Parshas Bo-Torah Or-The meaning of the Divine names of Hashem

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Parshas Bo

Betzem Hayom Hazeh Yatzu Kol Tzivos Hashem …”

[Torah Or p. 120]

The Mamar for this Parsha discusses the verse that describes the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. The verse states that, “On the essence of this day, all the Tzivos Hashem left Mitzrayim”. Who were the “Tzivos Hashem” that left Egypt? Why is this term used to describe the exodus of the Jewish people? The Sages [Brachos 31a] state that from the time of Creation until the times of Chanah, mother of the prophet Shmuel, there was no one who referred to Hashem as Tzeva-os. Chanah was the first one who called Hashem Havayah Tzeva-os. In the merit of this calling, Hashem promised Chanah that her son Shmuel would prophesy using this name, and all the later-generation prophets also used this name to prophesy. What is the meaning of the Names of Hashem? Why does Hashem need a name and what does it accomplish? What significance does the name Tzeva-os have and why did its use only begin in the times of Shmuel? These questions lead to a discussion on the lack of description attributed to the essence of Hashem and how Hashem garbs Himself in the attributes of kindness, severity, etc. Hashem is a single, simple unit that is not composed of any aspects or parts, Heaven forfend. The names are what draw Hashem’s attention to garb Himself in these attributes so that the world can receive and benefit from His characteristics of kindness, compassion, and Kingship. The Names of Hashem hence serve as a powerful tool in Hashem’s constant interaction and continuous involvement with the world. Amongst the Names of Hashem, the name Tzeva-os stands out as a name depicting the penetration and unification of G-dliness with the legions of creations that exist in the worlds of Beriyah downwards. The later prophets also used this name, as this accomplishment was specifically needed at that time. After the above discussion, one can understand the meaning of the verse that the Tzivos Hashem left Egypt.

 Explorations of the Mamar:

1.      What is the meaning behind the different Names of Hashem?

2.      What is the meaning of the name Tzeva-os? Why did Moshe not use the name Tzeva-os? Why was it used only by the later prophets?

3.      What is the meaning of “Tzivos Hashem” leaving Egypt?

4.      How does Hashem contain attributes and characteristics if His essence is not made up of any parts?

The Divine name of Tzeva-os:
The verse states that, “On the essence of this day, all the Tzivos Hashem left Mitzrayim”. As mentioned above, the Sages[1] state that from the time of Creation until the times of Chanah, the mother of Shmuel, no one referred to Hashem as Tzeva-os. Chanah was the first one who called Hashem Havayah Tzeva-os. [The Gemara in Brachos 31a states that Chanah prayed to Hashem as follows: “Master of the world, of all the legions of armies that You created in Your world, is it difficult for You to grant me one child?”] In the merit of this calling, Hashem promised Chanah that her son Shmuel would prophesy using this name, as the verse states, “And Shmuel said, so says Havayah Tzeva-os”. All the later-generation prophets prophesied using this name. In particular, the prophets Chagai, Zecharia, and Malachi did so more than all of the previous prophets. Practically, we rule that the name Tzeva-os is one of the seven names that may not be erased. To understand the meaning of this name, and its significance specifically in the times of the later prophets, we need to first introduce the meaning of Hashem’s Names, their significance, and the advantage of the name Havayah over the other names.

 The seven Divine names?

The following are the Divine names that may never be erased:[2] Yud Kei Vav Kei; Adniy; Keil; Eloka; Elokim; Elokaiy[3]; Shakaiy; Tzeva-os[4]; and Eh-yeh[5].

 Hashem is above all names and forms of character:
It is known that the essence of Hashem is a simple unity that is undefined by any aspect or matter, Pashut Betachlis Hapeshitus. Hashem in His essence completely negates any of the characteristics attributed to Him in Scripture, such as being wise, or kind and merciful, and so forth. Hashem is completely above and beyond any and all characteristics. Even the aspect of Chochmah, which is the highest and greatest aspect found amongst the creations, is considered to Hashem like a corporeal matter. Nonetheless, not withstanding G-d’s negation of these aspects, these aspects and characters of Hashem do indeed exist. How so?  On this the Sages state, “In the place that you find G-d’s greatness, there you find His humility”. Hashem humbles His Divine infinite light into the vessels of Atzilus and hence invests them with defined characteristics of wisdom, kindness, mercy, and so forth. Once His light is united with these vessels, or Sefiros, Hashem receives these characteristics and they are called by His Name. When He lowers Himself into the Sefirah of Chochmah, and unites with it, Hashem is now called a Chacham. When He invests His light into Chesed and unites with it, Hashem is now called a Chasdan, and so on and so forth. These characteristics of Hashem are perceived by man to be a revelation of Hashem’s greatness. However, in truth, this is nothing more than His humility, His lowering of Himself into these defined and distanced aspects that are infinitely at large with His indefinable essence. Based on this, one can now understand the meaning of Hashem’s Names and their differences.  

 The friendly slap to the mashpia describing Atzmus
On this matter of the Mamar, that Hashem’s essence is indefinable and indescribable, it is told of the famed Chassid, Rav Zalman Moshe Yitzchaki[6], that he was once present at a farbrengen in the local Chabad Shul, Binyamin’s Shul, in Tel Aviv, Israel. He asked the noted mashpia and Chabad activist Rav Moshe Gurary to describe Hashem’s essence. The mashpia was at first reluctant to respond, knowing of the difficulty in describing the indescribable. However, knowing of Rav Zalman Moshe’s demanding nature and persistency, he felt obliged to give at least some description. Upon opening his mouth to begin describing Hashem’s essence, Rav Zalman Moshe gave him a Chassidic love slap across the face, remarking that anyone who even begins to describe Atzmus is doing an act of sacrilege and blasphemy to Hashem’s indefinable essence.

 The Divine names and their meaning:
The Names of Hashem represent the vessels of the Sefiros of Atzilus, which host the Divine infinite light. This light unites with these vessels and becomes one with them, hence giving Hashem their characteristics, as described above.  For example, the name Keil refers to Hashem as He unites with the vessel of Chesed. The name Elokim represents Hashem as He unites with the vessel of Gevurah. The Name Adniy represents Hashem as He unites with the vessel of Malchus. The name Havayah, however, stands unique amongst all the other names. While all the other names of Hashem correspond to a single specific Sefirah, the name Havayah represents the Or Ein Sof that invests itself within the Sefirah and unites with it. Every Name of Hashem contains the light of Havayah inside it and is its internal power and life. It is for this reason that the name Havayah is conjoined with all the other Names of Hashem, such as Havayah Elokim, as it represents the Divine light that is found within each name. This name Havayah serves as the medium between the infinite Divine light and the defined and limited vessels, and allows the two to unite and become one.

The root of the positive and negative commandments in the Sefiros of Atzilus:
It is expounded in the Tikkunei Zohar that the 613 commandments are all rooted in the name Havayah. The positive commandments are rooted in Vav-Hei, while the negative commandments are rooted in Yud-Kei, which are both part of the Z”a of Atzilus. The positive commandments derive from the Chassadim of Z”a, while the negative commandments derive from the Gevuros of Z”a, and in them are included all the detailed laws of Issur Viheter, Kosher Vepasul, Chayav and Zakaiy. The matters of Heter and Kosher are rooted in the Chassadim of Z”a, while the matters of Assur and Pasul are rooted in the Gevuros of Z”a.

 The difference between Moshe and the later prophets:
Based on the above, one can now understand the difference between the prophecy of Moshe that did not use the name Tzeva-os and that of the other prophets that did use that name. The name Tzeva-os denotes creations, or a legion of creations. This name represents the drawing down of G-dliness, the name Havayah, to the legions of creations, having them become a conduit for G-dliness. Moshe and the later prophets differed regarding this level of connection of G-dliness to the lower realms, and this caused the beginning of the use of the name Tzeva-os. Moshe drew down Or Ein Sof to the level of Z”a of Atzilus, and from there came the Torah, as explained above. However he did not draw it down into the vessels of the lower worlds of Beriyah, as there was no need to do so, as the Jewish people in Moshe’s time were fully capable of receiving from the Sefiros of Atzilus. Therefore, while Atzilus enjoyed the unification of its Sefiros with Hashem’s infinite light, the Sefiros of Beriyah did not merit such a unity. This concept of unity found only in Atzilus is called Ihu Vegromohi Chad, that Hashem’s light and His Sefiros are one. However, the later prophets then began calling Hashem Tzeva-os and began drawing down the Or Ein Sof into Beriyah so that also the Keilim of Beriyah were unified with the Or Ein Sof. In the generation of Moshe, the Jewish people were on a much higher level and were able to fulfill the Torah as it was found in Atzilus. However, in later generations, when they required the reproof of the prophets in order not to swerve from Torah observance, the Torah needed to descend to Beriyah and allow Bnei Yisrael to truly connect to the Torah. This was not an addition to the Torah of Moshe, as it is the same Torah, but just invested within a lower-level garment. This drawing of the Divine light into the lower worlds accomplished that the prophecies of reproof given to the Jewish people by the prophets were not just the mere chastisement of a scholar and a teacher, but were actually the word of G-d spoken through the mouth of the prophet. It allowed even the reproof of the Jewish people to become G-dly, just like the Torah itself. This also accomplished the unification of myriads of legions of angels and souls within G-dliness. The prophets, by using the name Tzeva-os, drew down G-dliness and united it with these creations until they became a chariot before G-d, and now carried G-d’s Name of Hashem Tzeva-os, as they themselves were now a complete conduit for G-d’s intentions and desires without any feeling of self-existence hindering the path. The creations of Beriyah now also became Ihu Vegramohi Chad, similar to the Sefiros of Atzilus.

Meaning of the name “Tzivos Hashem”:
Based on the above, one can now understand the meaning of the verse, “On the essence of this day all the Tzivos Hashem left Mitzrayim”. This term “Tzivos Hashem” is a similar play on words to the name Havayah Tzeva-os. The term Havayah Tzeva-os represents the legions of creations in Beriyah that have become unified with the G-dliness above, as explained. The term Tzivos Hashem connotes something similar and refers to the sparks of Kedusha found in Egypt that became reunited with Hashem upon the Jewish exodus. Upon leaving Egypt, we redeemed 202 sparks out of the 288 sparks that fell from the world of Tohu. These sparks became elevated and reincorporated within G-dliness, thus being called “Tzivos Hashem,” as the sparks are now part of the name Havayah, which was their original source and root. This is the inner meaning of, “We emptied Mitzrayim” and “a great multitude left with them”, as this refers to the Divine sparks that were elevated and reunited with their source in Kedusha.

Lessons of the Mamar:

·         When we recite a blessing, we mention Hashem’s Name. This is not just a mere ceremony of words, but this actually draws down G-dliness into this world in a certain form and character, in accordance with the Divine name used in the blessing. You should have extra Kavana upon reciting a blessing, knowing that such a significant matter is now in the power of your mouth.

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[1] Brachos 31a

[2] The list of names is found in the Gemara in Shavuos 35a; Rambam’s Hilchos Yisodei Hatorah 6/2; Michaber 276/9. There are various versions and discrepancies between the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch, as will be explained in the footnotes below.

[3] So writes Rambam in Hilchos Yisodei Hatorah 6/2; not included in the list in Michaber 276/9; However, see Kessef Mishneh, ibid, that brings another version of the Rambam that does not include Elokaiy, and so concludes the Gr”a, ibid, to be the correct version.

[4] These are the seven names listed in Rambam’s Hilchos Yisodei Hatorah 6/2; See Kessef Mishneh that explains why the Rambam did not list the name Eh-yeh, and why the Rambam lists eight names if in truth there are seven. One explanation is that Adniy and Yud Kei are one name. Another explanation is that the true version of this Halacha in the Rambam omits the name Elokaiy.

May one say the name Tzeva-os? Yes. However in Eretz Yisrael some are accustomed to say Tzevakos. According to all one is to write Tzeva-os with a dash. See Sheivet Halevy 9/217; Kinyan Torah 3/110; Mishneh Halachos 13/198; Rebbe in Hisvadyos 1983 2/850 that so is the custom to say Tzeva-os. The reason for this is because the name is also used for mundane purposes to refer to the legions of an army. [Rebbe ibid] or because the name is never used alone in the Torah and is always adjacent to another name. [Kinyan Torah ibid] See also Halichos Shlomo 22 footnote 32; Piskeiy Teshuvos 215/12

[5] Michaber ibid; Not listed in Rambam ibid, see Kessef Mishneh ibid.

[6] A famous Chabad Chassid who emigrated from Russia to Tel Aviv in the 1930s. He was the prime mentor and teacher of Rav Mendel Futerfas. His arrival was accompanied by a letter from the Rebbe Rayatz to the Tel Aviv community describing the greatness of Rav Zalman Moshe. He was considered by the Rebbe Rayatz as one of the leading scholars and Chassidic thinkers of his time. The Rebbe said of him that his Chassidic teachings were reviewed and discussed in the Beis Harav. Upon his passing in 5712, the Rebbe wrote a letter to Rav Zalman Moshe’s son in-law, Rav Avraham Mayur-Drizin, connoting him with the title Zatzal, Zecher Tzaddik Levracha, a term rarely used by the Rabbeim. His yahrzeit is 3rd Shevat.

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