The teaching of the Baal Shem Tov, of blessed memory, on the verse, “Forever, O G-d, Your word stands firm in the heavens,”16 is well known:

וְכַנּוֹדָע מַה שֶּׁאָמַר הַבַּעַל־שֵׁם־טוֹב זִכְרוֹנוֹ־לִבְרָכָה עַל פָּסוּק: "לְעוֹלָם ה' דְּבָרְךָ נִצָּב בַּשָּׁמָיִם",

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

The combinations of the letters with which the heavens were created, i.e., the creative utterance, “Let there be a firmament…,”17

שֶׁצֵּירוּף אוֹתִיּוֹת שֶׁנִּבְרְאוּ בָּהֶן הַשָּׁמַיִם, שֶׁהוּא מַאֲמַר "יְהִי רָקִיעַ כוּ'"

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

– הֵן נִצָּבוֹת וְעוֹמְדוֹת מְלוּבָּשׁוֹת בַּשָּׁמַיִם לְעוֹלָם לְהַחֲיוֹתָם וּלְקַיְּימָם.

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.

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

וְלֹא כְּהַפִּלוֹסוֹפִים שֶׁכּוֹפְרִים בְּהַשְׁגָּחָה פְרָטִית,

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.

וּמְדַמִּין בְּדִמְיוֹנָם הַכּוֹזֵב אֶת מַעֲשֵׂה ה', "עוֹשֵׂה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ", לְמַעֲשֵׂה אֱנוֹשׁ וְתַחְבּוּלוֹתָיו:

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

כִּי, כַּאֲשֶׁר יָצָא לַצּוֹרֵף כְּלִי – שׁוּב אֵין הַכְּלִי צָרִיךְ לִידֵי הַצּוֹרֵף,

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

שֶׁאַף שֶׁיָּדָיו מְסוּלָּקוֹת הֵימֶנּוּ – הוּא קַיָּים מֵעַצְמוֹ.

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.

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

וְ"טַח מֵרְאוֹת עֵינֵיהֶם", הַהֶבְדֵּל הַגָּדוֹל שֶׁבֵּין מַעֲשֵׂה אֱנוֹשׁ וְתַחְבּוּלוֹתָיו

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

שֶׁהוּא יֵשׁ מִיֵּשׁ,

where he merely changes the form and the appearance,

רַק שֶׁמְּשַׁנֶּה הַצּוּרָה וְהַתְּמוּנָה,

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—

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

לְמַעֲשֵׂה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ, שֶׁהוּא יֵשׁ מֵאַיִן –

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.

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

וְהוּא פֶּלֶא גָּדוֹל יוֹתֵר מִקְּרִיעַת יַם־סוּף עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל,

which G-d drove back “by a strong east wind all that night…and the waters were divided”18 and stood upright like a wall.

אֲשֶׁר הוֹלִיךְ ה' בְּרוּחַ קָדִים עַזָּה כָּל הַלַּיְלָה וַיִּבָּקְעוּ הַמָּיִם,

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,

וְאִילּוּ פָּסַק הָרוּחַ כְּרֶגַע – הָיוּ הַמַּיִם חוֹזְרִים וְנִיגָּרִים בְּמוֹרָד כְּדַרְכָּם וְטִבְעָם וְלֹא קָמוּ כְּחוֹמָה,

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

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

אַף שֶׁטֶּבַע זֶה בַּמַּיִם הוּא גַם כֵּן נִבְרָא וּמְחוּדָּשׁ יֵשׁ מֵאַיִן,

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:

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

שֶׁהֲרֵי חוֹמַת אֲבָנִים נִצֶּבֶת מֵעַצְמָהּ בְּלִי רוּחַ, רַק שֶׁטֶּבַע הַמַּיִם אֵינוֹ כֵן,

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 abovementioned 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—

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;

וְכָל שֶׁכֵּן וְקַל וָחוֹמֶר בִּבְרִיאַת יֵשׁ מֵאַיִן, שֶׁהִיא לְמַעְלָה מֵהַטֶּבַע וְהַפְלֵא וָפֶלֶא יוֹתֵר מִקְּרִיעַת יַם־סוּף,

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 nonexistence.

עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה, שֶׁבְּהִסְתַּלְּקוּת חַס וְשָׁלוֹם כֹּחַ הַבּוֹרֵא – יֵשׁ מֵאַיִן – מִן הַנִּבְרָא – יָשׁוּב הַנִּבְרָא לְאַיִן וָאֶפֶס מַמָּשׁ,

Rather,19 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.

אֶלָּא, צָרִיךְ לִהְיוֹת כֹּחַ הַפּוֹעֵל בַּנִּפְעָל תָּמִיד – לְהַחֲיוֹתוֹ וּלְקַיְּימוֹ,

This20 [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.

וּבְחִינָה זוֹ הוּא "דְּבַר ה'" וְ"רוּחַ פִּיו" שֶׁבַּעֲשָׂרָה מַאֲמָרוֹת שֶׁבָּהֶן נִבְרָא הָעוֹלָם.

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.

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

וַאֲפִילוּ אֶרֶץ הַלֵּזוּ הַגַּשְׁמִית וּבְחִינַת דּוֹמֵם שֶׁבָּהּ –

Earth21 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.

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,

חַיּוּתָן וְקִיּוּמָן הוּא "דְבַר ה'" מִי' מַאֲמָרוֹת הַמְלוּבָּשׁ בָּהֶן וּמְקַיְּימָן לִהְיוֹת דּוֹמֵם וְ"יֵשׁ" מֵ"אַיִן",

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

וְלֹא יַחְזְרוּ לְאַיִן וָאֶפֶס מַמָּשׁ כְּשֶׁהָיוּ.

And this is the meaning of the statement of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, of blessed memory,22 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.

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאָמַר הָאֲרִיזַ"ל, שֶׁגַּם בְּדוֹמֵם, כַּאֲבָנִים וְעָפָר וּמַיִם, יֵשׁ בָּהֶם בְּחִינַת נֶפֶשׁ וְחַיּוּת רוּחָנִיִּית.

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.