Chapter 1

כי אני הו׳ לא שניתי ואתם בני יעקב
לא כליתם

“For I, G‑d, have not changed, and you, Sons of Yaakov, have not been consumed.”1

Rashi notes that G‑d here says [to the Jewish people]: “Though I postpone venting My wrath upon the wicked, do not think it means that I have changed My mind [about good and evil], or that I have come to love evil and despise good,” for G‑d is immutable.

Although we find that the “path of the wicked is filled with success”2 both in matters of health and wealth, while many good and G‑d-fearing individuals are broken in health and are impoverished, [this does not imply that the path of the wicked is just.] Rather, such things happen for reasons known only to G‑d; He does not reveal these reasons even to the most righteous, not even to our master, Moshe.

We are told in the Gemara3 that G‑d showed Moshe all future generations and their Torah leaders. Moshe thus beheld the generation of Rabbi Akiva [as well as Rabbi Akiva himself].

Rabbi Akiva started out as a [shepherd, a] complete ignoramus who hated Torah scholars, delighting in harming them when he could.4 [At the age of 40] he stopped being a shepherd and went to study Torah5 assiduously for 24 years. He began with the alef beis, the Hebrew alphabet, and concluded with knowledge of “mounds and mounds” of laws on each and every tag, crown and ornamental mark of the Torah.

Upon beholding Rabbi Akiva’s Torah greatness, Moshe asked G‑d to reveal to him the reward Rabbi Akiva would receive for such self-sacrificing devotion. G‑d then showed Moshe how Rabbi Akiva, because he refused to obey an imperial edict prohibiting the teaching of Torah, was incarcerated and horribly punished by having his body raked and torn apart with iron combs.

When Moshe beheld Rabbi Akiva’s terrible ordeal, that his body was torn apart like a carcass in an abattoir, he cried out in anguish: “Master of the Universe, this is Torah and this is its reward?” G‑d replied: “Be still. So it must be.”

That the “path of the wicked is filled with success” and that the righteous sometimes suffer horribly is a matter whose reasoning is concealed from even the most righteous. However, G‑d’s love for those who do good and contempt for those who do evil remains unchanged, for “I, G‑d, have not changed.”

We must, however, understand how it is that G‑dliness is not subject to change. The very fact that there are various levels in everything, each level different from the other, seems to imply change. Concerning the revelation of G‑dliness, too, there appear to be various levels.

We find that all physical matters are composed of mehus and metzius, essence and manifestation. Every physical object has its mehus, a derivative of the words ma hu, what is it, i.e., its essence. Each object also has its metzius, the manner in which it is made manifest. Within the material [world], mehus is the so-called “spirit” of an object, and metzius is its body.

With regard to spiritual entities, mehus is the essential state and metzius is its revealed state, as the verse says:6 “and upon the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man upon it above.” Man” is mehus, while appearance of a man” is metzius.

Thus, with regard to G‑dliness too, there are various degrees of revelation within the four worlds of Atzilus, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah.

The world of Atzilus which is wholly good is illuminated by the mehus of G‑dliness.

The world of Beriah, which is mostly good but has a small amount of evil (this evil being separated from the good) is illuminated by the metzius of G‑dliness.

The world of Yetzirah is divided equally between good and evil. Therefore the revelation of G‑dliness in that world is but a glimmer of the metzius of G‑dliness.

The world of Asiyah contains mostly evil, and only a small measure of good. Therefore the illumination of G‑dliness in that world is but a glimmer of a glimmer of the metzius of G‑dliness. This is especially so with regard to this material world of Asiyah,7 a place of spiritual darkness wherein G‑dliness is extremely concealed.

All the above represent different degrees of G‑dly revelation. How then are we to understand that “I, G‑d, have not changed”?

In summary: Although G‑d postpones the venting of His wrath on evil people, it does not mean that He has had a change of heart regarding His love of the righteous and His contempt for the evil. The fact that the righteous may suffer while the “path of the wicked is filled with success” is a matter whose reason is completely concealed; only G‑d Himself is privy to it. This is proven by relating the vision that Moshe our master had of Rabbi Akiva [and his horrible suffering]. In the revelation of G‑dliness there are the levels of mehus, metzius (a glimmer of metzius), and a glimmer of a glimmer of metzius [and in this material world, even total concealment]. How then can it be that “I, G‑d, have not changed”?

Chapter 2

It is [thus a demonstrated] “truth and certainty” that various levels of G‑dly revelation do exist. This is so both with regard to the four worlds of Atzilus, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, as well as to the levels found within each of these worlds, [the main levels being] the 10 Sefiros in each. The manifestation of G‑dliness within the 10 Sefiros of each world differs from the G‑dliness manifest in the Heichalos, its portals or chambers. The same is so concerning souls and angels. There is a vast difference between the G‑dliness that illuminates souls within any given world, compared to the G‑dliness which illuminates the angels of that world.

The very fact that there are so many levels of revelation is surely indicative of change. Nonetheless, it will soon be understood that “For I, G‑d, have not changed.” Although G‑dliness is revealed within a variety of levels, it retains complete unity.

This will be understood with the analogy of a teacher who has many different types of pupils. The more advanced students are already able to fully comprehend a complicated Talmudic discussion. They are also able to precisely analyze Rashi s terminology and comprehend Tosafos’ analysis of the matter, together with the novella of the Rishonim.

The less advanced pupils can only comprehend the simple Talmudic text with the commentary of Rashi and Tosafos. These students are incapable of delving deeper into the subject matter, for they have not yet achieved the intellect necessary to gain an in-depth knowledge of the Gemara.

A third category of students is even less advanced, and their minds are incapable of comprehending the commentary of Tosafos. Indeed, it is with great difficulty that they are able to understand the [more basic] commentary of Rashi. These students must be taught the simple text of the Gemara, and have each word translated for them. The teacher must also review the text a number of times until they are able to comprehend what is being taught.

In order for the latter class of students to fully grasp what they are being taught, the teacher must explain every concept with an example of something with which the students are familiar. By use of such examples, the students are then able to grasp and remember what is being taught.

The selfsame teacher thus teaches three very different classes of pupils, instructing each according to his intelligence. The three kinds of students differ radically. The first class are so intellectually advanced that the teacher is able to impart the most complex concepts without benefit of an example.

The second class also possess fine minds. However, they are not as advanced as the first. The teacher must teach them with less depth and, and in order for them to fully comprehend the concepts under discussion, the teacher offers an appropriate example. However, what is most important for such students is the subject itself; the example merely serves to buttress their understanding.

The lowest class of students, however, understand the subject matter only through the examples given to them; the subject matter is secondary.

The teacher who instructs such diverse classes must change his explanations according to the class; to all he must impart concepts consonant with their level of understanding.

When we reflect [in a superficial manner] about this teacher, we conclude that he himself possesses not only the different intellectual levels involved, but also undergoes a change with each of the three levels he teaches.

However, upon deeper reflection, we see that the teacher himself remains essentially the same. The changes that occur are not in him, but in the manner in which he relates to his pupils.

So we can understand that the revelations of G‑dliness in the four worlds of Atzilus, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, as well as within Sefiros, Heichalos, souls and angels, [are not a change in the essence of G‑dliness, but only in its revelation]. The world of Atzilus is more spiritually refined than that of Beriah, for Beriah is on the level of efshori hametzius, having the capacity for metzius, while Atzilus is on the level of afisas hametzius, beyond the pale of metzius.8 In Atzilus, G‑dliness is therefore manifest [to a much greater degree than in Beriah].

So too with regard to all levels [of worlds, Sefiros, etc.]; in each of them G‑dliness is manifest according to its particular level. The change is thus only with regard to the kind of revelation manifested in each level, but truly, “For I, G‑d, have not changed.”

In summary: Although the revelation of G‑dliness in the worlds of Atzilus, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, as well as within Sefiros, Heichalos, souls and angels, differs according to their essential being, nevertheless, “I, G‑d, have not changed.” This is explained with the example of a teacher who instructs three kinds of students: a) advanced, b) intermediate, and c) those with limited intellectual capacity. Though there are changes in the teaching style, the changes are not in the teacher himself.