Excerpt from Kabbalah and Meditation for the Nations Chapter 2: Monotheism

The Apparent Plurality of the One God

Many false beliefs have been propagated throughout the world. Therefore, it is important that at the outset of this book, we clarify some basic Torah truths which are often presented by other religions in a distorted manner, sometimes in a deliberate attempt to deceive.

First of all, God is absolutely One. God, the Creator, possesses no intrinsic duality or plurality, in any form whatsoever. All the apparent plurality that people see in the One God is a result of the process of creation and our inability to exist in the infinite Presence of the Almighty.

To understand the relationship between God’s absolute Oneness and the multi-faceted manifestations by which He is revealed in our world, we turn to the Kabbalistic description of creation. Kabbalah teaches that in the most general terms creation consists of two stages, both described using the same Hebrew word: tzimtzum. In Hebrew,tzimtzum means either “to diminish” or “to concentrate.” God began the creative process by diminishing (the first meaning of tzimtzum) His infinite light in order to make space, as it were, for His creation.

The final limit of any diminishing process is a reduction to zero, or total disappearance. This is what is implied in Kabbalah by the term tzimtzum in relation to God’s initial contraction of His infinite light in order to create room for worlds to exist. Worlds describe a state of being seemingly outside of God. 1 The first tzimtzum (as diminishing) allowed God to seemingly disappear entirely from the stage upon which the second stage of creation would play out.

The second stage of the creative process also consists of a tzimtzum, but this time in the sense of a concentration. Kabbalah describes that God projected a ray of His previously concealed infinite light (referred to as the kav) back into the seeming void created by the initial tzimtzum. God’s infinite light, i.e., His infinite revelation, was concentrated into a thin finite ray. Worlds were then created around this ray of light. 2 The ray of infinite light is to the cosmos like the soul is to the body. 3 The ray of infinite light is the sustaining and animating force within, but, like the soul in the human body, its presence remains concealed. 4

God’s infinite light, were we able to experience it directly, would reveal His absolute singularity and Oneness. But, because of the tzimtzum, in our normal state of consciousness, we are only able to experience the revelation of God’s nature through its plurality of manifestations. Nonetheless, one of the most basic tenets of Jewish faith is that the diminishing and disappearance of the infinite light should not be understood literally; i.e., they were not “events” that transformed God’s nature as the Creator. Rather, the disappearance of God’s infinite light from the place He prepared for created reality is only from our perspective. From God’s perspective—“I God have not changed.” 5 The original infinite light remains within the apparent void and continues to shine (from God’s perspective) just as it did before the creative process and the initial tzimtzum. Only from our eyes has the light disappeared. And so with regard to the ray of light (the kav), from God’s perspective, the sense of infinite expanse remains within the apparent thin ray of light that permeates primordial space, even though we remain oblivious to it. In our world, which is the last of the worlds created around the ray of infinite light and which is physical and finite, God appears to us in many manifestations. 6 But God is, was, and always shall be One and only One.7

God, Torah, and Israel

In the Zohar, the classic text of Kabbalah, as well as in other Jewish sources,8 we find that there are three manifestations of Godliness, which are considered essentially One. These are God,9 the Torah, and Israel (meaning, the Jewish people).10

As explained above, there is nothing special that distinguishes the number three from any other number, for the complex manifestations of the Almighty appear in conjunction with all numbers. After the initial contraction of His infinite light, God—the absolute One—can and does appear to finite consciousness in any number of manifestations that He so desires.

Without the blemishes and misconceptions introduced by the limits imposed on us by finite consciousness (which is also the origin of all sin) the transcendent unity behind these multiple manifestations can be truly appreciated. The state of being that is unhindered by our finite consciousness and which can perceive the Divine as the absolute One, is known in Kabbalah as the World of Emanation (Olam Ha’atzilut), the highest of the four general states of reality described as “worlds.”11

Minds originating in the three lower worlds of Creation, Formation, and Action (whose state of consciousness has fallen from that of Emanation) tend to separate, differentiate, and divide, and thereby perceive reality as pluralistic. This tendency may easily degenerate into idol worship.

Monotheistic consciousness, which started with Abraham, and which became the spiritual inheritance of all Jews, originates in the World of Emanation, where nothing stands apart and separate from the Almighty. Because of this, monotheistic consciousness allows a person to see through the multiple manifestations of the Divine that seem to fill the world around us and thereby help him or her retain perfect faith in God’s absolute Oneness. However, non-Jews did not receive Abraham’s spiritual inheritance and therefore do not possess an innate monotheistic perspective on reality. Consequently, a non-Jew may believe, theoretically, that God is One. But, as soon as questions about God’s actual manifestation in reality arise, in the mind of the non-Jew, the description of God tends to take on some form of plurality, the exact nature of which is irrelevant—it could be a duality, like the Chinese Yin and Yang, or a trinity, like the Christian model, all the way to full-fledged polytheism. The mind rooted in the consciousness of the three lower worlds12creates a division in God’s true unity, a division that tends to degenerate into idol worship, as stated above.

The only remedy for this innate tendency to perceive God as a plurality (i.e., polytheism, or pantheism as the case may be) is for a non-Jew to bind his or her consciousness to the Torah’s universal teachings. The essence of the Torah that lies within its every word is that God is absolutely One. That is the origin of the sages’ saying that every word of the Torah is a Name of the Almighty.13 The subliminal and conscious message forever transmitted by the Torah to both the Jew and the non-Jew is the message of God’s absolute and undividable unity.

Returning to the threesome, of God, Torah, and Israel: the Torah is the wisdom and spirit of the Almighty, of which it is said: “He and His wisdom are one.”14 Israel is considered the Almighty’s son, of whom it is said: “Israel is My son, My firstborn,”15 and as such the Jewish nation represents an essence of the Father.

That said, it is essential to stress that no Jew would ever dream of regarding the people of Israel as an entity unto itself, and praying to it, God forbid! Such a thought does not even enter into Jewish consciousness (the consciousness of the World of Emanation, as explained above). The same is true with regard to the Torah. The Torah is the holy spirit of God. But no Jew would ever dream of relating to the Torah as an independent entity.16The monotheistic soul never makes the mistake of attaching independent reality to one of God’s manifestations.

In this spirit, one should read the verses describing the Torah:

“God possessed me at the beginning of His way… When He prepared the heavens, I was there… When He marked out the foundations of the earth… then I was beside Him… and my delight [was] with the sons of men.”17

The Torah is, as it were, the speaker of these verses. As explained above, when relating to any number of manifestations following the initial contraction of God’s infinite light, we must bear in mind that both before and after the contraction, these manifestations remain absolutely One. The paradox implicit in the Torah saying “I was beside God” or “I was the tool of God in Creation” remains just that—a paradox. The ultimate, absolute root of the souls of Israel, the son of God, also existed before the initial contraction, absolutely One with God.

This paradox is one that a consciousness severed from Emanation cannot appreciate. The only One to whom we pray is God Himself. This is one of the Thirteen Principles of Faith as discussed in the introduction.18 True monotheistic consciousness, even as it manifests after the initial contraction (in the World of Emanation), is always connected to the essence of God as was revealed in His infinite light before the initial contraction that brought the plurality of His manifestations into being.

We are further taught in the Zohar that the Torah serves as a link between the created consciousness of Israel and the infinite light of God. As a connecting intermediary, the Torah is in its essence no more than the manifestation of God’s affinity to Israel and Israel’s affinity to God. And so, the initial three—God, the Torah, and Israel—can be seen toreduce to two: God and Israel.19 These three canalso expand into four (and thus correspond to the four letters of God’s essential Name, as described above). In such a case, the single manifestation of the nation of Israel divides into the tzadik (the righteous Messianic figure present in every generation20) and the Jewish People (the Congregation of Israel, called Kneset Yisrael, in Hebrew). These two are then referred to as the Almighty’s “son” and “daughter,” respectively.21

Notes:

1. What appears to us as outside of God, to God is, as it were, inside Himself. In the words of the sages, “He is the place of the universe though the universe is not His place” (Midrash Bereisheet Rabah 68:9). This means that although in truth the universe and all of reality exists inside (i.e., as an indivisible part of) God, God does not, at present (until the coming of the Messiah) reveal His absolute Presence within and throughout reality (including empty space).

2. Some of the original worlds were created and then destroyed, a calamity also known as the breaking of the vessels. The purpose of this destruction, on the spiritual plane, was the creation of the lowest of worlds, in which we live, a corporal reality containing both good and evil and granting us the ability to choose freely between the two antithetical poles.

3. In relation to the ray (the kav), the sages say that God (as explained above, the kav is indivisible from the essence of God’s infinite light) is to the world as the soul is to the body (See Berachot 10a; Midrash Vayikra Rabah, 4; Midrash Shocher Tov Tehillim, 103).

4. To be more exact, in the Divine consciousness of the World of Emanation (Atzilut) the presence of the kav, the soul of creation, is revealed, whereas in the three lower worlds of Creation, Formation, and Action (Beri’ahYetzirah, and Asiyah), whose state of consciousness is separate from God, the presence of the kav is concealed.

5. Malachi 3:6.

6. For this reason we find that in the Bible, and even more so in Kabbalistic texts, God possesses many Names (and even more descriptive connotations, such as “the Merciful One”). Each Name (or connotation) designates a special manifestation of God in reality. Indeed, we are taught in Kabbalah that every word in the Torah conceals within itself a Name of God. Furthermore, the Messiah will reveal that the entire Torah, from beginning to end, is in essence one great Name of God. See What You Need to Know About Kabbalah, part III.

7. In Hebrew, “one” is echad (אֶחָד ) and “single [one]” is yachid (יָחִיד ).

8. Based on the Zohar (III, 73a), we often find in Chassidic texts the statement that, “Israel, the Torah and the Holy One Blessed Be He are One.”

9. It is explained in Kabbalah that this particular manifestation of the Almighty refers topartzuf ze’eir anpin, one of the 12 major partzufim, i.e., direct manifestations of the Almighty in every world.

10. This statement in the Zohar gives a physical correspondence to the parallel statement that appears in Jewish philosophy: “He, His thought, and the object of His thought are all One.” “He” of course corresponds to God Himself; “His thought” corresponds to the Torah; and, “the object of His thought” corresponds to Israel.

11. About the four worlds as states of consciousness, see in What You Need to Know About Kabbalah, pp. 133ff.

12. Since in fact there are three lower worlds, the number three reflects pluralistic consciousness, with the image of God as a parent deriving from the World of Creation, the image of God as spirit deriving from the World of Formation and the corporal image of God as a son deriving from the World of Action.

13Zohar II, 87a.

14. Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Pardes Rimonim 4:10.

15. Exodus 4:22. The numerical values of the three Hebrew words that comprise this phrase—“Israel is My son, My firstborn,”בְּנִי בְּכֹרִי יִשְׂרָאֵל —are 62, 232, and 541. They can be analyzed as forming a segment of an ascending quadratic series, whose proceeding and following members are discovered by the process referred to as “finite differences,” as follows:

31

62

232

541

989

1576

2302

31

170

309

448

587

726

139

139

139

139

139

The number that proceeds 62 in the series is its half, 31, the value of the Name of God by which He called Israel (Genesis 32:29), El (אֵ־ל ). 31 is the lowest number, or base, of the infinite series (a quadratic series is graphically represented as a parabola). The three numbers following 541 are 989, 1576, and 2302. Together, the sum of the first seven numbers in the series (“all sevens are dear” – Midrash Vayikra Rabah 29:11) is 5733 = 13 . 441; 13 is the numerical value of “one,” אֶחָד , and “love,”אַהֲבָה , and 441 = 212, and is the numerical value of “truth” (אֱמֶת ).

5733 is also 7 . 819, meaning that the average value of the first seven numbers in the series is 819. 819 is equal to the sum of all the squares from 12 to 132, also known as the pyramid of 13. It is also the numerical value of the connotation for God’s Oneness, “simple unity” (אַחְדוּת פְשׁוּטָה ). Thus, “Israel is My son, My firstborn” alludes to the ultimate, absolute truth of God’s simple unity that permeates the consciousness of Israel, which will be fully revealed in the “Days of the Messiah” (which in Hebrew also equals 819, יְמוֹת הַמָשִׁיחַ ). The sages teach that even today, before the arrival of the true Messiah, “David, the King of Israel, is alive and present” (a well known Hebrew idiom:דָוִד מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל חַי וְקַיָם , whose numerical value is also 819) in every generation.

16. Following the statement that “the Holy One and the Torah are one” (see Zohar II, 90b).

17. Proverbs 8:22-31.

18. See pp. 22ff.

19. We saw above, that the two tablets of the covenant given to Moses at Mt. Sinai are the most primal example of a couple in Jewish consciousness. The first five of the Ten Commandments, which are engraved on the first tablet, all fall under the category of those commandments which regulate the relationship between man and God (honoring one’s parents, the fifth commandment, is in fact an expression of honoring God, for God together with one’s parents act together as “partners” in procreation, with God, who bestows the soul and human consciousness, as the principal “partner”), while the second five, engraved on the second tablet regulate the relationship between man and his fellow man. Thus, the two tablets themselves correspond to God and to Israel (after which we return to the basic consciousness of “One is our God in heaven and on earth”).

20. Of whom God says: “You are My son” (Psalms 2:7).

21. Just as God calls the Messiah “My son,” so He calls the people of Israel “My daughter” (Midrash Shemot Rabah 52:4). In Hebrew, the sum of the numerical values of “My son” (בְּנִי , 62) and “My daughter” (בִּתִּי , 412) is equal to the numerical value of the word for “knowledge” (דַּעַת , 474), the sefirah that unites the “son” and the “daughter.”

The understanding that Israel are both the son and daughter of the Almighty, gives us a full correspondence to the four letters of Havayah, which represent the ideal family of father (God), mother (the Torah), son (the Messianic figure present within every generation), daughter (the Congregation of Israel, Keneset Yisrael), as follows:

י

father

God

ה

mother

Torah

ו

son

Messianic figure

ה

daughter

Congregation of Israel

Every commandment is intended to manifest Godliness on earth and to reflect the secret of God’s essential Name, Havayah. This is most beautifully apparent in the first commandment of the Torah, the commandment to be fruitful and multiply, which according to the sages (Yevamot 61b) means giving birth to at least one son and one daughter, thereby emulating God, the Creator, by making an ideal family, reflecting the secret of the Name Havayah.

The numerical value of all four parts of this correspondence in Hebrew,  י־הוה תוֹרָה מַשִׁיחַ יִשְׂרָאֵל is equal to 1536 = 4 ž 384, meaning that the average value of each element is 384. But, 384 is the numerical value of the phrase “the Messiah of God” (מְשִׁיחַ י־הוה ), the combined value of the words corresponding to the yud and the vav of the NameHavayah, indicating that the Messianic spirit permeates the ideal family.