The following is an excerpt from the Introduction relating to a new translation of the Psalms by Rabbi Avraham Sutton
This class is being added to our classes on the Hebrew letters as i think it is very important to understand on an even deeper level than last class all about the Names of HaShem as well as how these Names relate to the attributes of the consciousness called Sefirot. As you read Rabbi Sutton's Commentary, please note he is referring primarily the the Psalms yet the same comments apply equally
There are many other key words in the Psalms, multi-dimensional code-words that mean on more than one level, and for that very reason open up whole new levels of understanding the Psalms and hence communion with God.
Of these key words, the most prominent are the Names of God that appear throughout the Psalms (and the entire Bible). Below, we shall begin to open up a window to the incredible power and blessing that lies locked up in these Names—blessing that is waiting to be released.
We shall show how the Blessed Name, YKVK, יהוה is the essence and root of all the other names of God mentioned in the Bible; how they correspond to its letters, and hence to the five general universes and five levels of the soul, and how they can be used to attain the highest communion with God.
After you learn more about these Names, we hope that you will be more sensitive to them wherever and whenever they appear throughout the Psalms. We hope that you will be more sensitive to the wonder involved in our ability to articulate words. Even more basic, when you say a word, especially a Divine Name, you should pay attention to the way you move your mouth/lips and tongue. Focus on the sounds of your words. If it helps, place your hands on your ears, so that you can “hear from the inside” as opposed to “listening from without.” Feel your larynx vibrate.
When you look at the letters of a word in Hebrew, truly look at it. Note its letters and its vowelpoints. There are many secret levels in the Psalms, not only of meaning, but of power. The power of Psalms is in its letters and sounds (advanced visualization and vibratory techniques), just as much as in its meanings.
In this way, you will uncover and discover deeper and deeper strata of experiential and meditative communion in the very words of the Psalms. Suffice to say that the ancient prophets used these techniques to enter the spiritual dimension. David therefore embedded them everywhere throughout the Psalms.
Before we embark on this journey, it is wise to speak about language in general. How does language work? Where does it come from, both according to the most modern theories and according to the Kabbalah? Can we unlock the power of words, that is, can we reconstruct, using words, not only the meaning that a particular author intended, but relive the experience he describes? Can words not only rigidify meaning but liberate it? Once we get past the outer level of words, can we then bring that meaning back in words? Are words to forever remain a prison, or can they become translucent enough to reveal the Godly light?
Words are not one-dimensional. The above superscriptions teach us that words overflow with meanings that we never knew were there. The words of the prophets, especially, have been likened to living waters that revive a fainting soul, and to the Spirit of God itself that breathes new life and hope into dead bodies.
Let us ask Hashem to help us “unstop” some of the incredible wellsprings of meaning concealed in the code-words of the Psalms. We call them “code-words” because this is exactly what they are. Once we understand the “code,” a whole new world of meaning opens up to us.
As we have noted, the reason for this is that the original language of the Torah and of Psalms is called lashon ha’kodesh, the sacred language of prophecy. In this language, words are compact information packets. At the “quantum” level, even the letters of the words of the Sacred Tongue are meaningful. Like the words of which they are a part, they have “ladders” of meaning, from the most mundane to the most sublime. This is the nature of lashon ha’kodesh. Needless to say, this “quantum” level of words and letters (and even dots) is too much for most people, but it is there.
Opening up a code-word is thus similar to opening up a “Zip” file in a computer. Code-words contain much more information than is apparent on the surface. They must be “unzipped” in order to grasp the concept or concepts they embody. Indeed, as mentioned, almost all of these words will be seen to have “ladders” of meanings. For while they are grounded in the mundane, they reach up very high.
In our notes (and even more so in our in-depth commentary), we develop this, giving examples of key words and how each of them “mean” on many levels (open-ended, multidimensional) at the same time that they are connected by one single concept (unified gestalt).
Besides the fact that there is a great beauty in this type of treatment, it is important as a basis of a theory of how language works. For the way we label things has a lot to do with how we perceive and experience reality.
“I Will Be Who I Will Be”אהיה אשר אהיה
In the Torah it is written, “Moshe said to God: Behold, I am supposed to go to the Children of Israel and say to them: ‘the God of your forefathers has sent me to you.’ But they will immediately ask me: ‘What is His Name?’ What shall I say to them? [In response] God said to Moshe: ‘Eheyeh Asher Eheyeh—I Will Be Who I Will Be.’ And He added: ‘This is what you must say to the children of Israel: Eheyeh—I Will Be sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:13-14).
In the Midrash, the sages reveal the esoteric meaning of this last verse: Shemot Rabbah 3:6; Tanchuma Shemot 20; see Zohar 3:10a, 3:11a-b. The Holy One blessed-be-He said to Moshe: My Name you wish to know? I am called according to My actions. At times, I am called El Shadai, at times Tzeva’ot, at times Elohim, at times Havayah.
Names of HaShem refer to attributes of HaShem which also refer to actions of HaShem. Learn this well. When a human being does an action that relates to an attribute of HaShem can earn the accolade and be able to apply a Name of HaShem to him or her self.
When I judge mankind, I am called Elohim אלהים (Ruler or Judge). When I wage war against (or when I exact retribution from) the wicked, I am called Adonai Tzeva’ot יהוה צבות (Lord of Hosts). When I suspend judgment on a person’s sins, I am called El Shadai אל שדי (allsustaining God). When I have mercy on My world (or when I sit/dwell within the quality of mercy), I am called Havayah הויה (merciful God), for Havayah always points to God’s mercies, as the verse attests, “Havayah, Havayah—merciful and gracious...” (Exodus 34:6).
This then is the meaning of “Eheyeh Asher Eheyeh,” to wit, “I am called according to My actions” (or “Although you cannot know My Essence, you can know My attributes, i.e., the way I manifest to you”). Rabbi Chayim of Volozhin quotes this Midrash as well as parallel passages from the Zohar. He sums up the matter when he says, “All that we know of Him, may He be blessed, is from the point of view of His Imminence within the universes [as opposed to His Transcendence above and beyond them].” Nefesh HaChayim 2:3; see Rabbi Meir Ibn Gabbai, Avodat HaKodesh 1:13.
According to the Kabbalah, all these Divine Names, even the Name YKVK, is a “sheath” for He Who Is Beyond Any Name and/or Appellation. [This is where the Kabbalah tradition reveals itself as the deeper strata of the Classical teachings of Judaism. In this sense, it could be said that the Classical teachings themselves are a “sheath” over the Kabbalah which is the powerful light of YKVK.] Kabbalah emphasizes that none of the Names with which the Torah describes Hashem’s interaction with us (even YKVK) refer to Hashem Himself. No, Hashem Himself, for Whom even the appellation Ein Sof (Endless One) is a limitation, Is Beyond All Name and/or Description. Rather, God’s Names refer to the various ways He runs His universe and relates to us. Look at any verse in the Tanakh in which any of the Divine Names appear. According to Kabbalah, none of these Names refer to Hashem Himself in any literal sense. That possibility simply does not exist by virtue of the rule that Hashem Is Beyond All Names.
Nevertheless, relative to all other Names, YKVK is the shoresh (root and source). The reason for this might be that YKVK is not just a “name,” but a Four-Letter Formula: Yod, Heh, Vav, and Heh. As the Kabbalah teaches, this Four-Letter Formula includes all Names and Modes in a total Unity. All other Names are derivatives and specific aspects of this All- Encompassing Name. Shaarey Orah, Chapter 1, p. 4a.
Thus, although the YKVK, and all Divine Names that branch off from it, are very deep, God is more than any name we can call Him. This is because even the highest name is finite compared to the Infinite Light that fills it. A name is a creation that expresses a certain relationship; that is, it allows for the possibility of a relationship between God and anything that He creates. God Himself, the Infinite, is above this. He transcends any relationship. This is why “Lekha dumiah tehillah—to You, silence is praise!” (Psalm 65:2). Such that, when we say or think or meditate on a Divine Name, we are essentially relating to God the Infinite through this Name. As the Zohar puts it, these Divine Names are like channels or conduits through which water flows. The only difference is that a physical channel exists even when there is no water flowing through it. These Divine channels and everything else would not exist for a moment if the Divine flow of energy stopped. Zohar 2:42a.
In general, the Name YKVK represents God’s Attribute of Unconditional Love and Overriding Mercy. It is the most important of all the various Names of God that appear throughout the Bible (each of which represents a different aspect of God’s relationship with His world, and our relationship with Him).
There are a number of ways to render this Name in English and still distinguish it from the other Divine Names. As a general rule, when we are not actually praying to God (but rather speaking or learning about Him), we use the English letters Yod-Keh-Vav-Keh, or Hashem (The Name), or Havayah (Infinite/Eternal Being).
For use when actually praying, we may also use the following two substitutes for the Hebrew original: YHVH (Adonai). Note that when we use the letters YHVH followed by the Name Adonai, our intention is that you contemplate and meditate on the letters of the Four-Letter Name (Yod, Heh, Vav, and Heh), but only say the Name Adonai. This is based on Jewish law which states that when studying, or reading from the Torah, or when praying: Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim 5.
One should concentrate on the meaning of the words. When mentioning the Four-Letter Name, concentrate on its meaning as it is pronounced, Adonai—Lord/Master of all—and concentrate on its meaning as it is written, YKVK—He was, He is, and He will always be.
According to Jewish Law we are only to think the Four-Letter Name YHVH. We do not pronounce the Name as it is written. Instead, when we read the Torah or pray, we say Adonai. [As above, when we are not praying, we say Havayah or Hashem, or we spell out the letters of the Name, changing the two letters Heh into Keh thus: Yod-Keh-Vav-Keh.]
The Talmud learns this from a verse in the Torah. When God spoke to Moshe at the Burning Bush, He said: “This is what you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘YHVH, God of your ancestors, God of Avraham, God of Yitzchak, and God of Yaacov, sent me to you. Zeh shemi le’olam—this is My Name forever, ve’zeh zikhri le’dor dor—and this is how I am to be remembered for all generations’” (Exodus 3:15).
The phrase, “zeh shemi le’olam—this is My Name forever,” has a double meaning. The Hebrew word for forever is le’olam לאולם. Here, however, it is written without the letter vav, and is spelled לאלם, which—when we disregard the vowels—can also be read le’alem, “for concealment.” According to this, the verse can now be read, “This is My Name to conceal.” Kiddushin 71a. This is reflected beautifully in the fact that, in the vast majority of places, the Havayah is actually voweled with the vowels of the word le’olam, - shva, cholam, kamatz, or with the same vowels arranged in a slightly different order [corresponding to the word tzevakot - shva, kamatz, cholam. In all such cases, we read it Adonai.
We find the same teaching in another context as well: Pesachim 50a. “Ve’hayah Hashem le’melekh al kol ha’aretz—Hashem will be [recognized] as king over the entire world. Ba’yom hahu yihiyeh Hashem echad u’shemo echad—On that day, Hashem will be one and His name will be one” (Zekhariah 14:9). [How can it be written, “Ba’yom ha’hu yihiyeh Hashem echad—on that day, Hashem will be one”?] Isn’t He one now? Rabbi Acha bar Chaninah explained: this world is not like the world to come. In this world, when hearing good tidings, we say, “Blessed is He who is good and who does good.” When receiving bad news, we say, “Blessed is the Judge whose judgment is truth.” [In the world to come, this will no longer be the case. Rather, we will see the good clearly in all that happens.] In the world to come, we will only say, “Blessed is He who is good and who does good.”
The Talmud has explained the phrase “Ba’yom hahu yihiyeh Hashem echad” from Zekhariah (14:9) that Hashem’s oneness will become totally revealed only in the world to come. The Talmud now expounds on the concluding words of the verse, “u’shemo echad”:
“U’shemo echad—And His Name will be one.” [How can this be?] Isn’t His Name one now? Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak explained: this world is not like the world to come. In this world the Name is written YKVK but pronounced Adonai. In the world to come, however, all will be one…It is therefore written, “This is My Name le’olam (forever) (i.e., le’alem-to conceal).” The Holy One said: [In this world] I am not called as I am written. Here My Name is written YKVK but pronounced Adonai. [In the world to come, however, it will be pronounced as it is written.]
There were times during the initial phase of Israel’s history when the Havayah was pronounced as it is written. Up until the period of the second temple, the priests (cohanim) pronounced the four-letter name with its own unique vowel points (cholam, segol, kamatz, segol) when they blessed the people (Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, quoted in Tosfot Yom Tov, Yoma 6:2 s.v. keshe’hayu). It was only after Shimon haTzaddik died in 3470 (291 b.c.e.) that the cohen gadol alone would actually say the name, and only on Yom Kippur. Even then, it was pronounced in such a low voice that it was drowned out by the singing of the other cohanim (Kiddushin 71a; Rambam, Avodat Yom haKippurim 2:6).
The meaning is clear: It is presently forbidden to pronounce the Four-Letter Name as it is written. As noted, in reading the Torah, when we come across the Name YHVH, we always read it as Adonai [except when it occurs in conjunction with the Name Adonai, in which case it is read Elohim]. In all such cases (298 times all together; 4 times in the Torah, 294 times in the remainder of the Nakh), it appears with the vowels of the name Elokim. See Genesis 15:2, 15:8, Deuteronomy 3:24, 9:26, and Targum ad. loc. See Gra, Orach Chayim 5:1, s.v. veyikhaven.
If one actually pronounces the Name YKVK as it is written, he can lose his portion in the world to come. Sanhedrin 10:1 (90a); Avodah Zarah 18a, Tosafot ad. loc. s.v. hogeh hashem; Tosefta Sanhedrin 12:5; Tanchuma Vaera 1; Kaplan, The Torah Anthology, Volume 4, p. 93. The reason for this stringency is that the full power of the Written Name will only be revealed in the world to come. Until then it is, as it were, concealed in the Spoken Name “like a sword in its sheath.” This is similar to the verse in psalms, “Ki shemesh u’magen Havayah Elokim—for Hashem Elokim is a sun and a shield” (Psalm 84:12). The relationship of Hashem to Elokim is that of the shemesh (sun) to a magen (shield). What shield protects us like sunglasses from the sun’s rays? The ozone. Just as the ozone serves as a shield to protect us from solar radiation that is lethal for earth-life as we know it, so also Elokim and Adanut protect us from the light of Havayah which is too powerful for us to handle at the present time.
The reason for this stringency is because the full power of the Written Name will only be revealed in the world to come. Until then, it is, as it were, concealed in the Spoken Name, like a sword in its sheath. This parallels the fact that the spiritual light of the sun is presently concealed in the orb of the sun in order to protect us and allow earth-life to continue on as it is until the end of the sixth millennium. At that time, the Talmud says, the Holy One will remove the sun from its sheath, Nedarim 8b; Avodah Zarah 3b. meaning, reveal His light in all its glory. This world will no longer conceal the Godly light.
All of this is because of the intrinsic sanctity of the Name. It is the Holy of Holies of existence. It contains the secret of God’s relationship with the world He created. By not speaking the Name or even pronouncing its letters out loud, we acknowledge this holiness. We acknowledge that, if there is one thing in the entire world which should never be misused or misappropriated, it is the very Essence of Being and Existence itself, the holy Name YKVK. Out of reverence, therefore, and as a sign that we are sensitive to that which is completely whole and holy, we may only think of its letters and what they mean, but never speak them as they are written.
But the time will come, the verse says, when “Hashem will be one and His name will be one” or “the oneness of Hashem and the oneness of His name will be revealed.” Then the powerful spiritual light of Hashem will be revealed. At that time, the Talmud says, “the Holy One will remove [the light of] the sun from its sheath,” i.e., reveal His light in all its glory. Nedarim 8b; Avodah Zarah 3b. “This world” will no longer conceal the Godly light. At that time we will be permitted to speak the YKVK as it is written—meaning, experience it directly.
The Havayah consists of the four Hebrew letters, Yod, Heh, Vav, and Heh, plus a fifth level which transcends and includes the other four, the apex of the Yod. According to the Kabbalists, in these five levels you have everything. This is The Name that represents the totality of everything that exists.
This Name is related to the past, present, and future tense of the Hebrew word “to be.” In Hebrew, “was” is hayah, “is” is hoveh, and “will be” is yihiyeh. Whenever you read this Name, you should have in mind that God was, is, and will be, all together, at the same instant. Paralleling the Rabbinic phrase, HaKadosh Barukh Hu (the Holy One blessed-be-He), the Name YKVK thus points to God’s absolute transcendence over creation and the impossibility of His being constrained or confined by the laws of time, space, and nature (i.e., that He exists in a realm where time does not exist, which is beyond anything we can imagine). It tells us He created time and that He is utterly beyond and higher than time. It tells us that in order to create, He hid his Infiniteness and brought the universe into existence in such a way that He would permeate it and yet not overwhelm it. Again, it tells us that God Himself is Existence, but that nothing could exist until He brought it into existence. He is the MeHaveh, the One who gives existence. All this and more is contained in the Name YKVK.
The Name ADNY (Adanut), on the other hand, parallels the concept of the Shekhinah and points to God’s mastery and providence over creation—i.e., how we experience His presence in our lives.
Again, YKVK leads us to contemplate how the entire universe is naught in comparison to the infiniteness of the One who created it. Adanut allows us to perceive His providential concern for everything in the universe down to the tiniest detail of our lives.
Of course, for God, these two poles of reality are inseparable. The problem is that the human mind is limited. We must therefore approach the Awesome Oneness of God’s Name simultaneously in two complementary ways. By doing this, we are fulfilling the command to Unify the Divine Name.
Again, this explains why Jewish law states that we are only to think about the Written Name while we say the Spoken Name. Of course we are to think about both, beginning with Adanut and going higher and higher with YKVK. Ideally, even when praying in English or any other language other than the Sacred Tongue (lashon ha’kodesh), the Spoken Name should be pronounced and the Written Name concentrated upon.
This makes the reading of one name and the pronouncing of another similar to the phenomenon of k’tiv (written form) and k’ri (spoken form) that appears in numerous places throughout the Tanakh. Based on the Zohar Zohar 3:230a and the Talmud, Pesachim 50a; Berakhot 54a. both the Gaon of Vilna Gloss on Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim 5:1 and Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi Tanya, Iggeret HaKodesh 19. maintain that the essential difference between what we are able to think and what we are able to speak is symbolically encoded in the distinction between the Torah’s use of the written word and the spoken word.
Since thought is more abstract and therefore represents a higher dimension than speech, it follows that the function of speech is to constrict and limit the content of what is being thought in order to communicate it. In this sense, thought is non-physical and higher than speech, and it must undergo a step-down process in being translated into the physical dimension of the spoken word. Thus (1) the written word is associated with thought and expresses an internal relationship, whereas (2) the spoken word expresses things as we perceive them in the external world.
When this principle is applied to God’s names, the following emerges: We refer to God’s mastery and providential care over every detail of creation when we pronounce the name Adanut (Master). This is only the bottom of an infinite ladder, however, in comparison to what we are supposed to think when we see the four-letter name YKVK. For, what God does is miniscule in comparison to who He Himself is. Nevertheless, because we think YKVK when we say Adanut, we bring about a yichud (unification) of these two levels together—a yichud of the written and the spoken, of thought and word.
We now bring three source texts to enter more deeply into the meaning of YKVK (Havayah) and its relationship to the Divine Name Elokim. Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi wrote: Tanya, Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah 4. It is written, “A sun and a shield is Havayah Elokim” (Psalm 84:12). The explanation of this verse is as follows:
By a “shield” is meant a covering of some sort that is used to protect one from the light of the sun. One shields oneself from the light so that he should be able to bear its intensity. This is reminiscent of what our Sages of blessed memory said: “In the Future, the Holy One will take [the light of] the sun out of its sheath [orb]. The wicked will be punished by it and the righteous will be healed...” Nedarim 8b. For the time being, just as a sheath shields and protects us from the sun, so also does the Name Elokim shield and protect us from the powerful revelation of the Blessed Havayah... The meaning of the Name Havayah itself is “Mehaveh—He who constantly brings everything into existence ex nihilo.” The Tzemach Tzedek, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, quotes the above text and continues: Derekh Mitzvotekha, Mitzvat Milah, p.10.
It is written, “A sun and a shield is Havayah Elokim” (Psalm 84:12)... The Name Elokim is like a shield, sheath or garment which conceals and hides within itself the life-force that emanates from Havayah—the One who constantly brings everything into existence. This then allows for the existence of finite, separate creations made up of soul and body. The soul parallels the life-force of Havayah that shines into Elokim, and the body parallels Elokim which hides and covers over the Havayah. This is [the root reason] why the body is literally a garment over the soul. It is also the reason why the Torah warns us numerous times, “Know today and reflect on it in your heart that Havayah Hu HaElokim in the heavens above and on the earth below—there is nothing else” (Deuteronomy 4:39). This comes to teach us that the concept of multiplicity [of finite, separate existences] that comes about through the Name Elokim does not imply a real separation from Havayah in any way whatsoever. Even after multiplicity is brought about via the Name Elokim, all is still included in the Unity of Havayah just as it was before the world was created. In truth, therefore, there is no separate existence. All is one seamless Unity.
This can be understood by way of analogy: Imagine a large barrel filled with water. In order to fill up many smaller buckets from this large barrel, we can use many tubes or pipelines [as many as there are buckets]. Of course, each tube has to limit and constrict the flow of water from the barrel to fit the size and capacity of each bucket. In this way, the water can be distributed to the various buckets—something that would be impossible if we had to pour straight from the barrel. Indeed, pouring straight from the barrel would cause great quantities of water to spill out over the sides of the small buckets [rendering the entire procedure a failure]...
Now, you can see that even though the tubes seem to have constricted the water, they are nothing more than the medium through which the water’s flow is tapered off. They do not affect the water itself. In fact, as long as the water flows from the barrel through the tubes and into the buckets, it [the water] is still not separated from its source [in the barrel]. In the same way, the Name Elokim, which is associated with the concept of gevurah (restraint) and tzimtzum (constriction), constricts the shefa (life-force, illumination) of the waters of God’s chesed (love). This is alluded to in the verse, “Peleg Elokim malei mayim— the Name Elokim differentiates [Havayah] which is full of water” (Psalm 65:10). It is also alluded to in the phrase “Lift up your eyes on high and behold Mi bara eleh—Who has created these!” (Isaiah 40:26). The Mi (Who) of Elohim is the hidden unity behind eleh (these) which represents the concept of multiplicity and separate existence. According to the Zohar (1:2a), the code-word for the world of multiplicity that we see with our eyes is eleh (these). Look at eleh (these), and ask Mi (Who?). Combine the two words eleh (these) and mi (who) [switched around to read im], and you obtain Elohim.
This discussion in the Zohar is truly enlightening. Mi Bara Eleh? Who Created These? In Hebrew one can permute Elohim out of this question. The adage The Answer is always in the question comes from this discussion in the Zohar.
This again is the meaning of Peleg Elokim malei mayim, namely, the Name Elokim differentiates and divides via subsidiary pipelines which are the permutations of the Hebrew letters that cover over and conceal the light of Ein Sof that manifests through Havayah—He who was, He who is, and He will be forever—who is absolutely boundless and limitless, with no beginning and no end... Behold, these permutations are merely pipelines through which the essence life-force of Havayah flows. And, as we saw above, even after it clothes itself in them, it is never separated from its source. All remains One.
Furthermore, the concealment that is brought about by the letters is only from our point of view and for our benefit. From God’s point of view, there is no concealment whatsoever. So it is now self-evident that even after separation and multiplicity is brought into existence via the Name Elokim, all is still included in His Blessed Unity. On the contrary, the concealment only exists for us, whereas for Him, all of creation is as naught just as it was before He created it... And this is the mystery of Havayah Hu HaElokim—ein od—there is nothing else...
The Gra (Rabbi Eliyahu, the Gaon of Vilna, 1720-1797) writes: Aderet Eliyahu, Bereshit, p. 6. Elokim. This is the Name that is used exclusively throughout the first seven days of creation. The reason for this is that every creation is made up of two elements - its individual identity and its life-force. The identity of something is a product of the Name Elokim. Its life-force is the product of the Havayah who “gives existence and life to all” (Nehemiah 9:6).
Rabbi Yitzchak Izik Chaver explains by restating the Gra’s words in terms of the Kabbalistic concept of Tzimtzum. He writes: Be’er Yitzchak on Aderet Eliyahu loc cit.
As explained by the Ari (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, 1534-1572), before God created the universe, His infinite light filled all existence. In order to create anything distinct from Himself, God had, so to speak, to self-contract or constrict His light away from a certain point. This self-contraction was necessary in order to create a “vacated space” within which to emanate the universes. Once this was accomplished, God then filtered His light back into the space in measured amounts through what the Ari calls the Kav [a pipeline of sorts similar to what the Tzemach Tzedek referred to above]. The relationship of the Kav of measured light and the Vacated Space parallels the relationship between Havayah and Elokim. This relationship is embodied in the relationship between a husband and wife. The Gra is alluding here to the mystery of the Tzimtzum and the Kav. The Tzimtzum gave birth to the concepts of boundary, finitude, individual identity, and vessels. They represent the myriad levels of creatures and powers that live and function in each universe. The whole idea of individual identity stems from Elokim which itself is a concept of Gevurah [Restraint]. The Name Havayah, on the other hand, is represented in the life-force that flows [unchanged] through the Kav at every level. It is the mystery of interconnectedness that binds all multiplicity to Unity...
We have attempted to “unstop” some of the incredible wellsprings of meaning concealed in the various Divine Names that “appear” and “disappear” throughout the Bible. Like God Himself, these Names are partly revealed, but largely hidden. At times, for a split moment, they peek out at us, and then immediately retreat into hiding. Like a bolt of lightning lighting up a dark and stormy midnight sky, these momentary revelations illuminate the pages of our lives for a split second, and then disappear. Lest we become disheartened with the way that God seems to be playing some kind of cosmic game of Hide-n-Seek, it is incumbent upon us to learn how to get the most out of what is revealed when the moment comes, instead of complaining about how little we got to see...
The Psalms were composed to help us connect to God’s Overriding Mercy. To get a deeper appreciation of how this works, pay attention to the number of times the Name YKVK (Havayah, Hashem) appears in certain psalms. In Psalm 3, for instance, David speaks to God and addresses Him 6 times using the Name YKVK in the space of 9 verses. In Psalm 27, it appears 13 times in the space of 14 verses. In Psalm 29, the Havayah appears 18 times in the space of 11 verses. Based on the total of 18 occurrences of Havayah in this psalm, the sages established the eighteen blessings of the weekday Amidah. Based on the fact that seven of these occurrences are written Kol YKVK (Hashem’s voice), they established the seven blessings of the Shabbat Amidah. Berakhot 28b.
In Psalm 30, the Name Havayah appears 10 times in the space of 13 verses. In Psalm 32, David addresses God using the Name Havayah 13 times in the space of 22 verses. In Psalm 34, there are 16 occurrences of Havayah in the space of 23 verses. In Psalm 116, the Name Havayah occurs 15 times in 19 verses. In Psalm 118, the Name YKVK occurs 22 times, while the Name YaH appears 6 times, all in the space of 19 verses. In Psalm 135, YKVK occurs 15 times in 21 verses.
This phenomenon is not limited to the Four-Letter Name. In Psalm 68, the Divine Name Elokim appears 26 times in the space of 36 verses. In Psalm 136, the phrase ki le’olam chasdo, “His love is eternal and everlasting” (or “His steadfast love to the world—though at times hidden—is constant and endures forever”) also appears 26 times in the space of 26 verses. Since, 26 is the numerical value of YKVK, this is clearly intentional and purposeful. Glance at these psalms and read each verse in which this Name (or any Divine Name) appears. Doesn’t the Name seem redundant? Shouldn’t David have used the pronoun “He” instead of the Name itself (at least in some instances)? Doesn’t the 3rd of the Ten Commandments state, “Do not take the Name of YKVK in vain”? Doesn’t this imply that we are not allowed to say God’s Name without a good reason and without the greatest respect for its sanctity? Why then wasn’t David more circumspect in using the Name?To understand the answer yourself, take any psalm that contains an inordinate number of Divine Names. Read the psalm out loud, slowly, emphasizing the holy Name YHVH. [Read YHVH with your eyes, and say Adonai with your mouth.] All the other words that are threaded in-between these Divine Names, whisper. That is, raise your voice when you say the Name, and lower it to a whisper for all the words in between.
If you listen well, you will hear yourself saying the Name Adanut over and over again, one after another, raising your voice and lowering it, all to the tune of God’s Name. With practice, you will be able to stretch out the Name, to lift your voice in song, to be with it, to enter into it, to allow it to enter into you, to feel its healing power. The words around the Name will be like the trees in a wondrous forest, and the Name itself will be the light of the sun shining through...
Concentrating thus on the Name as you say it, it will become clear to you that all the other words that surround it are there to help you understand the many different ways that you can see and experience God in your life. They are there to allow you to have a “left brain” understanding of what you are saying. The main thing, however, is the Holy Name! This Name transcends your human understanding of God’s ways. It puts you in touch with His Overriding Mercy. In this way, you are permitted to repeat The Blessed Name over and over again. This explains why David doesn’t use the pronoun “He” as often as one might do in a normal text or conversation.
You can visualize the entire text of the Psalms as if it were written on a single strip of parchment. As you read, the parchment moves (as if on a conveyer belt). Behind this parchment is a brilliant white light. Every time the Divine Name YKVK appears in the text, there is an aperture in the parchment. Light shines through this aperture. If you come close to the parchment and look closely into the aperture, you see the Name YKVK in shining white light. If you now move the parchment faster, the words on it will blur slightly. In addition, the faster you move it, the more the light will shine through. Eventually, if you move the parchment fast enough, all you will see is light.
Now, when you slow down, a wonderful thing might happen. Each and every word will begin to reveal its light to you. You will pay attention to things that you couldn’t possibly have seen before hand. Having seen the rays of the sun peak through the trees, you will now start to pay attention to and rejoice in the exquisite beauty of each and every tree and blade of grass. Having seen the light behind the parchment, you will now be able to better appreciate how that light subtly infuses every word of the Psalms and the parchment itself. The parchment itself will begin to shine.
For thus it is in life. We need peak experiences to be able to glimpse the great light that shines just beyond and behind the seemingly impenetrable parchment of our lives. But then we need to return. Like a near-death experience, in which we temporarily leave our earthly bodies to glimpse the incredible light that lies behind and beyond our physical dimension, we must now return. Like a prophet who momentarily loses consciousness of himself as separate from God in order to receive the prophetic influx, we must now return.
But now we have tasted the light. And it has transformed us. Now the details of our lives, the very fabric of our lives, the parchment itself, shines.
And this is where our comments will assist you. Some of them, to be sure, are directed at a basic understanding of what the Psalms are saying. The majority, however, are directed at helping you gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics behind and in the words—to view earth-life from the viewpoint of eternity, to be awe-struck at the magnificence of God’s Plan—and to return to the daily challenges of your life inspired, to become aware of God’s Providence in the very events of your life. So sit back and take the Psalms in hand and start to peruse this ancient text that was written by David, the once and future King. And don’t be surprised if you too become overwhelmed with a desire to be a conduit of God’s Torah in the process.
In the previous section we explored the meanings of some of the Divine Names that appear throughout the Psalms. Now we will attempt to show the interrelationship between these Divine Names and the sefirot. First, in a general sense, the sefirot themselves embody the midot (qualities, attributes) that Hashem uses to create, sustain, and govern His world, and most importantly, to relate to us. The term sefirah itself is related to the Hebrew saper (express or communicate), and sapir (sapphire, brilliance, or luminary). It is also related to safar (number), sefar (boundary, frontier), sapar (barber), and sefer (book). In essence, all these are related concepts and point to the sefirot as having two basic functions. First, the sefirot are orot (lights or luminaries) that serve to reveal and express Hashem’s greatness. Secondly, they are kelim (vessels) that limit and delineate Hashem’s infinite light, bringing it into the finite realm of number and boundary. It is through the ten sefirot that the Infinite Ein Sof shines His light into the system of universes in a gradated or step-down fashion. In this way, the sefirot reveal the will of the Ein Sof in a way that we humans can grasp it.
The Sefirot are levels of consciousness - what ever that actually means. Consciousness is Desire to Receive. The Sefirot as vessels are a desire to receive. As light they are something else. What that is will be too complicated to explain in this class. Yet it is important to know that the best method to find out the essence of the light / vessel relationship within and without a Sefirot is to invite a particular Sefirot into your meditations and ask the sefirot yourself. Yet always remember the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle which as formulated in modern physics is not yet complete and in the Kabbalah it teaches that one's consciousness interacts with the Sefirot and makes it uncertain as to how one impacts that consciousness. If you do not understand what is suggested here ask a question and send it to email@example.com. This commentary is totally my own.
Ramak (Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, 1522-1570) explains this double function of the sefirot thus: “There are two reasons which are really one why Hashem emanated the sefirot of Atzilut. First, He wanted to conceal (constrict, filter, screen, channel) His infinite light in order to allow for the existence of finite creations. Second, [once this was accomplished,] He wanted to reveal Himself in such a way that these creations could actually experience His greatness, each according to their ability.” Pardes Rimonim 4:5, p. 19a.
What does it mean "to experience His Greatness"? i do not know. In addition to this lack of clarity of language, which is unusual by Rabbi Sutton, the discussion needs to clarify what it means to reveal Himself to the vessels. there is an implication / hint in the above words that HaShem needs the vessel in order to be revealed or to have the vessel reveal the Light of HaShem in order to experience the Greatness of HaShem. This is currently being taught by the Chabad organization "that HaShem needs people / us". That we do Mitzvot because HaShem needs us to do them. i do not concur with this teaching as my teachers all say HaShem has no need of any kind. the highest purpose of doing a Mitzvot is to receive the light of HaShem in order to share pleasure with the Creator but the Creator does not need this pleasure. this is another paradox and will take too long to explain it. i suggest you read the writings of Rabbi Ashlag in Ten Luminous Emanations which discuss the process of creation as well as the purpose of the vessel and the Tree of Life.
In the section of the Tikuney Zohar known as Petichat Eliyahu, we see the same idea: It is through the Tree of Life (the system of the sefirot) that Hashem constricts His light in stages in order to thereby give man the ability to receive the ultimate gift of existence from Him in a way that he (man) can handle it. As such, the sefirot act variously as windows, filters, garments, and vessels for the infinite light that fills them. The sefirot are actually the basic conceptual model or structure that underlies all creation. They allow us to speak about Hashem’s immanence in His creation—what He does—without referring directly to what He is (which, as we said, is beyond any category).
This Tikuney Zohar is explained in the Ten Luminous Emanations by Rabbi Ashlag in a slightly different way. Please read it there.
Generally speaking, our consciousness is built in such a way that we experience a particular divine attribute in isolation from its complements. The truth is that each sefirah or attribute is inter-inclusive (or “holographic”) in the sense that it contains in miniature all the other sefirot within itself. Like a cell in the body, it reflects the entire system from its particular vantage point. Rabbi Shneur Zalman mentions this in relation to the attributes of chesed and gevurah: Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah 6.The quality of gevurah (restraint and judgment) and tzimtzum (self-constriction) is also a quality of chesed (expansion and love), for through it [or through the combination of both] the world is built. This quality of gevurah is actually included in chesed… All the attributes are unified with each other and inter-inclusive of each other, as Eliyahu taught (Petichat Eliyahu), “You are He who binds them [the ten sefirot to Your Unity above] and unifies them [from within]. And inasmuch as You are within them, anyone who separates one from the other is regarded as having caused a separation in You [and Your Absolute Unity]… Yours is the only Unity that unites everything above and below.”
It is important to understand that this is the mistake that is made very frequently within new age teachings and older teachings related to the two column system such as Yin/Yang of the eastern teachings. It is only the idea of a third column that helps one understand this complete truth and not make this mistake, in my opinion.
The inter-inclusiveness of the sefirot flows from their being completely unified with the One who emanated them. In truth, even after having been emanated (i.e., after having been brought forth from no-thing-ness), they still have no separate existence. Rather, they are light-vessels (made of light) through which the great infinite light flows in measured form. This teaching is the basis for the last stanza in perhaps one of the most beautiful kabbalistic poems ever written: “The Almighty unites all ten sefirot as one. He who truly perceives the Master’s Unity, will be privileged to behold great lights. Fashioned from Oneness, they shine together as one, even in diversity.” Kel Mistater by Rabbi Avraham Maimon, student of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero.
My teachers have taught me and i teach my students "It is about Unity that can only come through an appreciation for all of the diversity of the Creation". That means that one has the consciousness that every person is a Creation of the Creator and that their is a Hierarchy of Creations and from the Creator's perspective there is no hierarchy. Each Creation has a purpose in the plan of Creation. While all of this sounds like and sometimes looks like a paradox - IT is NOT!
The message is clear: Hashem, the Infinite Being, unites all ten sefirot within Himself as one, in a complete unity. This is true not only while they are still subsumed in His Infinite Oneness, but even after they are emanated. Because they were “fashioned” from His Oneness, they continue to shine together as one, even in diversity. That is, they continue to reveal His Oneness even through their diverse qualities. One who truly perceives this Oneness in all, even in this world (which gives the impression that things can exist separately from His Blessed Oneness), will be privileged to behold these great lights in their pristine form in the World to Come.
But now we go even deeper. As noted, the sefirot have a double function: they are both lights and vessels. This is true, but it is more correct to say that the names of the sefirot listed above are the instruments or vessels through which the light of pure Divinity shines. This light is like the soul of the sefirot, and it is embodied in ten specific Divine Names that appear in numerous places throughout the entire Tanakh (Torah, Prophets, and Sacred Writings).
In other words, we want to move from the level of kelim (vessels) to the level of orot (lights), from chitzon (external) to penimi (internal), from the superficial to the depth of the Godly light that is the Reality behind all that exists. This Godly level is embodied in the Divine Names that are the soul-power behind the sefirot.
I Will Be / I AM Eheyeh (pronounced Ekeyeh)
This name is connected with the Sefirah of Keter as follows:
Keter - Crown - כתר - אהיה
Supernal God Yah (pronounced Kah)
This name is connected with the Sefirah of Chochmah as follows:
Chochmah - Wisdom - חכמה - יה
Loving Judging God Havayah (with vowels of Elokim)
This name is connected with the Sefirah of Binah as follows:
Binah - Understanding - בינה - יהוה בניקוד אלהים
Loving God El (pronounced Kel)
This name is connected with the Sefirah of Chesed as follows:
Chesed - Loving Kindness - חסד - אל
God of justice Elohim (Elokim)
This name is connected with the Sefirah of Gevurah as follows:
Gevurah - Power - Judgment - Limitation - restraint - גבורה - אלהים
God of mercy YHVH (YKVK, Havayah, Hashem)
This name is connected with the Sefirah of Tiferet as follows:
Tiferet - Beauty - Harmony - תפארת - יהוה Vowels: Sheva - Cholam - Patach - No vowel
Lord of Hosts YHVH Tzevaot (Hashem Tzevakot)
This name is connected with the Sefirah of Netzach as follows:
Netzach - Victory - Eternity - Dominance - נצח - יהוה צבאות
God of Hosts Elohim Tzevaot (Elokim Tzevakot)
This name is connected with the Sefirah of Hod as follows:
Hod - Majesty - Empathy - Acquiescence - Thankfulness - Appreciation - אלהים צבאות - הוד
All-Sustaining / Living God Shadai / El Chai (Shakai, Kel Chai)
This name is connected with the Sefirah of Yesod as follows:
Yesod - Foundation - Channel - Relationship - שדי אל חי - יסוד
Lord, Personal God Adonai (Adanut)
This name is connected with the Sefirah of Keter as follows:
Malchut - Kingdom - Reciprocity - מלכות - אדני
The above is clearly not enough to understand more than an inkling of the relationship between the sefirot and the divine names. My purpose here is merely to attune you to the existence of this relationship. Then when praying from the Siddur, reading Psalms, or studying Tanakh (Bible), you will pay more attention to these names. In Psalms, in particular, you will notice that King David often uses many names in a single psalm. And you will wonder why.
Not only may you wonder you can also ask why and search for an answer that is valid and truthful for you. There are a number of tools to receive this truthful answers.
For the sake of completeness, I therefore bring here, as an addendum to the above section in which I dealt at length with the names Ekeyeh, YKVK, Elokim, and Adanut, the meaning of the remaining primary names listed above:
The name Yah (Kah) consists of the first two letters of YKVK and is associated primarily with the sefirah of Chokhmah. Nevertheless, since it is spelled Yod-Heh, it represents the idea that Binah (corresponding to the first Heh of Havayah) exists in Chokhmah (corresponding to the Yod) in an undifferentiated state before it becomes expressed as a separate sefirah. Kah is thus a very exalted name, but for this very reason is very paradoxical. Indeed, it seems to contradict the rule that the higher we go, the more love and mercy we encounter. Here, on the contrary, almost everywhere we encounter the Name Kah, we encounter judgment. In explaining this anomaly, Ramban cites the following verse containing this name: “Trust in Hashem forever more, for with Yah [i.e., with the letters Yod and Heh], Hashem fashioned worlds [this world and the world to come]” (Isaiah 26:4). He then writes: Ramban, HaEmunah VehaBitachon, Kitvey Ramban, Volume II (Hebrew), p. 358.
Rabbi Sutton is describing the idea of the unity of Chochmah and Binah are unified 9 - Always Unified.
This means that Hashem formed worlds with the quality of judgment alluded to in the name Yah, as well as with the quality of mercy alluded to in the name YKVK. We see that Yah alludes to judgment in the following verses as well: “Yah has surely afflicted me with suffering, but He has not given me over to death!” (Psalm 118:18); “for [as long as] a hand is on Yah’s throne, Hashem is at war with Amalek, from generation to generation” (Exodus 17:16); and “if You, Yah, were always to take account of intentional transgressions, O Adonai, who could withstand [the severity of Your judgment]?” (Psalm 130:3).
This is what the sages meant when they cited the verse, “O Yah, fortunate is the person whom You discipline [through suffering] and thereby instruct in Your Torah” (ibid. 94:12), and commented, “The verse does not mention the name YKVK, but rather Yah, in order to emphasize that this is like a man who is standing trial before a court of justice, under the scrutiny of the judge. When he hears his sentence, he cries out in anguish, ‘Yah yah (woe, woe), dai dai (enough, enough).’” Bereshit Rabbah 92:1.
Again, almost everywhere we encounter the name Kah, we encounter judgment. How can this be? I will answer with two sources. The first is from the Maggid of Mezeritch, in the name of his master, the Baal Shem Tov: Likutim Yekarim §244. I have taken the liberty of embellishing the parable slightly in order to bring out the point more forcefully that the father and mother embody two different aspects of mercy and love, as opposed to judgment vs. mercy.
A father once warned his son not to go barefoot outside the house, lest he be injured. The boy joined with a group of unruly children, however, with whom he ran about barefoot. In no time at all a thorn did indeed enter his foot.
At first the boy wanted to hide from his father. He went home, but entered through the back door in order to show it to his mother. His mother, however, was extremely concerned, and called in his father. When his father saw the thorn, he was concerned lest it cause an infection and abscess. He wanted to remove it but the child would not allow him to touch it for fear that the extraction might be painful. The boy started to cry.
The mother also started to cry, feeling the pain of her son. The father forcibly held his son in his lap. Holding a sharp knife, he removed the thorn from the child’s foot against his son’s will. The child cried out in pain. The mother cried as well.
In the child's opinion, the father acted cruelly toward him because the pain of extraction was greater than the pain of the thorn entering the flesh. In truth, however, this was a healing and not a torture. Had the thorn not been removed, an abscess could have developed in the foot.
We can see, therefore, that the father’s fear cannot be compared to that of the son. The father feared the wound might become infected and abscess. The son feared the pain of having the thorn removed and considered it a punishment for having disobeyed his father. The father knew the pain was only momentary and was concerned solely about the son’s ultimate benefit.
Man’s fear is not the same as God’s. Man generally fears punishment. God, on the other hand, is saddened by the actual sin which causes a person to sink into impurity. After the sin occurs, God does not hesitate to exact punishment because it is meant as a remedy to cleanse man and restore his spiritual stature. Man would do well to strive to make his fear the same as God’s.
This is the meaning of the verse, “What does God require of you, but le’yira eth Hashem Elokekha—to fear with Hashem your God?” (Deuteronomy 10:12). That is, your fear should be one with God’s fear—the same as His. He is concerned lest you sin and harm yourself spiritually. This should be your concern as well. This is the true meaning of the awe or fear of heaven.
Whereas mother (embodying Binah) is extremely empathic about the pain of her son (man), father (embodying the higher mode of Chokhmah) seems to be completely insensitive. And yet, as the Baal Shem Tov reveals to us in the end, father and mother both care for their son. It is just that they embody two different ways of being empathic and merciful. The empathy of the father might be called far-sighted or long-range empathy, while the empathy of the mother is more immediate. Certainly both are needed. And it is reassuring to know that Hashem is both our father and our mother.
Now for the second source. It seems to me that the idea behind the above parable is based on the following passage in the Zohar. Here the terminology changes, but the idea is the same: Zohar 1:120b.
“Bekhol tzaratam lo tzar—in all their sorrow/affliction, lo tzar, He had no sorrow; but the angel of His presence saved them” (Isaiah 63:9). Come see: In all of Israel’s pain/sorrow/affliction, whenever some calamity strikes them, lo is written with an aleph (meaning “He has no sorrow”). Nevertheless, we are also to read it as lo with a vav (meaning “He is pained”). How is this possible? Because the Holy One truly is with them in their suffering and feels their pain.
And the reason lo is written with an aleph [seemingly indicating that He does not suffer with them] is because it points to an extremely high level. And even though there is no anger or pain in that place, still, Israel’s pain rises up to that place.
[The Demesek Eliezer explains: And the reason lo is written with an aleph (seemingly indicating that He does not suffer with them) is because it points to an extremely high level (Atika Kadisha, Keter) that is completely beyond our normal distinction between good and bad; the level of the World to Come when we will understand that there is nothing but Hashem’s goodness and say, “Blessed is He Who is Good” over everything that happens. Pesachim 50a. When we raise our pain up to that exalted level, and realize that nothing else exists but Hashem’s Oneness, all that we thought was pain, sorrow, and affliction, is nullified.]
Please do not be confused by the understanding that this physical world and the future world that is coming are actually two physical worlds. We can bring the world that is coming into our world today - now - immediately. Therefore we can realize that there is no good and bad only actions that come to us from the Creator that cleanses us. We can choose to perceive these actions - opportunities as always good. It is up to us. When we do this we reach the level of consciousness called "the world that is coming".
There is no question that we human beings would prefer only the kind of love and empathy that we can relate to. Stop the suffering! Stop the pain! Nevertheless, our divine Parent, who is also our divine Grandparent and Great Great Grandparent, thinks otherwise. Because He sees things from the point of view of Eternity, He wants to give us the greatest gift—the ability to grow into our greatness and thereby attain our greatest potential. He therefore knows that we need both Chokhmah and Binah, father and mother, tough love and tender love. Again, this seems to be what David meant when he wrote, “O Yah, fortunate is the person whom You discipline [through suffering] and thereby instruct in Your Torah” (Psalm 94:12).
The Name El (Kel) is also a double-edged sword. According to Ramban, on the one hand, Kel is associated with the sefirah of Gevurah (power, restraint). Ramban, Genesis 17:1. According to the Zohar, on the other hand, it is associated with Chesed (love). Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s final explanation in Zohar 3:30b. Moreover, in the Zohar we are told that the particular admixture of chesed (love) and din (judgment) inherent in the name Kel is weighed to one side or the other by virtue of men’s actions. When they are not worthy, it is weighed to din; when they are worthy, it is weighed to chesed.
The same is true of Shadai (Shakai). This name too is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it means “All-Sufficient,” from the root dai, “sufficient” or “enough.” It is thus understood as “Sh’yesh dai b’Elokuto l’khol birya—He whose Essence is dai (sufficient) to sustain every creature according to its needs,” Rashi, Genesis 17:1. or “Sh’amar dai le’olamo—He who said dai (enough) to His world,” i.e., to the process of concealment with which He created His world. Chagigah 12a; see also Meor Vashemesh, Lekh Lekha, Genesis 17:1, “Ani Kel Shakai,” s.v. venachzor.
In my opinion, This word Le'Olamo is also, as said above, relating to concealed. I do not know if the Vav is missing here but i know that modern physics is asking what will happen to the universe when it stops expanding - the red shift. Will the universe collapse back into a big bang type rock of mass or will it just stop and come to rest. The answer is in this verse referenced above.
Another meaning of the name Shakai is “Almighty,” from the root shadad, “to overturn.” As such, it is an expression of Hashem’s ability to overturn and overcome the very laws with which He runs creation. Whenever necessary—for instance, when He brought the children of Israel out of Mitzrayim by means of miracles—He can and will upset and suspend the seemingly incontrovertible laws of nature. Accordingly, in this sense, this name teaches us that Hashem is not subject to any limitation or inadequacy. Rabenu Bachya on Genesis 17:1, citing Rav Saadiah Gaon, Ibn Ezra, Rabbi Shmuel HaNagid.
Shakai is associated with the sefirah of Yesod (foundation channel), which stands in the central column of the Tree of Life, between Netzach (dominance) on the right, and Hod (empathy) on the left. Since it is delicately balanced between the right and left polarities, it is mankind’s actions that weigh things to one side or the other.
Kel and Shakai are often combined, functioning in such a way that they can embody either mercy or judgment. Indeed, as the Zohar emphasizes, all Hashem’s attributes are interinclusive: “There is not one that doesn’t contain its own particular blend of chesed (love) and din (judgment).” Zohar 3:30b. See below Psalm 7:12, note #22. In the end the way Hashem interacts with us will depend largely on our actions. Nevertheless, even when we lack merit, Hashem’s mercy is always great.
This is reminiscent of a Midrash that says the same thing in terms of the two names, YKVK and Elokim: Bereshit Rabbah 33:3 near end.
“Elokim remembered Noah” (Genesis 8:1). Rav Shmuel the son of Nachman said: Woe to the wicked who overturn Hashem’s attribute of compassion to judgment. Wherever the name Hashem (Havayah) appears, this implies compassion: “Hashem, Hashem, almighty, merciful and benevolent...” (Exodus 34:6). And yet it is written [in reference to mankind’s corruption], “And Hashem saw that man’s evil had become great in the earth” (Genesis 6:5), and “Hashem regretted having made man” (ibid. 6:6), and “Hashem said, ‘I shall blot out man’s existence’” (ibid. 6:7).
Happy are the righteous who transform Hashem’s attribute of judgment to compassion. For wherever the name Elokim appears, this implies judgment: “You may not curse the judges (elohim)” (Exodus 23:27), and “Their case shall be brought before the judges (elohim)” (ibid. 23:8). However [in reference to righteous individuals], it is written, “And Elokim heard their anguish and Elokim remembered His covenant” (ibid. 2:24), and “Elokim remembered Rachel” (Genesis 30:22), and “Elokim remembered Noah” (ibid. 8:1). What merit did Hashem remember about Noah? Noah fed and sustained all the animals in the ark for twelve entire months.
See also a parallel text in the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov: Keter Shem Tov §246-247.
It is written, “A sun and a shield is Havayah Elokim” (Psalm 84:12). The explanation of this verse is as follows: The name Havayah is called “sun” and the name Elokim “shield”… Just as a curtain is needed to protect one from the powerful light of the sun... so also is the name Elokim is needed to protect from the powerful light of Havayah. The light that shines from the Havayah is very great. It was therefore necessary to restrict and limit it within the name Elokim, the gematria of which is 86, the same as hateva (nature, i.e., the laws of nature).
This is the meaning of the Talmud’s statement, “In the future, the Holy One will remove the [light of the] sun from its sheath (orb). This same light will be a healing for the righteous and a punishment for the wicked.” Nedarim 8B
The inner sense of this is that the Holy One will remove the name Havayah from its sheath, which is the name Elokim, whose gematria is the same as hateva (nature). At present, the miraculous level of Havayah is clothed and concealed within the laws of nature which are embodied in the name Elokim. When the light of Havayah shall be removed from this sheath, the righteous will be healed by it, for they shall finally see the fulfillment of the verse, “Your eyes will behold your Master!” (Isaiah 30:20). Hashem’s providence over them will no longer be concealed in the laws of nature, but rather revealed as above and beyond nature. [Because they prepared themselves in this-world, by seeing the miraculous level of Havayah behind the façade of natural law] they will now be able to directly withstand the great brilliance of Havayah, and hence receive His unbounded mercies.
Not so the wicked. They will be consumed, as the prophet said, “Hashem shall go forth as a mighty warrior; he shall arouse vengeance like a man of war; He shall shout triumphantly, even roar, when He prevails over His enemies” (Isaiah 42:13). That is, although the name Havayah is Hashem’s attribute of compassion/mercy, nevertheless, with respect to the wicked, when He removes the Havayah from its sheath, they will experience its light as the vengeance of a mighty warrior. Again, with respect to the wicked, He will turn His quality of compassion/mercy into judgment, as the verse states, “And Hashem struck every firstborn” (Exodus 12:29), and “Hashem said, ‘I shall blot out man’s existence’” (Genesis 6:7).
All that we have said here is but a drop in the bucket. Hashem’s names, embodying the different ways He relates to us, are very deep. These sources emphasize the interinclusiveness of Hashem’s names and sefirotic attributes. This itself can give us a valuable insight as to why we constantly switch from one name to another throughout the psalms and the prayers. Although each name is used in a specific way and refers to a particular divine attribute, we learn to see the great overriding oneness of Hashem—who transcends all quality and attribute—behind all apparent diversity.
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