Joy and Judgment

Free translation and adaptation of a discourse by
The Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson,
6 Tishrei 5733 (1992)

by Rabbi David Rothschild



A Chassidic discourse is the most developed form of the inner Torah. Every word is sculpted by Divine Inspiration. Delivered to coincide with a weekly Torah reading or Jewish festival, these discourses make a spiritual connection with auspicious times.

Concepts from Kabbala and Zohar are developed to perfection. Their relevance to the Five Books of Moses and Tanach (Old Testament) as well as passages from the Talmud is expounded upon. This reveals their "inner meaning."

These discourses presuppose a familiarity with Torah. Perhaps for these reasons, only a handful has been translated into English and published as books by the Kehot Publication Society.

Over the course of two hundred years, the Lubavitcher Rebbes delivered thousands of discourses. Now for the first time they are being made public on the Internet.

In the texts that follow an attempt was made to abridge and elucidate their content. To provide background information for difficult terms and concepts, additional material from other Chassidic discourses, appears in brackets. The remaining content is a free translation.


Joy and Judgment

What is the true goal of our divine service through Rosh Hashanah, the Ten Days of Awe and Yom Kippur? We aim to draw down from Above the innermost aspect and core-root of our souls. The essence of our souls should shine in open revelation here in the physical world.

Preparation for Rosh Hashanah begins the first day of Elul. For this reason, Ashkenazic (including Chasidic) communities recite, "In Your behalf my heart says, 'Seek my face'. Your face, G-d, I seek." (Psalms 27:8) during the month of Elul. David's verse defines our divine service during this period. The Hebrew word for "face" is derived from the same two-letter root as the term for inwardness ("panim"). At this time especially, we are enjoined to seek and reveal the deepest recesses of our hearts - the soul's core. These hidden attributes must shine outward. And they are present in a comprehensive manner in virtually every Jew.

The revelation of our soul's deepest aspect is the obvious goal of Rosh Hashanah. For, then we blow the shofar. Chasidut discloses that its sound exposes our soul's inner outcry. The Zohar calls it "An inner, silent voice". Maimonides teaches in his Laws of Repentance, "The shofar's blast awakens even those Jews who are in a state of spiritual slumber."

The Ari reveals an astonishing secret: "The ten-day period from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur resembles the weeklong festival days (Chol Hamoed) of Passover and Sukkot." The Ten Days of Awe must be celebrated in joy!

Elsewhere the Ari states, "Whoever doesn't cry during the Ten Days of Awe demonstrates that his soul isn't decent and complete". The Baal Shem Tov comments, "The Ari actually refers to weeping out of joy". Nehemiah the prophet says of Rosh Hashanah, "Do not be sad; the gladness of G-d is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). His consol likewise applies to the days following Rosh Hashanah up to Yom Kippur.

How can we visualize tears of happiness? The Zohar provides an illustration, "When Rabbi Akiva grasped the secrets of Solomon's Song of Songs, his eyes shed tears". The intense illumination of the "secrets of secrets of the Torah" made him cry. The Ari and the Baal Shem Tov, then, inform us that due to the profuse revelation of divinity during the Ten Days of Awe, we too must weep from delight.

Jews draw into the world the revelation of "He chooses our heritage for us". Consequently, Jews reign over and control the supernal aspects of heavens and earth as well. They correspond to the sefirot of the World of Atzilut. King David explicated this concept in Psalms, "For it is a decree for Israel, a ruling of the G-d of Jacob" (Psalms 81:5). Which verdict do Jews pronounce? They determine the extent to which divinity descends into the world.

David's verse concerns Rosh Hashanah, also called the Day of Judgment. The precise quantity of revealed divinity the world will obtain in the ensuing year is decreed on Rosh Hashanah. And David informs us that specifically Jews are the masters of that determination. In addition to controlling the revelation of divine light in the spiritual realms, Jews also rule over the physicals world's heavens and earth. The aforementioned verse "Give ear, O heavens" makes that abundantly clear.

The ability to effect the revelation of divine light transpires in a joyous, songlike manner. For, Deuteronomy's heaven and earth verse appears written in the Torah as a song. Its verses commence with the designation, "Moses came and spoke all of the words of this Song in the ears of the people" (Deut.32:44);Talmud rules that songs can only be sung over a cup of wine. Wine displays joy; and joy affects revelation.

"Return Israel, unto G-d your L-rd" (Hoshea 14:2)
As much as a person comprehends G-d, as elevated a spiritual state he attains, he reaches an inevitable conclusion: Whether in terms of quality or quantity, divinity remains aloof. The Infinite One (Ein Sof) is completely abstracted above the boundaries of created entities. Consequently, despite a person's earnest attempts, G-d's Essence is impossible to grasp. For, how could a finite entity obtain that which is existentially beyond the source of the spiritual origin of his self?

Nevertheless, through repentance he does reach "unto G-d your L-rd". He attain G-d's innermost domain - His Absolute Essence. By delving deep into his own consciousness, described by David as "Seek my face", i.e. the heart's internal aspect, his soul's innermost aspect is revealed. Then, G-d responds in kind. The second component of David's verse, "Your face, G-d", i.e. G-d's internality, shines forth. The individual reaches the unattainable; an existential hiatus is traversed.

King David says in Psalms, "Like the sun and its shield are G-d (Havayah) and the L-rd (Elo-him)." (Psalms 84:12) "L-rd" (representing gevura) acts as a sun-shield. It limits and conceals the Infinite Light which shines in the name Havayah. But on Yom Kippur a still higher aspect of divinity illumes. Compared to its mighty light, the name Havayah assumes the role of the more constricted aspect of G-d, i.e. the name Elo-him. For this reason, regarding teshuva, Hoshea writes, "Return Israel, unto G-d your L-rd" - Havayah your Elo-him. The revelation of the name Havayah is now considered as if were merely the name Elo-him's power of limitation.

On Yom Kippur, G-d's transcendent Absolute Infinity is exposed. At that realm, light and darkness are equivalent. That's why it has the power, as the Talmud imparts, "To transform our transgressions into merits". We exit Yom Kippur with clean slates.

Hoshea's next verse reads, "Take words with you and return to G-d". (Hoshea 14:3) Our divine service at the conclusion of Exile serves as a preparation for the imminent perfection of mitzvahs. We depict our future condition of completeness when reciting our Shabbat and Holiday prayers, "There we will offer to You our obligatory sacrifices in accordance with the command of Your Will, as You have prescribed for us in Your Torah."

Our sacrifices will be brought to the Temple which the Mashiach will build. Maimonides outlines the Messianic Redemption in the end of his magnum opus, the Mishna Torah: "Mashiach will fight G-d's battles and be victorious; he will build the Temple in its proper place; and he will gather the dispersed of Israel." The Mashiach will transform the entire world, until," The glory of G-d will be revealed, and all flesh together will see that the mouth of G-d has spoken" (Isaiah 40:5). What's more, he will bring about the state of being in which 'The whole earth will be filled with knowledge of G-d, just as the waters cover the ocean bed' (Isaiah 11:9)."

Our actions today speed up this process. Divinity's most exalted realm is brought down into our everyday experience. Its revelation will culminate when, "I made you walk upright" (Lev.26:13). The Talmud notes that the word "upright" or stature appears in the verse in its plural form. The Sages teach that this hints to the two heights of Primordial Man (Adam Kadmon). Leviticus' previous verse states, "I will walk among you" (Leviticus 26:12). Also written in the plural, it alludes to two contradictory manners of motion: from below to above and from above to below.

Chasidut elucidates this fundamental concept in Imrei Binah: "Primordial Man represents the initial manifestation of divinity in the Creation. When G-d emanated His light at the outset of the creation process, it appeared in two divergent ways. The first were the ten sefirot which descended in linear progression. The second is the Returning Light which ascends from below to above.

The fact that "upright" and "walk" are written in the plural, yet at the same time connote two processes contained within a single word, indicates the presence of a higher, transcendent power. Only this power can simultaneously orchestrate two antithetical motions. One light descends while the other ascends. Relative to Absolute Infinity, thought, both are equal. Hence when His Essence is revealed both processes occur at the same time.

As Primordial Man's light-ray descends, it forms spheres which encompass that particular level of spiritual reality. Then the sphere condenses and becomes Inner Light (Or Pnimi). The process is repeated at successive states of creation. At the conclusion of this progression, the most exalted Encompassing Lights (Or Makif) have metamorphosed into the lowest Inner Lights.

The second motion is from below to above. Here the bottommost Inner Lights ascend upward until they themselves become the highest Encompassing Light. An analogy for this is when a simple student comprehends the profound insight of his teacher.

A circle illustrates the inclusive state of these antithetical motions. If one were to scale its left side, they'd afterwards slide down the right side. Nonetheless, the circle itself embodies both movements. One can't say of the circle that only clockwise or counterclockwise motion is possible, both exist simultaneously in the circle.

At first glance, two contradictory states are present. That which rises doesn't descend and visa versa. Higher lights, rather than rising which is their nature, descend. The lower lights likewise violate their natural tendency. Rather than descend, they ascend. In truth, both motions are one. G-d's Absolute Infinity makes this possible. For, He is in a position above time and space, equally abstracted from high and low."

On Yom Kippur His Infinity is revealed. In the Future Era it will be exposed for all to behold.

And from the Ten Days of Awe we arrive to Yom Kippur. Midrash Rabba says of Yom Kippur, "At the end of the first day of creation the Torah writes, 'And there was evening and there was morning, one day' (Gen.1:5). Why does the Torah say 'one day' rather than 'the first day'? For, on Day Two it writes 'a second day' and so on. The Torah wants to inform us that G-d gave 'one day'. Which day is that? Yom Kippur."

Commentators elaborate how Yom Kippur exhibits oneness: "On that day Jews become 'one nation'. They are similar to the ministering angels who constitute a single assembly where peace prevails between them. For, on Yom Kippur transgressors repent; they become righteous. Then, there isn't any distinction amongst Jews: all are equal." Virtually every single Jew attains the lofty condition of angels. That's why we don white garments on Yom Kippur.


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