Generally, we are taught to resolve any paradox, as though they are messy creases in the bed sheet. In grade school we are trained that a good student is one who gets the right answers the fastest. Once the right answer is there, the question is comfortably out of the way. Then we can go on hunting out all those other nasty questions and put them to rest as well. As Nihls Bohr muttered in a rather pessimistic moment, Sciences job is to reduce all mysteries to trivialities.

Personally, I dont believe that this is really what human intellect is all about. Human intellect in the raw is the small child giggling in delight as s/he turns over and over a fascinating toy, fascinated with its novelty and the impossibility of what life has to offer. The sages say that G‑d plays with the Torah just for this reason: The Torah presents conflicting views, paradoxes and enigmas—and even after resolving them, the views, paradoxes and enigmas remain.

So perhaps at the core of the universe lies not an answer but a question? A sustained paradox.

This is not to say that there are no answers, that we should give up trying to understand the cosmos altogether. The entire order of the cosmos was designed with the human psyche in mind, and our minds themselves are microcosmic models of the macrocosm. So there is a tremendous amount that we are capable of understanding. But the underlying basis of that order is beyond intellect, and it is futile and counterproductive for us to try to resolve it. Of course, it would also be quite dull for us to ignore it altogether. So lets see how far we can go, relying on the fundamentals of Torah, especially the Kabbalah, as a guide—but all the time knowing that its okay to end up in wonder.

As mentioned last week, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi discussed this underlying paradox in terms of there being not one, but two realities: One looking from Above and the other looking from Below. Looking from the source of all things, nothing exists outside of that source. Looking from within the creation, however, there is a real world down here, and it is the source that appears to not exist. He calls these two views the Higher Mind and the Lower Mind. Although these two views appear mutually exclusive, Torah presents a third view by which they coincide. This is because G‑d Himself, in the Torah view, is beyond either view and accepts both.

It takes a while to get used to the idea of two equally valid, inverse realities, but many issues in Torah begin to make sense under this paradigm. When G‑d observes the mess His creatures have made of His world and regrets that He has made Man—that is G‑d as He is present in the Lower Mind. Similarly with Sodom and Gomorra, where the verse states explicitly, I will descend and see. Similarly all the judgments of Man, where G‑d takes a semi-passive role, allowing things against His will to occur, and then mixing in after the fact. All this is G‑d playing the role of the Lower Mind, involving Himself in our subjective reality, just as a parent involves him/herself in the cute little world of his/her child.

When we talk about G‑d who brings all things into being, before whom all is revealed and known and yet is unaffected by any of it—this is the same G‑d taking the role of the Higher Mind.

Although we call one higher and the other lower, for Him they are both equally a descent from His essential being. By splitting all of existence into these two realities (--according to Kabbalah, this occurred on the second day of creation--), He allows the most essential paradox to occur: He is able to create a being who can be held responsible for his own decisions.

Imagine that. Imagine you want to make such a creature and the only material you have is your own imagination. And that imagination itself cannot borrow from outside experience or knowledge, because there is no outside— all that exists extends only from your imagination. How are you going to create from that imagination a creature that can decide whether to rebel against you or do your bidding? To get to the crux of the problem, how are you going to exist in a certain state and not be there at the same time? Because that's what youll have to do: You will have to sustain this creature with your imagination and yet be absent from it as well so that it will have room to make its own decisions. In sum: You will have to be there and not there at once.

So how does He do it? Well, He can do anything. But, as mentioned above, that's a dull answer, so let's try going a little farther. Let's go into the explanation of the two minds in the terms the Lubavitcher Rebbe uses to discuss them in many discourses: The Power of Being, and the Power of Not Being. That's rather clumsy, so we should make up some English to describe this. Try Isness and Isnotness. In Hebrew, Yesh and Ayin.

In the limited view of a created being, there are two possible states: something either is there or it is not. Take your high school principal, for example. All the excuses in the world didnt faze him. For him you were either there in class or you were absent.

From the Creators point of view, however, both of these are creations. After all, He could have made a cosmos with more than one state (much easier on delinquent students)--or with only one state (much to the satisfaction of school principals).

In the language of Isaiah, cited last week, darkness is also a creation—even though to us it is not more than the absence of light. Because it is not an absolute nothing, but a relative one. It says that there is something called light, but theres none of that around in this state. That in itself is an acknowledgement of lights existence. An absolute nothing would be a state where there is no concept of light—not even an absence or negation of it.

(For a crude analogy: I am a Canadian citizen. Canadians identify their country as being not the U.S.. To most Americans, that makes us relatively nothing. However, in certain parts of the U.S., I am told, Canada doesnt even exist to begin with.)

Going a step further, even that absolute nothing is a creation, which allows room for an absence of it as well. Therefore, throughout the Kabbalah and elsewhere there is reference to four states. (Anyone familiar with binary logic should be comfortable with that—with two bits we have four possible states.) In Chabad Chassidic teaching these are generalized as


As Perceived from Below

Hebrew Term

As Perceived from Above

Lower Mind isness of the
created being
yesh hanivra isnotness
absence of the
created being
ayin shel yesh hanivra absence of
the isnotness
Higher Mind absence of the
absolute isnotness
ayin shel yesh haemiti absence of the
absolute isness
the absolute isnotness yesh haemiti the absolute isness

Note that the first two belong to the reality of the Lower Mind, while the second two are in the realm of the Higher Mind. From the perspective of the Higher Mind, only the fourth level is a true something, and the rest are progressively non-entities. Vice-versa for the Lower Mind.

These four find expression in the four letters of the Divine Name and in the four supernal worlds.  Interestingly, there are also four states of matter (solid, liquid, gas, plasma), four states of energy (gravity, electromagnetism, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force), four states of subatomic particles (matter, antimatter, positive and negative), four categories of the biosphere (the elements, flora, fauna and human beings) and four elements to the chromosome code—the fundamental computer system of all life. (G‑ds computer, it seems, is better than ours—researchers today realize that a computer designed like the chromosome, rather than binarily—as computers are currently—would be phenomenally more powerful.) The cosmos begin to look like a very deep fractal pattern.

Now ask the question: In which state is the Creator? The answer must be—as it usually appears on multiple choice quizzes—e) none of the above. The terms of our reality, of presence and absence, simply do not apply to the One that created both. The best we can say is that He transcends all of them and yet is found within them all.

This is the secret of creating a being that has free choice: The Creator first creates a reality that contains the parameters of absence and of presence, then separate the two, then places that creature within the vacuum of absence. Now go and look at the story of Creation in Genesis and you will see that is precisely what He did.

How does this bifurcation of realities capacitate free choice? By dissolving any causal relationship between the source and the created being. Either way you look at it, this is not a cause-and-effect dynamic: From the perspective of the Higher Mind, there is no other being there to be effecting. From the perspective of the Lower Mind, the Higher Mind is not an entity. Remember, both perspectives are real. True, the two coincide. But it cannot be called a causal relationship.

For example, when Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge and brought death into the world, it was in accordance with the Grand Scheme of Things. After all, as the Midrash points out, the Torah—which contains that grand scheme—concerns itself with death. But Adam was still culpable, because following the grand scheme was not what he had in mind. He acted independently, not as an effect of a supernal cause. He could say, This is what G‑d had in mind," but he could not say, G‑d made me do it. G‑d willing, we will touch on this some more in the coming week.

When the Creator made this descent to invest Himself in two realities, it was so that the creatures He placed within the lower reality could reach to Him and touch His essence. As we have seen, without an awareness of that Essence, the two realities are in conflict. The Torah brings us to a cognizance that these are both no more than expressions of His Essential Oneness. The light is an expression of His power to be, and the darkness an expression of His power of not-being. The two converge when a human being exercises his power of free will. When that created being chooses darkness over light, however, there is no open manifestation of that unity. On the contrary, it becomes further concealed. It is only in the choice of light over darkness, that this unity is revealed. And therefore G‑d observed the light, that it is good.