Sh’lach Lecha Anoshim: First Ma’amer, First Os
Conceptual Background to the Ma’amer:
Please note that this is a small portion of the ideas covered in this ma’amer. For a fuller perspective on these and other ideas refer to Mystical Concepts in Chassidus, by J. Immanuel Shochet. Another indispensable tool is your local mafte’ach inyonim—the index of concepts—in the back of the Tanya or any other sefer Chassidus.
I. The Scouts (Meraglim)
Here’s a link to the verses with Rashi in English at Chabad.org
II. Here is a link to the footnotes to the ma’amer and the original text of the ma’amer on Hebrewbooks.org. The verses and statements of our rabbis will be in quotes. It’s on page Samach Beis of the Marei Mekomos.
III. Shviras HaKeilim, or the Shattering of the “Vessels,” refers to the shattering of the vessels of Tohu, chaos. Before the state of being we are in now, namely all of the Hishtalshelus, there was (and because it transcends time, it still is) the world of chaos. In Tohu, everything exists in extremes; chessed exists as a polar opposite to g’vura and so forth. The issue with that is they can’t exist at all. Part of that is the “light,” or energy pumped into the “vessels” there is beyond the vessels’ capacity causing an “explosion,” so to speak. The broken pieces of this world “fell” into what would become the world of Tikkun. Comparable to electricity; the higher the voltage, the denser the rubber insulation needs to be. The coarsest vessels would fall the “lowest,” or rather, because they are the coarsest, they are the “lowest.” The greatest and most powerful “lights,” or G-dly energy would be compatible and able to integrate with only the coarsest or most “insulating materials.” The same applies to the most delicate vessels and lights.
IV. In Tikkun, however, there is an added element of Hiskal’lus, inter-inclusion. Since there is now compatibility and integration, opposites no longer exist. That being said, dichotomies only exist in our mind and are tools by which we can understand abstract concepts. In Tikkun, chessed contains within it, chessed, g’vura, tiferes, etc., and g’vura contains chessed, g’vura, tiferes, etc. This will have tremendous (positive) ramifications but is not relevant to our ma’amer.
V. A characteristic of Tikkun is Hishtalshelus. Hishtalshelus is related to the word, “shalsheles,” or “chain.” This refers to the process of organization, distribution, and hierarchy of revelation of G-dly Light. The process of cause and effect; one spiritual rung leading into the lower and thereby becoming more and more limited and coarse (on the surface). When you see “Hishtalshelus,” think, “limitation,” “order,” “Tikkun,” “memale kol almin,” and the like.
VI. The 288 Sparks are the greatest “lights” which fell to the “lowest” places after Shviras HaKeilim.
VII. Avodas Birrurim is the process of sifting the Sparks. It’s our purpose in the material world.
VIII. The reason why our food comes from a lower class of life is that, as explained elsewhere that the “light” within the “most inferior” matter is the highest.
IX. “When the Other Side (Sitra Achra) is suppressed, the Glory of Kudsha Brich Hu ascends in all the worlds.” It is a cause and effect. The revelation of the Glory of Kudsha Brich Hu is in a state of makkif, transcendent, ungraspable.
X. The Earthly Eretz Yisroel is aligned (mechuvenes) with the Eretz Yisroel of Above. This is not Hishtalshelus, which is a less direct connection, rather Eretz Yisroel “mirrors” the Eretz Yisroel of Above. See the Frierdiker Rebbe’s definition of “mechuven” in the ma’amer Kol HaMa’arich B’Echod, in Sefer HaMa’amorim Kuntreisim Aleph.
XI. Atzilus. This definition truly won’t do it justice. This is the world where the vessels are the same material as the G-dly energy which creates them. Think, “maximum revelation,” that if there was any more light, or if the vessels where any less light, the whole thing wouldn’t be. The Alter Rebbe was known not to be able to finish writing the aleph and tzaddik of the word before falling into trance.
XII. Malchus is the lowest sefira in any context. It is the universal recipient of any expression of any other (by definition higher) sefira. Malchus manifests as the mouth, or speech because the mouth expresses all of one’s thoughts and emotions; speech because words are little boxes (“teva” means “word” in Loshon HaKodesh”) to carry thoughts and emotions. Malchus manifests itself as earth and the womb since, like speech, the take a small thing and give it life, i.e., a seed becomes a sprout, a womb develops a child.
Translation and Integrated Explanation of the Ma’amer:
Introduction: Where Did the Scouts Go Wrong?
The Alter Rebbe poses the question: If the scouts (meraglim) were community leaders and men of repute, righteous, etc., why wouldn’t they want to enter Eretz Yisroel? Wouldn’t they want to be carried out Hashem’s will?
This leads to another question: What’s so special about Eretz Yisroel? Eretz Yisroel is lauded with the title “land flowing with milk and honey,” what kind of praise is this exactly? If we can understand what Eretz Yisroel is about, we can understand the scouts’ intent. Needless to say, they made a mistake in giving distasteful reports about the land, but equally so, tzaddikim wouldn’t sin. The Alter Rebbe thereby explains their good, yet mistaken intentions. (How tzaddikim could make mistakes, is not relevant to the ma’amer and will not be discussed here.)
We know that the majority of mitzvos aren’t done these days because are dependent on Eretz Yisroel. Examples of these include the z’ro’im (agricultural) mitzvos and the mitzvos relating to korbonos (sacrifices and other kodshim), etc., (like the Mishkan, the korbonos in the desert were a temporary occurrence).
Man’s Relationship to the Material World:
It’s written in Torah that, “Man doesn’t live on bread alone but the Word of G-d.” What’s so special about bread? If all of the creation is a product of the word of G-d, then why do people need to eat at all? And of all things bread?
It works like this: the Word of G-d, which causes all of the existence, namely the lower three life forms; mineral, vegetative, and animal (in ascending order and human beings are the fourth and highest); are the 288 Sparks which fell during Shviras HaKeilim. Being that the Jew is a product of Tikkun, and we (like everything else) receive life from the word of G-d (which are the 288 Sparks), then eating is the process of “sifting” those sparks.
The subtlety here is not that we eat food and also have the opportunity to sift the Sparks, rather we need the Sparks (Word of G-d) to live and by default we need to eat physical food. The reason is that the source of the Sparks is quite lofty, and it’s explained elsewhere.
It’s explained elsewhere (above in Concepts), but this is also the reason why living things eat lower life forms, i.e., the food chain is such that human beings eat members of the animal, vegetative, and mineral kingdoms. Animals eat other animals, plants, and minerals, etc.
This is the purpose of descent of the neshomah to this lowly (low-quality G-dly experience) world. The purpose is to subdue the Other Side in order (which by direct result causes) the Glory of HaKodosh Boruch Hu to reveal itself (equally, i.e., makkif) throughout every world and plane of existence which is the greatness (in quality) of light which emerges from the darkness. In other words, the greatness of G-d is more striking and of greater quality when it is a result of the victory of light over darkness.
Eliyahu HaNovi said, as is recorded in Tikkunei Zohar, “You have made for Yourself ten garments, which You call ten ‘sefiros,’ by which you conduct the worlds which are hidden (Hidden Worlds)…” The word “world” (olmin) is related to word “hellem” or “concealment.” In Zohar, these sefiros are called “chambers.” There’s the Chamber of Chessed, the Chamber of G’vura, the Chamber of Merit, etc.
These chambers function like sefiros in the sense that they affect the way the world is conducted. Chambers are the “lenses,” so to speak, by which neshomos and malochim experience their environment Above. There they bask and take pleasure in the Ray of the Shechinah. There, the malochim stand in love, awe, and fear; namely the Camp of Michoel (characterized by Chessed) stands in love, the Camp of Gavriel (who is characterized by G’vura) stands in awe and fear. Our rabbis tell us, “The Dinar river flows from the sweat/steam of the [holy] animals, and they each sing according to their grasp [of G-dliness].”
A chamber is inclusive and like a sefira (in our context), the chamber includes within it the aspects of every other sefira/chamber. That means that the Chamber of Chessed has components which are of g’vura, and in the Chamber of G’vura, contained within it, are chessed qualities.
This system of chambers, is the meaning behind, “Garments by which You conduct worlds.” The “conducting,” is the particular combination of traits that exist within the chamber, i.e., chessed from the Chamber of G’vura and its manifestation in lower realities.
The system is two-fold; there is filtration and concealment and a (more limited) revelation and (potential) experience by the recipients. The chamber conceals and filters (allowing it to remain aloof) the Light of the Endless One Boruch Hu. This process causes that this Light (expression) shouldn’t be fully perceived and only according to the capabilities of its recipients (the neshomos and malochim). Otherwise, the perception alone would cause these neshomos and malochim would cause them to lose their identity and existence completely—they would have never been. The reason is that these beings are creations (something from nothing) and thereby limited. Their existence has no relation— is incomparable— to the state of being of the Endless Boruch Hu.
The Endless Boruch Hu has no beginning and has no end point, and by default, a chamber is needed to filter His Light (expression) allowing the Light to both remain aloof and to be concealed from the creations (existence). (Even Atzilus has the characteristic of “lights” in “vessels.”)
Through much Hishtalshelus, the physical heavens and earth become, to the effect that the Elokus (the active, existence-causing force) is not visible; existence is perceived as an independent entity, and something separate from its Creator. That is how the Other Side (and the possibility for the opposite of good) can exist.
This is the reason why the soul was sent down into this lowly (low-quality G-dly experience) world; the descent which is for the purpose of the subsequent ascent. The descent is to subdue and suppress the Other Side by fulfilling the refraining mitzvos. Through the suppression of the Other Side (by keeping the refraining mitzvos) the Glory of HaKodosh Boruch Hu is revealed in every world.
This process causes a shift in the function (or the perception of the beings within) the chambers. It allows the chambers and “vessels” (which is what chambers are essentially) not only not to conceal and filter the Light of the Endless Boruch Hu, but to reveal the Light of the Endless Boruch Hu. In other words, the recipients (the neshomos and malochim, and ultimately us) can experience that which is being revealed to us; i.e., we become fitting to receive the revelation which is already being expressed to us.
Through fulfilling the 248 active mitzvos, which are, so to speak, the 248 Limbs of the King, we connect ourselves in a proactive way to the King. First, however, there has to be suppression of the Other Side (both within and outside of ourselves) through the refraining mitzvos. Like it’s written, “And don’t stray after your hearts and after your eyes,” then, the Glory of HaKodosh Boruch Hu is revealed, and we’re able to receive and experience, through the proactive mitzvos, the Light (expression) of the Endless Boruch Hu here below.
The 248 proactive mitzvos, which are extensions and expressions of Torah, and Torah extends or is expressed from Chochma Ila’ah (Chochma of Atzilus). Therefore, mitzvos are extensions from Chochma of Atzilus.
We mentioned before that the 248 mitzvos of Torah are the 248 Limbs of the King. The same way the brain extends itself into every limb of the body and the brain senses the pain of the body, the same is true regarding the Endless Boruch Hu. The Endless Boruch Hu from Chochma Ila’ah (Chochma of Atzilus) flows through the mitzvos to the Hidden Worlds and Revealed Worlds.
The Praise of Eretz Yisroel:
“Milk and honey.” They are “the two arms,” chessed and g’vura, the “Right and the Left, and between them, the Bride…” and, “beneath the ‘arms’ of the world.” This is a flow of Elokus through the Limbs of the King.
The Earthly Eretz Yisroel and the Eretz Yisroel of Above are aligned—that’s why the majority of mitzvos are only applicable there. If mitzvos are the Limbs of the King, which are chessed and g’vura and Eretz Yisroel is praised for being “the land flowing with milk and honey,” (chessed and g’vura), then Eretz Yisroel will be a place of more mitzvos—the epitome of mitzvos.
The scouts were of a very lofty caliber, and they didn’t want to descend, to lower themselves to the world of physical proactive mitzvos (which is the Light of the Endless Boruch Hu expressed here below).
They said about Eretz Yisroel, “She is a land that consumes her inhabitants,” which means that in their interpretation, the revelation of the Light of the Endless Boruch Hu would be too great. They held, albeit incorrectly, that if the same G-dly expression were experienced on a lower, more limited plane of existence, their existence would become completely nullified—completely absorbed in the revelation. Their idea was that the more limited being is, the less capable it is of experiencing G-dly revelation or expression.
This was their intent behind the words, “She consumes her inhabitants,” and they wanted to remain specifically in the desert. The verse, “…And your speech (umidboreich) is attractive…” (the word for “speech” and “desert” are etymologically related in Loshon HaKodesh), the “speech” (Word of G-d) is the flow of Light of the Endless Boruch Hu. Speech is a manifestation of Malchus, which is of the quality of Eretz Yisroel of Above. Speech is called “eretz” because it is the lowest quality of Elokus (before physicality) as in the verse, “…And the earth (‘eretz’) is My footstool…” They felt that their G-dly experience was the most revelation a person could have.
There’s a verse, “Hashem founded the earth (eretz) on Chochma,” and “…the father (Chochma Ila’ah) founded [the] son (the six middos [which are needed for speech and action])…” That is, the Word of G-d (speech) is sourced in Chochma (of Atzilus). By way of analogy, an infant, as long as the mind is not fully developed, will not be able to speak. Although the infant can create simple, primal, minimalist sounds, the infant lacks the chochma to form words (see Concepts above).
The scouts wanted to experience and live only in the state being, or type of revelation of the Word of G-d (speech) which stems from Chochma Ila’ah— this is Eretz Yisroel of Above, which has all the properties and qualities of Eretz Yisroel—with a Beis HaMikdosh, Yerushalayim and all!
Yehoshua Bin Nun and Koleiv Ben Yephuneh:
Yehoshua and Koleiv said, “The Land is very, very (me’od, me’od) good.” They realized that it’s the specifically physical Eretz Yisroel, i.e., the properties of physical proactive mitzvos that pull the Light of the Endless—the me’od quality of revelation; unlimited— “me’od, me’od,” the Hidden Worlds and Revealed Worlds respectively.
The Hidden Worlds and Revealed Worlds—because Hashem wants a place to live in the lowest places. Our rabbis tell us, “HaKodosh Boruch Hu had a desire to have a place to live in the low places,” which means that it should be apparent to the fleshy eye, that G-d should be experienced here the way He is experienced in the loftier, higher, planes. On the contrary—it should be more apparent here (as implied by “a place to live”) than on higher planes. That because of the limited framework of the lower planes, the lack of clarity, the darkness, the experience will be “light which follows darkness,” specifically.
The truth is that the loftier something is, the lower it needs to go to be revealed the best. This teaching is brought in the Gemara, “The wise [student] will suffice with a hint.” When someone, for example, has an idea he wants to share, and it’s too much for him to contain, the only way he’ll be able to express his idea in words is by way of analogy; a metaphor for something tangible.
For example, a signet ring, because of the brightness of the stone, the words or other writing engraved on its surface are illegible. Only when the ring is pressed onto the sealing wax are markings “revealed” to all.
This is also the meaning of the verse referring to gazing upon the 32 strings of tzitzis, “…And you shall see them, and you shall remember the mitzvos of G-d…” That the 32 strings that make up the physical fringes of tzitzis are physical manifestations of the 32 Paths of Chochma— which branch out from the ohr makkif (in context, probably Kesser) which is manifested in the physical garment. The only way to experience such lofty revelation (ohr makkif is by definition beyond grasp) is in physical manifestation. This notion was at odds with the scouts’.
Moshe Rabeinu Alav HaSholom, who was of the Generation of Knowledge (the generation of the desert, and was of the loftiest of spiritual heights, wasn’t allowed into Eretz Yisroel because it is so material (and the pinnacle of creation) although he prayed 515 times (the numerical value of Vo’Es’chonon). However, Yehoshua merited.
Hisbonenus and Applications:
Some thoughts to ponder once you have a grasp of and idea or two.
For one, mitzvos and avodas habirrurim—the task of uplifting the material world—are a tremendous opportunity. Secondly, we learned more about the details of Hashem’s kingdom and how they work, this is part of contemplating gadlus haBoreh (the greatness of the Creator). Thirdly, we can find meaning and appreciate why we were created and to realize that it’s not our thoughts and opinions which define reality, but G-d’s; We can love Him and relate to Him on His terms.