Mouth to Man?
from Torah Ohr, Shmot by Rabbi Yossi Marcus
When G-d tells Moshe to speak to Pharaoh, Moshe demurs citing his
speech impediment. G-d responds with—
“Who gave a mouth to man? Was is it not I, Havaya? …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 Hatemunah (“The Book of the Image”) that this world is not the first shemita. It
is preceded by another. The Torah therefore begins with the second letter of the
Alef Beis, suggesting that this world is the second shemita. The first
shemita stems from Chessed and the current shemita stems from the
attribute of Gevurah. 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. Only kindness and goodness prevailed.
Some later kabbalists understood this previous shemita in
a physical sense. Arizal, however, disagrees. He agrees that a previous “world”
did exist but he does not describe this previous world as a physical one like
our own with a physical heaven and earth, the four elements etc. This exists only
in the second shemita. The previous shemita is the world of Tohu,
while the current shemita is the world of Tikkun (see essay on Vayishlach).
Now two souls, that of Chanoch and Moshe, were brought in from the
first shemita into this second shemita. Of Chanoch the Torah says
“and Chanoch had walked with G-d” (Gen. 5:24)—in the past, referring to the previous
shemita. Of Moshe the Torah says that he was “drawn from the water” (Ex.
2:10)—drawn from the first shemita, a place of Chessed, which is compared
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 Moshe, “the humblest man
on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3) says: “and what are we” (Ex. 16:7).
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 Noach. Without Chanoch, the
world would have been fit to be entirely destroyed. And Moshe, in his time, descended
to redeem Israel from Egypt and to serve as G-d’s messenger in the giving of the
Tohu and Tikkun
Now the difference between Tohu and
Tikkun, as explained in Eitz Chaim, is that in Tohu the sefiros exist as undefined
“dots” (nekudos). They exist without “length and breadth,” but rather as
seminal points. There is no interaction between the sefiros. In Tikkun, by contrast,
the sefiros are developed into what are called partzufim, faces or figures.
In addition, Chochmah, for example, is no longer Chochmah alone, but a conglomerate
of all the sefiros, with Chochmah as the primary characteristic.
and Tikkun 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 (makkif). [I.e., 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.]
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 sefiros as they exist in undefined
form in Tohu.
Advantage of Tikkun
Now in Tikkun, the sefiros
gain a new dynamic that they do not possess in the higher world. Namely, the concept
mentioned in Sefer Yetzirah (1:7) that “the beginning is wedged in the end and
the end is wedged in the beginning,” 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 mitzvos. In one sense, mitzvos
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 (hacnosas kallah), the sages missed the reading of the Shema, as
in the story of the child of Balak. [The Zohar on parshas Balak
(3:186a) relates that a certain gifted child, known throughout the Zohar as the
“yenuka” had sensed from the “scent of their garments” that a number of
sages had not recited the Shema. They were justified in so doing, since they had
been engaged in efforts to help a bride.]
This is because of the advantage
of deed, which in sefiros is Netzach, Hod, Yesod, the “legs” of the supernal man,
over supernal thought.
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 tzaddikim. For, as mentioned, there is an advantage to
the foot over of the head.
This dynamic, however, exists only in the world
of Tikkun. For in Tikkun the vessels are large. And it is because of the vessels
[i.e., when the sefiros 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 sefirah remains separate and does not merge
with the others; hence whichever is higher remains higher etc.
So when Moshe, who was of the world of Tohu, entered the
world of Tikkun and witnessed the dynamic of the advantage of the lowest, it was
an entirely new phenomenon for him and he marveled at it. He was therefore humbled
before the souls of this world and 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
Tikkun, which contains this astounding dynamic.
Thus he complains 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, Moshe 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 Tikkun 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 Tikkun would be better equipped to perform the mission of redeeming Israel
To this G-d responds, “Who gave man
a mouth? Is it not I, Havayah?” G-d is saying to Moshe: What you say is
true. However, who is it that gave man a mouth—referring to supernal man, the
order of Tikkun?
It is known that the mouth elicits the transcendent light
(makkif). As stated in Pri Eitz Chaim, through mouthing the blessing upon
a mitzvah the transcendent light is drawn forth, while the deed of the mitzvah
itself draws forth the light that can be internalized (ohr pnimi).
the difference in opinion between the Sefardim and the Ashkenazim as to whether
one ought to recite a blessing over the head Tefillin. According to the Sefardim
the transcendent light of the head Tefillin is too lofty to be drawn forth and
thus reciting a blessing is inappropriate. The Ashkenazim maintain that it can
be drawn forth and therefore do recite a blessing upon it.)
In any case,
it is the mouth that elicits the transcendent light.
And who is it that
created this mouth with its dynamics? Is it not I, Havayah?—referring to the essence
of G-d, the source for the all the lights, immanent and transcendent. Hence nothing
is impossible for Him. And “I will be with your mouth,” says G-d to Moshe. Even
though you are of the world of Tohu and therefore see yourself as limited, I,
the Creator of the vessels of Tikkun and the world of Tohu, can reverse matters
and grant you the advantages of both world: the abundant light of Tohu as it is
channeled in the abundant vessels of Tikkun. &
and summarized by Rabbi Yosef Marcus from Torah Ohr, Shemos.]