The Weekly Torah Portion of: Va'etchanan
The Compound Word for Essential Unity
The Hebrew word echad, which means "one", is the most important word in the verse (Deuteronomy 6:4):
Hear O' Israel, God is our God, God is One
The numerical value of echad is 13. God's absolute oneness is reflected in the number 13, which is also the numerical value of ahavah, "love."
When we meditate we see holy images. God, in His absolute unity, is above form or image. By meditating on the three letters of the word echad, we paradoxically visualize that which has no form, and become one with, and conscious of, He Who has no picture. By definition, absolute unity cannot be visualized. If it can be visualized, this means that it has parts, and then it is not essentially one. Nevertheless, by visualizing the word echad, we will bring the awareness of God's unity into our consciousness.
This can be compared to the stage of ratzo; "running" from the visualized images toward God's absolute unity, which is above the images.
The Meditation of the Shulchan Aruch
The first meditation on the word echad in the verse:
Hear O' Israel, God is our God, God is One
is written in the Shulchan Aruch, The Code of Jewish Law. The alef of echad represents alufo(from the letter alef) shel olam,"the Master of the Universe." The numerical value of the alef is 1, and it represents the Essential One. The Shulchan Aruch warns not to dwell too long on the image of the alef, as it is intangible and cannot be readily grasped.
From the alef we continue to meditate on the following letter, chet. The numerical value of chetis 8. Meditation on chet is to meditate on the fact that God's unity permeates all visible and imaginable reality. It first permeates the 7 levels of the firmament above, and then continues to descend to the 8th level of earth below.
Finally we reach the letter dalet, whose numerical value is 4 and which corresponds to the four directions; God's unity spreading east, west, north and south.
When we first connect to images and then to God's unity, we are in the stage of ratzo, as above. In the meditation of the Shulchan Aruch, we experience the stage of shov ("return"). We "return" from our initial meditation on God's unity in the alef and descend to visualize how His unity permeates reality in all seven firmaments above, on earth below and in all four directions.
Chassidut on Echad
Chassidut adds another dimension to the meditation on echad. Every Jewish soul is an actual part of God. When we learn to recognize God's unity, we have to simultaneously meditate on God's unity with the source of our souls. The soul originates in absolute unity with God. This is the point of the alef. When it is Divinely decreed that the soul must enter a body, it descends through the seven firmaments. The soul then reaches the 8th level, the body, referred to as "earth." This descent of the soul into the body is the level of the chet.
Every soul is an emissary of God to spread Divine consciousness to the four corners of the earth. The level of the dalet is the level at which the soul "bursts forth" to all four directions to fulfill its Divine mission.
The Intermediate Level of Directions
When we understand the role of the four directions in our meditation, we will understand the link between the two meditations above and the following meditation.
In Hebrew, the word for "direction" is ruach. Literally, ruach means "spirit" or "wind." Every direction is a wind, and every wind is a spirit. In our meditation, the spirit that alludes toMashiach is the intermediary link between the previous meditations and the meditation that follows.
The word ruach alludes to two important verses in the Bible. In Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones (Ezekiel 37), the ruach has to be blown into the nostrils of the people to bring them back to life and redeemed. In order to be redeemed they need the spirit of God. In the above Chassidic meditation on the dalet, this spirit is directed outward to spread Divine consciousness to the four corners of the earth. Here, the four directions of God's spirit are directed inward, breathed by Mashiach into the nostrils of the people.
The second verse to which ruach alludes is in Isaiah (Isaiah 11:2), where it is written thatMashiach will receive four spirits: the spirit of God, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of council and might and the spirit of consciousness and awe of God. The large dalet of the word echad as it is written in the Torah alludes to these four spirits descending on theMashiach. Since, as the Ba'al Shem Tov teaches, we all have a spark of Mashiach, we pray that this verse will be fulfilled in our own lives.
The Messianic Meditation
Now that we understand that Mashiach is represented by the dalet of echad, we can proceed to the third meditation. In essence, though, the Mashiach is related to all three letters of the word echad, and not just to the dalet. He reverses the order of our meditation. First, the four spirits of winds descend on us, and then we are able to go out and bring the consciousness of God's absolute unity to all creation.
Chimney, Window, Door
There is a Chassidic idiom that says that Mashiach may come through the chimney (arubah,beginning with alef), or possibly will fly through the window (chalon, beginning with chet) or will enter through the door (delet, beginning with dalet). The first letters of each of these possible entry points, alef, chet, dalet, spells echad. These three possibilities for Mashiach's arrival are the three images for which we aspire when we think of his coming. While the appearance ofMashiach in the chimney is extraordinary, his entrance through the window is less so. TheMashiach walking in through the door is the most natural of the three.
Mashiach Down the Chimney
Mashiach can be anything and is everything. While we can easily imagine a human Mashiachentering through the door, the image of a chimney most clearly associates to smoke and fire. In Kabbalah, "smoke," (in Hebrew: "ashan"; see the Torah Portion of Yitro) is an acronym for all dimensions of reality: space, time and soul. Mashiach's first task is to completely do away with evil and suffering. The image of Mashiach as smoke is the image of burning away all evil on earth. The obliteration of evil is the necessary starting point for Mashiach, but from there he must progress.
Mashiach Through the Window
The image of something flying in through the window is the image of a bird. In the Zohar it is written that while Mashiach waits to redeem us, he sits in a bird's nest. The numerical value of the Hebrew word for "bird," tzipor, (376) is equal to the numerical value of shalom, "peace." After obliterating evil and suffering, the Mashiach then turns to bringing absolute, universal peace on earth. Many people mistakenly think that the apex of the Mashiach's mission is to bring peace. However, the Mashiach must also proceed to the next stage, and enter through the door.
Mashiach Through the Door
The image of Mashiach coming in through the door, is the image of the long lost groom reuniting with his beloved bride, as described in the Song of Songs. It is the union of the Jewish People with God and of the entire world with God. When we meditate on echad, we connect to this experience of infinite love of delights. It is the ultimate manifestation in our souls of God's perfect unity, and is the most essential of the three images. As explained above, the numerical value of ahavah, "love," (13) is the same as echad. God's absolute oneness manifests as the love of delights between Him and Israel.
Peace and Love
Chassidut explains that because peace necessarily involves a pact between at least two opposing entities, the concept of peace exists only after the initial contraction of God's infinite light. The Lubavitcher Rebbe goes on to explain that the concept of love is two lovers manifesting one state of absolute unity. As such, love exists before the initial contraction of God's infinite light, as it is the manifestation of God's light. This is especially true for the epitome of love, the love of delights between God and Israel.
The 3-staged progression of Mashiach's arrival is beautifully illustrated according to the four elements. The Mashiach comes to redeem people, represented by the element of earth or dust. He first manifests through the chimney as fire, and then through the window as wind. Finally, he manifests through the door as water.
The Connection Between Water, Door and Love
In Hebrew, the word for a well of water is deli, which shares a root with the word for "door,"delet. The spring of Miriam provided Israel with water as they advanced through the desert. When they would reach a campsite, a stream of water would flow from the spring straight into the door of each and every tent. In the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe explains that this is the image of the beloved groom entering the door and coming home to his yearning bride. It is the love (13) of delights of Mashiach manifesting as the absolute unity (echad, 13) of God and his bride, Israel.
God, the Essential One
God's unity permeating all reality via seven firmaments
God's unity spreading in all four directions
Origin of soul in absolute unity of God
Descent of soul via seven firmaments to body
Divine mission of soul