”Lechat’chilah Aribber”: the Uplifting Approach of the Torah

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From the Rebbe’s explanations:

– The concept of ‘Lechat’chilah Aribber’ has its source in the Torah. The first letter of the Torah, a ‘beis (which begins the word ‘Bereishit’), stands for the word “berachah” – blessing. Once could have thought that there should be a created reality before there’s a need in a blessing. However, the G‑d’s blessing is present even before there exists anyone to bless!

As the Alter Rebbe explains in ‘Iggeret HaKodesh’, creation ex nihilo has its source in G‑d’s essence.

“It is therefore in His power and ability alone to create something (‘yesh’) out of absolute naught (ayin) and nothingness, without this yesh having any other cause and reason preceding it”. (Iggeret HaKodesh, Epistle 20)

No other level of G‑dliness can bring about such a feat. Thus, the Torah teaches us how our world is connected with G‑d’s very essence – the Above of the Above. This also emphasizes the concept of ‘Lechat’chilah Aribber’.

The Torah continues:

“And the spirit of G‑d was hovering over the water” (« Bereishit », 1:2).

This also is an expression of ‘Lechat’chilah Aribber’. Our Sages explain that the spirit mentioned in this verse refers to “the spirit of Mashiach.” Thus, even before all the particular creations were brought into being, “the spirit of Mashiach,” the ultimate state of the world’s completion, was “hovering” above existence.

 

The Light of the first day

The first of the G‑d’s statements which created individual entities, the statement, “Let there be light” (« Bereishit », 1:3) also reflects the concept ‘Lechat’chilah Aribber’. In general, light is above the limits of the world. Surely, this applies to the light created on the first day.

The Gemara explains that with this light Adam HaRishon was able to see from one end of the world to the other (Chagigah 12a). According to Chassidus, this means “from the highest points of G‑d’s hidden worlds to the lowest points of the revealed worlds” – both Above and below.

We can see the same idea in the conclusion of the Torah:

“And there was no other prophet who arose in Israel like Moses, whom HaSHem knew face to face, as manifested by all the signs and wonders, which the Lord had sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and all his servants, and to all his land, and all the strong hand, and all the great awe, which Moses performed before the eyes of all Israel” (“Dvarim”, 34:10-12)

The “signs and wonders” represent the highest spiritual levels. However, they don’t remain in their heights – they are revealed for “all Israel,” the totality of the Jewish people.

 

Blessing: from the Beginning to the End

Similarly, the concept of ‘Lechat’chilah Aribber’ can be seen in the beginning of the Mishnah, the compilation of the oral law.

The very first tractate of the Mishnah, Masechet Berachot, is associated with blessing. Furthermore, the tractate begins with the question:

“When does the time for the recitation of the Shema begin?”, 

immediately teaching a Jew about the oneness of G‑d which is the theme of the Shema. Our Sages have also noted that the tractate begins in this fashion because: “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of G‑d”. At his very first stages of knowledge, just at the opening of the Mishnah, a person is introduced to the highest levels of awe.

The conclusion of the Talmud, “May G‑d bless His people in peace,” also expresses this principle. The Hebrew word “B’shalom” can be interpreted as « Beis Shalom » – “two levels of peace”. The first level is the peace in the spiritual realms, the second is the peace in the physical realms. Through the blessing, “Shalom” (which refers to HaShem) is being drawn down and revealed on even the lowest levels of our world.

 

Shulchan Aruch: “Be strong like a lion…”

We also see the concept of ‘Lechat’chilah Aribber’ in the beginning of the “Shulchan Aruch”. Rav Yosef Karo opens it with the following lines:

“One should be strong like a lion to arise in the morning to serve his Creator.”

In his commentary to the “Shulchan Aruch” the Ramo writes:

« I have set the Lord before me constantly » (Psalms 16:8); this is a major principle in the Torah and amongst the virtues of the righteous who walk before God. For a person’s way of sitting, his movements and his dealings while he is alone in his house are not like his way of sitting, his movements and his dealings when he is before a great king…” (Ramo on Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim 1, Siman 1)

Similarly, the text concludes with the verse: “A good hearted person is always celebrating.” Happiness which “breaks down barriers” is found in a constant manner.

 

“Tania”: the power of the soul

The teachings of Chassidus also follow the same pattern, emphasizing the approach of ‘Lechat’chilah Aribber’ – both at the beginning and the conclusion. Thus, the « Tanya » (the written Torah of Chassidus) begins with the verse, explaining that before a Jew is born, an oath is administered to him in heaven, charging him to be righteous in this world.

“We have learned (Niddah, end of ch. 3):1 “An oath is administered to him: ‘Be righteous and be not wicked… » (« Tanya », Chapter 1).

In Hebrew the words “An oath is administered to him” are spelled like “mashbiim oto”. The Hebrew word “to satiate” has the same root and almost the same spelling. Thus the Tzemach Tzedek explains: before the soul goes down to this world, it is empowered and satisfied with the potential to fulfill this oath. It’s the ‘Lechat’chilah Aribber’ principle again!

Similarly, the conclusion of the Tanya praises G‑d, “May He be uplifted and blessed.” Chassidic teachers explain that blessing implies a process of drawing down. As G‑d is “uplifted,” He is “blessed” and drawn down within the context of our world…

From the Rebbe’s talk on Shabbat ‘Kedoshim’, Second Day of Rosh Chodesh Iyar, 5749 (1989). Free translation.

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