(Based on a class given on 5 Elul, 5782)
The word “one” appears exactly 3 times in the account of Creation. As we saw in a previous issue, the sum of the three phrases containing the word “one”—“one day” (יוֹם אֶחָד), “one place” (מָקוֹם אֶחָד), and “one flesh” (בָּשָׂר אֶחָד)—is 783, or תשפג, the value of our year. The takeaway from this phenomenon regarding 783 is that the year we have just begun, 5783, is an auspicious time for revealing God’s oneness throughout creation. We are tasked with revealing God’s oneness in the three dimensions of space (“one place”), time (“one day”), and psyche (“one flesh”). Let us look in more depth at these three phrases.
The Three Phrases and the Sefirot
The three instances of “one” appear on the 1st, 3rd, and 6th days. 1, 3, and 6 are the first three numbers in the series of triangular numbers. Since the 6 days of creation correspond to the emotive attributes of the heart, from loving-kindness to foundation, the sefirot that correspond to the first, third, and sixth days are loving-kindness (chessed), beauty (tiferet, which in the soul is experienced as compassion or mercy), and foundation (yesod), which is the power of self-realization, through the birth of offspring.
When we locate these sefirot on the Tree of Life, we see that loving-kindness is on the right axis and then beauty and foundation are both on the middle axis—the axis of paradox, because left and right appear in it together. The numerical allusion for this phenomenon is that “right-middle-middle” (יָמִין אֶמְצָא אֶמְצַע) equals “paradox” or “sustaining opposites” (נְשִׂיאַת הֲפָכִים); the ability to sustain opposites or to sustain a paradoxical state is considered one of the most important innovations of Chasidic thought, applicable to all aspects of life, from our conception of Godliness to our search for psychological and mental well-being.
Specifically, with reference to the consummate “oneness,” the state of sustaining paradox appears in each of the days of Creation—the 1st, 3rd, and 6th, as follows: In the first day, the oneness, of “one day,” refers to the ability to sustain the opposites of “day and night,” as the verse says, “It was evening and it was morning, one day.” The evening represents the left side of reality while the morning represents the right side
The third day sustains the opposites that were created on the 2nd and 3rd days, because the “one place” is created by the movement of the waters (accounted for on the second day of creation) to reveal the earth and allow plants to grow (accounted for on the third day of creation).
The third instance of “one” related to the sefirah of foundation is clearly the paradoxical state required to sustain the opposites of male and female in order to create offspring.
Revealing Oneness in Space, Time, and the Psyche
Let us now delve more deeply into what revealing the oneness in creation says to us during this new year, 5783.
The sages say that the phrase completing the account of the first day, “one day,” suggests that all during the first day of creation, there was only one consciousness—God’s consciousness. Even the angels had not yet been created. Godliness is synonymous with “oneness.” “One place” means that all the waters were concentrated into one ocean in order to make room for the dry land to appear. “One flesh” means that the common soul root of a husband and the wife unite to create new life, which is then able to open its eyes and become conscious of the oneness of Divinity permeating all of reality.
What do these three concepts of one relate to? In the Book of Formation (Sefer Yetzirah) it says that all of reality is constructed within 3 dimensions: world (or space), year (or time), and soul (literally, nefesh) or psyche. The soul or psyche in the Book of Formation refers not only to the spiritual aspect of life, but to its material aspect as well, as in the statement, “Man became a living soul” or like the way in which the Torah enumerates Jacob’s descendants and then concludes, “All the souls in Jacob’s household coming down to Egypt were seventy.” This is a third dimension, in and of itself.
Each of the dimensions has extremities. Space has 6 extremities (right, left, up, down, front, and back), time has 2 (past and present), and soul has 2 also (good and evil). Each extremity is called a “depth” (עֹמֶק). These 10 depths also correspond to the 10 sefirot.
So once again, this is a year of truly contemplating the oneness throughout creation. Oneness is “God is our God, God is one.” God is actually and everything is ultimately God. That realization has to permeate all the different dimensions of reality. First, time—the manifestation of the first day of Creation. Then, to permeate space (on the third day). And then permeate the human psyche, the soul (together with the body), not just in a single human being, but the ultimate expression of this oneness is in the procreation between husband and wife, the first mitzvah of the Torah. We are multiplying consciousness of “oneness.” We are increasing the appearance of God in creation, to make God a dwelling place in reality.
Now the ability if there is an equality, it means that God is giving us the power to manifest this in this year. There cannot be a more beautiful meditation for our Divine service than this one we are now explaining.
Now the three words that accompany “one” are “day,” “space,” and “flesh.” In Hebrew, the word flesh also means a “good tiding” (בשורה), and the good tiding is the coming of the “wondrous counsel” that comes to manifest that all is one, that all plurality is oneness.
The Jewish Capacity for Revealing Oneness in Multiplicity
The capacity to reveal oneness within reality is the special function of the Divine soul of Israel. Revealing oneness is especially valuable regarding a plurality. The Shema, the essential statement of Jewish faith in God’s oneness—“Hear O’ Israel, Havayah is our God, Havayah is one” (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל י-הוה אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ י-הוה אֶחָד)—refers to plurality as well, since “our God” (אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ) is God in the grammatically plural form. Why is this so? In principle, every Jew has his or her own conception of God dependent on his or her soul root. The Shema is saying that even though God appears to each individual uniquely, according to his soul root, God is one, as explained in length in Chasidic commentaries on the verse, “He husband [i.e., God] is known at the gates” (נוֹדַע בַּשְּׁעָרִים בַּעֲלָהּ), which means that God reveals Himself to every individual through a different gateway, which in Hebrew means a different intellectual approximation. It is all one God even though he appears differently to each soul. A soul root that can understand and know that plurality does not negate oneness, specifically God’s absolute unity that underlies plurality, which is the definition of a Jewish soul.
Other life forms as well as other human beings, each have its level of consciousness, which generally cannot tolerate unity and oneness. For them, multiplicity cannot go hand-in-hand with oneness. The ability to contain a paradox (such as oneness and multiplicity) is a unique ability of the Divine soul of Israel which unites the myriad experiences, the different manifestations of Godliness as one. It is the Jewish people’s destiny to teach the world the Shema, which Rashi explains as follows:
Havayah who is now our God and not the God of the other peoples of the world, will at some future time be the One (sole) God, as it is said, “For then I will turn to the peoples a pure language that they may all call upon the name of Havayah,” and it is further said, “On that day Havayah shall be one and His name one.”
Fulfilling this meaning of the Shema begins with revealing oneness in time. In this case, time precedes space. The final form of oneness relates to the “one flesh.” The “one place” of the Jewish people is the Land of Israel and within it, Jerusalem. The “one place” within Jerusalem is the Temple Mount and within it the Temple itself. Finally, within the Temple, the “one place,” the space that reveals God’s unity is the Holy of Holies, into which the High Priest enters only once a year. The High Priest represents the “one flesh” as he is the representative of all the Jewish souls. And so all three ones are unified: the High Priest (“one flesh”) entering the Holy of Holies (“one place”) on Yom Kippur (the “one day”). This is the ultimate unification in space, time, and soul.
May we all be blessed with a good and sweet coming year. A year of oneness and a year of goodness.
. Genesis 1:5.
. Ibid. v. 7.
. Ibid. 2:24.
. Genesis 1:5.
. Ibid. 2:7.
. Ibid. 46:27.
. Zephaniah 3:9.
. Sifrei 31:10
. See also Shem MiShmuel, Acharei and Shabbat Hagadol 5673 and the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Ma’amar “Basukot Teishvu” from the 13th of Tishrei 5738, ch. 7.