Chassidic Psychologymain postsSukotTishrei

Receiving Divine Inspiration

During Simchat Beit HaSho’eivah of Sukkot 5782, HaRav Ginsburgh taught a long and content-rich shiur revolving around several different topics. The following is just a part of the original class. It beautifully explains, using both intellectual and Divine-service oriented language, the secret of the Divine inspiration (Ru’ach HaKodesh) that one is privielged to draw from the joy of Simchat Beit HaSho’eivah.

In the first part of the class, we ascend higher and higher intellectually towards a deep explanation of the concepts of “mysteries of wisdom” (תַּעֲלוּמוֹת חָכְמָה) and “mysteries of the heart” (תַּעֲלוּמוֹת הַלֵּב) revealed in the joy of Simchat Beit HaSho’eivah. In the interest of retaining flow, we have moved some of the Kabbalistic explanations to an addendum at the end of the article.

In the second part of the class, we apply what we have learned to our Divine service (Avodat HaShem), to explain developing the power of visualization and illustration in relation to what we hear and study, and developing sensitivity to the Divine message hidden in the personal Divine Providence we see and experience.


Wine Libation and Water Libation—Prophecy and Divine Inspiration

One of the main events on Sukkot is the water libation, which the sages associate with the verse, “You shall draw water with joy from the springs of salvation.”[1] In Chabad teachings, through all the ma’amarim (essays) on this verse,[2] the superiority of the water libation in relation to the wine libation is discussed. While the wine libation is practiced all year round—wine libations were added to many of the sacrifices brought daily to the Temple—the water libation was performed only on Sukkot. Wine libations continued to be offered even on Sukkot, but then they are considered to represent a much higher spiritual level than the wine libations offered all year round; and yet, the water libation surpasses these too. As we will explain later, there are three different levels found in the wine libations, and above them all stands the water libation.

The explanation we are about to offer is mainly based on an article by Rebbe Hillel of Paritch.[3] He provides us with a very important statement to help us understand the relationship between the wine and the water libations. He writes that the wine libation is the source of prophecy, while the water libation is the source of the Holy Spirit, or Ru’ach HaKodesh. Divine inspiration is considered higher than prophecy in some regards. This is a wonderful innovation.

Moses is the master of all prophets and as the sages state, “All prophets prophesied with ‘Thus says God.’ Moses surpassed them as he prophesied with ‘This is the thing that God commanded.’”[4] Moses saw his prophecies with what the sages describe as a clear or transparent lens.[5]

King David is the master of all those with Divine inspiration.[6] It is written that he had two types of relationship with the Divine inspiration, and they are captured by the two different prefixes to Psalms. Sometimes a chapter of Psalms begins with the phrase, “A Psalm for David” (מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד) and some chapters begin with the formulation, “For David, a Psalm” (לְדָוִד מִזְמוֹר).[7] It is explained that “For David a Psalm” indicates that first the Divine inspiration rested upon him and then he sang, and that “A Psalm for David” indicates that first he sang and then the Divine inspiration rested upon him.[8] Similarly, Maimonides writes[9] that Mashiach, who descends from King David, is greater than Moses in Divine inspiration and almost equal to Moses in prophecy. That is, Moses is greater than Mashiach in prophecy (so the Mashiach will not introduce any new commandments), but the Mashiach will be greater than Moses in Divine inspiration.

What is the difference between the two—prophecy and Divine inspiration? In Kabbalistic terms, Divine inspiration (Ru’ach HaKodesh) is associated with the sefirah of kingdom (malchut), while prophecy comes from victory (netzach) and acknowledgment (hod) of Zeir Anpin (the Small Countenance).[10] At first glance, Zeir Anpin would seem to be higher than kingdom (malchut), so ostensibly prophecy should be loftier than Divine inspiration. However, Rebbe Hillel explains that based on the principle that “a woman of valor is the crown (keter) of her husband”[11] meaning that kingdom can elevate to stand above (like a crown) on the head of Ze’ir Anpin, when this elevation of kingdom is revealed, Divine inspiration is also revealed as superior to prophesy.

“And He Will Tell You the Mysteries of Wisdom”

From the intellectual perspective, the relationship between the water libation and the wine libation is likened to the relationship between wisdom (chochmah) and understanding (binah). On Sukkot, it is customary to read the Book of Ecclesiastes, in which it is written “I said I would be wise, but it is far from me.”[12] There is a level of wisdom[13] that lies beyond our comprehension, “no thought can grasp Him at all” (לֵית מַחֲשָׁבָה תְּפִיסָא בֵּהּ כְּלָל). However, the Arizal writes, that when the Mashiach comes, even the inner dimension of Abba will be grasped. It is then that we will see the fulfillment of the verse, “He will tell you the mysteries of wisdom, for they are doubled in understanding”[14] (וְיַגֶּד לְךָ תַּעֲלֻמוֹת חָכְמָה כִּי כִפְלַיִם לְתוּשִׁיָּה).[15]

How can we merit that what is distant and hard to grasp be brought closer to our comprehension and enter our consciousness? It is written, “Peace, peace, to the distant and to the near, says Havayah, and I will heal him”[16] (שָׁלוֹם שָׁלוֹם לָרָחוֹק וְלַקָּרוֹב אָמַר הוי' וּרְפָאתִיו). The sages interpret that there is that which was distant and became close.[17] Rebbe Nachman of Breslov explains[18] that the power to bring that which was distant closer is the power of “peace,” the power of being able to sustain opposites—the ability to say “peace, peace” even to someone who is at the utmost distance and to bring him closer. After all, ultimately, “none will be cast away from Him”[19] (לְבִלְתִּי יִדַּח מִמֶּנּוּ נִדָּח), and “great is teshuvah because it brings healing to the world” and this is how the verse ends, “I will heal him.” By bringing he who is distant from Torah, from God, closer, we merit to comprehend that which is distant from our minds—we merit to understand the mysteries of wisdom and the mysteries of the heart.

Simchat Beit HaSho’eivah—Grasping the Ungraspable

All that we have been discussing pertains to Simchat Beit HaSho’eivah; Simchat Beit HaSho’eivah brings about the revelation of these mysteries. King Solomon writes, “I said I would be wise, yet it remains far from me.”[20] He sought to comprehend these mysteries of wisdom and of the heart, but they continued to evade him. But when it comes time to fulfill, “You shall draw water with joy,” that which was distant becomes close and that which was ungraspable becomes graspable. There is a special power in Simchat Beit HaSho’eivah to bring even the most distant closer, allowing us to grasp the ungraspable. The joy experienced during Simchat Beit HaSho’eivah is immense; it is a level of joy that cannot be described. In principle, joy is the inner experience of understanding (binah), meaning that when we succeed in comprehending something that eluded us, we are filled with great joy.[21] Even more so if we are suddenly able to comprehend something that cannot be grasped at all. When that happens, there is no greater joy. Hence say the sages, “Whoever has not seen the joy of Simchat Beit HaSho’eivah, has not seen joy in his life.”[22]

To what can we liken the level of joy we experience during Simchat Beit HaSho’eivah? Generally, we say that there are ideas, notions, intentions, or in short, levels of understanding that we cannot grasp. About the recognition of this simple fact, we say that “the pinnacle of knowledge is to know that we do not know”[23] (תַּכְלִית הַיְּדִיעָה שֶׁנֵּדַע שֶׁלֹּא נֵדַע).

This adage refers to the secret of God’s Name denoted by the letters קסא, which alludes to the inner dimension of the Mother principle.[24] The letters קסא permute to spell the word “ascend” (אֶסַּק) appearing in the verse, “Should I ascend to the heavens, You are [still] afar”[25] (אִם אֶסַּק שָׁמַיִם שָׁם אָתָּה), indicating that they relate to the inner dimension of the Mother, which is normally distant and ungraspable. The value of this Name, קסא, is the same as the phrase, “I do not know”[26] (אֵינִי יוֹדֵעַ). Thus, it is with this Name that we come to grasp that which is uncertain and is oftentimes referred to with the image of fog, as in the verse, “God has chosen to dwell in the fog”[27] of uncertainty. After all, “no thought can grasp Him at all,” and “the pinnacle of knowledge is to know that we do not know” because, “If I knew Him, I would be Him,” in other words, that knowledge is being, if you would know God, you would be God, as it were. This pinnacle of knowledge is what is being referred to in the notion of the Fiftieth Gate of Understanding.

Still, there is an important statement made by the Rebbe Rashab, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe. He said[28] that when I sit and learn Likkutei Torah behind a locked door, the principle that “If I knew Him, I would be Him” is fulfilled in me! This is what the joy of Simchat Beit HaSho’eivah is about. The state of “If I knew Him” is suddenly realized.

Sight and Sound

To help us understand the difference between prophecy and Divine inspiration, let us note that wisdom corresponds to vision and understanding corresponds to hearing.[29] At the Giving of the Torah, it is written that “and all the people saw the voices”[30] (וְכָל הָעָם רֹאִים אֶת הַקּוֹלֹת), meaning that they saw what can usually only be heard, they saw sounds. There are two opinions among the sages regarding what this means.[31] The first opinion states that they only saw the sounds. The second opinion argues that the verse means to reflect a wider and more total juxtaposition of the senses and thus, just as they saw the sounds, so too they heard the sights.[32]

The notion of seeing sounds and hearing sights is connected with that statement from the Book of Formation, “Understand wisdom; wise in understanding”[33] (הָבֵן בַּחָכְמָה וַחֲכַם בַּבִּינָה). To see the sounds corresponds to “wise [vision] in understanding [hearing].”[34] To hear the sights reflects “understand [hearing] wisdom [vision].”[35] This is also the novel experience of the joy during Simchat Beit HaSho’evah.

Now, to be able to “see the sounds” requires prophecy. At times, it is written[36] that prophecy, in general, is associated with the sefirah of understanding (binah) and it is from there that it extends to victory (netzach) and acknowledgment (hod).[37] But, when described in more detail,[38] it turns out that prophecy emerges from the external aspect of the supernal wisdom—the aspect of wisdom that unites with understanding and influences it—and from there it descends to victory and acknowledgment which together are the source of prophecy (including the highest level of prophecy that is Moses’).

In contrast, the Divine inspiration (Ru’ach HaKodesh) of King David, which is the same as the Divine inspiration of the Mashiach ben David (which is superior to Moses’ Divine inspiration), ascends from the sefirah of kingdom (malchut) to the highest level of wisdom, to “understand in wisdom,” which is like “hearing the sights” and not just “seeing the sounds.” This ascent of kingdom is the secret of the verse, “A woman of valor is her husband’s crown.”[39]

How can all this be explained in simpler, more understandable words, as well as in terms of our Divine service (avodah)?

Prophecy: Seeing What You Are Told

When I say, “seeing the sounds,” or the verse, “and all the people saw the sounds,” what I envision is that the voice was heard coming from all directions and at the same time,[40] something is seen: letters. I see the first words of the Ten Commandments, “I am Havayah your God”[41] coming out from the mouth of might,[42] as it were. But if we ask, what could the concept of “seeing the sounds” mean for a righteous person, for a sensitive individual? What does it mean that he sees the sounds?

When a chasid has a private audience with the Rebbe and tells him a story, for example, that something was stolen from him, he hopes that the Rebbe will help him, that the Rebbe will assist him and fulfill the mitzvah to return a lost item. The Rebbe hears the story and immediately says, “Go to such and such an address.” Better yet, we can give an example from stories of agunot—married women whose husband has disappeared and so they cannot get remarried. Such a woman, an agunah comes to the tzaddik, crying that her husband has disappeared. The Rebbe listens to the story, to the description, and tells her, “Know that your husband is in such and such city, at this and that address. Go and you will find him.” Indeed, they go to the address and there the husband awaits. What did the tzaddik do? He saw the sounds. He saw the words.

Similarly, with regard to every counselor, and even in every conversation between two friends, there is a state in which I listen to you and immediately visualize what you are telling me. Even when it comes to a child in a classroom, the teacher should strive to develop in him the sense of visualizing what he is hearing. This is called “the quill of the soul” (קוּלְמוֹס הַלֵּב). Whenever he is told a story from the Bible or from the sages—he should practice visualizing it!

Again, the virtue of seeing what is told to you, what you hear, is a very great thing – so great that it is the root of the soul. How do we know that seeing the sounds pertains to prophecy and is in fact the pinnacle of prophecy? We learn this from the prophet Samuel, who is described as equivalent to Moses and Aaron, and who in scripture is referred to as “the seer” (הָרֹאֶה).[43] The title of “seer” means that he sees the words spoken to him, as we just explained. Samuel is referred to as the seer in the episode that most strongly illustrates his ability to see the words. This occurred in the story describing the anointing of King Saul. Saul comes to Samuel telling him a story: that his father’s donkeys were lost. If Saul had not told him a story, Samuel would not have thought about where the donkeys were. But as soon as Saul relates the story, Samuel has such a sense of visualizing the words that he immediately sees and tells him what is happening now with the donkeys. This is the prophetic sense, as is also mentioned in the Tanya.

This is an example of prophecy acting to reveal that which is hidden in the present. What about prophecies that foretell the future? Where does a prophecy like that come from? It too originates from this level, about which it is said, “The wise man who can see that which will come to pass”[44] (חָכָם הָרוֹאֶה אֶת הַנּוֹלָד). Seeing that which will come to pass is akin to “wise in understanding.” Once again, the prophet hears a story, and from its words he visualizes both what is happening in the present and that which will emerge from these words in the future. He visualizes the future from the present. Again, this is “wise in understanding”—it is all coming from the lower aspect of wisdom, which is the source of prophecy.

How is our discussion of prophecy related to the joy experienced during Simchat Beit HaSho’eivah? Regarding the joy of Simchat Beit HaSho’eivah, two different things are written. On the one hand, it is written that from this joy, the people who attended it drew the Holy Spirit[45]Ru’ach HaKodesh—“And you shall draw water with joy.”[46] The Holy Spirit is water, as mentioned.

On the other hand, it is written that the prophet Jonah received his prophecy in merit of his participation in the joy of Simchat Beit HaSho’eivah.[47] Reb Hillel of Paritch emphasizes, possibly in the name of the Tzemach Tzedek, that if there is Holy Spirit, then certainly there is prophecy, for, as the Talmudic dictum states, “Included in two hundred are a hundred.”[48] Meaning that prophecy is minor and is already included in the major thing, which is the Holy Spirit. So once the water is drawn during Simchat Beit HaSho’eivah and Holy Spirit is drawn with it, then prophecy can be assumed to have been given. The prophecy that Jonah received was thus a small thing compared to the Holy Spirit that was drawn. Holy Spirit originates from a higher place—it is drawn from the mysteries, the “woman of valor, the crown of her husband,” as explained earlier.

The Holy Spirit: Understanding What You See

We explained the lower level, “seeing the heard.” What does it mean to “hear the seen”? As we explained, “seeing the heard” means you see what you hear, so “hearing the seen” means you hear (understand) what you see. A tangible vision of what you hear, what is told to you, is the source of prophecy. But the higher level is to hear what you see, and this is the root of the Holy Spirit. What does it mean to hear what you see? A simple example: I see something now, and I understand it. To hear means to understand, to grasp.

Who taught us that we should understand what we see? This is a fundamental principle taught by the Baal Shem Tov regarding Divine Providence. What does it mean to see Divine Providence? It means you understand what is happening in the events that you see. For example, you understand that an event relates to the rectification of previous reincarnations. You fully understand the intention of the Creator. The intention of God in Divine Providence is called “mundane secrets” (רָזֵי עוֹלָם), and it is loftier than even the “secrets of Torah” (רָזֵי תּוֹרָה).[49] Some may think this it is trivial to understand what you are looking at, but it is a very big thing and is referred to as “understanding in wisdom.”[50]

Again, the source of the Holy Spirit is the joy of the Water Drawing Ceremony—Simchat Beit HaSho’eva. It is written[51] that before the coming of Mashiach, the verse, “They will seek Havayah their God [prophecy] and David their king [Holy Spirit],”[52] will be fulfilled. The Baal Shem Tov explains[53] that seeking “David their king” represents the search for faith in Divine Providence. When you believe in Divine Providence and rejoice in everything God does, you also merit understanding the secrets hidden in the “mundane secrets.”[54] This is the state described earlier as “I know Him, I am Him,” for “You [God alone] know the mysteries of the world” (אַתָּה יוֹדֵעַ רָזֵי עוֹלָם). When you merit this level, there is no greater joy—this is the joy of the coming of Mashiach, which will bring us to understand everything that happened to us in history; we will see the Divine good in everything, fulfilling the verse,

And you will say on that day, “I will praise you, Havayah, for you were angry with me; your anger has turned away, and you have comforted me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid; for Havayah is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” With joy, you will draw water from the wells of salvation!”


Addendum: Two Types of Mysteries

Let us focus on the verse, “He will tell you the mysteries of wisdom, for they are doubled in understanding”[55] (וְיַגֶּד לְךָ תַּעֲלֻמוֹת חָכְמָה כִּי כִפְלַיִם לְתוּשִׁיָּה). There are two types of mysteries mentioned in Scripture: the one, “mysteries of wisdom” is in this verse, and the other “mysteries of the heart” (תַּעֲלוּמוֹת לֵב) is mentioned in Psalms in the verse, “God would surely search it out, for He knows the secrets of the heart”[56] (הֲלֹא אֱ-לֹהִים יַחֲקׇר זֹאת כִּי הוּא יֹדֵעַ תַּעֲלֻמוֹת לֵב).

Both appear in the plural form, “mysteries” (תַּעֲלוּמוֹת)—a single “mystery” is תַּעֲלוּמָה. Following the rule that “the minimum plurality designates two,” each of these mysteries refers to two levels of mystery. “Mysteries of wisdom” and “mysteries of the heart” correspond to the supernal Father and Mother principles (אַבָּא וְאִמָּא עִלָּאִין). The supernal Father principle corresponds to the “mysteries of wisdom” and the supernal Mother principle corresponds to the “mysteries of the heart” (this is alluded to in the phrase, “understanding is [in] the heart and with it the heart understands”). It is written in the writings of the Ari that there is a level of the supernal Mother that is higher than the supernal Father. This level of the Mother principle is described in the Zohar as, “the inner dimension of Mother is the inner dimension of Atik” (פְּנִימִיּוּת אִמָּא פְּנִימִיּוּת עַתִּיק) and it is considered higher than “the inner dimension of Father is the inner dimension of Atik.” Currently, all these levels are beyond our comprehension, but when the Mashiach comes, everything will be brought closer.

When the 32nd Path of the Heart of Wisdom connects with the 50th Gate of Understanding, the “If I knew Him, I would be Him” becomes “I knew Him, I would be Him”. This is referred to as the unification of the “mysteries of wisdom” and the “mysteries of the heart”—the union of the supernal Father and Mother principles, and then one merits the greatest joy. This joy is referred to with the Hebrew word “sasson” (שָׂשׂוֹן), one of the synonyms of joy. On the one hand, it’s written in Kabbalistic commentary that “sasson” corresponds to foundation (yesod), as in for instance, “I rejoice [שָׂשׂ] at Your word as one who finds great spoil,”[57] but in Chasidut it is stated that sasson is the revelation of the inner dimension of wisdom, which was inherently distant and suddenly becomes graspable.

With regard to the statement from the Book of Formation, “Understand wisdom; wise in understanding” (הָבֵן בַּחָכְמָה וַחֲכַם בַּבִּינָה). The second half—”wise in understanding”—describes the aspect of wisdom that connects with understanding (as nothingness and being). The first half—“understand wisdom”—describes the aspect of understanding that is included in the part of wisdom that does not connect to understanding.[58]

Image by Dafna Levanon

[1]. Isaiah 12:3.

[2]. Beginning with Likkutei Torah, Derashot for Sukkot, Ushe’avtem Mayim 78c and onwards.

[3]. Pelach HaRimonTishrei, the second Ushe’avtem Mayim.

[4]. Rashi on Numbers 30:2 (based on Sifrei Matot).

[5]. Zohar 2:82b. See also Sukkah 45b.

[6]. Sha'ar Ruach HaKodesh 2b.

[7]. See for instance Psalm 23 and 24.

[8]. See Pesachim 117a and Zohar 1:67a. Elaborated upon in the class of 12th Tammuz, 5770.

[9]. Hilchot Teshuvah 9:2. Iggeret Teiman ch. 4.

[10]. Sha'ar Ruach HaKodesh ibid.

[11]. Proverbs 12:4.

[12]. Ecclesiastes 7:23.

[13]. Reb Hillel writes that the “wisdom” that is distant from our perception is the inner dimension of Abba, about which the Zohar (Likkutei Torah Nitzavim 49d based on Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha’ar Keriyat Shema ch. 15. See Rabbi Nathan Shapira on Otzrot Chaim, Sha’ar Atik, ch. 4) says, “the inner dimension of Abba is the inner dimension of Atik” (פְּנִימִיּוֹת אַבָּא פְּנִימִיּוֹת עַתִּיק).

[14]. Job 11:6.

[15]. See the Addendum at the end of the article.

[16]. Isaiah 57:19.

[17]. Berachot 34b.

[18]. Likkutei Moharan 80.

[19]. Based on 2 Samuel 14:14.

[20]. Ecclesiastes 7:23.

[21]. See our volume Hanefesh, p. 106.

[22]. Sukkah 51a.

[23]. Bechinot Olam 13:33.

[24]. Sha'ar HaPesukim, Ki Tissa on "וְהָסִרֹתִי אֶת כַּפִּי."

[25]. Psalms 139:8.

[26]. Imrei Yosef (Spinka) on Vayeitzei, p. 144d

[27]. 2 Chronicles 6:1.

[28]. See Sefer HaSichot 5703, p. 68; Sefer HaSichot 5700, p. 34; Sefer HaMa’amarim Melukat vol. 2, p. 12. See also in our volume Panim El Panim in the commentary on Chapter 4.

[29]. Tikkunei Zohar 70 (122a); Zohar Chadash (Margaliot) 31b; Eitz Chaim 4:1, and elsewhere.

[30]. Exodus 20:14.

[31]. Mechilta BaChodesh ch. 9

[32]. Imrei Binah, Sha’ar Kri’at Shema, chs. 59-60; Torat Chaim, Noach 57d and Beshalach 108b, and elsewhere.

[33]. Sefer Yetzirah 1:4.

[34]. And Yisrael Saba and Tevunah (see Addendum).

[35]. This corresponds to the “mysteries of wisdom” and the “mysteries of the heart”; see the Addendum.

[36]. Kehilat Yaakov s.v. Nevu’ah.

[37]. Gra on Tikkunei Zohar 18 (31b).

[38]. Tanya Iggeret HaKodesh 19.

[39]. Proverbs 12:4.

[40]. Rashi on Exodus 20:2.

[41]. Exodus 20:2.

[42]. Makkot 24a.

[43]. 1 Samuel 1:9 and v. 19.

[44]. Tamid 32a.

[45]. Jerusalem Talmud Sukkah 5:1.

[46]. Isaiah 12:3.

[47]. Bava Kamma 74a, and elsewhere.

[48]. Bava Batra 41b.

[49]. Reshimot Devarim (Chitrik) Admur HaZaken 65. Sefer HaTze’etza’im (Halperin), p. 61.

[50]. Doing so requires the unification of the supernal Father and Mother, the union of Abraham and Sarah. Isaac and Rebecca represent the union of the lower aspects of Father and Mother known as Yisra’el Saba and Tevunah. Both pairs create unions, but the property of “two friends that never part” more simply applies to Isaac and Rebecca.

[51]. Midrash Shmu’el 13. See Megillah 18a.

[52]. Hosea 3:5.

[53]. Keter Shem Tov (Kehot edition), 46a. Degel Machaneh Ephraim, Va’etchanan.

[54]. See Tanya Iggeret HaKodesh 11.

[55]. Isaiah 12:1-3.

[56]. Psalms 44:22.

[57]. Psalms 119:162.

[58]. In the Gaon of Vilna’s commentary on the Book of Formation, we find that, “wise in understanding” refers to the union of Israel Saba and Tevunah (yesod of Abba and Imma), which in general is understanding (binah), the face of mother (Imma), which also includes wisdom (“understand in wisdom”), but “understand in wisdom” in general is the face of father (Abba) (which also includes understanding).

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