updated b

Parshat Shmot

A Mouth to Man?

Adapted 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[1] 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”[2]) 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).

Alien Souls

Now two souls,[3] 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 to water. 

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).

Chanoch’s 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 Torah.

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. 

Tohu 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.]

So 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.    

Moshe’s Reluctance

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 from Egypt.

G-d Responds

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).

(Hence 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. &

[Adapted and summarized by Rabbi Yosef Marcus from Torah Ohr, Shemos.]

[1] This desolation refers not to a physical destruction but to the fact that in the seventh millennia, the Messianic era, the world will exist in a far more refined and spiritual condition. Physical consciousness will be laid waste.

[2] A kabbalistic work attributed to Rabbi Nechunia ben Hakana (printed in Koretz, 1784).

[3] Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch points out that the Alter Rebbe in another instance mentions a third soul, that of Lemech. However, only two souls descended for the purpose of refining the world.



Redesign and implementation - By WEB-ACTION