Love remains the most compelling and elusive issues of
our time, and perhaps of all time.
How can I find a healthy, meaningful and above all, permanent
No adequate answer will be found to this question until
we first understand what exactly a relationship is.
The word “relationship” means two things relating to one
another. But what is the essence of a relationship? What
makes a relationship work? What ingredients are necessary?
The secret of a relationship can be found in an unlikely
place: The month in which we find ourselves now.
We have just entered the Hebrew month of Elul, the last
month of the year. Every month has its own unique energy
and power. Elul is the month of love and relationships.
The sign of Elul is Virgo, and one of the acronyms of Elul
is: Ani l’dodi v’dodi li, meaning “I am to my
beloved, and my beloved is to me” (Song of Songs 6:3).
Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li captures the very essence of
a relationship: It is mutually symbiotic fusion of two forces
– I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me.
First there are two distinct personalities: “I”
and “my beloved.” Then the “I” (my
personality) takes the initiative and reaches to “my
beloved.” In turn, “my beloved” responds
Ani l’dodi v’dodi li emphasizes another vital aspect
– that a relationship is a reflection: You and your
beloved mirror each other. Like the face reflected in water,
one heart [is reflected] in another (Proverbs 27:19). Love
elicited is in direct proportion to love given. When “I
am to my beloved” – “my beloved”
will be “to me.” The same way that “I
am to my beloved,” so will “my beloved”
be “to me.”
Thinking of love as your reflection is quite extraordinary:
Look into the eyes of your beloved and you will see yourself.
Finally, Elul’s Ani l’dodi v’dodi li teaches us
that love is about initiating. First Ani L’dodi –
I am to me beloved, and that is the catalyst for “my beloved
to me.” Love is proactive, nor reactive or passive. If you
want love in your life do not stand on the sidelines, “protecting”
yourself from being hurt and wait for someone to love you.
You must learn to give – to initiate, to love. And when
you do – love comes back to you.
One powerful question, however, looms: How is it possible
that two distinct entities should become one? Can they actually
retain their distinct personalities and truly love each
other? It’s one thing to say that for love we pay
a price. The price is relinquishing independence and compromising
your identity for the benefits that love brings. But it’s
quite another to claim that love can be had without compromising
Yet, we are told that true love is unity, and true unity
is the fusion of two souls in one seamless union, in which
both remain intact while joining as one.
How that paradox is possible requires a journey into the
mystery of Divine Unity (Hashem Echod), the theme
of this column over the last few weeks.
The quest to discover Divine unity in a pluralistic universe
is far thornier than the effort to build unity between finite
creatures. After all, as different as two people may be,
they still are both human, both mortal and finite, both
with more similarities than differences, and both in need
of love. G-d and the universe, on the other hand, are infinitely
distant entities, that seemingly have nothing in common.
Quite the contrary: they are diametric opposites: G-d is
infinite, the universe is finite; G-d the invulnerable Creator,
we the fragile creatures. Above all, our existential, dependent,
existence is absolutely different than the Divine non-existential,
independent, existence (metzius bilti metzius nimtza).
How then is it possible to unite these opposite realities?
The entire study of Kabbalah and Chassidus – Jewish
mysticism – comes to answer this very question; to
teach us how humans can develop a relationship with G-d
The mystics lay out an elaborate system which allows us
the ability to achieve Divine Unity (Hashem Echod)
in the universe: Like “stepping stones” the process of creation,
called the “cosmic order,” enables us to climb the ladder
that marries heaven and earth, the human and the Divine
– the finite and the infinite.
week we discussed the first step in this process –
the Tzimtzum concealment. In order for there to be a relationship
we first need independence – an “I” who
reaches to “my beloved.” In the presence of
the Divine omnipresence no independent entity can arise.
The Tzimtzum concealment allowed “room” for
our independent consciousness to emerge.
However, the Tzimtzum is not “literal,” it
is only a state of concealment, and it only affects the
outermost layers of consciousness (light), not the higher
states, and surely not on the unconscious level. [Yet, even
the non-literal Tzitmzum is real, not an illusion, and the
independent reality it creates is real, not just in our
perception]. Hence, despite the concealment we always have
the ability to connect and integrate our lives with the
Divine light and the Divine Essence.
But the Tzimtzum only explains the possibility for potential
integration, not how to actually achieve it. The
non-literal Tzimtzum tells us that within existence we can
find the Divine. But does existence itself have Divine properties?
To answer this question we need to dissect existence a
bit. What exactly is existence?
Existence as we know it is comprised of various elements,
but in its most basic form they break down into two forces:
matter and energy. Every part of the universe, from the
largest to the smallest, has a “body,” some
form (physical or otherwise), and a “soul,”
the inner power that defines the energy of the object. Matter
is the “outer” layer and energy is its “inner”
function and purpose.
Breaking it down further, both matter and energy are also
each comprised of these two dimensions: The “body”
of matter – its tangible properties, and the “energy”
of matter – its shape, form and function: The “body”
of energy – its definable personality, and the soul
“energy” of energy – its deeper purpose.
Now the question is this: When we connect our lives to
the Divine do we do so only on the spiritual (energy) level
or also on the material (matter) level?
The argument could be made, as some schools of thought
maintain, that the objective of life is to deny the material
and transcend to the spiritual. Unity, then, is achieved
exclusively on the soul level.
Even if we need to engage somewhat the material world,
some suggest that at most we can channel the “function”
of matter toward spiritual ends, but not the coarse matter
At the other extreme, one could argue that even the spirit
and energy of existence cannot be integrated with the Divine.
At most the “energy” of energy can find some
commonality with G-dliness, but not the “matter”
of energy (its personality and form). A soul can unite with
G-d only in a very general sense, but not with its distinct
personality. Its must relinquish its individuality in order
to become one with the Divine.
[All these viewpoints, mind you, are possible even according
to the non-literal interpretation of the Tzimtzum, which
only tells us that the Divine is present (albeit concealed)
within existence, but does not inform us about the personality
of existence, and thus, to what extent we can integrate
the universe with the Divine. Let alone according to the
literal interpretation of the Tzimtzum, according to which
there is no direct relationship between our world and the
reality of the Divine].
In the ultimate application of Divine unity, the mystics
teach us – as emphasized in the works of the Chassidic
masters – that the unity must permeate every fiber
of existence, not just its spirit, not just its shape, form
and function, not just in general terms. But every dimension
of the universe – from energy to matter, from the
matter of energy to the matter of matter – contains
a Divine dimension that is waiting to be released.
They explain this with the elegant structure of the “cosmic
order” comprised of “energies” (lights)
and “containers,” which correspond with and
are the root of the “energy” and “matter”
of our universe.
By understanding the interplay between “light”
and “container” and how each of them interact
with their respective divine source, we can learn how to
marry heaven and earth and integrate every aspect of our
beings with higher purpose, ultimately with the Divine itself.
The relationship between these forces teach us how to develop
the relationship between our material bodies and souls,
between our involvements in the physical worlds with our
spiritual endeavors; we learn ho to develop and expand our
own material “containers” and fuse them with
the “lights” of spirituality.
Beginning with the human soul shaped in the Divine Image,
the mystics explain that the soul manifests and mirrors
the Divine energy (light); each person’s soul is a
reflection, a microcosm of G-d’s “personality.”
And not just in a general sense, but the distinct personality
of each soul is rooted in the distinct personality of the
“lights,” which have defined properties (there
are actually several
opinions regarding the extent of these “light”
properties, which reflect in different levels of the unity
that can be achieved. But the final consensus is that the
“lights” have individual properties, which allow
our unique personalities to find divine expression).
Similarly, the spiritual forces within the material world
can be aligned to their respective Divine roots, in all
their glorious detail, rooted in the Divine light, the kav
(thin ray of light) that pierced through the Tzimtzum, whose
source is the light before the Tzimtzum, the Divine power
to create the infinite (koach ha’bli-gvul).
That’s the soul. What about the body and the matter of
the universe? The human body too was created in the Divine
Image, and every aspect of matter is shaped by the “hand
of G-d.” Not only “light” but also the “containers” reflect
higher levels of the Divine. Not only the spirit but also
the structure of existence is rooted in the Source with
G-dlike features, which we have to reveal.
In mystical terms: The “containers” of existence are rooted
in the Divine
“containers” of Atzilut, which in turn are a reflection
of the “containers” of Adam Kadmon, which
originate from the (letters of the) reshimu, the
residue that remained after but was unaffected by the Tzimtzum,
rooted in the Divine power to create the finite (koach
Now, when you take into account that “light”
and “container” join together until they become
one, we can begin to understand E=mc2 – how energy
and matter are actually one and the same.
This, briefly, is the way the Kabbalists explain how the
very fabric of existence (matter and energy) can be integrated
with the Divine. It’s not just that the Divine Essence,
which transcends all definitions and structures, enables
the fusion of matter and spirit. That would imply that the
fusion is solely a result of the Essence’s power,
despite the limits of existence. The ultimate purpose
is that the universe, on its own terms and by the standards
of its own parameters, contains the Divine. That is ultimate
unity – not simply on G-d’s terms, but also
on the terms of existence. Such unity can only be achieved
when we recognize that in the personality of existence glimmers
of the Divine.
Discovering the Divine within the properties of our universe
is the most magnificent effort we can undertake, transforming
life into a majestic journey.
The ultimate manifestation of Divine unity is in human
relationships – in the ways of love and marriage.
The “lights” and “containers” that
teach us how we can fuse our lives with the Divine, teach
us how we can discover true unity, while maintaining our
individuality in our interpersonal relationships.
A good analogy for this is music: The power and beauty
of a melody is dependent on each note maintaining its “individuality”
and playing its unique sound. Simultaneously, each note
is completely fused with all the others, all complementing
each other, without in any way compromising each ones’
distinct identity. The same synthesis – harmony out
of diversity – can be witnessed in the symmetry of
every healthy organism and system, from the human body to
the extraordinary design of nature.
A true relationship is total fusion of two – “I
am to my beloved and my beloved to me.” Two distinct
individuals, with different bodies and different souls,
join together, in one seamless union. Neither is compromised
or diminished. A transcendent power enables the fusion;
but it also manifests in the individual personalities: as
they remain intact they also recognize on their own individual
terms that love – “I am to my beloved and my
beloved to me” – is the ultimate expression
In this month of Elul we have the opportunity to create,
mend and renew relationships. May we use the month well,
and may we all be blessed with experiencing “I am
to my beloved and my beloved to me.”
One fundamental question still remains: How can we achieve
total fusion of “I am to my beloved and my beloved
is to me” when the Divine Essence is a non-existential
reality, completely different and beyond our existential
existence? Given, we can unite with the Divine as it manifests
in existence, but can we actually connect to the ultimate
reality – the innermost essence of Divine reality,
which we have absolutely no way of relating to?
The answer – coming next week. See you then.