He made His world of contradictions, opposites that combine as one.

At their nexus, a world is formed: Neither can exist without the other, all function together as a single whole.

being and not being,

infinity and finitude,

light and darkness,

form and matter,

quantity and quality,

totality and detail,

community and individual,

giving and withholding.

They are mere modalities — He Himself is none of them. He mixes and matches them at whim.

Paradox is our window to beyond.


There will come a time when the night will shine,
when death shall live,
when the wolf will lie with the lamb.

But the night will still be night,
death shall remain death,
a wolf will be a wolf.

For all these G‑d made for His glory.


These two excerpts from the "Daily Dose"1 paraphrase a concept that is so pervasive in the writings and talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, it could be almost called his signature. It seems one of the undercurrents of the Rebbe's mode of thought: Whereas others will present a paradox in order to resolve it, the Rebbe so often builds up the paradox — and then sustains it, demonstrating how this sustained tension is the underlying element of many issues in Torah.

Perhaps, however, a short "dose" or two is not enough. So allow me to expand, just a little.


The whole of Creation is made of opposites: Heaven and earth, miracle and nature, order and chaos, form and matter, body and soul, life and death, light and dark, yes and no, being and not being.

In our world, these opposites are truly distinct and opposed. There are spiritual and G‑dly worlds, where there is greater harmony between them. Nevertheless, as high and as abstract as you may go, they will always remain in some way distinct.

All these opposites stem from the very first two elements that make Creation possible:

1) The Creator's "Infinite Power to Be and Cause Being" ("light" in the parlance of the Kabbalah), and

2) The Creator's "Infinite Power to Withhold Being" (tzimtzum, vessels, darkness).

Only in G‑d's Essence are these two absolutely one.2 After all, He originated the idea that something could be or not be. As Maimonides explains in the Guide for the Perplexed,3 His Essence is neither of those.

It is this Essence that will become obvious within our world near the conclusion of its history. At that time, opposites will coexist.

For example, the Talmud says that the dispute of the students of Hillel and the students of Shammai will endure forever. By the time the Mishnah was redacted the rabbis had already ruled on every of these disputes — generally in favor of the School of Hillel. How, then, will their dispute "endure"? The great Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria ("The Holy Ari", 1534-1572) explains that in the time of Moshiach, the halachah ( Torah law) will be reviewed by the great sages of that time, and determined to be according to the students of Shammai. Thus, both the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai have their turn. The Lubavitcher Rebbe is not fully satisfied with this explanation, and goes one step further.4 He conjectures that there must be a third era when the halachah will be like both of them. This would be the time of "the resurrection of the dead".

In our time, it is only possible to do things in one way, excluding the other. But there will be a time when it will be possible to do both. A person will be able to both recline to read the evening Shma (as per the Shammai School) and not recline (Hillel School) at the same time. Or to increase the number of flames each night of Chanukah (Hillel) while at the same time decreasing them (Shammai).

Similarly, the "resurrection of the dead" will be the result of the coexistence of death and life.

What on earth does that mean? Is such a thing conceivable? The prophet says clearly, "No eye has seen it but Yours, oh G‑d."5 We cannot conceive of such things because it is contrary to the nature of existence as we know it. But we can conceive that it is possible.

In fact, there have been some precedents. There was the mystery of the Holy Ark in the Holy of Holies, which took up space and did not take up space,6 as well as the miracle of the oil of Chanukah, which burned and did not burn (see At the Threshold and The Menorah Files).

There are other precedents much closer to home, as well. In fact, Judaism can be seen as a religion of coexisting opposites: We trust in G‑d that whatever He does is for the good, while praying to Him to save us from harm. We understand G‑d to be the Prime Cause of all things, yet rush to save a person from misfortune. We have a religion based on the tenet of responsibility for our actions, as well as on the concept of an Omnipotent G‑d who is responsible for all things. Sure, there are many explanations for all of these, but at the end of the day we are left with an unavoidable fact that lies at the foundation of all these paradoxes: The very existence of our world is an impossible marriage of opposites.

How did G‑d create a world? A world, by definition, is a reality other than G‑d. Yet the act of creation from nothing demands that G‑d be immanently there to sustain it. In other words, G‑d must be here and not here at once. But that's okay, because — as we cited from Maimonides earlier — G‑d is not something that is or is not, a being or a not-being. These are simply two modalities by which He works — but He is neither of them.

Is this absurd and irrational? I don't believe so. Not all paradoxes are irrational. It is irrational to believe that an elephant can fit itself through the eye of a needle. An elephant is limited by the constrictions of size and space. But to believe it is within the capacity of the One who brought into existence the elephant, the needle, size, space and even logic itself to transcend all of their limitations is not irrational. Limitation is only another of His fictions — He is not limited by His fictions, just as we are not limited by the characters of our own dreams. So it is not irrational to believe that the One from whom all opposites extend can harmonize all of them.

In fact, the Rebbe describes this as the ultimate intent behind our high-definition world: Precisely where the paradox grinds the hardest and loudest, where opposites are so acutely distinct and incompatible, that is the place where His Essence dwells.