Lite - It Takes
Two to Tango
By Simon Jacobson
Editor's Note: Click here for Part
1 of this article. This article was written during Chanukah
Each day of Chanukah we progress in the amount of lights we
generate. With each growing light, we have the opportunity
to take a deeper look into the properties of light and its
message to us.
The wave/particle nature of light – like everything
in existence – has a body and a soul. The body is the physical
dimension, which manifests as material properties that we
humans can observe, study, measure and quantify. This is called
the scientific method. The soul of the object is comprised
of the spiritual properties that define and shape the essence
of the object. In other words, every detail of an entity’s
physical personality has a mystical – inner – counterpart.
As the spiritual energy ‘evolves’ and takes on physical shape,
its ethereal nature ‘translates’ into physical dimensions
that reflect their spiritual insides.
Indeed, uncovering the root source of existing
phenomena, can help us understand better and fuller their
nature and properties, and also teach us how we can tap into
these forces in a complete way.
So, what is the root source of the dual wave/particle
property of light?
Kabbalah and Chassidus explain that the balance
of life is dependent on the delicate dance between energy
and container, light and vessel (‘ohr’ and ‘keli’ in the original
Hebrew) – ‘wave’ and ‘particle.’ Light is essentially like
a ‘wave’ – a large field of energy, connected to the source
and emanating outward. The container is like a ‘particle’
– a discrete and defined entity, that grounds and compartmentalizes
the energy. This cosmic dance requires an acclimation of these
two antithetical forces – matter and spirit, form and function
– which initially defy each other, but then learn to adapt,
interact and finally fully unite into one cohesive unit. This
acclimation requires many stages, which actually define the
gradations and progression of the cosmic order (‘seder hishtalshilut’),
as the light and the containers learn to fuse together.
However, one major dilemma remains. Ultimately,
light and container are two opposite forces. How then can
they ever be expected to join as one, with the container absorbing
the light and the light manifesting in the container? This
quandary is not merely an esoteric one; it affects every major
decision and conflict in our lives: How can we ultimately
integrate our material and spiritual lives, our need to survive
and our need for transcendence? Is it possible to truly merge
matter and spirit, the outer and the inner – our inner selves
and our outer activities, who we are and what we do?
To resolve this paradox, the mystics teach us
that in essence both light and container come from one and
the same source – G-d – which is neither light
nor container. Resultantly, both light and container are not
mutually exclusive forces; they actually include properties
of the other: Light has a dimension of ‘container’ (particle)
within it, and the container has an element of ‘light’ (wave)
And here we will see the fascinating roots of
the ‘wave’ and ‘particle’ properties in light.
Chassidus explains that light has two dimensions,
which are first only subtly distinguishable, but later manifest
in more defined properties. Beginning from its ‘earliest’
root stage (not in time, but conceptually), there is the light
(energy) that flows ‘inward’ and the light that flows ‘outward.’
Projective energy and withholding energy.
On the next level, there is the ‘infinite light’
and the ‘finite light.’ These two dimensions will become the
root on a lower level of the cosmic order of ‘ohr ha’sovev,’
the light that transcends the worlds (‘sovev kol almin’),
and ‘ohr ha’memaleh,’ the light the fills the worlds (‘memaleh
The ‘finite light’ (according to some opinions)
is the root of the ‘ten sefirot’ (the ten emanations of Divine
attributes which will ‘become,’ once existence comes into
being, the building blocks of existence). At this ‘root’ level
these sefirot do not yet have defined shape and form (relatively
speaking), and they are called the ‘ten hidden sefirot.’
All this is on the level of light as it is in
its source, before it actually manifests itself in existence.
On the next level, following the ‘great tzimtzum’ (concealment/contraction
of the all encompassing light) which leaves ‘space’ for existence
(and the containers/particles) to become, comes what is called
the ‘kav,’ a thin ray of light which shines into the vacuum
created by the tzimtzum. The ‘kav’ (lit. line) is light, but
the light is not extending in all directions, but is in the
shape of a narrow line, and like a line, the ‘kav’ is made
up of points (‘particles’). The light of the ‘kav’ in other
words combines both ‘wave-like’ (infinite) properties and
‘particle-like’ (finite) properties.
This dual nature of the ‘kav’ would allow the
light to manifest and ultimately join with the container.
The Etz Chaim adds that “from the thickness
[i.e. the particles] in the light the containers are conceived.”
Finally, when the lights enter the containers
and produce the actual ‘sefirot’ the dual nature becomes fully
manifest [one of the roots of the word ‘sefirah’ itself is
to shine: ‘sefirah’ from the word sapir, the luminous
sapphire stone]: On one hand, the light of the sefirot cause
them to be ethereal and wave-like. On the other, the containers
give the ‘sefirot’ particle-like distinct shape and form.
In Kabbalah there are actually three general
opinions as to the nature of the light, to what degree the
light itself contains ‘particle-like’ qualities, and how much
of the particle-like shape and form stems from the interaction
of the light with the container.
Rabbi Menachem Rakanti is of the opinion that
the light has no ‘particles’ shaping; the shape comes exclusively
from the containers. The Maarechet (and the Avodat HaKodesh
and the Radbaz) holds that the light has defined particles.
The Ramak and the Arizal reconcile between the two and explain
that the light on its own has no particles, it assumes them
through its manifestation in the containers. However, the
Arizal goes further and explains that light on its own also
has ‘particles,’ yet in the light they are ‘wave-like’ and
therefore, concealed and unrecognizable.
Though this may be quite esoteric and abstract
for some of the readers (for which I apologize) I felt compelled
to write this because I believe that understanding the soul
of light (its spiritual dimension) can help us immensely in
understanding the body of light, including its dual wave/particle
properties. The different opinions, for example, on the extent
of the ‘particle-like’ qualities in light and their reasoning,
can help us learn more about the particle/wave-like properties
of light, and the balance between them.
I hereby submit, that by tracing light’s most
esoteric roots, by discerning the different levels of light
and the various opinions on the nature of light, we will be
able to both better comprehend our present knowledge of light,
as well as open up hitherto unrevealed mysteries as to the
nature of light in our universe.
As much – or as little – as we know about light,
there is so much more to uncover. Indeed, I would be bold
enough to predict that we will soon discover that light is
an entity whose surface we have barely scratched. We have
discovered that light has dual properties of wave and particle,
but that is just the tip of the iceberg. The mystical teachings
on light can shed new light (no pun intended) on the nature
of light and help us appreciate the very stuff that makes
up our existence.
I hope that this encourages and motivates scientists
and laymen to further explore these teachings on light. If
you are interested in learning more about these ideas, I will
be happy to help direct you.
What does all this light-talk mean in practical
Allow me to say this. Whether you do or don’t
understand the nature of light, whether you are or are not
interested in the topic, these two dimensions of light define
the shape of your life. The balance between wave and particle
actually can help you improve your life and your relationships.
Here’s how: You see, each of our struggles comes
down to a battle between two forces, what we will call the
‘wave’ and the ‘particle’ elements of your life. Ask yourself
the following questions:
1. Am I too consumed with the details of
my life and have I lost focus? Does the small picture distract
me, forgetting the big one?
2. Or is it the other way around: Am I lost
in the big picture, seduced by my idealism, fantasy and dreams,
and lacking implementation? Simply not getting the job done,
as my whimsical imagination floats in space?
3. Does my intimacy or spirituality affect and
permeate the rest of my day, my work, my mundane activities?
Or conversely: Does my spirituality not allow me to enter
the daily grind? Am I escaping into the world of spirit or
burying myself in the world of matter?
4. Do I compartmentalize? And if yes, am I aware
of its affects in my life?
Each of the mystical opinions on the amount
of shape and ‘particles’ within light address another aspect
of the balance between the diversity and unity of our existence.
The ultimate goal is to integrate both elements: the distinct
and discrete shape of the details of our lives and the unifying
Wavy particles, particley waves. Perhaps these
are the true 0’s and 1’s that make up existence. If we were
able to master the wave/particle dance of light, our lives
would become that much brighter.
Ahh, flames of Chanukah: I will try not to forget
your warm and illuminating message…
Shaar Ha'Akudim chapter
3. Shaar Seder Abiy'a chapter 1. Explained in the discourse
Otah Ohr 5672. End of the discourse BaSukkot Teishvu 5710.