This letter was addressed to R. Yisrael Noach Belinitzky

B”H, Elul, 5708

In response to the questions that you asked:

Question 1: The existence of the worlds presents an apparent contradiction to the comprehension of the concept of achdus, G‑d’s unity. On the surface, [this conflict] can be resolved and explained by [drawing a parallel] to the Beis HaMikdash where [physical] space and [infinity that] transcends space coexisted, as reflected in the fact that the space of the Ark was not included in the measure [of the width of the Holy of Holies].1

Response: Two prefaces must be made:

a) The phenomenon that “The space of the Ark was not included in the measure [of the width of the Holy of Holies]” is not an explanation. It only serves as an example and proof of the possibility of the simultaneous existence of two opposites.

b) Even as an example, the concept that “The space of the Ark was not included in the measure [of the width of the Holy of Holies]” is not appropriate to the situation you raised in your question. For it is possible to say: Physical space exists. There exists a level above physical space and there exists a place, [the Beis HaMikdash,] where the two exist simultaneously. This reinforces the true faith, because it brings proof that there is absolutely nothing beyond His potential, even circumstances that would appear impossible [according to natural law], as will be explained.

It is, however, a contradiction to our faith to say that the worlds exist and G‑d’s oneness exists before one explains that the worlds do not exist as separate entities, Heaven forbid. ([And if one does not explain this,] at least it must be stated that this is true, even though it is impossible to explain it intellectually.) [One must] explain (that the worlds [do not exist independently. Their] existence comes only from a ray [of G‑d’s light]. And even then, [their existence] comes only through tzimtzum, and that tzimtzum itself is as nothing in relation to the One who brings about the tzimtzum.) After explanations of this nature, there no longer is a contradiction, and the example of the space of the Ark not being included in the measure [of the width of the Holy of Holies] is not necessary.

In several places in Chassidus,[the concept that] the space of the Ark was not included in the measure [of the width of the Holy of Holies] is cited as support [for the concept of G‑d’s oneness]. (Similarly, support is brought from the simultaneous existence of time and a level above time, as [occurred when G‑d] showed Adam the first man all the subsequent generations.2 For there are three possible conceptions [of His unity]: one that relates to daas tachton (man’s perceptive), one to daas elyon (the sublime perspective), and a level that transcends both.

a) One measures the Ark and discovers it to be two and a half cubits long, no more and no less. This is the truth, the truth of the Torah which commanded:3 “And you shall make an ark... two and a half cubits in length.” He actually sees this. While he is measuring this he knows — albeit not with firsthand knowledge — that, nevertheless, when he will afterwards measure the Holy of Holies, he will find ten cubits in either direction.

This is an example of how entities exist and yet they are batel. This reflects the lower conception of unity. For this, however, there are many examples. This does not reflect the unique aspect of the concept that the space of the Ark was not included in the measure [of the width of the Holy of Holies].

b) One measures the Holy of Holies and sees that there are actually ten cubits at either side [of the ark] and one knows that afterwards, he will measure the Ark and discover it to be two and a half cubits long. One sees the manifestation of the transcendence of space, although one knows that the concept of space also exists.

This serves as an example of how space itself is not an entity, reflecting the higher unity. (See Kuntreis Etz HaChayim, the synopsis of ch. 2.)

c) One grasps the two concepts — the measure of the Ark and the measure of the ten cubits at either side of the Ark — simultaneously. He grasps both in the same manner, with equal power.

This cannot be said with regard to the vision Adam the first man was granted concerning the future. For this vision involved his power of intellect and imagery, i.e., it was a spiritual matter. The manner in which the time of his vision of the future became real for Adam at the time of his vision cannot be compared to the manner in which the actual time of his vision was real for him.4

The above [— that the measure of the Ark was not included in the measure of the span —] is an undeniable proof that nothing is beyond His potential; that He can be manifest and is above manifestation simultaneously. [It shows that] the rules of the natural order are not binding Above. (See the introduction to Imrei Binah, ch. 6.) Therefore, this was manifest through the Ark. And therefore, this is not comparable to the vision of Adam. This is the unique dimension of the fact that the measure of the Ark was not included in the measure of the span.

It is superfluous to explain that the difference between these three approaches does not depend on what one desires to measure first. Instead, the intent is — particularly with regard to the analogue — that the matter depends on the tendencies and level of the person contemplating the matter and his perspective: what he considers more as a given and more fundamentally true and what he views more as a new and foreign concept that arouses wonder.

In certain maamarim in Chassidus, these two approaches [to the concept] are explained together without making a distinction between them (e.g., the maamar entitled Vetaher Libeinu from Chol HaMoed Sukkos, 5677,and the maamar entitled BaYom HaShemini Atzeres of that year). The reason [for the lack of distinction] can be understood: In these maamarim, the concept was explained in general without dealing with the particulars involved. (This explanation also resolves the apparent contradiction between the maamar entitled Es Havayah HeEmarta, 5678, and the maamar entitled Vetaher cited above with regard to the concept of limitation and transcendence existing simultaneously.)

Question 2: It is explained that according to the teachings of the BaalShemTov, hashgachah pratis also [controls the fate] of straw and leaves.5 Does this apply only with regard to plants and not to inanimate matter? The rationale for making such a distinction is that there are souls that reincarnate in plants, but not in inanimate matter.

Response: As a preface, [I will begin with the following points]:

a) The concept of reincarnation does not necessitate making a distinction between plants and inanimate matter. For there are, Heaven forbid, those who reincarnate in inanimate matter as well, as stated in Shaar HaGilgulim, Introduction 22; Shaar HaMitzvos, Parshas Eikev; et al.

Conversely, the fact that there are souls that reincarnate in plants does not compel us to accept the concept that there is hashgachah pratis throughout the plant kingdom, because there is not necessarily a reincarnate soul in every particular created being from the plant kingdom.

b) Even if one would say that the hashgachah pratis throughout the plant kingdom stems from the fact that souls reincarnate (— or could reincarnate —) within plants, this would not reflect the new insight into hashgachah pratis granted by the Baal Shem Tov. [For according to that approach, the reason for hashgachah pratis for plants would be] that this involves humanity. This — that hashgachah pratis controls the events involving inanimate matter, plants, and animals when man is affected — is accepted also by the Rabbis who preceded the Baal Shem Tov, as stated at the conclusion of the text Shomer Emunim, et al.

[The new concept] the Baal Shem Tov revealed to us is that every single particular involving inanimate matter, plants, and animals is controlled by hashgachah pratis for its own sake. The support for this from our Sages’ words6 concerning the judgment of the fish and the cormorant is well known. [Indeed,] the simple meaning of our Sages’ statement implies that the cormorant and the fish themselves are judged.

This concept can be seen as a particular element of the general concept that the Baal Shem Tov explained and publicized: that “Forever, O G‑d, Your word stands”7 in each of the particular created beings among inanimate matter and in the plant and animal kingdoms. At every moment, G‑d’s word is bringing into being every particular being within creation, as occurred during the Six Days of Creation. Accordingly, there is no free moment for chance circumstance. Moreover, just as a believer will never describe the Creation as chance circumstance — even with regard to the particular beings among inanimate matter and in the plant and animal kingdoms — so, too, this concept applies every moment, since each of these entities is being continually maintained [by G‑d’s creative power]. For as the Baal Shem Tov taught, at every moment, [all existence] is being brought into being from absolute nothingness.

From a deeper perspective, all existence and all the events of the six millennia of the world’s existence arose in the primeval thought of Adam Kadmon. On that spiritual plane, they are all viewed with one glance. It is obvious that if any event had occurred differently from the manner in which it in fact occurred, it would involve a change in that glance and thought, as it were. Now, this all-encompassing thought and desire stems from [G‑d’s] Sublime intent which will be fulfilled exactly, without any addition or diminution. Thus every event that takes place (even involving inanimate matter), in all of its particulars, fulfills the Sublime intent through the fact that it occurred in precisely this manner. See the maamar entitled Al Kein Yomru HaMoshlim, 5696, will regard to all of the above.

On the contrary, the only type of events concerning which we can, at times, be uncertain as to whether they are in accord with the Sublime intent are those involving man, and more precisely, those that concern the chosen and the most carefully overseen among mankind, a Jew. For only he is granted free choice, and [through this free choice,]it is within his power to change the purpose which was invested within him by this intent. In contrast, all of the other created beings follow the Divine command which corresponds to the Sublime intent. See also Tanya, Iggeres HaKodesh, the conclusion of Epistle 25.

It can be explained that the inner rationale for the above is that the source for the true concept of free choice is above the Sublime intent referred to above, for the Jewish people precede the Torah.8 See the Biur to the maamar entitled VeHeinif in Likkutei Torah and the maamar entitled Yom Tov Shel Rosh HaShanah, 5665.

Question 3: Is it possible to apply the analogy of a map that is employed to describe Z’eir Anpin to explain the relationship of the worlds to one another?

Response: [In your question,] you do not explain the matter that you are trying to clarify [with the analogy]. To explain: Every analogy illustrates certain particulars in the analogue. Generally, these particulars conflict with each other, i.e., some point to an advantage possessed by the analogue and others to a lack. It would be appropriate for you to explain to which particular illustrated by the analogy of a map you are referring and ask whether that particular is appropriate to be mentioned with regard to the relationship between one world and another.

The analogy of a map is found in the beginning of Bereishis Rabbah with regard to the Torah (“a craftsman does not build... except on the basis of blueprints and notebooks...”). See also Zohar II, 161. [The analogy of a map] is also cited in the explanation of the maamar entitled Maggid MeiReishis and the maamar entitled Shearah ViKesusah as referring to Z’eir Anpin — which is referred to as the Torah — in relation to G‑d’s essence. (See also Imrei Binah, Shaar HaKerias Shema, ch. 39, and Shaar HaYichud, ch. 33, et al.) These sources do not, however, explain the particular elements of the analogy and the distinctions between this analogy and others.

In Shaar HaYichud, ch. 12ff., the analogy of a map is cited together with three other analogies (teaching a concept in a concise form, a sign, and an allusion) with regard to the concept of the reshimu. (With regard to the statements there concerning the analogy of the power of throwing, see the maamar entitled BaYom HaShemini Atzeres, 5670.)

The distinctions between these three analogies are explained in the maamar entitled BaYom HaShemini Atzeres, 5670; see also the maamar entitled VeAtah Kadosh, 5657. To summarize the points mentioned there: A map contains all the particulars [of the region it portrays].9 ([In this regard,] the analogy points to the positive dimension of the analogue. In this aspect — i.e., that it possesses all the particulars — it resembles the analogy of teaching in a concise form.) Nevertheless, [a map] involves a foreign matter.10 (This reflects a deficiency with regard to the analogy. In this — that it involves a foreign matter — it resembles the analogies of a sign and an allusion.)

It is evident that the first concept implied by the analogy of a map is relevant with regard to the relationship between one world and another, but not the second concept. For it cannot be said that the world of Yetzirah is a foreign matter with regard to the world of Beriah. This shows that it is inappropriate to make such a comparison with regard to the relationship between the worlds of Atzilus and Beriah themselves (in contrast to [a comparison between them and] the light which shines within [these worlds]).

The statements in sec. 9 of the maamar entitled Lehavin Inyan HaBerachos11(cited in the series of maamarim beginning Chayav Adam Livareich, 5638, ch. 33) which employ the analogy of a map to explain the difference between the hidden worlds and the revealed worlds [does not represent a contradiction to the above]. For it prefaces [those statements by saying that] on the earthly plane, [the depiction on] the map is just an image and not the actual entity, while in the spiritual worlds, [one is an actual extension of the other]. Similarly, the statements in the maamar entitled BaYom HaShemini Atzeres, loc. cit.,that [the analogy of] a map is appropriate for the world of Beriah... when compared to the light of the reshimu, but not when compared to the world of Atzilus [can be resolved]. See the statements there.

The maamar entitled BaYom HaShemini Atzeres states that a map can be compared to an analogy [in that they both describe a concept] by reference to a foreign entity. [That maamar] does not, however, explain the difference between these two [examples]. It is possible to explain the difference as follows: They both contain all the particulars of the analogue. Nevertheless, in a true analogy, i.e., in an analogy given by the Torah, the analogy has its source in the analogue ([for example,] kingship on the earthly plane and Kingship on the heavenly plane, or the ten powers of the soul and the ten Sefiros, et al.). In [the analogy of] a map, by contrast, [the actual region depicted] is an entirely different entity.

Based on the above, we see that the analogy for the relationship of one world to another is not that of a map, but rather that of an analogy and the analogue, for it is appropriate with regard to both these dimensions.

Question 4: Is it possible to explain the wondrous difference between the Creator and the created beings [based on our Sages’ statement12 that] the world was created with two letters? There is no way one can comprehend a concept that is explained in an entire book by knowing two letters from it.

Response: In this as well, you do not explain your question and your intent with regard to the further explanation of this wondrous distinction that is gained by this analogy.

In the analogue, the worlds themselves are the letters of the analogy that is their source. Through “Lift[ing] your eyes upward”13 and in general through [the awareness of] the spiritual worlds and the spiritual cosmos, we come to the knowledge of G‑dliness. As Etz Chayim states,14 [the purpose of] the Creation is so that [the created beings] will recognize His greatness. This knowledge can be compared to the concept that is enclothed in the letters through which the world was created. In this, comprehension is possible and [indeed,] is necessary.

With regard to the wondrous distinction of the Creator Himself: Tanya, ch. 20, et al., explains this concept in a more inward manner, [using the example of] one statement when compared to the power of speech as a whole, or when compared to the power of thought.

Is your intent [to emphasize] the wondrous distinction with regard to His creative potential? [If so,] this is the intent of the statements in Tanya. [Although] it mentions the powers above speech, it does so in relation to speech. It is as if it is saying that the ultimate source for the existence of the worlds is in G‑d’s sublime will.

Nevertheless, the analogy of two letters is used to describe G‑d’s wondrous distinction in the above manner in Chassidus (Likkutei Torah, the maamar entitled Zos Chanukas, sec. 2, et al.). [In explanation, it can be said that] there are three levels of wondrous distinction:

a) Tanya, loc. cit.,explains the wondrous distinction and the bittul of the creation and [G‑d’s] creative power with regard to their ultimate spiritual source and root, because this is relevant to the knowledge of [G‑d’s] oneness, that He is the same after Creation as before Creation.

b) Likkutei Torah, loc. cit., explains how G‑d’s creation of the worlds is not at all comparable to the other dimensions of G‑dliness, even with regard to their letters, i.e., even with regard to their lowest dimensions. [To quote a] well-known statement:15 “The fact that He creates worlds does not represent the essence of G‑dliness.” [To cite a parallel, it is said of] the relationship of the worlds to the Torah:16 “Its measure exceeds the earth.” On this level, the concept concerning which you asked is appropriate.

c) The wondrous distinction with regard to the essence of the soul, not as it serves as the source and root for the power of speech, nor as it relates to revelations that are higher than speech, but for the soul itself. Similar concepts apply with regard to the analogue above.

The statements above — that the wondrous distinction with regard to the Torah relates to the second level — apply with regard to the external dimensions of the Torah. With regard to the Torah’s inner dimensions, which are “before Him...,”17 even the example of one letter and an entire concept is inappropriate, as is understood by those who have studied the maamarim in Chassidus explaining the concept that David referred to the Torah as “songs.”18

Even on the lowest level, there exist all three manners of bittul and wondrous distinction ([which correspond to the levels of] memale kol almin, sovev kol almin, and kulei kamei kilo choshiv).19 Nevertheless, the distinction between these three levels themselves can be explained to parallel the distinction between memale kol almin, sovev kol almin, and kulei kamei kilo choshiv. This is not the place for further discussion regarding the matter.