Saturday, August 27, 2011

"Daughter of Zion, sing joyfully and be happy ..." (Zechariah 2:14)


The following is a Chassidic discourse of the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi, which I've translated in August and September 2003. I seem to remember the complete work having more to it. If this is not the complete work, it should be close enough or at least a good starting point.  (If I find the complete work, I'll be happy to post it.)

Chapter 1

“Daughter of Zion, sing joyfully and be happy because I have arrived” (Zechariah 2:14)

The following requires understanding:

·         What’s the meaning of “sing joyfully and be happy”?
·         Why does the Haftorah reading on Hanukah begin with the [earlier] passage “…sing joyfully and be happy…” when it should have begun with the later passage “Behold there was a golden candelabrum” [which is more closely associated with Hanukah]?

There is a passage stating, “Serve G-d with happiness, approach Him with joyous song”. The Zohar comments happiness is in the morning and joyous song is in the evening.  What are the notions conveyed by the terms: morning, evening, happiness and joyous song?

The answer requires the following introduction:

            It is known that the angels serve G-d with song, melody, poetry and praise. This is continuous with the theme of “Chapter of Poetry” where all animals recite poetry to G-d[1]. So too all the angels of each world, including the highest worlds, serve G-d with poetry and praise accompanied by joyous song and melody.

            Joyful songs are the intense outbursts of angels passionately craving to connect to G-d and merge into His Infinite light.   The angels spend their entire life span immersed in this passionate craving because they have no other love and passion. Additionally they have no alternate way to serve G-d, like Torah and good deeds that function as a means to draw down spiritual light from higher realms. Their whole service is exclusively focused on the passionate craving to be drawn upward from their [relatively] lower state into yet higher realms.   Joyful song and melody express this craving. It’s plainly obvious that melodies are the working of the heart’s emotional state (as some melodies are happy and some are bitter, etc.).

            This [style of service] conveys a quality of being on the outside. For instance, it is obvious that somebody whose standing inside the chambers of the king’s palace [is so awed that] what can he say or relate to praise the king? Only when he goes outside can he tell over and relate the king’s praise in order to amaze others. Hence, publicizing the king’s phenomenal praise “How great he is, how amazing…!”

Chapter 2

            The following is the explanation of the passage “They will joyfully sing about Your righteousness”. Joyful song is part of  “Your righteousness” because the notion of righteousness is identified with [the entire system of] G-d’s holy kingdom, [including its music].  ([This is related to the notion of] scales of righteousness. They are scales weighing [the flow of holiness that will be directed to each person for meeting his] responsibility to the kingdom of heaven - bringing it down [to each person, based on G-d’s expectations set] by each person’s abilities).

            Further it is written “Your right hand is filled with righteousness” and “Your kingdom is the kingdom of every world”. There is no medium between Creator and creations allowing the creations to draw life from the Creator, besides His kingdom. To the extent that the He rules them, they live and exist. 

            This relates to the passage, “Your kingdom is the kingdom of every world and You reign in every generation”. Every world means [You rule] space and every generation means [You rule] time, because everything [creFated] is a product of Your kingdom.

            Time and space are created and renewed as something from nothing.  Before the creation of the universe there was no time and space at all. Time bound creations totally rely on His kingdom for their existence, where the notion of time is first introduced – as in “G-d reigned, reigns and will reign” [in the past, present and future].  In contrast, the Infinite light is as He is called, “Infinite” [conveying the notion of existing beyond time].

            Since the life force is drawn down [into creation] from His kingdom, it is [distributed] righteously. This is why it  [the life force] “fills His right hand”, referring to the right side and kindness; As in the phrase “He sustains living beings with kindness.” It is also written, “You give life to all and the heavenly beings bow down to You”.  The meaning is that to the extent that You give life to all, the heavenly beings bow down to You, aspiring to be merged and absorbed [in Your Infinite light].

The [angelic] pining to be merged into the Infinite light is [aroused by contact with] the Infinite light itself that has been drawn down and welled up in His kingdom in order to distribute life to them. [Their passion is] only focused on G-d Himself and not on His attributes.
            This explains the verse “Upon the mention of Your abundant kindness, they will joyfully sing about Your righteousness”.  “Your abundant kindness” is the flow and vitality that is drawn down from world to world, as in “Proclaim that the righteous are good”. Goodness, which is a quality of righteousness, unites the worlds and causes the divine light to flow between them; As the Targum translates the verse “For all that is in heaven and earth”, as “all that unites [heaven and earth]”.

Your abundant kindness refers to innumerable levels, which gradually descend like chain links from world to world until the Infinite light illuminates the divine kingdom [on the lowest levels] – giving life to innumerable creations.

This is the explanation of   “Upon the mention of Your abundant kindness…” for only a mere mention and radiance of Your abundant kindness is expressed. This [tiny drop of divine light] stimulates the angels to joyfully sing. They passionately pine to be absorbed into the Infinite light as they proclaim, “Where is the place of His glory?” They don’t comprehend the Infinite light directly, only through the quality of kingdom, i.e. divine righteousness.

Chapter 3

“Sing joyfully in the night”. Night contains aspects of His holy kingdom, as “Your kingdom is the kingdom of every world”. [The Hebrew word for world olam is closely related to the word he’elam] which means “hidden”. The Talmud hints that a person needs to mention night during the daytime [prayers], as mentioned in the Zohar “to include [the left in the right]”. The experience of darkness and hiding of the Infinite light, [as in] “He hides in darkness”, increases the passion and pining for Him.

“My soul craves for You in the night”. A person says to G-d, “I crave You because You are my very life”. Since this life force is hidden [in darkness], like the [metaphorical] night, this increases the passionate pining and craving for You. It’s obvious that only a person who lacks something has love and passionate cravings for what is absent in his life.

This is what’s meant by “approach Him with joyful song”, ascending from lower levels to ever higher levels leaving behind the bodily confines and the animal soul’s garments in order to bond with Him through joyful song and [in the darkness of] night.  Night is where the Infinite light is garbed and hidden.

The juxtaposition of “Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom [forever and ever]” and “You shall love G-d your Lord…” is so the person should understand how an illumination of the Infinite light is blessed, i.e. drawn down [into the physical realm] in order to become His glorious kingdom. This illumination is forever [in time] and reaches down below [in space, creating the dimensions of our universe]. By meditating over this a person comes to love G-d, the Infinite light, making Him his personal G-d with all his heart and soul, bonding with Him spirit to spirit.

Chapter 4

All these efforts to approach Him are from below to above [i.e. the efforts of lower beings seeking contact with a higher reality]. That’s why they are accomplished with joyful song. This is the approach needed to begin serving G-d. It follows the universal pattern of “first came darkness and then came light”.  Day [as opposed to night] is characterized by a flow of the Infinite light coming from above to below, clothing itself in the worlds of emanation, creation, formation and action; Stirring [the creations] to serve G-d with happiness.

This is the advantage that souls have over angels. Angels can only serve G-d with joyful song, which is an ascent from below to above seeking to be absorbed [into the Infinite light]. In contrast, a Jewish soul has an additional style of service. Namely, drawing down light from above to below, revealing what has been hidden. All happiness comes from the revelation of inner light. The characteristic of happiness [that’s discussed] here comes from drawing down the Infinite light into Torah and good deeds (which was given exclusively to the Jews. The angels wanted the Torah [for themselves], protesting “Place Your glory in the heavens…”). 

“These words which I command you today [shall be placed on your heart”.] The word “I” here means the ultimate “I” [i.e. the ultimate identity of all existence].  Even though concerning the efforts from below to above it is written “approach Him with joyful song” this is because efforts to ascend and be absorbed [into the Infinite light] are impossible without elements of His attribute of righteousness and the efforts of the joyful song at night. However above to below [is a different story], Infinite light effortlessly descends from “I”, the ultimate identity, because from His perspective darkness [presents no barrier, indeed it] is the same as light.  Heaven and earth [are both equal to Him], as it states, “He who descends to view heaven and earth” [at once].  Spiritual and physical are equal to Him, as it states,  “He equalizes the great and small.

The flow of divine light that is uniform on all levels is drawn down through Torah and good deeds, as expressed by ”These words that “I” command”.

The 248 commandments are the 248 limbs of the King. They are compared to the limbs [of the human body] that serve as garments for the soul. When one extends a limb, he also extends the soul garbed inside the limb. A total body comprised of limbs is divided into three general sides, [right side, left side and inside. Each side has it’s own dominant tendency.] Giving is the tendency characterizing the right arm. [Receiving characterizes the left arm]. Torah is the central inner core (as is known that the Torah corresponds to the inner organs while the rest of the good deeds correspond to the outer limbs).

Serve G-d” the Infinite Being Who brings down His Infinite light from the highest realms into the lower worlds in response to [toiling in the] study of Torah and divine service. “With happiness” means the happiness of doing good deeds. Our sages say this refers to also to matters of practicing the details of Judaism. Happiness comes from the Infinite light illuminating souls, after first  “approaching Him with joyful song”.

[Briefly restated to] “Serve G-d with happiness” refers to a flow from above to below. How do we get to this stage? When we first “approach Him with happy song”.

Chapter 5

The above teachings help us understand the passage “Daughter of Zion, sing joyfully and be happy [because I have arrived”] (Zechariah 2:14). The Jews in exile are called Daughter of Zion. In order to understand what Zion is, we first need to understand the passage “G-d will reign forever. He is the G-d of Zion in every generation, praise G-d”. “G-d will reign forever” refers to the dimension of space. [The word used for forever is L’Olam, which has the word universe in it – Olam, connoting space.]  “In every generation” refers to the dimension of time. How [does He reign in space and time]?  Through Zion!

“[Let’s make man in our image and likeness”.] “Our image and likeness” refers to the 248 positive commandments, i.e. the 248 limbs of the divine King. The spirituality of the good deeds and Torah as they exist in the Infinite light, are literally in His image. However the physical aspect of the good deeds as they dressed below, like as woolen fringes (tzitzith) and parchment scrolls in phylacteries (tefillin), are only Zion. [Zion] means a symbol, as in “the perfect Zion (symbol)”. Physical good deeds [are symbols], pointing to the spirituality contained within.  Through them, the spirituality of the Infinite light is drawn down below [into our world].
For example, a prayer shawl and woolen fringes are spiritually connected with the cosmic “garment of light” that G-d wears when relating to us, as in [Daniel reported in his vision of the higher realms] “His garment was white as snow”. The fringes are connected with the aspect of the spiritual realms called “hairs”, as [Daniel continued] “the hair on His head was like pure wool”. The same is true about all good deeds. [They are spiritually connected to some aspect of the higher realms that gets activated in response to each good deed done.] Torah also follows this pattern. By studying Torah in this world, the worldly application of the Torah’s message evokes the corresponding spiritual lights of the celestial Torah relating to the corresponding spiritual dimensions of these topics. This is how the Torah and good deeds in this world become symbols pointing to spirituality. Through them, the spiritual lights of Torah and good deeds are brought down from the spiritual realms into the physical world. They are the source of [His kingdom in] space and time.

In order to sensitize us to this dynamic, our sages ordained that we make blessings before beginning each good deed. [The basic formula of the blessing is] “Blessed are You, [G-d our Lord King of the universe, Who sanctifies us with His commandments and commands us to…]. The word boruch, which means “bless” derives from the word Hamavrich, meaning “to pull down”; used to describe the act of pulling down a grape vine. The top of the shoot is bent down and lodged into the earth to sprout a new grape vine.  So too the blessing [as if bent down from a higher realm and lodged into the “ground” i.e. a lower reality], flows down from realm to realm.
“They called in front of Joseph Avrech – meaning I will bless”.  This is because a righteous person [like Joseph] unifies the various realms, influences the flow blessing and spiritually spans the entire system of realms. The idea of a blessing is that the flow and blessing should descend from realm to realm, until the revelation is His kingdom becomes visible to the whole world. The world should not hide and obscure His kingdom. To arouse this revelation [of His kingdom] we say, “bless” [at the beginning of most blessings]. “Blessing” is then drawn down into the divine name Havayeh [which allows the beings of the higher realms to experience immersion in divine light] and then [flows down further] into the name Elokainu  [making Him our personal G-d in the lower realms, where divine light is less apparent]. From the lower realms, His kingdom sprouts forth like a newly emerged grapevine that arose from an older vine whose top was bent over and replanted. 

Chapter 6

When there is an arousal from below then the community of Israel is called Zion, a symbol of the spiritual light that flows downward and is drawn within them.  In contrast, during exile the community of Israel is called daughter of Zion because she merely receives from Zion. The Zohar teaches that when a man seeds first a female [soul][2] is brought down because there is no arousal from below [first, i.e. from the woman], hence a female [soul is brought down]. In contrast, “to Zion say, ‘a man and a man is born there”.  When a woman seeds first a male [soul] is brought down. [A Male soul] symbolizes [a tendency towards] kindness. Start with joyful song [an arousal from below, i.e. the female side of reality] and happiness [will follow i.e. the birth of divine kindness in the physical world], as noted earlier. “Approach with joyful song”, a song in the night, [flowing from] below to above.

To accomplish this [arousal from below], our sages ordained the section of the prayer book called verses of song in order to begin prayers by exciting the heart with G-d’s praises. Similar themes are covered in the prayer called “Creator of the luminaries”, discussing the holiness of angels. [For example,] how the “angels overseeing the cycles of nature clamor in great commotion [to ascend towards the higher fiery angels” in the midst of their yearning for greater revelation]. All these [prayers depict spiritual ascent], movements from below to above, states of joyful song.   [Identifying with the angelic experience can bring the person] beyond the bodily confines and the garments of the animal soul. The next stage is serving G-d with happiness when his soul basks in the revelation of the Infinite light while reciting Shema, [the affirmation beginning with the words “Hear O Israel G-d is our lord, G-d is One”.]

However without having started off praying with joyful song, inner happiness won’t end up dwelling within [his heart].  The person will remain in a [spiritually] feminine state receiving [spiritual inspiration] only because of an arousal from above. At the very least every good deed causes an arousal from above, evoking a downward flow of Infinite light. [G-d does this for His own purposes], as it states “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it”.  This kind of spiritual flow is superficial. In contrast, “approaching Him” in a way that seeks His inner grace only occurs when the person begins with joyful song.

 Chapter 7

With urgings to continue to “joyful sing and be happy” the prophet came to comfort the Jewish people despite their exile, where they are called Daughter of Zion having lost their status of Zion.  [Even in exile joyful contact with divinity is possible, as the verse continues], “for I have arrived”. This contact can occur [even in exile] because there is a kind of arousal from above, which is above, above – [coming from an intensely high level,] a place beyond the reach of any arousal from below. Such a level transcends all the spiritual worlds. Abundant flows of the Infinite light are drawn down from there, including the flow called “daughter”.

 Such revelations will [primarily] occur in the future, as it states, “Behold My servant will be will be elevated to a very high spiritual level and the spirit of G-d will rest upon him…He will judge by smelling truth [by using his sense of deep reverence for G-d”]. Then even the spiritual level called daughter will be have the quality of masculinity as it states, “Say to Zion a man and a man is born in her”. This is because the very heights of spirituality will dwell within Zion. Zion will become a dwelling for very high levels of spiritual light.  This is in the spirit of the verse, “for I have arrived and dwell within you”. As if I myself, the Infinite light, actually dwells within you.

Chapter 8

This is why our sages ordained that the Chanukah candles are placed at the doorway of a house facing outside. It’s related to the concept behind the verse “Open for me the gates of righteousness”. Gates of righteousness refer the entrance to the state of, “Joyfully singing about Your righteousness”.  In order to attain a state of joyful singing [during daily prayer], our sages compiled the section called Verses of song.  Whoever is outside the door, lacking heartfelt song and inspiration, should not miss out on the revelation of his soul basking the Infinite light.

 Rather, our sages ordained that he should light an olive oil lamp at the outer doorway of his home. He will then draw down a revelation of Infinite light even outside the door [3]for every good deed he has performed and all the Torah he had learned.

 Furthermore, our sages ordained that it should be lit at the entrance nearest public property, the place of real impurity, in order to transform darkness into light. [As a result of] this “and many nations will join G-d”.[4]
{Translators epilogue: This answers the second question why does the Haftorah reading on Hanukah begin with the [earlier] passage “…sing joyfully and be happy…” when it should have begun with the later passage “Behold there was a golden candelabrum” [which is more closely associated with Hanukah]?

The Hanukah lights can be part of the divine service of “sing joyfully and be happy”. Serving G-d with joyful song is a spiritual pathway that can be available even in exile.  However, in moments when the heart is not inspired with joyful song the Hanukah lights can bring it back. Why do these lights have this power?

Firstly, it’s possibly simply “measure for measure”. The one who lit Chanukah lights publicly to inspire others is also given inspiration.

Secondly on a deeper level, the outside impurity is part of what suppressed the inspiration. It’s possible that by elevating it he is converting it into a friend. Now the outside environment no longer works against his inspiration, but rather helps it out.}

End Notes

[1] The “Chapter of Poetry” is a Midrash relating how all the animals praise G-d. In the summer mornings the Mezeritcher Maggid would walk by the streams to listen to the way the frogs praise G-d. Perhaps, animal noises that often sound very mundane in our world can sound like sweet music in a higher realm (based on text and footnote on page 257 and 258 in Rabbi Nachman Stories translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan).  The Maggid’s default vision was focused on the higher world of Atzilut (see Maggid D’voruv L’Yaakov)  

[2] In this context, male and female souls have nothing to do with the child’s gender. A male soul means a soul that came from a higher realm, which may very well inhabit either a male or female.  A female soul is a soul that came from a lower realm, which may also inhabit either a male or female. See Torat Shmuel, Book 5626 page 79, middle paragraph.

[3] This means even outside the door of song and inspiration.

[4] Then he’ll achieve the inspiration for having worked to inspire others.


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