© 2018 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner
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IDOLATRY-11/The  Heavenly Self, the “I Am”


Know your CREATOR, know yourself and know the difference

1 : The Self in the Ten Commandments

The first two of Moses’s Ten Commandments presents the two sides of the IDOLATRY Commandment:

The First presents the Speaker, G-d, by His Names and Titles.

The Second presents  the list of the idols whom we should worship not.

 The first, positive Commandment
1. I Am (The Essence)
2. YHVH Your ELoKiM (The Attributes)
3. Who Took You Out of Egypt Land” (His Kingship)
The second, negative Commandment, listing the idols
1. Thou shall not make for yourself other ELoKiM’s
2. Over My Face…….

 The First Commandment orders us to KNOW Him by the Holly Names by which He p resents Himself.  The rabbis complied in full by instituting the following frame for almost any blessing, such as in the Blessing for Bread:

“Blessed are You (against line 1)

YHVH, our ELKM (against line 2)

The King Of The Universe (against line 3)

Who brings forth bread from the earth. (His Kingship in this case.)

Disregarding these Namems and Titles and their proper order would be a sort of IDOLATRY.

so far we’ve learned from Genesis Chapter One the meaning of the Attributes – YHVH and ELKM – of  line 2. Togther, we’ve said, they constitute the new “Heavenly Court” where ELKM would stand for the Absolute Justice whereas YHVH for the Absolute MERCY.

Prior to forming the new Heavenly Court of YHVH ELKM,  during the Six Days of CREATION, ELKM ruled by Himself, “awesomely alone.”  During that long period He consulted no one or asked anyone’s opinion. It was the old Court of ELKM alone.

In the Eternal Sabbath, when ELKM would cease His work and cease to Judge,  YHVH will reign alone.  Since YHVH does not judge in the Sabbath- She showers only endless unconditional Love- there is no YHVH’s Court.

That is true for the Eternal Sabbath.  But when YHVH has entered ELKM’s World, to join Him in the Heavenly Court  (and to create Adam) |she too exercise a her assessment, whether or not we comply with Her criteria. Nowadays we live under the benevolent Court.of YHVH ELKM where each Attribute judges us from its aspect.

You will see that clearly in the text describing Noah’s Flood

The very notion of a Heavenly Court implies that the Attributes debate our case.  Sometimes they would agree, sometimes they would not.   Finally they would come out with a common, One Verdict. The question is: When they clash badly, who would decide the final Verdict? Who would act like the  Arbiter?

Moses, in the First of the Ten Commandments, implies that the Arbiter of  YHVH ELKM (line 2) is the “I AM” in line 1.   It is the Self which stands ‘above’ the Attributes, who decides and issues the final verdict..

Tradition (Kabbala) teaches that the “I Am” is the primary source of everything in this world.  The Will of the Self  brought about the entire CREATION.  In fact, the so-called Supreme Will is the “CROWN” above the Attributes. .

 Take the USA Government as an example.  While the he Congress debates in its two parties  (line 2) the final decision expresses the Will of the People (Line 1).  That decision is transferred down to the Presidency  for its execution in the real world (line 3)

2. Does the Supreme Self have a Desire,  a Wish?

A classical philosophical debate, that goes back to the ancient Greeks, is whether or not the Primary Mover- the CREATOR- possesses any Will or Desire.  For having a Desire is indicative of a lack, of a deficiency.  The idea that  G-d expresses a Will is suggestive that He lacks something,  an idea that cannot be related to an All Mighty CREATOR.

That debate falls apart when we talk about the Attributes.  When we say that ELKM- the Attribute of Judgment-  would never exhibit MERCY.  He ‘lacks’ MERCY by Definition.  He therefore created Adam hoping that Adam would bring MERCY into His World. by this Adam can do something that ELKM would not do by Himself.  So yes, we can imagine that ELKM Desires something that He is ‘lacking.’

When we talk about the Supreme Will of the Infinite Nameless CREATOR, the Origin of all origins,  the One above the Attributes, then our limited conception of Him plays out and we find ourselves incapable of going farther and deeper. There is a Super Will that is hidden from our logic and mind.

It is said that Sigmund Freud came out with the idea of an hidden  ‘super-ego’ which is above our consciousness after he had attended a Torah class given by a Hasidic rabbi in the city of Vien.

3. Examples for the decisive Self

Hence, wherever the “I AM”  appears in the Torah, it expresses the Final Verdict of the Heavenly Court. .

For instance: prior to Noah’s Flood, the Heavenly Court appears in the text debating whether or not to bring forth the Flood. The text shows how YHVH speaks out Her Mind- about the evilness of the human heart, then how ELKM speaks out His Mind about Man’s violating the Laws.  (We’ll learn this in details in due course.) Then the verse ends the debate by saying “And I, My self, shall bring the Flood” expressing the final verdict  .

There are several other examples in the Text showing clearly the debate between the Attributes.  Such a debate is repeated after the Flood along with the new Rainbow Covenant of Noah.  Another occasion is the Heavenly Court speaking to Abraham before his Circumcision. 

4: Our self is divine


Some  religions  – like Buddhism – deny the existence of a human ‘self.’ They see it as a mere psychological mirage. That notion is at the core of their religion since if I have no self, I do not need to aspire to achieve anything. I can sit all day idle in perpetual nirvana.

Moses however says otherwise- not only that we have a real self consciousness, but also that it is divine.

When ELKM said “Let Us Make Adam in Our Form and Our Image” He introduce the I and You and He and She.  In other words, He  ‘consulted’ His ‘Self’ and made our ‘self’ accordingly.   Thus we possess a  real sense of ‘self’ whose origin is divine. .

We should therefore cherish our individuality. Our self consciousness propels us forwards, drives us to impact our surrounding and leave a legacy.  But it can be used for the wrong purpose. Later we’ll learn about King Nimrod who used the human ‘self’ as a motive to gather the people around him, promising them to make a name for themselves in building the Babylonian Tower.

The feature of the Self is that it aspires to be recognized and even exhaled by other ‘selves’.  The Self wishes to be a king, to impact our surrounding, to be adored. Next class we’ll see how this is played out in the Moses’ First of the Ten Commandment. .   . .

End of IDOLATRY class 11.