"See, I place before you today blessing and curse. The blessing…" (Deut. 11:26-7)

On the literal level, this is a statement about man's freedom of choice. But as explained in the following discourse, the verse in fact describes the inner workings of the soul and the strength it possesses to achieve its mission.

Every soul contains within it the divine name Havayah.

The Divine name in Hebrew consists of four letters: yud, hei, vav and hei.


The letter yud of Havayah is chochma.

Yud, the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet, reflects transparency and selflessness. Chochma, on the human level, refers to the soul's inherent desire to cleave to the Divine, a desire and awareness of the Divine that cannot be articulated. In the stage of chochma…the focus is on the concept and the person is subordinate to the concept…

The level of chochma spoken of here is not a part of the rational process but rather of belief. Chochma can also refer to the initial flash of insight, the "aha" moment of understanding. The common denominator between the two is that the person experiencing the belief or insight is entirely subordinate to the experience. In the case of the insight, at the moment of chochma, the person feels that he understands the concept entirely yet he cannot articulate it. Articulation comes in the next stage, bina. This is because in the stage of articulation the focus is on the person and therefore requires bina to be understood. In the stage of chochma, however, the focus is on the concept and the person is subordinate to the concept and therefore "understands" it. Similarly in the case of the soul's belief in the oneness of G‑d and its aversion to any form of denying this fact, the person is entirely transparent in the experience, the trademark of chochma.

It is this aspect of the soul that explains the sporadic and rationally unjustifiable devotion of those who are otherwise spiritually indifferent. It accounts for the phenomenon of utterly irreligious individuals who throughout our history have sacrificed their lives rather than reject G‑d's oneness.

Many people throughout history have given up their lives - some to defend their country, their freedom, and some for a place in paradise. But all of these sacrifices can be rationally explained and - even if not selfish - are self-oriented. "Liberty or death" is not irrational since a life without freedom, to some, is not worth living. And one whose entire life is devoted to his religion cannot imagine living in contradiction to it.

But only the yud of the Neshama, the divine soul, can explain one who ignores G‑d all his life then gives it away rather than deny His oneness for even a moment. (See Tanya chapter 18)


The first hei of Havayah is bina, "Rechovot Hanahar", and contains length and breadth etc. (See Sefer Hamaamarim 5659, English translation p. 30) like the letter hei.

"Rechovot Hanahar", which can be translated as "Avenues on the River" signifies the expansiveness and elucidation that takes place in bina. (The term "Rechovot Hanahar" appears in the Torah as the origin of one of the kings of Edom. (Gen. 36:37) The Zohar states that "Rechovot Hanahar" alludes to bina. (II:142a)) Bina comes as the result of pondering the awesomeness of the Creator…

On the human level, bina comes as the result of pondering the awesomeness of the Creator. Each person according to his capacity meditates upon G‑d's omnipresence and on the fact that all is naught before Him.

Chochma and bina, the yud and the hei, must always remain together in one's divine worship. As the Zohar states regarding the supernal chochma and bina: they are "two friends that never part" (II:51a).

Similarly on the human level, the instinctive knowledge of G‑d and the one acquired through meditation must never come apart. A person must ponder the infinity of the Divine with his own human faculties and at the same time remain conscious of the selflessness inherent to the soul and its capacity for self-sacrifice that reaches beyond reason.

Meditation alone, even one that inspires love and awe of G‑d, will not create a lasting experience. The person will eventually fall, G‑d forbid.

Thus it is written "and chochma keeps its master alive." (Ecclesiastes 7:12)

True, there is an advantage to bina, in that the person's mind grasps Divinity, but chochma is the one that gives life. It is called "nekudah biheichalei" - the "point in the Chamber", and the point gives life to the entire chamber. If there is no point, the chamber is useless.

On the other hand, if there is no chamber to host the point, the point is useless. Thus they must always remain together, remaining "two friends that never part" below as Above.

The Zohar speaks of a "primal point" of light that is translucent, pure, and beyond reason. This point is vested in a "heichal" ("palace" or "chamber") which acts as a "garment" for the "point". (I:20a) This "point" is understood to refer to chochma, while the "chamber" refers to bina. (The Rebbe Maharash explained this as follows: A point is similar to a yud, chochma. "Heichal" ("chamber") is made up of the letters hei and yud, which together spell the letter hei, which is bina - then caf and lamed, which equal 50, allude to the 50 Gates of Bina. (Sefer Hamaamarim 5633 2:446) During the time of Exile the Name is not complete…

Maintaining a proper balance of chochma and bina is challenging but crucial. It is challenging because the two are in a sense opposites: chochma is selflessness, while bina requires the involvement of the self to fully comprehend and articulate a concept. But with all the elaboration of bina the point can become lost. There is no such fear in chochma, where the point is dominant and the person nonexistent. Yet the person's estrangement in chochma is also its disadvantage, since without his involvement the point can be lost to him as well.

Hence the statement of Sefer Yetzira: (1:4) "Be wise (chochma) in understanding (bina) and understand in wisdom" (See Sefer Hamaamarim 5659, English translation p. 46) i.e. retain an awareness of the seminal point while absorbing it and applying it.

(Gloss of the Tzemach Tzedek: According to this it can be said that the jug of oil that was found in the heichal of the Holy Temple and with which the miracle of Chanukah occurred is identical to the "point in the Chamber," since oil symbolizes supernal chochma.)


The vav of Havayah refers to the descent of chochma and bina into the six emotions to imbue them with divine consciousness.

The length of the vav symbolizes descent, alluding to the "descent" of the intellect into the emotions. In addition, vav equals six, the number of the basic emotions.


The final hei of Havayah refers to thought, speech and deed - alluded to in the three lines of the letter hei - which must conform to the laws of the Torah.

Hence the statement of the Talmud: "When a fetus is in its mother's womb, a flame is lit over its head and they teach it the entire Torah." (Nidda 30b) The flame is the yud and the teaching of the entire Torah is the final hei. This can be illustrated with the following metaphor: while a person is in the womb he is impressed with the four letters, from yud to the final hei; this way, when he leaves the womb and enters the air of the world he can more easily grasp these concepts in his mind and heart and reveal them from their concealment

But our sages have said: "During the time of Exile the Name is not complete". (See Tanchuma end of Teitzei; Etz Chaim beg. of Shaar Hakelipot 1) This means that the letters vav and hei are separated from yud and hei. Anochi refers to the inner essence of G‑d that cannot be named…

In divine worship, this means that although the person ponders the awesomeness of G‑d, and also evokes the soul's inherent nullification to G‑d, which transcends reason, nevertheless, these efforts do not translate into emotion.

Thus we pray: "May His Name be great, blessed [or drawn forth] forever and ever." [In Hebrew, "Yihay shmay rabba mivarach l'olam uliolmei olmaya". After the translation of the Tur. However, Tosafot translates it as "May His great Name be blessed". Both intentions are true.]

"Yihay shmay rabba…":

"Shmay" can be understood "shem-Yud Hei" [in Hebrew, "the name Y-ah"]. So we are saying that yud-hei - chochma and bina - should be great in our minds until they are -

"…mivarach": "drawn forth" (normally translated as "blessed") into the six emotions. And then even further -

"…l'olam uliolmei olmaya": to the three concealments, thought speech and deed, which must be imbued with yud-hei and consecrated for holiness.

The word "olam" stems from the word "helem", which means "concealment". (The phrase "l'olam uliolmei olmaya" is usually translated as "forever and ever.")

This is the meaning of the verse "See, I place before you today blessing and curse. The blessing…" (Deut. 11:26-7)

The word used here for "I" is "Anochi", the same word that begins the Ten Commandments given at Sinai. "Anochi" refers to the inner essence of G‑d that cannot be named and is only described as "I, whoever I Am." This "I" spoke to the "I" of the people, the inner self of every soul. Hence the verse: "Face to face I spoke to you at Sinai." (Deut. 5:4)

Indeed it was at Sinai that every soul received the light of the name Havayah: "I am Havayah your G‑d" (the first of the Ten Commandments, Ex. 20:2) meaning that Havayah will be revealed in you in such great measure that He can be called by your name, "your G‑d".

So it is this "Anochi", the "Anochi" of Sinai, which permeates the inner soul of every person - hence […"before you" is written:] "lifneichem" [meaning "to your inner self"], not "lachem" [meaning "to you"] - and allows the soul to achieve "bracha"/"blessing", to draw yud hei into vav hei through the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvot, as the verse states, "The blessing: that you listen to the commandments of Havayah your G‑d…." (Deut. 11:27)

This in turn brings us to parashat Reeh [meaning "See"], the ability to see (as opposed to hear), i.e. the level of transparency of the supernal chochma.

[Copyright 5761 Chabad of Malibu; Adapted from a discourse in Likutei Torah 18a, Re'eh]