The mystics write that as the sun sets before Rosh
Hashanah, the universe goes into a comatose state. A slumber descends on all
existence; everything comes to a stand-still in cosmic silence, in apprehension
of its contract being renewed.
Is existence a form of revelation or a form of concealment?
As the sun sets before Rosh Hashanah and existence
hangs in the balance – it’s a good time to review the very nature of this
existence that we are part of and whose parameters define our lives. Is
existence a form of revelation or a form of concealment?
This is not a mere abstract or esoteric question; it
touches on the fundamental nature of our beings. Is the true essence of a human
being – and of all existence – defined by what is visible to the eye and
tangible to the five senses, or is the essence quite invisible, something that
cannot be experienced in a revealed state?
In other words: is what we see really a state of
revelation, or is it the other way around, what we see is the glove, while the
true hand remains hidden within?
The first verse of Genesis,: "In the beginning when
G‑d created heaven and earth," answers the riddle. The name for G‑d used in
this verse is "Elokim." The classic commentator Rashi explains why the
name "Havaya" is not used (as in a later verse, Genesis 2:4): "Initially
the Divine intention was to create existence with the element of justice, but He
perceived that the world would not endure; so He preceded it with the element of
compassion, blending it with the element of justice."
...why did G‑d initially consider creating
it that way...
What is the meaning of this explanation? Since the
world could not endure on justice alone, why did G‑d initially consider creating
it that way; and only later did He decide to integrate the element of
compassion? And what exactly is the meaning of ‘justice’ and ‘compassion’?
Justice (Elokim) refers to the concealment of
the Divine omnipresence which was a prerequisite for existence to come into
being. As long as the Divine reality is all consuming, there is no room for any
other consciousness to emerge. Explains the great mystic, Rabbi Isaac Luria (the
Arizal of Tsfat), in his revolutionary tzimtzum doctrine, that the Divine
presence (i.e. light) was concealed in a type of cosmic "black hole,"
which allowed for the emergence of the conscious, independent personality of
existence as we know it. Like a teacher with an infinitely greater mind than his
student conceals his brilliance in order to allow "space" for the student to
contain the ideas on his limited terms.
This tzimtzum/concealment is a called justice (din
and gevurah), which withholds, measures and limits the transmission. By
contrast, compassion (Havaya) activates the flow of energy and light.
Without this concealment an
independent existence can never come to be.
Now we can understand the meaning of Rashi’s words:
The basis of all existence is rooted in the element of "justice", which
concentrates and conceals the Divine light. Without this concealment an
independent existence can never come to be. Thus, genesis begins that the
universe was created with the name Elokim. However, G‑d recognized the
far-reaching consequences of a universe whose engine is strict justice and
concealment. He therefore infused into the tzimtzum an element of
compassion – ingrained in the concealment is the purpose that it must bring
When a great teacher conceals the full intensity of
his mind he does so not as an end in itself, but as a means to convey the idea
to the student. In other words, the concealment (justice) itself is ultimately
an expression of compassion, allowing the student to absorb the wisdom. So too,
the concealment of the Divine energy (the tzimtzum), so necessary for
existence to emerge, is not an end in itself but an act of compassion that will
allow us – an autonomous entity – to unite with the Divine, step by step, on our
Here we have the answer to our initial question as to
the nature of existence: Existence as we perceive it is actually a state of
concealment. The deeper you travel into the intimate recesses of the human
spirit the less tangible is the sensation, the fewer are the words, the less
defined is the experience.
In other words, the entire nature of existence is
turned on its head, upside down and inside out: Our sensation of the revealed is
actually a state of concealment, and that what is concealed is the true state of
revelation. The visible is an artificial cover, and the invisible is true
reality. This existence as we know it, as we perceive and experience it merely a
shell, the surface layer that shrouds what lies behind the curtain.
And the journey – and purpose – of our lives is not to
be distracted by the outer mechanics, not to be deluded into thinking that there
is nothing more than the outer shell. The objective of life is to weaken the
hold of the concealment (justice) and reveal the compassion and revelation
No person is immune to the forces of "justice" in this
dark world. Our challenge is not to be overcome by the severer moments of life,
and recognize the compassion even in the darker moments. Knowing that compassion
is imbued into the very fabric of existence (or else the world could not have
endured) becomes an eternal source of hope, giving us the strength to overcome
This is one of the main themes of Rosh Hashanah, when
we celebrate the birthday of the universe and its crown-jewel, the human being.
[Adapted from www.meaningfullife.com]