• You Decide Whether “Talk Is Cheap” Or Not

    We are all familiar with the term and experience of “self-awareness.” However, if you stop to think about it, the whole notion of self-awareness is totally weird. “I” am aware of my “self.” It’s like “I” and “self” are two separate entities. How does that even work? • By Rabbi Zvi Homnick, Beis Moshiach Magazine • Full Article

    Rabbi Zvi Homnick, Beis Moshiach

    The jewel thief stood before the judge to be sentenced for one of the largest diamond thefts in history. Before issuing the sentence, the judge asked if he had anything to say in his own defense.

    Defendant: Your honor, I have been collecting pretty rocks and stones since I was a little boy. When I found out these people had so many beautiful stones which they obviously didn’t appreciate, since they kept them locked in a vault, I felt I had to provide them a home where they would be properly appreciated.

    Judge: Seeing as you have such a love for rocks and stones, the state sentences you to twenty years hard labor in a stone quarry.


    Any student of Chassidus has come across the Zohar that the “ten statements (commandments)” correspond to the “ten utterances” of Creation. There  many explanations given for, and lessons derived from, this Zohar. Some of them seem to indicate that the “ten statements” are higher than the “ten utterances,” as the Zohar states, “It is not the custom of the king to speak of mundane matters.” Since the Torah is holy and “One with Hashem” and the world is mundane, that conclusion would seem to be obvious.

    However, other places in Chassidus appear to take the opposite position. If “the king” deviates from his “custom” and chooses to “speak of mundane matters,” he must have a really compelling reason. There must be something so momentous he wishes to communicate that the only way he can do it is by disguising his message in the language of the mundane. So what is Hashem trying to communicate beyond simply speaking the world into existence? And to whom?

    In the previous installment, we discussed how the power of speech is the most limited of all the functions as it has no content of its own, as well as having the infinite capacity to express all of the other faculties, intellectual and emotional, beyond the finite limitations of those individual faculties. We also noted that Chassidus explains that this is because the lowest is rooted in the highest source.

    We are all familiar with the term and experience of “self-awareness.” However, if you stop to think about it, the whole notion of self-awareness is totally weird. “I” am aware of my “self.” It’s like “I” and “self” are two separate entities. How does that even work?

    The answer is that the conscious “I” and the core “self” are distinct parts of a larger whole. In the language of Chassidus, they are referred to as etzem (essence) and giluyim (revelations/manifestations). A “self”only needs an “I” to manifest into and interact with reality outside of self. So the first thing is for the “self” to express a “will” to even have an “I,” composed of intellect (“I” understand the reality outside of “self”) and emotions (“I” feel about the reality outside of “self”). Or as Chassidus puts it, the “will” is “higher than” the intellect and emotions.If we were to dissect that initial “will” of the “self” to have an “I,” it would be very different than the usual experience of the conscious awareness of “I want such-and-such,” since there is no consciousness and no “I” yet. At that point, the “I” only exists within the desire of “self,” so instead of “I want” it is “want I.” Weirdly enough, it is the opposite of “self-awareness.” “I” have no awareness of “self,” rather “self” is projecting itself into “I.”

    The problem though is that even after “self” expresses itself into an “I” composed of intellect and emotions, it still cannot achieve what it wanted the “I” for in the first place, because now it is limited to and contained within the “I,” unless it unleashes an even greater power that allows it to express itself to the outside reality.  That is where the power of speech comes in.

    The power of speech is how the “self” overrides the limitations of the “I” and expresses “self” to the outside by way of communicating the ideas and feelings “I” have. It does so through using letters and forming them into words. But where do the letters come from? They come from the original desire of the “self” to have an “I” through which to relate and express itself to others. Although the letters themselves are devoid of content and meaning and as such are the “lowest” aspect of existence, when the “I” forms them into words in order to express what “I” think and feel, they become vehicles for the infinite power of self-expression (see previous article). The “lowest” is rooted in the “highest.”


    Sefer Yetzira compares the letters of divine creative speech to stones. Just as stones (the lowest form of physical existence) are placed together to form a building, so too, Hashem employs the Sefira of Malchus to string together the holy letters of Lashon HaKodesh to form words and create worlds. The messages contained in these words originate from the higher Sefiros of divine intellect and emotions, the divine “I,” but the power that they have to create comes from the divine “Self.” Where the spiritual aspects of existence, form and content, derive from the “higher” spiritual “lights” (Giluyim) of the Sefiros, the raw physicality of this world derives from Hashem’s very “Self” (Etzem), as it were.

    Paradoxically, the actual act of divine speech is a direct expression of Hashem’s “Self,” whereas the content of that divine speech originates from Hashem’s “I” which He “emanated” from Himself. So the seemingly mundane “ten utterances,” which produce the lowly physical existence as we know it, are actually a greater expression of the divine “Self” than the “ten statements,” which communicate the loftiest spiritual revelations.

    However, we can’t appreciate the awesomeness of the “ten utterances” without first hearing the “ten commandments.” A world without Torah does not reveal Hashem at all. It is only through the revelations of Torah that we can appreciate how the “ten utterances” and the physical reality itself are a greater revelation of the true Essence of Hashem.

    So the “ten statements” and all the words of Torah are Hashem talking to you and letting you know what “I want” and (in some cases) why, whereas the “ten utterances” are Hashem talking to YOU and conveying that beyond what “I want” there is My “Self” that “wants I” and that “will” is only because My “Self” wants YOU, a Jew with a G-dly soul in a physical body.

    The job of the “last generation of galus and the first generation of Geula,” composed of Jews who are the embodiment of the Sefira of Malchus (midgets), is to take all of the great spiritual lights that were brought into the world by the previous generations (giants) and reveal through the light of Torah and mitzvos how it is specifically in this lowliest physical world where Hashem’s very “Self” lives.



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