ESSAY: The Subconscious of G-d
Why has a most crucial element of our faith been a mystery
for thousands of years?
A TELLING STORY: Accommodations
Would G-d spend the night here?
INSIGHTS: On Truth and Falsehood
The only fool, the boldest of thieves and the greatest
I see it, but not now; I behold it, but it is not near.
A star shall come forth from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise
up from Israel...
from Bilaams prophecy on Moshiach, Numbers
[Regarding the time of the Redemption,] the Heart does
not reveal to the Mouth
Zohar, part I, 8a
Fundamental to our faith is the daily anticipation of the
Redemption: not only a belief in, but also a constant expectation
of, Moshiachs imminent coming. In the words of Maimonides,
one who does not believe in him, or does not anticipate
his coming disavows the whole of Judaism.
The Torah is replete with references to the end of
days and the state of universal harmony and perfection
that it will bring. However, there is no clear indication
as to when it will come: we havent been given a time
or date for the final Redemption. The Zohar goes so far as
to say that, with regard to the time for the Moshiachs
coming, The [divine] heart does not reveal to the [divine]
mouth, implying that G-d cannot articulate it even to
Why, indeed, has this been kept a secret from us? Why has
such a crucial element of our faith been a mystery for thousands
of years? And what does it mean that G-ds heart
does not convey it to His own mouth?
Speaking a World
The Torah, speaking in the language of men, describes the divine act of creation
as an act of speech: G-d said Let there be light,
Let the earth sprout forth greenery,
and so on, and the various elements of existence came into
Chassidic teaching takes this a step further: the world is
the speech of G-d. The divine utterances of Genesis are not
merely mediums or forces which bring the creations into existence,
but are the very essence of their being. What we perceive
as a stone, a human being or a physical law is, in truth,
the divine communication that it should exist.
Why speech? Why is and G-d said the appropriate
metaphor to borrow from human experience to describe what
happened at creation? Because despite its apparent formidability,
our world can hardly be said to exist at all. Is what we experience
as reality in fact real? Yes and no, say the Chassidic
masters. On the one hand, it is wholly dependent upon its
Creator, every fraction of time, for being and life. As one
Chassidic thinker put it, if G-d no longer wished that our
world should exist, G-d forbid, He need not destroy itthe
moment He ceases to will it into being, it no longer is. A
reality of such dependence and subjectivity hardly
qualifies as an existence in its own rightall it is
is the expression of another, infinitely greater beings
desire that it be.
On the other hand, our world is imbued with a sense of selfhood
and distinctiveness of being. Although the fact that we sense
our own existence and that of our environment to be real does
not prove anything (for all we know, our sense of existence
may be an illusion), the Torah gives credence to this reality.
It states: In the Beginning G-d created the heavens
and the earth.
It also tells us that He created them with a purpose in mindthat
He desires that we develop them in a certain way and that
we refrain from other deeds which corrupt His creation. Furthermore,
the sense of self which we experience is an integral
part of this purpose: G-d specifically wanted a world which
would perceive itself as a reality apart from its Creator,
and that this lowly realm should choose to develop
itself as a dwelling for G-dan environment
receptive and hospitable to His reality.
Illusion or not, creations self-definition as a distinct
reality has a truth to it, a validity granted it by its Creator.
To express the paradoxical nature of creations reality,
the Torah borrows the term speech from human experience.
Man creates on three basic levels: thought, speech and action.
Were the Torah to say that G-d made a world, this
would imply a creation as disconnected from its creator as
the products of mans physical actions are from theirs:
a person builds a building, paints a picture or writes a book,
and his creation is now a distinct and independent existence,
even possessing a life of its own. On the other
hand, to describe reality as a divine thought
would imply that it exists only within its Creators
reality. Speech, however, describes an existence which, on
the one hand, is distinct from its source, yet on the other,
is utterly dependent upon it and possesses no reality other
than that dependence.
When a person speaks, he creates something which extends
beyond his own existence. The thought which he had conceived,
and which, up until now, has existed only within his mind,
is now translated into words which leave his person
to attain a separateness from their creator. Nevertheless,
they are utterly dependent upon him for existence: the moment
he ceases to speak, the entity we refer to as his speech
no longer exists. In other words, their existence can only
be defined in terms of his ongoing involvement to create them.
So it is with our world. G-d desires that it exist, and that
it constitute a reality which is (at least in its own perception)
distinct from His own. On the other hand, the world has no
independent existence; it possesses no reality other than
G-ds constant involvement to create and sustain it.
In other words, G-d did not make a worldHe spoke it.
Retreating Into Thought
A person may articulate a thought to himself and create
no further; but every word or act of his is also a thought,
conceived first in the mind and then given an existence distinct
of himself as words or actions.
The same is true of G-ds creation: the spoken
world we inhabit represents the lowest and most external layer
of His creation, and is preceded by a higher, more intimate
version of creationa reality which may be described
as G-ds thought. When we say that this thought
reality precedes our conventional speech reality,
this is not to say that it precedes it in physical timephysical
time is itself a product of G-ds creation; rather, it
is the self-same world we inhabit, yet on an earlier
(i.e., closer to its source) plane of awareness and self-definition.
This is a world which sees itself not as an entity distinct
from its Creator, but as a concept within the divine mindas
something submerged within the divine reality.
For six days a week we live in the spoken world
generated by the divine utterances of Genesis. But for one
day each week, we enter a higher plane of awareness, as our
world recedes from its spoken state to the realm
of divine thought. As the Torah relates in its account of
creation, for six days G-d spoke the world,projecting His
concept of creation into the separate reality
we know. On the seventh day He ceased to speak. He did not,
however, cease to createwere He to do so, the world
would have ceased to exist. Rather, He withdrew from the externalization
of speech and confined Himself to the internal creation of
thought. He continued to articulate our world, not as something
outside of himself but as a self-contained conceptualization
of His vision of creation.
The seven days of creation are an ongoing cycle. Every Shabbat,
G-d withdraws from His more external mode of creation, elevating
our world to the level of divine thought. On Shabbat we still
live in the very same world we inhabit during the other six
days of the week, but on Shabbat the I am of our
world is muted, its illusion of distinctiveness more transparent.
On this day, man can more readily transcend the disconnectedness
of the material reality and experience a union and identification
with his essence and source.
Within the realm of thought itself are many levels of definition
Conscious thought is closest to the outward projection of
speech. It, too, is composed of images and words. Although
expressed in a language more abstract and nebulous
than that of speech (a single fleeting thought may take hours
to articulate verbally and may contain many nuances of understanding
which are not translatable into spoken words), it has a language
nonetheless, and is thus a world comprised of
definitive entities. While a persons conscious thoughts
do not exist outside of himself, they occupy a distinct place
within his mind.
If we apply this metaphor to the divine thought-reality of
Shabbat, we might say that on Shabbat we enter a state of
being that might be described as G-ds conscious
thought: a realm that is within the divine
reality but whose union and identification with its source
is not absolute: it is a distinct creation, albeit a wholly
Thus, Shabbat is only a taste of a higher realitya
reality that can only be described as the subconscious
thought of G-d.
Subconscious thought has no language, no definition, no parametersnothing
to distinguish it from the mind which contains it. The definitive
thoughts to which it gives birth seem to spring out of nowherefrom
the essence of the mind itself. We know that they must already
exist in some earlier, more arcane incarnationin
what we, in the language of men, call subconscious
thoughts. Yet these form no identifiable part of the
conceivers mind, but are seamlessly woven into the very
fabric of its essence.
The Torah tells us that at the very beginnings of creation,
the spirit of G-d hovered above a still vacant
and formless world. This spirit of G-d,
say our sages, is the spirit of Moshiach G-ds primordial subconscious
conception of creation.
The era of Moshiach is therefore described as a time of absolute
and eternal Shabbat.
For if on Shabbat our world is elevated to the realm of divine
conscious thought, the era of Moshiach is a time when we will
inhabit the subconscious of G-d. Again, it is
our world, the same world we live in today, different not
in substance but in awareness. Its self-perception is not
that of the external world of speech, nor even
that of the submerged but still distinct world of conscious
thought, but one of seamless unity with its Conceiver
Thus our sages describe the age of Moshiach as a reality
which the heart does not reveal to the mouth.
Our present-day world is the divine moutha
world whose relationship with its Creator is like the relationship
between spoken words and their speakerwhile the era
of Moshiach is a time when our world will graduate to its
primordial place in the subconscious heart of
G-d. Therefore, just as the world of the subconscious cannot
be expressed as conscious thoughts, and certainly not verbalized
as words, so, too, the time of the ultimate Redemption is
unarticulateable to a speech-defined existence.
Yet it is this most intimate heart of G-d that will become
our everyday experience and reality, when we complete our
task to make our lives and world a dwelling for G-d.
Based on numerous talks by the Rebbe, including an address
delivered on Nissan 12, 5750 (April 7, 1990)
In one of his travels, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov arrived
in a town where he was invited to stay at the home of the
local rabbi. Instead, Rabbi Israel chose to avail himself
of the hospitality of a certain tavern-keepera coarse
and ignorant man known for his vulgar speech and depraved
When asked why he preferred the company of a reputed sinner
over that of a pious scholar, Rabbi Israel explained: The
Torah tells us that the Divine Presence dwells amongst
[the Jewish people], in the midst of their profanities.
On the other hand, the Talmud states that G-d says of an egotistical
person, He and I cannot dwell in the same world.
The tavern-keeper might be a sinner, concluded
the Baal Shem Tov. But if G-d says that He nevertheless
dwells with him, I, too, can be his guest. The rabbi, on the
other hand, might be a great scholar and a very religious
person, but he is a proud and egotistical man. If G-d says
that He cannot find place for Himself in the same world with
him, how can I find a place for myself in his home?
On Truth and Falsehood
The Only Fool
Said Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin: It is impossible to fool
G-d. It is forbidden to fool ones fellow man. The only
one that one can fool is oneself.
A liar, said the Maggid of Kelm, is worse
than a thief or robber. A thief steals at night, but is afraid
to steal by day. A robber robs night and day, but only robs
a lone individual or a few peoplehe is afraid to rob
too many at once. The liar, however, lies both night and day,
both to the individual and to the world.
The worst thing about falsehood, Rabbi Yosef
Yitzchak of Lubavitch would say, is not that it is not
true, but that it presents itself as truth.
Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber
. Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 11:1; Introduction
to Perek Cheilek, The Twelfth Principle.
. Talmud, Berachot 31b, et al.
. Midrash Tanchuma, Nasso 16; Tanya, ch. 36.
. Midrash Rabbah on verse.
. From the Shabbat addendum to the Grace After Meals.
. Sefer HaSichot 5750, p. 397.
. Talmud, Erachin 15b.