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Basi Legani - 5710: Basi Legani (5710): Chapter 1

Basi Legani - 5710: Basi Legani (5710): Chapter 1

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The following maamar, comprising chapters 1-5 (i.e. Part I) of the series of discourses with the general title of Basi LeGani, was released in advance for study on Shabbos, Parshas Bo, Yud Shvat 5710 (1950), in honor of the yahrzeit of the author's grandmother, the saintly Rebbitzin Rivkah

"I have come into My garden, My sister, My bride."

-- Shir HaShirim 5:1

[Song of Songs (Shir HaShirim), the medrash explains, is not to be taken at face value: it is a metaphor describing the ongoing relationship between G-d and His bride, the Jewish people.

The above verse, for example, refers to the time of the construction of the Sanctuary, when the Shechinah came into His garden -- for it was then that the Divine Presence, distant for a time, was again revealed in this world.]

[The Hebrew word that means "to My garden" is now discussed.]

Medrash Rabbah (on the above verse) observes that the word used is not L'Gan [which would mean "to the garden"], but L'Gani [which means "to My garden"] - and this implies L'Gnuni [which means "to My bridal chamber."

For, as the commentaries on the Medrash explain, this possessive form implies a private place, such as the chamber in which the spiritual union of groom and bride is consummated.

The Divine Presence is thus saying:] "I have come into My bridal chamber, into the place in which My essence was originally revealed."

The Medrash continues: "In the beginning, the essence of the Shechinah was apparent in this lowly world.

However, in the wake of the [cosmic] sin of the Tree of Knowledge, the Shechinah departed from the earth and rose into the heavens.

Later, on account of the sin of Cain and then of Enosh, the Shechinah withdrew even further from this world, rising from the nearest heaven to the second, and then to the third.

Later yet, the sins of the generation of the Deluge caused it to recede from the third heaven to the fourth, and so on.

This progressive recession of the revealed Divine Presence is alluded to in the wording of the verse that relates that Adam and Eve `heard the sound of G-d walking about in the garden.' [Bereishis 3:8.]

R. Abba notes: `The verse does not use the expected form of the verb, Mehalech, but rather Mithalech, which suggests that they heard the Divine Presence springing back in successive stages of withdrawal.'"

The Medrash proceeds to explain that [after the sins of seven generations had caused the Divine Presence to withdraw seven spiritual levels from its initial manifestation in this world], seven tzaddikim arose whose divine service drew the Divine Presence down once more into this world below.

Through the merit of Avraham the Shechinah was brought down from the seventh heaven to the sixth, through the merit of Yitzchak the Shechinah was brought down from the sixth heaven to the fifth, and so on - until Moshe, the seventh of these tzaddikim (and "all those who are seventh are cherished"), drew the revelation of the Shechinah down once again into this world below.

Divinity was primarily revealed in the Beis HaMikdash, as it is written, "And they shall make Me a sanctuary and I shall dwell within them."

Significantly, the last Hebrew word of the verse is not, as expected, betocho [which would mean "within it"], but betocham, which means "within them" - for G-d craves a dwelling place within each individual Jew.

This concept can grant us an insight into the verse, - "The righteous will inherit the land and dwell forever upon it."

Now the word le-ad, here translated "forever", recalls the word "ad" in the phrase, - "He Who dwells forever, exalted and holy is His Name."

Our verse may thus be understood as follows:

The righteous will inherit the land, which is an allusion to Gan Eden, because they cause "Him Who dwells forever, exalted and holy is His Name," to dwell and be revealed in this physical world below.

With this in mind [namely, the revelation of the Divine Presence in the Sanctuary, and more particularly, the revelation of the divine dimension within himself which each individual secures through the construction of his personal sanctuary], we can better understand the interpretation of the verse, "I have come into My garden," as "I have come into My bridal chamber"; i.e., the Shechinah here speaks of its return to the original location of its essential abode - in the midst of the nether beings.

Now the ultimate purpose for the creation of the [spiritual and physical] worlds was that "G-d desired to have a dwelling place in the lower worlds":

He desired that Divinity be revealed [even on the material plane] below - by means of man's divine service of subordinating and transforming his physical nature; He desired that the divine soul descend from its spiritual heights and become enclothed in a body with an animal soul, which would conceal and obscure the divine soul's light; and despite all this, [through the study of Torah and the observance of the commandments], the divine soul would refine and purify the body and the animal soul, as well as its portion in the world, i.e., its environment.

This, then, is the meaning of the above-quoted verse, "And they shall make Me a Sanctuary and I shall dwell within them" - within each individual Jew.

The individual brings about this [revelation of the Divine Presence within his personal sanctuary] through his divine service of sifting and refining materiality, by subordinating and transforming his physical nature.

In this spirit it is written, "When the sitra achra [lit.,'the other side'; i.e., the cosmic force opposing holiness] is subdued, the glory of G-d rises thereby [and is diffused] throughout all the worlds."

When the phrase "throughout all the worlds" is used [by the Zohar], it intends to describe a level of Divine light that is diffused equally in all worlds -- i.e., [the transcendent order of Divine illumination that the Kabbalah calls] sovev kol almin.

[The light of sovev kol almin is unique.]

The [spiritual] worlds exist at various levels: in the higher realms the Divine light shines forth in overt revelation, while in the lower realms the revelation is not as apparent. At certain levels, the light is [even] hidden and obscured.

The Medrash refers to this variety of levels in its comment on the verse, "My hand established the earth, and My right hand spanned the heavens."

It declares: "He stretched out His right hand and created the heavens; He stretched out His left hand and created the earth."

As is known, the right hand signifies a greater light and more overt revelation [than does the left]. And this right hand created "the heavens," signifying the higher spiritual realms, where the Divine light is both more intense and more revealed.

The left hand, by contrast, created "the earth," signifying the lower spiritual realms, where the Divine light is both less intense and more concealed.

[This concept can be grasped more completely through comprehension of] the differences between the four spiritual realms alluded to in the verse, - "All that is called by My Name, it is for My glory that I created it, formed it, and indeed made it."

These words allude [in descending order] to the Four Worlds [i.e., to the four stages in the creative process] - Atzilus, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah.

The manner of illumination in Atzilus differs from that in the other three Worlds, for in Atzilus that [Divine energy] which had been concealed becomes revealed. Significantly, the root (otzal) of the Hebrew word Atzilus has two very different meanings:

(a) "next to," and (b) "separate."

On the one hand, Atzilus is separate enough from its Source to be categorized as a World; on the other hand, it never ceases to be one of the [infinite] worlds of the Ein Sof.

This is not the case with the World of Beriah.

There we see the beginnings of [seemingly] independent existence: the creation of something from nothing.

In the above-quoted verse, the phrases "My Name" and "My glory" signify a state of being that is still at one with its Divine Source.

They thus refer to the World of Atzilus, which is still integrally united with its Source -- a World in which the Divine light shines forth in utter revelation.

The Divine revelation in the other three Worlds is very different [inasmuch as they are creations, and hence perceive themselves as having an identity distinct from that of their Source].

Moreover, as their separate names indicate -- Beriah, Yetzirah, Asiyah - there are differences in the degree of light received by each.

This differentiation, however, [which varies with the absorptive capacity of each realm], is true only of that manner of Divine illumination that animates the various Worlds immanently.

This kind of light is called memaleh kol almin [lit., "that which fills all the worlds"].

But there is another kind of light, a light that is oblivious to the particular limitations of the various realms. Transcending them all, it illumines them equally. This kind of light is called sovev kol almin [lit., "that which encompasses all the worlds"].

When the above-mentioned quotation spoke of the glory of G-d rising and being G-d infused "throughout all the worlds," it was speaking of this kind of light, which is absorbed by all worlds equally.

If this light is to be elicited and drawn into all the worlds, man must labor at his task of beirurim, sifting and refining materiality, by subordinating and transforming his physical nature.

This is what is meant by the above statement from the Zohar.

"When the sitra achra is subdued" - i.e., when by laboring at his divine service a Jew subjugates the forces of unholiness and darkness is transformed into light - the ensuing light is superior because it issues from the darkness.

When darkness itself is thus transformed into light, this light is superior in that its illumination is manifest even in this physical world below: it is drawn equally into all worlds.

In these terms we can understand the above-quoted statement of the Zohar: "When the sitra achra is subdued, the glory of G-d rises thereby [and is diffused] throughout all the worlds."

This refers to the transcendent level of Divine light, that which is sovev kol almin, whose diffusion equally encompasses all worlds below and above.

This, as explained above, is what is meant by the verse: "And they shall make Me a sanctuary and I shall dwell within them" - within each individual Jew, through his labors in the divine service of subjugating his physical nature and transmuting darkness into light.

In this way the resultant light is enhanced and "the glory of G-d rises [and is diffused] throughout all the worlds," for the transcendent light of sovev kol almin is thereby revealed.

Summary

The essence of the Shechinah was apparent in the lower worlds. The chapter explains that the ultimate purpose for the world's creation is G-d's desire for a dwelling place in the lower worlds.

This terrestrial abode is constructed through man's divine service - subduing and transforming his physical nature.

In this manner he causes the transcendent light of sovev kol almin, which illuminates all worlds equally, to be revealed.

A Chassidic discourse by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch.
Translated by Rabbi Eli Touger and Rabbi Sholom Ber Wineberg; edited by Uri Kaploun.
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