publishing. The Torah itself is the inspiration, with the desire to present familiar ideas or even new ones in a somewhat unique way.
But now I have a question to ask: What do YOU want to know about? What kind of books do YOU want to read? Ask not what your readers can do for you, but rather what you can do for your readers! Or something like that.
The only problem is that by the time you can answer my question, this book will already be in your hands or on your tablet, completed. The topic will already have been chosen and written in a way that I guessed might interest you.
Nevertheless, this book is different. My approach to previous books was basically to write what I wanted to say in a way that the reader could understand and relate to. My approach for this book is instead to write what I think might interest the readers in a way that will enable them to say, “This is pretty much what I wanted or needed to know!”
But I’m willing to give it a try anyhow, and hope that you, dear reader, will feel that this approach was worthwhile. Who knows? Maybe it will inspire some of you to actually send me ideas BEFORE I sit down to write the next book, God willing. Then it will truly be a book “for the people, by the people.”