The Appearance of Moses in Every Generation

The Zohar teaches that Moses, our Teacher, “appears” in each and every generation. In each generation there is one unique individual who is the embodiment of Moses, our Teacher, in that generation. The spirit of Moses emanates to all the wise men of the generation, and subsequently from them to all those living at the time, illuminating Jewish souls with the light of the inner, hidden parts of the Torah (“the ‘soul’ of the Torah”), bestowing upon them the power of the Supernal Knowledge, the power that enables one to know and cling to the “Giver of the Torah,” G-d, Blessed be He.

After the giving of the Torah (at the beginning of the month of Sivan), Moses ascended Mt. Sinai, where he stayed “forty days and forty nights” until the seventeenth (tov–“good” = 17) of Tamuz (“there is no ‘good’ other than Torah”–Ethics of the Fathers 6:3). Were it not for the sin of the golden calf–which came about as a result of the imaginative faculty’s deception that Moses had died (Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 89a)?we would have merited the ability to see concretely G-d’s “goodness” each day (as it is known that “G-d is the essence of ‘good’,” “and by nature, one who is good always desires to do good”). That very day witnessed the completion of the giving of the true “good” to the “good” people, or as the Sages state: “Let the “good” one (Moses) come and receive the “good” (Torah) from the “Good One” (G-d) for the “good” people (Israel; Talmud Bavli, Menachot 53b).

The Chain of Transmission of the Torah

Those 40 days that Moses stayed on the mountain (in a state transcending time as it is known on this worldly plane… “He ate no bread nor did he drink water”–Exodus 34:28) parallel the 40 generations in the transmission of the Torah from Moses, our Teacher, (who received the Written Torah [in its completion, but also the initial revelation of the Oral Torah]) until Rav Ashi (in whose generation, through him, the Oral Torah was sealed) as elucidated by Maimonides in the Introduction to his great legal work, Mishneh Torah.

Moses, our Teacher, lived in the 26th generation after creation. 26 is also the numerical equivalent of G-d’s Name Havayah associated with the Written Torah (in the secret of the sefirah of tiferet–“beauty” as discussed in the Kabbalah). Rav Ashi is the 65th generation (26 up to and including Moses and an additional 39 generations until Rav Ashi)–65 is the numerical equivalent of another central Name of G-d, Adnut, the name associated with the Oral Torah (the secret of the sefirah of malchut–“kingdom”–“malchut is the mouth, it is also called the Oral Torah” [Patach Eliyahu]). Concerning the essential unity of these two Names it was stated to Moses when G-d revealed Himself in the burning bush: “This is My Name (Havayah), as it is written?paralleling the Written Torah) forever, and this is My remembrance (Adnut–as it is pronounced–paralleling the Oral Torah) from generation to generation” (Exodus 3:15).

It is taught in the Kabbalah: “The end is enwedged in the beginning” (Sefer Yetzirah 1:6). Indeed Rav Ashi is hinted at the outset of the Written Torah, the Torah of Moses: the first five letters of the Torah (of the word Breishit) are a permutation of the name of Rav Ashi!

Evolution, Enclothment, Indwelling

The generational chain in the transmission of the Torah is not to be viewed as occurring only at the level of “development” and “evolution” (descriptions used in understanding the “unfolding of worlds” during the process of creation). In any process of development and evolution the “end” of the “upper level” is enwedged in the “head” or “beginning” of the “lower level” (as in the form of a ring chain). The “end” of the influencing one (the teacher) can reveal (oral) teachings to the receiver. This instruction enters and is grasped by the “head” of the receiver.

However, the generational transmission of the Torah is much more than simply a process of development and evolution. More accurately it is seen as the “enclothment” of the teacher within the student-receiver, similar to the understanding that the soul is “enclothed” within the body in order to bring it to life and give it continued existence. Not only does the revealed knowledge of the teacher pass over to the student in an evolutionary manner, but also the soul of the teacher is “impregnated” within the student, causing the awakening of the student’s intellective power, which then flows as an “inexhaustible fountain.”

Moreover, and indeed more essential: from a deeper perspective the Rebbe (the Moses of the generation) and the disciple are truly “all one,” completely unified. This level of revelation is the secret of the Divine “indwelling” in the acceptance of the Torah in each succeeding generation. The Hebrew name Moses is an acronym for “what was, is what will be” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). “Moses is Truth and his Torah is Truth” (Midrash Tanchuma, Korach 11), and as is known Truth is an eternal, unbroken quality. When G-d calls: “Moses Moses” (Exodus 3:4), we note that there is no cantillation note indicating a break, a pause, between the two “Moses.” Both Moses and the Torah partake of the eternal, of the unbroken, because both reflect Truth.

During the 40 days from the giving of the Torah until the seventeenth (tov) of Tamuz, Moses (and through him all Jewish souls) received illumination from the Divine Indwelling. This Divine inspiration was bestowed at the giving of the Torah to Moses for that, and each succeeding generation until the coming of the Mashiach–“Moses is the first redeemer and he is the final redeemer.” The sin of the golden calf resulted from a lack of consciousness of this secret. Moses’ advanced level of awareness on the mountain (ba’har is similar to the word be’hirut denoting crystal clear understanding) did not bring the Jewish people to a similar level of Divine consciousness. Therefore, after the sin, Moses is told: “Go down (from the mountain)” in order to lead the Jewish people to a conscious awareness of the Divine Indwelling.

For one who attains this Divine awareness (and thereby rectifies the sin of the golden calf, the false illusion that “Moses died” as above), Moses lives eternally–a soul within a body–“For the earth (the body) will be filled with the knowledge of G-d (the soul of Moses) as water (“I drew him from the water”–Exodus 2:10) covering the sea-bed” (Isaiah 11:9).

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