“Light is Good”
The Torah of Be-ing is inexhaustible, it relaxes our minds. (Psalms 19:8).
Because of our anxieties and uncertainties, we may wish that our Torah were absolute and unchanging. But the Torah itself says, This is a scroll of human evolution (Genesis 5:1). The Degel Machaneh Efraim (see Bereishit ‘o yomar zeh sefer toledot adam) calls our attention to the middle of the Torah where the words Moshe darosh darash (Moshe deeply expounded) appear. Why two forms of the same root, DRSH, at the very center of the Torah? Because the Written Torah that Moshe received from Heaven has to be completed by the Oral Torah that is evolving in each generation.
Thus we read not In the beginning, but In a beginning. (Genesis 1:1).
The Berditchever particularly wants us to understand as deeply as we can why the Torah says, a beginning and not the beginning. If we think there is only one “beginning” and then history takes its inevitable course, we may fail to realize the deeper mystery of Be-ing Itself, which transcends all finite beginnings and endings. In the liturgy, we say that Be-ing is Forming Light and Creating Darkness (Isaiah 45:7), because the world is constantly coming into and out of existence. The Ma’aseh Bereishit (Myth of Creation) in Genesis is happening all the time. It just happens so fast that we can’t see it. That is why Rebbe Nachman was teaching us so strongly to never despair. New beginnings and new endings are always possible.
A beginning speaks of an end (Isaiah 46:10). As we learn from Sefer Yetzirah (1:7), an end is formed by a beginning and a beginning derives from an end.
Whenever we break free of our linear sense of time, we discover a new beginning that emerges from an apparent end, and an end that can empower us with a new beginning. This secret is conveyed in the first and last letters of the Torah. The first letter of Genesis is the letter Bet and the last letter of the Torah is the letter Lamed. When we join these two letters, we form the Hebrew word, lev (Heart). The expansive consciousness of the Heart frees us of the limitations of the past and enables us to enter new beginnings.
Be-reishit (in a beginning). To enter into this new cycle of Torah, Divinity, and self, we connect the beginning of our new Torah with the end that forms it. We recall all of the signs and wonders that Be-ing empowered our Higher Mind to accomplish in transforming the not yet evolved sources of our bondage and limitation (Deuteronomy 34:11) and the overwhelmingly shocking thing that our Higher Mind did in order to arouse all of us to sense the Great Mystery. (Deuteronomy 34:12).
B-reishit… (The Great Mystery.)
Why does the Torah begin with an oversized letter Bet? The letter Bet is the second letter in the Hebrew alphabet and represents duality. The Slonimer Rebbe teaches that the oversized Bet is there so that we will pause and contemplate how, as soon as the world appears within human consciousness, duality emerges with it from the non-dual ground of Be-ing. (See Netivot Shalom, Bereishit). The world of incredible diversity and fascination that appears to us conceals its non-dual Source so that we feel we are separate from all that exists. Because of this dualistic way of seeing, we tend to believe that truth is limited to whatever our minds can conceptualize. Be-ing through its G-ding Power causes all types of living creatures to evolve from the earth and to appear within the limits of human consciousness to see how Adam will conceptualize them; and however the earth-being with the power to conceptualize names them, that is what they seem to be. (Genesis 2:19.)
But when we are able to see beyond the limiting view of our mental constructs and experience the state of awe that arises with the expansion of the Heart, we find that the Torah is pointing towards something much more wondrous.
At every moment the creative power of the Source that is beyond all conception is producing a G-ding Power associated with the apparent duality of a universe (that arises within the contraction of human consciousness). (Genesis 1:1). The Torah calls this duality Heaven and Earth and the G-ding Power (the program that “G-ds” this “Heaven and Earth”) is called “Elohim” (“G-d”).
Reishit Hokhmah (Beginning is Wisdom) (Proverbs 111:10). The Zohar revealed that the G-ding Power that shapes and gives coherence to every “Heaven and Earth” is always receiving its energy to maintain “Heaven and Earth” from an even deeper level of Divinity, called Hokhmah (Wisdom). The letters of Hokhmah can be understood as koach mah (source of indeterminate possibilities).
As manifestation assumes the form of “Heaven and Earth” through the agency of the G- ding Power, the True nature of the Land that derives from Hokhmah is covered over by veils that conceal its holiness.
The Ground of Be-ing appears as confusion and agitation, with darkness covering over its vast depth… (Genesis 1:2).
Nevertheless, even though Truth is concealed, the spirit of the G-ding Power hovers over the ocean of manifestation to bring the hidden holy sparks to life and light. (Genesis 1:2). The spirit of the G-ding Power, which emerges from Hokhmah, is Mashiach (Messianic) Consciousness. (See Liqqutey Halakhot, Y.D, Heksher Kelim, 4:38-39.) Some Prophets experience this higher consciousness as a makif (surrounding light), just behind and above the head.
And the G-ding Power decrees ‘Let there be Light,’ Light that was already there! (Genesis 1:3). (See Zohar I:31b-32a).
The G-ding Power discerns that Light determines what is Good, and so the G-ding Power draws out the light from within the darkness. (Genesis 1:4).
A midrash teaches that there is an Angel of “Truth” that opposes Be-ing’s intention to evolve the world through the G-ding Power. (Midrash Rabbah on Genesis 1:26). This “Truth Angel” feels compelled to oppose the divine intention to create us, because it recognizes that the way humans generally conceive of the World through the contraction of their minds is not true. But the G-ding Power discerns that despite the darkness, whenever a righteous person makes the effort to find a spark of holy light, it is Good. In the Midrash, Be-ing hurls the opposing Angel of “Truth” down to earth, so that we can gradually reveal an emesdige emes (a higher truth) each time we break through our darkness and confusion thus releasing the hidden light.
The Ba’al Shem Tov teaches that this Light is concealed in the Torah, so that in every generation, whenever we turn to it, we can find our way to Truth. (See Degel Machaneh Efraim, Bereishit, ve-yar’ elohim et ha-‘or ki tov). His grandson, Rebbe Moshe Chayyim Efraim of Sudilkov, clarifies in Degel Machaneh Efraim (Bereishit) that the verse, The Torah of Be-ing is inexhaustible, it relaxes our minds (Psalms 19:8), teaches us that everything in the world is Torah. When we search for the hidden light, we find G-d everywhere.
The Ba’al Shem Tov’s great-grandson, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, made it even clearer. Despite the “truth” that our minds tell us, there is a point of light and goodness in every person and situation. The path of constantly seeking that light is one of the deepest and most powerful methods of tiqqun (fixing ourselves and the world).
The Ba’al Shem Tov said, “The light is concealed for the righteous.” To be a righteous person, we need to learn how to find this light by relaxing our rigid attachment to mentally constructed points of view that we think are true. We need to learn the practice of humbling our opposing “Truth Angel,” which so often only mires us in an impasse of tohu va-vohu (polarization and despair), solidifying our darkness.
Rebbe Nachman’s great Hasid, Reb Natan of Nemerov has an amazing teaching that can help us connect our new teaching with the last verse of the Torah. (See Liqqutey Halakhot, Ribbit 5: 20, 24-29, 33):
What was the overwhelmingly shocking deed that Moshe did in the presence of all Israel that is alluded to in the very last verse of the Torah? It was when Moshe took the first Tablets of the Covenant, written by the divine hand, and threw them down to earth, so that they shattered. How could he dare to do that?
Reb Natan answers, it was because Moshe knew that according to the “truth” of the first tablets, the entire people of Israel would be condemned to annihilation for making the Golden Calf. Moshe the Tzaddiq saw the hand of the opposing “Truth Angel” in this condemnation and shattered that previous version of “truth” and “justice.” Because of Moshe’s Mashiach Consciousness, he saw the sparks of goodness in each of our hearts. He knew that the G-ding Power really desires a world in which truth is brought down from Heaven to Earth. Moshe was teaching us that the Divine Intention is not a Torah that distances and condemns us, but a Torah of inclusion, which brings all of us and everything nearer to Be-ing that G-ds us. We need to open our Hearts to this emesdige emes, the truer truth.
May we have the merit to learn this Torah of inclusion
And connect our new beginnings with what came before us;
From the openness of the consciousness of the Heart,
May we find sparks of light within all levels of concealment.
Uniting Day and Night, whose secret is the Day of One. (Genesis 1:5).
Rabbi Moshe Aharon Ladizhyner