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From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin‏

Vegan Vos Redt Ehr? What is he talking about?

It was in the Fall of 1969, a few months after I was married, I had just joined the Main Chabad Kollel in Brooklyn, an advanced Torah institute for young married men, at the famous location of 770 Eastern Parkway.

In the Yeshiva, pre-Kollel, there were two groups of seven advanced, scholarly presenters each. One of the seven from the first group would present a pilpul on Chassidic philosophy on Friday nights. The other group would have a presenter each week with a pilpul on the Talmud, codes, etc , following the conclusion of Shabbos, Saturday nights.

On one Friday night, I stayed longer in Shul, because a young, brilliant, 19 year old student, named Nachman, was going to present that evening and I wanted to hear what he had to say (my young bride of 18 was not very happy when I came home two hours late to make Kiddush for her).

Nachman walked in, sat down at the head of the table. The Shul was packed with people standing on benches. His first words are (more or less), “He is, because he is. He is here, because he inherently is here. We’re here because he willed it that we should be here. We are not inherently here. Our being is here only because of him.”

A young man named Mayer, turns to the whole crowd and loudly says,
“Vegan Vos Redt Ehr?” (What is he talking about?)

He brought down the whole house.

Ten Commandments

This week’s Parsha, Yisro, we relive the giving and the receiving of the Ten Commandments, which encompasses the whole of Torah and Mitzvos. I would like to share with you parts of Chapter 20 of the Holy Tanya, authored by Rebbe Shneur Zalman, the first Rebbe of Chabad.

This is based on the new English interpretation of the Tanya by Chaim Miller:

Now “this thing is known” (Isaiah 12:5), to everybody, that the mitzvah to accept only One G-d and the Biblical prohibition against idolatry which are the first two of the Ten Commandments, “I am G-d, your G-d” and “You shall not have any other gods” (Exodus 20:2-3) are a comprehensive statement which thematically incorporates the whole Torah, since the Commandment “I am G-d”, incorporates all the 248 positive mitzvos, and the Commandment, “You shall not have any other gods” incorporates the 365 prohibitions (Zohar 2, 91a).

(Comments) “All the mitzvos are, in essence, an affirmation of monotheism and the rejection of idolatry, the theme of the first two commandments. The 248 positive commands (“You shall’s”) are an affirmation of One G-d; and the 365 prohibitions (“You shall not’s”) are a repudiation of idolatry.”

And that is why we only heard the first two commandments, “I am G-d, your G-d” and “You shall not have any other gods”, directly from the mouth of G-d, as our Sages, of blessed memory, taught, that G-d said just the first two of the Ten Commandments, and the remainder were transmitted by Moses (Talmud, Makos 24a), because for G-d to say the rest of the commandments was unnecessary, since the first two incorporate the whole Torah.

(Comments) “The fact that G-d spoke just two commandments sent a clear message that Judaism can be summed up in two themes: accept one G-d; and do not accept idolatry. From this it follows that every mitzvah is, at its core, a rejection of idol-worship.”

The Nonduality of G-d

In order to have a clarity in this matter, we first need to mention briefly, the concept and deep ideology of God's nonduality.

In the Midrash, G-d is referred to as “the One and only one” (Deuteronomy Rabah, 2:31), implying that He is the only existence, and in the liturgy it is written, “Everyone believes of Him that He is the only One” -  which implies that He remains now exactly the same as He was before the world was created when He was alone and there was no other entity in the universe, as we say, “You were alone before the world was created; You are alone since the world has been created” - which in the nondual reading means that He literally has not changed and G-d remains the only existence in the universe, even after He created the world, as the verse states, “I, G-d, have not changed” (Malachi 3:6).

Because neither the creation of this world something-from-nothing, nor the creation of all the spiritual worlds, brought about any change in God's nonduality, for just as He was the only singular and exclusive existence before the physical and spiritual worlds were created, so too, He remains the only singular and exclusive existence after He created them.

(Comment) But if the world does exist how can we say that God is the only singular and exclusive existence?

Because, “in His presence everything is considered zero” (Zohar 1:11b) -  literally as if it were “null and void” (see Isaiah 40:17).

(Comment) The world does exist, but in G-d's presence it has no independent identity and existence, since it is perceived as part of his existence.

For the cause by which the upper and lower worlds have come into being, something-from-nothing, and through which they continue to be energized and sustained in existence, so that they don't revert to the “null and void”, as they were previously, is nothing other than “G-d's word… and the breath of His mouth” (Psalms 33:6) which is present in them.

The Analogy For Nonduality

Let’s draw an example from the human psyche.

When you say a word, that single word is utterly insignificant, even in comparison to the lower “garment” of the soul, the general power of speech, which, of the soul’s three garments, thought, speech, and action, is its middle garment - a single word is insignificant compared to the soul’s power of speech since that power of speech can produce a never-ending, infinite stream of words.

(Comment) Of what significance is one word when compared with the power of speech that can produce words endlessly?

All the more so is that one spoken word insignificant in comparison to higher levels of the psyche, such as the soul’s innermost “garment,” thought, from which the spoken words are derived and powered.

(Comment) If one word is insignificant when compared to the power of speech, and certainly it is of no significance compared with the power of thought, which produces all the content that is later spoken.

And it goes without saying that a single spoken word is insignificant in comparison with the soul’s prelinguistic deep core, which consists of the ten powers mentioned above, - cochmah, binah, and da’as, etc. - since it is from these powers of the deep core that the letters constituting the thought are ultimately drawn, and are subsequently expressed in the spoken word.

(Comment) Even in a human being we see that words of speech are utterly insignificant when compared to the higher powers of speech and thought, and certainly to the person himself, in his deep core. Apparently, then, we can say the same (even more so!) of G-d's “speech”, through which the world was created and is sustained in existence, that it is of no significance compared with G-d himself.

(Comment) This adds a further dimension to our nondual understanding of the universe. In the previous section, we argued that the world has no independent existence since it is utterly reliant on G-d for its continuous existence. Here the argument is taking a step further: even the Divine power that creates the world (G-d's “speech”) is of no significance compared to G-d himself!

We’ll stop here.

Where He Was Coming From

In Summary, due to brevity, Nachman’s thought now has a context in the fundamental difference between G-d’s “being” and all other creations’ “being”.

These topics we would discuss for many hours in the Yeshiva and Kollel, deep into the night, and walk out spiritually exhilarated, with a whole new “perception” of the creation around us.

May I suggest that YOU open the Tanya and learn these chapters (21-22) for yourself? 

Have a beautiful Shabbos,
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin |- Parsha Bo

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Mr. Herschel Lazaroff is the director of the Center for the Advancement of Creativity and Human Potential based in Monsey, New York, and a promoter of healing techniques based on Torah, Kabbalah and chasidicteachings. He was interviewed in July of 2018.
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Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Vaeira

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Dear Friends, 
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story
Mr. Michoel Rubinoff is presently retired from teaching. He spends his time learning in Yeshivat Simchat Shlomo in Jerusalem, where he was interviewed in February of 2017.
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Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Warmly,
Rabbi Levitin 

 

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