When G‑d tells Moses to speak to Pharaoh, Moses demurs, citing his speech impediment. G‑d responds:

"Who gave a mouth to man? Was is it not I, Havayah? …I will be with your mouth…." (Ex. 4:11)

The Talmud says that the world will exist for six millennia and lie desolate for one millennium (Rosh Hashanah 31a). Thus the existence of the world is referred to as a "Shemita", comparing the seven millennia to the seven-year Sabbatical cycle. It is written in Sefer Hatemuna [i.e. "The Book of the Image", a Kabbalistic work attributed to Rabbi Nechunia ben Hakana,printed in Koretz, 1784] that this world is not the first Shemita; it was preceded by another. The Torah therefore begins with the letter beit, the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, suggesting that This World is the second Shemita. The first Shemita stems from chesed and the current Shemita stems from the attribute of gevura - hence the sufferings of this world, the destruction of the Temples, etc. In the first Shemita, everything was different, including the Torah; people were on the level of angels, and only kindness and goodness prevailed. A previous 'world' did exist but did not have physicality like the one we experience…

[Ed. note:"…and lie desolate"; This desolation refers not to a physical destruction but to the fact that in the seventh millennia, the Messianic era, the world will exist in a far more refined and spiritual condition. Physical consciousness will be laid waste.]

Some later kabbalists understood this previous Shemita in a physical sense. The Arizal, however, disagrees, saying that a previous "world" did exist but did not have physicality like the one we experience (with a heaven and earth, four elements, etc.). A world like that which we experience exists only in the second Shemita. The previous Shemita is the world of Tohu, while the current Shemita is the world of Tikun.

Alien Souls

Now two souls, that of Hanoch and Moses, were brought in from the first Shemita into this second Shemita. Of Hanoch, the Torah says "and Hanoch had walked with G‑d" (Gen. 5:24) - in the past, referring to the previous Shemita. Of Moses the Torah says that he was "drawn from the water" (Ex. 2:10) - drawn from the first Shemita, a place of chesed, which is compared to water.

[Ed. note: "…two souls"; Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch points out that the Alter Rebbe in another instance mentions a third soul, that of Lemech. However, only two souls descended for the purpose of refining the world.]

Their primary purpose in this descent is to fix the world. Because of their "experience" in the first Shemita, they are imbued with a superior sense of divine awareness and humility - as Moses, "the humblest man on the face of the earth" (Num. 12:3) says: "and what are we" (Ex. 16:7).

Hanoch's descent served to fix the world to the extent that it could be saved through the purifying waters of the Deluge and the survival of Noah. Without Hanoch, the world would have been fit to be entirely destroyed. And Moses, in his time, descended to redeem Israel from Egypt and to serve as G‑d's messenger in the giving of the Torah.

Tohu and Tikun

Now the difference between Tohu and Tikun, as explained in Etz Chaim, is that in Tohu the sefirot exist as undefined "dots" ["nekudot"]. They exist without "length and breadth", but rather as seminal points; in this form, there is no interaction between the sefirot. In Tikun, by contrast, the sefirot are developed into what are called partzufim, "faces" or "figures". In addition, chochma, for example, is no longer chochma alone, but a conglomerate of all the sefirot, with chochma as the primary characteristic. The soul's power is comparable to the sefirot as they exist in their undefined form in Tohu

Tohu and Tikun have their parallel in the human being. The powers of the soul can be divided into various aspects: the power of the eye to see, the ear to hear, the hand to act, the foot to walk, etc. These powers are the soul's manifestations into the varied vessels of the body. However, there is a more general aspect of the soul that encompasses all of the particular aspects from head to foot, namely: "thought". When a person's foot is scalded, he feels it immediately. There is no separation or pause between the experience of the foot and the person's "thought". Similarly, as soon as the person desires to move his foot, it moves immediately. This proves that the person's "thought" exists even in the foot, albeit in a transcendent manner. [It does not conform to the particular characteristics of the various limbs, but rather exists within them on its own level equally throughout the body.] Therefore, in its particular manifestations into the varied parts of the body, the soul's power is comparable to the partzufim. In its general transcendent presence in the body, the soul's power is comparable to the sefirot as they exist in their undefined form in Tohu.

Advantage of Tikun

Now in Tikun, the sefirot gain a new dynamic that they do not possess in the higher world. Namely, the concept mentioned in Sefer Yetzira that "the beginning is wedged in the end and the end is wedged in the beginning" (1:7), i.e. that there can be an advantage to the lowest level. This does not exist in the world of Tohu.

An example from the human experience: The quality of the energy that the soul invests in the brain to think is obviously superior to the energy it invests in the foot to walk. Yet, when the power is actually manifest in the head and the foot, the foot gains something over the head in that it has the ability to transport the head from place to place, something the head cannot do on its own. Similarly, we see the superiority of deed over thought in the realm of Torah and mitzvot. In one sense, mitzvot are superior to Torah, as seen in the law that the mitzvah of escorting the dead supercedes the study of Torah. Also, for the mitzvah of caring for the needs of a bride the sages missed the reading of the Shema, as in the story of the child in Zohar, parashat Balak. This is because of the advantage of deed, which in terms of the sefirot is related netzach/hod/yesod, the "legs" of the supernal man, over supernal thought. There is an advantage to the foot over of the head…

Hence when a simple person fulfills a mitzvah without the awareness of the mystical intentions and secrets of significance behind the mitzvah - he fulfills it merely because it is the will of G‑d - it is possible that, in one aspect, this is more precious in G‑d's eyes than the abundant meditations and perceptions of the tzadikim. For, as mentioned, there is an advantage to the foot over of the head.

This dynamic, however, exists only in the world of Tikun. For in Tikun the vessels are large. And it is because of the vessels [i.e., when the sefirot are manifest, as in the metaphor of the powers of the soul, in which the advantage of the foot is present only when the soul's power is manifest in actuality] that the lowest level gains an advantage. In the world of Tohu, by contrast, where the vessels are small and the lights abundant, this dynamic does not exist. Rather each sefira remains separate and does not merge with the others; hence whichever is higher remains higher etc.

Moses' Reluctance

So when Moses, who was of the world of Tohu, entered the world of Tikun and witnessed the dynamic of the advantage of the lowest, it was an entirely new phenomenon for him. He marveled at it and was therefore humbled before the souls of This World. When G‑d asked him to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt, he said that someone else should be sent, someone from the world of Tikun, which contains this astounding dynamic. Moses felt that he was unable to channel the light of his intellect into the vessel of his mouth…

He complained of a speech impediment, referring to the condition of the world of Tohu, where communication and expression is impeded because of the abundance of light that cannot be contained in vessels. Because of his source in the world of Tohu, Moses felt that he was unable to channel the light of his intellect into the vessel of his mouth. He viewed this as a major deficiency and saw great advantage in Tikun, where the lights were contained in adequate vessels. This advantage was very precious in his eyes; and because of his great humility he thought that a person from the world of Tikun would be better equipped to perform the mission of redeeming Israel from Egypt.

G‑d Responds

To this G‑d responds, "Who gave man a mouth? Is it not I, Havayah?" (Ex. 4:11) G‑d is saying to Moses: What you say is true; however, who is it that gave man [referring to supernal man] a mouth [the order of Tikun]? It is known that the mouth elicits the transcendent light ["or makif"].

The deed of the mitzvah itself draws forth the light that can be internalized…

As stated in Pri Etz Chaim, through mouthing the blessing over a mitzvah, the transcendent light is drawn forth, while the deed of the mitzvah itself draws forth the light that can be internalized [i.e. the "internal light", "ohr pnimi"]. The deed of the mitzvah itself draws forth the light that can be internalized…

[Adapted by Yosef Marcus from Torah Ohr, parashat Shemot]

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