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Yisro

The sicha for parshas Yisro in Vol. III of Likkutei Sichos.

This is the parsha of Matan Torah, the Giving of the Torah and the change that took place as a result of Matan Torah was that before G-d came down to Mt. Sinai, there was a heavenly decree that heavens belong to G-d and the earth belongs to man, that which is heavenly cannot come down to earth and that which is earthy cannot rise to heaven, cannot become G-dly.

There were two distinct worlds, as it says, the heavens are for G-d and the earth He gave to the children of man. So the ruchnius and the gashmius, the spiritual and the physical, could not meet and interchange; one could not become the other. And thatís why the objects used to perform mitzvas before the Giving of the Torah did not become holy. As we know the Avos observed all the mitzvos before they were given, even though they also used physical objects with which to do the mitzva, yet the physical material, which  they used  in performing  the mitzva, did  not become holy, because
G-dliness could not permeate and settle into a physical object. The object, the gashmius, could not carry the G-dliness of the mitzva, so that after the mitzva was performed, the physical object remained physical - it didnít become holy - and could be thrown away.

The Zohar says that Yaakov Avinu fulfilled the mitzva of tefillin by using the sticks that he put before the sheep. He peeled the strip bark, in a circular fashion, spiraling down the stick so that it had the appearance of white stripes followed by black stripes, like the look of the arm has when it has tefillin wound around it. So when he wanted to accomplish the spiritual experience that is tefillin, he used the physical object - the sticks, with which to express it in the physical but the physical was only the vehicle for the spiritual experience and thatís why the object, the sticks, after he was finished using them, he threw them away because there was nothing holy about them; the holiness did not permeate and did not settle into the physical object.

This explains a very fundamental issue in the performance of mitzvas.

When the Avos performed a mitzva and they used a physical object, because the object was not going to become G-dly, it was merely a means by which the spiritual experience took place, that is why the physical object they used didnít need any particular properties, didnít require any particular dimension, size, or quality, because the object itself was really insignificant and therefore its condition was even less important.

So when Yaakov used sticks, the sticks didnít have to be any particular type or size, whereas when we do mitzvas today, after Matan Torah, since the objective is now to bring G-dliness into the physical, which was not the case then, now the properties of the physical is an essential part of the mitzva, of bringing G-dliness into the physical, into the object with which we are doing the mitzva.

This is so because now the physical has to be a keli - the physical object with which we do the mitzva now has to be receptive, it has to be capable of carrying the G-dliness that each mitzva presents.  In order for a pair of tefillin to be able to carry the holiness that is the G-dliness of tefillin, they have to have a certain size, they have be hollow, they have to have four parchment scrolls, written a certain way - they have to be built and made to specification, because without those specifications, the object is not receptive, cannot carry, nor contain the G-dliness that is tefillin.

The same is true for all mitzvahs, for example lighting the menorah. There has to be a certain amount of time that itís lit, it has to be lit from the right side, from the evening on, so that all of these details are now important because without them, the physical object does not benefit the way it is supposed to, now that the Torah has been given and G-dliness can permeate the physical object.

This makes it necessary to draw another conclusion.

Before the Giving of the Torah, when the G-dly and spiritual were in heaven, and the physical was not receptive to the G-dly, it meant that the mitzvas that were performed then were limited to the spiritual, to being high. They could not come down to a world that was low. That means that the mitzva was not expressing the essence of G-d, because G-dís essence is not limited to being high or low - He is both or neither. Atzmus, the essence of G-d, is the true Infinite of the truly Infinite which means that it has no restrictions, no limits, not even the limit of being high, not even the limit of being limitless. So now, when we are doing mitzvas that do permeate into the physical, that means that there is a G-dliness being expressed, being revealed in the mitzva that transcends the notion of high and low, and is therefore not limited to being high.

In different words, before the Giving of the Torah, what was revealed was the spiritual or G-dly part of the mitzva, but not G-dís presence in the mitzva. The G-dly part of the mitzva was limited to being spiritual and therefore was incompatible with the physical world. Now after Matan Torah, when G-d put Himself into the mitzva, makes Himself available in the mitzva, and He Himself is not limited, G-d forbid, to any limits at all, not even the limit of being high or spiritual now the mitzva can permeate the physical object because we are now talking about a whole new kind of mitzva.

So itís not just a change in intention or objective, that before Matan Torah, there was no desire to permeate the physical, and now after Matan Torah there is, the change is more than just in the objective, because in order to achieve this objective, you have to reveal a whole different part of G-d, that part of G-d that is not limited to either physical or spiritual and therefore can combine them both.

This is reflected also in the Ten Commandments that were given at Har Sinai. We see that the mitzvahs are composed of two very different kinds of commandments. There are the very spiritual G-dly mitzvas, ď I Am G-d Your G-dĒ and ďYou should have no other gods before MeĒ- these commandments contain the highest and most profound concepts of the Oneness of G-d, of G-dís Oneness. Then there are the other simple commandments of donít kill and donít steal, which are understandable and obviously necessary, even by human reckoning. So the fact that G-d puts them together, is to tell us that this decree that existed before the Giving of the Torah, that what is above does not come down and what is down does not go up, has been cancelled and now the opposite is true - that which is above comes down and that which is below goes up.

Therefore even those mitzvas like not stealing and not killing, which are understandable to human reasoning, yet when we fulfill those commandments, it shouldnít be only for the rational, intelligent, logical reason, but it should also be because of  ď I am G-d Your G-d, and you shall have no other gods.Ē

The fact that itís G-dís will, that should be the motivation even in the fulfillment of those mitzvas that we obviously need to fulfill for human reasons. If we observed the commandment not to kill and not to steal only for human reasons, then there is a very real danger that they will get tampered with, aside from the fact that self-love can twist any reasoning to the point where people can actually rationalize and turn a sin into a mitzva - not only make a sin permissible, but actually turn it into a virtue, even the sin of stealing and killing, and certainly in its more subtle forms like not embarrassing someone in public, which is considered a form of killing, or misleading someone with bad advice or giving a false impression which is considered a form of stealing. In this, certainly, a person who has a little bit of a bias, because of self-love, will not notice at all, and will consider himself completely virtuous, just as when a person puts his finger near his eye, he can block out the whole world. A person being close to himself, that self-love can block out the reality that is infinitely bigger than himself. So even if we have a strong conviction from human rational basis that one should not kill and should not steal, there is no guarantee that that will actually happen once a human being with his biases starts to tamper with that conviction.

In addition, even if you could avoid the rationalization that allows a person to steal and to kill, and consider himself righteous, the other reason that we have to fulfill the mitzva of not stealing and not killing because it is G-dís will,  is  because  our  main objective,  the  mission  of  a  Jew, is  to  bring
G-dliness into the world. And to bring G-dliness into the world means that you have to express G-dís will in your behavior and in your actions. By not killing or stealing because this is G-dís will, G-d has an active voice and an active effect on your behavior and through you on the whole world. Even that which  we could do for  obvious human  reasons, we  should  permeate with
G-dís will and G-dís instruction.

And this is what the Gemorah meant, that if the Torah had not been given, we would have learned many virtues from animals. For example, we would have learned modesty from a cat and not to steal from an ant, which means that if Torah hadnít been given, with the effect of removing the decree that separated G-d from the earth, the G-dly from the physical, then we would in fact, using human intelligence learn modesty from a cat and not stealing from an ant, but it would have remained merely a human experience and a human act.

So we would have moral commitments, and we would learn it from nature or from animals, it would come from the world, but it would not in any way bring G-d into the world.

But now that the Torah was given, then even those things that we could have learned from nature, we now imbue it with a higher purpose, which is to make G-d manifest in the world through His will. That is how the higher commandments, the commandments of ď I am G-d Your G-d ď has to come down and become the motivation for the lower commandments of not killing and not stealing.

Now the lower commandments also have to rise and become part of the upper world, higher world, and that is, that even a person who is capable of killing and stealing, a person who is on a very basic, primitive level, yet even from such a person, G-d expects that he comes up to the higher world, and participates in the understanding and the knowledge of the Oneness of G-d, including even the highest level of chochma. As the Rambam explains in his introduction to his Mayim Navuchim, that G-dly wisdom, Chochmas Elokus, comes as the apex, after all the other wisdoms that precede it, and in the knowledge of G-d itself, in this highest of all wisdoms, in the knowledge of G-d itself, itís not enough to know Elokecha - Anochi Hashem Elokecha - I am Hashem Your G-d - but you have to know Hashem also - I am G-d  - and not only do you have to know G-d but you even have to know Anochi - that part of G-d which is the essence of G-d, that doesnít have a name, which G-d can only express by saying ď I,Ē as the Rebbe will soon explain. So from the lower world, from the level of those people from whom you have to prevail on not to kill and not to steal, even they are expected to participate in Anochi Hashem Elokecha, in the first two Commandments, that they also should understand a little bit of the Oneness of G-d, which the Rambam says is the highest of all wisdoms.

The first three words of the Ten Commandments contains this message that weíve just read from the sicha and that is ď Anochi Hashem Elokecha ď - three levels of understanding of G-dliness. The name Elokim refers to the part of G-d that is invested in creation that gets involved in the act and the maintenance of creation. In every created being there is that part of G-d that is invested in that being, that makes it what it is. And since all creatures are different from each other, every being has its unique existence and properties, so we have the name for G-d , Elokim Kedoshim, which is in the plural, because G-d invests Himself differently in each of His creations to give each of the creations a uniqueness.

And so there are many expressions of this part of G-d that is in creation to the point where the gematria of

Elokim is the same as hateva, nature. So Elokim refers to that part of G-d that devotes and tailors itself to the creation. That is why we find the name Elokim personalized, Elokecha, Your G-d, as in the Ten Commandments - Anochi Hashem Elokecha, or Elokenu, Our G-d or Elokechem, Your G-d. It is personalized, because this is that part of G-d that adjusts itself to each person, each condition, each creature, individually.

Then thereís the name Hashem - Anochi Hashem Elokecha - I am G-d Your G-d. The name Hashem refers to that part of G-d that does not get involved in the actual creation, because it is above all restrictions and all limits, and does not tailor or adjust itself to the created being. Thatís why the word Hashem, in Hebrew, contains the letters for He Was, He Is and He Will Be. All three words are contained in this one word of the name of G-d, because He Is, He Was and He Will Be at the same time - past, present and future all wrapped into one all at the same time - which means completely beyond the properties of the physical universe, higher than time, higher than nature.

Then there is the third level represented by the word Anochi. Anochi is G-d Himself that has no name that cannot be contained in any name, but is G-d Himself. Thatís the meaning of Anochi Hashem Elokecha, by the Giving of the Torah, that the power of Anochi, which is higher than all titles and all names, higher than all restrictions and all limitations, that Anochi can bring about a merging of Hashem and Elokecha  - of Hashem which is a spiritual limitless G-dliness and Elokecha which is the finite and limited G-dliness that is in nature.

So in order for the level of Elokim to join with the level of Hashem, there had to be the Anochi, and the Anochi was revealed only by the Giving of the Torah. Thatís what makes it possible to merge the mitzvahs of not killing and not stealing, with the first mitzvahs of  ď I am G-d Your G-dĒ and ď You shall have not other gods before Me,Ē a combination of human condition with divine G-dly motivation.


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