The Torah which G‑d has given us contains both an inner and an outer dimension. The outer dimension is the simple meaning of the narratives and laws, while the inner dimension is the essence of the Torah, its secrets and mystical truths. One who studies the Torah according to its inner dimension receives an entirely different perspective on G‑d's wisdom and His guidance in our lives than does one exposed only to the Torah's plain meaning.

This radical advantage can already be seen just in the way one reads the very first three verses of the Torah.

The Torah begins:

In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was chaos and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of G‑d hovered over the face of the waters. And said G‑d, "There shall be light," and there was light. (Genesis 1:1-3)

To discover the mystical light hidden within these words, we will have to re-read them in a new way. The Torah is not written with sentences and paragraphs. We will let go of our pre-set expectations of how the words have to be read, and take a new, deeper look at the words as they fall into a new form.

In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth...

The Torah speaks to each individual, describing the choices that each one of us will be faced with in life. G‑d created two paths for us to choose. He created "the heavens," a life of spiritual meaning, and "the earth," a strictly physical existence. The person must choose the life that he will lead: the "heavens" or the "earth."

...And the earth...

The person chooses earth, the life of the body. He is drawn to the firmness and tangibility he sees in physical, worldly life. It seems so real and solid, something he can hold on to.

...was chaos and void...

He is lost. He craved order and fulfillment and found only its opposite. He wanted clarity and fulfillment, but now he only feels lost and empty, the life of body, ego and physical comfort never providing the peace for which he yearns.

He knows now he must look for something else.

...and darkness was upon the face of the deep...

But it is dark and he has fallen deep. He seeks clarity, he searches for truth. But it is so hard to see what is right.

And what is to be with his inner, spiritual self that languishes, its silent cry felt somewhere deep but never heard?

...and the spirit of G‑d hovered upon the face of the waters...

The spirit of G‑d, man's G‑dly soul, the divine spark placed within each of us. It flounders, flying waywardly over the torrential waters.

But there is hope.

...And said G‑d...

And said, "G‑d!" He, the person himself, cries out, "G‑d!" From the darkness and depths, he realizes it is G‑d for whom he seeks. He cannot find his way out on his own, and he does not need to, for he knows now what the Realness is that he has been seeking all along.

"There shall be light,"

It is now clear. There is light for him.

"and there was light."

And light for the world.

Author's note: This piece was adapted from an article in HaKriah v'HaKedushah ("Reading and Holiness") a Torah journal published monthly from 1941 until 1945. The periodical included articles in Hebrew, Yiddish and English, and roused the souls of American Jews during the terrible years of the decimation of European Jewry.