I want to preface this essay by declaring that I cannot know for sure whether what I am about to write is correct. This essay merely represents the closest I can get to a possible answer. I leave it to those far greater than myself in the teachings of the Ari z”l to determine whether in fact God has allowed me to arrive at the correct conclusions.
In my last essay I dealt with the issue of whether multiple tzimtzum bubbles can exist in the Infinite Light. I explained that I didn’t think so because...
The tzimtzum process is designed to craft the very first and most ultimate female entity out of the Infinite Light. Only one ultimate feminine entity can be formed from all that’s feminine within the Infinite Light - as there’s nothing left to form another one with; certainly not one on equal stature.
No exact duplicates can exist in spirituality because of how space functions on that level. and since the tzimtzum bubble is the first expression of empty space, some rarified notion of space certainly exists there (though certainly not of the sort we are accustomed to).
However, my answer to this question does not answer an almost entirely separate question whether multiple physical universes can co-exist. Normally, I would not expect Kabbalah to offer a clue about the answer to such a question, except that the work “Etz Chaim” opens with an explanation for why God created His creation which seems to point in the direction of an answer, once given careful consideration.
“Etz Chaim” explains that God created His creation in order to allow expression of His Holy Names, Attributes and Appellations. For example, one of His Attributes is Compassion. But, if there’s nobody with whom to display compassion then what’s of what meaning is this particular Attribute? It’s as if something is lacking in His Holy Names, Attributes and Appellations unless they’re somehow allowed practical expression in the physical world. This can be compared to a human who is full of great potentials, but is barred by life circumstances from expressing them. Such a person is said to have not had the opportunity to self-actualize or to attain self-realization. Indeed, this is a very psychologically painful state to remain in indefinitely. Similarly it’s as if by creating a physical world God has crafted an arena for self-actualization or realization.
Can one physical universe suffice to express all His Holy Names, Attributes and Appellations? I would have thought so. Perhaps, there are ways to thread into expression all these Holy Names, Attributes and Appellations through the course of a single version of human history and destiny. Being a master chess player, given enough time the Creator would have found a way to fit it all in. After all, He’s omnipotent, all capable!
However, I see a clue that He might have chosen a different path. It’s from the Torah Codes. It’s curious that the Torah Codes are so accurate from hindsight. So many famous peoples and events have been found coded there. Most poignantly, their coding is usually discovered in areas of the Torah scroll which seem to somehow match the central subject of their lives - the main details historians would take note of. However, to make future predictions based on these codes seem a lot trickier. Why? I think it’s because they contain multiple tracks for human destiny whose manifestation depend on how humans will use their free will. Therefore, they will also contain possibilities which will never play out in our world.
Kabbalah regards the Torah scroll as a single long Name of God. If there are multiple tracks for human destiny which never play out then it’s as if this Holy Name is lacking expression and so much of the Name’s potential is simply suppressed. Therefore, it would make sense for there to be multiple physical universes; enough to allow for all the coded tracks of human history and destiny, as coded in the Torah scroll, to fully play out.
Based on this, there should be a universe where Adam and Eve don’t eat from the fruit, where Noah’s generation turns out saintly, where the tower is not built, where Sodom welcomes guests, where Esau’s a saintly person and patriarch of the Jews - marrying Leah, where the Jewish sojourn into Egypt doesn’t degenerate into slavery, where the golden calf doesn’t happen, where the spies bring back a wonderful report, where Moses leads the entry into the Land of Israel, where Joshua finishes up his conquests, where monotheism reigns during the period of the Judges, where Elimelech doesn’t settle in Moab, where a Jewish King is requested properly, where King David acquires Bathsheba without scandal, where an indiscretion doesn’t happen with Pharaoh's daughter on the night of the Temple’s dedication, where the kingdom doesn’t split, where King Solomon’s Temple still stands, where all Jews return with Ezra...and so much, so much more...
The free choice in each of these events and in so many more, obviously set humanity’s future in a unique direction which limit our physical universe to follow along certain tracks of history and destiny. The presence of multiple physical universes would theoretically allow all these tracks coded in the Torah scroll their own unique opportunity to play out and thereby, bring completion to a central Divine Name - the Torah scroll itself.
I am aware that this idea opens up a Pandora’s box of questions. It’s not the intention of this essay to answer all these questions, but merely to introduce the idea along with the reason for it. However, there is one question which I would like to address in this essay because it really got to me as I was thinking over the multiple universe idea. Where would all these universes be placed on the Lurianic cosmic diagram?
Though it’s overly simplistic, but just for the sake of this essay, this diagram conceives of the universes laid out like an archery target. The higher spiritual universes are the outer concentric rings and our physical universe is the bull’s eye in the center. The outermost ring, being most closely placed to the Infinite Light, is conceived as being the most spiritual. Then the ring placed right inside the outermost ring, the second ring, is seen as less spiritual. Then the same for the third ring in and so on and so forth for each successive ring, until reaching our physical universe, placed right in the center - the furthest away from the Infinite Light.
In addition to the concentric circles, there’s a line of light, entering from the top of the circles, which brings in a fresh flow of light from the Infinite Light into the various universes. This line is like a spiritual spinal cord bringing in life-giving energy into all the realms in descending order. First, it feeds the highest universe. This universe receives the most spiritual of the light. Then it works it’s way down to the second universe, which receives what remains, siphoning off what’s appropriate for it’s own level. Then the third concentric universe receives what remains and siphons off as appropriate for it’s own level...until reaching our physical universe. Our physical universe is the bottom feeder of all the universes, receiving only the coarsest, least refined, of the spiritual lights. Yet this level is what’s good for it. Had it received more, it would not be able to handle it. This distance from the Infinite Light is very valuable because it is what’s needed to have creatures with free choice.
Since the diagram come off as addressing uses space to describe placement of the various universes, spiritual and physical, in relation to each other, for the sake of consistency and simplicity, I will deal with the placement issue as one of space.
There is a principle, which I have seen mostly used in Rabbi Ashlag’s school (but I also saw Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan employ it as well), that on the spiritual level spatial closeness and distance is defined by similarity and dissimilarity. Two entities which are similar are said to be close. Two entities which are dissimilar are said to be distant. It’s a lot like psychological closeness and distance. Two people who are neighbors can be distant and two people on different ends of the planet can be close. So what happens spiritually if two entities progressively become the same? Based on this thinking, we have to say that they eventually merge into one entity, a single identity. There’s no longer a “two” to speak of. Similarly, two entities which are exactly the same to begin with can never even begin to emerge as distinct. In spirituality, exact duplication does not exist. Only a “difference” can produce something which is a number “two”.
However, it seems to me that this dynamic is how closeness and distance work between entities within space. But, it’s likely that this is not what space itself is. Space itself is a container of sorts. Space is a container for entities. Time is container for events. Since entities and events occupy the same exact container, space and time are one; neatly fitting in with Einstein’s model.
The more spiritual a universe is, the more spiritual it’s version of space will be too. Along with being spiritual, also comes being less limited; i.e. more flexible. This additional flexibility of space, allows for entities which are dissimilar to more easily find ways to separate from each other and for entities which are similar to more easily find ways to group together. By contrast, physical space, which is much more limited, does not always provide easy ways for similar entities to gather and for dissimilar entities to part. Therefore, similar entities can sometimes be far apart, while dissimilar entities can sometimes find themselves grouped together.
Imagine a huge fish tank in a public aquarium which is lined inside, near the glass, with a huge net. Various friendly species of fish swim around, each segregated in their own schools. In such a massive tank, there’s enough room for each specie to have its own “group space”. Now all the fish are scheduled to be transported off to another aquarium for display. The aquarium staff starts pulling up the net to gather the fish for transport. As the net closes in slightly, the various schools are still intact. Then a bit tighter, they’re still intact, but the gap between the schools narrows. This process continues and continues, until right before hoisting the net is so tight that the members of the various schools are literally mixed up with each other. A carp may now be skin to skin with a mullet.
Similarly, the newly introduced limitations of space have made it difficult to maintain the natural order of what’s similar remains together and to remain distant from what’s dissimilar. So, as the universes become progressively less spiritual and more physical, new limitations are imposed on the nature of space to the point where the space narrows in its flexibility - often grouping together the dissimilar and separating out the similar.
Each universe is an entity immersed in the space of the universe above it. Accordingly, the immersed universe’s external membrane must follow the rules of the kind of space it finds itself in - though it can have its own more limited spatial rules within and under its own skin. Earlier, it was briefly stated that duplication cannot exist in highly spiritual space. This is because on that level, space is so flexible that what’s similar will really group together far away from what’s dissimilar. The more similar entities become, the closer they’ll group. If two entities become so similar that they turn into full duplicates, they simply merge into one entity. First, because the space itself flexible enough to allow for this. Secondly, higher levels more closely mirror the seamlessness of the Infinite Light than lower levels do. So, cosmic patterns which allow entities to become seamless with each other really exist on such levels. Therefore, multiple universes cannot exist on such higher levels.
Once it’s clear that multiple identical universes cannot co-exist on higher levels, the only option is for them to exist on lower levels. Besides being the only option, it’s what makes most sense for the manifestation of the various possible tracks of human history and destiny - thereby, self-actualizing and realizing everything contained in the Torah in the Torah’s capacity as a Divine Name.
One may ask, “Why didn’t the Creator simply make the higher universes just slightly different, just enough so they can distinctly co-exist?”
If they’re even slightly different from each other then they can’t serve as links in the direct chain in the realms leading from the Infinite Light down to physical universes, giving each distinct physical universe identical starting conditions. It’s very important that the multiple physical universes start off as being the same. Otherwise, the conditions for human free choice don’t exist evenly; to allow His Holy Names, Attributes and Appellations proper manifestation in physical reality - which is His clear zone of fulfillment.
Why not try to satisfy the desire for arenas allowing multiple tracks for human history and destiny to play out by creating multiple earth-like planets inside of a single universe? As conditions need to be even and equal, the stars, planets and zodiac signs need to be identically positioned in each universe - as they have their effect on human temperament and tendencies towards behavior, which are factors crafting each human’s free choice. So, multiple earth-like planets within the same universe won’t serve the purpose of providing arenas for multiple tracks for human history and destiny to play out. Therefore, only a full set of physical universes will fulfill this goal.
Everything between the properties of the highest of spiritual universes to the densest of physical realm is a gradual evolution, a spectrum between the extremes. Along this spectrum there are many middle realms whose properties reflect that they are middle stages along the way. Space in these middle realms exists as a middle ground between highly spiritual space and physical space.
I would envision somewhere along this middle ground, but very close to the physical realm there is as a realm which actually allows for duplicate entities, but, keeps them very close - not merged, but almost as if they’re merged. Similarity and dissimilarity still affect proximity. However, it’s not to the point of forcing actual merger. A universe with such a level might exist just one spiritual step above the level where our physical universe began to cosmically differentiate. It might be viewed as the universe which directly contains the physical universes.
This level is thereby, able to contain multiple identical universes, all of them physical, in the same closely knit area with very uniform conditions - so the same, that King David can emerge in two or more of them and grapple with the exact same quandaries.
So why aren’t these identical universes shown on the Lurianic cosmic diagrams? Truthfully, the Lurianic cosmic diagrams are like a family tree. Let’s say identical twins want to chart their family tree to King Solomon. They wouldn’t necessarily include each other in the diagram. Why? They are lateral in relationship to each other. Only vertical relationships are relevant to tracing ancestry. Similarly, the Lurianic diagram is the physical universe’s own family tree back to the Infinite Light. So, only ancestor universe levels are important for such a tracing - not identical twins, triplets, quadruplets or quintuplets....
So, truthfully, a Lurianic Kabbalist living on a duplicate universe would place his/her physical universe in the exact same place where we place our universe on our own versions of the diagrams. There’s no contradiction at all. There’s room for both to share the same place because one realm up from the physical universes, duplicates can co-exist in very close proximity to each other. Though really nearby, they seem like they occupy the exact same space on the Lurianic diagrams because the fabric of space is much more flexible.
For example, in three dimensional space one item can be placed right on top of another. But when viewing the same situation from the perspective of two dimensional space, with a dimension is lost, we have no choice but to say that the two items somehow occupy the same space. The same applies to us looking at the Lurianic diagrams. Somehow in our limited space, missing some spatial flexibility, it appears like all physical universes occupy the same space on the diagrams.
Long, long ago in a ballroom where celebrations were constant, the music steadily played and aged wine mixed with new varieties to produce a constant stream of enlightenment. Couples were inseparable, as they intensely whirled in the vibrations of music, in utter spirit swept delight! The tables were laden with handcrafted heavenly delicacies, customized to each attendee’s delight. It was difficult to determine whether they were tasted by tongue, heart or mind. Perhaps, the blur suggested a oneness, a peak experience, a convergence of senses.
Usually, the Caterer remained out of sight. Essentially invisible, he secreted in the kitchen and watched the peals of delight and laughter, from behind a latticed screen. However, on this day he donned visibility and made the rounds, individually greeting the participants - the aficionados of his culinary delights. One of the participants, Mevakesh, inquired, “Is it true that you own many restaurants across the sea?”
“Yes”, nodded the Caterer.
Then he elaborated, “They bring me a nice sum of money, with which I both throw my constant celebrations over here and develop my influence other there; whether covert and overt. One day, I hope to be able to make the same kinds of celebrations across the sea. But, alas, they aren’t yet ready!”
“Although many of the restaurants there are mine, please be cautious, not every restaurant offers the same style of food which is I just served you here. Yes, there are many tastes and needs.”
“So, where do you recommend I eat?”, asked Mevakesh.
“Here’s an address for when you go across the sea to do business.”, offered the Caterer, handing him a parchment note with the address penned across in calligraphy, outlined in gold and inlaid with pearl.
Mevakesh arrived across the sea. But while on still at sea, he went up to the deck of the boat to breathe some fresh air. The sunlit sea gleamed enchantingly all around. Suddenly, an unexpected gale wind blew the note out of his gentle grip. It was lost!
Still, there lingered a faint, yet distinctive, aftertaste from the meals at those long, long ago celebrations. He lost no hope. He was determined to discern his way to the appropriate restaurant on the memory of the faint aftertaste alone. All that he felt was needed was to try various restaurants, until he encountered the one whose food contained a matching taste.
On the journey, he not only lost his note, but also lost touch with his nearly inseparable ballroom partner,” Mevakeshet”. She got lost in the crowd, as the passengers prepared to disembark. Still, he didn’t lose hope. He bore in his heart a faint memory of how she made him feel and was confident that she’d somehow be found and recognized too.
After a day of successful merchandising, Mevakesh was hungry. He asked some affiliates to direct him to the nearest restaurant under the ownership of the Caterer; secretly, hoping to encounter the one which felt familiarly dear to him. He walked down the block, passing the business fair, then through a few alleys. Then facing him across the street was a dimly lit restaurant which claimed to offer fine dining. He entered. The classy help in the front took his coat and gently ushered him to a seat.
The dish arrived. It appeared fine and delicate, but, raw and cold. Mevakesh looked around and noticed that what everyone else around him was eating was also raw and cold. He certainly was not singled out for a cold meal. Quite to his surprise, they all seemed to be enjoying. Noticing his reluctance to eat, the Maitre D’ came around and politely inquired, “Is everything alright?”
“Not quite”, came the honest response. “See, the food is cold and raw.”
“That’s our specialty”, assured the Maitre D’ with a raised eyebrow.
“But...I don’t enjoy this food”, Mevakesh protested.
“Ah, you just don’t know good food”, defended the Maitre D’.
“Our food is honest and healthy. It keeps people strong and disciplined. It does not add in the corrupting element of warmth, which is all artificial anyway”, waved the Maitre D’.
“May I have a word with the Caterer?”, Mevakesh asked.
“Oh, he hasn’t visited our restaurant in a very long time. But, he knows that we keep true to his old recipes and that’s probably why he never feels that needs to visit us. Plus, we send him regular profit.”, the Maitre D’ assured.
The next evening, after an accomplished day of work, Mevakesh inquired of his colleagues and customers about whether there’s another restaurant he can visit, under the ownership of the Caterer.
“Sure”, they assured.
They pointed to a small restaurant in the market area. Mevakesh went. It had the convenience of being nearby. He entered. The room was well lit, filled with chandeliers. The foreign accented help were sweetly friendly, but unprofessional. They all wore clothing reminiscent of a different place and an earlier time. To him, they appeared all costumed up! Though strangely, they didn’t behave as though they thought of themselves in this way. His meal was alternatively too salty, greasy and sweet. No dish beheld a taste and texture which seemed proportionately balanced to him, let alone bore any shred of the recognition he so desperately sought.
His face betrayed dissatisfaction. One of the kindhearted help came by to inquire,”Why is your face so sad?”
“Because I can’t enjoy this food. It just nauseates me!” Mevakesh scowled, while rubbing his aching belly to massage it.
“Oh!” laughed the help. “This is food designed for the Caterer’s elite. You need to have very a refined culinary palate to appreciate this food.”
“Have you seen the Caterer?” asked Mevakesh.
“No and yes”, responded the help. “We don’t actually see him. Now and then, he privileges us with vague feelings of his presence. It’s hard to tell whether they’re new feelings or merely fresh reminders of past feelings, from the time when we sat in his presence on the other shore of the sea; the time he fed us dishes in this style. Our palates are trained to taste these vague feelings while eating our food. It's only our specific recipes which brings it on for us. It’s such a pity that you can’t taste it along with us.”
“Do your recipes ever change?”, inquired Mevakesh.
“Our Maitre D’ makes trips halfway across the sea. There’s an island midway where he meets highly ranked staff members from the Caterer’s kitchen. With each visit, they remind him about more of our forgotten dishes and then instruct him on the recipes. After each such encounter, he returns with the sweetest delights!”, explained the help.
“Your system seems very nice, but, I can’t change what works for my palate”, sighed Mevakesh.
“You aren’t supposed to. You are supposed to find the restaurant which offers dishes to match your palate.. You’ll know when matches in the soft spots of your palate, belly and heart. You’ll just know when it does. All will just click! That’s your sign”, assured the help.
The next evening, Mevakesh asked around the market place for yet another restaurant owned by the Caterer. He was pointed to visit the next neighborhood over. He arrived along a bustling well lit street. It was evening. He made his way to the address. There before him were a string of similar looking restaurants. The one he was addressed to was very professional and inviting. They not only offered service, but lively friendship to boot! Dish after dish came rolling out.
The food and beverages tasted more familiar to him than they had in the previous restaurants. But there was still something missing. He just couldn’t put his finger on it. With each question to the waiter and his various attendants, the attempt to identify what was missing just seemed to get more and more elusive. If he asked whether a dish had the right amount of salt, the waiter was able to demonstrate to him that it had. If he asked whether a dish had the right proportion of spices. Again, the waiter came through with an excellent demonstration that everything was alright. In fact, the waiter seemed unusually intent on trying to convince him that he arrived at just the right restaurant, that this was just the restaurant the Caterer intended for all seeking souls...
“What about my tastebuds? What about my palate, belly and heart’s inner seat of recognition?” asked Mevakesh. “Where do they factor in?”
“You can’t totally trust your taste buds, stomach or heart to help you find your way”, retorted the waiter “Do you honestly expect that they have not become distorted by the change in air on your journey across the sea and even more so by the air on this side of the shore?” retorted the waiter.
Mevakesh thought to himself flustered, “So much seems right here and yet something elusive is missing. I can’t figure it out. But one thing I know. The distortion argument could have been used by the other two establishments as well. And if I can’t use my tastebuds, stomach or my heart to find my way then what can I use, as it is all I have to rely on?”
So Mevakesh tried another angle to attempt to get at what’s going on. “Have you ever met the Caterer?” he inquired.
“No”, the waiter responded. “However, our Maitre D’ is the only whose tastebuds, stomach and heart is refined enough to share a meal with him. He has a special vehicle that regularly takes him across the sea, at astonishing speeds. There, he personally dines with the Caterer; learning interestingly new recipes to bring back.”
“What happens to you when you eat from your Maitre D’s newly prepared dishes?” asked Mevakesh curiously.
“Our intellects soar in deeper understandings and our kinship with the Maitre D’ solidifies. Then we feel a deeper sense of privilege in our role as his foot soldiers”, shared the waiter.
“Is that it!” exclaimed Mevakesh in shock. “What about experiencing the tastes and feelings of your overseas origins?”
“We can’t trust such things. Perhaps, the experiences are just our imaginations playing tricks on us. Like, I already said, ‘Distortions to taste buds, bellies and hearts happen!” emphasized the waiter.
Mevakesh left utterly confounded. He decided that this could not be the restaurant the Caterer had in mind for him. He had to trust his sense of taste, belly and heart; as the Caterer was much too kind to leave him without some basic means to discern of what’s personally right for him.
As he left, he noticed a disheveled woman collecting alms on a street corner. By now the evening was dark and rainy. Her face was covered in grime. Layers of blankets and kerchiefs sheltered her sad scrawny body. She was unrecognizable, possibly even to herself.
Being good hearted, Mevakesh dropped coins into her cup. As the coins clanged in her cup, something wafted down onto the rainy sidewalk from amidst her layers. Visibility was blurred by the darkness and rain. But whatever dropped, glinted faintly familiar in the streetlights.
As Mevakesh stooped down to pick it up, the woman extended her arm protectively, to block access to her prized possession. However, he got down close enough to see that it was his lost parchment note! He looked closely at the face of the woman. Through the rags and the grime, there was a hint of close familiarity that danced in her eyes. He suddenly felt an intense feeling that he needed to get her into a dry area with clear lighting for a closer look. Maybe, he could even persuade her to relinquish the prized note.
“What might be her price?” the businessman in him mused. “Doesn’t everyone have one?”
He smiled compassionately, “You look like you hadn’t had a nice meal in a while. Would you like to join me for meal at a restaurant? I really could use the company.”
She silently nodded in approval.
Mevakesh saw an inexpensive restaurant down the block. It did not belong to the Caterer, but, there were other considerations: It was raining and he was not sure that his company would want to be inconvenienced with a longer walk. Plus, he did not know whether, being a beggar, she would even feel comfortable being taken to a fine establishment. He started for the door the restaurant and she nodded emphatically, “No!”
He looked at her in askance. She nodded with her head and gestured with her hand, “Follow me”.
Taken aback by her boldness, in a mixture of shock, curiosity and genuine kindness, he followed along. She led him down winding streets. Though being led by a total stranger would normally be concerning, he noticed that they were all well lit streets, in refined neighborhoods. This calmed him and heart palpitations never even arose.
After quite a walk through the rain, they got under an awning and there in front of him was a restaurant he has never before seen. Through the window, he could see people enjoying. The help was noticeably friendly. The whole vibe of the establishment was vaguely familiar.
Once inside, the help at the front desk was exceedingly gracious when he requested that his silent guest be given a chance to wash up in the privacy of the woman’s room before dinner. A woman from among the staff accompanied her to the restroom to help her out. Meanwhile in dimmed lighting, he was seated at an intimate candlelit table for two.
The dishes carried by the waiters and waitresses wafted with familiar fragrances. Having been exposed to aspects of familiarity beforehand, and disappointed, he was dismissive of mere hints of familiarity. He looked up and down the menu eager to order, but, he wouldn’t dare, as his guest has not yet returned.
He closed the menu and placed it aside, dreamily reflecting on his journey. After what seemed like a long wait, a dose of delicious perfume entered his nostrils and over his head he heard in the sweetest voice chime, “May I please join you?”
He lifted his eyes and standing before was a well dressed woman, jewelry and all. Her eyes shone like the sun and her smile just beamed. His heart skipped a beat! She was clearly a well off woman. She appeared very familiar and not at all like the beggar, he had just followed.
Noticing his confusion, she took the menu and pulled out the note penned in calligraphy - outlined in gold and inlaid with pearl. She held it up to the address on the menu for comparison, to show that they matched. His mouth opened wide. Amazed!
“Mevakeshet?”, he uttered in shock!
“Yes!” she smiled widely, reaching out to hug him.
“Wait... but who was the beggar woman who led me here?”, he asked still caught up the surprise of it all.
“Me, of course”, she laughed.
“It was a mock up.”, she clarified. “The Maitre D’ told me that you needed to be led here by your own acts of kindness. So, I lured you along, right to where you belong.”
Suddenly, the Maitre D’ appeared serving each a glass of fine blended wine. Time seemed to disappear. Magically, hours melted into minutes, as they were lost in a shared bliss of their own making.