Parashat Shelach: Raising the Sparks

  • Rav Itamar Eldar
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

CHASSIDUT
by Rav Itamar Eldar

Yeshivat Har Etzion

 


 

ParAshat Shelach

 

RAISING THE SPARKS

 

 

            One of the most piercing questions regarding the story of the twelve spies sent by Moshe to scout the land of Cana'an concerns the reason for their having been sent. Already the early commentators noted that we are not dealing here with a mission of military reconnaissance. Were this the case, Moshe would not have sent twelve of the most distinguished members of the people, but rather a small number of spies, proficient in their work, as did Yehoshua just before the Israelites entered the land. Even the expression "latur et ha-aretz" ("to scout the land") appearing in our passage strengthens the argument that we are not dealing here with spies sent for a military purpose.

 

            On the other hand, the alternative, according to which the spies were sent to check out the quality of the land, is also difficult. Did the Divine promise not suffice? Was the word of God not deserving of the trust of Moshe and Israel?

 

            Rashi, based on the Midrash, touches upon this problem:

 

"Send you" – I.e., according to your own judgment: I do not command you, but if you wish to do so send them. [God said this] because the Israelites came [to Moshe] and said: "We will send men before us, etc.," as it is said (Devarim 1:22): "And you approached me all of you saying, {We will send men, etc.]," and Moshe took counsel with the Shekhina, whereupon He said to them, "I have told them [long ago] that it is good, as it is said (Shemot 3:17): 'I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt… [unto a land flowing with milk and honey].' By their lives! I swear that I will give them now an opportunity to fall into error through the statements of the spies, so that they should not come into possession of it [= the land]." (Rashi, Bamidbar 13:2)

 

            The Midrash cited by Rashi transfers the initiative for the mission from God to Israel, for there is no reason, as we saw above, to send spies, other than a lack of faith on the part of Israel, who wanted to verify the quality of the land. According to this, God allowed Israel to fulfill their wish, but set down a punishment: "By their lives! I swear that I will give them now an opportunity to fall into error through the statements of the spies." A person is led along the path that he desires to follow, argues the Midrash, and since the Israelites began with a lack of faith in the Divine promise regarding the quality of the land, God gave them an additional reason to continue with this lack of faith.

 

            As stated above, the reason for sending the spies leaves a significant void, and certainly if we do not accept the approach of the Midrash and insist that we are dealing here with a Divine initiative, as is implied in our parasha. This void brought the great Chassidic thinkers to invoke the idea of raising sparks as a possible understanding of the function of the spies. The idea of raising sparks is one of the central issues in Chassidic thought, which appears to establishes it as man's primary mission in this world. The story of the spies constitutes an important backdrop for the discussion regarding the raising of the sparks in the various Chassidic schools of thought. In this lecture, we will try to examine some of their teachings.[1]

 

REMOVING MATERIALITY

 

            The great Chassidic thinkers inferred from the fact that the twelve spies belonged to the nation's elite – "all those men were heads of the children of Israel" (Bamidbar 16:3) – that we are dealing here with a very elevated spiritual mission. That mission, according to Chassidic teaching, was intended to raise the sparks from the land of Cana'an.

 

            Let us examine the foundations of the idea of raising sparks, beginning with the words of R. Elimelekh of Lyzhansk:

 

"And now, I beseech you, let the strength of my Lord be great, according as you have spoken, saying" (Bamidbar 14:17). Now, God, blessed be He, created His world in order to benefit [His] creatures, who through their serving Him, blessed be He, will merit great reward. Therefore, holy sparks fell at the time of Creation, in order that later through the service that they will perform to raise the sparks, they will merit much good….[2] (No'am Elimelekh, Shelakh)

 

            This outlook is based on the kabbalistic idea that the creation of the world contains a type of concealment.

 

            Kabbala, and in its wake Chassidut, try to provide us with an inner perspective on the world. Our eyes see a world of phenomena: heaven and earth, inanimate objects, flora, fauna, the change of seasons, and the like – a world of variety and plurality. All these, declares the esoteric lore, hide, cover, and clothe a pure and refined spiritual reality that strives for the total unity of the world. That inner and hidden reality, which is called by many different names - Divinity, vitality, spark, essence, etc. - is the direct relationship that that object has with God. And it is the word of God, His will, and His revelation, which is hidden in and silenced by the material garments of that reality.

 

            The esoteric lore, as its name implies, deals with the esoteric, and not the exoteric; with the hidden, and not with the manifest, with unity, and not with plurality. The varied reality is a sort of "scattering" of a single and unified light, which separated into infinite sparks, each one "taken captive" by the material reality which clothed it, leaving it severed from its source.

 

            This is true also on the psychological level. A person experiences many events and occurrences, each one standing on its own, clothed in the situation in the midst of which it transpires, which is composed of time, place, circumstances, and the like. The attempt to understand the statement and teaching which that situation is trying to communicate to me, to understand how that event fits in with the overall process of the building of my personality, to find the function and objective of that situation in the framework of the general process – this essentially is revealing the spark, the light, the driving force, the essence of that situation.

 

            The primal state is a state of separation, a plurality of occurrences, which on the face of it appear to be unconnected. The search for unity, meaning and explanation are in essence the clarification of the spark out of that occurrence. When a person contemplates the world, he must remove the garments and coverings, expose the deep-rooted meaning that stands behind every phenomenon, every article, every action. Thus writes R. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev:

 

"Send you men." When a man of Israel arrives in a certain place and serves God there, then all the sparks that are found there are embarrassed before him. For he reveals the root and source of Creation, as our Sages, of blessed memory, said: "The Holy One, blessed be He, created His world only [in order that people should fear Him]" (Shabbat 31b), and then he can easily conquer them. This was the intention of sending the spies. But a person must remove materiality from himself in order that all the sparks should be embarrassed before him. Then he conquers them. This is the allusion of "send," "shelach," a term of removal, in the sense of "vayafshitu," "and they removed" (Bereishit 37:23), which Onkelos translates as "ve'ashlechu."

Alternatively, "send you people." This can be explained on the basis of Rashi's comment on the verse (Yehoshua 2:4), "and she hid them [vatitzpeno, lit., 'and she hid him']": "She only hid Calev."[3] A place from which it is possible to easily raise a spark they can conquer, but a place from which it is impossible to raise a spark they can only conquer by removing materiality. In truth, it was impossible to raise sparks from the Cana'anites. Therefore, it was said about them: "You shall save alive nothing that breathes" (Devarim 20:16). It was therefore necessary for them to remove materiality from themselves. And Calev who raised a spark from Rachav did not remove from himself, etc. And this is "And she hid him." Here, where Moshe sends [spies] to the land from which no spark can be raised, he told them to remove materiality from themselves. This is "shelach," in the sense of removing, removing materiality from themselves. This is "send you men." (Kedushat Levi, Shelach)

 

            R. Levi Yitzchak speaks in terms of shame and removal.[4] We live in a world of "garments," and the raising of sparks is made possible by removing the garments and leaving the world in its nakedness. Garments distract us from the essence and conceal the objective, and the raising of sparks involves the removal of those garments. A stone is a stone and all the physical phenomena that characterize it are its garments that conceal its objective. Why does it exist? What is its function in the Divine plan? How does it reveal God's presence in the world? How can I, man, serve the Creator through it? All these questions, as it were, ignore the physical qualities of the stone and seek to look inside, to reveal it in the sense of "uncovering nakedness" (gilui arayot) – exposing, becoming naked, knowing![5]

 

            R. Levi Yitzchak teaches us with great daring: The way to expose and reveal the essence of the world is by undressing oneself – by stripping oneself of materiality. When a person undresses, exposes himself and reveals his inner self, the initial reaction of those around him is one of shame because of the exposure and revelation. And perhaps we might add – embarrassment. In the end, however, this embarrassment leads to the exposure and undressing of those around him as well.

 

            This is also true on the psychological-social level. When two people engage in conversation, and the one removes his garments, exposing his personality and hiding nothing, the other reacts at first with embarrassment over the exposure, and the coercion, as it were, that the revealing person is employing in order to enter inside of him, into the depths of his personality. The dialogue, however, ends with mutual exposure stemming from feeling that one cannot remain clothed in a world where the language is one of inner revelation.

 

The world, teaches us R. Levi Yitzchak, is varied, and there are times when the spark is more hidden and concealed. The garments are more numerous, the introversion of the person standing before us is total, and every attempt to penetrate, to reveal, to expose, encounters a fortified wall and absolute impermeability. There are phenomena in the material world that block the light concealed within them in such a manner that it is almost impossible to expose and reveal the positive meaning, significance, and function of that phenomenon. Such were the Cana'anites whose evil and abomination were so great, contends R. Levi Yitzchak, that it appeared as if it would be impossible to extract and reveal any Divine spark concealed within them.

 

The more concealed the spark and the greater the closure that a person encounters, the greater the demand upon the person who comes to redeem the world to expose himself and remove his clothing. The way to bring a closed and restrained person to open up and reveal himself, R. Levi discerns in a most profound manner, is through greater self-exposure, which begins with embarrassment, but leads to partnership, connection and knowledge.

 

So too regarding the material reality that a person wishes to redeem. If materiality is what covers the spark, what fetters it, and what does not allow it to become revealed, then the only way to expose the spark is through the removal of one's own materiality. A person must remove materiality and its phenomena from himself and remain pure and refined, his consciousness filled by the Divine light concealed within him. The desires, the pride, the passions, and perhaps we might even say, the ego – all these are the unripe fruit of the materiality in which a person is clothed. When a person approaches the material world free of all these, then the spark concealed within that world becomes embarrassed by its own garments, in face of the exposure of the redeemer, and immediately removes its garments as well, revealing itself to man and being redeemed.

 

When a person removes his garments, he acquires a different consciousness, a different purpose and a different perspective, that allow him to contemplate the material world lying before his eyes and not see the garments at all.

 

A person who has no desire to eat will not discern the taste of a particular food. A person who has no sexual urge will not be seduced by Rachav's beauty. The faith of a person who has no doubts will not be undermined by the heresy of philosophy. Thus, the pure objective of the eating, the important function of that prostitute, and the contribution of philosophy to the building of faith can now become exposed.

 

A person's stripping himself of his materiality allows him not to be distracted by the world's garments; it allows him to look with a penetrating gaze at the Divine spark concealed within it, and thus causes that spark to yearn to be redeemed by the one who had exposed it, who succeeded in seeing through the entire material cover and conduct a dialogue with it.

 

The function of the spies, according to this, was to raise the sparks from the Cana'anite nations, and since we are talking about a very strong material reality, filled with desires, filled with passions, and filled with ego, there was a need for "important people," who had the power to remove materiality from themselves, in order to see how it might be possible to raise the sparks. The spies, according to R. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, went after the sparks. They walked the length and breadth of the land, trying to redeem and raise the concealed light, in preparation for Israel's entry into the land.[6]

 

Using a different formulation, R. Elimelekh gives voice to the same idea in the continuation of the aforementioned teaching:

 

Following the sin of the first man, additional sparks of holiness continued to fall because of the sin, and for this a person must serve Him, blessed be He, on two levels, love and fear. Fear is to see and contemplate at all times the lowliness of this world, and thus he breaks the power of the vessels of the sparks, and comes to the high praises of God, which is great love. In this manner, he raises the sparks of holiness up and up. This was the intention of God, blessed be He, to bring Israel to the holy land, where there is greater power to elevate the holy sparks. And this was the intention of sending the spies, for God, blessed be He, said: "Send you people." For God, blessed be he, said to Avraham Avinu, peace be upon him: "Every place whereon the sole of your foot shall tread" (see Devarim 11:24), that is, by treading on it in your holiness, this impression will remain for your seed, that it should be easy for them afterwards to raise the holy sparks. For anything impressed with holiness is easy later to actualize. And this was the intention of sending the spies, for at that time they were fit in order to leave an impression of holiness on the land of Israel, so that later it should be easy for Israel to take out the sparks…. (No'am Elimelekh, Shelach)

 

            While R. Levi Yitzchak speaks about stripping the self of materiality in order to raise the sparks, R. Elimelekh of Lyzhansk describes two psychological movements required of man: fear and love.

 

            According to R. Elimelekh, two stages are required for raising sparks. The first is "breaking the power of the vessels of the sparks." Using the formulations of R. Levi Yitzchak, we might call this "removing garments."

 

            The second stage is "coming to the high praises of God," namely, raising the spark and restoring it to its supernal source.

 

            According to R. Elimelekh, a person achieves the first through the power of fear, whereas the second he achieves through the power of love.

 

Fear breaks the vessels, nullifying the value of the garments. R. Elimelekh's novel idea is that fear does not build, but rather it destroys. The psychological movement of fear is a movement of contraction, retreat, nullification, and even destruction. It is within the power of this movement to suppress, destroy and diminish anything, and thus it is significant when it is directed at breaking the power of the vessels – the garments that conceal the light, and perhaps we might say, hold it captive among them.

 

Fear brings a person to experience that the vessels have no value. What is eating as opposed to eternity; what is material pleasure as opposed to the infinite? The value of all these things is nullified in the presence of fear that leaves man, and thus all of reality, in its nakedness: vanity of vanities, all is vanity – this is total fear: "The end of the matter, when all is said and done: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for that is the whole duty of man" (Kohelet 12:13).

 

R. Elimelekh, however, does not stop here. Returning to the language of R. Levi Yitzchak, fear is removal of the garments, total disrobing, full exposure. Now, however, comes the role of love – to know! The exposure and disrobing are performed through fear, but the connection and elevation are performed through the power of love. Fear is separation and love is connection, and therefore fear has the power to remove and nullify, but only love has the power to connect and unify.

 

These powers, so contends R. Elimelekh, were concealed within twelve people, the elite of Israel, and it was their job to prepare the ground for Israel's entry into the land. It was precisely the generation of the wilderness, out of the reality of the wilderness and before their entry into the land, that was most fit to "strip themselves of materiality." And it was precisely in that wilderness reality, void of naturalness, that the elite of Israel could reach that level of removing materiality.

 

A generation whose eating is not eating, whose bread is not bread, but manna from heaven. A generation in which the nature that clothes the miracle is removed, and all of reality has the aspect of "a naked king," whose governance is evident to all, in all the miracles performed in the wilderness, void of garments and concealment – it is precisely this generation that is able to enter the land that embodies natural reality, and expose the hidden wisdom found within it. To reveal the spark that is hiding behind the material garments. This, according to R. Elimelekh of Lyzhansk, was the mission of the spies.

 

THE MATERIAL WORLD - FOR WHAT PURPOSE?

 

            These profound ideas lead to a sort of absurd conception of the overall Divine process. For it seems to follow from them that God created plurality, shattering unity to pieces, all in order that that man should restore the crown to it ancient place, and return the world to its unity. The material world in all its diversity was created, according to this approach, only in order for us to nullify, remove and cause it to disappear. The varied taste of food was intended for us to disregard.[7] The aesthetic quality of the world is a worn garment that should be discarded.[8]

 

            Did God create the diversified world only so that we may jump over it and nullify it?

 

            It seems that a fundamental answer to these questions may be found at the beginning of the aforementioned words of R. Elimelekh: "Now, God, blessed be He, created His world in order to benefit [His] creatures, who through their serving Him, blessed be He, will merit great reward. Therefore, holy sparks fell at the time of Creation, in order that later through the service that they will perform to raise the sparks, they will merit much good."

 

            According to this approach, it was by intention that God first created the world of separation in order to give man the opportunity to bring about unity, and then unity would be his lot not as a gift, but as an achievement.

 

            Separation, according to this approach, is the challenge that God set for man in this world. A sort of riddle or treasure hunt, where man is the lead player, and everything is for his benefit and to bring him to the elevated level of comprehending unity through his choice, consciousness and actions.

 

            Another significant attempt to grapple with this question is found in the following passage:

 

This verse may also be explained in accordance with its plain meaning and in the aforementioned manner. In order to account for the redundancy of "You shall offer up a gift [tarimu teruma] to the Lord" (Bamidbar 15:19], for it would have sufficed to say, "You shall offer [tarimu] to the Lord." For we know what [the Sages] of blessed memory said (Berakhot 35b): Whoever derives pleasure from this world without [first] reciting a blessing is as if he steals from the Holy One, blessed be He, etc., and as if he derives pleasure from sacrifices consecrated to heaven. And the heaven is the heaven of God – prior to the blessing, and the land He gave to the children of man – following the blessing, as it is stated (Berakhot 35a). And elsewhere we explained the reason. For it is known that all of man's desires that are given to him by God, blessed be He, in this-worldly matters, were not given to him so that he may satisfy his bodily lust and desire. For all bodily desire is a bestial act, despicable and abominable before God, blessed be He, like the spirit of the beast that goes downward toward the earth (see Kohelet 3:21). And man was created in order to serve his Creator. And how would God, the great and terrible king, allow one who serves Him, stands before Him, and blesses in His name, to use those things that the beast uses, the disgusting and loathsome, like the lust for women, about which Chazal have stated (Shabbat 152a): "A jug full of excrement, its mouth full of blood." Or the lust for food, concerning which the holy Shela explained what they said (Shabbat 25b): "He who has a toilet near his table" – this means that while eating a person should remember the repulsiveness of the filth of the excrement that is made from his food, and he will see what he is craving and lusting for, for thereby he will abstain to the extent possible. See there. Were it not that the Blessed One, as it were, intended for His service that man should raise through his eating all the clarifications of the holy sparks which were scattered to all corners of the world in all material things, and gather the dispersed to restore them to bosom of their father. This is a great joy before Him, like the joy of a favored son who escapes a faraway house of captivity and returns to his father. (Be'er Mayim Chayyim, Shelach 15)

 

            R. Chayyim of Czernowitz, disciple of R. Yechiel Michel of Zolochev, who was a disciple of the Ba'al Shem Tov, sees all of material reality in all its diversity as sign posts that allow a person to touch and reach all of reality in order to redeem and elevate it. The separation of the sparks from their source and their dispersion is not depicted by R. Chayyim as a willed act of God, but as a description of the situation. It may, perhaps, even be understood as a sort of "historical accident" of Divine creation, a necessary result of the breaking of the vessels or the like.

 

            R. Chayyim's major interest, however, is not in the plurality of sparks and their dispersion, but in the plurality of the material world that clothes the sparks in the many varieties of taste, smell and form, the one unlike the other. All these, according to R. Chayyim, are intended to direct man to each and every spark in order to redeem it.

 

            Were there no distinction between the taste of an apple and the taste of a pomegranate, a person would make no effort to eat both of them. As a result, the encounter – made possible by the eating - between the person and the spark in need of redemption found in each of them would not take place.

 

            Were the scenery of the Golan Heights similar to that of the Judean Desert, nobody would exert himself to visit both sites, and thus there would be no redeeming encounter between man and each of these two places.

 

            Plurality, according to R. Chayyim, serves as a sort of "bait" that God leaves for man in order to bring him to all the particular elements of the world in all their diversity so that he may redeem them.

 

            Plurality in and of itself has no meaning, asserts R. Chayyim. As soon as a person reaches a certain reality, he must forsake and ignore the specific garment that brought him there, for it is like the worm whose entire purpose is to lure the fish to the hook, but in and of itself has no meaning.

 

The diversity of the material world is the bait set out to bring a person to the Divine sparks concealed within it. This principle also implies the way by which a person can raise the sparks. R. Chayyim of Czernowitz continues as follows:

 

The manner of raising the sparks, the essence is in this matter itself. When a person truly understands with a willful heart that all the material lusts are despicable and lowly and abominable, and they are truly despised in his heart so that he has no desire for them whatsoever, and on the contrary, he distances himself from them to the extent possible because of his great understanding of the abomination in these things, he will only do what is necessary for the benefit of the good that rests in that article in order to raise the holy spark to his father's house, to cause thereby pleasure and satisfaction, for he understands that this is the good and becoming objective. And just as he clarifies in his heart the good and the evil, to understand that this is good and this is evil and abominable, and he does not turn his heart to it, so will the holy spark be clarified from that article and rise to the bosom of his father, to the unity of the Holy One, blessed be He, and the Shekhina. However, when he does not do all that was supposed to be done to that bread in order that it be kosher and permitted, i.e., removing all traces of prohibition, removing the priestly gifts, teruma, tithe, and chala when that is applicable, and afterwards reciting a blessing over it in keeping with the laws of the Torah in order to testify that God is the source of all existence, namely, who causes this bread to come out of the land and everything is His – the holy spark will never be clarified from it, for it is not kosher in the best possible manner. On the contrary, he will bring another spark very far down by eating like the spirit of the beast that goes downward to the earth. This is what they said: Whoever derives pleasure from this world without [first] reciting a blessing is as if he steals from the Holy One, blessed be He, etc., and as if he derives pleasure from sacrifices consecrated to heaven. For even though this bread is kosher from every angle and perspective, if he does not recite a blessing over it before eating of it, all the intentions in the world will not help to clarify from within it the holy sparks dwelling within it. And since he does not clarify [anything], this food is holy to God. For all these things were only given to man in order to raise them heavenward. And since he does not raise it, God did not give it to him to worsen it, to bring another spark down to She'ol, and it is like sacrifices consecrated to heaven, and one who derives pleasure steals from God and commits trespass. (Be'er Mayim Chayyim, Shelach, 15)

  

            The consciousness toward which R. Chayyim strives is a consciousness of absolute removal of desire. As with R. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, this itself is the clarification of the spark concealed within man, and through that the spark in the world which he encounters will also be clarified.

 

            A person must strive for the highest place, where he falls for the bait, as it were, and swallows the worm, but in his consciousness he knows that the worm is not the bait, but rather the Divine spark standing behind it. Thus, the worm becomes secondary, and the person stands before the objective, before the spark, and, as we saw with R. Levi Yitzchak, the spark is redeemed.

 

            R. Chayyim puts greater emphasis on he consciousness of mission that accompanies a person in the act of redeeming sparks: "This is a great joy before Him, like the joy of a favored son who escapes a faraway house of captivity and returns to his father."

 

            A person acts with the consciousness of "gathering the outcasts of Israel" and "restoring sons to their borders," and his joy is immense. He derives pleasure and delight from the renewed unity that his actions fashion.

 

            R. Chayyim adds one important point to what was said by his predecessors – the world of Halakha. According to R. Chayyim, the world of Halakha is a necessary condition for the raising of sparks. A person can take into his hands bread that is not kosher and from which tithes have not been removed, and intend with all his being to raise the sparks concealed within it, but this action will not succeed. For, according to R. Chayyim, a spark can only be redeemed when all the actions required for its clarification have been taken, and part of these actions are embodied in the details of Halakha.[9]

 

            The road of a spark back to its source, teaches us R. Chayyim, is not exclusively subjective, and is not dependent solely on a person's consciousness and the manner in which he approaches the world. There is objective value to the act, and to the manner in which it is performed. If the variegated world is man's bait to the spark, Halakha is the "map" that must be used in order to pave the way for the spark to free itself from the fettering material world. According to R. Chayyim of Czernowitz, Halakha is directed to a very high place, for it teaches man the way to reach the world and scout the land, in order to reveal the Divine sparks concealed within it.[10]

 

CONCLUSION

 

            The idea of raising sparks is the most important tool with which man is equipped in this world. It provides man with the direction, the meaning and the content of all the action that accompanies him in this world.

 

            This idea begins with the important assertion that much of reality lies beyond the sight of man, and that there is more concealed than there is revealed.

 

            The idea continues with the fundamental truth that the more exposed, the cleaner, the purer, the more inwardly directed a person approaches the world, so will the world shine upon him in a more exposed manner.

 

            This idea continues also with the consciousness of mission that should fill a person and turn him into a redeemer and almost a messiah who gathers up not the outcasts of Israel, but the outcasts of the Divine back to their land.

 

            This idea ends with the partial or total nullification of the material world in all its diversity, and the provision of a different dimension – one that is more inwardly directed, more unified, and more spiritual - to the entire world.

 

            One who walks along the path of the idea of sparks must deal with the many varied shades of the world and the many faces that it shows us. At the same time, he must always direct himself to the world's inner aspects and meaning. Thus, all his actions, all his ways, all his existence, will be directed at that consciousness of mission that will eventually lead to "the joy of a favored son who escapes a faraway house of captivity and returns to his father."

 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] It should be noted that we have already dealt with the issue of raising sparks in several previous lectures: Shemot (lecture 11), Mishpatim (lecture 16), and Metzora (lecture 25). In this lecture, we will try to add to what was discussed already in those lectures, fully recognizing that even in this lecture we will not fully exhaust the discussion of this profound and fundamental issue.

 

[2] We will deal with the continuation of this teaching later in this lecture.

 

[3] Rashi cites Midrash Tanchuma, which deals with the verse's transition from plural to singular: "And the woman took the two men and hid him" (Yehoshua 2:4). According to the Midrash, it was only Calev whom Rachav hid, because Pinchas appeared then as an angel and so the Cana'anites were unable to see him.

 

[4] This, of course, is reminiscent of the story of the Garden of Eden – the nakedness of Adam and Chava, their eating from the tree of knowledge, and the shame that came in its wake. 

 

[5] Da'at (knowledge) is the connecting sefira; it causes the shame and is also the result of shame: Eating from the tree of knowledge brings Adam and Chava to shame because of their nakedness, but in the end this shame brings Adam to "know" his wife Chava.

 

[6] The Midrash cited by R. Levi Yitzchak distinguishes between Pinchas and Calev – the spies sent by Yehoshua, saying that Pinchas had to raise the sparks from the Cana'anites, and therefore it was necessary for him to strip himself of materiality. Thus, he appeared as an angel, those who wished him evil could not see him, and so Rachav did not have to hide him. Calev, on the other hand, had to raise the spark from Rachav the prostitute, regarding whom, in contrast to the Cana'anites, the spark was not so deeply concealed. Thus, Calev did not have to strip himself of materiality, and therefore Rachav had to hide him. (This is also clear on the manifest level, for Rachav's positive function is clear and manifest to all, whereas the function of the Cana'anite nations is concealed, requiring deep and profound contemplation.) We learn from this that one who strips himself of materiality does not have to participate in the game being played in the material world, for he rises above it. However, one who remains in his material state must accept, as it were, the rules of the game of the material world.

 

[7] See our lecture on Parashat Mishpatim, where we dealt with this question regarding eating.

 

[8] This difficult question gave rise to the unique and original approach put forward by Rav Kook. Rav Kook tried to attach Divine meaning to plurality, arguing that the raising of sparks does not pass through the nullification of the material world, but through its sanctification. The plurality of the world is not a deficiency but a virtue. The raising of sparks is accomplished through the development of a spiritual capacity to collect all of the diversity into a single unity, not through its nullification, but by attaching spiritual value to each of its varied colors, which only in their unity - each one in its own unique way - complete the perfect Divine revelation.

 

[9] Thus, R. Chayyim deals with one of the most dangerous ramifications of the idea of raising sparks – sin for the sake of God. Sabbateanism from the school of Shabtai Tzvi, and to an even greater degree Frankism from the school of Ya'akov Frank, tried to raise the sparks from the entire world - even from sinful behavior and forbidden conduct. R. Chayyim of Czernowitz denies the validity of such an approach, arguing that halakhic observance is a necessary condition for raising sparks. This issue requires separate discussion.

 

[10] According to another approach, one that we have not discussed in this lecture, Halakha serves as an anchor that ensures that a person is acting out of pure and refined motivations to redeem the world, free of ulterior motives and desires. According to this approach, human consciousness is the moving and operative force, while Halakha is the force that refines and preserves. This stands in contrast to R. Chayyim's approach, according to which Halakha and the consciousness act together as the tool striving after the Divine spark and its redemption.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)