Monday, May 4, 2009
The Unity of Division
(Based on the teachings, of the Lubavitcher Rebbe)
"If there is no Daas (discriminating intelligence), how can there be differentiation?"
(Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 5:2 )
At the end of Shabbas, in a Jewish home, the division (separation) between the sanctity of Shabbos and the physicallity of the mundane week, is accomplished through a special Mitzvah, called Havdalah (separation).
Differentiation is at the heart of what we call, morality.
If theft is wrong, it is only because there is a difference, between what is mine, and what is yours.
If adultery is wrong, then there is an inherit difference between, being married, and not being married.
Stopping to work on Shabbos, is a meaningful act, because Shabbos is truly different from Friday.
Not eating Matzah on Passover, is because Matzah is essentially different, than leavened bread.
If there is meaning and purpose to our actions, then there must be true significance to the underling differences, between all acts.
Differentiation however also implies, that the two entities must have a something in common with each other; a sameness.
If Shabbat and Sunday, looked different to our physical senses, there would be no need for us, to do something to differentiate between them.
Indeed, the Torah uses "to differentiate" (lehavdil) as a verb, an active act, to distinguish between things, that seem similar.
A case in point are (the concluding verse of Leviticus 11), the Kashrut, dietary laws.
(The verse reads: "To differentiate between the pure and the impure; between the animal that may be eaten, and the animal that may not be eaten."
Our Sages remark: This would not need to be said, regarding the difference between a donkey and a cow (being that the difference is obvious. )
In other words, Havdalah requires the ability, to look at two similar things, and yet appreciate, that despite their superficial similarity, there is an underlying difference; and we are to reveal that difference, through a specific act.
In the words of our sages, "If there is no Daas (discriminating intelligence), how can there be Havdalah?"
A World of Words
The capacity to differentiate, as we have noted, is the basis for the morality of life. Chassidic teaching takes this a step further, demonstrating, how Havdalah is the essence of the created world; of reality.
G-d is infinite--without beginning, and without end; and everything is G-d. But how can our world exist, since G-d is everything?
In his Tanya, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi says: That through ten divine utterances, G-d created the world.
(In the first chapter of Genesis, G-d's creation of the world is described as a series of (ten) utterances:
G-d said, "Let there be light!" and there was light;
G-d said, "Let the earth sent forth vegetation," "Let there be luminaries in the heavens," "Let the waters spawn living creatures," and plants, stars and fish emerged into existence." )
These divine utterances, are not only the cause of these existences--they are their existence. What we experience as "light", is only the result of G-d's desire, that there be light. What we experience as a "tree", is the result of G-d's desire that there be a tree.
So the created reality is not, in truth, something else besides Him; any more, than our words, are things distinct of ourselves.
The act of speaking, is a creative act; but when we speak, we are not creating anything, that is different than ourselves. We are only giving vocal expression, to our own ideas, feelings and desires.
The implications of reality as divine speech, are numerous and manifold.
One, is the realization, that the differences between things are secondary, to a primary sameness or oneness, that embraces them all.
For example, a language may include millions of words; but these are all only variations, of the same handful, of consonants and vowels.
On a more inner level, these consonants and vowels are just variations, of how the person’s breath is differentiated by the speaker's: vocal cords, tongue, palate, teeth and lips.
A tree might seem very different, from a ray of light; as might a fish, from a star; but each of these objects is, in essence, the same thing: a divine word, an articulation of divine will.
In origin, they share a singular essence; but their differentiation occurs at a latter stage, as they pass through the “divine mouth”, that imparts to them their respective forms and characteristics.
Thus the Torah relates, how on the first day of creation, "G-d differentiated between light and darkness." But the difference between light and darkness is obvious, why does the Torah have to tell us about the difference?
But on a deeper plane, light and darkness are both creations of G-d; both are divine words, being formulations of the same surge of divine will. Their distinction is the product of a divine act of Havdalah, of a deliberate differentiation, between two essentially identical realities.
In light of this, we can better understand the above-quoted Talmudic dictum regarding the connection between Daas (understanding), and Havdalah (differentiation).
The Talmud is discussing the fact that, in the evening prayers recited after the close of Shabbat, the text of the Havdalah is inserted in the prayer which begins: "You grant Daas to man, and teach the human being understanding; grant us, (from You), wisdom, understanding and knowledge..."
The reason for this placement, says the Talmud, is that "If there is no Daas, how can there be Havdalah?"
On the most basic level, the Talmud is saying, that an act of Havdalah requires, the discriminating intelligence of Daas. On a deeper level, it is saying, that Havdalah is only possible, because "You granted Daas (understanding) to man".
Because G-d Himself grants us the capacity to do so, we can differentiate, between the different planes of realty in the world.
But why did G-d “hide” Himself in the creation? Because G-d wanted a world, in which the deeds of man are purposeful and meaningful. So He imparted to His creation: variety, diversity, and distinction. Thereby he granted us free-choice; and also the ability to unify the creation.
His act of creation, was an act of Havdalah (separation)-- differentiating between essentially, united entities, (Himself and the creation).
And He granted the human being a mind, capable of understanding the paradox of Havdalah; the paradox, of making differences and divisions, and yet thereby revealing the essential unity of all of creation.
And He empowered us, to achieve this unity, through His Torah.
The Second Paradox
Havdalah carries another paradox—that, its ultimate goal is to join and unite, all the very things, it comes to differentiate.
1. The Torah commands us, to remember and to preserve, the day of Shabbat--to distinguish it, in mind, word and deed, from the six days of work.
Yet Shabbat is integrally bound to the other days of the week. It is the culmination of our weekday endeavors--the day on which all that we labored for and achieved, in the preceding six days, ascends on high; attaining its most complete and perfect realization.
And Shabbat is the day, from which all the following days are blessed--the source of the fortitude and energy, that drives our efforts of the work-week that follows it.
2. We are told to preserve our uniqueness as Jews.
Yet the people of Israel are designated to serve, as "a light unto the nations," as the conveyers of the Seven Mitzvahs, (the ethos and ideals of Torah), to all inhabitants of the earth.
3. We are instructed to differentiate, between the holy and the mundane--to infuse our lives with the sacred and G-dly; yet filter out through separation, the negative, and mundane aspects of life.
At the same time, we are told that, "the purpose of man's creation, and of the creation of all worlds, spiritual and material, is to make for G-d, a dwelling place in the lowly realms".
To involve our everyday material pursuits, in the quest to know and serve G-d; thereby making Him at home here. And thereby by revealing him; in the lowliest, most mundane, physical level of creation.
It is only through our awareness, and enforcement of the boundaries within creation, that these objectives can be achieved.
Only if Shabbat is preserved, with its distinctiveness and transcendence, can it also elevate and empower, the other six days of the week.
Only in the Jews holiness, as G-d's chosen people, can they also make holy, the peoples of the world.
Only when our spiritual life, is kept inviolably apart, from, the coarsening influence of the material; can it in turn sanctify the material, by revealing its G-dly source.
From Unity to Symphony
Havdalah is the substance of our daily lives, as every moment of our lives, we are confronted with the challenge, to define and differentiate--to distinguish between right and wrong, between holy and mundane.
But these delineations are merely a means to an end; a process based on a primordial unity; and leading toward their ultimate synthesis - Geula, since in essence, all is one, all is
But an even deeper unity is achieved, through differentiations and demarcations, which are imposed upon the initial oneness.
For when each of its parts, are each given a distinct role and reward; in creations ultimate symphonious expression, of combining the finite and the infinite:
Then they achieve the permananet revelation of goodness and perfection, of its Creator- The Geula!