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The well-known directive from the sages is that on Purim, tadalafil

One must become inebriated until one cannot distinguish [lit. “does not know”] between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.”

This Talmudic saying is the foundation for the joy of Purim, case both in Jewish law and in the Torah’s inner dimension. But how should we understand the stipulation that the drinking should continue until we no longer know the difference between Haman and Mordechai?

Let’s begin by saying that it is not necessary to interpret the difference between knowing and not knowing a well-defined moment in time, site an exact moment while drinking when I no longer know. Instead, moving from knowing to not-knowing can be thought of as a developing process. To begin with, I know. Then, I reach a level at which I don’t know. But, from that new perspective, I can see a new level of not-knowing and aspire to it. In this way, I continually pass between states of knowing (the difference between Haman and Mordechai) and not knowing what the difference is.

So, just as inebriation is a process, being able to tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman has different meanings, depending on what state we are at.

A well-known Chabad speaker once quipped: What do you get when you cross a Lubavitcher with Carl Sagan? Billions and billions and billions of lechaim’s!!! So let’s start our journey and if you happen to be reading this on Purim, we invite you to say a lechaim with us at every stage!

The first lechaim – the tzadik rises, the wicked falls

Lechaim, lechaim! In the most literal sense, the reason one might not be able to tell the difference between Mordechai being blessed and Haman being cursed is that we simply can’t decide which is greater, our joy over Mordechai’s rise to power or our joy at seeing Haman’s downfall. On Purim we do not hide the fact that we are happy at Haman’s downfall. It is enough to hear the clamorous outburst in synagogue when Haman’s name is mentioned during the Megillah reading, to prove the point. But, Purim joy is not merely tasteless schadenfreude, as we rejoice in someone else’s misfortune. We rejoice because the Almighty revealed His Providence over us. “Behold, the Guardian of Israel does not rest nor sleep,” and He intercedes in the story of the Megillah on our behalf, turning the tables around so that Haman’s evil plot of genocide overturns in the end to our benefit. Indeed, the 50-cubit high tree was Haman’s idea in the first place, and where eventually he himself was hung!

At the same time, we rejoice over Mordechai’s rise to power. In Shushan, Mordechai was our Rebbe, our beloved leader, and he rises to become the most important person in the entire kingdom, as the verse in the Megillah states, “For Mordechai the Jew is the second-in-command to Achashverosh.” We are justifiably proud of the fact that “our man,” the good guy, is victorious and we see it as a Divine revelation, sanctifying God’s Name. The tzadik, the righteous individual of the generation represents not only us as a people, but also the Almighty, since the entire story of the Megillah began with Mordechai refusing to pay homage to Haman and thereby sanctifying God.

So, which joy is greater? It is our joy over Haman’s downfall or over Mordechai’s ascent? When clear-headed, one might have a concrete opinion, preferring one or the other, but after a lechaim or two, it may become difficult to decide. This is the first level of not knowing.

Second lechaim: Who am I?

Having looked at Haman and Mordechai in the literal sense, as two actual people from the past, we now arrive at a deeper interpretation. From now on, Haman and Mordechai reflect different aspects of our own inner selves. Now, not knowing the difference between Haman and Mordechai means that I can’t rightly assess my self. Am I like Haman or am I like Mordechai?

Let’s say that in general I am a good Jew who follows the Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law), but what am I really like underneath? Am I like Mordechai the tzadik, naturally aspiring to do good, but my evil inclination tempts me from without and tries to incite me against my better judgment? Or perhaps the opposite is true and inside I am truly like Haman, wicked and full of evil urges, base desires, anger and every other malevolence, but somehow or another I succeed in overcoming the gushing volcano inside me and masquerade as a tzadik?

Here, the sages teach us that “Even if the whole world says you are a tzadik, you should see yourself as wicked.” So, in general, I should perceive myself as the wicked Haman! True, I have many good points, but in essence I identify with my coarse animalistic tendencies (food, drink, etc.). I have a pure and holy neshamah (Divine soul), “an actual part of God Above,” a “pure soul that You have given me,” which can and should defeat my base self. But, although I go out of my way to act like a human being and not like an animal, inside I am truly just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In a similar vein, anyone who considers himself to be a tzadik has a serious problem – here is where pride comes into play, the beginning of all sin.

In short, it is actually my good inclination that can come to terms with my being more like the wicked Haman and it is my evil inclination that wants me to think that I am like the righteous Mordechai!

So, what happens on Purim? On the one hand, we can spot some of those more introverted, gentle individuals who after a few tots of drink begin a penetrating self-criticizing soul-search (something we tend to repress). Now, on Purim I can admit to the fact that somewhere deep inside me, within the inner confines of my soul, I am such a can of worms that it is frightening to think about it. Then I begin to cry, with the realization that it is I who am the wicked Haman, and it is only by a miracle that they haven’t yet hung me on a tree.

On the other hand, being inebriated on Purim as I should, I can also say, “I am the righteous Mordechai!” Throughout the year we come in contact with the baser, lowest layers of the soul, but on Purim we reach a deeper identity, rising to an inner, essential point where we are all righteous. This is the profound Jewish identity that arises on Purim in particular and Mordechai himself is the one who arouses it.

There are great tzadikim (righteous individuals) who can claim their own praise without it ever going to their head. The classic example of this is Moses who himself wrote the words of the Torah scroll, “And the man Moses was the most humble of all men.” Yet, Moses retained his great humility even while and after writing this verse. We too can reach this level on Purim: beyond my personal façade, underneath all the disguises and the masquerades, I am Jewish and as such I can identify with Mordechai and say, “blessed is Mordechai the Jew.”

So, at this stage, we truly do not know where we are on the scale that divides between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.” So, who am I then?

The third lechaim: living in the present

Hold tight! The truth is that at the previous level, I still don’t know what not knowing is because with all my inner debating about who I am and what I am, Haman or Mordechai, I am still very much involved with my own self-image. I am trying to take hold of myself, to define myself and give myself a grade – wicked or righteous? I am attempting to keep the hold on to the directive, “Know thyself,” and even if the outcome is a draw, I am still steeped in self-knowledge and not with “non-knowledge.”

Now, after the third lechaim, we need to realize that the main thing is not to deal at all with the question of “who am I?” Now we begin to interpret that not knowing the difference between Haman is cursed and Mordechai is blessed means not caring whether the Haman in me is cursed or whether the Mordechai in me is blessed, because I am not trying to grade myself or define my self-image. Because, I realize that all the positive and negative traits I think I possess, none of them are really me. Maybe they are all in my imagination. Who knows what lies at the root of my soul?

So, with the third lechaim, we come to the realization that we need not have anything to do with all that soul-searching; it’s all just one big humungous waste of time. The most important aspect of serving God is to live in the present moment: at this very moment I am simply raw material that has not yet been formed and everything is still possible. I could now either be “blessed Mordechai” or, God forbid, “cursed Haman” and the same is true of the very next moment and any moment. Every second I can choose with perfect freedom of choice whether to play the part of Mordechai or of Haman. There is no point in trying to identify myself as wicked or as a tzadik, or imagine myself as being anywhere between the two, because even attempting to do so is missing my true goal. I must live the present, above any awareness of what has been, and only with what there should be at this very moment.

In the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe places the figure of the beinoni, the intermediate individual, as an exemplar we should all aspire to. The beinoni is one who is forbidden even for a moment to look at himself and say, “I am like this, I am like that.” Rather, I am always an intermediate who can choose between cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai. Every given moment is the first moment of time and I have to make sure that I choose to use it properly (even if I have fallen, I should not look back too much but look forward and choose good from now on). This is how we should behave throughout the entire year. Nonetheless, it is still difficult to detach ourselves from our natural tendency to grade ourselves, to assess our performance. Only on Purim, after a few lechaim’s to help us forget ourselves, can we really reach this level of not knowing anything of the past at all and only living in the present moment.

The fourth lechaim: behind all the masks

So, let’s make another “lechaim,” and take a deep breath. We began not knowing which joy was greater, Haman’s fall or the Mordechai’s ascent. We continued without knowing who I am and we rose to a level at which it makes no difference at all who I am because it’s all a masquerade…

Now comes the moment to remove all the disguises and reveal who is really hiding behind all the games. Purim is the festival of “the Book of Esther” (????????? ????????), which can be translated literally as, “revealing the hidden.” God too is hidden, as the verse says, “Indeed, You are a concealed God, the God of Israel who redeems.”

Behind the true Haman (the one on the tree) and the real Mordechai (the one riding the horse), behind my little inner Haman and my little inner Mordechai, and even behind my being at this present moment – behind it all is God Almighty. As we know, there is “none besides Him” Therefore, the more layers we peel away from reality as we generally perceive it, from space, from time, and from all the souls in the world, the more we remove the garments and look for the bare essence of reality, the more we eventually reveal God’s essential being.

It is impossible to completely raise the screen that conceals God’s essential being within all, because it would spoil the play. But, at the climax of the Purim festivities, we can reveal the secret hiding behind the screen: that behind all the thousands of masks of this world is the One and Only Unique eternal singularity. Once we have reached this stage we have truly reached a state that can be described as not knowing the difference between is the accursed Haman and the blessed Mordechai, because even behind Haman we perceive God’s singular essence.

This knowledge does not come to justify an anarchistic chaos in the world, God forbid. This state of knowledge that senses the secret behind all of reality is subtle and elusive. It does not contradict the true fact that we all have a clear mission to choose good and to loathe evil. In actual fact, this is the very reason why everything is possible, because just as God masquerades in different disguises and is hidden everywhere, so we too can follow His example and decide to dress up as Mordechai all year round.

Moses and Mordechai

To conclude, Purim is always in close proximity to Parashat Tetzaveh, in which we find a special phenomenon: Moses’ proper name is not mentioned. From when we read about Moses’ birth (in Parashat Shemot), to the very end of the Pentateuch, this is the only parashah in which Moses’ name does not appear. This in spite of the fact that Moshe is addressed right at the beginning of the parashah with the words, “You command” and continues with God’s direct speech with Moses.

In Chassidut we learn that the lack of Moses’ name appearing indicates that in this parashah, he is at an even higher level of self. As we have seen, we can peel away our personal identity more and more, until we touch something of the unknowable, until we cannot know the difference (??? ?????? ?????), which also literally means, “until we come to the unknown” that is underneath all the masks that disguise the real me. This is the point that Moses reached when his proper name disappears and only the “you” with which God addresses him remains.

The sages state that “Mordechai in his generation was like Moses in his generation.” Moses’ soul is reincarnated as Mordechai, and combining these two figures brings us to the Jewish soul’s innermost essence, after removing all of its façades, disguises, and masks, until it reaches the unknown that is beyond all knowledge. When I reach this level, I realize that I am nothing but a happy Jew.

Happy Purim!

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s Purim Eve farbrengen, 5772

The well-known directive from the sages is that on Purim, tadalafil

One must become inebriated until one cannot distinguish [lit. “does not know”] between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.”

This Talmudic saying is the foundation for the joy of Purim, case both in Jewish law and in the Torah’s inner dimension. But how should we understand the stipulation that the drinking should continue until we no longer know the difference between Haman and Mordechai?

Let’s begin by saying that it is not necessary to interpret the difference between knowing and not knowing a well-defined moment in time, site an exact moment while drinking when I no longer know. Instead, moving from knowing to not-knowing can be thought of as a developing process. To begin with, I know. Then, I reach a level at which I don’t know. But, from that new perspective, I can see a new level of not-knowing and aspire to it. In this way, I continually pass between states of knowing (the difference between Haman and Mordechai) and not knowing what the difference is.

So, just as inebriation is a process, being able to tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman has different meanings, depending on what state we are at.

A well-known Chabad speaker once quipped: What do you get when you cross a Lubavitcher with Carl Sagan? Billions and billions and billions of lechaim’s!!! So let’s start our journey and if you happen to be reading this on Purim, we invite you to say a lechaim with us at every stage!

The first lechaim – the tzadik rises, the wicked falls

Lechaim, lechaim! In the most literal sense, the reason one might not be able to tell the difference between Mordechai being blessed and Haman being cursed is that we simply can’t decide which is greater, our joy over Mordechai’s rise to power or our joy at seeing Haman’s downfall. On Purim we do not hide the fact that we are happy at Haman’s downfall. It is enough to hear the clamorous outburst in synagogue when Haman’s name is mentioned during the Megillah reading, to prove the point. But, Purim joy is not merely tasteless schadenfreude, as we rejoice in someone else’s misfortune. We rejoice because the Almighty revealed His Providence over us. “Behold, the Guardian of Israel does not rest nor sleep,” and He intercedes in the story of the Megillah on our behalf, turning the tables around so that Haman’s evil plot of genocide overturns in the end to our benefit. Indeed, the 50-cubit high tree was Haman’s idea in the first place, and where eventually he himself was hung!

At the same time, we rejoice over Mordechai’s rise to power. In Shushan, Mordechai was our Rebbe, our beloved leader, and he rises to become the most important person in the entire kingdom, as the verse in the Megillah states, “For Mordechai the Jew is the second-in-command to Achashverosh.” We are justifiably proud of the fact that “our man,” the good guy, is victorious and we see it as a Divine revelation, sanctifying God’s Name. The tzadik, the righteous individual of the generation represents not only us as a people, but also the Almighty, since the entire story of the Megillah began with Mordechai refusing to pay homage to Haman and thereby sanctifying God.

So, which joy is greater? It is our joy over Haman’s downfall or over Mordechai’s ascent? When clear-headed, one might have a concrete opinion, preferring one or the other, but after a lechaim or two, it may become difficult to decide. This is the first level of not knowing.

Second lechaim: Who am I?

Having looked at Haman and Mordechai in the literal sense, as two actual people from the past, we now arrive at a deeper interpretation. From now on, Haman and Mordechai reflect different aspects of our own inner selves. Now, not knowing the difference between Haman and Mordechai means that I can’t rightly assess my self. Am I like Haman or am I like Mordechai?

Let’s say that in general I am a good Jew who follows the Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law), but what am I really like underneath? Am I like Mordechai the tzadik, naturally aspiring to do good, but my evil inclination tempts me from without and tries to incite me against my better judgment? Or perhaps the opposite is true and inside I am truly like Haman, wicked and full of evil urges, base desires, anger and every other malevolence, but somehow or another I succeed in overcoming the gushing volcano inside me and masquerade as a tzadik?

Here, the sages teach us that “Even if the whole world says you are a tzadik, you should see yourself as wicked.” So, in general, I should perceive myself as the wicked Haman! True, I have many good points, but in essence I identify with my coarse animalistic tendencies (food, drink, etc.). I have a pure and holy neshamah (Divine soul), “an actual part of God Above,” a “pure soul that You have given me,” which can and should defeat my base self. But, although I go out of my way to act like a human being and not like an animal, inside I am truly just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In a similar vein, anyone who considers himself to be a tzadik has a serious problem – here is where pride comes into play, the beginning of all sin.

In short, it is actually my good inclination that can come to terms with my being more like the wicked Haman and it is my evil inclination that wants me to think that I am like the righteous Mordechai!

So, what happens on Purim? On the one hand, we can spot some of those more introverted, gentle individuals who after a few tots of drink begin a penetrating self-criticizing soul-search (something we tend to repress). Now, on Purim I can admit to the fact that somewhere deep inside me, within the inner confines of my soul, I am such a can of worms that it is frightening to think about it. Then I begin to cry, with the realization that it is I who am the wicked Haman, and it is only by a miracle that they haven’t yet hung me on a tree.

On the other hand, being inebriated on Purim as I should, I can also say, “I am the righteous Mordechai!” Throughout the year we come in contact with the baser, lowest layers of the soul, but on Purim we reach a deeper identity, rising to an inner, essential point where we are all righteous. This is the profound Jewish identity that arises on Purim in particular and Mordechai himself is the one who arouses it.

There are great tzadikim (righteous individuals) who can claim their own praise without it ever going to their head. The classic example of this is Moses who himself wrote the words of the Torah scroll, “And the man Moses was the most humble of all men.” Yet, Moses retained his great humility even while and after writing this verse. We too can reach this level on Purim: beyond my personal façade, underneath all the disguises and the masquerades, I am Jewish and as such I can identify with Mordechai and say, “blessed is Mordechai the Jew.”

So, at this stage, we truly do not know where we are on the scale that divides between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.” So, who am I then?

The third lechaim: living in the present

Hold tight! The truth is that at the previous level, I still don’t know what not knowing is because with all my inner debating about who I am and what I am, Haman or Mordechai, I am still very much involved with my own self-image. I am trying to take hold of myself, to define myself and give myself a grade – wicked or righteous? I am attempting to keep the hold on to the directive, “Know thyself,” and even if the outcome is a draw, I am still steeped in self-knowledge and not with “non-knowledge.”

Now, after the third lechaim, we need to realize that the main thing is not to deal at all with the question of “who am I?” Now we begin to interpret that not knowing the difference between Haman is cursed and Mordechai is blessed means not caring whether the Haman in me is cursed or whether the Mordechai in me is blessed, because I am not trying to grade myself or define my self-image. Because, I realize that all the positive and negative traits I think I possess, none of them are really me. Maybe they are all in my imagination. Who knows what lies at the root of my soul?

So, with the third lechaim, we come to the realization that we need not have anything to do with all that soul-searching; it’s all just one big humungous waste of time. The most important aspect of serving God is to live in the present moment: at this very moment I am simply raw material that has not yet been formed and everything is still possible. I could now either be “blessed Mordechai” or, God forbid, “cursed Haman” and the same is true of the very next moment and any moment. Every second I can choose with perfect freedom of choice whether to play the part of Mordechai or of Haman. There is no point in trying to identify myself as wicked or as a tzadik, or imagine myself as being anywhere between the two, because even attempting to do so is missing my true goal. I must live the present, above any awareness of what has been, and only with what there should be at this very moment.

In the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe places the figure of the beinoni, the intermediate individual, as an exemplar we should all aspire to. The beinoni is one who is forbidden even for a moment to look at himself and say, “I am like this, I am like that.” Rather, I am always an intermediate who can choose between cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai. Every given moment is the first moment of time and I have to make sure that I choose to use it properly (even if I have fallen, I should not look back too much but look forward and choose good from now on). This is how we should behave throughout the entire year. Nonetheless, it is still difficult to detach ourselves from our natural tendency to grade ourselves, to assess our performance. Only on Purim, after a few lechaim’s to help us forget ourselves, can we really reach this level of not knowing anything of the past at all and only living in the present moment.

The fourth lechaim: behind all the masks

So, let’s make another “lechaim,” and take a deep breath. We began not knowing which joy was greater, Haman’s fall or the Mordechai’s ascent. We continued without knowing who I am and we rose to a level at which it makes no difference at all who I am because it’s all a masquerade…

Now comes the moment to remove all the disguises and reveal who is really hiding behind all the games. Purim is the festival of “the Book of Esther” (????????? ????????), which can be translated literally as, “revealing the hidden.” God too is hidden, as the verse says, “Indeed, You are a concealed God, the God of Israel who redeems.”

Behind the true Haman (the one on the tree) and the real Mordechai (the one riding the horse), behind my little inner Haman and my little inner Mordechai, and even behind my being at this present moment – behind it all is God Almighty. As we know, there is “none besides Him” Therefore, the more layers we peel away from reality as we generally perceive it, from space, from time, and from all the souls in the world, the more we remove the garments and look for the bare essence of reality, the more we eventually reveal God’s essential being.

It is impossible to completely raise the screen that conceals God’s essential being within all, because it would spoil the play. But, at the climax of the Purim festivities, we can reveal the secret hiding behind the screen: that behind all the thousands of masks of this world is the One and Only Unique eternal singularity. Once we have reached this stage we have truly reached a state that can be described as not knowing the difference between is the accursed Haman and the blessed Mordechai, because even behind Haman we perceive God’s singular essence.

This knowledge does not come to justify an anarchistic chaos in the world, God forbid. This state of knowledge that senses the secret behind all of reality is subtle and elusive. It does not contradict the true fact that we all have a clear mission to choose good and to loathe evil. In actual fact, this is the very reason why everything is possible, because just as God masquerades in different disguises and is hidden everywhere, so we too can follow His example and decide to dress up as Mordechai all year round.

Moses and Mordechai

To conclude, Purim is always in close proximity to Parashat Tetzaveh, in which we find a special phenomenon: Moses’ proper name is not mentioned. From when we read about Moses’ birth (in Parashat Shemot), to the very end of the Pentateuch, this is the only parashah in which Moses’ name does not appear. This in spite of the fact that Moshe is addressed right at the beginning of the parashah with the words, “You command” and continues with God’s direct speech with Moses.

In Chassidut we learn that the lack of Moses’ name appearing indicates that in this parashah, he is at an even higher level of self. As we have seen, we can peel away our personal identity more and more, until we touch something of the unknowable, until we cannot know the difference (??? ?????? ?????), which also literally means, “until we come to the unknown” that is underneath all the masks that disguise the real me. This is the point that Moses reached when his proper name disappears and only the “you” with which God addresses him remains.

The sages state that “Mordechai in his generation was like Moses in his generation.” Moses’ soul is reincarnated as Mordechai, and combining these two figures brings us to the Jewish soul’s innermost essence, after removing all of its façades, disguises, and masks, until it reaches the unknown that is beyond all knowledge. When I reach this level, I realize that I am nothing but a happy Jew.

Happy Purim!

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s Purim Eve farbrengen, 5772

The well-known directive from the sages is that on Purim, unhealthy

One must become inebriated until one cannot distinguish [lit. “does not know”] between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.”

This Talmudic saying is the foundation for the joy of Purim, sildenafil both in Jewish law and in the Torah’s inner dimension. But how should we understand the stipulation that the drinking should continue until we no longer know the difference between Haman and Mordechai?

Let’s begin by saying that it is not necessary to interpret the difference between knowing and not knowing a well-defined moment in time, pharmacy an exact moment while drinking when I no longer know. Instead, moving from knowing to not-knowing can be thought of as a developing process. To begin with, I know. Then, I reach a level at which I don’t know. But, from that new perspective, I can see a new level of not-knowing and aspire to it. In this way, I continually pass between states of knowing (the difference between Haman and Mordechai) and not knowing what the difference is.

So, just as inebriation is a process, being able to tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman has different meanings, depending on what state we are at.

A well-known Chabad speaker once quipped: What do you get when you cross a Lubavitcher with Carl Sagan? Billions and billions and billions of lechaim’s!!! So let’s start our journey and if you happen to be reading this on Purim, we invite you to say a lechaim with us at every stage!

The first lechaim – the tzadik rises, the wicked falls

Lechaim, lechaim! In the most literal sense, the reason one might not be able to tell the difference between Mordechai being blessed and Haman being cursed is that we simply can’t decide which is greater, our joy over Mordechai’s rise to power or our joy at seeing Haman’s downfall. On Purim we do not hide the fact that we are happy at Haman’s downfall. It is enough to hear the clamorous outburst in synagogue when Haman’s name is mentioned during the Megillah reading, to prove the point. But, Purim joy is not merely tasteless schadenfreude, as we rejoice in someone else’s misfortune. We rejoice because the Almighty revealed His Providence over us. “Behold, the Guardian of Israel does not rest nor sleep,” and He intercedes in the story of the Megillah on our behalf, turning the tables around so that Haman’s evil plot of genocide overturns in the end to our benefit. Indeed, the 50-cubit high tree was Haman’s idea in the first place, and where eventually he himself was hung!

At the same time, we rejoice over Mordechai’s rise to power. In Shushan, Mordechai was our Rebbe, our beloved leader, and he rises to become the most important person in the entire kingdom, as the verse in the Megillah states, “For Mordechai the Jew is the second-in-command to Achashverosh.” We are justifiably proud of the fact that “our man,” the good guy, is victorious and we see it as a Divine revelation, sanctifying God’s Name. The tzadik, the righteous individual of the generation represents not only us as a people, but also the Almighty, since the entire story of the Megillah began with Mordechai refusing to pay homage to Haman and thereby sanctifying God.

So, which joy is greater? It is our joy over Haman’s downfall or over Mordechai’s ascent? When clear-headed, one might have a concrete opinion, preferring one or the other, but after a lechaim or two, it may become difficult to decide. This is the first level of not knowing.

Second lechaim: Who am I?

Having looked at Haman and Mordechai in the literal sense, as two actual people from the past, we now arrive at a deeper interpretation. From now on, Haman and Mordechai reflect different aspects of our own inner selves. Now, not knowing the difference between Haman and Mordechai means that I can’t rightly assess my self. Am I like Haman or am I like Mordechai?

Let’s say that in general I am a good Jew who follows the Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law), but what am I really like underneath? Am I like Mordechai the tzadik, naturally aspiring to do good, but my evil inclination tempts me from without and tries to incite me against my better judgment? Or perhaps the opposite is true and inside I am truly like Haman, wicked and full of evil urges, base desires, anger and every other malevolence, but somehow or another I succeed in overcoming the gushing volcano inside me and masquerade as a tzadik?

Here, the sages teach us that “Even if the whole world says you are a tzadik, you should see yourself as wicked.” So, in general, I should perceive myself as the wicked Haman! True, I have many good points, but in essence I identify with my coarse animalistic tendencies (food, drink, etc.). I have a pure and holy neshamah (Divine soul), “an actual part of God Above,” a “pure soul that You have given me,” which can and should defeat my base self. But, although I go out of my way to act like a human being and not like an animal, inside I am truly just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In a similar vein, anyone who considers himself to be a tzadik has a serious problem – here is where pride comes into play, the beginning of all sin.

In short, it is actually my good inclination that can come to terms with my being more like the wicked Haman and it is my evil inclination that wants me to think that I am like the righteous Mordechai!

So, what happens on Purim? On the one hand, we can spot some of those more introverted, gentle individuals who after a few tots of drink begin a penetrating self-criticizing soul-search (something we tend to repress). Now, on Purim I can admit to the fact that somewhere deep inside me, within the inner confines of my soul, I am such a can of worms that it is frightening to think about it. Then I begin to cry, with the realization that it is I who am the wicked Haman, and it is only by a miracle that they haven’t yet hung me on a tree.

On the other hand, being inebriated on Purim as I should, I can also say, “I am the righteous Mordechai!” Throughout the year we come in contact with the baser, lowest layers of the soul, but on Purim we reach a deeper identity, rising to an inner, essential point where we are all righteous. This is the profound Jewish identity that arises on Purim in particular and Mordechai himself is the one who arouses it.

There are great tzadikim (righteous individuals) who can claim their own praise without it ever going to their head. The classic example of this is Moses who himself wrote the words of the Torah scroll, “And the man Moses was the most humble of all men.” Yet, Moses retained his great humility even while and after writing this verse. We too can reach this level on Purim: beyond my personal façade, underneath all the disguises and the masquerades, I am Jewish and as such I can identify with Mordechai and say, “blessed is Mordechai the Jew.”

So, at this stage, we truly do not know where we are on the scale that divides between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.” So, who am I then?

The third lechaim: living in the present

Hold tight! The truth is that at the previous level, I still don’t know what not knowing is because with all my inner debating about who I am and what I am, Haman or Mordechai, I am still very much involved with my own self-image. I am trying to take hold of myself, to define myself and give myself a grade – wicked or righteous? I am attempting to keep the hold on to the directive, “Know thyself,” and even if the outcome is a draw, I am still steeped in self-knowledge and not with “non-knowledge.”

Now, after the third lechaim, we need to realize that the main thing is not to deal at all with the question of “who am I?” Now we begin to interpret that not knowing the difference between Haman is cursed and Mordechai is blessed means not caring whether the Haman in me is cursed or whether the Mordechai in me is blessed, because I am not trying to grade myself or define my self-image. Because, I realize that all the positive and negative traits I think I possess, none of them are really me. Maybe they are all in my imagination. Who knows what lies at the root of my soul?

So, with the third lechaim, we come to the realization that we need not have anything to do with all that soul-searching; it’s all just one big humungous waste of time. The most important aspect of serving God is to live in the present moment: at this very moment I am simply raw material that has not yet been formed and everything is still possible. I could now either be “blessed Mordechai” or, God forbid, “cursed Haman” and the same is true of the very next moment and any moment. Every second I can choose with perfect freedom of choice whether to play the part of Mordechai or of Haman. There is no point in trying to identify myself as wicked or as a tzadik, or imagine myself as being anywhere between the two, because even attempting to do so is missing my true goal. I must live the present, above any awareness of what has been, and only with what there should be at this very moment.

In the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe places the figure of the beinoni, the intermediate individual, as an exemplar we should all aspire to. The beinoni is one who is forbidden even for a moment to look at himself and say, “I am like this, I am like that.” Rather, I am always an intermediate who can choose between cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai. Every given moment is the first moment of time and I have to make sure that I choose to use it properly (even if I have fallen, I should not look back too much but look forward and choose good from now on). This is how we should behave throughout the entire year. Nonetheless, it is still difficult to detach ourselves from our natural tendency to grade ourselves, to assess our performance. Only on Purim, after a few lechaim’s to help us forget ourselves, can we really reach this level of not knowing anything of the past at all and only living in the present moment.

The fourth lechaim: behind all the masks

So, let’s make another “lechaim,” and take a deep breath. We began not knowing which joy was greater, Haman’s fall or the Mordechai’s ascent. We continued without knowing who I am and we rose to a level at which it makes no difference at all who I am because it’s all a masquerade…

Now comes the moment to remove all the disguises and reveal who is really hiding behind all the games. Purim is the festival of “the Book of Esther” (????????? ????????), which can be translated literally as, “revealing the hidden.” God too is hidden, as the verse says, “Indeed, You are a concealed God, the God of Israel who redeems.”

Behind the true Haman (the one on the tree) and the real Mordechai (the one riding the horse), behind my little inner Haman and my little inner Mordechai, and even behind my being at this present moment – behind it all is God Almighty. As we know, there is “none besides Him” Therefore, the more layers we peel away from reality as we generally perceive it, from space, from time, and from all the souls in the world, the more we remove the garments and look for the bare essence of reality, the more we eventually reveal God’s essential being.

It is impossible to completely raise the screen that conceals God’s essential being within all, because it would spoil the play. But, at the climax of the Purim festivities, we can reveal the secret hiding behind the screen: that behind all the thousands of masks of this world is the One and Only Unique eternal singularity. Once we have reached this stage we have truly reached a state that can be described as not knowing the difference between is the accursed Haman and the blessed Mordechai, because even behind Haman we perceive God’s singular essence.

This knowledge does not come to justify an anarchistic chaos in the world, God forbid. This state of knowledge that senses the secret behind all of reality is subtle and elusive. It does not contradict the true fact that we all have a clear mission to choose good and to loathe evil. In actual fact, this is the very reason why everything is possible, because just as God masquerades in different disguises and is hidden everywhere, so we too can follow His example and decide to dress up as Mordechai all year round.

Moses and Mordechai

To conclude, Purim is always in close proximity to Parashat Tetzaveh, in which we find a special phenomenon: Moses’ proper name is not mentioned. From when we read about Moses’ birth (in Parashat Shemot), to the very end of the Pentateuch, this is the only parashah in which Moses’ name does not appear. This in spite of the fact that Moshe is addressed right at the beginning of the parashah with the words, “You command” and continues with God’s direct speech with Moses.

In Chassidut we learn that the lack of Moses’ name appearing indicates that in this parashah, he is at an even higher level of self. As we have seen, we can peel away our personal identity more and more, until we touch something of the unknowable, until we cannot know the difference (??? ?????? ?????), which also literally means, “until we come to the unknown” that is underneath all the masks that disguise the real me. This is the point that Moses reached when his proper name disappears and only the “you” with which God addresses him remains.

The sages state that “Mordechai in his generation was like Moses in his generation.” Moses’ soul is reincarnated as Mordechai, and combining these two figures brings us to the Jewish soul’s innermost essence, after removing all of its façades, disguises, and masks, until it reaches the unknown that is beyond all knowledge. When I reach this level, I realize that I am nothing but a happy Jew.

Happy Purim!

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s Purim Eve farbrengen, 5772

The well-known directive from the sages is that on Purim, tadalafil

One must become inebriated until one cannot distinguish [lit. “does not know”] between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.”

This Talmudic saying is the foundation for the joy of Purim, case both in Jewish law and in the Torah’s inner dimension. But how should we understand the stipulation that the drinking should continue until we no longer know the difference between Haman and Mordechai?

Let’s begin by saying that it is not necessary to interpret the difference between knowing and not knowing a well-defined moment in time, site an exact moment while drinking when I no longer know. Instead, moving from knowing to not-knowing can be thought of as a developing process. To begin with, I know. Then, I reach a level at which I don’t know. But, from that new perspective, I can see a new level of not-knowing and aspire to it. In this way, I continually pass between states of knowing (the difference between Haman and Mordechai) and not knowing what the difference is.

So, just as inebriation is a process, being able to tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman has different meanings, depending on what state we are at.

A well-known Chabad speaker once quipped: What do you get when you cross a Lubavitcher with Carl Sagan? Billions and billions and billions of lechaim’s!!! So let’s start our journey and if you happen to be reading this on Purim, we invite you to say a lechaim with us at every stage!

The first lechaim – the tzadik rises, the wicked falls

Lechaim, lechaim! In the most literal sense, the reason one might not be able to tell the difference between Mordechai being blessed and Haman being cursed is that we simply can’t decide which is greater, our joy over Mordechai’s rise to power or our joy at seeing Haman’s downfall. On Purim we do not hide the fact that we are happy at Haman’s downfall. It is enough to hear the clamorous outburst in synagogue when Haman’s name is mentioned during the Megillah reading, to prove the point. But, Purim joy is not merely tasteless schadenfreude, as we rejoice in someone else’s misfortune. We rejoice because the Almighty revealed His Providence over us. “Behold, the Guardian of Israel does not rest nor sleep,” and He intercedes in the story of the Megillah on our behalf, turning the tables around so that Haman’s evil plot of genocide overturns in the end to our benefit. Indeed, the 50-cubit high tree was Haman’s idea in the first place, and where eventually he himself was hung!

At the same time, we rejoice over Mordechai’s rise to power. In Shushan, Mordechai was our Rebbe, our beloved leader, and he rises to become the most important person in the entire kingdom, as the verse in the Megillah states, “For Mordechai the Jew is the second-in-command to Achashverosh.” We are justifiably proud of the fact that “our man,” the good guy, is victorious and we see it as a Divine revelation, sanctifying God’s Name. The tzadik, the righteous individual of the generation represents not only us as a people, but also the Almighty, since the entire story of the Megillah began with Mordechai refusing to pay homage to Haman and thereby sanctifying God.

So, which joy is greater? It is our joy over Haman’s downfall or over Mordechai’s ascent? When clear-headed, one might have a concrete opinion, preferring one or the other, but after a lechaim or two, it may become difficult to decide. This is the first level of not knowing.

Second lechaim: Who am I?

Having looked at Haman and Mordechai in the literal sense, as two actual people from the past, we now arrive at a deeper interpretation. From now on, Haman and Mordechai reflect different aspects of our own inner selves. Now, not knowing the difference between Haman and Mordechai means that I can’t rightly assess my self. Am I like Haman or am I like Mordechai?

Let’s say that in general I am a good Jew who follows the Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law), but what am I really like underneath? Am I like Mordechai the tzadik, naturally aspiring to do good, but my evil inclination tempts me from without and tries to incite me against my better judgment? Or perhaps the opposite is true and inside I am truly like Haman, wicked and full of evil urges, base desires, anger and every other malevolence, but somehow or another I succeed in overcoming the gushing volcano inside me and masquerade as a tzadik?

Here, the sages teach us that “Even if the whole world says you are a tzadik, you should see yourself as wicked.” So, in general, I should perceive myself as the wicked Haman! True, I have many good points, but in essence I identify with my coarse animalistic tendencies (food, drink, etc.). I have a pure and holy neshamah (Divine soul), “an actual part of God Above,” a “pure soul that You have given me,” which can and should defeat my base self. But, although I go out of my way to act like a human being and not like an animal, inside I am truly just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In a similar vein, anyone who considers himself to be a tzadik has a serious problem – here is where pride comes into play, the beginning of all sin.

In short, it is actually my good inclination that can come to terms with my being more like the wicked Haman and it is my evil inclination that wants me to think that I am like the righteous Mordechai!

So, what happens on Purim? On the one hand, we can spot some of those more introverted, gentle individuals who after a few tots of drink begin a penetrating self-criticizing soul-search (something we tend to repress). Now, on Purim I can admit to the fact that somewhere deep inside me, within the inner confines of my soul, I am such a can of worms that it is frightening to think about it. Then I begin to cry, with the realization that it is I who am the wicked Haman, and it is only by a miracle that they haven’t yet hung me on a tree.

On the other hand, being inebriated on Purim as I should, I can also say, “I am the righteous Mordechai!” Throughout the year we come in contact with the baser, lowest layers of the soul, but on Purim we reach a deeper identity, rising to an inner, essential point where we are all righteous. This is the profound Jewish identity that arises on Purim in particular and Mordechai himself is the one who arouses it.

There are great tzadikim (righteous individuals) who can claim their own praise without it ever going to their head. The classic example of this is Moses who himself wrote the words of the Torah scroll, “And the man Moses was the most humble of all men.” Yet, Moses retained his great humility even while and after writing this verse. We too can reach this level on Purim: beyond my personal façade, underneath all the disguises and the masquerades, I am Jewish and as such I can identify with Mordechai and say, “blessed is Mordechai the Jew.”

So, at this stage, we truly do not know where we are on the scale that divides between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.” So, who am I then?

The third lechaim: living in the present

Hold tight! The truth is that at the previous level, I still don’t know what not knowing is because with all my inner debating about who I am and what I am, Haman or Mordechai, I am still very much involved with my own self-image. I am trying to take hold of myself, to define myself and give myself a grade – wicked or righteous? I am attempting to keep the hold on to the directive, “Know thyself,” and even if the outcome is a draw, I am still steeped in self-knowledge and not with “non-knowledge.”

Now, after the third lechaim, we need to realize that the main thing is not to deal at all with the question of “who am I?” Now we begin to interpret that not knowing the difference between Haman is cursed and Mordechai is blessed means not caring whether the Haman in me is cursed or whether the Mordechai in me is blessed, because I am not trying to grade myself or define my self-image. Because, I realize that all the positive and negative traits I think I possess, none of them are really me. Maybe they are all in my imagination. Who knows what lies at the root of my soul?

So, with the third lechaim, we come to the realization that we need not have anything to do with all that soul-searching; it’s all just one big humungous waste of time. The most important aspect of serving God is to live in the present moment: at this very moment I am simply raw material that has not yet been formed and everything is still possible. I could now either be “blessed Mordechai” or, God forbid, “cursed Haman” and the same is true of the very next moment and any moment. Every second I can choose with perfect freedom of choice whether to play the part of Mordechai or of Haman. There is no point in trying to identify myself as wicked or as a tzadik, or imagine myself as being anywhere between the two, because even attempting to do so is missing my true goal. I must live the present, above any awareness of what has been, and only with what there should be at this very moment.

In the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe places the figure of the beinoni, the intermediate individual, as an exemplar we should all aspire to. The beinoni is one who is forbidden even for a moment to look at himself and say, “I am like this, I am like that.” Rather, I am always an intermediate who can choose between cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai. Every given moment is the first moment of time and I have to make sure that I choose to use it properly (even if I have fallen, I should not look back too much but look forward and choose good from now on). This is how we should behave throughout the entire year. Nonetheless, it is still difficult to detach ourselves from our natural tendency to grade ourselves, to assess our performance. Only on Purim, after a few lechaim’s to help us forget ourselves, can we really reach this level of not knowing anything of the past at all and only living in the present moment.

The fourth lechaim: behind all the masks

So, let’s make another “lechaim,” and take a deep breath. We began not knowing which joy was greater, Haman’s fall or the Mordechai’s ascent. We continued without knowing who I am and we rose to a level at which it makes no difference at all who I am because it’s all a masquerade…

Now comes the moment to remove all the disguises and reveal who is really hiding behind all the games. Purim is the festival of “the Book of Esther” (????????? ????????), which can be translated literally as, “revealing the hidden.” God too is hidden, as the verse says, “Indeed, You are a concealed God, the God of Israel who redeems.”

Behind the true Haman (the one on the tree) and the real Mordechai (the one riding the horse), behind my little inner Haman and my little inner Mordechai, and even behind my being at this present moment – behind it all is God Almighty. As we know, there is “none besides Him” Therefore, the more layers we peel away from reality as we generally perceive it, from space, from time, and from all the souls in the world, the more we remove the garments and look for the bare essence of reality, the more we eventually reveal God’s essential being.

It is impossible to completely raise the screen that conceals God’s essential being within all, because it would spoil the play. But, at the climax of the Purim festivities, we can reveal the secret hiding behind the screen: that behind all the thousands of masks of this world is the One and Only Unique eternal singularity. Once we have reached this stage we have truly reached a state that can be described as not knowing the difference between is the accursed Haman and the blessed Mordechai, because even behind Haman we perceive God’s singular essence.

This knowledge does not come to justify an anarchistic chaos in the world, God forbid. This state of knowledge that senses the secret behind all of reality is subtle and elusive. It does not contradict the true fact that we all have a clear mission to choose good and to loathe evil. In actual fact, this is the very reason why everything is possible, because just as God masquerades in different disguises and is hidden everywhere, so we too can follow His example and decide to dress up as Mordechai all year round.

Moses and Mordechai

To conclude, Purim is always in close proximity to Parashat Tetzaveh, in which we find a special phenomenon: Moses’ proper name is not mentioned. From when we read about Moses’ birth (in Parashat Shemot), to the very end of the Pentateuch, this is the only parashah in which Moses’ name does not appear. This in spite of the fact that Moshe is addressed right at the beginning of the parashah with the words, “You command” and continues with God’s direct speech with Moses.

In Chassidut we learn that the lack of Moses’ name appearing indicates that in this parashah, he is at an even higher level of self. As we have seen, we can peel away our personal identity more and more, until we touch something of the unknowable, until we cannot know the difference (??? ?????? ?????), which also literally means, “until we come to the unknown” that is underneath all the masks that disguise the real me. This is the point that Moses reached when his proper name disappears and only the “you” with which God addresses him remains.

The sages state that “Mordechai in his generation was like Moses in his generation.” Moses’ soul is reincarnated as Mordechai, and combining these two figures brings us to the Jewish soul’s innermost essence, after removing all of its façades, disguises, and masks, until it reaches the unknown that is beyond all knowledge. When I reach this level, I realize that I am nothing but a happy Jew.

Happy Purim!

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s Purim Eve farbrengen, 5772

The well-known directive from the sages is that on Purim, unhealthy

One must become inebriated until one cannot distinguish [lit. “does not know”] between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.”

This Talmudic saying is the foundation for the joy of Purim, sildenafil both in Jewish law and in the Torah’s inner dimension. But how should we understand the stipulation that the drinking should continue until we no longer know the difference between Haman and Mordechai?

Let’s begin by saying that it is not necessary to interpret the difference between knowing and not knowing a well-defined moment in time, pharmacy an exact moment while drinking when I no longer know. Instead, moving from knowing to not-knowing can be thought of as a developing process. To begin with, I know. Then, I reach a level at which I don’t know. But, from that new perspective, I can see a new level of not-knowing and aspire to it. In this way, I continually pass between states of knowing (the difference between Haman and Mordechai) and not knowing what the difference is.

So, just as inebriation is a process, being able to tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman has different meanings, depending on what state we are at.

A well-known Chabad speaker once quipped: What do you get when you cross a Lubavitcher with Carl Sagan? Billions and billions and billions of lechaim’s!!! So let’s start our journey and if you happen to be reading this on Purim, we invite you to say a lechaim with us at every stage!

The first lechaim – the tzadik rises, the wicked falls

Lechaim, lechaim! In the most literal sense, the reason one might not be able to tell the difference between Mordechai being blessed and Haman being cursed is that we simply can’t decide which is greater, our joy over Mordechai’s rise to power or our joy at seeing Haman’s downfall. On Purim we do not hide the fact that we are happy at Haman’s downfall. It is enough to hear the clamorous outburst in synagogue when Haman’s name is mentioned during the Megillah reading, to prove the point. But, Purim joy is not merely tasteless schadenfreude, as we rejoice in someone else’s misfortune. We rejoice because the Almighty revealed His Providence over us. “Behold, the Guardian of Israel does not rest nor sleep,” and He intercedes in the story of the Megillah on our behalf, turning the tables around so that Haman’s evil plot of genocide overturns in the end to our benefit. Indeed, the 50-cubit high tree was Haman’s idea in the first place, and where eventually he himself was hung!

At the same time, we rejoice over Mordechai’s rise to power. In Shushan, Mordechai was our Rebbe, our beloved leader, and he rises to become the most important person in the entire kingdom, as the verse in the Megillah states, “For Mordechai the Jew is the second-in-command to Achashverosh.” We are justifiably proud of the fact that “our man,” the good guy, is victorious and we see it as a Divine revelation, sanctifying God’s Name. The tzadik, the righteous individual of the generation represents not only us as a people, but also the Almighty, since the entire story of the Megillah began with Mordechai refusing to pay homage to Haman and thereby sanctifying God.

So, which joy is greater? It is our joy over Haman’s downfall or over Mordechai’s ascent? When clear-headed, one might have a concrete opinion, preferring one or the other, but after a lechaim or two, it may become difficult to decide. This is the first level of not knowing.

Second lechaim: Who am I?

Having looked at Haman and Mordechai in the literal sense, as two actual people from the past, we now arrive at a deeper interpretation. From now on, Haman and Mordechai reflect different aspects of our own inner selves. Now, not knowing the difference between Haman and Mordechai means that I can’t rightly assess my self. Am I like Haman or am I like Mordechai?

Let’s say that in general I am a good Jew who follows the Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law), but what am I really like underneath? Am I like Mordechai the tzadik, naturally aspiring to do good, but my evil inclination tempts me from without and tries to incite me against my better judgment? Or perhaps the opposite is true and inside I am truly like Haman, wicked and full of evil urges, base desires, anger and every other malevolence, but somehow or another I succeed in overcoming the gushing volcano inside me and masquerade as a tzadik?

Here, the sages teach us that “Even if the whole world says you are a tzadik, you should see yourself as wicked.” So, in general, I should perceive myself as the wicked Haman! True, I have many good points, but in essence I identify with my coarse animalistic tendencies (food, drink, etc.). I have a pure and holy neshamah (Divine soul), “an actual part of God Above,” a “pure soul that You have given me,” which can and should defeat my base self. But, although I go out of my way to act like a human being and not like an animal, inside I am truly just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In a similar vein, anyone who considers himself to be a tzadik has a serious problem – here is where pride comes into play, the beginning of all sin.

In short, it is actually my good inclination that can come to terms with my being more like the wicked Haman and it is my evil inclination that wants me to think that I am like the righteous Mordechai!

So, what happens on Purim? On the one hand, we can spot some of those more introverted, gentle individuals who after a few tots of drink begin a penetrating self-criticizing soul-search (something we tend to repress). Now, on Purim I can admit to the fact that somewhere deep inside me, within the inner confines of my soul, I am such a can of worms that it is frightening to think about it. Then I begin to cry, with the realization that it is I who am the wicked Haman, and it is only by a miracle that they haven’t yet hung me on a tree.

On the other hand, being inebriated on Purim as I should, I can also say, “I am the righteous Mordechai!” Throughout the year we come in contact with the baser, lowest layers of the soul, but on Purim we reach a deeper identity, rising to an inner, essential point where we are all righteous. This is the profound Jewish identity that arises on Purim in particular and Mordechai himself is the one who arouses it.

There are great tzadikim (righteous individuals) who can claim their own praise without it ever going to their head. The classic example of this is Moses who himself wrote the words of the Torah scroll, “And the man Moses was the most humble of all men.” Yet, Moses retained his great humility even while and after writing this verse. We too can reach this level on Purim: beyond my personal façade, underneath all the disguises and the masquerades, I am Jewish and as such I can identify with Mordechai and say, “blessed is Mordechai the Jew.”

So, at this stage, we truly do not know where we are on the scale that divides between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.” So, who am I then?

The third lechaim: living in the present

Hold tight! The truth is that at the previous level, I still don’t know what not knowing is because with all my inner debating about who I am and what I am, Haman or Mordechai, I am still very much involved with my own self-image. I am trying to take hold of myself, to define myself and give myself a grade – wicked or righteous? I am attempting to keep the hold on to the directive, “Know thyself,” and even if the outcome is a draw, I am still steeped in self-knowledge and not with “non-knowledge.”

Now, after the third lechaim, we need to realize that the main thing is not to deal at all with the question of “who am I?” Now we begin to interpret that not knowing the difference between Haman is cursed and Mordechai is blessed means not caring whether the Haman in me is cursed or whether the Mordechai in me is blessed, because I am not trying to grade myself or define my self-image. Because, I realize that all the positive and negative traits I think I possess, none of them are really me. Maybe they are all in my imagination. Who knows what lies at the root of my soul?

So, with the third lechaim, we come to the realization that we need not have anything to do with all that soul-searching; it’s all just one big humungous waste of time. The most important aspect of serving God is to live in the present moment: at this very moment I am simply raw material that has not yet been formed and everything is still possible. I could now either be “blessed Mordechai” or, God forbid, “cursed Haman” and the same is true of the very next moment and any moment. Every second I can choose with perfect freedom of choice whether to play the part of Mordechai or of Haman. There is no point in trying to identify myself as wicked or as a tzadik, or imagine myself as being anywhere between the two, because even attempting to do so is missing my true goal. I must live the present, above any awareness of what has been, and only with what there should be at this very moment.

In the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe places the figure of the beinoni, the intermediate individual, as an exemplar we should all aspire to. The beinoni is one who is forbidden even for a moment to look at himself and say, “I am like this, I am like that.” Rather, I am always an intermediate who can choose between cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai. Every given moment is the first moment of time and I have to make sure that I choose to use it properly (even if I have fallen, I should not look back too much but look forward and choose good from now on). This is how we should behave throughout the entire year. Nonetheless, it is still difficult to detach ourselves from our natural tendency to grade ourselves, to assess our performance. Only on Purim, after a few lechaim’s to help us forget ourselves, can we really reach this level of not knowing anything of the past at all and only living in the present moment.

The fourth lechaim: behind all the masks

So, let’s make another “lechaim,” and take a deep breath. We began not knowing which joy was greater, Haman’s fall or the Mordechai’s ascent. We continued without knowing who I am and we rose to a level at which it makes no difference at all who I am because it’s all a masquerade…

Now comes the moment to remove all the disguises and reveal who is really hiding behind all the games. Purim is the festival of “the Book of Esther” (????????? ????????), which can be translated literally as, “revealing the hidden.” God too is hidden, as the verse says, “Indeed, You are a concealed God, the God of Israel who redeems.”

Behind the true Haman (the one on the tree) and the real Mordechai (the one riding the horse), behind my little inner Haman and my little inner Mordechai, and even behind my being at this present moment – behind it all is God Almighty. As we know, there is “none besides Him” Therefore, the more layers we peel away from reality as we generally perceive it, from space, from time, and from all the souls in the world, the more we remove the garments and look for the bare essence of reality, the more we eventually reveal God’s essential being.

It is impossible to completely raise the screen that conceals God’s essential being within all, because it would spoil the play. But, at the climax of the Purim festivities, we can reveal the secret hiding behind the screen: that behind all the thousands of masks of this world is the One and Only Unique eternal singularity. Once we have reached this stage we have truly reached a state that can be described as not knowing the difference between is the accursed Haman and the blessed Mordechai, because even behind Haman we perceive God’s singular essence.

This knowledge does not come to justify an anarchistic chaos in the world, God forbid. This state of knowledge that senses the secret behind all of reality is subtle and elusive. It does not contradict the true fact that we all have a clear mission to choose good and to loathe evil. In actual fact, this is the very reason why everything is possible, because just as God masquerades in different disguises and is hidden everywhere, so we too can follow His example and decide to dress up as Mordechai all year round.

Moses and Mordechai

To conclude, Purim is always in close proximity to Parashat Tetzaveh, in which we find a special phenomenon: Moses’ proper name is not mentioned. From when we read about Moses’ birth (in Parashat Shemot), to the very end of the Pentateuch, this is the only parashah in which Moses’ name does not appear. This in spite of the fact that Moshe is addressed right at the beginning of the parashah with the words, “You command” and continues with God’s direct speech with Moses.

In Chassidut we learn that the lack of Moses’ name appearing indicates that in this parashah, he is at an even higher level of self. As we have seen, we can peel away our personal identity more and more, until we touch something of the unknowable, until we cannot know the difference (??? ?????? ?????), which also literally means, “until we come to the unknown” that is underneath all the masks that disguise the real me. This is the point that Moses reached when his proper name disappears and only the “you” with which God addresses him remains.

The sages state that “Mordechai in his generation was like Moses in his generation.” Moses’ soul is reincarnated as Mordechai, and combining these two figures brings us to the Jewish soul’s innermost essence, after removing all of its façades, disguises, and masks, until it reaches the unknown that is beyond all knowledge. When I reach this level, I realize that I am nothing but a happy Jew.

Happy Purim!

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s Purim Eve farbrengen, 5772

The sin of the Golden Calf divides Parashat Ki Tisa into two parts – before the sin and after it.

At first glance, remedy it seems that the sin ruined all of God’s plans. Everything was going so well: the Exodus from Egypt, purchase the Splitting of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire and the cloud and water from the rock until the miracles reached a climax with the voices and the lightning at Mt. Sinai and Moses’ ascent to God. We just had to wait. A little more patience and our relationship with God would be consummated in the best possible way. But, then the Children of Israel spoiled everything and in the sages’ sharp imagery became like, “A wretched bride who betrayed her groom under the wedding canopy [instead of waiting for him].” It seems that the sin of the Golden Calf shattered the great revelation at Mt.Sinai to smithereens until nothing remained…

In fact, the sin of the Golden Calf appears to be another frustrating blunder in a series of historical blunders that began with Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden. Why is it that everything is ruined at the most critical moment?

Yet, from another perspective we can ask, is this really merely a distressing diversion from God’s original program? The sages reveal that in fact this is not so. God has a plan that is beyond what is apparent to us and even falling into sin has a purpose. The Talmud states that “The Jewish people were not worthy of that act.” For their part, they were fully capable of overcoming the evil inclination, but the Almighty decreed a heavenly decree that the inclination overcome them, “to give a voice to those wishing to repent.” Obviously, this did not negate our freedom of choice (which is why the sinners deserved punishment for their deeds), but here we catch a glimpse into God’s great program that rolled the plot out in such a way that we sinned (through our own freedom of choice).

The sages’ explanation of the Golden Calf and its implications “to give a voice to those wishing to repent,” so instructs us to not think of ourselves as forever lost, once we have fallen into sin. Before sinning, one might think that there are only two options: either you are righteous or wicked, now we can understand that there is a third option: you may have sinned, but now you can repent.

Having understood that, let us now turn to the Torah’s inner dimension to understand the events of Parashat Ki tisa from a new perspective. Why is the level attained through repentance so great that sometimes sin is imperative (from God’s perspective)?

Breaking unity

Let’s begin from the act that expresses the sin and its effects more than any other: when Moses saw the sin, “He threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them beneath the mountain.” The key is that the tablets were shattered. Indeed, the holy Arizal teaches us that at the deepest spiritual dimension, all of creation is one great process of shattering and rectification. Initially, when great Divine light attempts to descend and manifest in vessels, there is a great explosion – the vessels shatter, the lights disappear, sparks fall, entire worlds are destroyed and chaos ensues until the World of Rectification is created. The description of the shattering of vessels is covered in great depth in Kabbalah, down to the minutest details – but we will suffice with the general explanation mentioned in Chassidut, that shattering is necessary for “leaping from unity to diversity.”

What this means is that God is one – as we proclaim twice a day – therefore His initial revelation is completely unified. Like pure white light in which no individual color can be perceived, unity is one great light that cannot be contained within a multitude of vessels. But, our world is the complete opposite of unity: it has such great diversity and  details that here we are likely to forget that everything has one source. At some point in the middle, between the one Divine light and between our own world, an inconceivable transition occurs. It is a quantum leap between unity and diversity; a transition following which nothing will ever be the same again. In order to generate this quantum leap, shattering must occur (similar in a sense to atomic fission). This shattering is indeed a great catastrophe, a trauma that remains at the foundation of the world, and the initial diversity that results is one that denies unity altogether. But, the aim is to reach a paradoxical state of diversity in which true unity can be experienced.

Shattering can be illustrated with an allegory of a teacher-student relationship. Let’s imagine a great rabbi, an illustrious sage who wishes to impart his wisdom to his young student whose mental capacity is worlds apart from the teacher’s mind. Within the teacher, the wisdom is deep and wonderful and he experiences it as one great all-encompassing light. But, there is no way that the student will be able to integrate the rabbi’s wisdom and grasp it without the rabbi dividing (or shattering) his wisdom into tiny pieces. In this way the student can begin to study and gradually integrate the great light of his teacher’s wisdom to the extent of his capability. If the process is successful, the student merits reaching an understanding of his teacher’s perspective and senses the great all-inclusive intelligence that hovers above all the minute details.

From dissolution to repentance

Now let’s get back to Parashat Ki tisa. The Revelation at Sinai was the zenith of unity: the Jewish people arrived at Mt.Sinai “as one man with one heart.” When replying to the Almighty, the entire people replied in unison, “We will do and we will listen.” They stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” In fact, the entire world participated in this experience and the whole world stood in total silence when God spoke. This unity is definitely fitting for the righteous: “and Your nation are all righteous.” Like the ministering angels who sing in a gigantic choir, “together they are all holiness.”

But, after the great light of the Ten Commandments descended upon the people, their unity began to crack, as emphasized in the Torah’s description of the act of the Golden Calf, “they took apart their golden nose-rings… the entire nation came apart with their golden nose-rings.” Removing their nose-rings for the purpose of creating the Golden Calf was not only an act of taking off their jewelry but one of collapse and decadence. The apparent unity that they experienced while dancing around the Golden Calf was a display of false unity, the type that covers up a general atmosphere of debauchery, where each individual seeks to fulfill his own desires and lusts. With the festivities surrounding the Golden Calf, the nation had shattered into tiny fragments. When Moses descended from the mountain he heard dissonant sounds coming from the camp and when he saw the extent of the collapse, he broke the tablets, reflecting the catastrophic shattering of the nation’s unity.

To extricate ourselves from the effects of the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses revealed the ability to repent even after such a dire communal sin. But the world after the sin and repentance was no longer the same. At first, we were in a world of unity, the world of the righteous, and now we experienced the transition into a fragmented reality, the world of people seeking to repent, each carrying his or her own particular burden, each with his or her own shade of color.

But, concealed within this diversity is a spark of unity! Our sages teach us that in the Ark of the Covenant, together with the two new tablets of stone that Moses later brought down from Sinai, lay the shards of the first tablets. The shattering had been given new meaning. It was not just an unplanned fall but “a descent for the sake of ascent,” which resulted in an innovation that had never been before: the ability to contain unity within diversity.

Indeed, after the Golden Calf, Moses discovered the right moment to put in an exceptional request to God: “Inform me of Your ways.” God complied and revealed His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. Now we can understand why the revelation of God’s thirteen attributes came at that moment in particular. Because, preceding the sin we only knew of God’s unity and not His detailed attributes, but now, after the transition from unity to diversity we can perceive God’s management of the world in a new light. Instead of saying only, “God is one,” we can now describe God through His thirteen attributes of Mercy through which His grand singular unity is manifest, thus revealing it in all of the details in this world. This idea is most beautifully illustrated by the gematria of the word “one” (?????), which is 13!

As with the teacher and his student, a new facet of wisdom appears after the shattering that was not at all apparent before. The teacher himself is surprised by the variety of details that he succeeds in gleaning from the initial, general light, and from the fact that the new details actually reveal a more elevated aspect of the wisdom’s unity. This too is the benefit gained from the breaking of the first tablets. After the sin of the Golden Calf, God’s ways and His attributes are revealed to us and the Torah that we receive anew divides into a wonderful richness of detail as the sages state, “God said to him [Moses], do not be upset over the first tablets, for they were no more than Ten Commandments but with the second tablets I give you the laws, the Midrash and the homilies.” As the verse in Job states, “He told you all the mysteries of wisdom, for there is [now] twice as much in it.” The new world revealed after the sin is a world that contains twice the amount of wisdom, now that unity has been revealed within diversity.

The well-known directive from the sages is that on Purim, tadalafil

One must become inebriated until one cannot distinguish [lit. “does not know”] between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.”

This Talmudic saying is the foundation for the joy of Purim, case both in Jewish law and in the Torah’s inner dimension. But how should we understand the stipulation that the drinking should continue until we no longer know the difference between Haman and Mordechai?

Let’s begin by saying that it is not necessary to interpret the difference between knowing and not knowing a well-defined moment in time, site an exact moment while drinking when I no longer know. Instead, moving from knowing to not-knowing can be thought of as a developing process. To begin with, I know. Then, I reach a level at which I don’t know. But, from that new perspective, I can see a new level of not-knowing and aspire to it. In this way, I continually pass between states of knowing (the difference between Haman and Mordechai) and not knowing what the difference is.

So, just as inebriation is a process, being able to tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman has different meanings, depending on what state we are at.

A well-known Chabad speaker once quipped: What do you get when you cross a Lubavitcher with Carl Sagan? Billions and billions and billions of lechaim’s!!! So let’s start our journey and if you happen to be reading this on Purim, we invite you to say a lechaim with us at every stage!

The first lechaim – the tzadik rises, the wicked falls

Lechaim, lechaim! In the most literal sense, the reason one might not be able to tell the difference between Mordechai being blessed and Haman being cursed is that we simply can’t decide which is greater, our joy over Mordechai’s rise to power or our joy at seeing Haman’s downfall. On Purim we do not hide the fact that we are happy at Haman’s downfall. It is enough to hear the clamorous outburst in synagogue when Haman’s name is mentioned during the Megillah reading, to prove the point. But, Purim joy is not merely tasteless schadenfreude, as we rejoice in someone else’s misfortune. We rejoice because the Almighty revealed His Providence over us. “Behold, the Guardian of Israel does not rest nor sleep,” and He intercedes in the story of the Megillah on our behalf, turning the tables around so that Haman’s evil plot of genocide overturns in the end to our benefit. Indeed, the 50-cubit high tree was Haman’s idea in the first place, and where eventually he himself was hung!

At the same time, we rejoice over Mordechai’s rise to power. In Shushan, Mordechai was our Rebbe, our beloved leader, and he rises to become the most important person in the entire kingdom, as the verse in the Megillah states, “For Mordechai the Jew is the second-in-command to Achashverosh.” We are justifiably proud of the fact that “our man,” the good guy, is victorious and we see it as a Divine revelation, sanctifying God’s Name. The tzadik, the righteous individual of the generation represents not only us as a people, but also the Almighty, since the entire story of the Megillah began with Mordechai refusing to pay homage to Haman and thereby sanctifying God.

So, which joy is greater? It is our joy over Haman’s downfall or over Mordechai’s ascent? When clear-headed, one might have a concrete opinion, preferring one or the other, but after a lechaim or two, it may become difficult to decide. This is the first level of not knowing.

Second lechaim: Who am I?

Having looked at Haman and Mordechai in the literal sense, as two actual people from the past, we now arrive at a deeper interpretation. From now on, Haman and Mordechai reflect different aspects of our own inner selves. Now, not knowing the difference between Haman and Mordechai means that I can’t rightly assess my self. Am I like Haman or am I like Mordechai?

Let’s say that in general I am a good Jew who follows the Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law), but what am I really like underneath? Am I like Mordechai the tzadik, naturally aspiring to do good, but my evil inclination tempts me from without and tries to incite me against my better judgment? Or perhaps the opposite is true and inside I am truly like Haman, wicked and full of evil urges, base desires, anger and every other malevolence, but somehow or another I succeed in overcoming the gushing volcano inside me and masquerade as a tzadik?

Here, the sages teach us that “Even if the whole world says you are a tzadik, you should see yourself as wicked.” So, in general, I should perceive myself as the wicked Haman! True, I have many good points, but in essence I identify with my coarse animalistic tendencies (food, drink, etc.). I have a pure and holy neshamah (Divine soul), “an actual part of God Above,” a “pure soul that You have given me,” which can and should defeat my base self. But, although I go out of my way to act like a human being and not like an animal, inside I am truly just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In a similar vein, anyone who considers himself to be a tzadik has a serious problem – here is where pride comes into play, the beginning of all sin.

In short, it is actually my good inclination that can come to terms with my being more like the wicked Haman and it is my evil inclination that wants me to think that I am like the righteous Mordechai!

So, what happens on Purim? On the one hand, we can spot some of those more introverted, gentle individuals who after a few tots of drink begin a penetrating self-criticizing soul-search (something we tend to repress). Now, on Purim I can admit to the fact that somewhere deep inside me, within the inner confines of my soul, I am such a can of worms that it is frightening to think about it. Then I begin to cry, with the realization that it is I who am the wicked Haman, and it is only by a miracle that they haven’t yet hung me on a tree.

On the other hand, being inebriated on Purim as I should, I can also say, “I am the righteous Mordechai!” Throughout the year we come in contact with the baser, lowest layers of the soul, but on Purim we reach a deeper identity, rising to an inner, essential point where we are all righteous. This is the profound Jewish identity that arises on Purim in particular and Mordechai himself is the one who arouses it.

There are great tzadikim (righteous individuals) who can claim their own praise without it ever going to their head. The classic example of this is Moses who himself wrote the words of the Torah scroll, “And the man Moses was the most humble of all men.” Yet, Moses retained his great humility even while and after writing this verse. We too can reach this level on Purim: beyond my personal façade, underneath all the disguises and the masquerades, I am Jewish and as such I can identify with Mordechai and say, “blessed is Mordechai the Jew.”

So, at this stage, we truly do not know where we are on the scale that divides between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.” So, who am I then?

The third lechaim: living in the present

Hold tight! The truth is that at the previous level, I still don’t know what not knowing is because with all my inner debating about who I am and what I am, Haman or Mordechai, I am still very much involved with my own self-image. I am trying to take hold of myself, to define myself and give myself a grade – wicked or righteous? I am attempting to keep the hold on to the directive, “Know thyself,” and even if the outcome is a draw, I am still steeped in self-knowledge and not with “non-knowledge.”

Now, after the third lechaim, we need to realize that the main thing is not to deal at all with the question of “who am I?” Now we begin to interpret that not knowing the difference between Haman is cursed and Mordechai is blessed means not caring whether the Haman in me is cursed or whether the Mordechai in me is blessed, because I am not trying to grade myself or define my self-image. Because, I realize that all the positive and negative traits I think I possess, none of them are really me. Maybe they are all in my imagination. Who knows what lies at the root of my soul?

So, with the third lechaim, we come to the realization that we need not have anything to do with all that soul-searching; it’s all just one big humungous waste of time. The most important aspect of serving God is to live in the present moment: at this very moment I am simply raw material that has not yet been formed and everything is still possible. I could now either be “blessed Mordechai” or, God forbid, “cursed Haman” and the same is true of the very next moment and any moment. Every second I can choose with perfect freedom of choice whether to play the part of Mordechai or of Haman. There is no point in trying to identify myself as wicked or as a tzadik, or imagine myself as being anywhere between the two, because even attempting to do so is missing my true goal. I must live the present, above any awareness of what has been, and only with what there should be at this very moment.

In the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe places the figure of the beinoni, the intermediate individual, as an exemplar we should all aspire to. The beinoni is one who is forbidden even for a moment to look at himself and say, “I am like this, I am like that.” Rather, I am always an intermediate who can choose between cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai. Every given moment is the first moment of time and I have to make sure that I choose to use it properly (even if I have fallen, I should not look back too much but look forward and choose good from now on). This is how we should behave throughout the entire year. Nonetheless, it is still difficult to detach ourselves from our natural tendency to grade ourselves, to assess our performance. Only on Purim, after a few lechaim’s to help us forget ourselves, can we really reach this level of not knowing anything of the past at all and only living in the present moment.

The fourth lechaim: behind all the masks

So, let’s make another “lechaim,” and take a deep breath. We began not knowing which joy was greater, Haman’s fall or the Mordechai’s ascent. We continued without knowing who I am and we rose to a level at which it makes no difference at all who I am because it’s all a masquerade…

Now comes the moment to remove all the disguises and reveal who is really hiding behind all the games. Purim is the festival of “the Book of Esther” (????????? ????????), which can be translated literally as, “revealing the hidden.” God too is hidden, as the verse says, “Indeed, You are a concealed God, the God of Israel who redeems.”

Behind the true Haman (the one on the tree) and the real Mordechai (the one riding the horse), behind my little inner Haman and my little inner Mordechai, and even behind my being at this present moment – behind it all is God Almighty. As we know, there is “none besides Him” Therefore, the more layers we peel away from reality as we generally perceive it, from space, from time, and from all the souls in the world, the more we remove the garments and look for the bare essence of reality, the more we eventually reveal God’s essential being.

It is impossible to completely raise the screen that conceals God’s essential being within all, because it would spoil the play. But, at the climax of the Purim festivities, we can reveal the secret hiding behind the screen: that behind all the thousands of masks of this world is the One and Only Unique eternal singularity. Once we have reached this stage we have truly reached a state that can be described as not knowing the difference between is the accursed Haman and the blessed Mordechai, because even behind Haman we perceive God’s singular essence.

This knowledge does not come to justify an anarchistic chaos in the world, God forbid. This state of knowledge that senses the secret behind all of reality is subtle and elusive. It does not contradict the true fact that we all have a clear mission to choose good and to loathe evil. In actual fact, this is the very reason why everything is possible, because just as God masquerades in different disguises and is hidden everywhere, so we too can follow His example and decide to dress up as Mordechai all year round.

Moses and Mordechai

To conclude, Purim is always in close proximity to Parashat Tetzaveh, in which we find a special phenomenon: Moses’ proper name is not mentioned. From when we read about Moses’ birth (in Parashat Shemot), to the very end of the Pentateuch, this is the only parashah in which Moses’ name does not appear. This in spite of the fact that Moshe is addressed right at the beginning of the parashah with the words, “You command” and continues with God’s direct speech with Moses.

In Chassidut we learn that the lack of Moses’ name appearing indicates that in this parashah, he is at an even higher level of self. As we have seen, we can peel away our personal identity more and more, until we touch something of the unknowable, until we cannot know the difference (??? ?????? ?????), which also literally means, “until we come to the unknown” that is underneath all the masks that disguise the real me. This is the point that Moses reached when his proper name disappears and only the “you” with which God addresses him remains.

The sages state that “Mordechai in his generation was like Moses in his generation.” Moses’ soul is reincarnated as Mordechai, and combining these two figures brings us to the Jewish soul’s innermost essence, after removing all of its façades, disguises, and masks, until it reaches the unknown that is beyond all knowledge. When I reach this level, I realize that I am nothing but a happy Jew.

Happy Purim!

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s Purim Eve farbrengen, 5772

The well-known directive from the sages is that on Purim, unhealthy

One must become inebriated until one cannot distinguish [lit. “does not know”] between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.”

This Talmudic saying is the foundation for the joy of Purim, sildenafil both in Jewish law and in the Torah’s inner dimension. But how should we understand the stipulation that the drinking should continue until we no longer know the difference between Haman and Mordechai?

Let’s begin by saying that it is not necessary to interpret the difference between knowing and not knowing a well-defined moment in time, pharmacy an exact moment while drinking when I no longer know. Instead, moving from knowing to not-knowing can be thought of as a developing process. To begin with, I know. Then, I reach a level at which I don’t know. But, from that new perspective, I can see a new level of not-knowing and aspire to it. In this way, I continually pass between states of knowing (the difference between Haman and Mordechai) and not knowing what the difference is.

So, just as inebriation is a process, being able to tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman has different meanings, depending on what state we are at.

A well-known Chabad speaker once quipped: What do you get when you cross a Lubavitcher with Carl Sagan? Billions and billions and billions of lechaim’s!!! So let’s start our journey and if you happen to be reading this on Purim, we invite you to say a lechaim with us at every stage!

The first lechaim – the tzadik rises, the wicked falls

Lechaim, lechaim! In the most literal sense, the reason one might not be able to tell the difference between Mordechai being blessed and Haman being cursed is that we simply can’t decide which is greater, our joy over Mordechai’s rise to power or our joy at seeing Haman’s downfall. On Purim we do not hide the fact that we are happy at Haman’s downfall. It is enough to hear the clamorous outburst in synagogue when Haman’s name is mentioned during the Megillah reading, to prove the point. But, Purim joy is not merely tasteless schadenfreude, as we rejoice in someone else’s misfortune. We rejoice because the Almighty revealed His Providence over us. “Behold, the Guardian of Israel does not rest nor sleep,” and He intercedes in the story of the Megillah on our behalf, turning the tables around so that Haman’s evil plot of genocide overturns in the end to our benefit. Indeed, the 50-cubit high tree was Haman’s idea in the first place, and where eventually he himself was hung!

At the same time, we rejoice over Mordechai’s rise to power. In Shushan, Mordechai was our Rebbe, our beloved leader, and he rises to become the most important person in the entire kingdom, as the verse in the Megillah states, “For Mordechai the Jew is the second-in-command to Achashverosh.” We are justifiably proud of the fact that “our man,” the good guy, is victorious and we see it as a Divine revelation, sanctifying God’s Name. The tzadik, the righteous individual of the generation represents not only us as a people, but also the Almighty, since the entire story of the Megillah began with Mordechai refusing to pay homage to Haman and thereby sanctifying God.

So, which joy is greater? It is our joy over Haman’s downfall or over Mordechai’s ascent? When clear-headed, one might have a concrete opinion, preferring one or the other, but after a lechaim or two, it may become difficult to decide. This is the first level of not knowing.

Second lechaim: Who am I?

Having looked at Haman and Mordechai in the literal sense, as two actual people from the past, we now arrive at a deeper interpretation. From now on, Haman and Mordechai reflect different aspects of our own inner selves. Now, not knowing the difference between Haman and Mordechai means that I can’t rightly assess my self. Am I like Haman or am I like Mordechai?

Let’s say that in general I am a good Jew who follows the Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law), but what am I really like underneath? Am I like Mordechai the tzadik, naturally aspiring to do good, but my evil inclination tempts me from without and tries to incite me against my better judgment? Or perhaps the opposite is true and inside I am truly like Haman, wicked and full of evil urges, base desires, anger and every other malevolence, but somehow or another I succeed in overcoming the gushing volcano inside me and masquerade as a tzadik?

Here, the sages teach us that “Even if the whole world says you are a tzadik, you should see yourself as wicked.” So, in general, I should perceive myself as the wicked Haman! True, I have many good points, but in essence I identify with my coarse animalistic tendencies (food, drink, etc.). I have a pure and holy neshamah (Divine soul), “an actual part of God Above,” a “pure soul that You have given me,” which can and should defeat my base self. But, although I go out of my way to act like a human being and not like an animal, inside I am truly just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In a similar vein, anyone who considers himself to be a tzadik has a serious problem – here is where pride comes into play, the beginning of all sin.

In short, it is actually my good inclination that can come to terms with my being more like the wicked Haman and it is my evil inclination that wants me to think that I am like the righteous Mordechai!

So, what happens on Purim? On the one hand, we can spot some of those more introverted, gentle individuals who after a few tots of drink begin a penetrating self-criticizing soul-search (something we tend to repress). Now, on Purim I can admit to the fact that somewhere deep inside me, within the inner confines of my soul, I am such a can of worms that it is frightening to think about it. Then I begin to cry, with the realization that it is I who am the wicked Haman, and it is only by a miracle that they haven’t yet hung me on a tree.

On the other hand, being inebriated on Purim as I should, I can also say, “I am the righteous Mordechai!” Throughout the year we come in contact with the baser, lowest layers of the soul, but on Purim we reach a deeper identity, rising to an inner, essential point where we are all righteous. This is the profound Jewish identity that arises on Purim in particular and Mordechai himself is the one who arouses it.

There are great tzadikim (righteous individuals) who can claim their own praise without it ever going to their head. The classic example of this is Moses who himself wrote the words of the Torah scroll, “And the man Moses was the most humble of all men.” Yet, Moses retained his great humility even while and after writing this verse. We too can reach this level on Purim: beyond my personal façade, underneath all the disguises and the masquerades, I am Jewish and as such I can identify with Mordechai and say, “blessed is Mordechai the Jew.”

So, at this stage, we truly do not know where we are on the scale that divides between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.” So, who am I then?

The third lechaim: living in the present

Hold tight! The truth is that at the previous level, I still don’t know what not knowing is because with all my inner debating about who I am and what I am, Haman or Mordechai, I am still very much involved with my own self-image. I am trying to take hold of myself, to define myself and give myself a grade – wicked or righteous? I am attempting to keep the hold on to the directive, “Know thyself,” and even if the outcome is a draw, I am still steeped in self-knowledge and not with “non-knowledge.”

Now, after the third lechaim, we need to realize that the main thing is not to deal at all with the question of “who am I?” Now we begin to interpret that not knowing the difference between Haman is cursed and Mordechai is blessed means not caring whether the Haman in me is cursed or whether the Mordechai in me is blessed, because I am not trying to grade myself or define my self-image. Because, I realize that all the positive and negative traits I think I possess, none of them are really me. Maybe they are all in my imagination. Who knows what lies at the root of my soul?

So, with the third lechaim, we come to the realization that we need not have anything to do with all that soul-searching; it’s all just one big humungous waste of time. The most important aspect of serving God is to live in the present moment: at this very moment I am simply raw material that has not yet been formed and everything is still possible. I could now either be “blessed Mordechai” or, God forbid, “cursed Haman” and the same is true of the very next moment and any moment. Every second I can choose with perfect freedom of choice whether to play the part of Mordechai or of Haman. There is no point in trying to identify myself as wicked or as a tzadik, or imagine myself as being anywhere between the two, because even attempting to do so is missing my true goal. I must live the present, above any awareness of what has been, and only with what there should be at this very moment.

In the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe places the figure of the beinoni, the intermediate individual, as an exemplar we should all aspire to. The beinoni is one who is forbidden even for a moment to look at himself and say, “I am like this, I am like that.” Rather, I am always an intermediate who can choose between cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai. Every given moment is the first moment of time and I have to make sure that I choose to use it properly (even if I have fallen, I should not look back too much but look forward and choose good from now on). This is how we should behave throughout the entire year. Nonetheless, it is still difficult to detach ourselves from our natural tendency to grade ourselves, to assess our performance. Only on Purim, after a few lechaim’s to help us forget ourselves, can we really reach this level of not knowing anything of the past at all and only living in the present moment.

The fourth lechaim: behind all the masks

So, let’s make another “lechaim,” and take a deep breath. We began not knowing which joy was greater, Haman’s fall or the Mordechai’s ascent. We continued without knowing who I am and we rose to a level at which it makes no difference at all who I am because it’s all a masquerade…

Now comes the moment to remove all the disguises and reveal who is really hiding behind all the games. Purim is the festival of “the Book of Esther” (????????? ????????), which can be translated literally as, “revealing the hidden.” God too is hidden, as the verse says, “Indeed, You are a concealed God, the God of Israel who redeems.”

Behind the true Haman (the one on the tree) and the real Mordechai (the one riding the horse), behind my little inner Haman and my little inner Mordechai, and even behind my being at this present moment – behind it all is God Almighty. As we know, there is “none besides Him” Therefore, the more layers we peel away from reality as we generally perceive it, from space, from time, and from all the souls in the world, the more we remove the garments and look for the bare essence of reality, the more we eventually reveal God’s essential being.

It is impossible to completely raise the screen that conceals God’s essential being within all, because it would spoil the play. But, at the climax of the Purim festivities, we can reveal the secret hiding behind the screen: that behind all the thousands of masks of this world is the One and Only Unique eternal singularity. Once we have reached this stage we have truly reached a state that can be described as not knowing the difference between is the accursed Haman and the blessed Mordechai, because even behind Haman we perceive God’s singular essence.

This knowledge does not come to justify an anarchistic chaos in the world, God forbid. This state of knowledge that senses the secret behind all of reality is subtle and elusive. It does not contradict the true fact that we all have a clear mission to choose good and to loathe evil. In actual fact, this is the very reason why everything is possible, because just as God masquerades in different disguises and is hidden everywhere, so we too can follow His example and decide to dress up as Mordechai all year round.

Moses and Mordechai

To conclude, Purim is always in close proximity to Parashat Tetzaveh, in which we find a special phenomenon: Moses’ proper name is not mentioned. From when we read about Moses’ birth (in Parashat Shemot), to the very end of the Pentateuch, this is the only parashah in which Moses’ name does not appear. This in spite of the fact that Moshe is addressed right at the beginning of the parashah with the words, “You command” and continues with God’s direct speech with Moses.

In Chassidut we learn that the lack of Moses’ name appearing indicates that in this parashah, he is at an even higher level of self. As we have seen, we can peel away our personal identity more and more, until we touch something of the unknowable, until we cannot know the difference (??? ?????? ?????), which also literally means, “until we come to the unknown” that is underneath all the masks that disguise the real me. This is the point that Moses reached when his proper name disappears and only the “you” with which God addresses him remains.

The sages state that “Mordechai in his generation was like Moses in his generation.” Moses’ soul is reincarnated as Mordechai, and combining these two figures brings us to the Jewish soul’s innermost essence, after removing all of its façades, disguises, and masks, until it reaches the unknown that is beyond all knowledge. When I reach this level, I realize that I am nothing but a happy Jew.

Happy Purim!

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s Purim Eve farbrengen, 5772

The sin of the Golden Calf divides Parashat Ki Tisa into two parts – before the sin and after it.

At first glance, remedy it seems that the sin ruined all of God’s plans. Everything was going so well: the Exodus from Egypt, purchase the Splitting of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire and the cloud and water from the rock until the miracles reached a climax with the voices and the lightning at Mt. Sinai and Moses’ ascent to God. We just had to wait. A little more patience and our relationship with God would be consummated in the best possible way. But, then the Children of Israel spoiled everything and in the sages’ sharp imagery became like, “A wretched bride who betrayed her groom under the wedding canopy [instead of waiting for him].” It seems that the sin of the Golden Calf shattered the great revelation at Mt.Sinai to smithereens until nothing remained…

In fact, the sin of the Golden Calf appears to be another frustrating blunder in a series of historical blunders that began with Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden. Why is it that everything is ruined at the most critical moment?

Yet, from another perspective we can ask, is this really merely a distressing diversion from God’s original program? The sages reveal that in fact this is not so. God has a plan that is beyond what is apparent to us and even falling into sin has a purpose. The Talmud states that “The Jewish people were not worthy of that act.” For their part, they were fully capable of overcoming the evil inclination, but the Almighty decreed a heavenly decree that the inclination overcome them, “to give a voice to those wishing to repent.” Obviously, this did not negate our freedom of choice (which is why the sinners deserved punishment for their deeds), but here we catch a glimpse into God’s great program that rolled the plot out in such a way that we sinned (through our own freedom of choice).

The sages’ explanation of the Golden Calf and its implications “to give a voice to those wishing to repent,” so instructs us to not think of ourselves as forever lost, once we have fallen into sin. Before sinning, one might think that there are only two options: either you are righteous or wicked, now we can understand that there is a third option: you may have sinned, but now you can repent.

Having understood that, let us now turn to the Torah’s inner dimension to understand the events of Parashat Ki tisa from a new perspective. Why is the level attained through repentance so great that sometimes sin is imperative (from God’s perspective)?

Breaking unity

Let’s begin from the act that expresses the sin and its effects more than any other: when Moses saw the sin, “He threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them beneath the mountain.” The key is that the tablets were shattered. Indeed, the holy Arizal teaches us that at the deepest spiritual dimension, all of creation is one great process of shattering and rectification. Initially, when great Divine light attempts to descend and manifest in vessels, there is a great explosion – the vessels shatter, the lights disappear, sparks fall, entire worlds are destroyed and chaos ensues until the World of Rectification is created. The description of the shattering of vessels is covered in great depth in Kabbalah, down to the minutest details – but we will suffice with the general explanation mentioned in Chassidut, that shattering is necessary for “leaping from unity to diversity.”

What this means is that God is one – as we proclaim twice a day – therefore His initial revelation is completely unified. Like pure white light in which no individual color can be perceived, unity is one great light that cannot be contained within a multitude of vessels. But, our world is the complete opposite of unity: it has such great diversity and  details that here we are likely to forget that everything has one source. At some point in the middle, between the one Divine light and between our own world, an inconceivable transition occurs. It is a quantum leap between unity and diversity; a transition following which nothing will ever be the same again. In order to generate this quantum leap, shattering must occur (similar in a sense to atomic fission). This shattering is indeed a great catastrophe, a trauma that remains at the foundation of the world, and the initial diversity that results is one that denies unity altogether. But, the aim is to reach a paradoxical state of diversity in which true unity can be experienced.

Shattering can be illustrated with an allegory of a teacher-student relationship. Let’s imagine a great rabbi, an illustrious sage who wishes to impart his wisdom to his young student whose mental capacity is worlds apart from the teacher’s mind. Within the teacher, the wisdom is deep and wonderful and he experiences it as one great all-encompassing light. But, there is no way that the student will be able to integrate the rabbi’s wisdom and grasp it without the rabbi dividing (or shattering) his wisdom into tiny pieces. In this way the student can begin to study and gradually integrate the great light of his teacher’s wisdom to the extent of his capability. If the process is successful, the student merits reaching an understanding of his teacher’s perspective and senses the great all-inclusive intelligence that hovers above all the minute details.

From dissolution to repentance

Now let’s get back to Parashat Ki tisa. The Revelation at Sinai was the zenith of unity: the Jewish people arrived at Mt.Sinai “as one man with one heart.” When replying to the Almighty, the entire people replied in unison, “We will do and we will listen.” They stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” In fact, the entire world participated in this experience and the whole world stood in total silence when God spoke. This unity is definitely fitting for the righteous: “and Your nation are all righteous.” Like the ministering angels who sing in a gigantic choir, “together they are all holiness.”

But, after the great light of the Ten Commandments descended upon the people, their unity began to crack, as emphasized in the Torah’s description of the act of the Golden Calf, “they took apart their golden nose-rings… the entire nation came apart with their golden nose-rings.” Removing their nose-rings for the purpose of creating the Golden Calf was not only an act of taking off their jewelry but one of collapse and decadence. The apparent unity that they experienced while dancing around the Golden Calf was a display of false unity, the type that covers up a general atmosphere of debauchery, where each individual seeks to fulfill his own desires and lusts. With the festivities surrounding the Golden Calf, the nation had shattered into tiny fragments. When Moses descended from the mountain he heard dissonant sounds coming from the camp and when he saw the extent of the collapse, he broke the tablets, reflecting the catastrophic shattering of the nation’s unity.

To extricate ourselves from the effects of the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses revealed the ability to repent even after such a dire communal sin. But the world after the sin and repentance was no longer the same. At first, we were in a world of unity, the world of the righteous, and now we experienced the transition into a fragmented reality, the world of people seeking to repent, each carrying his or her own particular burden, each with his or her own shade of color.

But, concealed within this diversity is a spark of unity! Our sages teach us that in the Ark of the Covenant, together with the two new tablets of stone that Moses later brought down from Sinai, lay the shards of the first tablets. The shattering had been given new meaning. It was not just an unplanned fall but “a descent for the sake of ascent,” which resulted in an innovation that had never been before: the ability to contain unity within diversity.

Indeed, after the Golden Calf, Moses discovered the right moment to put in an exceptional request to God: “Inform me of Your ways.” God complied and revealed His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. Now we can understand why the revelation of God’s thirteen attributes came at that moment in particular. Because, preceding the sin we only knew of God’s unity and not His detailed attributes, but now, after the transition from unity to diversity we can perceive God’s management of the world in a new light. Instead of saying only, “God is one,” we can now describe God through His thirteen attributes of Mercy through which His grand singular unity is manifest, thus revealing it in all of the details in this world. This idea is most beautifully illustrated by the gematria of the word “one” (?????), which is 13!

As with the teacher and his student, a new facet of wisdom appears after the shattering that was not at all apparent before. The teacher himself is surprised by the variety of details that he succeeds in gleaning from the initial, general light, and from the fact that the new details actually reveal a more elevated aspect of the wisdom’s unity. This too is the benefit gained from the breaking of the first tablets. After the sin of the Golden Calf, God’s ways and His attributes are revealed to us and the Torah that we receive anew divides into a wonderful richness of detail as the sages state, “God said to him [Moses], do not be upset over the first tablets, for they were no more than Ten Commandments but with the second tablets I give you the laws, the Midrash and the homilies.” As the verse in Job states, “He told you all the mysteries of wisdom, for there is [now] twice as much in it.” The new world revealed after the sin is a world that contains twice the amount of wisdom, now that unity has been revealed within diversity.

The sin of the Golden Calf divides Parashat Ki Tisa into two parts – before the sin and after it.

At first glance, sovaldi sale it seems that the sin ruined all of God’s plans. Everything was going so well: the Exodus from Egypt, buy the Splitting of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire and the cloud and water from the rock until the miracles reached a climax with the voices and the lightning at Mt.Sinai and Moses’ ascent to God. We just had to wait. A little more patience and our relationship with God would be consummated in the best possible way. But, then the Children of Israel spoiled everything and in the sages’ sharp imagery became like, “A wretched bride who betrayed her groom under the wedding canopy [instead of waiting for him].” It seems that the sin of the Golden Calf shattered the great revelation at Mt.Sinai to smithereens until nothing remained…

In fact, the sin of the Golden Calf appears to be another frustrating blunder in a series of historical blunders that began with Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden. Why is it that everything is ruined at the most critical moment?

Yet, from another perspective we can ask, is this really merely a distressing diversion from God’s original program? The sages reveal that in fact this is not so. God has a plan that is beyond what is apparent to us and even falling into sin has a purpose. The Talmud states that “The Jewish people were not worthy of that act.” For their part, they were fully capable of overcoming the evil inclination, but the Almighty decreed a heavenly decree that the inclination overcome them, “to give a voice to those wishing to repent.” Obviously, this did not negate our freedom of choice (which is why the sinners deserved punishment for their deeds), but here we catch a glimpse into God’s great program that rolled the plot out in such a way that we sinned (through our own freedom of choice).

The sages’ explanation of the Golden Calf and its implications “to give a voice to those wishing to repent,” so instructs us to not think of ourselves as forever lost, once we have fallen into sin. Before sinning, one might think that there are only two options: either you are righteous or wicked, now we can understand that there is a third option: you may have sinned, but now you can repent.

Having understood that, let us now turn to the Torah’s inner dimension to understand the events of Parashat Ki tisa from a new perspective. Why is the level attained through repentance so great that sometimes sin is imperative (from God’s perspective)?

Breaking unity

Let’s begin from the act that expresses the sin and its effects more than any other: when Moses saw the sin, “He threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them beneath the mountain.” The key is that the tablets were shattered. Indeed, the holy Arizal teaches us that at the deepest spiritual dimension, all of creation is one great process of shattering and rectification. Initially, when great Divine light attempts to descend and manifest in vessels, there is a great explosion – the vessels shatter, the lights disappear, sparks fall, entire worlds are destroyed and chaos ensues until the World of Rectification is created. The description of the shattering of vessels is covered in great depth in Kabbalah, down to the minutest details – but we will suffice with the general explanation mentioned in Chassidut, that shattering is necessary for “leaping from unity to diversity.”

What this means is that God is one – as we proclaim twice a day – therefore His initial revelation is completely unified. Like pure white light in which no individual color can be perceived, unity is one great light that cannot be contained within a multitude of vessels. But, our world is the complete opposite of unity: it has such great diversity and  details that here we are likely to forget that everything has one source. At some point in the middle, between the one Divine light and between our own world, an inconceivable transition occurs. It is a quantum leap between unity and diversity; a transition following which nothing will ever be the same again. In order to generate this quantum leap, shattering must occur (similar in a sense to atomic fission). This shattering is indeed a great catastrophe, a trauma that remains at the foundation of the world, and the initial diversity that results is one that denies unity altogether. But, the aim is to reach a paradoxical state of diversity in which true unity can be experienced.

Shattering can be illustrated with an allegory of a teacher-student relationship. Let’s imagine a great rabbi, an illustrious sage who wishes to impart his wisdom to his young student whose mental capacity is worlds apart from the teacher’s mind. Within the teacher, the wisdom is deep and wonderful and he experiences it as one great all-encompassing light. But, there is no way that the student will be able to integrate the rabbi’s wisdom and grasp it without the rabbi dividing (or shattering) his wisdom into tiny pieces. In this way the student can begin to study and gradually integrate the great light of his teacher’s wisdom to the extent of his capability. If the process is successful, the student merits reaching an understanding of his teacher’s perspective and senses the great all-inclusive intelligence that hovers above all the minute details.

From dissolution to repentance

Now let’s get back to Parashat Ki tisa. The Revelation at Sinai was the zenith of unity: the Jewish people arrived at Mt.Sinai “as one man with one heart.” When replying to the Almighty, the entire people replied in unison, “We will do and we will listen.” They stood at the foot of Mt.Sinai as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” In fact, the entire world participated in this experience and the whole world stood in total silence when God spoke. This unity is definitely fitting for the righteous: “and Your nation are all righteous.” Like the ministering angels who sing in a gigantic choir, “together they are all holiness.”

But, after the great light of the Ten Commandments descended upon the people, their unity began to crack, as emphasized in the Torah’s description of the act of the Golden Calf, “they took apart their golden nose-rings… the entire nation came apart with their golden nose-rings.” Removing their nose-rings for the purpose of creating the Golden Calf was not only an act of taking off their jewelry but one of collapse and decadence. The apparent unity that they experienced while dancing around the Golden Calf was a display of false unity, the type that covers up a general atmosphere of debauchery, where each individual seeks to fulfill his own desires and lusts. With the festivities surrounding the Golden Calf, the nation had shattered into tiny fragments. When Moses descended from the mountain he heard dissonant sounds coming from the camp and when he saw the extent of the collapse, he broke the tablets, reflecting the catastrophic shattering of the nation’s unity.

To extricate ourselves from the effects of the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses revealed the ability to repent even after such a dire communal sin. But the world after the sin and repentance was no longer the same. At first, we were in a world of unity, the world of the righteous, and now we experienced the transition into a fragmented reality, the world of people seeking to repent, each carrying his or her own particular burden, each with his or her own shade of color.

But, concealed within this diversity is a spark of unity! Our sages teach us that in the Ark of the Covenant, together with the two new tablets of stone that Moses later brought down from Sinai, lay the shards of the first tablets. The shattering had been given new meaning. It was not just an unplanned fall but “a descent for the sake of ascent,” which resulted in an innovation that had never been before: the ability to contain unity within diversity.

Indeed, after the Golden Calf, Moses discovered the right moment to put in an exceptional request to God: “Inform me of Your ways.” God complied and revealed His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. Now we can understand why the revelation of God’s thirteen attributes came at that moment in particular. Because, preceding the sin we only knew of God’s unity and not His detailed attributes, but now, after the transition from unity to diversity we can perceive God’s management of the world in a new light. Instead of saying only, “God is one,” we can now describe God through His thirteen attributes of Mercy through which His grand singular unity is manifest, thus revealing it in all of the details in this world. This idea is most beautifully illustrated by the gematria of the word “one” (?????), which is 13!

As with the teacher and his student, a new facet of wisdom appears after the shattering that was not at all apparent before. The teacher himself is surprised by the variety of details that he succeeds in gleaning from the initial, general light, and from the fact that the new details actually reveal a more elevated aspect of the wisdom’s unity. This too is the benefit gained from the breaking of the first tablets. After the sin of the Golden Calf, God’s ways and His attributes are revealed to us and the Torah that we receive anew divides into a wonderful richness of detail as the sages state, “God said to him [Moses], do not be upset over the first tablets, for they were no more than Ten Commandments but with the second tablets I give you the laws, the Midrash and the homilies.” As the verse in Job states, “He told you all the mysteries of wisdom, for there is [now] twice as much in it.” The new world revealed after the sin is a world that contains twice the amount of wisdom, now that unity has been revealed within diversity.

The well-known directive from the sages is that on Purim, tadalafil

One must become inebriated until one cannot distinguish [lit. “does not know”] between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.”

This Talmudic saying is the foundation for the joy of Purim, case both in Jewish law and in the Torah’s inner dimension. But how should we understand the stipulation that the drinking should continue until we no longer know the difference between Haman and Mordechai?

Let’s begin by saying that it is not necessary to interpret the difference between knowing and not knowing a well-defined moment in time, site an exact moment while drinking when I no longer know. Instead, moving from knowing to not-knowing can be thought of as a developing process. To begin with, I know. Then, I reach a level at which I don’t know. But, from that new perspective, I can see a new level of not-knowing and aspire to it. In this way, I continually pass between states of knowing (the difference between Haman and Mordechai) and not knowing what the difference is.

So, just as inebriation is a process, being able to tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman has different meanings, depending on what state we are at.

A well-known Chabad speaker once quipped: What do you get when you cross a Lubavitcher with Carl Sagan? Billions and billions and billions of lechaim’s!!! So let’s start our journey and if you happen to be reading this on Purim, we invite you to say a lechaim with us at every stage!

The first lechaim – the tzadik rises, the wicked falls

Lechaim, lechaim! In the most literal sense, the reason one might not be able to tell the difference between Mordechai being blessed and Haman being cursed is that we simply can’t decide which is greater, our joy over Mordechai’s rise to power or our joy at seeing Haman’s downfall. On Purim we do not hide the fact that we are happy at Haman’s downfall. It is enough to hear the clamorous outburst in synagogue when Haman’s name is mentioned during the Megillah reading, to prove the point. But, Purim joy is not merely tasteless schadenfreude, as we rejoice in someone else’s misfortune. We rejoice because the Almighty revealed His Providence over us. “Behold, the Guardian of Israel does not rest nor sleep,” and He intercedes in the story of the Megillah on our behalf, turning the tables around so that Haman’s evil plot of genocide overturns in the end to our benefit. Indeed, the 50-cubit high tree was Haman’s idea in the first place, and where eventually he himself was hung!

At the same time, we rejoice over Mordechai’s rise to power. In Shushan, Mordechai was our Rebbe, our beloved leader, and he rises to become the most important person in the entire kingdom, as the verse in the Megillah states, “For Mordechai the Jew is the second-in-command to Achashverosh.” We are justifiably proud of the fact that “our man,” the good guy, is victorious and we see it as a Divine revelation, sanctifying God’s Name. The tzadik, the righteous individual of the generation represents not only us as a people, but also the Almighty, since the entire story of the Megillah began with Mordechai refusing to pay homage to Haman and thereby sanctifying God.

So, which joy is greater? It is our joy over Haman’s downfall or over Mordechai’s ascent? When clear-headed, one might have a concrete opinion, preferring one or the other, but after a lechaim or two, it may become difficult to decide. This is the first level of not knowing.

Second lechaim: Who am I?

Having looked at Haman and Mordechai in the literal sense, as two actual people from the past, we now arrive at a deeper interpretation. From now on, Haman and Mordechai reflect different aspects of our own inner selves. Now, not knowing the difference between Haman and Mordechai means that I can’t rightly assess my self. Am I like Haman or am I like Mordechai?

Let’s say that in general I am a good Jew who follows the Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law), but what am I really like underneath? Am I like Mordechai the tzadik, naturally aspiring to do good, but my evil inclination tempts me from without and tries to incite me against my better judgment? Or perhaps the opposite is true and inside I am truly like Haman, wicked and full of evil urges, base desires, anger and every other malevolence, but somehow or another I succeed in overcoming the gushing volcano inside me and masquerade as a tzadik?

Here, the sages teach us that “Even if the whole world says you are a tzadik, you should see yourself as wicked.” So, in general, I should perceive myself as the wicked Haman! True, I have many good points, but in essence I identify with my coarse animalistic tendencies (food, drink, etc.). I have a pure and holy neshamah (Divine soul), “an actual part of God Above,” a “pure soul that You have given me,” which can and should defeat my base self. But, although I go out of my way to act like a human being and not like an animal, inside I am truly just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In a similar vein, anyone who considers himself to be a tzadik has a serious problem – here is where pride comes into play, the beginning of all sin.

In short, it is actually my good inclination that can come to terms with my being more like the wicked Haman and it is my evil inclination that wants me to think that I am like the righteous Mordechai!

So, what happens on Purim? On the one hand, we can spot some of those more introverted, gentle individuals who after a few tots of drink begin a penetrating self-criticizing soul-search (something we tend to repress). Now, on Purim I can admit to the fact that somewhere deep inside me, within the inner confines of my soul, I am such a can of worms that it is frightening to think about it. Then I begin to cry, with the realization that it is I who am the wicked Haman, and it is only by a miracle that they haven’t yet hung me on a tree.

On the other hand, being inebriated on Purim as I should, I can also say, “I am the righteous Mordechai!” Throughout the year we come in contact with the baser, lowest layers of the soul, but on Purim we reach a deeper identity, rising to an inner, essential point where we are all righteous. This is the profound Jewish identity that arises on Purim in particular and Mordechai himself is the one who arouses it.

There are great tzadikim (righteous individuals) who can claim their own praise without it ever going to their head. The classic example of this is Moses who himself wrote the words of the Torah scroll, “And the man Moses was the most humble of all men.” Yet, Moses retained his great humility even while and after writing this verse. We too can reach this level on Purim: beyond my personal façade, underneath all the disguises and the masquerades, I am Jewish and as such I can identify with Mordechai and say, “blessed is Mordechai the Jew.”

So, at this stage, we truly do not know where we are on the scale that divides between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.” So, who am I then?

The third lechaim: living in the present

Hold tight! The truth is that at the previous level, I still don’t know what not knowing is because with all my inner debating about who I am and what I am, Haman or Mordechai, I am still very much involved with my own self-image. I am trying to take hold of myself, to define myself and give myself a grade – wicked or righteous? I am attempting to keep the hold on to the directive, “Know thyself,” and even if the outcome is a draw, I am still steeped in self-knowledge and not with “non-knowledge.”

Now, after the third lechaim, we need to realize that the main thing is not to deal at all with the question of “who am I?” Now we begin to interpret that not knowing the difference between Haman is cursed and Mordechai is blessed means not caring whether the Haman in me is cursed or whether the Mordechai in me is blessed, because I am not trying to grade myself or define my self-image. Because, I realize that all the positive and negative traits I think I possess, none of them are really me. Maybe they are all in my imagination. Who knows what lies at the root of my soul?

So, with the third lechaim, we come to the realization that we need not have anything to do with all that soul-searching; it’s all just one big humungous waste of time. The most important aspect of serving God is to live in the present moment: at this very moment I am simply raw material that has not yet been formed and everything is still possible. I could now either be “blessed Mordechai” or, God forbid, “cursed Haman” and the same is true of the very next moment and any moment. Every second I can choose with perfect freedom of choice whether to play the part of Mordechai or of Haman. There is no point in trying to identify myself as wicked or as a tzadik, or imagine myself as being anywhere between the two, because even attempting to do so is missing my true goal. I must live the present, above any awareness of what has been, and only with what there should be at this very moment.

In the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe places the figure of the beinoni, the intermediate individual, as an exemplar we should all aspire to. The beinoni is one who is forbidden even for a moment to look at himself and say, “I am like this, I am like that.” Rather, I am always an intermediate who can choose between cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai. Every given moment is the first moment of time and I have to make sure that I choose to use it properly (even if I have fallen, I should not look back too much but look forward and choose good from now on). This is how we should behave throughout the entire year. Nonetheless, it is still difficult to detach ourselves from our natural tendency to grade ourselves, to assess our performance. Only on Purim, after a few lechaim’s to help us forget ourselves, can we really reach this level of not knowing anything of the past at all and only living in the present moment.

The fourth lechaim: behind all the masks

So, let’s make another “lechaim,” and take a deep breath. We began not knowing which joy was greater, Haman’s fall or the Mordechai’s ascent. We continued without knowing who I am and we rose to a level at which it makes no difference at all who I am because it’s all a masquerade…

Now comes the moment to remove all the disguises and reveal who is really hiding behind all the games. Purim is the festival of “the Book of Esther” (????????? ????????), which can be translated literally as, “revealing the hidden.” God too is hidden, as the verse says, “Indeed, You are a concealed God, the God of Israel who redeems.”

Behind the true Haman (the one on the tree) and the real Mordechai (the one riding the horse), behind my little inner Haman and my little inner Mordechai, and even behind my being at this present moment – behind it all is God Almighty. As we know, there is “none besides Him” Therefore, the more layers we peel away from reality as we generally perceive it, from space, from time, and from all the souls in the world, the more we remove the garments and look for the bare essence of reality, the more we eventually reveal God’s essential being.

It is impossible to completely raise the screen that conceals God’s essential being within all, because it would spoil the play. But, at the climax of the Purim festivities, we can reveal the secret hiding behind the screen: that behind all the thousands of masks of this world is the One and Only Unique eternal singularity. Once we have reached this stage we have truly reached a state that can be described as not knowing the difference between is the accursed Haman and the blessed Mordechai, because even behind Haman we perceive God’s singular essence.

This knowledge does not come to justify an anarchistic chaos in the world, God forbid. This state of knowledge that senses the secret behind all of reality is subtle and elusive. It does not contradict the true fact that we all have a clear mission to choose good and to loathe evil. In actual fact, this is the very reason why everything is possible, because just as God masquerades in different disguises and is hidden everywhere, so we too can follow His example and decide to dress up as Mordechai all year round.

Moses and Mordechai

To conclude, Purim is always in close proximity to Parashat Tetzaveh, in which we find a special phenomenon: Moses’ proper name is not mentioned. From when we read about Moses’ birth (in Parashat Shemot), to the very end of the Pentateuch, this is the only parashah in which Moses’ name does not appear. This in spite of the fact that Moshe is addressed right at the beginning of the parashah with the words, “You command” and continues with God’s direct speech with Moses.

In Chassidut we learn that the lack of Moses’ name appearing indicates that in this parashah, he is at an even higher level of self. As we have seen, we can peel away our personal identity more and more, until we touch something of the unknowable, until we cannot know the difference (??? ?????? ?????), which also literally means, “until we come to the unknown” that is underneath all the masks that disguise the real me. This is the point that Moses reached when his proper name disappears and only the “you” with which God addresses him remains.

The sages state that “Mordechai in his generation was like Moses in his generation.” Moses’ soul is reincarnated as Mordechai, and combining these two figures brings us to the Jewish soul’s innermost essence, after removing all of its façades, disguises, and masks, until it reaches the unknown that is beyond all knowledge. When I reach this level, I realize that I am nothing but a happy Jew.

Happy Purim!

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s Purim Eve farbrengen, 5772

The well-known directive from the sages is that on Purim, unhealthy

One must become inebriated until one cannot distinguish [lit. “does not know”] between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.”

This Talmudic saying is the foundation for the joy of Purim, sildenafil both in Jewish law and in the Torah’s inner dimension. But how should we understand the stipulation that the drinking should continue until we no longer know the difference between Haman and Mordechai?

Let’s begin by saying that it is not necessary to interpret the difference between knowing and not knowing a well-defined moment in time, pharmacy an exact moment while drinking when I no longer know. Instead, moving from knowing to not-knowing can be thought of as a developing process. To begin with, I know. Then, I reach a level at which I don’t know. But, from that new perspective, I can see a new level of not-knowing and aspire to it. In this way, I continually pass between states of knowing (the difference between Haman and Mordechai) and not knowing what the difference is.

So, just as inebriation is a process, being able to tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman has different meanings, depending on what state we are at.

A well-known Chabad speaker once quipped: What do you get when you cross a Lubavitcher with Carl Sagan? Billions and billions and billions of lechaim’s!!! So let’s start our journey and if you happen to be reading this on Purim, we invite you to say a lechaim with us at every stage!

The first lechaim – the tzadik rises, the wicked falls

Lechaim, lechaim! In the most literal sense, the reason one might not be able to tell the difference between Mordechai being blessed and Haman being cursed is that we simply can’t decide which is greater, our joy over Mordechai’s rise to power or our joy at seeing Haman’s downfall. On Purim we do not hide the fact that we are happy at Haman’s downfall. It is enough to hear the clamorous outburst in synagogue when Haman’s name is mentioned during the Megillah reading, to prove the point. But, Purim joy is not merely tasteless schadenfreude, as we rejoice in someone else’s misfortune. We rejoice because the Almighty revealed His Providence over us. “Behold, the Guardian of Israel does not rest nor sleep,” and He intercedes in the story of the Megillah on our behalf, turning the tables around so that Haman’s evil plot of genocide overturns in the end to our benefit. Indeed, the 50-cubit high tree was Haman’s idea in the first place, and where eventually he himself was hung!

At the same time, we rejoice over Mordechai’s rise to power. In Shushan, Mordechai was our Rebbe, our beloved leader, and he rises to become the most important person in the entire kingdom, as the verse in the Megillah states, “For Mordechai the Jew is the second-in-command to Achashverosh.” We are justifiably proud of the fact that “our man,” the good guy, is victorious and we see it as a Divine revelation, sanctifying God’s Name. The tzadik, the righteous individual of the generation represents not only us as a people, but also the Almighty, since the entire story of the Megillah began with Mordechai refusing to pay homage to Haman and thereby sanctifying God.

So, which joy is greater? It is our joy over Haman’s downfall or over Mordechai’s ascent? When clear-headed, one might have a concrete opinion, preferring one or the other, but after a lechaim or two, it may become difficult to decide. This is the first level of not knowing.

Second lechaim: Who am I?

Having looked at Haman and Mordechai in the literal sense, as two actual people from the past, we now arrive at a deeper interpretation. From now on, Haman and Mordechai reflect different aspects of our own inner selves. Now, not knowing the difference between Haman and Mordechai means that I can’t rightly assess my self. Am I like Haman or am I like Mordechai?

Let’s say that in general I am a good Jew who follows the Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law), but what am I really like underneath? Am I like Mordechai the tzadik, naturally aspiring to do good, but my evil inclination tempts me from without and tries to incite me against my better judgment? Or perhaps the opposite is true and inside I am truly like Haman, wicked and full of evil urges, base desires, anger and every other malevolence, but somehow or another I succeed in overcoming the gushing volcano inside me and masquerade as a tzadik?

Here, the sages teach us that “Even if the whole world says you are a tzadik, you should see yourself as wicked.” So, in general, I should perceive myself as the wicked Haman! True, I have many good points, but in essence I identify with my coarse animalistic tendencies (food, drink, etc.). I have a pure and holy neshamah (Divine soul), “an actual part of God Above,” a “pure soul that You have given me,” which can and should defeat my base self. But, although I go out of my way to act like a human being and not like an animal, inside I am truly just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In a similar vein, anyone who considers himself to be a tzadik has a serious problem – here is where pride comes into play, the beginning of all sin.

In short, it is actually my good inclination that can come to terms with my being more like the wicked Haman and it is my evil inclination that wants me to think that I am like the righteous Mordechai!

So, what happens on Purim? On the one hand, we can spot some of those more introverted, gentle individuals who after a few tots of drink begin a penetrating self-criticizing soul-search (something we tend to repress). Now, on Purim I can admit to the fact that somewhere deep inside me, within the inner confines of my soul, I am such a can of worms that it is frightening to think about it. Then I begin to cry, with the realization that it is I who am the wicked Haman, and it is only by a miracle that they haven’t yet hung me on a tree.

On the other hand, being inebriated on Purim as I should, I can also say, “I am the righteous Mordechai!” Throughout the year we come in contact with the baser, lowest layers of the soul, but on Purim we reach a deeper identity, rising to an inner, essential point where we are all righteous. This is the profound Jewish identity that arises on Purim in particular and Mordechai himself is the one who arouses it.

There are great tzadikim (righteous individuals) who can claim their own praise without it ever going to their head. The classic example of this is Moses who himself wrote the words of the Torah scroll, “And the man Moses was the most humble of all men.” Yet, Moses retained his great humility even while and after writing this verse. We too can reach this level on Purim: beyond my personal façade, underneath all the disguises and the masquerades, I am Jewish and as such I can identify with Mordechai and say, “blessed is Mordechai the Jew.”

So, at this stage, we truly do not know where we are on the scale that divides between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.” So, who am I then?

The third lechaim: living in the present

Hold tight! The truth is that at the previous level, I still don’t know what not knowing is because with all my inner debating about who I am and what I am, Haman or Mordechai, I am still very much involved with my own self-image. I am trying to take hold of myself, to define myself and give myself a grade – wicked or righteous? I am attempting to keep the hold on to the directive, “Know thyself,” and even if the outcome is a draw, I am still steeped in self-knowledge and not with “non-knowledge.”

Now, after the third lechaim, we need to realize that the main thing is not to deal at all with the question of “who am I?” Now we begin to interpret that not knowing the difference between Haman is cursed and Mordechai is blessed means not caring whether the Haman in me is cursed or whether the Mordechai in me is blessed, because I am not trying to grade myself or define my self-image. Because, I realize that all the positive and negative traits I think I possess, none of them are really me. Maybe they are all in my imagination. Who knows what lies at the root of my soul?

So, with the third lechaim, we come to the realization that we need not have anything to do with all that soul-searching; it’s all just one big humungous waste of time. The most important aspect of serving God is to live in the present moment: at this very moment I am simply raw material that has not yet been formed and everything is still possible. I could now either be “blessed Mordechai” or, God forbid, “cursed Haman” and the same is true of the very next moment and any moment. Every second I can choose with perfect freedom of choice whether to play the part of Mordechai or of Haman. There is no point in trying to identify myself as wicked or as a tzadik, or imagine myself as being anywhere between the two, because even attempting to do so is missing my true goal. I must live the present, above any awareness of what has been, and only with what there should be at this very moment.

In the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe places the figure of the beinoni, the intermediate individual, as an exemplar we should all aspire to. The beinoni is one who is forbidden even for a moment to look at himself and say, “I am like this, I am like that.” Rather, I am always an intermediate who can choose between cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai. Every given moment is the first moment of time and I have to make sure that I choose to use it properly (even if I have fallen, I should not look back too much but look forward and choose good from now on). This is how we should behave throughout the entire year. Nonetheless, it is still difficult to detach ourselves from our natural tendency to grade ourselves, to assess our performance. Only on Purim, after a few lechaim’s to help us forget ourselves, can we really reach this level of not knowing anything of the past at all and only living in the present moment.

The fourth lechaim: behind all the masks

So, let’s make another “lechaim,” and take a deep breath. We began not knowing which joy was greater, Haman’s fall or the Mordechai’s ascent. We continued without knowing who I am and we rose to a level at which it makes no difference at all who I am because it’s all a masquerade…

Now comes the moment to remove all the disguises and reveal who is really hiding behind all the games. Purim is the festival of “the Book of Esther” (????????? ????????), which can be translated literally as, “revealing the hidden.” God too is hidden, as the verse says, “Indeed, You are a concealed God, the God of Israel who redeems.”

Behind the true Haman (the one on the tree) and the real Mordechai (the one riding the horse), behind my little inner Haman and my little inner Mordechai, and even behind my being at this present moment – behind it all is God Almighty. As we know, there is “none besides Him” Therefore, the more layers we peel away from reality as we generally perceive it, from space, from time, and from all the souls in the world, the more we remove the garments and look for the bare essence of reality, the more we eventually reveal God’s essential being.

It is impossible to completely raise the screen that conceals God’s essential being within all, because it would spoil the play. But, at the climax of the Purim festivities, we can reveal the secret hiding behind the screen: that behind all the thousands of masks of this world is the One and Only Unique eternal singularity. Once we have reached this stage we have truly reached a state that can be described as not knowing the difference between is the accursed Haman and the blessed Mordechai, because even behind Haman we perceive God’s singular essence.

This knowledge does not come to justify an anarchistic chaos in the world, God forbid. This state of knowledge that senses the secret behind all of reality is subtle and elusive. It does not contradict the true fact that we all have a clear mission to choose good and to loathe evil. In actual fact, this is the very reason why everything is possible, because just as God masquerades in different disguises and is hidden everywhere, so we too can follow His example and decide to dress up as Mordechai all year round.

Moses and Mordechai

To conclude, Purim is always in close proximity to Parashat Tetzaveh, in which we find a special phenomenon: Moses’ proper name is not mentioned. From when we read about Moses’ birth (in Parashat Shemot), to the very end of the Pentateuch, this is the only parashah in which Moses’ name does not appear. This in spite of the fact that Moshe is addressed right at the beginning of the parashah with the words, “You command” and continues with God’s direct speech with Moses.

In Chassidut we learn that the lack of Moses’ name appearing indicates that in this parashah, he is at an even higher level of self. As we have seen, we can peel away our personal identity more and more, until we touch something of the unknowable, until we cannot know the difference (??? ?????? ?????), which also literally means, “until we come to the unknown” that is underneath all the masks that disguise the real me. This is the point that Moses reached when his proper name disappears and only the “you” with which God addresses him remains.

The sages state that “Mordechai in his generation was like Moses in his generation.” Moses’ soul is reincarnated as Mordechai, and combining these two figures brings us to the Jewish soul’s innermost essence, after removing all of its façades, disguises, and masks, until it reaches the unknown that is beyond all knowledge. When I reach this level, I realize that I am nothing but a happy Jew.

Happy Purim!

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s Purim Eve farbrengen, 5772

The sin of the Golden Calf divides Parashat Ki Tisa into two parts – before the sin and after it.

At first glance, remedy it seems that the sin ruined all of God’s plans. Everything was going so well: the Exodus from Egypt, purchase the Splitting of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire and the cloud and water from the rock until the miracles reached a climax with the voices and the lightning at Mt. Sinai and Moses’ ascent to God. We just had to wait. A little more patience and our relationship with God would be consummated in the best possible way. But, then the Children of Israel spoiled everything and in the sages’ sharp imagery became like, “A wretched bride who betrayed her groom under the wedding canopy [instead of waiting for him].” It seems that the sin of the Golden Calf shattered the great revelation at Mt.Sinai to smithereens until nothing remained…

In fact, the sin of the Golden Calf appears to be another frustrating blunder in a series of historical blunders that began with Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden. Why is it that everything is ruined at the most critical moment?

Yet, from another perspective we can ask, is this really merely a distressing diversion from God’s original program? The sages reveal that in fact this is not so. God has a plan that is beyond what is apparent to us and even falling into sin has a purpose. The Talmud states that “The Jewish people were not worthy of that act.” For their part, they were fully capable of overcoming the evil inclination, but the Almighty decreed a heavenly decree that the inclination overcome them, “to give a voice to those wishing to repent.” Obviously, this did not negate our freedom of choice (which is why the sinners deserved punishment for their deeds), but here we catch a glimpse into God’s great program that rolled the plot out in such a way that we sinned (through our own freedom of choice).

The sages’ explanation of the Golden Calf and its implications “to give a voice to those wishing to repent,” so instructs us to not think of ourselves as forever lost, once we have fallen into sin. Before sinning, one might think that there are only two options: either you are righteous or wicked, now we can understand that there is a third option: you may have sinned, but now you can repent.

Having understood that, let us now turn to the Torah’s inner dimension to understand the events of Parashat Ki tisa from a new perspective. Why is the level attained through repentance so great that sometimes sin is imperative (from God’s perspective)?

Breaking unity

Let’s begin from the act that expresses the sin and its effects more than any other: when Moses saw the sin, “He threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them beneath the mountain.” The key is that the tablets were shattered. Indeed, the holy Arizal teaches us that at the deepest spiritual dimension, all of creation is one great process of shattering and rectification. Initially, when great Divine light attempts to descend and manifest in vessels, there is a great explosion – the vessels shatter, the lights disappear, sparks fall, entire worlds are destroyed and chaos ensues until the World of Rectification is created. The description of the shattering of vessels is covered in great depth in Kabbalah, down to the minutest details – but we will suffice with the general explanation mentioned in Chassidut, that shattering is necessary for “leaping from unity to diversity.”

What this means is that God is one – as we proclaim twice a day – therefore His initial revelation is completely unified. Like pure white light in which no individual color can be perceived, unity is one great light that cannot be contained within a multitude of vessels. But, our world is the complete opposite of unity: it has such great diversity and  details that here we are likely to forget that everything has one source. At some point in the middle, between the one Divine light and between our own world, an inconceivable transition occurs. It is a quantum leap between unity and diversity; a transition following which nothing will ever be the same again. In order to generate this quantum leap, shattering must occur (similar in a sense to atomic fission). This shattering is indeed a great catastrophe, a trauma that remains at the foundation of the world, and the initial diversity that results is one that denies unity altogether. But, the aim is to reach a paradoxical state of diversity in which true unity can be experienced.

Shattering can be illustrated with an allegory of a teacher-student relationship. Let’s imagine a great rabbi, an illustrious sage who wishes to impart his wisdom to his young student whose mental capacity is worlds apart from the teacher’s mind. Within the teacher, the wisdom is deep and wonderful and he experiences it as one great all-encompassing light. But, there is no way that the student will be able to integrate the rabbi’s wisdom and grasp it without the rabbi dividing (or shattering) his wisdom into tiny pieces. In this way the student can begin to study and gradually integrate the great light of his teacher’s wisdom to the extent of his capability. If the process is successful, the student merits reaching an understanding of his teacher’s perspective and senses the great all-inclusive intelligence that hovers above all the minute details.

From dissolution to repentance

Now let’s get back to Parashat Ki tisa. The Revelation at Sinai was the zenith of unity: the Jewish people arrived at Mt.Sinai “as one man with one heart.” When replying to the Almighty, the entire people replied in unison, “We will do and we will listen.” They stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” In fact, the entire world participated in this experience and the whole world stood in total silence when God spoke. This unity is definitely fitting for the righteous: “and Your nation are all righteous.” Like the ministering angels who sing in a gigantic choir, “together they are all holiness.”

But, after the great light of the Ten Commandments descended upon the people, their unity began to crack, as emphasized in the Torah’s description of the act of the Golden Calf, “they took apart their golden nose-rings… the entire nation came apart with their golden nose-rings.” Removing their nose-rings for the purpose of creating the Golden Calf was not only an act of taking off their jewelry but one of collapse and decadence. The apparent unity that they experienced while dancing around the Golden Calf was a display of false unity, the type that covers up a general atmosphere of debauchery, where each individual seeks to fulfill his own desires and lusts. With the festivities surrounding the Golden Calf, the nation had shattered into tiny fragments. When Moses descended from the mountain he heard dissonant sounds coming from the camp and when he saw the extent of the collapse, he broke the tablets, reflecting the catastrophic shattering of the nation’s unity.

To extricate ourselves from the effects of the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses revealed the ability to repent even after such a dire communal sin. But the world after the sin and repentance was no longer the same. At first, we were in a world of unity, the world of the righteous, and now we experienced the transition into a fragmented reality, the world of people seeking to repent, each carrying his or her own particular burden, each with his or her own shade of color.

But, concealed within this diversity is a spark of unity! Our sages teach us that in the Ark of the Covenant, together with the two new tablets of stone that Moses later brought down from Sinai, lay the shards of the first tablets. The shattering had been given new meaning. It was not just an unplanned fall but “a descent for the sake of ascent,” which resulted in an innovation that had never been before: the ability to contain unity within diversity.

Indeed, after the Golden Calf, Moses discovered the right moment to put in an exceptional request to God: “Inform me of Your ways.” God complied and revealed His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. Now we can understand why the revelation of God’s thirteen attributes came at that moment in particular. Because, preceding the sin we only knew of God’s unity and not His detailed attributes, but now, after the transition from unity to diversity we can perceive God’s management of the world in a new light. Instead of saying only, “God is one,” we can now describe God through His thirteen attributes of Mercy through which His grand singular unity is manifest, thus revealing it in all of the details in this world. This idea is most beautifully illustrated by the gematria of the word “one” (?????), which is 13!

As with the teacher and his student, a new facet of wisdom appears after the shattering that was not at all apparent before. The teacher himself is surprised by the variety of details that he succeeds in gleaning from the initial, general light, and from the fact that the new details actually reveal a more elevated aspect of the wisdom’s unity. This too is the benefit gained from the breaking of the first tablets. After the sin of the Golden Calf, God’s ways and His attributes are revealed to us and the Torah that we receive anew divides into a wonderful richness of detail as the sages state, “God said to him [Moses], do not be upset over the first tablets, for they were no more than Ten Commandments but with the second tablets I give you the laws, the Midrash and the homilies.” As the verse in Job states, “He told you all the mysteries of wisdom, for there is [now] twice as much in it.” The new world revealed after the sin is a world that contains twice the amount of wisdom, now that unity has been revealed within diversity.

The sin of the Golden Calf divides Parashat Ki Tisa into two parts – before the sin and after it.

At first glance, sovaldi sale it seems that the sin ruined all of God’s plans. Everything was going so well: the Exodus from Egypt, buy the Splitting of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire and the cloud and water from the rock until the miracles reached a climax with the voices and the lightning at Mt.Sinai and Moses’ ascent to God. We just had to wait. A little more patience and our relationship with God would be consummated in the best possible way. But, then the Children of Israel spoiled everything and in the sages’ sharp imagery became like, “A wretched bride who betrayed her groom under the wedding canopy [instead of waiting for him].” It seems that the sin of the Golden Calf shattered the great revelation at Mt.Sinai to smithereens until nothing remained…

In fact, the sin of the Golden Calf appears to be another frustrating blunder in a series of historical blunders that began with Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden. Why is it that everything is ruined at the most critical moment?

Yet, from another perspective we can ask, is this really merely a distressing diversion from God’s original program? The sages reveal that in fact this is not so. God has a plan that is beyond what is apparent to us and even falling into sin has a purpose. The Talmud states that “The Jewish people were not worthy of that act.” For their part, they were fully capable of overcoming the evil inclination, but the Almighty decreed a heavenly decree that the inclination overcome them, “to give a voice to those wishing to repent.” Obviously, this did not negate our freedom of choice (which is why the sinners deserved punishment for their deeds), but here we catch a glimpse into God’s great program that rolled the plot out in such a way that we sinned (through our own freedom of choice).

The sages’ explanation of the Golden Calf and its implications “to give a voice to those wishing to repent,” so instructs us to not think of ourselves as forever lost, once we have fallen into sin. Before sinning, one might think that there are only two options: either you are righteous or wicked, now we can understand that there is a third option: you may have sinned, but now you can repent.

Having understood that, let us now turn to the Torah’s inner dimension to understand the events of Parashat Ki tisa from a new perspective. Why is the level attained through repentance so great that sometimes sin is imperative (from God’s perspective)?

Breaking unity

Let’s begin from the act that expresses the sin and its effects more than any other: when Moses saw the sin, “He threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them beneath the mountain.” The key is that the tablets were shattered. Indeed, the holy Arizal teaches us that at the deepest spiritual dimension, all of creation is one great process of shattering and rectification. Initially, when great Divine light attempts to descend and manifest in vessels, there is a great explosion – the vessels shatter, the lights disappear, sparks fall, entire worlds are destroyed and chaos ensues until the World of Rectification is created. The description of the shattering of vessels is covered in great depth in Kabbalah, down to the minutest details – but we will suffice with the general explanation mentioned in Chassidut, that shattering is necessary for “leaping from unity to diversity.”

What this means is that God is one – as we proclaim twice a day – therefore His initial revelation is completely unified. Like pure white light in which no individual color can be perceived, unity is one great light that cannot be contained within a multitude of vessels. But, our world is the complete opposite of unity: it has such great diversity and  details that here we are likely to forget that everything has one source. At some point in the middle, between the one Divine light and between our own world, an inconceivable transition occurs. It is a quantum leap between unity and diversity; a transition following which nothing will ever be the same again. In order to generate this quantum leap, shattering must occur (similar in a sense to atomic fission). This shattering is indeed a great catastrophe, a trauma that remains at the foundation of the world, and the initial diversity that results is one that denies unity altogether. But, the aim is to reach a paradoxical state of diversity in which true unity can be experienced.

Shattering can be illustrated with an allegory of a teacher-student relationship. Let’s imagine a great rabbi, an illustrious sage who wishes to impart his wisdom to his young student whose mental capacity is worlds apart from the teacher’s mind. Within the teacher, the wisdom is deep and wonderful and he experiences it as one great all-encompassing light. But, there is no way that the student will be able to integrate the rabbi’s wisdom and grasp it without the rabbi dividing (or shattering) his wisdom into tiny pieces. In this way the student can begin to study and gradually integrate the great light of his teacher’s wisdom to the extent of his capability. If the process is successful, the student merits reaching an understanding of his teacher’s perspective and senses the great all-inclusive intelligence that hovers above all the minute details.

From dissolution to repentance

Now let’s get back to Parashat Ki tisa. The Revelation at Sinai was the zenith of unity: the Jewish people arrived at Mt.Sinai “as one man with one heart.” When replying to the Almighty, the entire people replied in unison, “We will do and we will listen.” They stood at the foot of Mt.Sinai as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” In fact, the entire world participated in this experience and the whole world stood in total silence when God spoke. This unity is definitely fitting for the righteous: “and Your nation are all righteous.” Like the ministering angels who sing in a gigantic choir, “together they are all holiness.”

But, after the great light of the Ten Commandments descended upon the people, their unity began to crack, as emphasized in the Torah’s description of the act of the Golden Calf, “they took apart their golden nose-rings… the entire nation came apart with their golden nose-rings.” Removing their nose-rings for the purpose of creating the Golden Calf was not only an act of taking off their jewelry but one of collapse and decadence. The apparent unity that they experienced while dancing around the Golden Calf was a display of false unity, the type that covers up a general atmosphere of debauchery, where each individual seeks to fulfill his own desires and lusts. With the festivities surrounding the Golden Calf, the nation had shattered into tiny fragments. When Moses descended from the mountain he heard dissonant sounds coming from the camp and when he saw the extent of the collapse, he broke the tablets, reflecting the catastrophic shattering of the nation’s unity.

To extricate ourselves from the effects of the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses revealed the ability to repent even after such a dire communal sin. But the world after the sin and repentance was no longer the same. At first, we were in a world of unity, the world of the righteous, and now we experienced the transition into a fragmented reality, the world of people seeking to repent, each carrying his or her own particular burden, each with his or her own shade of color.

But, concealed within this diversity is a spark of unity! Our sages teach us that in the Ark of the Covenant, together with the two new tablets of stone that Moses later brought down from Sinai, lay the shards of the first tablets. The shattering had been given new meaning. It was not just an unplanned fall but “a descent for the sake of ascent,” which resulted in an innovation that had never been before: the ability to contain unity within diversity.

Indeed, after the Golden Calf, Moses discovered the right moment to put in an exceptional request to God: “Inform me of Your ways.” God complied and revealed His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. Now we can understand why the revelation of God’s thirteen attributes came at that moment in particular. Because, preceding the sin we only knew of God’s unity and not His detailed attributes, but now, after the transition from unity to diversity we can perceive God’s management of the world in a new light. Instead of saying only, “God is one,” we can now describe God through His thirteen attributes of Mercy through which His grand singular unity is manifest, thus revealing it in all of the details in this world. This idea is most beautifully illustrated by the gematria of the word “one” (?????), which is 13!

As with the teacher and his student, a new facet of wisdom appears after the shattering that was not at all apparent before. The teacher himself is surprised by the variety of details that he succeeds in gleaning from the initial, general light, and from the fact that the new details actually reveal a more elevated aspect of the wisdom’s unity. This too is the benefit gained from the breaking of the first tablets. After the sin of the Golden Calf, God’s ways and His attributes are revealed to us and the Torah that we receive anew divides into a wonderful richness of detail as the sages state, “God said to him [Moses], do not be upset over the first tablets, for they were no more than Ten Commandments but with the second tablets I give you the laws, the Midrash and the homilies.” As the verse in Job states, “He told you all the mysteries of wisdom, for there is [now] twice as much in it.” The new world revealed after the sin is a world that contains twice the amount of wisdom, now that unity has been revealed within diversity.

In the parashot of Tazria-Metzora we learn about the disease of tzara’at (Biblical leprosy) and how the individual suffering from it is purified. Although nowadays we have no way to actively observe the laws of tzara’at, ask nonetheless, medicine the Ba’al Shem Tov taught us that every word of Torah has a practical application for every individual, at every location and at all times.

This being the case, let’s meditate on one interesting point. The Torah enumerates various types of tzara’at, “When an individual has a blister, or a rash or a bright spot,” the primary sign of impurity being that the skin lesion is white (as Rashi explains that each of these three types of tzara’at is whiter than the preceding type). The sages explain that there are in fact four types of “lesion appearances”: a “blister” (??????), or a “bright spot” (????????), an “inflamed blister” (???????? ????????)” or an “inflamed bright spot” (???????? ??????????). The difference between these four types is in the specific shade of the lesion: the “bright spot” is “strong as snow,” the “blister” is “like white wool,” “an inflamed bright spot” is “like the chalk of the Hall” and an “inflamed blister” is like an “egg’s membrane.” These four shades from dazzling white to matt white are reminiscent of a modern paint catalog in which one can find an amazing wealth of shades in white alone.

Skilled in theory

But what is the significance of the differences between these four types of lesion in Jewish law? Rambam (Maimonides) writes, “These four lesions all participate with one another, either to be lenient or to be strict… How? A lesion that is totally as white as snow or like the chalk of the Hall or like clean wool or like an egg’s membrane is the same as a lesion that is white somewhat like the look of a bright spot and somewhat like the look of a blister and somewhat like an inflammation – all of them are considered the same.” This means that in actual fact, there is no difference between the four types; the appearance of the lesion can be in any one of these shades or a mixture of any of them in order to conclude that the lesion is impure.

In that case, why should we need to distinguish between the different shades? Rambam continues, “If so, why did the sages enumerate them? … in order to understand the appearance: any kohen (priest) who does not know the appearances and their names, when they teach him and inform him – he will not see the lesion until he understands and knows and can say, this is a bright spot and this is its inflammation, this is a blister and this is its inflammation.” Meaning, that even though there is no practical application to the distinction between the four types of lesion, nonetheless, the kohen must know how to distinguish between them! This is a very unusual law, perhaps we can even say that it is somewhat bizarre: in order to diagnose tzara’at in practice and to proclaim whether a lesion is pure or impure, the kohen must be skilled in definitions that have no practical application!

Pure Torah wisdom

At first glance, all this seems to be enigmatic, especially in the eyes of realists who have a practical approach to life. A car mechanic or a computer technician could justifiably protest: If the color of the parts that I use makes no difference and I could achieve the same results even if I was color-blind, then why do I need specialized training in information that is of no practical use whatsoever?

The reason is that the Torah’s wisdom cannot be measured only by its practical applications. The Torah has essential value that is independent of its expediency. One might ask the thousands of yeshivah students who study Torah every day or the many men who study the daf-yomi (the daily page of Talmud) whether all that they learn has direct practical applicability, but the reply will be: absolutely not! The Talmud contains myriads of topics, pages and pages of long and detailed discussions about hypothetical situations that have no reasonable chance of ever becoming a practical query. Jewish sages throughout the ages have racked their brains over these topics in all seriousness to the extent that there are even practical conclusions that state what the law would be in such a case, even though it is quite clear that this law will never be applied in practice! In effect, it would seem that the Yiddisher kopf (“Jewish mind”) takes great pleasure in dealing with abstract ideas that are far-removed from the world of action… But, what do we need them for?

The inner dimension of the Torah explains that when we study Torah we are constantly occupied with actual reality. Just as our physical world seems to be tangible and real, so there are other spiritual worlds that are no less real (similar to the “many worlds” theory of modern science). The truth is that those laws that have no expression in the physical world that our eyes perceive do actually describe a reality that is tangible in the higher worlds (which the inner dimension of the Torah deals with in detail).

The true perspective on the Torah is from above: the Torah is primarily pure wisdom that deals with a higher realm of truth, literally God’s own wisdom, after which this truth receives a practical garb in our world. Even a topic that deals with very material subjects, such as “a bull that gored a cow,” has its source in a much higher world in which a bull and a cow are symbolic of certain spiritual qualities, which “descend” until they reach tangible expression in our world as a real-live bull and cow.

Obviously, this does not mean that we should underrate the importance of our physical actions in this world. The Torah cannot remain in the abstract world alone while we neglect the physical world: “Studying Talmud is great, for it motivates action,” and “the main thing is action” (as the Lubavitcher Rebbe would often stress). But, it is also important to recognize the essential significance of the Torah and of Torah study even when it remains within the walls of the study hall.

Theory is important in practice

Quite probably, almost every Jew who studies Torah can appreciate the importance of studying Torah even when it has no practical application. But, the abovementioned law pertaining to tzara’at reveals a much deeper level: the great secret of the Torah is that in order to reach a practical halachic conclusion one must be familiar with those abstract definitions that have no practical application!

This means that even the most abstract Torah topic actually becomes practical Jewish law, because, if you want to come to a practical conclusion, you must also specialize in abstract definitions! One might say that we need two degrees in Torah: a first degree in theory and a second degree in practical applications. If in theory there is significance to the distinction between dazzling white and matt white, you must acquire this knowledge and know how to correctly name the lesion and only then deal with the external details that pertain directly to the halachic decision (such as the size of the lesion, etc.) Although we are unaware of what exactly about the diagnosis of the lesion’s color and its name is pertinent, nonetheless, we know that following Rambam’s ruling, in principle there is decisive significance to the essential definition, so much so that someone who does not understand it cannot assert whether it is “pure” or “impure.” In fact, at some profound level even those fundamental definitions that appear to be detached from reality do actually have some influence on the practical diagnosis.

Between father and mother

In Kabbalistic terminology, the Holy Arizal said that tzara’at is a result of “the withdrawal of the light of the father principle.” “The father principle” is the light of the sefirah of wisdom, which is referred to as “father,” as opposed to the sefirah of understanding, which is called, “mother.” Wisdom is the point of pure intellect and understanding takes hold of this initial point and develops it into a more tangible realm. The soul root of individuals who tend towards purely intellectual study stems from the sefirah of wisdom, while the soul root of individuals with a more realistic attitude stems more from understanding.

These concepts of “father” and “mother” are related to our regular familial association of the two terms: the father figure defines the essence and the principles of the entire family. He represents the tendency towards wisdom, the occupation with wisdom for wisdom’s sake. The mother figure represents practical wisdom, the “additional understanding” that is given to women and the talent to understand how reality functions in practice.

Since tzara’at is a result of a withdrawal of wisdom, it indicates an exaggerated tendency toward the practical side of the Torah and negligence of the pure and theoretical side of Torah wisdom. From here we can understand why the special law that demands that the kohen be well-versed even in the entirely theoretical side of the Torah is so pertinent here – because tzara’at itself stems from the withdrawal of wisdom. Therefore, in order to identify it and heal it, one must be particularly aware of the intricacies of wisdom!

More profoundly, theoretical wisdom can already be identified in the crown, the super-conscious power of the soul (which motivates the conscious). In Kabbalistic language, the sefirah of crown has two “persona”: the “Elder of Days” (?????? ???????) and “the Long Countenance” (??????? ?????????). Chassidut explains that the inner essence of “the Elder of Days” is the power of spiritual pleasure in the soul, which motivates us to love life (super-consciously – in direct contrast to the sensualistic “pleasure principle” of modern psychology). The inner essence of “the Long Countenance” is the power of will in the soul. Will is more practically oriented and therefore manifests as the practical wisdom of the sefirah of understanding, while pleasure is “simple pleasure” that manifests as the pure intellect of the sefirah of wisdom. Indeed, rectifying tzara’at or a “plague” (?????) is actually by turning it into “pleasure” (?????), which is a permutation of the same letters. Now it is clear why the lesion must be assessed through the eyes of pure intellect, because theoretical knowledge arouses the power of pure pleasure in the soul. This is the duty of the kohen, the “man of loving-kindness,” whose task is to instill love and pleasure among people.

Individual and communal healing

The way tzara’at is healed teaches us how to heal the soul. Knowing how to truly heal emotional illness involves more than is apparent on the direct practical plane. The higher the levels of the soul that one is able to access, including innermost dimensions that may appear to be detached from the actual physical symptoms, the lower one can descend into the simple practical world to cure the individual’s pain.

From the individual we reach society as a whole: it is our desire to find a cure that will rectify the current situation of the Jewish people and of the world in its entirety, beginning with rectifying Jewish society and Jewish politics here in the Holy Land. To achieve this, it does not suffice to look at the mundane dimension alone; we need to know how to analyze the roots of reality, to expose the various diseases and name them correctly, down to the minutest details of the various shades of white. Once we have achieved this it will be possible to attain true rectification, with God’s help, then as Chassidut teaches, we can transform plague (?????) into pleasure (?????).

From Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, 27th Adar 5768

The well-known directive from the sages is that on Purim, tadalafil

One must become inebriated until one cannot distinguish [lit. “does not know”] between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.”

This Talmudic saying is the foundation for the joy of Purim, case both in Jewish law and in the Torah’s inner dimension. But how should we understand the stipulation that the drinking should continue until we no longer know the difference between Haman and Mordechai?

Let’s begin by saying that it is not necessary to interpret the difference between knowing and not knowing a well-defined moment in time, site an exact moment while drinking when I no longer know. Instead, moving from knowing to not-knowing can be thought of as a developing process. To begin with, I know. Then, I reach a level at which I don’t know. But, from that new perspective, I can see a new level of not-knowing and aspire to it. In this way, I continually pass between states of knowing (the difference between Haman and Mordechai) and not knowing what the difference is.

So, just as inebriation is a process, being able to tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman has different meanings, depending on what state we are at.

A well-known Chabad speaker once quipped: What do you get when you cross a Lubavitcher with Carl Sagan? Billions and billions and billions of lechaim’s!!! So let’s start our journey and if you happen to be reading this on Purim, we invite you to say a lechaim with us at every stage!

The first lechaim – the tzadik rises, the wicked falls

Lechaim, lechaim! In the most literal sense, the reason one might not be able to tell the difference between Mordechai being blessed and Haman being cursed is that we simply can’t decide which is greater, our joy over Mordechai’s rise to power or our joy at seeing Haman’s downfall. On Purim we do not hide the fact that we are happy at Haman’s downfall. It is enough to hear the clamorous outburst in synagogue when Haman’s name is mentioned during the Megillah reading, to prove the point. But, Purim joy is not merely tasteless schadenfreude, as we rejoice in someone else’s misfortune. We rejoice because the Almighty revealed His Providence over us. “Behold, the Guardian of Israel does not rest nor sleep,” and He intercedes in the story of the Megillah on our behalf, turning the tables around so that Haman’s evil plot of genocide overturns in the end to our benefit. Indeed, the 50-cubit high tree was Haman’s idea in the first place, and where eventually he himself was hung!

At the same time, we rejoice over Mordechai’s rise to power. In Shushan, Mordechai was our Rebbe, our beloved leader, and he rises to become the most important person in the entire kingdom, as the verse in the Megillah states, “For Mordechai the Jew is the second-in-command to Achashverosh.” We are justifiably proud of the fact that “our man,” the good guy, is victorious and we see it as a Divine revelation, sanctifying God’s Name. The tzadik, the righteous individual of the generation represents not only us as a people, but also the Almighty, since the entire story of the Megillah began with Mordechai refusing to pay homage to Haman and thereby sanctifying God.

So, which joy is greater? It is our joy over Haman’s downfall or over Mordechai’s ascent? When clear-headed, one might have a concrete opinion, preferring one or the other, but after a lechaim or two, it may become difficult to decide. This is the first level of not knowing.

Second lechaim: Who am I?

Having looked at Haman and Mordechai in the literal sense, as two actual people from the past, we now arrive at a deeper interpretation. From now on, Haman and Mordechai reflect different aspects of our own inner selves. Now, not knowing the difference between Haman and Mordechai means that I can’t rightly assess my self. Am I like Haman or am I like Mordechai?

Let’s say that in general I am a good Jew who follows the Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law), but what am I really like underneath? Am I like Mordechai the tzadik, naturally aspiring to do good, but my evil inclination tempts me from without and tries to incite me against my better judgment? Or perhaps the opposite is true and inside I am truly like Haman, wicked and full of evil urges, base desires, anger and every other malevolence, but somehow or another I succeed in overcoming the gushing volcano inside me and masquerade as a tzadik?

Here, the sages teach us that “Even if the whole world says you are a tzadik, you should see yourself as wicked.” So, in general, I should perceive myself as the wicked Haman! True, I have many good points, but in essence I identify with my coarse animalistic tendencies (food, drink, etc.). I have a pure and holy neshamah (Divine soul), “an actual part of God Above,” a “pure soul that You have given me,” which can and should defeat my base self. But, although I go out of my way to act like a human being and not like an animal, inside I am truly just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In a similar vein, anyone who considers himself to be a tzadik has a serious problem – here is where pride comes into play, the beginning of all sin.

In short, it is actually my good inclination that can come to terms with my being more like the wicked Haman and it is my evil inclination that wants me to think that I am like the righteous Mordechai!

So, what happens on Purim? On the one hand, we can spot some of those more introverted, gentle individuals who after a few tots of drink begin a penetrating self-criticizing soul-search (something we tend to repress). Now, on Purim I can admit to the fact that somewhere deep inside me, within the inner confines of my soul, I am such a can of worms that it is frightening to think about it. Then I begin to cry, with the realization that it is I who am the wicked Haman, and it is only by a miracle that they haven’t yet hung me on a tree.

On the other hand, being inebriated on Purim as I should, I can also say, “I am the righteous Mordechai!” Throughout the year we come in contact with the baser, lowest layers of the soul, but on Purim we reach a deeper identity, rising to an inner, essential point where we are all righteous. This is the profound Jewish identity that arises on Purim in particular and Mordechai himself is the one who arouses it.

There are great tzadikim (righteous individuals) who can claim their own praise without it ever going to their head. The classic example of this is Moses who himself wrote the words of the Torah scroll, “And the man Moses was the most humble of all men.” Yet, Moses retained his great humility even while and after writing this verse. We too can reach this level on Purim: beyond my personal façade, underneath all the disguises and the masquerades, I am Jewish and as such I can identify with Mordechai and say, “blessed is Mordechai the Jew.”

So, at this stage, we truly do not know where we are on the scale that divides between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.” So, who am I then?

The third lechaim: living in the present

Hold tight! The truth is that at the previous level, I still don’t know what not knowing is because with all my inner debating about who I am and what I am, Haman or Mordechai, I am still very much involved with my own self-image. I am trying to take hold of myself, to define myself and give myself a grade – wicked or righteous? I am attempting to keep the hold on to the directive, “Know thyself,” and even if the outcome is a draw, I am still steeped in self-knowledge and not with “non-knowledge.”

Now, after the third lechaim, we need to realize that the main thing is not to deal at all with the question of “who am I?” Now we begin to interpret that not knowing the difference between Haman is cursed and Mordechai is blessed means not caring whether the Haman in me is cursed or whether the Mordechai in me is blessed, because I am not trying to grade myself or define my self-image. Because, I realize that all the positive and negative traits I think I possess, none of them are really me. Maybe they are all in my imagination. Who knows what lies at the root of my soul?

So, with the third lechaim, we come to the realization that we need not have anything to do with all that soul-searching; it’s all just one big humungous waste of time. The most important aspect of serving God is to live in the present moment: at this very moment I am simply raw material that has not yet been formed and everything is still possible. I could now either be “blessed Mordechai” or, God forbid, “cursed Haman” and the same is true of the very next moment and any moment. Every second I can choose with perfect freedom of choice whether to play the part of Mordechai or of Haman. There is no point in trying to identify myself as wicked or as a tzadik, or imagine myself as being anywhere between the two, because even attempting to do so is missing my true goal. I must live the present, above any awareness of what has been, and only with what there should be at this very moment.

In the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe places the figure of the beinoni, the intermediate individual, as an exemplar we should all aspire to. The beinoni is one who is forbidden even for a moment to look at himself and say, “I am like this, I am like that.” Rather, I am always an intermediate who can choose between cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai. Every given moment is the first moment of time and I have to make sure that I choose to use it properly (even if I have fallen, I should not look back too much but look forward and choose good from now on). This is how we should behave throughout the entire year. Nonetheless, it is still difficult to detach ourselves from our natural tendency to grade ourselves, to assess our performance. Only on Purim, after a few lechaim’s to help us forget ourselves, can we really reach this level of not knowing anything of the past at all and only living in the present moment.

The fourth lechaim: behind all the masks

So, let’s make another “lechaim,” and take a deep breath. We began not knowing which joy was greater, Haman’s fall or the Mordechai’s ascent. We continued without knowing who I am and we rose to a level at which it makes no difference at all who I am because it’s all a masquerade…

Now comes the moment to remove all the disguises and reveal who is really hiding behind all the games. Purim is the festival of “the Book of Esther” (????????? ????????), which can be translated literally as, “revealing the hidden.” God too is hidden, as the verse says, “Indeed, You are a concealed God, the God of Israel who redeems.”

Behind the true Haman (the one on the tree) and the real Mordechai (the one riding the horse), behind my little inner Haman and my little inner Mordechai, and even behind my being at this present moment – behind it all is God Almighty. As we know, there is “none besides Him” Therefore, the more layers we peel away from reality as we generally perceive it, from space, from time, and from all the souls in the world, the more we remove the garments and look for the bare essence of reality, the more we eventually reveal God’s essential being.

It is impossible to completely raise the screen that conceals God’s essential being within all, because it would spoil the play. But, at the climax of the Purim festivities, we can reveal the secret hiding behind the screen: that behind all the thousands of masks of this world is the One and Only Unique eternal singularity. Once we have reached this stage we have truly reached a state that can be described as not knowing the difference between is the accursed Haman and the blessed Mordechai, because even behind Haman we perceive God’s singular essence.

This knowledge does not come to justify an anarchistic chaos in the world, God forbid. This state of knowledge that senses the secret behind all of reality is subtle and elusive. It does not contradict the true fact that we all have a clear mission to choose good and to loathe evil. In actual fact, this is the very reason why everything is possible, because just as God masquerades in different disguises and is hidden everywhere, so we too can follow His example and decide to dress up as Mordechai all year round.

Moses and Mordechai

To conclude, Purim is always in close proximity to Parashat Tetzaveh, in which we find a special phenomenon: Moses’ proper name is not mentioned. From when we read about Moses’ birth (in Parashat Shemot), to the very end of the Pentateuch, this is the only parashah in which Moses’ name does not appear. This in spite of the fact that Moshe is addressed right at the beginning of the parashah with the words, “You command” and continues with God’s direct speech with Moses.

In Chassidut we learn that the lack of Moses’ name appearing indicates that in this parashah, he is at an even higher level of self. As we have seen, we can peel away our personal identity more and more, until we touch something of the unknowable, until we cannot know the difference (??? ?????? ?????), which also literally means, “until we come to the unknown” that is underneath all the masks that disguise the real me. This is the point that Moses reached when his proper name disappears and only the “you” with which God addresses him remains.

The sages state that “Mordechai in his generation was like Moses in his generation.” Moses’ soul is reincarnated as Mordechai, and combining these two figures brings us to the Jewish soul’s innermost essence, after removing all of its façades, disguises, and masks, until it reaches the unknown that is beyond all knowledge. When I reach this level, I realize that I am nothing but a happy Jew.

Happy Purim!

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s Purim Eve farbrengen, 5772

The well-known directive from the sages is that on Purim, unhealthy

One must become inebriated until one cannot distinguish [lit. “does not know”] between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.”

This Talmudic saying is the foundation for the joy of Purim, sildenafil both in Jewish law and in the Torah’s inner dimension. But how should we understand the stipulation that the drinking should continue until we no longer know the difference between Haman and Mordechai?

Let’s begin by saying that it is not necessary to interpret the difference between knowing and not knowing a well-defined moment in time, pharmacy an exact moment while drinking when I no longer know. Instead, moving from knowing to not-knowing can be thought of as a developing process. To begin with, I know. Then, I reach a level at which I don’t know. But, from that new perspective, I can see a new level of not-knowing and aspire to it. In this way, I continually pass between states of knowing (the difference between Haman and Mordechai) and not knowing what the difference is.

So, just as inebriation is a process, being able to tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman has different meanings, depending on what state we are at.

A well-known Chabad speaker once quipped: What do you get when you cross a Lubavitcher with Carl Sagan? Billions and billions and billions of lechaim’s!!! So let’s start our journey and if you happen to be reading this on Purim, we invite you to say a lechaim with us at every stage!

The first lechaim – the tzadik rises, the wicked falls

Lechaim, lechaim! In the most literal sense, the reason one might not be able to tell the difference between Mordechai being blessed and Haman being cursed is that we simply can’t decide which is greater, our joy over Mordechai’s rise to power or our joy at seeing Haman’s downfall. On Purim we do not hide the fact that we are happy at Haman’s downfall. It is enough to hear the clamorous outburst in synagogue when Haman’s name is mentioned during the Megillah reading, to prove the point. But, Purim joy is not merely tasteless schadenfreude, as we rejoice in someone else’s misfortune. We rejoice because the Almighty revealed His Providence over us. “Behold, the Guardian of Israel does not rest nor sleep,” and He intercedes in the story of the Megillah on our behalf, turning the tables around so that Haman’s evil plot of genocide overturns in the end to our benefit. Indeed, the 50-cubit high tree was Haman’s idea in the first place, and where eventually he himself was hung!

At the same time, we rejoice over Mordechai’s rise to power. In Shushan, Mordechai was our Rebbe, our beloved leader, and he rises to become the most important person in the entire kingdom, as the verse in the Megillah states, “For Mordechai the Jew is the second-in-command to Achashverosh.” We are justifiably proud of the fact that “our man,” the good guy, is victorious and we see it as a Divine revelation, sanctifying God’s Name. The tzadik, the righteous individual of the generation represents not only us as a people, but also the Almighty, since the entire story of the Megillah began with Mordechai refusing to pay homage to Haman and thereby sanctifying God.

So, which joy is greater? It is our joy over Haman’s downfall or over Mordechai’s ascent? When clear-headed, one might have a concrete opinion, preferring one or the other, but after a lechaim or two, it may become difficult to decide. This is the first level of not knowing.

Second lechaim: Who am I?

Having looked at Haman and Mordechai in the literal sense, as two actual people from the past, we now arrive at a deeper interpretation. From now on, Haman and Mordechai reflect different aspects of our own inner selves. Now, not knowing the difference between Haman and Mordechai means that I can’t rightly assess my self. Am I like Haman or am I like Mordechai?

Let’s say that in general I am a good Jew who follows the Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law), but what am I really like underneath? Am I like Mordechai the tzadik, naturally aspiring to do good, but my evil inclination tempts me from without and tries to incite me against my better judgment? Or perhaps the opposite is true and inside I am truly like Haman, wicked and full of evil urges, base desires, anger and every other malevolence, but somehow or another I succeed in overcoming the gushing volcano inside me and masquerade as a tzadik?

Here, the sages teach us that “Even if the whole world says you are a tzadik, you should see yourself as wicked.” So, in general, I should perceive myself as the wicked Haman! True, I have many good points, but in essence I identify with my coarse animalistic tendencies (food, drink, etc.). I have a pure and holy neshamah (Divine soul), “an actual part of God Above,” a “pure soul that You have given me,” which can and should defeat my base self. But, although I go out of my way to act like a human being and not like an animal, inside I am truly just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In a similar vein, anyone who considers himself to be a tzadik has a serious problem – here is where pride comes into play, the beginning of all sin.

In short, it is actually my good inclination that can come to terms with my being more like the wicked Haman and it is my evil inclination that wants me to think that I am like the righteous Mordechai!

So, what happens on Purim? On the one hand, we can spot some of those more introverted, gentle individuals who after a few tots of drink begin a penetrating self-criticizing soul-search (something we tend to repress). Now, on Purim I can admit to the fact that somewhere deep inside me, within the inner confines of my soul, I am such a can of worms that it is frightening to think about it. Then I begin to cry, with the realization that it is I who am the wicked Haman, and it is only by a miracle that they haven’t yet hung me on a tree.

On the other hand, being inebriated on Purim as I should, I can also say, “I am the righteous Mordechai!” Throughout the year we come in contact with the baser, lowest layers of the soul, but on Purim we reach a deeper identity, rising to an inner, essential point where we are all righteous. This is the profound Jewish identity that arises on Purim in particular and Mordechai himself is the one who arouses it.

There are great tzadikim (righteous individuals) who can claim their own praise without it ever going to their head. The classic example of this is Moses who himself wrote the words of the Torah scroll, “And the man Moses was the most humble of all men.” Yet, Moses retained his great humility even while and after writing this verse. We too can reach this level on Purim: beyond my personal façade, underneath all the disguises and the masquerades, I am Jewish and as such I can identify with Mordechai and say, “blessed is Mordechai the Jew.”

So, at this stage, we truly do not know where we are on the scale that divides between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.” So, who am I then?

The third lechaim: living in the present

Hold tight! The truth is that at the previous level, I still don’t know what not knowing is because with all my inner debating about who I am and what I am, Haman or Mordechai, I am still very much involved with my own self-image. I am trying to take hold of myself, to define myself and give myself a grade – wicked or righteous? I am attempting to keep the hold on to the directive, “Know thyself,” and even if the outcome is a draw, I am still steeped in self-knowledge and not with “non-knowledge.”

Now, after the third lechaim, we need to realize that the main thing is not to deal at all with the question of “who am I?” Now we begin to interpret that not knowing the difference between Haman is cursed and Mordechai is blessed means not caring whether the Haman in me is cursed or whether the Mordechai in me is blessed, because I am not trying to grade myself or define my self-image. Because, I realize that all the positive and negative traits I think I possess, none of them are really me. Maybe they are all in my imagination. Who knows what lies at the root of my soul?

So, with the third lechaim, we come to the realization that we need not have anything to do with all that soul-searching; it’s all just one big humungous waste of time. The most important aspect of serving God is to live in the present moment: at this very moment I am simply raw material that has not yet been formed and everything is still possible. I could now either be “blessed Mordechai” or, God forbid, “cursed Haman” and the same is true of the very next moment and any moment. Every second I can choose with perfect freedom of choice whether to play the part of Mordechai or of Haman. There is no point in trying to identify myself as wicked or as a tzadik, or imagine myself as being anywhere between the two, because even attempting to do so is missing my true goal. I must live the present, above any awareness of what has been, and only with what there should be at this very moment.

In the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe places the figure of the beinoni, the intermediate individual, as an exemplar we should all aspire to. The beinoni is one who is forbidden even for a moment to look at himself and say, “I am like this, I am like that.” Rather, I am always an intermediate who can choose between cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai. Every given moment is the first moment of time and I have to make sure that I choose to use it properly (even if I have fallen, I should not look back too much but look forward and choose good from now on). This is how we should behave throughout the entire year. Nonetheless, it is still difficult to detach ourselves from our natural tendency to grade ourselves, to assess our performance. Only on Purim, after a few lechaim’s to help us forget ourselves, can we really reach this level of not knowing anything of the past at all and only living in the present moment.

The fourth lechaim: behind all the masks

So, let’s make another “lechaim,” and take a deep breath. We began not knowing which joy was greater, Haman’s fall or the Mordechai’s ascent. We continued without knowing who I am and we rose to a level at which it makes no difference at all who I am because it’s all a masquerade…

Now comes the moment to remove all the disguises and reveal who is really hiding behind all the games. Purim is the festival of “the Book of Esther” (????????? ????????), which can be translated literally as, “revealing the hidden.” God too is hidden, as the verse says, “Indeed, You are a concealed God, the God of Israel who redeems.”

Behind the true Haman (the one on the tree) and the real Mordechai (the one riding the horse), behind my little inner Haman and my little inner Mordechai, and even behind my being at this present moment – behind it all is God Almighty. As we know, there is “none besides Him” Therefore, the more layers we peel away from reality as we generally perceive it, from space, from time, and from all the souls in the world, the more we remove the garments and look for the bare essence of reality, the more we eventually reveal God’s essential being.

It is impossible to completely raise the screen that conceals God’s essential being within all, because it would spoil the play. But, at the climax of the Purim festivities, we can reveal the secret hiding behind the screen: that behind all the thousands of masks of this world is the One and Only Unique eternal singularity. Once we have reached this stage we have truly reached a state that can be described as not knowing the difference between is the accursed Haman and the blessed Mordechai, because even behind Haman we perceive God’s singular essence.

This knowledge does not come to justify an anarchistic chaos in the world, God forbid. This state of knowledge that senses the secret behind all of reality is subtle and elusive. It does not contradict the true fact that we all have a clear mission to choose good and to loathe evil. In actual fact, this is the very reason why everything is possible, because just as God masquerades in different disguises and is hidden everywhere, so we too can follow His example and decide to dress up as Mordechai all year round.

Moses and Mordechai

To conclude, Purim is always in close proximity to Parashat Tetzaveh, in which we find a special phenomenon: Moses’ proper name is not mentioned. From when we read about Moses’ birth (in Parashat Shemot), to the very end of the Pentateuch, this is the only parashah in which Moses’ name does not appear. This in spite of the fact that Moshe is addressed right at the beginning of the parashah with the words, “You command” and continues with God’s direct speech with Moses.

In Chassidut we learn that the lack of Moses’ name appearing indicates that in this parashah, he is at an even higher level of self. As we have seen, we can peel away our personal identity more and more, until we touch something of the unknowable, until we cannot know the difference (??? ?????? ?????), which also literally means, “until we come to the unknown” that is underneath all the masks that disguise the real me. This is the point that Moses reached when his proper name disappears and only the “you” with which God addresses him remains.

The sages state that “Mordechai in his generation was like Moses in his generation.” Moses’ soul is reincarnated as Mordechai, and combining these two figures brings us to the Jewish soul’s innermost essence, after removing all of its façades, disguises, and masks, until it reaches the unknown that is beyond all knowledge. When I reach this level, I realize that I am nothing but a happy Jew.

Happy Purim!

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s Purim Eve farbrengen, 5772

The sin of the Golden Calf divides Parashat Ki Tisa into two parts – before the sin and after it.

At first glance, remedy it seems that the sin ruined all of God’s plans. Everything was going so well: the Exodus from Egypt, purchase the Splitting of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire and the cloud and water from the rock until the miracles reached a climax with the voices and the lightning at Mt. Sinai and Moses’ ascent to God. We just had to wait. A little more patience and our relationship with God would be consummated in the best possible way. But, then the Children of Israel spoiled everything and in the sages’ sharp imagery became like, “A wretched bride who betrayed her groom under the wedding canopy [instead of waiting for him].” It seems that the sin of the Golden Calf shattered the great revelation at Mt.Sinai to smithereens until nothing remained…

In fact, the sin of the Golden Calf appears to be another frustrating blunder in a series of historical blunders that began with Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden. Why is it that everything is ruined at the most critical moment?

Yet, from another perspective we can ask, is this really merely a distressing diversion from God’s original program? The sages reveal that in fact this is not so. God has a plan that is beyond what is apparent to us and even falling into sin has a purpose. The Talmud states that “The Jewish people were not worthy of that act.” For their part, they were fully capable of overcoming the evil inclination, but the Almighty decreed a heavenly decree that the inclination overcome them, “to give a voice to those wishing to repent.” Obviously, this did not negate our freedom of choice (which is why the sinners deserved punishment for their deeds), but here we catch a glimpse into God’s great program that rolled the plot out in such a way that we sinned (through our own freedom of choice).

The sages’ explanation of the Golden Calf and its implications “to give a voice to those wishing to repent,” so instructs us to not think of ourselves as forever lost, once we have fallen into sin. Before sinning, one might think that there are only two options: either you are righteous or wicked, now we can understand that there is a third option: you may have sinned, but now you can repent.

Having understood that, let us now turn to the Torah’s inner dimension to understand the events of Parashat Ki tisa from a new perspective. Why is the level attained through repentance so great that sometimes sin is imperative (from God’s perspective)?

Breaking unity

Let’s begin from the act that expresses the sin and its effects more than any other: when Moses saw the sin, “He threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them beneath the mountain.” The key is that the tablets were shattered. Indeed, the holy Arizal teaches us that at the deepest spiritual dimension, all of creation is one great process of shattering and rectification. Initially, when great Divine light attempts to descend and manifest in vessels, there is a great explosion – the vessels shatter, the lights disappear, sparks fall, entire worlds are destroyed and chaos ensues until the World of Rectification is created. The description of the shattering of vessels is covered in great depth in Kabbalah, down to the minutest details – but we will suffice with the general explanation mentioned in Chassidut, that shattering is necessary for “leaping from unity to diversity.”

What this means is that God is one – as we proclaim twice a day – therefore His initial revelation is completely unified. Like pure white light in which no individual color can be perceived, unity is one great light that cannot be contained within a multitude of vessels. But, our world is the complete opposite of unity: it has such great diversity and  details that here we are likely to forget that everything has one source. At some point in the middle, between the one Divine light and between our own world, an inconceivable transition occurs. It is a quantum leap between unity and diversity; a transition following which nothing will ever be the same again. In order to generate this quantum leap, shattering must occur (similar in a sense to atomic fission). This shattering is indeed a great catastrophe, a trauma that remains at the foundation of the world, and the initial diversity that results is one that denies unity altogether. But, the aim is to reach a paradoxical state of diversity in which true unity can be experienced.

Shattering can be illustrated with an allegory of a teacher-student relationship. Let’s imagine a great rabbi, an illustrious sage who wishes to impart his wisdom to his young student whose mental capacity is worlds apart from the teacher’s mind. Within the teacher, the wisdom is deep and wonderful and he experiences it as one great all-encompassing light. But, there is no way that the student will be able to integrate the rabbi’s wisdom and grasp it without the rabbi dividing (or shattering) his wisdom into tiny pieces. In this way the student can begin to study and gradually integrate the great light of his teacher’s wisdom to the extent of his capability. If the process is successful, the student merits reaching an understanding of his teacher’s perspective and senses the great all-inclusive intelligence that hovers above all the minute details.

From dissolution to repentance

Now let’s get back to Parashat Ki tisa. The Revelation at Sinai was the zenith of unity: the Jewish people arrived at Mt.Sinai “as one man with one heart.” When replying to the Almighty, the entire people replied in unison, “We will do and we will listen.” They stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” In fact, the entire world participated in this experience and the whole world stood in total silence when God spoke. This unity is definitely fitting for the righteous: “and Your nation are all righteous.” Like the ministering angels who sing in a gigantic choir, “together they are all holiness.”

But, after the great light of the Ten Commandments descended upon the people, their unity began to crack, as emphasized in the Torah’s description of the act of the Golden Calf, “they took apart their golden nose-rings… the entire nation came apart with their golden nose-rings.” Removing their nose-rings for the purpose of creating the Golden Calf was not only an act of taking off their jewelry but one of collapse and decadence. The apparent unity that they experienced while dancing around the Golden Calf was a display of false unity, the type that covers up a general atmosphere of debauchery, where each individual seeks to fulfill his own desires and lusts. With the festivities surrounding the Golden Calf, the nation had shattered into tiny fragments. When Moses descended from the mountain he heard dissonant sounds coming from the camp and when he saw the extent of the collapse, he broke the tablets, reflecting the catastrophic shattering of the nation’s unity.

To extricate ourselves from the effects of the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses revealed the ability to repent even after such a dire communal sin. But the world after the sin and repentance was no longer the same. At first, we were in a world of unity, the world of the righteous, and now we experienced the transition into a fragmented reality, the world of people seeking to repent, each carrying his or her own particular burden, each with his or her own shade of color.

But, concealed within this diversity is a spark of unity! Our sages teach us that in the Ark of the Covenant, together with the two new tablets of stone that Moses later brought down from Sinai, lay the shards of the first tablets. The shattering had been given new meaning. It was not just an unplanned fall but “a descent for the sake of ascent,” which resulted in an innovation that had never been before: the ability to contain unity within diversity.

Indeed, after the Golden Calf, Moses discovered the right moment to put in an exceptional request to God: “Inform me of Your ways.” God complied and revealed His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. Now we can understand why the revelation of God’s thirteen attributes came at that moment in particular. Because, preceding the sin we only knew of God’s unity and not His detailed attributes, but now, after the transition from unity to diversity we can perceive God’s management of the world in a new light. Instead of saying only, “God is one,” we can now describe God through His thirteen attributes of Mercy through which His grand singular unity is manifest, thus revealing it in all of the details in this world. This idea is most beautifully illustrated by the gematria of the word “one” (?????), which is 13!

As with the teacher and his student, a new facet of wisdom appears after the shattering that was not at all apparent before. The teacher himself is surprised by the variety of details that he succeeds in gleaning from the initial, general light, and from the fact that the new details actually reveal a more elevated aspect of the wisdom’s unity. This too is the benefit gained from the breaking of the first tablets. After the sin of the Golden Calf, God’s ways and His attributes are revealed to us and the Torah that we receive anew divides into a wonderful richness of detail as the sages state, “God said to him [Moses], do not be upset over the first tablets, for they were no more than Ten Commandments but with the second tablets I give you the laws, the Midrash and the homilies.” As the verse in Job states, “He told you all the mysteries of wisdom, for there is [now] twice as much in it.” The new world revealed after the sin is a world that contains twice the amount of wisdom, now that unity has been revealed within diversity.

The sin of the Golden Calf divides Parashat Ki Tisa into two parts – before the sin and after it.

At first glance, sovaldi sale it seems that the sin ruined all of God’s plans. Everything was going so well: the Exodus from Egypt, buy the Splitting of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire and the cloud and water from the rock until the miracles reached a climax with the voices and the lightning at Mt.Sinai and Moses’ ascent to God. We just had to wait. A little more patience and our relationship with God would be consummated in the best possible way. But, then the Children of Israel spoiled everything and in the sages’ sharp imagery became like, “A wretched bride who betrayed her groom under the wedding canopy [instead of waiting for him].” It seems that the sin of the Golden Calf shattered the great revelation at Mt.Sinai to smithereens until nothing remained…

In fact, the sin of the Golden Calf appears to be another frustrating blunder in a series of historical blunders that began with Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden. Why is it that everything is ruined at the most critical moment?

Yet, from another perspective we can ask, is this really merely a distressing diversion from God’s original program? The sages reveal that in fact this is not so. God has a plan that is beyond what is apparent to us and even falling into sin has a purpose. The Talmud states that “The Jewish people were not worthy of that act.” For their part, they were fully capable of overcoming the evil inclination, but the Almighty decreed a heavenly decree that the inclination overcome them, “to give a voice to those wishing to repent.” Obviously, this did not negate our freedom of choice (which is why the sinners deserved punishment for their deeds), but here we catch a glimpse into God’s great program that rolled the plot out in such a way that we sinned (through our own freedom of choice).

The sages’ explanation of the Golden Calf and its implications “to give a voice to those wishing to repent,” so instructs us to not think of ourselves as forever lost, once we have fallen into sin. Before sinning, one might think that there are only two options: either you are righteous or wicked, now we can understand that there is a third option: you may have sinned, but now you can repent.

Having understood that, let us now turn to the Torah’s inner dimension to understand the events of Parashat Ki tisa from a new perspective. Why is the level attained through repentance so great that sometimes sin is imperative (from God’s perspective)?

Breaking unity

Let’s begin from the act that expresses the sin and its effects more than any other: when Moses saw the sin, “He threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them beneath the mountain.” The key is that the tablets were shattered. Indeed, the holy Arizal teaches us that at the deepest spiritual dimension, all of creation is one great process of shattering and rectification. Initially, when great Divine light attempts to descend and manifest in vessels, there is a great explosion – the vessels shatter, the lights disappear, sparks fall, entire worlds are destroyed and chaos ensues until the World of Rectification is created. The description of the shattering of vessels is covered in great depth in Kabbalah, down to the minutest details – but we will suffice with the general explanation mentioned in Chassidut, that shattering is necessary for “leaping from unity to diversity.”

What this means is that God is one – as we proclaim twice a day – therefore His initial revelation is completely unified. Like pure white light in which no individual color can be perceived, unity is one great light that cannot be contained within a multitude of vessels. But, our world is the complete opposite of unity: it has such great diversity and  details that here we are likely to forget that everything has one source. At some point in the middle, between the one Divine light and between our own world, an inconceivable transition occurs. It is a quantum leap between unity and diversity; a transition following which nothing will ever be the same again. In order to generate this quantum leap, shattering must occur (similar in a sense to atomic fission). This shattering is indeed a great catastrophe, a trauma that remains at the foundation of the world, and the initial diversity that results is one that denies unity altogether. But, the aim is to reach a paradoxical state of diversity in which true unity can be experienced.

Shattering can be illustrated with an allegory of a teacher-student relationship. Let’s imagine a great rabbi, an illustrious sage who wishes to impart his wisdom to his young student whose mental capacity is worlds apart from the teacher’s mind. Within the teacher, the wisdom is deep and wonderful and he experiences it as one great all-encompassing light. But, there is no way that the student will be able to integrate the rabbi’s wisdom and grasp it without the rabbi dividing (or shattering) his wisdom into tiny pieces. In this way the student can begin to study and gradually integrate the great light of his teacher’s wisdom to the extent of his capability. If the process is successful, the student merits reaching an understanding of his teacher’s perspective and senses the great all-inclusive intelligence that hovers above all the minute details.

From dissolution to repentance

Now let’s get back to Parashat Ki tisa. The Revelation at Sinai was the zenith of unity: the Jewish people arrived at Mt.Sinai “as one man with one heart.” When replying to the Almighty, the entire people replied in unison, “We will do and we will listen.” They stood at the foot of Mt.Sinai as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” In fact, the entire world participated in this experience and the whole world stood in total silence when God spoke. This unity is definitely fitting for the righteous: “and Your nation are all righteous.” Like the ministering angels who sing in a gigantic choir, “together they are all holiness.”

But, after the great light of the Ten Commandments descended upon the people, their unity began to crack, as emphasized in the Torah’s description of the act of the Golden Calf, “they took apart their golden nose-rings… the entire nation came apart with their golden nose-rings.” Removing their nose-rings for the purpose of creating the Golden Calf was not only an act of taking off their jewelry but one of collapse and decadence. The apparent unity that they experienced while dancing around the Golden Calf was a display of false unity, the type that covers up a general atmosphere of debauchery, where each individual seeks to fulfill his own desires and lusts. With the festivities surrounding the Golden Calf, the nation had shattered into tiny fragments. When Moses descended from the mountain he heard dissonant sounds coming from the camp and when he saw the extent of the collapse, he broke the tablets, reflecting the catastrophic shattering of the nation’s unity.

To extricate ourselves from the effects of the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses revealed the ability to repent even after such a dire communal sin. But the world after the sin and repentance was no longer the same. At first, we were in a world of unity, the world of the righteous, and now we experienced the transition into a fragmented reality, the world of people seeking to repent, each carrying his or her own particular burden, each with his or her own shade of color.

But, concealed within this diversity is a spark of unity! Our sages teach us that in the Ark of the Covenant, together with the two new tablets of stone that Moses later brought down from Sinai, lay the shards of the first tablets. The shattering had been given new meaning. It was not just an unplanned fall but “a descent for the sake of ascent,” which resulted in an innovation that had never been before: the ability to contain unity within diversity.

Indeed, after the Golden Calf, Moses discovered the right moment to put in an exceptional request to God: “Inform me of Your ways.” God complied and revealed His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. Now we can understand why the revelation of God’s thirteen attributes came at that moment in particular. Because, preceding the sin we only knew of God’s unity and not His detailed attributes, but now, after the transition from unity to diversity we can perceive God’s management of the world in a new light. Instead of saying only, “God is one,” we can now describe God through His thirteen attributes of Mercy through which His grand singular unity is manifest, thus revealing it in all of the details in this world. This idea is most beautifully illustrated by the gematria of the word “one” (?????), which is 13!

As with the teacher and his student, a new facet of wisdom appears after the shattering that was not at all apparent before. The teacher himself is surprised by the variety of details that he succeeds in gleaning from the initial, general light, and from the fact that the new details actually reveal a more elevated aspect of the wisdom’s unity. This too is the benefit gained from the breaking of the first tablets. After the sin of the Golden Calf, God’s ways and His attributes are revealed to us and the Torah that we receive anew divides into a wonderful richness of detail as the sages state, “God said to him [Moses], do not be upset over the first tablets, for they were no more than Ten Commandments but with the second tablets I give you the laws, the Midrash and the homilies.” As the verse in Job states, “He told you all the mysteries of wisdom, for there is [now] twice as much in it.” The new world revealed after the sin is a world that contains twice the amount of wisdom, now that unity has been revealed within diversity.

In the parashot of Tazria-Metzora we learn about the disease of tzara’at (Biblical leprosy) and how the individual suffering from it is purified. Although nowadays we have no way to actively observe the laws of tzara’at, ask nonetheless, medicine the Ba’al Shem Tov taught us that every word of Torah has a practical application for every individual, at every location and at all times.

This being the case, let’s meditate on one interesting point. The Torah enumerates various types of tzara’at, “When an individual has a blister, or a rash or a bright spot,” the primary sign of impurity being that the skin lesion is white (as Rashi explains that each of these three types of tzara’at is whiter than the preceding type). The sages explain that there are in fact four types of “lesion appearances”: a “blister” (??????), or a “bright spot” (????????), an “inflamed blister” (???????? ????????)” or an “inflamed bright spot” (???????? ??????????). The difference between these four types is in the specific shade of the lesion: the “bright spot” is “strong as snow,” the “blister” is “like white wool,” “an inflamed bright spot” is “like the chalk of the Hall” and an “inflamed blister” is like an “egg’s membrane.” These four shades from dazzling white to matt white are reminiscent of a modern paint catalog in which one can find an amazing wealth of shades in white alone.

Skilled in theory

But what is the significance of the differences between these four types of lesion in Jewish law? Rambam (Maimonides) writes, “These four lesions all participate with one another, either to be lenient or to be strict… How? A lesion that is totally as white as snow or like the chalk of the Hall or like clean wool or like an egg’s membrane is the same as a lesion that is white somewhat like the look of a bright spot and somewhat like the look of a blister and somewhat like an inflammation – all of them are considered the same.” This means that in actual fact, there is no difference between the four types; the appearance of the lesion can be in any one of these shades or a mixture of any of them in order to conclude that the lesion is impure.

In that case, why should we need to distinguish between the different shades? Rambam continues, “If so, why did the sages enumerate them? … in order to understand the appearance: any kohen (priest) who does not know the appearances and their names, when they teach him and inform him – he will not see the lesion until he understands and knows and can say, this is a bright spot and this is its inflammation, this is a blister and this is its inflammation.” Meaning, that even though there is no practical application to the distinction between the four types of lesion, nonetheless, the kohen must know how to distinguish between them! This is a very unusual law, perhaps we can even say that it is somewhat bizarre: in order to diagnose tzara’at in practice and to proclaim whether a lesion is pure or impure, the kohen must be skilled in definitions that have no practical application!

Pure Torah wisdom

At first glance, all this seems to be enigmatic, especially in the eyes of realists who have a practical approach to life. A car mechanic or a computer technician could justifiably protest: If the color of the parts that I use makes no difference and I could achieve the same results even if I was color-blind, then why do I need specialized training in information that is of no practical use whatsoever?

The reason is that the Torah’s wisdom cannot be measured only by its practical applications. The Torah has essential value that is independent of its expediency. One might ask the thousands of yeshivah students who study Torah every day or the many men who study the daf-yomi (the daily page of Talmud) whether all that they learn has direct practical applicability, but the reply will be: absolutely not! The Talmud contains myriads of topics, pages and pages of long and detailed discussions about hypothetical situations that have no reasonable chance of ever becoming a practical query. Jewish sages throughout the ages have racked their brains over these topics in all seriousness to the extent that there are even practical conclusions that state what the law would be in such a case, even though it is quite clear that this law will never be applied in practice! In effect, it would seem that the Yiddisher kopf (“Jewish mind”) takes great pleasure in dealing with abstract ideas that are far-removed from the world of action… But, what do we need them for?

The inner dimension of the Torah explains that when we study Torah we are constantly occupied with actual reality. Just as our physical world seems to be tangible and real, so there are other spiritual worlds that are no less real (similar to the “many worlds” theory of modern science). The truth is that those laws that have no expression in the physical world that our eyes perceive do actually describe a reality that is tangible in the higher worlds (which the inner dimension of the Torah deals with in detail).

The true perspective on the Torah is from above: the Torah is primarily pure wisdom that deals with a higher realm of truth, literally God’s own wisdom, after which this truth receives a practical garb in our world. Even a topic that deals with very material subjects, such as “a bull that gored a cow,” has its source in a much higher world in which a bull and a cow are symbolic of certain spiritual qualities, which “descend” until they reach tangible expression in our world as a real-live bull and cow.

Obviously, this does not mean that we should underrate the importance of our physical actions in this world. The Torah cannot remain in the abstract world alone while we neglect the physical world: “Studying Talmud is great, for it motivates action,” and “the main thing is action” (as the Lubavitcher Rebbe would often stress). But, it is also important to recognize the essential significance of the Torah and of Torah study even when it remains within the walls of the study hall.

Theory is important in practice

Quite probably, almost every Jew who studies Torah can appreciate the importance of studying Torah even when it has no practical application. But, the abovementioned law pertaining to tzara’at reveals a much deeper level: the great secret of the Torah is that in order to reach a practical halachic conclusion one must be familiar with those abstract definitions that have no practical application!

This means that even the most abstract Torah topic actually becomes practical Jewish law, because, if you want to come to a practical conclusion, you must also specialize in abstract definitions! One might say that we need two degrees in Torah: a first degree in theory and a second degree in practical applications. If in theory there is significance to the distinction between dazzling white and matt white, you must acquire this knowledge and know how to correctly name the lesion and only then deal with the external details that pertain directly to the halachic decision (such as the size of the lesion, etc.) Although we are unaware of what exactly about the diagnosis of the lesion’s color and its name is pertinent, nonetheless, we know that following Rambam’s ruling, in principle there is decisive significance to the essential definition, so much so that someone who does not understand it cannot assert whether it is “pure” or “impure.” In fact, at some profound level even those fundamental definitions that appear to be detached from reality do actually have some influence on the practical diagnosis.

Between father and mother

In Kabbalistic terminology, the Holy Arizal said that tzara’at is a result of “the withdrawal of the light of the father principle.” “The father principle” is the light of the sefirah of wisdom, which is referred to as “father,” as opposed to the sefirah of understanding, which is called, “mother.” Wisdom is the point of pure intellect and understanding takes hold of this initial point and develops it into a more tangible realm. The soul root of individuals who tend towards purely intellectual study stems from the sefirah of wisdom, while the soul root of individuals with a more realistic attitude stems more from understanding.

These concepts of “father” and “mother” are related to our regular familial association of the two terms: the father figure defines the essence and the principles of the entire family. He represents the tendency towards wisdom, the occupation with wisdom for wisdom’s sake. The mother figure represents practical wisdom, the “additional understanding” that is given to women and the talent to understand how reality functions in practice.

Since tzara’at is a result of a withdrawal of wisdom, it indicates an exaggerated tendency toward the practical side of the Torah and negligence of the pure and theoretical side of Torah wisdom. From here we can understand why the special law that demands that the kohen be well-versed even in the entirely theoretical side of the Torah is so pertinent here – because tzara’at itself stems from the withdrawal of wisdom. Therefore, in order to identify it and heal it, one must be particularly aware of the intricacies of wisdom!

More profoundly, theoretical wisdom can already be identified in the crown, the super-conscious power of the soul (which motivates the conscious). In Kabbalistic language, the sefirah of crown has two “persona”: the “Elder of Days” (?????? ???????) and “the Long Countenance” (??????? ?????????). Chassidut explains that the inner essence of “the Elder of Days” is the power of spiritual pleasure in the soul, which motivates us to love life (super-consciously – in direct contrast to the sensualistic “pleasure principle” of modern psychology). The inner essence of “the Long Countenance” is the power of will in the soul. Will is more practically oriented and therefore manifests as the practical wisdom of the sefirah of understanding, while pleasure is “simple pleasure” that manifests as the pure intellect of the sefirah of wisdom. Indeed, rectifying tzara’at or a “plague” (?????) is actually by turning it into “pleasure” (?????), which is a permutation of the same letters. Now it is clear why the lesion must be assessed through the eyes of pure intellect, because theoretical knowledge arouses the power of pure pleasure in the soul. This is the duty of the kohen, the “man of loving-kindness,” whose task is to instill love and pleasure among people.

Individual and communal healing

The way tzara’at is healed teaches us how to heal the soul. Knowing how to truly heal emotional illness involves more than is apparent on the direct practical plane. The higher the levels of the soul that one is able to access, including innermost dimensions that may appear to be detached from the actual physical symptoms, the lower one can descend into the simple practical world to cure the individual’s pain.

From the individual we reach society as a whole: it is our desire to find a cure that will rectify the current situation of the Jewish people and of the world in its entirety, beginning with rectifying Jewish society and Jewish politics here in the Holy Land. To achieve this, it does not suffice to look at the mundane dimension alone; we need to know how to analyze the roots of reality, to expose the various diseases and name them correctly, down to the minutest details of the various shades of white. Once we have achieved this it will be possible to attain true rectification, with God’s help, then as Chassidut teaches, we can transform plague (?????) into pleasure (?????).

From Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, 27th Adar 5768

In the parashot of Tazria-Metzora we learn about the disease of tzara’at (Biblical leprosy) and how the individual suffering from it is purified. Although nowadays we have no way to actively observe the laws of tzara’at, order nonetheless, unhealthy the Ba’al Shem Tov taught us that every word of Torah has a practical application for every individual, at every location and at all times.

This being the case, let’s meditate on one interesting point. The Torah enumerates various types of tzara’at, “When an individual has a blister, or a rash or a bright spot,” the primary sign of impurity being that the skin lesion is white (as Rashi explains that each of these three types of tzara’at is whiter than the preceding type). The sages explain that there are in fact four types of “lesion appearances”: a “blister” (??????), or a “bright spot” (????????), an “inflamed blister” (???????? ????????)” or an “inflamed bright spot” (???????? ??????????). The difference between these four types is in the specific shade of the lesion: the “bright spot” is “strong as snow,” the “blister” is “like white wool,” “an inflamed bright spot” is “like the chalk of the Hall” and an “inflamed blister” is like an “egg’s membrane.” These four shades from dazzling white to matt white are reminiscent of a modern paint catalog in which one can find an amazing wealth of shades in white alone.

Skilled in theory

But what is the significance of the differences between these four types of lesion in Jewish law? Rambam (Maimonides) writes, “These four lesions all participate with one another, either to be lenient or to be strict… How? A lesion that is totally as white as snow or like the chalk of the Hall or like clean wool or like an egg’s membrane is the same as a lesion that is white somewhat like the look of a bright spot and somewhat like the look of a blister and somewhat like an inflammation – all of them are considered the same.” This means that in actual fact, there is no difference between the four types; the appearance of the lesion can be in any one of these shades or a mixture of any of them in order to conclude that the lesion is impure.

In that case, why should we need to distinguish between the different shades? Rambam continues, “If so, why did the sages enumerate them? … in order to understand the appearance: any kohen (priest) who does not know the appearances and their names, when they teach him and inform him – he will not see the lesion until he understands and knows and can say, this is a bright spot and this is its inflammation, this is a blister and this is its inflammation.” Meaning, that even though there is no practical application to the distinction between the four types of lesion, nonetheless, the kohen must know how to distinguish between them! This is a very unusual law, perhaps we can even say that it is somewhat bizarre: in order to diagnose tzara’at in practice and to proclaim whether a lesion is pure or impure, the kohen must be skilled in definitions that have no practical application!

Pure Torah wisdom

At first glance, all this seems to be enigmatic, especially in the eyes of realists who have a practical approach to life. A car mechanic or a computer technician could justifiably protest: If the color of the parts that I use makes no difference and I could achieve the same results even if I was color-blind, then why do I need specialized training in information that is of no practical use whatsoever?

The reason is that the Torah’s wisdom cannot be measured only by its practical applications. The Torah has essential value that is independent of its expediency. One might ask the thousands of yeshivah students who study Torah every day or the many men who study the daf-yomi (the daily page of Talmud) whether all that they learn has direct practical applicability, but the reply will be: absolutely not! The Talmud contains myriads of topics, pages and pages of long and detailed discussions about hypothetical situations that have no reasonable chance of ever becoming a practical query. Jewish sages throughout the ages have racked their brains over these topics in all seriousness to the extent that there are even practical conclusions that state what the law would be in such a case, even though it is quite clear that this law will never be applied in practice! In effect, it would seem that the Yiddisher kopf (“Jewish mind”) takes great pleasure in dealing with abstract ideas that are far-removed from the world of action… But, what do we need them for?

The inner dimension of the Torah explains that when we study Torah we are constantly occupied with actual reality. Just as our physical world seems to be tangible and real, so there are other spiritual worlds that are no less real (similar to the “many worlds” theory of modern science). The truth is that those laws that have no expression in the physical world that our eyes perceive do actually describe a reality that is tangible in the higher worlds (which the inner dimension of the Torah deals with in detail).

The true perspective on the Torah is from above: the Torah is primarily pure wisdom that deals with a higher realm of truth, literally God’s own wisdom, after which this truth receives a practical garb in our world. Even a topic that deals with very material subjects, such as “a bull that gored a cow,” has its source in a much higher world in which a bull and a cow are symbolic of certain spiritual qualities, which “descend” until they reach tangible expression in our world as a real-live bull and cow.

Obviously, this does not mean that we should underrate the importance of our physical actions in this world. The Torah cannot remain in the abstract world alone while we neglect the physical world: “Studying Talmud is great, for it motivates action,” and “the main thing is action” (as the Lubavitcher Rebbe would often stress). But, it is also important to recognize the essential significance of the Torah and of Torah study even when it remains within the walls of the study hall.

Theory is important in practice

Quite probably, almost every Jew who studies Torah can appreciate the importance of studying Torah even when it has no practical application. But, the abovementioned law pertaining to tzara’at reveals a much deeper level: the great secret of the Torah is that in order to reach a practical halachic conclusion one must be familiar with those abstract definitions that have no practical application!

This means that even the most abstract Torah topic actually becomes practical Jewish law, because, if you want to come to a practical conclusion, you must also specialize in abstract definitions! One might say that we need two degrees in Torah: a first degree in theory and a second degree in practical applications. If in theory there is significance to the distinction between dazzling white and matt white, you must acquire this knowledge and know how to correctly name the lesion and only then deal with the external details that pertain directly to the halachic decision (such as the size of the lesion, etc.) Although we are unaware of what exactly about the diagnosis of the lesion’s color and its name is pertinent, nonetheless, we know that following Rambam’s ruling, in principle there is decisive significance to the essential definition, so much so that someone who does not understand it cannot assert whether it is “pure” or “impure.” In fact, at some profound level even those fundamental definitions that appear to be detached from reality do actually have some influence on the practical diagnosis.

Between father and mother

In Kabbalistic terminology, the Holy Arizal said that tzara’at is a result of “the withdrawal of the light of the father principle.” “The father principle” is the light of the sefirah of wisdom, which is referred to as “father,” as opposed to the sefirah of understanding, which is called, “mother.” Wisdom is the point of pure intellect and understanding takes hold of this initial point and develops it into a more tangible realm. The soul root of individuals who tend towards purely intellectual study stems from the sefirah of wisdom, while the soul root of individuals with a more realistic attitude stems more from understanding.

These concepts of “father” and “mother” are related to our regular familial association of the two terms: the father figure defines the essence and the principles of the entire family. He represents the tendency towards wisdom, the occupation with wisdom for wisdom’s sake. The mother figure represents practical wisdom, the “additional understanding” that is given to women and the talent to understand how reality functions in practice.

Since tzara’at is a result of a withdrawal of wisdom, it indicates an exaggerated tendency toward the practical side of the Torah and negligence of the pure and theoretical side of Torah wisdom. From here we can understand why the special law that demands that the kohen be well-versed even in the entirely theoretical side of the Torah is so pertinent here – because tzara’at itself stems from the withdrawal of wisdom. Therefore, in order to identify it and heal it, one must be particularly aware of the intricacies of wisdom!

More profoundly, theoretical wisdom can already be identified in the crown, the super-conscious power of the soul (which motivates the conscious). In Kabbalistic language, the sefirah of crown has two “persona”: the “Elder of Days” (?????? ???????) and “the Long Countenance” (??????? ?????????). Chassidut explains that the inner essence of “the Elder of Days” is the power of spiritual pleasure in the soul, which motivates us to love life (super-consciously – in direct contrast to the sensualistic “pleasure principle” of modern psychology). The inner essence of “the Long Countenance” is the power of will in the soul. Will is more practically oriented and therefore manifests as the practical wisdom of the sefirah of understanding, while pleasure is “simple pleasure” that manifests as the pure intellect of the sefirah of wisdom. Indeed, rectifying tzara’at or a “plague” (?????) is actually by turning it into “pleasure” (?????), which is a permutation of the same letters. Now it is clear why the lesion must be assessed through the eyes of pure intellect, because theoretical knowledge arouses the power of pure pleasure in the soul. This is the duty of the kohen, the “man of loving-kindness,” whose task is to instill love and pleasure among people.

Individual and communal healing

The way tzara’at is healed teaches us how to heal the soul. Knowing how to truly heal emotional illness involves more than is apparent on the direct practical plane. The higher the levels of the soul that one is able to access, including innermost dimensions that may appear to be detached from the actual physical symptoms, the lower one can descend into the simple practical world to cure the individual’s pain.

From the individual we reach society as a whole: it is our desire to find a cure that will rectify the current situation of the Jewish people and of the world in its entirety, beginning with rectifying Jewish society and Jewish politics here in the Holy Land. To achieve this, it does not suffice to look at the mundane dimension alone; we need to know how to analyze the roots of reality, to expose the various diseases and name them correctly, down to the minutest details of the various shades of white. Once we have achieved this it will be possible to attain true rectification, with God’s help, then as Chassidut teaches, we can transform plague (?????) into pleasure (?????).

From Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, 27th Adar 5768

The well-known directive from the sages is that on Purim, tadalafil

One must become inebriated until one cannot distinguish [lit. “does not know”] between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.”

This Talmudic saying is the foundation for the joy of Purim, case both in Jewish law and in the Torah’s inner dimension. But how should we understand the stipulation that the drinking should continue until we no longer know the difference between Haman and Mordechai?

Let’s begin by saying that it is not necessary to interpret the difference between knowing and not knowing a well-defined moment in time, site an exact moment while drinking when I no longer know. Instead, moving from knowing to not-knowing can be thought of as a developing process. To begin with, I know. Then, I reach a level at which I don’t know. But, from that new perspective, I can see a new level of not-knowing and aspire to it. In this way, I continually pass between states of knowing (the difference between Haman and Mordechai) and not knowing what the difference is.

So, just as inebriation is a process, being able to tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman has different meanings, depending on what state we are at.

A well-known Chabad speaker once quipped: What do you get when you cross a Lubavitcher with Carl Sagan? Billions and billions and billions of lechaim’s!!! So let’s start our journey and if you happen to be reading this on Purim, we invite you to say a lechaim with us at every stage!

The first lechaim – the tzadik rises, the wicked falls

Lechaim, lechaim! In the most literal sense, the reason one might not be able to tell the difference between Mordechai being blessed and Haman being cursed is that we simply can’t decide which is greater, our joy over Mordechai’s rise to power or our joy at seeing Haman’s downfall. On Purim we do not hide the fact that we are happy at Haman’s downfall. It is enough to hear the clamorous outburst in synagogue when Haman’s name is mentioned during the Megillah reading, to prove the point. But, Purim joy is not merely tasteless schadenfreude, as we rejoice in someone else’s misfortune. We rejoice because the Almighty revealed His Providence over us. “Behold, the Guardian of Israel does not rest nor sleep,” and He intercedes in the story of the Megillah on our behalf, turning the tables around so that Haman’s evil plot of genocide overturns in the end to our benefit. Indeed, the 50-cubit high tree was Haman’s idea in the first place, and where eventually he himself was hung!

At the same time, we rejoice over Mordechai’s rise to power. In Shushan, Mordechai was our Rebbe, our beloved leader, and he rises to become the most important person in the entire kingdom, as the verse in the Megillah states, “For Mordechai the Jew is the second-in-command to Achashverosh.” We are justifiably proud of the fact that “our man,” the good guy, is victorious and we see it as a Divine revelation, sanctifying God’s Name. The tzadik, the righteous individual of the generation represents not only us as a people, but also the Almighty, since the entire story of the Megillah began with Mordechai refusing to pay homage to Haman and thereby sanctifying God.

So, which joy is greater? It is our joy over Haman’s downfall or over Mordechai’s ascent? When clear-headed, one might have a concrete opinion, preferring one or the other, but after a lechaim or two, it may become difficult to decide. This is the first level of not knowing.

Second lechaim: Who am I?

Having looked at Haman and Mordechai in the literal sense, as two actual people from the past, we now arrive at a deeper interpretation. From now on, Haman and Mordechai reflect different aspects of our own inner selves. Now, not knowing the difference between Haman and Mordechai means that I can’t rightly assess my self. Am I like Haman or am I like Mordechai?

Let’s say that in general I am a good Jew who follows the Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law), but what am I really like underneath? Am I like Mordechai the tzadik, naturally aspiring to do good, but my evil inclination tempts me from without and tries to incite me against my better judgment? Or perhaps the opposite is true and inside I am truly like Haman, wicked and full of evil urges, base desires, anger and every other malevolence, but somehow or another I succeed in overcoming the gushing volcano inside me and masquerade as a tzadik?

Here, the sages teach us that “Even if the whole world says you are a tzadik, you should see yourself as wicked.” So, in general, I should perceive myself as the wicked Haman! True, I have many good points, but in essence I identify with my coarse animalistic tendencies (food, drink, etc.). I have a pure and holy neshamah (Divine soul), “an actual part of God Above,” a “pure soul that You have given me,” which can and should defeat my base self. But, although I go out of my way to act like a human being and not like an animal, inside I am truly just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In a similar vein, anyone who considers himself to be a tzadik has a serious problem – here is where pride comes into play, the beginning of all sin.

In short, it is actually my good inclination that can come to terms with my being more like the wicked Haman and it is my evil inclination that wants me to think that I am like the righteous Mordechai!

So, what happens on Purim? On the one hand, we can spot some of those more introverted, gentle individuals who after a few tots of drink begin a penetrating self-criticizing soul-search (something we tend to repress). Now, on Purim I can admit to the fact that somewhere deep inside me, within the inner confines of my soul, I am such a can of worms that it is frightening to think about it. Then I begin to cry, with the realization that it is I who am the wicked Haman, and it is only by a miracle that they haven’t yet hung me on a tree.

On the other hand, being inebriated on Purim as I should, I can also say, “I am the righteous Mordechai!” Throughout the year we come in contact with the baser, lowest layers of the soul, but on Purim we reach a deeper identity, rising to an inner, essential point where we are all righteous. This is the profound Jewish identity that arises on Purim in particular and Mordechai himself is the one who arouses it.

There are great tzadikim (righteous individuals) who can claim their own praise without it ever going to their head. The classic example of this is Moses who himself wrote the words of the Torah scroll, “And the man Moses was the most humble of all men.” Yet, Moses retained his great humility even while and after writing this verse. We too can reach this level on Purim: beyond my personal façade, underneath all the disguises and the masquerades, I am Jewish and as such I can identify with Mordechai and say, “blessed is Mordechai the Jew.”

So, at this stage, we truly do not know where we are on the scale that divides between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.” So, who am I then?

The third lechaim: living in the present

Hold tight! The truth is that at the previous level, I still don’t know what not knowing is because with all my inner debating about who I am and what I am, Haman or Mordechai, I am still very much involved with my own self-image. I am trying to take hold of myself, to define myself and give myself a grade – wicked or righteous? I am attempting to keep the hold on to the directive, “Know thyself,” and even if the outcome is a draw, I am still steeped in self-knowledge and not with “non-knowledge.”

Now, after the third lechaim, we need to realize that the main thing is not to deal at all with the question of “who am I?” Now we begin to interpret that not knowing the difference between Haman is cursed and Mordechai is blessed means not caring whether the Haman in me is cursed or whether the Mordechai in me is blessed, because I am not trying to grade myself or define my self-image. Because, I realize that all the positive and negative traits I think I possess, none of them are really me. Maybe they are all in my imagination. Who knows what lies at the root of my soul?

So, with the third lechaim, we come to the realization that we need not have anything to do with all that soul-searching; it’s all just one big humungous waste of time. The most important aspect of serving God is to live in the present moment: at this very moment I am simply raw material that has not yet been formed and everything is still possible. I could now either be “blessed Mordechai” or, God forbid, “cursed Haman” and the same is true of the very next moment and any moment. Every second I can choose with perfect freedom of choice whether to play the part of Mordechai or of Haman. There is no point in trying to identify myself as wicked or as a tzadik, or imagine myself as being anywhere between the two, because even attempting to do so is missing my true goal. I must live the present, above any awareness of what has been, and only with what there should be at this very moment.

In the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe places the figure of the beinoni, the intermediate individual, as an exemplar we should all aspire to. The beinoni is one who is forbidden even for a moment to look at himself and say, “I am like this, I am like that.” Rather, I am always an intermediate who can choose between cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai. Every given moment is the first moment of time and I have to make sure that I choose to use it properly (even if I have fallen, I should not look back too much but look forward and choose good from now on). This is how we should behave throughout the entire year. Nonetheless, it is still difficult to detach ourselves from our natural tendency to grade ourselves, to assess our performance. Only on Purim, after a few lechaim’s to help us forget ourselves, can we really reach this level of not knowing anything of the past at all and only living in the present moment.

The fourth lechaim: behind all the masks

So, let’s make another “lechaim,” and take a deep breath. We began not knowing which joy was greater, Haman’s fall or the Mordechai’s ascent. We continued without knowing who I am and we rose to a level at which it makes no difference at all who I am because it’s all a masquerade…

Now comes the moment to remove all the disguises and reveal who is really hiding behind all the games. Purim is the festival of “the Book of Esther” (????????? ????????), which can be translated literally as, “revealing the hidden.” God too is hidden, as the verse says, “Indeed, You are a concealed God, the God of Israel who redeems.”

Behind the true Haman (the one on the tree) and the real Mordechai (the one riding the horse), behind my little inner Haman and my little inner Mordechai, and even behind my being at this present moment – behind it all is God Almighty. As we know, there is “none besides Him” Therefore, the more layers we peel away from reality as we generally perceive it, from space, from time, and from all the souls in the world, the more we remove the garments and look for the bare essence of reality, the more we eventually reveal God’s essential being.

It is impossible to completely raise the screen that conceals God’s essential being within all, because it would spoil the play. But, at the climax of the Purim festivities, we can reveal the secret hiding behind the screen: that behind all the thousands of masks of this world is the One and Only Unique eternal singularity. Once we have reached this stage we have truly reached a state that can be described as not knowing the difference between is the accursed Haman and the blessed Mordechai, because even behind Haman we perceive God’s singular essence.

This knowledge does not come to justify an anarchistic chaos in the world, God forbid. This state of knowledge that senses the secret behind all of reality is subtle and elusive. It does not contradict the true fact that we all have a clear mission to choose good and to loathe evil. In actual fact, this is the very reason why everything is possible, because just as God masquerades in different disguises and is hidden everywhere, so we too can follow His example and decide to dress up as Mordechai all year round.

Moses and Mordechai

To conclude, Purim is always in close proximity to Parashat Tetzaveh, in which we find a special phenomenon: Moses’ proper name is not mentioned. From when we read about Moses’ birth (in Parashat Shemot), to the very end of the Pentateuch, this is the only parashah in which Moses’ name does not appear. This in spite of the fact that Moshe is addressed right at the beginning of the parashah with the words, “You command” and continues with God’s direct speech with Moses.

In Chassidut we learn that the lack of Moses’ name appearing indicates that in this parashah, he is at an even higher level of self. As we have seen, we can peel away our personal identity more and more, until we touch something of the unknowable, until we cannot know the difference (??? ?????? ?????), which also literally means, “until we come to the unknown” that is underneath all the masks that disguise the real me. This is the point that Moses reached when his proper name disappears and only the “you” with which God addresses him remains.

The sages state that “Mordechai in his generation was like Moses in his generation.” Moses’ soul is reincarnated as Mordechai, and combining these two figures brings us to the Jewish soul’s innermost essence, after removing all of its façades, disguises, and masks, until it reaches the unknown that is beyond all knowledge. When I reach this level, I realize that I am nothing but a happy Jew.

Happy Purim!

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s Purim Eve farbrengen, 5772

The well-known directive from the sages is that on Purim, unhealthy

One must become inebriated until one cannot distinguish [lit. “does not know”] between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.”

This Talmudic saying is the foundation for the joy of Purim, sildenafil both in Jewish law and in the Torah’s inner dimension. But how should we understand the stipulation that the drinking should continue until we no longer know the difference between Haman and Mordechai?

Let’s begin by saying that it is not necessary to interpret the difference between knowing and not knowing a well-defined moment in time, pharmacy an exact moment while drinking when I no longer know. Instead, moving from knowing to not-knowing can be thought of as a developing process. To begin with, I know. Then, I reach a level at which I don’t know. But, from that new perspective, I can see a new level of not-knowing and aspire to it. In this way, I continually pass between states of knowing (the difference between Haman and Mordechai) and not knowing what the difference is.

So, just as inebriation is a process, being able to tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman has different meanings, depending on what state we are at.

A well-known Chabad speaker once quipped: What do you get when you cross a Lubavitcher with Carl Sagan? Billions and billions and billions of lechaim’s!!! So let’s start our journey and if you happen to be reading this on Purim, we invite you to say a lechaim with us at every stage!

The first lechaim – the tzadik rises, the wicked falls

Lechaim, lechaim! In the most literal sense, the reason one might not be able to tell the difference between Mordechai being blessed and Haman being cursed is that we simply can’t decide which is greater, our joy over Mordechai’s rise to power or our joy at seeing Haman’s downfall. On Purim we do not hide the fact that we are happy at Haman’s downfall. It is enough to hear the clamorous outburst in synagogue when Haman’s name is mentioned during the Megillah reading, to prove the point. But, Purim joy is not merely tasteless schadenfreude, as we rejoice in someone else’s misfortune. We rejoice because the Almighty revealed His Providence over us. “Behold, the Guardian of Israel does not rest nor sleep,” and He intercedes in the story of the Megillah on our behalf, turning the tables around so that Haman’s evil plot of genocide overturns in the end to our benefit. Indeed, the 50-cubit high tree was Haman’s idea in the first place, and where eventually he himself was hung!

At the same time, we rejoice over Mordechai’s rise to power. In Shushan, Mordechai was our Rebbe, our beloved leader, and he rises to become the most important person in the entire kingdom, as the verse in the Megillah states, “For Mordechai the Jew is the second-in-command to Achashverosh.” We are justifiably proud of the fact that “our man,” the good guy, is victorious and we see it as a Divine revelation, sanctifying God’s Name. The tzadik, the righteous individual of the generation represents not only us as a people, but also the Almighty, since the entire story of the Megillah began with Mordechai refusing to pay homage to Haman and thereby sanctifying God.

So, which joy is greater? It is our joy over Haman’s downfall or over Mordechai’s ascent? When clear-headed, one might have a concrete opinion, preferring one or the other, but after a lechaim or two, it may become difficult to decide. This is the first level of not knowing.

Second lechaim: Who am I?

Having looked at Haman and Mordechai in the literal sense, as two actual people from the past, we now arrive at a deeper interpretation. From now on, Haman and Mordechai reflect different aspects of our own inner selves. Now, not knowing the difference between Haman and Mordechai means that I can’t rightly assess my self. Am I like Haman or am I like Mordechai?

Let’s say that in general I am a good Jew who follows the Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law), but what am I really like underneath? Am I like Mordechai the tzadik, naturally aspiring to do good, but my evil inclination tempts me from without and tries to incite me against my better judgment? Or perhaps the opposite is true and inside I am truly like Haman, wicked and full of evil urges, base desires, anger and every other malevolence, but somehow or another I succeed in overcoming the gushing volcano inside me and masquerade as a tzadik?

Here, the sages teach us that “Even if the whole world says you are a tzadik, you should see yourself as wicked.” So, in general, I should perceive myself as the wicked Haman! True, I have many good points, but in essence I identify with my coarse animalistic tendencies (food, drink, etc.). I have a pure and holy neshamah (Divine soul), “an actual part of God Above,” a “pure soul that You have given me,” which can and should defeat my base self. But, although I go out of my way to act like a human being and not like an animal, inside I am truly just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In a similar vein, anyone who considers himself to be a tzadik has a serious problem – here is where pride comes into play, the beginning of all sin.

In short, it is actually my good inclination that can come to terms with my being more like the wicked Haman and it is my evil inclination that wants me to think that I am like the righteous Mordechai!

So, what happens on Purim? On the one hand, we can spot some of those more introverted, gentle individuals who after a few tots of drink begin a penetrating self-criticizing soul-search (something we tend to repress). Now, on Purim I can admit to the fact that somewhere deep inside me, within the inner confines of my soul, I am such a can of worms that it is frightening to think about it. Then I begin to cry, with the realization that it is I who am the wicked Haman, and it is only by a miracle that they haven’t yet hung me on a tree.

On the other hand, being inebriated on Purim as I should, I can also say, “I am the righteous Mordechai!” Throughout the year we come in contact with the baser, lowest layers of the soul, but on Purim we reach a deeper identity, rising to an inner, essential point where we are all righteous. This is the profound Jewish identity that arises on Purim in particular and Mordechai himself is the one who arouses it.

There are great tzadikim (righteous individuals) who can claim their own praise without it ever going to their head. The classic example of this is Moses who himself wrote the words of the Torah scroll, “And the man Moses was the most humble of all men.” Yet, Moses retained his great humility even while and after writing this verse. We too can reach this level on Purim: beyond my personal façade, underneath all the disguises and the masquerades, I am Jewish and as such I can identify with Mordechai and say, “blessed is Mordechai the Jew.”

So, at this stage, we truly do not know where we are on the scale that divides between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.” So, who am I then?

The third lechaim: living in the present

Hold tight! The truth is that at the previous level, I still don’t know what not knowing is because with all my inner debating about who I am and what I am, Haman or Mordechai, I am still very much involved with my own self-image. I am trying to take hold of myself, to define myself and give myself a grade – wicked or righteous? I am attempting to keep the hold on to the directive, “Know thyself,” and even if the outcome is a draw, I am still steeped in self-knowledge and not with “non-knowledge.”

Now, after the third lechaim, we need to realize that the main thing is not to deal at all with the question of “who am I?” Now we begin to interpret that not knowing the difference between Haman is cursed and Mordechai is blessed means not caring whether the Haman in me is cursed or whether the Mordechai in me is blessed, because I am not trying to grade myself or define my self-image. Because, I realize that all the positive and negative traits I think I possess, none of them are really me. Maybe they are all in my imagination. Who knows what lies at the root of my soul?

So, with the third lechaim, we come to the realization that we need not have anything to do with all that soul-searching; it’s all just one big humungous waste of time. The most important aspect of serving God is to live in the present moment: at this very moment I am simply raw material that has not yet been formed and everything is still possible. I could now either be “blessed Mordechai” or, God forbid, “cursed Haman” and the same is true of the very next moment and any moment. Every second I can choose with perfect freedom of choice whether to play the part of Mordechai or of Haman. There is no point in trying to identify myself as wicked or as a tzadik, or imagine myself as being anywhere between the two, because even attempting to do so is missing my true goal. I must live the present, above any awareness of what has been, and only with what there should be at this very moment.

In the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe places the figure of the beinoni, the intermediate individual, as an exemplar we should all aspire to. The beinoni is one who is forbidden even for a moment to look at himself and say, “I am like this, I am like that.” Rather, I am always an intermediate who can choose between cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai. Every given moment is the first moment of time and I have to make sure that I choose to use it properly (even if I have fallen, I should not look back too much but look forward and choose good from now on). This is how we should behave throughout the entire year. Nonetheless, it is still difficult to detach ourselves from our natural tendency to grade ourselves, to assess our performance. Only on Purim, after a few lechaim’s to help us forget ourselves, can we really reach this level of not knowing anything of the past at all and only living in the present moment.

The fourth lechaim: behind all the masks

So, let’s make another “lechaim,” and take a deep breath. We began not knowing which joy was greater, Haman’s fall or the Mordechai’s ascent. We continued without knowing who I am and we rose to a level at which it makes no difference at all who I am because it’s all a masquerade…

Now comes the moment to remove all the disguises and reveal who is really hiding behind all the games. Purim is the festival of “the Book of Esther” (????????? ????????), which can be translated literally as, “revealing the hidden.” God too is hidden, as the verse says, “Indeed, You are a concealed God, the God of Israel who redeems.”

Behind the true Haman (the one on the tree) and the real Mordechai (the one riding the horse), behind my little inner Haman and my little inner Mordechai, and even behind my being at this present moment – behind it all is God Almighty. As we know, there is “none besides Him” Therefore, the more layers we peel away from reality as we generally perceive it, from space, from time, and from all the souls in the world, the more we remove the garments and look for the bare essence of reality, the more we eventually reveal God’s essential being.

It is impossible to completely raise the screen that conceals God’s essential being within all, because it would spoil the play. But, at the climax of the Purim festivities, we can reveal the secret hiding behind the screen: that behind all the thousands of masks of this world is the One and Only Unique eternal singularity. Once we have reached this stage we have truly reached a state that can be described as not knowing the difference between is the accursed Haman and the blessed Mordechai, because even behind Haman we perceive God’s singular essence.

This knowledge does not come to justify an anarchistic chaos in the world, God forbid. This state of knowledge that senses the secret behind all of reality is subtle and elusive. It does not contradict the true fact that we all have a clear mission to choose good and to loathe evil. In actual fact, this is the very reason why everything is possible, because just as God masquerades in different disguises and is hidden everywhere, so we too can follow His example and decide to dress up as Mordechai all year round.

Moses and Mordechai

To conclude, Purim is always in close proximity to Parashat Tetzaveh, in which we find a special phenomenon: Moses’ proper name is not mentioned. From when we read about Moses’ birth (in Parashat Shemot), to the very end of the Pentateuch, this is the only parashah in which Moses’ name does not appear. This in spite of the fact that Moshe is addressed right at the beginning of the parashah with the words, “You command” and continues with God’s direct speech with Moses.

In Chassidut we learn that the lack of Moses’ name appearing indicates that in this parashah, he is at an even higher level of self. As we have seen, we can peel away our personal identity more and more, until we touch something of the unknowable, until we cannot know the difference (??? ?????? ?????), which also literally means, “until we come to the unknown” that is underneath all the masks that disguise the real me. This is the point that Moses reached when his proper name disappears and only the “you” with which God addresses him remains.

The sages state that “Mordechai in his generation was like Moses in his generation.” Moses’ soul is reincarnated as Mordechai, and combining these two figures brings us to the Jewish soul’s innermost essence, after removing all of its façades, disguises, and masks, until it reaches the unknown that is beyond all knowledge. When I reach this level, I realize that I am nothing but a happy Jew.

Happy Purim!

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s Purim Eve farbrengen, 5772

The sin of the Golden Calf divides Parashat Ki Tisa into two parts – before the sin and after it.

At first glance, remedy it seems that the sin ruined all of God’s plans. Everything was going so well: the Exodus from Egypt, purchase the Splitting of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire and the cloud and water from the rock until the miracles reached a climax with the voices and the lightning at Mt. Sinai and Moses’ ascent to God. We just had to wait. A little more patience and our relationship with God would be consummated in the best possible way. But, then the Children of Israel spoiled everything and in the sages’ sharp imagery became like, “A wretched bride who betrayed her groom under the wedding canopy [instead of waiting for him].” It seems that the sin of the Golden Calf shattered the great revelation at Mt.Sinai to smithereens until nothing remained…

In fact, the sin of the Golden Calf appears to be another frustrating blunder in a series of historical blunders that began with Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden. Why is it that everything is ruined at the most critical moment?

Yet, from another perspective we can ask, is this really merely a distressing diversion from God’s original program? The sages reveal that in fact this is not so. God has a plan that is beyond what is apparent to us and even falling into sin has a purpose. The Talmud states that “The Jewish people were not worthy of that act.” For their part, they were fully capable of overcoming the evil inclination, but the Almighty decreed a heavenly decree that the inclination overcome them, “to give a voice to those wishing to repent.” Obviously, this did not negate our freedom of choice (which is why the sinners deserved punishment for their deeds), but here we catch a glimpse into God’s great program that rolled the plot out in such a way that we sinned (through our own freedom of choice).

The sages’ explanation of the Golden Calf and its implications “to give a voice to those wishing to repent,” so instructs us to not think of ourselves as forever lost, once we have fallen into sin. Before sinning, one might think that there are only two options: either you are righteous or wicked, now we can understand that there is a third option: you may have sinned, but now you can repent.

Having understood that, let us now turn to the Torah’s inner dimension to understand the events of Parashat Ki tisa from a new perspective. Why is the level attained through repentance so great that sometimes sin is imperative (from God’s perspective)?

Breaking unity

Let’s begin from the act that expresses the sin and its effects more than any other: when Moses saw the sin, “He threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them beneath the mountain.” The key is that the tablets were shattered. Indeed, the holy Arizal teaches us that at the deepest spiritual dimension, all of creation is one great process of shattering and rectification. Initially, when great Divine light attempts to descend and manifest in vessels, there is a great explosion – the vessels shatter, the lights disappear, sparks fall, entire worlds are destroyed and chaos ensues until the World of Rectification is created. The description of the shattering of vessels is covered in great depth in Kabbalah, down to the minutest details – but we will suffice with the general explanation mentioned in Chassidut, that shattering is necessary for “leaping from unity to diversity.”

What this means is that God is one – as we proclaim twice a day – therefore His initial revelation is completely unified. Like pure white light in which no individual color can be perceived, unity is one great light that cannot be contained within a multitude of vessels. But, our world is the complete opposite of unity: it has such great diversity and  details that here we are likely to forget that everything has one source. At some point in the middle, between the one Divine light and between our own world, an inconceivable transition occurs. It is a quantum leap between unity and diversity; a transition following which nothing will ever be the same again. In order to generate this quantum leap, shattering must occur (similar in a sense to atomic fission). This shattering is indeed a great catastrophe, a trauma that remains at the foundation of the world, and the initial diversity that results is one that denies unity altogether. But, the aim is to reach a paradoxical state of diversity in which true unity can be experienced.

Shattering can be illustrated with an allegory of a teacher-student relationship. Let’s imagine a great rabbi, an illustrious sage who wishes to impart his wisdom to his young student whose mental capacity is worlds apart from the teacher’s mind. Within the teacher, the wisdom is deep and wonderful and he experiences it as one great all-encompassing light. But, there is no way that the student will be able to integrate the rabbi’s wisdom and grasp it without the rabbi dividing (or shattering) his wisdom into tiny pieces. In this way the student can begin to study and gradually integrate the great light of his teacher’s wisdom to the extent of his capability. If the process is successful, the student merits reaching an understanding of his teacher’s perspective and senses the great all-inclusive intelligence that hovers above all the minute details.

From dissolution to repentance

Now let’s get back to Parashat Ki tisa. The Revelation at Sinai was the zenith of unity: the Jewish people arrived at Mt.Sinai “as one man with one heart.” When replying to the Almighty, the entire people replied in unison, “We will do and we will listen.” They stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” In fact, the entire world participated in this experience and the whole world stood in total silence when God spoke. This unity is definitely fitting for the righteous: “and Your nation are all righteous.” Like the ministering angels who sing in a gigantic choir, “together they are all holiness.”

But, after the great light of the Ten Commandments descended upon the people, their unity began to crack, as emphasized in the Torah’s description of the act of the Golden Calf, “they took apart their golden nose-rings… the entire nation came apart with their golden nose-rings.” Removing their nose-rings for the purpose of creating the Golden Calf was not only an act of taking off their jewelry but one of collapse and decadence. The apparent unity that they experienced while dancing around the Golden Calf was a display of false unity, the type that covers up a general atmosphere of debauchery, where each individual seeks to fulfill his own desires and lusts. With the festivities surrounding the Golden Calf, the nation had shattered into tiny fragments. When Moses descended from the mountain he heard dissonant sounds coming from the camp and when he saw the extent of the collapse, he broke the tablets, reflecting the catastrophic shattering of the nation’s unity.

To extricate ourselves from the effects of the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses revealed the ability to repent even after such a dire communal sin. But the world after the sin and repentance was no longer the same. At first, we were in a world of unity, the world of the righteous, and now we experienced the transition into a fragmented reality, the world of people seeking to repent, each carrying his or her own particular burden, each with his or her own shade of color.

But, concealed within this diversity is a spark of unity! Our sages teach us that in the Ark of the Covenant, together with the two new tablets of stone that Moses later brought down from Sinai, lay the shards of the first tablets. The shattering had been given new meaning. It was not just an unplanned fall but “a descent for the sake of ascent,” which resulted in an innovation that had never been before: the ability to contain unity within diversity.

Indeed, after the Golden Calf, Moses discovered the right moment to put in an exceptional request to God: “Inform me of Your ways.” God complied and revealed His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. Now we can understand why the revelation of God’s thirteen attributes came at that moment in particular. Because, preceding the sin we only knew of God’s unity and not His detailed attributes, but now, after the transition from unity to diversity we can perceive God’s management of the world in a new light. Instead of saying only, “God is one,” we can now describe God through His thirteen attributes of Mercy through which His grand singular unity is manifest, thus revealing it in all of the details in this world. This idea is most beautifully illustrated by the gematria of the word “one” (?????), which is 13!

As with the teacher and his student, a new facet of wisdom appears after the shattering that was not at all apparent before. The teacher himself is surprised by the variety of details that he succeeds in gleaning from the initial, general light, and from the fact that the new details actually reveal a more elevated aspect of the wisdom’s unity. This too is the benefit gained from the breaking of the first tablets. After the sin of the Golden Calf, God’s ways and His attributes are revealed to us and the Torah that we receive anew divides into a wonderful richness of detail as the sages state, “God said to him [Moses], do not be upset over the first tablets, for they were no more than Ten Commandments but with the second tablets I give you the laws, the Midrash and the homilies.” As the verse in Job states, “He told you all the mysteries of wisdom, for there is [now] twice as much in it.” The new world revealed after the sin is a world that contains twice the amount of wisdom, now that unity has been revealed within diversity.

The sin of the Golden Calf divides Parashat Ki Tisa into two parts – before the sin and after it.

At first glance, sovaldi sale it seems that the sin ruined all of God’s plans. Everything was going so well: the Exodus from Egypt, buy the Splitting of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire and the cloud and water from the rock until the miracles reached a climax with the voices and the lightning at Mt.Sinai and Moses’ ascent to God. We just had to wait. A little more patience and our relationship with God would be consummated in the best possible way. But, then the Children of Israel spoiled everything and in the sages’ sharp imagery became like, “A wretched bride who betrayed her groom under the wedding canopy [instead of waiting for him].” It seems that the sin of the Golden Calf shattered the great revelation at Mt.Sinai to smithereens until nothing remained…

In fact, the sin of the Golden Calf appears to be another frustrating blunder in a series of historical blunders that began with Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden. Why is it that everything is ruined at the most critical moment?

Yet, from another perspective we can ask, is this really merely a distressing diversion from God’s original program? The sages reveal that in fact this is not so. God has a plan that is beyond what is apparent to us and even falling into sin has a purpose. The Talmud states that “The Jewish people were not worthy of that act.” For their part, they were fully capable of overcoming the evil inclination, but the Almighty decreed a heavenly decree that the inclination overcome them, “to give a voice to those wishing to repent.” Obviously, this did not negate our freedom of choice (which is why the sinners deserved punishment for their deeds), but here we catch a glimpse into God’s great program that rolled the plot out in such a way that we sinned (through our own freedom of choice).

The sages’ explanation of the Golden Calf and its implications “to give a voice to those wishing to repent,” so instructs us to not think of ourselves as forever lost, once we have fallen into sin. Before sinning, one might think that there are only two options: either you are righteous or wicked, now we can understand that there is a third option: you may have sinned, but now you can repent.

Having understood that, let us now turn to the Torah’s inner dimension to understand the events of Parashat Ki tisa from a new perspective. Why is the level attained through repentance so great that sometimes sin is imperative (from God’s perspective)?

Breaking unity

Let’s begin from the act that expresses the sin and its effects more than any other: when Moses saw the sin, “He threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them beneath the mountain.” The key is that the tablets were shattered. Indeed, the holy Arizal teaches us that at the deepest spiritual dimension, all of creation is one great process of shattering and rectification. Initially, when great Divine light attempts to descend and manifest in vessels, there is a great explosion – the vessels shatter, the lights disappear, sparks fall, entire worlds are destroyed and chaos ensues until the World of Rectification is created. The description of the shattering of vessels is covered in great depth in Kabbalah, down to the minutest details – but we will suffice with the general explanation mentioned in Chassidut, that shattering is necessary for “leaping from unity to diversity.”

What this means is that God is one – as we proclaim twice a day – therefore His initial revelation is completely unified. Like pure white light in which no individual color can be perceived, unity is one great light that cannot be contained within a multitude of vessels. But, our world is the complete opposite of unity: it has such great diversity and  details that here we are likely to forget that everything has one source. At some point in the middle, between the one Divine light and between our own world, an inconceivable transition occurs. It is a quantum leap between unity and diversity; a transition following which nothing will ever be the same again. In order to generate this quantum leap, shattering must occur (similar in a sense to atomic fission). This shattering is indeed a great catastrophe, a trauma that remains at the foundation of the world, and the initial diversity that results is one that denies unity altogether. But, the aim is to reach a paradoxical state of diversity in which true unity can be experienced.

Shattering can be illustrated with an allegory of a teacher-student relationship. Let’s imagine a great rabbi, an illustrious sage who wishes to impart his wisdom to his young student whose mental capacity is worlds apart from the teacher’s mind. Within the teacher, the wisdom is deep and wonderful and he experiences it as one great all-encompassing light. But, there is no way that the student will be able to integrate the rabbi’s wisdom and grasp it without the rabbi dividing (or shattering) his wisdom into tiny pieces. In this way the student can begin to study and gradually integrate the great light of his teacher’s wisdom to the extent of his capability. If the process is successful, the student merits reaching an understanding of his teacher’s perspective and senses the great all-inclusive intelligence that hovers above all the minute details.

From dissolution to repentance

Now let’s get back to Parashat Ki tisa. The Revelation at Sinai was the zenith of unity: the Jewish people arrived at Mt.Sinai “as one man with one heart.” When replying to the Almighty, the entire people replied in unison, “We will do and we will listen.” They stood at the foot of Mt.Sinai as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” In fact, the entire world participated in this experience and the whole world stood in total silence when God spoke. This unity is definitely fitting for the righteous: “and Your nation are all righteous.” Like the ministering angels who sing in a gigantic choir, “together they are all holiness.”

But, after the great light of the Ten Commandments descended upon the people, their unity began to crack, as emphasized in the Torah’s description of the act of the Golden Calf, “they took apart their golden nose-rings… the entire nation came apart with their golden nose-rings.” Removing their nose-rings for the purpose of creating the Golden Calf was not only an act of taking off their jewelry but one of collapse and decadence. The apparent unity that they experienced while dancing around the Golden Calf was a display of false unity, the type that covers up a general atmosphere of debauchery, where each individual seeks to fulfill his own desires and lusts. With the festivities surrounding the Golden Calf, the nation had shattered into tiny fragments. When Moses descended from the mountain he heard dissonant sounds coming from the camp and when he saw the extent of the collapse, he broke the tablets, reflecting the catastrophic shattering of the nation’s unity.

To extricate ourselves from the effects of the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses revealed the ability to repent even after such a dire communal sin. But the world after the sin and repentance was no longer the same. At first, we were in a world of unity, the world of the righteous, and now we experienced the transition into a fragmented reality, the world of people seeking to repent, each carrying his or her own particular burden, each with his or her own shade of color.

But, concealed within this diversity is a spark of unity! Our sages teach us that in the Ark of the Covenant, together with the two new tablets of stone that Moses later brought down from Sinai, lay the shards of the first tablets. The shattering had been given new meaning. It was not just an unplanned fall but “a descent for the sake of ascent,” which resulted in an innovation that had never been before: the ability to contain unity within diversity.

Indeed, after the Golden Calf, Moses discovered the right moment to put in an exceptional request to God: “Inform me of Your ways.” God complied and revealed His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. Now we can understand why the revelation of God’s thirteen attributes came at that moment in particular. Because, preceding the sin we only knew of God’s unity and not His detailed attributes, but now, after the transition from unity to diversity we can perceive God’s management of the world in a new light. Instead of saying only, “God is one,” we can now describe God through His thirteen attributes of Mercy through which His grand singular unity is manifest, thus revealing it in all of the details in this world. This idea is most beautifully illustrated by the gematria of the word “one” (?????), which is 13!

As with the teacher and his student, a new facet of wisdom appears after the shattering that was not at all apparent before. The teacher himself is surprised by the variety of details that he succeeds in gleaning from the initial, general light, and from the fact that the new details actually reveal a more elevated aspect of the wisdom’s unity. This too is the benefit gained from the breaking of the first tablets. After the sin of the Golden Calf, God’s ways and His attributes are revealed to us and the Torah that we receive anew divides into a wonderful richness of detail as the sages state, “God said to him [Moses], do not be upset over the first tablets, for they were no more than Ten Commandments but with the second tablets I give you the laws, the Midrash and the homilies.” As the verse in Job states, “He told you all the mysteries of wisdom, for there is [now] twice as much in it.” The new world revealed after the sin is a world that contains twice the amount of wisdom, now that unity has been revealed within diversity.

In the parashot of Tazria-Metzora we learn about the disease of tzara’at (Biblical leprosy) and how the individual suffering from it is purified. Although nowadays we have no way to actively observe the laws of tzara’at, ask nonetheless, medicine the Ba’al Shem Tov taught us that every word of Torah has a practical application for every individual, at every location and at all times.

This being the case, let’s meditate on one interesting point. The Torah enumerates various types of tzara’at, “When an individual has a blister, or a rash or a bright spot,” the primary sign of impurity being that the skin lesion is white (as Rashi explains that each of these three types of tzara’at is whiter than the preceding type). The sages explain that there are in fact four types of “lesion appearances”: a “blister” (??????), or a “bright spot” (????????), an “inflamed blister” (???????? ????????)” or an “inflamed bright spot” (???????? ??????????). The difference between these four types is in the specific shade of the lesion: the “bright spot” is “strong as snow,” the “blister” is “like white wool,” “an inflamed bright spot” is “like the chalk of the Hall” and an “inflamed blister” is like an “egg’s membrane.” These four shades from dazzling white to matt white are reminiscent of a modern paint catalog in which one can find an amazing wealth of shades in white alone.

Skilled in theory

But what is the significance of the differences between these four types of lesion in Jewish law? Rambam (Maimonides) writes, “These four lesions all participate with one another, either to be lenient or to be strict… How? A lesion that is totally as white as snow or like the chalk of the Hall or like clean wool or like an egg’s membrane is the same as a lesion that is white somewhat like the look of a bright spot and somewhat like the look of a blister and somewhat like an inflammation – all of them are considered the same.” This means that in actual fact, there is no difference between the four types; the appearance of the lesion can be in any one of these shades or a mixture of any of them in order to conclude that the lesion is impure.

In that case, why should we need to distinguish between the different shades? Rambam continues, “If so, why did the sages enumerate them? … in order to understand the appearance: any kohen (priest) who does not know the appearances and their names, when they teach him and inform him – he will not see the lesion until he understands and knows and can say, this is a bright spot and this is its inflammation, this is a blister and this is its inflammation.” Meaning, that even though there is no practical application to the distinction between the four types of lesion, nonetheless, the kohen must know how to distinguish between them! This is a very unusual law, perhaps we can even say that it is somewhat bizarre: in order to diagnose tzara’at in practice and to proclaim whether a lesion is pure or impure, the kohen must be skilled in definitions that have no practical application!

Pure Torah wisdom

At first glance, all this seems to be enigmatic, especially in the eyes of realists who have a practical approach to life. A car mechanic or a computer technician could justifiably protest: If the color of the parts that I use makes no difference and I could achieve the same results even if I was color-blind, then why do I need specialized training in information that is of no practical use whatsoever?

The reason is that the Torah’s wisdom cannot be measured only by its practical applications. The Torah has essential value that is independent of its expediency. One might ask the thousands of yeshivah students who study Torah every day or the many men who study the daf-yomi (the daily page of Talmud) whether all that they learn has direct practical applicability, but the reply will be: absolutely not! The Talmud contains myriads of topics, pages and pages of long and detailed discussions about hypothetical situations that have no reasonable chance of ever becoming a practical query. Jewish sages throughout the ages have racked their brains over these topics in all seriousness to the extent that there are even practical conclusions that state what the law would be in such a case, even though it is quite clear that this law will never be applied in practice! In effect, it would seem that the Yiddisher kopf (“Jewish mind”) takes great pleasure in dealing with abstract ideas that are far-removed from the world of action… But, what do we need them for?

The inner dimension of the Torah explains that when we study Torah we are constantly occupied with actual reality. Just as our physical world seems to be tangible and real, so there are other spiritual worlds that are no less real (similar to the “many worlds” theory of modern science). The truth is that those laws that have no expression in the physical world that our eyes perceive do actually describe a reality that is tangible in the higher worlds (which the inner dimension of the Torah deals with in detail).

The true perspective on the Torah is from above: the Torah is primarily pure wisdom that deals with a higher realm of truth, literally God’s own wisdom, after which this truth receives a practical garb in our world. Even a topic that deals with very material subjects, such as “a bull that gored a cow,” has its source in a much higher world in which a bull and a cow are symbolic of certain spiritual qualities, which “descend” until they reach tangible expression in our world as a real-live bull and cow.

Obviously, this does not mean that we should underrate the importance of our physical actions in this world. The Torah cannot remain in the abstract world alone while we neglect the physical world: “Studying Talmud is great, for it motivates action,” and “the main thing is action” (as the Lubavitcher Rebbe would often stress). But, it is also important to recognize the essential significance of the Torah and of Torah study even when it remains within the walls of the study hall.

Theory is important in practice

Quite probably, almost every Jew who studies Torah can appreciate the importance of studying Torah even when it has no practical application. But, the abovementioned law pertaining to tzara’at reveals a much deeper level: the great secret of the Torah is that in order to reach a practical halachic conclusion one must be familiar with those abstract definitions that have no practical application!

This means that even the most abstract Torah topic actually becomes practical Jewish law, because, if you want to come to a practical conclusion, you must also specialize in abstract definitions! One might say that we need two degrees in Torah: a first degree in theory and a second degree in practical applications. If in theory there is significance to the distinction between dazzling white and matt white, you must acquire this knowledge and know how to correctly name the lesion and only then deal with the external details that pertain directly to the halachic decision (such as the size of the lesion, etc.) Although we are unaware of what exactly about the diagnosis of the lesion’s color and its name is pertinent, nonetheless, we know that following Rambam’s ruling, in principle there is decisive significance to the essential definition, so much so that someone who does not understand it cannot assert whether it is “pure” or “impure.” In fact, at some profound level even those fundamental definitions that appear to be detached from reality do actually have some influence on the practical diagnosis.

Between father and mother

In Kabbalistic terminology, the Holy Arizal said that tzara’at is a result of “the withdrawal of the light of the father principle.” “The father principle” is the light of the sefirah of wisdom, which is referred to as “father,” as opposed to the sefirah of understanding, which is called, “mother.” Wisdom is the point of pure intellect and understanding takes hold of this initial point and develops it into a more tangible realm. The soul root of individuals who tend towards purely intellectual study stems from the sefirah of wisdom, while the soul root of individuals with a more realistic attitude stems more from understanding.

These concepts of “father” and “mother” are related to our regular familial association of the two terms: the father figure defines the essence and the principles of the entire family. He represents the tendency towards wisdom, the occupation with wisdom for wisdom’s sake. The mother figure represents practical wisdom, the “additional understanding” that is given to women and the talent to understand how reality functions in practice.

Since tzara’at is a result of a withdrawal of wisdom, it indicates an exaggerated tendency toward the practical side of the Torah and negligence of the pure and theoretical side of Torah wisdom. From here we can understand why the special law that demands that the kohen be well-versed even in the entirely theoretical side of the Torah is so pertinent here – because tzara’at itself stems from the withdrawal of wisdom. Therefore, in order to identify it and heal it, one must be particularly aware of the intricacies of wisdom!

More profoundly, theoretical wisdom can already be identified in the crown, the super-conscious power of the soul (which motivates the conscious). In Kabbalistic language, the sefirah of crown has two “persona”: the “Elder of Days” (?????? ???????) and “the Long Countenance” (??????? ?????????). Chassidut explains that the inner essence of “the Elder of Days” is the power of spiritual pleasure in the soul, which motivates us to love life (super-consciously – in direct contrast to the sensualistic “pleasure principle” of modern psychology). The inner essence of “the Long Countenance” is the power of will in the soul. Will is more practically oriented and therefore manifests as the practical wisdom of the sefirah of understanding, while pleasure is “simple pleasure” that manifests as the pure intellect of the sefirah of wisdom. Indeed, rectifying tzara’at or a “plague” (?????) is actually by turning it into “pleasure” (?????), which is a permutation of the same letters. Now it is clear why the lesion must be assessed through the eyes of pure intellect, because theoretical knowledge arouses the power of pure pleasure in the soul. This is the duty of the kohen, the “man of loving-kindness,” whose task is to instill love and pleasure among people.

Individual and communal healing

The way tzara’at is healed teaches us how to heal the soul. Knowing how to truly heal emotional illness involves more than is apparent on the direct practical plane. The higher the levels of the soul that one is able to access, including innermost dimensions that may appear to be detached from the actual physical symptoms, the lower one can descend into the simple practical world to cure the individual’s pain.

From the individual we reach society as a whole: it is our desire to find a cure that will rectify the current situation of the Jewish people and of the world in its entirety, beginning with rectifying Jewish society and Jewish politics here in the Holy Land. To achieve this, it does not suffice to look at the mundane dimension alone; we need to know how to analyze the roots of reality, to expose the various diseases and name them correctly, down to the minutest details of the various shades of white. Once we have achieved this it will be possible to attain true rectification, with God’s help, then as Chassidut teaches, we can transform plague (?????) into pleasure (?????).

From Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, 27th Adar 5768

In the parashot of Tazria-Metzora we learn about the disease of tzara’at (Biblical leprosy) and how the individual suffering from it is purified. Although nowadays we have no way to actively observe the laws of tzara’at, order nonetheless, unhealthy the Ba’al Shem Tov taught us that every word of Torah has a practical application for every individual, at every location and at all times.

This being the case, let’s meditate on one interesting point. The Torah enumerates various types of tzara’at, “When an individual has a blister, or a rash or a bright spot,” the primary sign of impurity being that the skin lesion is white (as Rashi explains that each of these three types of tzara’at is whiter than the preceding type). The sages explain that there are in fact four types of “lesion appearances”: a “blister” (??????), or a “bright spot” (????????), an “inflamed blister” (???????? ????????)” or an “inflamed bright spot” (???????? ??????????). The difference between these four types is in the specific shade of the lesion: the “bright spot” is “strong as snow,” the “blister” is “like white wool,” “an inflamed bright spot” is “like the chalk of the Hall” and an “inflamed blister” is like an “egg’s membrane.” These four shades from dazzling white to matt white are reminiscent of a modern paint catalog in which one can find an amazing wealth of shades in white alone.

Skilled in theory

But what is the significance of the differences between these four types of lesion in Jewish law? Rambam (Maimonides) writes, “These four lesions all participate with one another, either to be lenient or to be strict… How? A lesion that is totally as white as snow or like the chalk of the Hall or like clean wool or like an egg’s membrane is the same as a lesion that is white somewhat like the look of a bright spot and somewhat like the look of a blister and somewhat like an inflammation – all of them are considered the same.” This means that in actual fact, there is no difference between the four types; the appearance of the lesion can be in any one of these shades or a mixture of any of them in order to conclude that the lesion is impure.

In that case, why should we need to distinguish between the different shades? Rambam continues, “If so, why did the sages enumerate them? … in order to understand the appearance: any kohen (priest) who does not know the appearances and their names, when they teach him and inform him – he will not see the lesion until he understands and knows and can say, this is a bright spot and this is its inflammation, this is a blister and this is its inflammation.” Meaning, that even though there is no practical application to the distinction between the four types of lesion, nonetheless, the kohen must know how to distinguish between them! This is a very unusual law, perhaps we can even say that it is somewhat bizarre: in order to diagnose tzara’at in practice and to proclaim whether a lesion is pure or impure, the kohen must be skilled in definitions that have no practical application!

Pure Torah wisdom

At first glance, all this seems to be enigmatic, especially in the eyes of realists who have a practical approach to life. A car mechanic or a computer technician could justifiably protest: If the color of the parts that I use makes no difference and I could achieve the same results even if I was color-blind, then why do I need specialized training in information that is of no practical use whatsoever?

The reason is that the Torah’s wisdom cannot be measured only by its practical applications. The Torah has essential value that is independent of its expediency. One might ask the thousands of yeshivah students who study Torah every day or the many men who study the daf-yomi (the daily page of Talmud) whether all that they learn has direct practical applicability, but the reply will be: absolutely not! The Talmud contains myriads of topics, pages and pages of long and detailed discussions about hypothetical situations that have no reasonable chance of ever becoming a practical query. Jewish sages throughout the ages have racked their brains over these topics in all seriousness to the extent that there are even practical conclusions that state what the law would be in such a case, even though it is quite clear that this law will never be applied in practice! In effect, it would seem that the Yiddisher kopf (“Jewish mind”) takes great pleasure in dealing with abstract ideas that are far-removed from the world of action… But, what do we need them for?

The inner dimension of the Torah explains that when we study Torah we are constantly occupied with actual reality. Just as our physical world seems to be tangible and real, so there are other spiritual worlds that are no less real (similar to the “many worlds” theory of modern science). The truth is that those laws that have no expression in the physical world that our eyes perceive do actually describe a reality that is tangible in the higher worlds (which the inner dimension of the Torah deals with in detail).

The true perspective on the Torah is from above: the Torah is primarily pure wisdom that deals with a higher realm of truth, literally God’s own wisdom, after which this truth receives a practical garb in our world. Even a topic that deals with very material subjects, such as “a bull that gored a cow,” has its source in a much higher world in which a bull and a cow are symbolic of certain spiritual qualities, which “descend” until they reach tangible expression in our world as a real-live bull and cow.

Obviously, this does not mean that we should underrate the importance of our physical actions in this world. The Torah cannot remain in the abstract world alone while we neglect the physical world: “Studying Talmud is great, for it motivates action,” and “the main thing is action” (as the Lubavitcher Rebbe would often stress). But, it is also important to recognize the essential significance of the Torah and of Torah study even when it remains within the walls of the study hall.

Theory is important in practice

Quite probably, almost every Jew who studies Torah can appreciate the importance of studying Torah even when it has no practical application. But, the abovementioned law pertaining to tzara’at reveals a much deeper level: the great secret of the Torah is that in order to reach a practical halachic conclusion one must be familiar with those abstract definitions that have no practical application!

This means that even the most abstract Torah topic actually becomes practical Jewish law, because, if you want to come to a practical conclusion, you must also specialize in abstract definitions! One might say that we need two degrees in Torah: a first degree in theory and a second degree in practical applications. If in theory there is significance to the distinction between dazzling white and matt white, you must acquire this knowledge and know how to correctly name the lesion and only then deal with the external details that pertain directly to the halachic decision (such as the size of the lesion, etc.) Although we are unaware of what exactly about the diagnosis of the lesion’s color and its name is pertinent, nonetheless, we know that following Rambam’s ruling, in principle there is decisive significance to the essential definition, so much so that someone who does not understand it cannot assert whether it is “pure” or “impure.” In fact, at some profound level even those fundamental definitions that appear to be detached from reality do actually have some influence on the practical diagnosis.

Between father and mother

In Kabbalistic terminology, the Holy Arizal said that tzara’at is a result of “the withdrawal of the light of the father principle.” “The father principle” is the light of the sefirah of wisdom, which is referred to as “father,” as opposed to the sefirah of understanding, which is called, “mother.” Wisdom is the point of pure intellect and understanding takes hold of this initial point and develops it into a more tangible realm. The soul root of individuals who tend towards purely intellectual study stems from the sefirah of wisdom, while the soul root of individuals with a more realistic attitude stems more from understanding.

These concepts of “father” and “mother” are related to our regular familial association of the two terms: the father figure defines the essence and the principles of the entire family. He represents the tendency towards wisdom, the occupation with wisdom for wisdom’s sake. The mother figure represents practical wisdom, the “additional understanding” that is given to women and the talent to understand how reality functions in practice.

Since tzara’at is a result of a withdrawal of wisdom, it indicates an exaggerated tendency toward the practical side of the Torah and negligence of the pure and theoretical side of Torah wisdom. From here we can understand why the special law that demands that the kohen be well-versed even in the entirely theoretical side of the Torah is so pertinent here – because tzara’at itself stems from the withdrawal of wisdom. Therefore, in order to identify it and heal it, one must be particularly aware of the intricacies of wisdom!

More profoundly, theoretical wisdom can already be identified in the crown, the super-conscious power of the soul (which motivates the conscious). In Kabbalistic language, the sefirah of crown has two “persona”: the “Elder of Days” (?????? ???????) and “the Long Countenance” (??????? ?????????). Chassidut explains that the inner essence of “the Elder of Days” is the power of spiritual pleasure in the soul, which motivates us to love life (super-consciously – in direct contrast to the sensualistic “pleasure principle” of modern psychology). The inner essence of “the Long Countenance” is the power of will in the soul. Will is more practically oriented and therefore manifests as the practical wisdom of the sefirah of understanding, while pleasure is “simple pleasure” that manifests as the pure intellect of the sefirah of wisdom. Indeed, rectifying tzara’at or a “plague” (?????) is actually by turning it into “pleasure” (?????), which is a permutation of the same letters. Now it is clear why the lesion must be assessed through the eyes of pure intellect, because theoretical knowledge arouses the power of pure pleasure in the soul. This is the duty of the kohen, the “man of loving-kindness,” whose task is to instill love and pleasure among people.

Individual and communal healing

The way tzara’at is healed teaches us how to heal the soul. Knowing how to truly heal emotional illness involves more than is apparent on the direct practical plane. The higher the levels of the soul that one is able to access, including innermost dimensions that may appear to be detached from the actual physical symptoms, the lower one can descend into the simple practical world to cure the individual’s pain.

From the individual we reach society as a whole: it is our desire to find a cure that will rectify the current situation of the Jewish people and of the world in its entirety, beginning with rectifying Jewish society and Jewish politics here in the Holy Land. To achieve this, it does not suffice to look at the mundane dimension alone; we need to know how to analyze the roots of reality, to expose the various diseases and name them correctly, down to the minutest details of the various shades of white. Once we have achieved this it will be possible to attain true rectification, with God’s help, then as Chassidut teaches, we can transform plague (?????) into pleasure (?????).

From Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, 27th Adar 5768

In the parashot of Tazria-Metzora we learn about the disease of tzara’at (Biblical leprosy) and how the individual suffering from it is purified. Although nowadays we have no way to actively observe the laws of tzara’at, sales nonetheless, pharm the Ba’al Shem Tov taught us that every word of Torah has a practical application for every individual, at every location and at all times.

This being the case, let’s meditate on one interesting point. The Torah enumerates various types of tzara’at, “When an individual has a blister, or a rash or a bright spot,” the primary sign of impurity being that the skin lesion is white (as Rashi explains that each of these three types of tzara’at is whiter than the preceding type). The sages explain that there are in fact four types of “lesion appearances”: a “blister” (??????), or a “bright spot” (????????), an “inflamed blister” (???????? ????????)” or an “inflamed bright spot” (???????? ??????????). The difference between these four types is in the specific shade of the lesion: the “bright spot” is “strong as snow,” the “blister” is “like white wool,” “an inflamed bright spot” is “like the chalk of the Hall” and an “inflamed blister” is like an “egg’s membrane.” These four shades from dazzling white to matt white are reminiscent of a modern paint catalog in which one can find an amazing wealth of shades in white alone.

Skilled in theory

But what is the significance of the differences between these four types of lesion in Jewish law? Rambam (Maimonides) writes, “These four lesions all participate with one another, either to be lenient or to be strict… How? A lesion that is totally as white as snow or like the chalk of the Hall or like clean wool or like an egg’s membrane is the same as a lesion that is white somewhat like the look of a bright spot and somewhat like the look of a blister and somewhat like an inflammation – all of them are considered the same.” This means that in actual fact, there is no difference between the four types; the appearance of the lesion can be in any one of these shades or a mixture of any of them in order to conclude that the lesion is impure.

In that case, why should we need to distinguish between the different shades? Rambam continues, “If so, why did the sages enumerate them? … in order to understand the appearance: any kohen (priest) who does not know the appearances and their names, when they teach him and inform him – he will not see the lesion until he understands and knows and can say, this is a bright spot and this is its inflammation, this is a blister and this is its inflammation.” Meaning, that even though there is no practical application to the distinction between the four types of lesion, nonetheless, the kohen must know how to distinguish between them! This is a very unusual law, perhaps we can even say that it is somewhat bizarre: in order to diagnose tzara’at in practice and to proclaim whether a lesion is pure or impure, the kohen must be skilled in definitions that have no practical application!

Pure Torah wisdom

At first glance, all this seems to be enigmatic, especially in the eyes of realists who have a practical approach to life. A car mechanic or a computer technician could justifiably protest: If the color of the parts that I use makes no difference and I could achieve the same results even if I was color-blind, then why do I need specialized training in information that is of no practical use whatsoever?

The reason is that the Torah’s wisdom cannot be measured only by its practical applications. The Torah has essential value that is independent of its expediency. One might ask the thousands of yeshivah students who study Torah every day or the many men who study the daf-yomi (the daily page of Talmud) whether all that they learn has direct practical applicability, but the reply will be: absolutely not! The Talmud contains myriads of topics, pages and pages of long and detailed discussions about hypothetical situations that have no reasonable chance of ever becoming a practical query. Jewish sages throughout the ages have racked their brains over these topics in all seriousness to the extent that there are even practical conclusions that state what the law would be in such a case, even though it is quite clear that this law will never be applied in practice! In effect, it would seem that the Yiddisher kopf (“Jewish mind”) takes great pleasure in dealing with abstract ideas that are far-removed from the world of action… But, what do we need them for?

The inner dimension of the Torah explains that when we study Torah we are constantly occupied with actual reality. Just as our physical world seems to be tangible and real, so there are other spiritual worlds that are no less real (similar to the “many worlds” theory of modern science). The truth is that those laws that have no expression in the physical world that our eyes perceive do actually describe a reality that is tangible in the higher worlds (which the inner dimension of the Torah deals with in detail).

The true perspective on the Torah is from above: the Torah is primarily pure wisdom that deals with a higher realm of truth, literally God’s own wisdom, after which this truth receives a practical garb in our world. Even a topic that deals with very material subjects, such as “a bull that gored a cow,” has its source in a much higher world in which a bull and a cow are symbolic of certain spiritual qualities, which “descend” until they reach tangible expression in our world as a real-live bull and cow.

Obviously, this does not mean that we should underrate the importance of our physical actions in this world. The Torah cannot remain in the abstract world alone while we neglect the physical world: “Studying Talmud is great, for it motivates action,” and “the main thing is action” (as the Lubavitcher Rebbe would often stress). But, it is also important to recognize the essential significance of the Torah and of Torah study even when it remains within the walls of the study hall.

Theory is important in practice

Quite probably, almost every Jew who studies Torah can appreciate the importance of studying Torah even when it has no practical application. But, the abovementioned law pertaining to tzara’at reveals a much deeper level: the great secret of the Torah is that in order to reach a practical halachic conclusion one must be familiar with those abstract definitions that have no practical application!

This means that even the most abstract Torah topic actually becomes practical Jewish law, because, if you want to come to a practical conclusion, you must also specialize in abstract definitions! One might say that we need two degrees in Torah: a first degree in theory and a second degree in practical applications. If in theory there is significance to the distinction between dazzling white and matt white, you must acquire this knowledge and know how to correctly name the lesion and only then deal with the external details that pertain directly to the halachic decision (such as the size of the lesion, etc.) Although we are unaware of what exactly about the diagnosis of the lesion’s color and its name is pertinent, nonetheless, we know that following Rambam’s ruling, in principle there is decisive significance to the essential definition, so much so that someone who does not understand it cannot assert whether it is “pure” or “impure.” In fact, at some profound level even those fundamental definitions that appear to be detached from reality do actually have some influence on the practical diagnosis.

Between father and mother

In Kabbalistic terminology, the Holy Arizal said that tzara’at is a result of “the withdrawal of the light of the father principle.” “The father principle” is the light of the sefirah of wisdom, which is referred to as “father,” as opposed to the sefirah of understanding, which is called, “mother.” Wisdom is the point of pure intellect and understanding takes hold of this initial point and develops it into a more tangible realm. The soul root of individuals who tend towards purely intellectual study stems from the sefirah of wisdom, while the soul root of individuals with a more realistic attitude stems more from understanding.

These concepts of “father” and “mother” are related to our regular familial association of the two terms: the father figure defines the essence and the principles of the entire family. He represents the tendency towards wisdom, the occupation with wisdom for wisdom’s sake. The mother figure represents practical wisdom, the “additional understanding” that is given to women and the talent to understand how reality functions in practice.

Since tzara’at is a result of a withdrawal of wisdom, it indicates an exaggerated tendency toward the practical side of the Torah and negligence of the pure and theoretical side of Torah wisdom. From here we can understand why the special law that demands that the kohen be well-versed even in the entirely theoretical side of the Torah is so pertinent here – because tzara’at itself stems from the withdrawal of wisdom. Therefore, in order to identify it and heal it, one must be particularly aware of the intricacies of wisdom!

More profoundly, theoretical wisdom can already be identified in the crown, the super-conscious power of the soul (which motivates the conscious). In Kabbalistic language, the sefirah of crown has two “persona”: the “Elder of Days” (?????? ???????) and “the Long Countenance” (??????? ?????????). Chassidut explains that the inner essence of “the Elder of Days” is the power of spiritual pleasure in the soul, which motivates us to love life (super-consciously – in direct contrast to the sensualistic “pleasure principle” of modern psychology). The inner essence of “the Long Countenance” is the power of will in the soul. Will is more practically oriented and therefore manifests as the practical wisdom of the sefirah of understanding, while pleasure is “simple pleasure” that manifests as the pure intellect of the sefirah of wisdom. Indeed, rectifying tzara’at or a “plague” (?????) is actually by turning it into “pleasure” (?????), which is a permutation of the same letters. Now it is clear why the lesion must be assessed through the eyes of pure intellect, because theoretical knowledge arouses the power of pure pleasure in the soul. This is the duty of the kohen, the “man of loving-kindness,” whose task is to instill love and pleasure among people.

Individual and communal healing

The way tzara’at is healed teaches us how to heal the soul. Knowing how to truly heal emotional illness involves more than is apparent on the direct practical plane. The higher the levels of the soul that one is able to access, including innermost dimensions that may appear to be detached from the actual physical symptoms, the lower one can descend into the simple practical world to cure the individual’s pain.

From the individual we reach society as a whole: it is our desire to find a cure that will rectify the current situation of the Jewish people and of the world in its entirety, beginning with rectifying Jewish society and Jewish politics here in the Holy Land. To achieve this, it does not suffice to look at the mundane dimension alone; we need to know how to analyze the roots of reality, to expose the various diseases and name them correctly, down to the minutest details of the various shades of white. Once we have achieved this it will be possible to attain true rectification, with God’s help, then as Chassidut teaches, we can transform plague (?????) into pleasure (?????).

From Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, 27th Adar 5768

Rabbi Akiva said, dosage “Love your fellow as yourself” is a great principle of the Torah. A similar principle is gleaned from the famous story of a proselyte who wished to convert to Judaism on condition that someone would teach him the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel the Elder accepted his conversion and told him, view “That which you hate, cure do not do to your friend [the negative picture of “love your fellow as yourself”]?that is all the Torah and all the rest is commentary. Go and study it.”

Obviously, the entire Torah is a true, God-given Torah, but Hillel the Elder and Rabbi Akiva teach us that there is room to meditate on the principle that is the Torah’s “great principle”; the signpost that puts us on the right track.

The need for such guiding lights is most necessary when an outsider wishes to approach the infinite sea of Torah and needs an anchor to show him where to begin. This is why the Torah’s greatest principle is learnt from a proselyte who comes to convert. A true convert is not obliged to know the entire Torah before he converts, but he does need to know the principal foundations of Jewish faith; then he can accept the yoke of Torah and mitzvot in all sincerity. Rabbi Akiva, that great Torah sage, also arrived at the Torah as an “outsider”; he was a ba’al teshuvah (secular Jew who becomes observant) who only began his Torah study at the age of forty.

These two “outsiders,” the ba’al teshuvah and the convert, who begin their Torah study from scratch at an advanced age, are in need of a short-cut strategy and it is our privilege to learn the Torah’s great principle through their merit. Our generation too is a generation of teshuvah (repentance); so many Jews are distant from the Torah and so many wish to return to their source. This is why, more than ever, we need a path that allows us to approach the Torah after years and generations of detachment and begin from a generalization that incorporates all the details and explanations. One example of such an approach is Rabbi Menachem Mendel Shneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who chose twelve noteworthy verses for the children’s movement of Tzivos Hashem (“God’s army”) that are good even for adults to learn and repeat them by heart on a regular basis.

Obviously, identifying the Torah’s principle philosophies is important for everyone, not only for those who are not yet competent in Torah study. Even the greatest Torah scholars and tzadikim need to identify them too. Yet, they do not have the same need to search for it as the “outsiders” mentioned above. They study the entire Torah and observe all 613 mitzvot and they can relate naturally to the great principle as a simple premise. When the proselyte demands that he be taught the entire Torah while standing on one foot, Hillel reveals the great principle whose light he follows and now we too can benefit from his previously hidden premise, which has now become part of the public domain. Now we too, as distant as we may be, can grasp hold of this principle and allow it to help us progress to the entire Torah.

Although sometimes a great sage may find it difficult to formulate his fundamental axioms in simple terms, someone as humble as Hillel has a ready answer which is most suitable for even the most distant, lowly individual – while standing on one foot.

Five general verses

Since we are occupied with general principles, we can try to discover additional principles in the Torah. The generalization of “Love your fellow as yourself” is not just an important principle in Torah conventions and mitzvah observance, but a verse from the Torah, and since the Torah is composed of five different books, perhaps we can identify five such principles.

Let’s meditate for a moment on the book of Genesis and consider the most famous and most general verse in the book. Naturally, the verse that immediately comes to mind is the first verse, “In the beginning, Elokim [God] created the heavens and the earth.” This is the verse that begins everything and it exemplifies the entire book of Genesis?the book of creation and the beginning of mankind?in one verse.

Let’s continue to the book of Exodus: here we are drawn to the first verse of the Ten Commandments: “I am Havayah, your God, who has brought you out of Egypt from the house of bondage.” This is the fundamental tenet of our faith that ties the Giving of the Torah to the Exodus from Egypt, which is the main point in the story of the book of Exodus.

When we reach the book of Leviticus, the middle book of the Torah, Rabbi Akiva has already done the work for us: “Love your fellow as yourself” is the great principle of this book. The passage that we choose from the book of Numbers contains all three verses of the Priestly Blessing, which we have the custom to read every morning after the blessings over the Torah, meaning that it is representative of the entire Written Torah. Finally, in the book of Deuteronomy our choice is simple: “Hear o’ Israel, Havayah is our God, Havayah is one.” This verse is the quintessential proclamation of Jewish faith, a verse that we say twice every day and the words that were on the lips of countless Jews as they were put to death to sanctify God’s Name as Jews.

Before delving into the significance of these five verses, let’s order them into a familiar structure: the total number of words in these five verses is forty-nine and we are immediately reminded of the forty-nine days during which we count the Omer. Thus, we can make ourselves an “Omer counting table” in which each word corresponds to one day?from the first day, representing “In the beginning” (???????????) to the last day, representing “One” (?????).

This correspondence is particularly suitable because the inspiration for setting these verses as general verses is from Rabbi Akiva; a most prominent figure during the Counting of the Omer. It was during this period that Rabbi Akiva’s students died because they did not act respectfully towards one another (which is the reason why we observe certain mourning customs during this period). , Rabbi Akiva’s great principle: “Love your fellow as yourself,”?a verse which appears in Parashat Kedoshim, which is always read during the Omer period?is our principal service during the counting of the Omer; it comes as an antidote to rectify the sin of hatred and discord among Jews.

There are a number of noteworthy phenomena that can be gleaned from the table that we have just described, three of which we will mention here: a. the words “Love your fellow as yourself” (??????????? ???????? ????????) are located exactly in the center of the table at days 24, 25 and 26 of the Omer; the word “your fellow” (????????) is the middle of the center! b. the word “Peace” (???????) falls on 28th Iyar, the day on which we merited God’s miraculous heavenly assistance in returning to Jerusalem, the Holy City of Peace and to the Temple Mount (“The House of Peace”) forty-six years ago! c. the word “Israel” (??????????) in the verse of the Shema, falls on the first day of Sivan, the day when the entire Jewish people camped before Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah, “as one man with one heart.”

Climbing up the ladder of the soul

Now we can meditate on the content of these five general verses, and we see that they follow a logical course on a single upward rise. In order to enrich our meditation, we will use a familiar Chassidic quintet of concepts that enumerates the five levels of our souls: “psyche,” “spirit,” “soul,” “living one,” “single one” (??????, ?????, ????????, ?????, ????????).

·        The “psyche” (??????) is the basic level, the physical life-force that we experience in our body and in our instinctive actions, which is superficially reminiscent of an animal life-force.

·        The “spirit” (?????) expresses the world of emotions and manifests in our relationships with others, a level at which we can already identify the “advantage of man over animal.”

·        The “soul” (????????) is the level that is expressed in our intellectual world. At the level of the “soul” we rise above the sensual-physical perspective and are able to think in abstract concepts (including, for example, the ability to derive a principle from a collection of details).

·        The “living one” (?????) is on a higher plane that is completely beyond our conscious minds. This plane is referred to as, “surrounding light” (as opposed to the “psyche,” the “spirit” and the “soul,” which are “inner lights”) that is still close enough for us to sometimes become aware of its influence, as an “atmosphere” of sanctity that surrounds me and guides me to my path in life.

·        The “singular one” (????????) is the source of the soul, the core point that eternally clings to its infinite source in God. The “singular one” is a “distant surrounding light,” that is revealed only at unique moments in life, such as moments of total self-sacrifice.

We can now meditate on the correspondence between our five verses and these five levels of the soul.

·        Genesis: “In the beginning, Elokim [God] created the heavens and the earth” should be my fundamental experience at the level of the psyche. God created the entire world, with mankind, the crowning glory of creation, included. God’s Essential Name, Havayah, does not yet appear here in this verse, only the Name Elokim (????????), which depicts God as Creator and Director of nature [???????? has the same numerical value as “nature” (???????)]. At this basic level of the soul we only have a pale recognition that there is something above and beyond the natural world. This verse also indicates that my psyche is not perceived as something completely different from my body, as the psyche and the body correspond to the heavens and the earth mentioned in the verse, both created by the natural Divine power of Elokim. Just as the central theme of Genesis is the account of the Patriarchs’ lives while they are still perceived as a part of mankind in general before the Jewish people became a nation, so too my uniqueness as a Jew does not yet feature at the level of the psyche, which corresponds to the verse from Genesis.

·        Exodus: “I am Havayah, your God, who has brought you out of Egypt from the house of bondage.” This verse corresponds to the next highest level of “spirit” (?????), which rises above the basic life-force of the “psyche.” At this level we are conscious of the subjugation and constrictions of nature, while simultaneously being aware of the possibility of exodus and redemption from their constraints by a Divine power. This verse from the book of Exodus, which completely challenges the fundamental principles of nature, exposes us to the fact that the Jewish people are a different species altogether, “You have chosen us from all nations… and Your Great and Holy Name You have called upon us.” At the level of my psyche I experience myself as an individual who is separate and defined from all other people, but at this level the spirit dimension draws me towards social contact and a sense of “belonging.”  In Nisan, the month of redemption, every individual Jew is aroused to sense his belonging to the Jewish people and thus begins to progress towards God, his God.

·        Leviticus: “Do not take vengeance nor bear a grudge for your people, and love your fellow as yourself, I am Havayah.” This verse brings us to the level of the soul (????????). After leaving the straits of Egypt, the Jewish people become aware of their existence as an entity that has the ability to defy the world of nature and that stands apart from the great global village of the nations. Together as a people we weave a very special relationship guided by this greatest principle of all. True, at a certain level we care about the entire world and all of mankind?we love all of God’s creations?but our special love for our “fellow” Jew is on a completely different plane. This is a love that rises above all of the differences between you and me, through the deep understanding that our souls are united at their source, which is why we are commanded to love the other literally, “as yourself.”

·        Numbers: the verses of the Priestly Blessing bring us to the level of the “living one.” Having now risen to the hidden levels that surround the soul, we reveal that after all the rungs that we have climbed so far, there is an additional level at which we are so close to God that He chooses us to be His messengers “to bless the Jewish people with love.” This means not just standing before God as His beloved children, but identifying with Him so much so that we have the ability to represent Him and bring His blessing to the world. Although the power of blessing in practice is granted only to the kohanim (priests), nonetheless the kohanim themselves do this by the power of the entire Jewish people; we appoint them to be God’s messengers to bless us all. The entire Jewish people is a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

·        Deuteronomy: finally, we come to the verse, “Hear o’ Israel, Havayah is our God, Havayah is one.” This verse from Deuteronomy is the revelation of the highest level of the soul, the “singular one” (????????). We constantly proclaim God’s unity, but only the “singular one” of our souls can truly perceive how God is truly singular and how much the entire world is annulled and included within His Divine unity. This is the message that we receive from the entire book of Deuteronomy, which prepares us to enter the Land of Israel, a message that tells us: now, as you are about to begin “normal life” as a people in its land, you must remember well that you did not come here just to be a “free nation in our land” but to be God’s people, who testify to His unity through daily self-sacrifice in our everyday lives, and this knowledge is your raison d’être.

To conclude, we will recall that the pivot point of all five verses and the greatest principle of all is “love your fellow as yourself”; the connection of all our Jewish souls together in love. This is the heart of our being from which the levels of the psyche and the spirit are derived and from which we soar upwards to the levels of the living one and the singular one. The ultimate Torah principle is never to forget your fellow Jew!

This article is based on our book Klal Gadol Batorah (in Hebrew) that is dedicated in its entirety to this meditation

2 Responses to “The Torah’s greatest principle”

  1. Cecil says:

    First let me thank you for this wonderful and inspiring post.

    Second, I would like to know if it is acceptable to you for a Christian (which I am) to study Kabbalah under your teaching and guidance?

  2. Michal Francis says:

    B”H