"And G‑d said to Abram: go to you…" (Gen. 12:1)

"No longer shall your name be Abram, but 'Abraham' shall be your name, for the father of many nations have I made you." (Ibid. 17:5)

Behold. Abram's (in Hebrew, "Avram") soul is on the level of "wisdom that is hidden from any perception", hence his name "Av Ram" - meaning "Lofty Father".

"Father", in general, refers to chochmah, the unarticulated flash of insight, since it is the progenitor of all thought, emotion and deed. "Lofty father", refers to chochmah, which is lofty and exalted, entirely beyond any perception. (See Zohar I:179b)

The completely hidden must be revealed…

Now the message of "Go to you…" is that this lofty level must descend so that it can be experienced by lower worlds and souls. The completely hidden must be revealed. This is a description not only of Abraham's journey but of the entire scheme of Creation in general and that of each soul.

How does this revelation take place? Firstly there must be the creation of lower realities. This is achieved through filtering, tzimtzum.

Light must be preceded by darkness, i.e. "…And it was evening then morning: one day." (Gen. 1:5)

In order to create "yesh", beings that experience a sense of independent existence, there must be "Evening" - darkness. This is followed by "Morning" - enlightenment. We then have a "yesh" that experiences "bitul", nullification, which allows for "Day One".

Unlike the other days which are described as second, third etc., the first day is called "Day One", alluding to the goal of Creation, where the oneness and uniqueness of G‑d is experienced by a nullified yesh. This is alluded to in the word "one", in Hebrew, "echad", which is made up of the letters alef, chet, and dalet. The chet and the dalet, numerically equivalent to eight and four respectively, allude to the universe: seven heavens and one earth, and the four corners of the world. The alef represents the Master (in Hebrew, "aluf") of the world. "Echad", then, means that all of the universe is one with G‑d, i.e., all of existence is merely an expression of Him. Echad implies a oneness despite the "presence" of otherness. (The word yachid, by contrast, means single or alone, alluding to a singularity that does not recognize otherness. See Tanya vol. 2.)

The revelation, however, must be preceded by Circumcision, the removal of the foreskin of the heart. (see Deut. 10:16) In this way, the darkness is subdued so that the revelation can take place without the risk of its energy being siphoned by darkness.

Hence we read that after the circumcision, Abraham is called "Father of Nations". (Gen. 17:5) Why are The Nations suddenly mentioned at this point? "Nations" refers not only to the peoples of the world, but also to the elements of nature in general. This is because it was through the circumcision that Abraham experienced the revelation that would allow for the processing and elevation of nature.

With Abraham began the era of Tikun - rectification...

This began the process of elevation that would extend throughout history. As the Talmud says, Israel was exiled to the far corners of the world so that they would bring in converts. (Pesachim 87b, Zohar I:244a) This refers not only to human converts, but also to the "conversion" of the natural elements, food and drink etc., and their elevation to holiness.

Before Abraham, the world existed in a state of Tohu, chaos. The climate of the world was one of great intensity, which led to the "shattering of the vessels," the flood etc. With Abraham began the era of Tikun, rectification, where the fallen sparks of intense light are gradually elevated.

Ascent and Descent

So, in a sense, the transition from "Abram" to "Abraham" is a descent. Yet, this descent is initiated by the additional letter hei (in "Abraham") that he received, which is symbolic of revelation. For every descent and extension must be preceded by a great revelation.

For example, we see that a wise person must prepare himself before he imparts the profundity of his wisdom. An idea may be clear to him in his mind but for him to communicate to others he must think deeply to develop a method through which to clothe his wisdom in language that his listener can relate to. He must be able to find the truth of his idea as it is expressed even in much lower phenomena.

Thus it is written that King Solomon spoke three thousand parables (Kings I 5:12) for one concept. Because of his immense brilliance he was able to lower himself three thousand degrees beneath his level of wisdom and enclothe his wisdom in terms that even the simplest person could understand. But in order to achieve this descent, the wise person must reach deep into himself, to a level that is far beyond his chochmah, so that he can extend and articulate his chochmah.

It is the light of Atik...which produces the expansiveness and articulation of bina

This all is a metaphor for the kabbalistic idea that Atik is revealed in bina, not chochmah. This is because it is the light of Atik, which is beyond chochmah, that produces the expansiveness and articulation of bina. chochmah itself could not produce such descent. (As in the metaphor of the person, where he must draw from higher in order to transmit lower.)

The root of bina and its revelation is drawn from Atik. The hei draws from the crown of the yud. The divine name Havayah is made of the letters yud, hei, vav, hei. Each of these letters represents a different section of the ten sefirot. For our discussion, we will explain the first two letters. The yud, which is the smallest letter, embodies chochmah, the tiny, unexpanded kernel of a thought. The more elaborate hei, represents bina, expansiveness and articulation. While the body of the yud embodies chochmah, its upper serif, or "crown", embodies Atik. Hence the hei draws from the crown of the yud, referring to the fact that bina, or hei, draws its power from Atik, the crown of the yud.

When Abraham receives the extra hei in his name, he becomes empowered with the light of Atik, the light of keter. He is therefore able to descend. Yet through this descent he experiences an ascent from the perceived G‑d to the more essential G‑d.

In describing the first altar built by Abraham in this parasha, the Torah says, "And he built an altar to G‑d, Who had appeared to him". (Gen. 12:7) A few verses later, the Torah describes another altar that Abraham built to G‑d. The first verse describes Abraham relating to G‑d subjectively, the G‑d that had appeared to him. He then ascended to a level where he related to G‑d as He is.

So "Go to you…", which can mean go up or go down, actually means both. On the one hand Abraham experiences descent in this parasha and at the same time experiences ascent.

The same idea is true of the wisdom of Torah. The Torah essentially is beyond human grasp. It is from the level of "Wise but not with perceptible wisdom", yet the Torah descended into physical properties. When you take an etrog or other physical object in the performance of a mitzvah it is as if you are holding the supernal wisdom.

That the wisdom of Torah can achieve such descent is because of its source in the light of keter. Indeed, keter is the numeric equivalent of 620, alluding to the 613 commandments of the Torah and the seven commandments of the sages, which are the 620 pillars of light. (Pardes 8:3)

Adapted from the first ma'amar of Torah Ohr, Lech Lecha, of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Chabad.

Copyright 2003 by KabbalaOnline.org. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.