Sunday, November 23, 2008

Kelipos: Forces of impurity

Everything that exists receives its entire vitality from G–d.[1] However, He created two possible avenues for this vitality:
·      Kedushah, holiness, represents a level that consciously submits to G–d[2] and actively reveals His presence.
·      The opposite of holiness is Kelipah, literally a shell. The kabbalists employ the analogy to a shell in order to describe the force that hides the G–dly vitality and purpose that lies within everything, which is akin to the fruit. Instead of submitting to G–d, Kelipah is self-focused and driven.
There are two general categories of Kelipah:
       1. Kelipas Nogah: lit., “The shining shell.” This force is characterized by pursuit of self-interest.
Both good and evil types of self-interest are included in this shell. These aspects are referred to as the tov shebeNogah (the good aspect of Kelipas Nogah) and the rah shebeNogah (the bad aspect of Kelipas Nogah).
The relative proportions of good and evil in Kelipas Nogah depends upon the level in which it is found (note: there is no Kelipah in the world of Atzilus):
  •          the Kelipas Nogah of Beriah is majority good, minority evil;
  •          the Kelipas Nogah of Yetzirah is half evil, half good;
  •          the Kelipas Nogah of Asiyah is majority evil, minority good;
  •          the vast majority of the Kelipas Nogah of the physical world of Asiyah is evil.
For example, the Animal Soul is the source of emotions, and since the Jew’s Animal Soul stems from Kelipas Nogah, it contains good and evil emotions by its very nature.[3]
       2. Sholosh Kelipos HaTemei’os: literally, “The three impure Kelipos.” Aside from a minute spark of holiness hidden very deep down, this level represents total evil and selfishness, without any positive aspect.
Kelipas Nogah also acts as the intermediary between Sholosh Kelipos HaTemei’os and Kedushah.[4]
[1] Tanya p. 74.
[2] ibid. p. 20.
[3] See ibid. ch. 1.
[4] ibid. ch. 37.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Koach HaMaskil and the Koach HaSechel

The soul contains two primary mental powers: the Koach HaMaskil and the Koach HaSechel.

  • The Koach HaSechel initiates conscious, actual intellect. As such, it consists of clearly defined concepts and intellectual sensations. This is a revealed faculty.
  • The Koach HaMaskil, by contrast, contains no specific concepts; rather, it consists of a completely undifferentiated potential for any and all concepts that one may think. This is a hidden faculty.

The thoughts that are later crystallized in the Koach HaSechel originate in the Koach HaMaskil.

Although the Koach HaMaskil contains no defined concepts, it is not altogether formless. Every person’s Koach HaMaskil is different, in that each person possesses certain intellectual talents and aptitudes that enable him to specialize in certain fields and not in others.

There are abstract thinkers who find the concrete difficult, and vice versa. More specifically, people display aptitudes for different fields of wisdom. In the realm of the holy, one can excel in Chumash, Halacha, Talmud, Midrash, or Kabbalah. In secular thought, lehavdil, talents in literature, law, mathematics, physics, or chemistry can be felt. Each person’s aptitudes in the Koach HaSechel stem from the distinctive mental aptitude and capacity of his Koach HaMaskil.

Thus, although the Koach HaMaskil is a hidden faculty, we can infer its character from the Koach HaSechel.

Levels of Memalei Kol Almin Consciousness

Memalei Kol Almin

Memalei Kol Almin[1] is that G–dliness that can be grasped by the human mind. For denizens of higher realms such as angels, this manifestation can be apprehended directly. Denizens of this world, whose senses only relate to raw physicality, are totally unable to apprehend G–dliness directly. But they can still appreciate G–d’s greatness on an abstract level. However, this requires spiritual sensitivity. Thus, the more sensitive one is, the higher the level of G–dliness he can intellectually grasp.

There are several levels of this sensitivity:

Earthly Multiplicity

A person on a very low level can only appreciate G–d through His earthly manifestation. This person reflects upon the multiplicity and complexity of nature, and how every creature contains a unique divine vitality. This is expressed in the verse, “How numerous is Your handiwork, G–d!”[2]

Nevertheless, although created by G–d, since earthly creatures lack a conscious grasp of G-dliness, they are spiritually coarse. The level of G-dliness that one can grasp through them is thus also relatively inferior.

Celestial Vastness

A more spiritually sensitive person can grasp G-dliness by gazing upon the heavenly realms, where G–dliness is not as hidden, for the heavenly spheres possess superhuman intelligence,[3] which they use to comprehend the divine manifestation that they receive.  Their excitement at their knowledge leads them to passionately submit themselves before G–d, and this spurs them to rotate. Their rotation is in fact a form of prostration and self-effacement, for they rotate towards the west because the Shechinah is in the west,[4] and they wish to prostrate before it.[5]

This meditation also involves reflecting upon the enormity of the celestial spheres and the cycle of their orbits. The heavens are not as impressive for their multiplicity, but primarily for their immense scale and vast reach. This is the meaning of the verse, “How great is Your handiwork, G–d!”[6]

Angelic Beings

A still more spiritual person can sense G–d’s majesty through beings even more awesome and sublime: the angels. He reflects upon their profound understanding of G–dliness and their passionate, all-consuming worship of G–d.

Adapted from the Rebbe Rashab’s Sefer HaMa’amarim, 5671, pp. 228-229.

[1] Lit., “filling all the worlds.”

[2] Tehillim 104:24.

[3] Cf. Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah.

[4] Bava Basra 25a.

[5] As it is written, “The legions of the heavens prostrate before You” (Nechemiah 9:6).

[6] Tehillim 92:6.