Moses' words in the first few verses of parashat Devarim are somewhat cryptic. They appear to be a description of some of the travels and encampments of the Israelites. But the commentators read them as a camouflaged criticism of the nation: the names of the places mentioned allude to the nation's failings and sins, says Rashi.

Moses wished to gauge their openness to rebuke….

Why the subterfuge? Rashi explains that it was for the dignity of Israel that Moses concealed their sins in ambiguous phrases. It has, however, been pointed out that later the leader's reproach grows more explicit: "Rebels have you been with the G‑d! Inciters have you been…!" Others therefore explain that Moses wished to gauge their openness to rebuke. When they proved comfortable with his indirect references to their shortcomings, he dispensed with the subtleties. But this answer, too, is not completely satisfying.

Kabbalistically, the two modes of rebuke offered by Moses addressed two different elements within the psyche of his listeners: the "hidden" and the "revealed". The hidden was addressed indirectly - while the revealed was addressed directly.

Hidden and revealed

The Zohar divides the many spiritual "worlds" into two general categories: the hidden world, called "Alma D'itkasya", and the revealed world, "Alma D'itgalya". These worlds are the primordial root of the hidden and revealed aspects of the human system.

The divine name Havayah is thus split in two: yud-hei and vav-hei. Yud-hei embodies the hidden world, vav-kei the revealed. The yud embodies chochma, the hei, bina. Vav-hei embodies the revealed world: vav embodies the six emotions (middot), hei embodies malchut, the lowest sefira.

With revelation also comes susceptibility to corruption….

When something is called "hidden" this means that it exists in a purer, less defined form than in "the revealed". "Revealed" connotes a more coarsened form of the original. Along with revelation also comes susceptibility to corruption and the possibility that the divine light will be improperly siphoned by negative and dead energies.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi compares the hidden world to the drop, which contains, in an undefined form, all the elements of the future human that will grow from it. (Torah Ohr 6b) As the fetus develops within the womb, the drop is revealed and defined. The more developed the fetus, the more "impurities" it accrues, such as nails and hair (which are "dead" entities). When it is completely formed it begins to excrete, whereas as long as it is in the womb it does not excrete.

Similarly, in the hidden world there are no impurities. In the revealed world, especially in the lowest elements thereof, impurity and "death" can find a home.

In this way, Rabbi Shneur Zalman explains a Talmudic rule regarding the various formulas of the blessings. (Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 1:8) The Talmud states that a short blessing begins with "baruch" (meaning "blessed") but need not end in "baruch". A long blessing, by contrast, begins and "is sealed" with "baruch".

One should accept all situations cheerfully….

Kabbalistically, the short blessing, which says much in few words, corresponds to the hidden world, where all exists in undefined form. The long blessing corresponds to the revealed world, where all is spelled out. Now the word "baruch", which in its deeper meaning means to draw forth, evokes the drawing forth of the energy of whatever is spoken of in the blessing. Thus the longer blessing, which evokes the divine energies of the revealed world, requires a "baruch" at its end to "seal" the blessing and ensure that these energies are directed to proper and holy channels. By contrast, the blessing that evokes the energies of the hidden world needs only one "baruch" in the beginning to begin the flow.

Ironically, the lack of impurity in the hidden world often appears to us in a negative light. Rabbi Shneur Zalman explains in Tanya that all that occurs in This World is generated from on High. (chapter 26) The misfortunes that a person experiences do not stem from an evil place, but rather from the hidden world. When the energies of the hidden world are expressed in this world they may take the form of what we consider "misfortune". The Talmud therefore states that one should accept all situations cheerfully: those perceived as good as well as those perceived as bad. (Berachot 48b)

Thus King David proclaims: "Happy is the man whom You chastise, O G‑d". (Psalms 94:12) The name of G‑d used in this verse is "Y-ah" (spelled yud-hei), since it is yud-hei, the hidden world, that generates what we perceive as chastisement.

The Soul

The soul of man, which is created in the Divine Image, also possesses a hidden and revealed world. One aspect of the soul, the "hidden world" remains aloof from the body, while the other aspect, the "revealed world" manifests itself inside the body.

The Kabbala describes the soul as having five attributes, which in turn are divided in two:

Chaya and Yechida are the aspects of the soul that remain beyond the body, while Nefesh, Ruach and Neshama are manifest within it.

The wise need only a hint….

Chaya and Yechida are alluded to in the yud of the name Havayah. Chaya is the body of the yud, while Yechida is represented in the serif at the tip of the yud. (Yechida, which means "alone" and "unique", is the most sublime aspect of the soul and is therefore alluded to in a mere serif, since its sublimity all but escapes expression.) Nefesh, Ruach and Neshama are represented in the other three letters: the vav and the two hei's.

So Moses' indirect rebuke addressed the Chaya-Yechida of the people - as our sages say, "the wise [need only] a hint" (Zohar I:26b, III:280b and Midrash Shmuel 22:15,22) while the direct rebuke addressed their coarser element, which is manifest in the body and animal soul, Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshama.

Abba and Imma, Zeir Anpin and Nukva

In Kabbalistic terminology, Moses' indirect rebuke is described as rooted in gevura of Abba and Imma. Its purpose was to rectify the Abba and Imma of the nation. The direct rebuke, by contrast, stems from gevura of Zeir Anpin and Nukva and served to rectify the Zeir Anpin and Nukva of the people.

(Abba and Imma refer to the mind of a being and are therefore together called "the hidden world". The six emotions as well as Malchut, which is identified with action, are called "the revealed world", since their activities are more apparent to an outsider.)

All of Israel

This explains an enigma in the first verse of Devarim: "And these are the words that Moses spoke to all of Israel." The biblical commentator Kli Yakar points out that this is one of two instances in the Torah where Moses is described as addressing "all of Israel". Why so? According to the above, it is understood that the verse means to say that with his words Moses addressed all of Israel, meaning every aspect of their being. Indeed the Hebrew word for "all", "kol", is made up of the letters kaf and lamed, which have the "small" numerical values of 2 and 3, respectively. The caf therefore alludes to the two hidden aspects of the soul, Chaya and Yechida, while the lamed alludes to the three revealed aspects, Nefesh, Ruach and Neshama.

Adapted by Yosef Marcus from Ohr Hatorah, Devarim p. 11

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