Categorized | Columnists, D'var Torah

God gives us both natural and supernatural

Posted on 01 August 2018 by admin

One of the pervading and profound themes throughout Torah is that from one Infinite Source emanates two inherent features within all creation — light and darkness, good and evil, heaven and earth, spiritual and physical, male and female, and so forth. Our job is to, in some way, reconcile or unite these two contrasting elements.

Sometimes, this reconciliation involves moral clarification, recognizing what harmful elements to avoid or disengage from and what to embrace. Other times it may entail working to create harmony between or unite two separate entities, as in a marriage.

Today, we will discuss a spiritual application that helps to refine our mind.

A recent appearance in the Torah occurs after verses speaking about the delivery from Egypt and entrance to the land of Israel, where we encounter a fundamental verse: “You shall comprehend today and instill in your heart, that Havayah (the Eternal) is Elokim (God) in heaven above and on the earth below; there is nothing else.” –Deuteronomy 4:39

A name, in general, is only a word, an arbitrary title used by people to refer to something or someone. Divine names describe specific manifestations or attributes. Here, we have two: The name Havayah (used for God’s essential Name spelled with the four letters — yud, hei, vav, hei) appears exactly 1,820 times throughout the five books of the Torah. We refer to it as the “essential Name,” or “the unique Name.” It may only be pronounced in the Holy Temple; its correct pronunciation is no longer known today.

The name Elokim is the title first used in the opening line of the Torah — “In the beginning, ‘God’ created…”

Biblical commentaries explain that the name Havayah brings limitless revelation or kindness; Elokim enacts judicious restraint. In a mystical context, it’s the power to shield, hiding the overwhelming expansive divine energy from our perception (as reflected in Psalms 84:12: “a sun and a shield is Havayah and Elokim).”

Havayah is also the source for all miracles; Elokim leads to nature (its composition of Hebrew letters even possesses the same numerical value as “the nature”). The connection between the above characteristics — restraint/concealment and nature — is that by blocking the intensity of the “light,” Elokim makes room for independent existence and multiplicity: a created system which we call “the natural world,” with consistent predictable ways of operating.

As a general principle, the power to hide simultaneously allows for focused divulgence. If a genius instructor, for example, decides to just impart the quantity and quality of ideas — exactly as they initially appear in the mind — the overwhelmed student could never grasp the information. But by filtering the amount of information — “light” — and simplifying the concepts, according to the mental capacity of the recipient, that student can now process and integrate the teaching.

The reason that the first words of the Torah, the passage describing creation, references a name connoting concealment is because although the process comes from Havayah, it is funneled through Elokim (the screen of nature). Later, the verses in Deuteronomy instruct us to recognize how these names — with opposing traits — are, in fact, manifestations of the same essence.

Plugging in the attributes conveyed by these titles, the supernatural (Havayah) and the natural (Elokim), the most basic understanding is perhaps that the same God is responsible for both miraculous events. In addition to negating the notion that existence is only physical substance — or that the laws of nature function independently — this contemplation also extends to rethinking the boundaries of supernatural and natural.

The way the term “natural” is defined in one system is not necessarily how it applies in another. From one perspective, just because something is non-material doesn’t mean it’s supernatural.

The lower aspects of the soul’s life-giving energy invigorating the body, while immaterial, can still be classified as belonging to the natural system, possessing a defined structure. Indeed, it is sometimes referred to as “the natural soul.” Then, there are deeper aspects of our soul, more transcendent features of our being, that possess more potency and unlimited capacities.

More poetically, but no less precisely, we can create “inner miracles” when we tap into the more “supernatural” levels of the soul, which can then penetrate and influence our natural behavior (e.g., inclinations) and surroundings by allowing us to break barriers and achieve results we once thought to be impossible.

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