Get the Point

By Moshe Backman, Brooklyn, NY
Essays 2017

MyLife Essay Contest 2017

Sailing on the proverbial ship across the seas of life one may often encounter stormy, treacherous waters that threaten to capsize his existence. As adults these challenges are apparent and constant, for some, even on a daily basis. With waves of responsibility at every moment; children, food, clothing, tuition, and mortgage payments, one’s peace of mind can be so disturbed that he is distracted from the most important things in his life; the family he is working to provide for and his religious responsibilities that provide the blessing for success[1]. These conditions though, were already foretold in our Torah, and in King Solomon’s Song of Songs [8:7] we are assured that “the mighty waters are not able to extinguish the love”.

Rise Above
In Torah Ohr, Parshas Noach, in the Maamar Mayim Rabim, the Alter Rebbe addresses this situation and tackles the issue of how to make King Solomon’s words a reality in one’s life. The explanation begins with the basic precept that G-d gives challenges to people not only as punishment, but as opportunity to elevate themselves and to reveal greater G-dly awareness to the world. Through overcoming the hardships of life and continuing to enhance one’s relationship with the divine even in the face of challenges, he grows from an immature, shallow connection with G-d to a developed, hard earned, essential bond.

The technique to bring this buried consciousness to the surface is a deep meditation into the reality of the situation. One needs to realize that all aspects of realty, local and global, are sourced in spirituality. Even an individual blade of grass has its distinct source above. Those sources too have higher and higher origins in G-dliness. Ultimately, all details of creation are rooted in G-d’s infinite creative power, which is also a mere glimmer of G-d’s essential infinity. After this realization, one is left with an unquenchable thirst for closeness to G-d. This great love can lift a person above any difficulty in life since he recognizes where everything comes from and nothing can occur contrary to the divine plan.

Point Line Plane
To properly internalize this awareness requires a more extensive system of contemplation. For this we turn to the Mitteler Rebbe’s Shaar Hayichud, referred to as the “the key to the teachings of Chassidus”[2]. There he elaborates on the entire structure of creation from the essential revelation of G-d himself down to the lowest level of the created world. He also goes into detail explaining the mechanics of the procedure of contemplation.

Focusing on one parable given there, one can acquire a very concreate and inclusive perspective on the vast stages in creation and appreciate ever more the heavenly involvement in every event that occurs. In paragraph 14 a parallel is made between spiritual levels in creation and the geometric figures point, line, and plane.

These three ideas can also be explained as dimensions. A point is a location with zero dimensions; it has no length, width, or depth. A line is one dimensional with only length; an infinite string of points extending in either direction. A plane has length and width but lacks depth. Here too, a plane is the new dimension that arises when bridging the infinite gap (from the one-dimensional perspective) between two lines.

The third dimension we are all familiar with. It is when depth is added to a two dimensional plane. Just as the jump from one dimensional to two, the same can be explained to jump from two to three. When taking two two-dimensional objects and bridging the gap between them, the result will be a shape of the third dimension. For example, when taking two two-dimensional squares, by connecting them with the third dimension a cube is formed.

The fourth dimension can be understood in the same way, it is the result of linking two bodies of the previous dimension. The only link between two three-dimensional bodies is time. This is simply explained, because only one three-dimensional body exists, namely, the entire universe as a whole. The only way to divide this three-dimensional being into two is by referring to it as now and later, isolating the present state, contrasting it by its state in the past or future, and the connection between the two is the time in between.

Though the details of the third and fourth dimension are not brought in Chassidus as part of this parable, in truth the third dimension can be viewed as a point in the fourth dimension; a point or instant in time, and what was illustrated above was a time “line”.

Eventually, as one strives to discover deeper and deeper unities in existence he will find that the point, line, and plane continue to repeat themselves in an abstract sense. If one was to imagine two lines of time extending from the point in time where he is currently, practically that would mean two possible futures; choice. The reality of our universe then, is a five-dimensional plane of possible choices. In a sense, from the beginning of time until now history has been a line of time being drawn out on the five-dimensional plane of time and space.

The Real Point
Once we’ve pointed out how a point is not merely the minutest way of referring to a location in space, but also can refer to an all-inclusive state in a higher dimension, we can now discuss the parallel in the spiritual realms as they are laid out in Chassidus.

The inner dimension of Torah reveals that on the most supernal levels, when G-d began the process of creating the world, He used the mechanism referred to as Tzimtzum to allow a void where his infinity would not be felt. Until that void existed, the intensity of His limitlessness didn’t allow for anything else to exist. Once His infinite revelation was completely concealed the scene was set for the preliminaries of existence.

At this stage we are told about the “leftovers” from the Tzimtzum; Reshimu. This refers to the boundless possibilities of limitation in a totally undeveloped state. Prior to the Tzimtzum there existed literal infinity. Just as the Infinite One has the power to be endless he must have the power of limitation and finitude[3]. The Reshimu is the result of concealment on limitlessness, the remains was an infinite void with infinite potential for limited results. The parallel therefore, is a point; a point of all-inclusive possibilities for finite outcomes[4].

The next stage in development of the worlds is Kav, literally, “line”. It is called such because it evolved from the “point” of reshimu, and now entered the next lower dimension, where not only is there infinite potential for limitation, rather now there is actual limitation (comparatively). This is the “measuring stick” of creation that develops actual from potential. It also extends from above and transmits the previously hidden, infinite G-dliness into the worlds in such a way that it manifests in a secured, sustaining manner.

Finally, the development in the chain of creation reaches the metaphoric “plain”; Shetach, where not only does the concept of higher and lower have meaning, but also there is a definite plan of how the worlds will appear in its final product. This level in Kabbalistic terms is called Adam Kadmon, literally translated as “primordial man”. This stage is where the 10 Sefiros, the 10 supernal powers that define our world, are decided and defined in their most pristine state. It is called a “man” because just as its corporeal counterpart has a head, a foot, a right, a left, and middle, so too in this transcendent state these definitions were fixed.

Point Line Plane in Every Microcosm
The parallels to point, line, and plain, repeat again and again throughout the rest of the development of worlds, this is apparent in every world, and is reflected in G-d’s ineffable name[5]. Every spiritual world, and every heavenly body, begins with the level of Kesser. This, on a micro-scale, is an all-encompassing point, and the essence of that specific structure. This corresponds to the Yud, and specifically the top point of the Yud that G-d’s name begins with.

In each spiritual microcosm, there also exists its body, primarily made of the six Middos, emotions, known in Kabbalah as Chessed [kindness], Gevurah [severity], tiferes [beauty] netzach [victory] hod [splendor] yisod [foundation]. These six mirror the physical body in its right hand, left hand, torso, and the rest of the body extending downward. In G-d’s name, they correspond to the Vov which has the numerical value of six, and whose shape is vertical line.

We then reach the nadir of the spiritual body; Malchus. On one hand, a mere recipient of all powers preceding it, though it also possesses the quality of expression, and is a conduit to pass on everything  to the next stage down. It is the plane; the final segment in any body, however it also becomes the Kesser of the next level continuing the chain of point, line, plane.

Even Science is Getting It
As scientists strive to find the origins of everything, they take the known rules of mathematics and physics and play them backward, attempting to find the beginning. As they do this the forces of nature become more and more unified to the point that the rules themselves break down, and the necessity for deeper and deeper theories arise. The most famous theory of unifying the fundamental forces is the recent developed string theory.

To explain physical phenomena according to this theory scientist have been compelled to theorize about more dimensions than the ones we see. Author Rob Bryanton in his book “Imagining the Tenth Dimension” gives an innovative way of imaging higher dimensions. Using the perspective of Torah, one can appreciate the breakthroughs of science, as they find more ways of unifying all aspects of the world. They can be used to enhance one’s conviction in Torah, and as tools too better understands the secrets that Torah revealed to us.

Getting the Point
Now we can take the Alter Rebbe’s method of contemplation and make it a little more tangible. If ever you are feeling that the waves of concerns are disturbing your smooth sailing, think about this. All worries can be seen as trivialities in the grand scheme of things. Not only this worry, but all things of this world are contained in a single “point” in their spiritual source in the next world up. Even there, it’s only the last level of that world, and experienced stages of descent which are all rooted in a higher inclusive point of Kesser. Remember, there are four of these worlds and each one is a jump of dimension. Even that highest point of the highest developed world is rooted in its undeveloped state of perfection in Adam Kadmon. That too, is only the “plane” that resulted from Kav, which extended from the Reshimu. Finally at this highest “point”, we must remember that it is only the remnants of an infinite concealment that G-d made, hiding his infinite revelation from his creation.

To G-d himself though, all is revealed and even after an infinite jump of dimensions he keeps an eye on every detail of his handiwork. Don’t think that if everything is so insignificant then G-d pays no attention to it. On the contrary, He made the world with a purpose, and every detail in creation is a step in the plan.

With all this in mind, one cannot help but feel all of his troubles fall away. Focused now on where everything comes from, any person will definitely see the inconsequentiality of his worries. Since everything in this world is a mere glimmer of a glimmer of infinity in G-d’s eyes, and the Almighty is surely directing it all, the only matter of importance is getting closer to him and revealing his presence in the world. When focused on the point, you will see that everything that comes forth from it is directed by the hand of its creator, and can therefore only be for the good.


Sources and Footnotes
[1] Mishlei 10:22
[2] Hayom Yom 15 Adar Sheini, Shushan Purim
[3] Avodat HaKodesh, Part I, beginning of ch. 8, says that “the infinite one is the most perfect being of all; just as He possesses infinite powers so too does He possess finite powers, for if you were to say that He can only express Himself in an infinite manner and not in a finite manner, then you are diminishing His perfection.”
[4] See also Basi L’gani 5737 paragraph 4 & 5 with footnotes.
[5] See Basi L’gani 5717 paragraph 4