וכנודע מה שאמר הבעל שם טוב ז״ל על פסוק: לעולם, ה׳, דברך נצב בשמים

The teaching of the Baal Shem Tov, of blessed memory, on the verse,1 “Forever, O G‑d, Your word stands firm in the heavens,” is well known:

As mentioned above in Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, ch. 1, the Baal Shem Tov expanded and disseminated the following concept that appears in Midrash Tehillim:

שצירוף אותיות שנבראו בהן השמים, שהוא מאמר יהי רקיע כו׳

The combinations of the letters with which the heavens were created, i.e., the creative utterance,2 “Let there be a firmament...,”

הן נצבות ועומדות מלובשות בשמים לעולם, להחיותם ולקיימם

stand and remain vested in the heavens forever, to animate and sustain them.

As the Alter Rebbe explained in greater detail in Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, chs. 1 and 2, this is also the case with regard to all created beings.

ולא כהפלוסופים שכופרים בהשגחה פרטית

This differs from the view of the philosophers who deny the individual Providence of the Creator over each and every one of His creations.

ומדמין בדמיונם הכוזב את מעשה ה׳, עושה שמים וארץ, למעשה אנוש ותחבולותיו

Using their false analogy, they liken the work of G‑d, the Maker of heaven and earth, to the work of man and his devices.

כי כאשר יצא לצורף כלי, שוב אין הכלי צריך לידי הצורף

For when a metal-smith has completed a vessel, [it] no longer needs the hands of the smith;

שאף שידיו מסולקות הימנו, הוא קיים מעצמו

though his hands are removed from it, it remains intact by itself.

Some philosophers apply this model to the creation of heaven and earth, and imagine that once G‑d created them they need Him no more, G‑d forbid. These thinkers thus deny hashgachah pratit, individually-directed Divine Providence — the Creator’s constant and ongoing contact with His created beings.

וטח מראות עיניהם ההבדל הגדול שבין מעשה אנוש ותחבולותיו

But their eyes are bedaubed so that they cannot see the great difference between man’s work and schemes,

שהוא יש מיש

which is [the production of] something out of something (yesh miyesh),

רק שמשנה הצורה והתמונה

where he merely changes the form and the appearance,

The shapeless piece of silver that a craftsman transforms into a vessel (a) already existed, and (b) was innately malleable. The craftsman has thus innovated nothing, and the vessel once shaped will therefore not be dependent on him.

The philosophers, however, do not see the difference between this,

למעשה שמים וארץ, שהוא יש מאין

and the creation of heaven and earth, which is creatio ex nihilo (yesh me’ayin), creating something out of nothing.

As the Alter Rebbe will soon point out, something brought into existence out of nothing cannot continue to exist unless the power that creates it remains constantly vested within it.

והוא פלא גדול יותר מקריעת ים סוף, על דרך משל

This — the creation of heaven and earth ex nihilo is an [even] greater wonder than, for example, the splitting of the Red Sea,

אשר הוליך ה׳ ברוח קדים עזה כל הלילה, ויבקעו המים

which G‑d drove back3 “by a strong east wind all that night,... and the waters were divided,” and stood upright like a wall.

ואילו פסק הרוח כרגע, היו המים חוזרים וניגרים במורד, כדרכם וטבעם, ולא קמו כחומה

If the wind had ceased even for a moment, the waters would again have flowed downward, as is their way and nature, and they would not have stood upright like a wall,

In the corresponding passage in Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, the Alter Rebbe adds the words “without a doubt.”

אף שטבע זה במים, הוא גם כן נברא ומחודש יש מאין

even though this characteristic of water — to flow downward — is also created and innovated ex nihilo.

As the Rebbe explains, not only the water itself, but also its characteristic of fluidity, was created ex nihilo.

Thus, when the wind caused the water to stand like a stone wall, this fluid nature had only to be replaced by the capability of a solid, so that it could stand erect. Nevertheless, since this quality is uncharacteristic of water, this innovation had to be constantly and continuously brought about by the power that first made it possible. (Indeed, were the wind to cease, the water would have reverted to its former self.) Thus, even when a yesh is merely changed into another yesh, the activating force must be constantly present.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to show how the property of fluidity is not intrinsic to water, but must be created within it.

Certain characteristics do not need to be created separately from a particular being, for they are intrinsic to all created beings; for example, all created beings occupy space. Water, however, need not necessarily flow. Other created beings exist quite happily without this property, and when water exists as a solid (as ice) it too possesses the quality of rigidity. The quality of fluidity is thus not intrinsic to water.

This is what the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say:

שהרי חומת אבנים נצבת מעצמה, בלי רוח, רק שטבע המים אינו כן

For a wall of stone stands erect by itself, without [the assistance of] any wind, but the nature of water is not so.

As stated above, the property of fluidity was something that G‑d created within the already existing entity of water. Though the wind had only to change one yesh to another, replacing the property of fluidity by the property of solidity, this is still considered a wondrous event. And in order for this to have been accomplished, the activating force — in this case, the wind — had to be working constantly.

How much more will this be the case, the Alter Rebbe will soon conclude, with regard to creating a yesh out of utter nothingness. And indeed, the Divine Source responsible for the innovation of the entire universe out of nothing, must be consistently vested within it, in order to enable it to endure and not revert to nothingness. Such a corollary should have been imperative even according to the philosophers. They thus err on two grounds — in their above-mentioned reliance on a misleading analogy, and in their failure to realize that the activating force must constantly be invested within the created being.

Thus, to resume the above argument, if for the miraculous splitting of the Red Sea that only involved the changing of one yesh to another, the continuous action of G‑d was necessary, —

וכל שכן וקל וחומר בבריאת יש מאין, שהוא למעלה מן הטבע, והפלא ופלא יותר מקריעת ים סוף

How much more so, with respect to the creation of an existent being out of nothing, for this transcends nature, and is far more wondrous than the splitting of the Red Sea;

על אחת כמה וכמה שבהסתלקות חס ושלום כח הבורא יש מאין מן הנברא, ישוב הנברא לאין ואפס ממש

surely if the creative power that creates an existent being out of nothing were (heaven forfend) to be withdrawn from a created being, that being would revert to utter naught and non-existence.

אלא צריך להיות כח הפועל בנפעל תמיד, להחיותו ולקיימו

Rather,4 the activating force of the Creator, which initially brings every created being into existence, must continuously be present within the thing created, to give it life and continued existence.

ובחינה זו היא דבר ה׳ ורוח פיו שבעשרה מאמרות, שבהן נברא העולם

This5 [force] is the “word of G‑d” and the “breath of His mouth,” that are to be found in the Ten Utterances by which the universe was created.

The Ten Utterances are the source of the “letters of speech” by means of which all of creation is brought into existence. Moreover, as explained in the first chapter of Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, even those created beings which are not specifically mentioned in the Ten Utterances, likewise derive their vitality from the Ten Utterances by means of various combinations, substitutions and transpositions of these letters.

ואפילו ארץ הלזו הגשמית, ובחינת דומם שבה

And even as regards this physical earth and its inorganic component,

Earth6 possesses a potential (ko’ach hatzomeiach) that enables vegetation to grow. In the case of created beings that are part of the vegetative realm, growth thus visibly testifies to the presence of an activating force. Created beings that are part of the inanimate or inorganic realm that is represented in the earth, demonstrate no signs of life at all, not even growth.

חיותן וקיומן הוא דבר ה׳ מעשרה מאמרות, המלובש בהן ומקיימן, להיות דומם ויש מאין

their life-force and continued existence is the “word of G‑d” that is to be found in the Ten Utterances that is vested in them, maintaining them as inorganic matter and as substantiality ex nihilo,

ולא יחזרו לאין ואפס ממש, כשהיו

so that they will not revert to the absolute naught and nothingness they had been prior to their creation.

וזהו שאמר האריז״ל, שגם בדומם כאבנים ועפר ומים, יש בהם בחינת נפש וחיות רוחניית

And this is the meaning of the statement of R. Isaac Luria, of blessed memory,7 that there is a kind of soul and spiritual life-force even in inorganic matter such as stones and dust and water, entities that display no signs of life.

This “soul” and spiritual life-force is the “word of G‑d,” the potent Divine speech that continuously creates all beings; i.e., the Shechinah.