In this paper I would like to look at how human needs influence us to move. Movement appears to be an action that is needs based. We move because we lack something. The following suggestions illustrate this concept.
When we arise in the morning we have an urgent need to get to the bathroom. This is followed by a need to get warm by putting clothes on. When we are in need of food, we move to the dining room or the kitchen. When we have a need to earn a living, we move to the workplace.
In short, all movement appears to be based on our needs. We move because we lack something.
The Sinai Experience
Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XXIX:9 What is the meaning of, The Lord God hath spoken; who can but prophesy? (Amos III, 8). Said R. Abbahu in the name of R. Johanan: When God gave the Torah no bird twittered, no fowl flew, no ox lowed, none of the Ophanim stirred a wing, the Seraphim did not say ‘Holy, Holy’, the sea did not roar, the creatures spoke not, the whole world was hushed into breathless silence and the voice went forth: I AM THE LORD THY GOD. So it says, These words the Lord spoke unto all your assembly... with a great voice, and it went on no more’ (Deut. V, I9).
The lack of movement at Sinai suggests that there were no needs during this period. At Sinai we lacked nothing, therefore, we had no need to move.
Lack of movement is an indication that there is no force moving it out of position.
Eretz, the Hebrew word for land, comes from a root which means to move. This is why the mystics say that this world, eretz, is the world of movement. This world is constantly moving towards shamayim, heaven. Shamayim is the place of the infinite. Shamayim comes from the root shammin which means “there”. There there is no movement because everything has arrived where it should be.
Eyes see things outside of oneself. Seeing is like an instantaneous picture. We perceive everything at once, but is stillness. We need multiple seeings to perceive movement. Seeing is the modality of the next world. We see in the light. We see a world of stillness. We have a proverb which says, “Seeing is believeing”. Because we see all at once and there is no assembling necessary, what we see is considered a proof. That is why seeing and proof both come from the same Hebrew root.
Seeing is the modality of the Zohar and the other mystical writings. In these writings it says, “Come and see”. Here are a few examples:
(John) 1:46 And Nathanael said
unto him, Can there any good thing come out of
Yochanan (John) 11:34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 38b (Ps. CXXXIX, I3). Nothing so miraculous was witnessed since the creation of the world. ‘Come and see,’ he said, ‘it is written: “It is a night (leyl) of observations unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt; this is that night (ha-layla) of the Lord, observations to all the children of Israel” (Ex. XII, 42). Now, why “observations” in plural, and “night” first in the masculine gender (layiil), and then in the feminine (layla)? To indicate the union which took place on that night between the Masculine and Feminine aspects in the Divine attributes, and also the same union which will take place in the future Redemption: “As in the days of thy coming out of Egypt will I show unto him marvellous things” (Micah VII, I 5).’
Ears hear things inside of oneself. The way we hear is one sound at a time. By the time we hear the second sound, the first sound is just a memory. And so it goes with each subsequent sound. We then combine the sounds to make syllables inside our head. Our brain then assembles the syllables into words and the words into sentences, The sentances are assembled into paragraphs and the paragraphs are assembled into the final picture. By the time we have assebled the whole picture, there is no more sound. All of the sounds are just a memory. Since sounds must be assembled by the hearer, hearing is very much a subjective art. Hearing depends on the person and his background. No two persons build the same picture from the words of a speaker. We hear in the darkness. Sound characterizes this world, the world of movement.
In this world we struggle to develop the art of hearing. Those who wrestle with the Gemara are trying to reconstruct the fractured pieces of this world. For this reason the Gemara often says, “Come and hear”. The Gemara wants us to take the broken pieces and reconstruct them in the same way that we reconstruct another persons speech. Here are a couple of examples:
Luqas (Luke) 21:9 But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end [is] not by and by.
Berachoth 2b They pointed to a contradiction [from the following]: From what time may one begin to recite the Shema’ in the evening? From the time that the people come [home] to eat their meal on a Sabbath eve. These are the words of R. Meir. But the Sages say: From the time that the priests are entitled to eat their terumah. A sign for the matter is the appearance of the stars. And though there is no real proof of it, there is a hint for it. For it is written: So we wrought in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rise of the dawn till the appearance of the stars. And it says further: That in the night they may be a guard to us, and may labour in the day. (Why this second citation? — If you object and say that the night really begins with the setting of the sun, but that they left late and came early, [I shall reply]: Come and hear [the other verse]: ‘That in the night they may be a guard to us, and may labour in the day’). Now it is assumed that the ‘poor man’ and ‘the people’ have the same time [for their evening meal.] And if you say that the poor man and the priest also have the same time, then the Sages would be saying the same thing as R. Meir? Hence you must conclude that the poor man has one time and the priest has another time? — No; the ‘poor man’ and the priest have the same time, but the ‘poor man’ and the ‘people’ have not the same time.
This world is all hearing. We do not see things as they are, we merely “hear” small pieces. If we pay attention and work diligently to make sense out of the “sounds”, then we can assemble a fractured picture.
The Olam HaBa, the next world, is a world of seeing. We will see things as they are. Everything will be apparent all at once. We will not have to struggle to reassemble the pieces.
Now we can understand what the Torah meant when it said:
Shemot (Exodus) 19:19-20 And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. And HaShem came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and HaShem called Moses [up] to the top of the mount; and Moses went up.
When HaShem came down to
Shemot (Exodus) 20:18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw [it], they removed, and stood afar off.
Now we can understand why the Torah says that we saw the thunder. We perceived the Olam HaBa. We were endowed with the modality of the next world. We no longer heard, we saw. We were a part of the Olam HaBa.
No wonder we had no movement. We had entered another dimension where we percieved that we had arrived at a place where there were no more needs. We lacked nothing, therefore there was no movement. Eretz (earth) became shamayim (heaven). Here became there! We had arrived at the place we had been moving towards, When we arrived where we were supposed to be, we no longer moved, we had arrived!
It should be obvious now why the Sages said that HaShem had
Shemot (Exodus) 19:17 "They stood on the bottom of [lit. under] the mountain."
Shabbath 88a And they stood under the mount: R. Abdimi b. Hama b. Hasa said: This teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, overturned the mountain upon them like an [inverted] cask, and said to them,’If ye accept the Torah, ‘tis well; if not, there shall be your burial.’ R. Aha b. Jacob observed: This furnishes a strong protest against the Torah. Said Raba, Yet even so, they re-accepted it in the days of Ahasuerus, for it is written, [the Jews] confirmed, and took upon them [etc.]: [i.e.,] they confirmed what they had accepted long before.
This midrash means we had no free choice. We were seeing, and seeing is believing! This is the coercion implied by suspending the mountain over our heads.
When shamayim intersected eretz for a brief time, the nature of things changed. That brief moment was a fore-taste of the Olam HaBa. The Sages discussed thin in:
Sukkah 5a and it has been taught, R. Jose stated, Neither did the Shechinah ever descend to earth, nor did Moses or Elijah ever ascend to Heaven, as it is written, ‘The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth hath He given to the sons of men’. But did not the Shechinah descend to earth? Is it not in fact written, And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai? — That was above ten handbreadths [from the summit]. But is it not written, And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives? — That will be above ten handbreadths. But did not Moses and Elijah ascend to Heaven? Is it not in fact written, And Moses went up unto God.? — [That was] to a level lower than ten [handbreadths from heaven]. But is it not written, And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.? -[That was] to a level lower than ten handbreadths. But is it not written, He seizeth hold of the face of His throne, and He spreadeth His cloud upon him, and R. Tanhum said: This teaches that the Almighty spread some of the radiance of his Shechinah and his cloud upon him? — That was at a level lower than ten handbreadths. But in any case is it not written, ‘He seizeth hold of the face of His throne’? — The throne was well lowered for his sake until [it reached a level] lower than ten handbreadths [from Heaven] and then hell seized hold of it.
The mystical writings of the Nazarean Codicil also speak of the time When HaShem and shamayim will intersect eretz:
Revelation 21:1-4 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
When we arrive there, then we will perceive reality as starkly as those who awake from a dream. Then we will realize that eretz is the illusion and shamayim is the reality. There, we will no longer have needs that force us to move. There, we will no longer move because all of our needs will be met.
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Ratzon = desire = the root of Daat
The root of ratzon means “to run”. All motion begins at that point. The meaning of the Hebrew root for the word eretz (translated as land), is running.
Shabbat is a taste of shamayim because on Shabbat you connect with the labors of the other six days. We do not go anywhere or do anything. This is a taste of what it means to be there, to be in shamayim.
What you want is what you are. Nothing stands in the way of desire, according to the Sages.
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- During the Amidah remain in our place without moving.
- In the future we will be “planted” in the land.
- Man is a tree of the field.
This study was written by
Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David
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