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וידעת היום והשבות אל לבבך כי ה׳ הוא האלקים בשמים ממעל ועל הארץ מתחת, אין עוד

It is written:1 “Know this day and take it unto your heart that G‑d is the [mighty and just] L‑rd in the heavens above and upon the earth below; there is none other.”2

The verse, if understood simplistically, seems to declare that there are no other gods dwelling in heaven or earth.

וצריך להבין. וכי תעלה על דעתך שיש אלקים נשרה במים מתחת לארץ

This requires explanation. For would it occur to you that there is a god dwelling in the waters beneath the earth,

שצריך להזהיר כל כך: והשבות אל לבבך

so that it is necessary to caution so strongly [and negate this thought by stating that one should] “take it unto your heart,” and come to the realization that this is indeed not so?

הנה כתיב: לעולם ה׳ דברך נצב בשמים

It is written:3 “Forever, O G‑d, Your word stands firm in the heavens.”

ופירש הבעל שם טוב ז״ל

The Baal Shem Tov, of blessed memory, has explained this concept at length, and made it widely known4 that this means:

כי דברך שאמרת: יהי רקיע בתוך המים וגו׳

that “Your word” which you uttered, viz.,5 “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters...,”

תיבות ואותיות אלו הן נצבות ועומדות לעולם בתוך רקיע השמים

these very words and letters through which the heavens were created stand firmly forever within the firmament of heaven

ומלובשות בתוך כל הרקיעים לעולם להחיותם

and are forever clothed within all the heavens to give them life,

Note of the Rebbe: “The fact that these words were uttered thousands of years ago presents no problem, — ”

כדכתיב: ודבר אלקינו יקום לעולם

as it is written,6 “And the word of our L‑rd shall stand firm forever,”

ודבריו חיים וקיימים לעד כו׳

and as it is likewise written,7 “And His words live and stand firm forever....”

This refers not only to those creations such as the heavenly firmament which enjoy a permanent existence, but also to those creatures which perish as individuals, with only their species continuing to exist. In all instances, the Divine life-force which created a particular creature must constantly be vested within it, incessantly creating and vivifying it anew, just as it ceaselessly recreates the heavenly firmament, as shall soon be explained.

כי אילו היו האותיות מסתלקות כרגע, חס ושלום, וחוזרות למקורן

For if the creative letters were to depart even for an instant, G‑d forbid, and return to their source, that source being the degree of G‑dliness from whence they emanate,

היו כל השמים אין ואפס ממש, והיו כלא היו כלל

all the heavens would become naught and absolute nothingness, and it would be as though they had never existed at all,

וכמו קודם מאמר: יהי רקיע כו׳ ממש

exactly as before the utterance, “Let there be a firmament.”

Before that Divine utterance the firmament did not exist at all. Were the letters that constitute the Divine utterance to depart from the firmament, it would revert to the state of never having existed at all.

The Alter Rebbe now concludes that this is true not only of the firmament, but of all created beings.

וכן בכל הברואים שבכל העולמות עליונים ותחתונים

And so it is with all created things, in all the upper and lower worlds,

ואפילו ארץ הלזו הגשמית, ובחינת דומם ממש

and even this physical earth and the realm of the completely inanimate.

Even immobile beings that show no signs of animation or spirituality, not even the degree of animation observed in the process of growth in the vegetative world, — even this extremely low life-form constantly harbors within it the Divine life-force that brought it into being.

אילו היו מסתלקות ממנה כרגע, חס ושלום, האותיות מעשרה מאמרות שבהן נבראת הארץ בששת ימי בראשית

If the letters of the Ten Utterances by which the earth was created during the Six Days of Creation were to depart from it but for an instant, G‑d forbid,

היתה חוזרת לאין ואפס ממש, כמו לפני ששת ימי בראשית ממש

it would revert to naught and absolute nothingness, exactly as before the Six Days of Creation.

וזה שאמר האריז״ל, שגם בדומם ממש כמו אבנים ועפר ומים יש בחינת נפש וחיות רוחנית

This thought was expressed by the AriZal,8 when he said that even within that which appears to be utterly inanimate matter, such as stones or earth or water, there is a soul and spiritual life-force.

דהיינו: בחינת התלבשות אותיות הדבור מעשרה מאמרות המחיות ומהוות את הדומם

That is, i.e, although they evince no demonstrable form of animation, [within them] are nevertheless enclothed the letters of speech from the Ten Utterances which give life and existence to inanimate matter,

להיות יש מאין ואפס שלפני ששת ימי בראשית

enabling it to come into being out of the naught and nothingness that preceded the Six Days of Creation.

The Ten Utterances usher inanimate matter into a state of existence, in contrast to its former state of non-being, prior to the Six Days of Creation. Thus, the letters of the Ten Utterances which cause inanimate matter to be created are its soul and life-force.

ואף שלא הוזכר שם אבן בעשרה מאמרות שבתורה

Now, although the name אבן (“stone”) is not mentioned in the Ten Utterances recorded in the Torah, — how, then, can we say that letters of the Ten Utterances are enclothed within a stone?

אף על פי כן נמשך חיות לאבן על ידי צירופים וחילופי אותיות

nevertheless, life-force flows to the stone from the Ten Utterances by means of combinations and substitutions of their letters,

whereby an alef, for example, may take the place of a hei, since both letters are articulated by the same organ of speech, and so on,

המתגלגלות ברל״א שערים פנים ואחור, כמו שכתוב בספר יצירה

which are transposed in the “two hundred and thirty-one gates,” either in direct or reverse order,9 as is explained in Sefer Yetzirah,10

עד שמשתלשל מעשרה מאמרות ונמשך מהן צירוף שם אבן

so that ultimately the combination of letters [that forms] the name אבן descends from the Ten Utterances, and is derived from them,

והוא חיותו של האבן

and this combination of letters is the life-force of the stone.

וכן בכל הנבראים שבעולם

And so it is with all created things in the world.

The Holy Tongue, the Hebrew of the Torah, was the language used in creation. Thus, all created things are directly affected by their Hebrew names, as well as by the component letters of their names. In this, the Holy Tongue is unlike other, arbitrary languages, the meaning of whose words is the result of mere concensus.

השמות שנקראים בהם בלשון הקודש הן הן אותיות הדבור המשתלשלות ממדרגה למדרגה מעשרה מאמרות שבתורה

The names [of all creatures] in the Holy Tongue are the very letters of speech which descend, degree by degree, from the Ten Utterances recorded in the Torah,

על ידי חילופים ותמורות האותיות ברל״א שערים, עד שמגיעות ומתלבשות באותו נברא להחיותו

by means of substitutions and transpositions of letters through the “two hundred and thirty-one gates,” until they reach a particular created thing and become invested in it, thereby giving it life.

לפי שאין פרטי הנבראים יכולים לקבל חיותן מעשרה מאמרות עצמן שבתורה

This descent is necessary because individual creatures, unlike the more pervasive beings such as the heavens, earth, sun and moon, cannot receive their life-force directly from the actual Ten Utterances recorded in the Torah,

שהחיות הנמשך מהן עצמן גדול מאד מבחינת הנבראים פרטיים

for the life-force issuing directly from them is far greater than the capacity of the individual creatures; i.e., it is far too intense to serve as their life-force.

ואין כח בהם לקבל החיות אלא על ידי שיורד החיות ומשתלשל ממדרגה למדרגה פחותה ממנה, על ידי חילופים ותמורות האותיות

They can receive the life-force only when it descends and is progressively diminished, degree by degree, by means of substitutions and transpositions of the letters,

וגימטריאות, שהן חשבון האותיות

and by means of gematriot, their numerical values,

The life-force may be so muted that it reaches a created being not even through a transposition of letters, but merely through their numerical equivalent.

עד שיוכל להתצמצם ולהתלבש ולהתהוות ממנו נברא פרטי

until [the life-force] can be condensed and enclothed, and a particular creature can be brought forth from it.

וזה שמו אשר יקראו לו בלשון הקדש, הוא כלי לחיות המצומצם באותיות שם זה

And the name by which [the creature] is called in the Holy Tongue is a vessel for the life-force condensed into the letters of that name

שנשתלשל מעשרה מאמרות שבתורה, שיש בהם כח וחיות לברוא יש מאין ולהחיותו לעולם

which has descended from the Ten Utterances recorded in the Torah, that have the power and vitality to create a being ex nihilo and give it life forever.

דאורייתא וקודשא בריך הוא כולא חד

Why does it have the power to do so? — For11 “the Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one.” Just as G‑d has the ability to create ex nihilo, so too do the Ten Utterances of the Torah.

Devarim 4:39.
Note of the Rebbe: “This verse continues the idea of an earlier verse [4:35], which begins with the phrase אתה הראת (‘You have been shown...’), and which refers to the time at which the Torah was given. At that time ‘G‑d spoke to you...’ (4:12), [with a warning against worshiping any of the components of the created universe]: ‘Lest you become corrupt’ [and worship creatures] of the lowest level, [viz.,] ‘any fish in the water below the earth’ [4:18], or of the highest level, [viz.,] ‘Lest you raise your eyes heavenward...’ [4:19].”
Tehillim 119:89.
Note of the Rebbe: “As mentioned in Likkutei Torah, beginning of Parshat Acharei, the germ of this concept is to be found in Midrash Tillim [on this verse].”
Bereishit 1:6.
Yeshayahu 40:8.
Liturgy, Morning Prayer.
Note of the Rebbe: “See also Etz Chayim, Portal 50 (ch. 2, 10).”

Note of the Rebbe: “Enumerated in detail in Sefer HaPardes, Shaar HaTziruf, ch. 5.”

The twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet in two-lettered combinations yield a total of 462 combinations. Of these, half are the exact reverse of the other half, e.g., alef-bet, bet-alef. Hence, there are 231 two-lettered combinations in direct order and the same number in reverse order.

Ch. 2:4-5.
Cf. Zohar I, 24a; II, 60a.
Translated from Yiddish by Rabbi Levy Wineberg and Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg. Edited by Uri Kaploun.
Published and copyright by Kehot Publication Society, all rights reserved.
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