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The Sign of the Twins: On the Reconciliation of the Divine with its Likeness

Image Gemini by Erich Ferdinand (License: CC-BY 2.0)

From Takanat HaShavim, 6d, 7a-b, 9b
by Rav Tzadok HaKohen Rabinowitz (1823-1900, Neustadt, Poland)
translated by Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky (K.K. Ansche Chesed, Manhattan, NY)

Through true cleaving to G!d….then death will be swallowed up forever. Through this, the image and likeness will be completed, about which it is taught [in Talmud Babli Bava Batra 75b] that in the future, saints will be called by G!d’s name. That is as is said in the Midrash that a human king cannot raise another person to his level, but G!d transforms saints to be like Him.

However, after sin, not only was the radiance of the Adam[1]the Earthling (ANV) diminished, but death was decreed. And mortality itself caused the Adam to no longer be like G!d, no longer living eternally. And thus, after sin, the divine image is no longer complete, and one can no longer be called by G!d’s name, as it were. But then we will be called by G!d’s name, through true cleaving, beyond the level of prophecy, and we will attain [what is taught in Midrash Shir HaShirim Rabbah[2]For a full treatment of this idea, see Yair Lorberbaum, In God’s Image: Myth, Theology, and Law in Classical Judaism, p.162-165, Cambridge University Press, 2015.] that we and G!d are twins, not one greater than the other — something which could not be uttered had G!d Himself not stated that humans would be created in our image, after our likeness.

The sages said [Talmud Bavli Rosh Hashana 17b] on the verse, “Adonay, Adonay, merciful God,” [the repetition of the divine name means]: I am the same before you sin and the same after you sin and do teshuva. This means God will once again be literally the same as before. For through sin, the Name changes, and is not pronounced the way it is written. But after repentance, the Name will be restored, as it was before….

Teshuva will continue expanding until the Messianic era. And through this one of the roots of our inheritance from our ancestor Yaakov, whose bed is complete [i.e. all his descendants follow his legacy], this is not so apparent in our day. For in our great sins, we have many heretics and those who abandon the faith. But God has promised that we will not lose a single one in the end, and that G!d will gather the scattered from the four corners of the earth. Then Yaakov will be truly complete.[3]Yaakov corresponds to the sefirah of Teferet, and is called shleimah, the complete/perfect one. cf. Reb Dovid Seidenberg on the Ushpizin at the Open Siddur Project.

And this true completion will be evident in the messianic time when we learn the truth of the sages teaching that teshuva is so great that it supersedes a prohibition of the Torah. Which prohibition does it supersede? The original prohibition from Eden: Lest he stretch forth his hand and take from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.

From Maor VeShamesh, Ramzei Shavuot
A teaching on Sukkot by Rav Kalonymus Kalman Halevi Epstein (1753-1825, Cracow, Poland)
translated by Jeff Amshalem

The three supernal wisdoms [called by the names of G!d] Ehyeh, YHVH, Ehyeh together make the gematria of ḥaim, “life”.[4]Gematria is a system of counting the numerical value of a word (since each letter is also a number) and comparing it to other values to find hidden meanings, as we will see. It was because of the unity of these names at the time of the giving of the Torah that there was true coupling and unification,[5]Between earth and heaven, between the sefirot, and between G!d and Israel. face to face,[6] The sefirot are often called “faces,” and when there is unity between them they are said to be “face to face” rather than “back to back”; this also evokes the Torah’s statement that Moshe spoke with G!d “face to face” (Ex. 33:11), and the saying of the sages that the cherubim over the Ark of the Covenant faced each other when the Jews did G!d’s will and faced away when they didn’t (Bava Batra 99a on Exodus 29:20 and 2 Chronicles 3:13). and so the supernal wisdoms overflowed and released their bounty onto the world… Ḥaim also has the gematria of lulav, which also hints at unity, as our sages said, “One who sees a lulav in a dream is of one heart with his Father in heaven.”[7]Yerushalmi, Nedarim [This is why the lulav and etrog must be held together,] for G!d forbid there should be some separation — rather, one heart, as one man, and because of this G!d gave the Torah to His people, in the third month, the sign of the Twins,[8]aka Gemini; a rare reference to astrology in Ḥasidic writing, though there is actually an extensive connection between Jewish astrology and the kabbalah. and if you know the signs then you will see that the Twins are face to face, which hints at unity and love, which was the prerequisite for receiving the Torah.


Jeff Anshalem adds
:

On Shabbat Ḥol Hamoed Sukkot we read of the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, seemingly a strange choice for Sukkot, but the Maor VeShamesh explains what’s common to both: unity. Unity between us, symbolized by the joining together of the Four Species (Vayikra Rabbah 30:12), evokes unity between us and G!d.

Contrast the fable of Narcissus with the myth of the First Day in Genesis 1:2-4. Divine likeness is born of reflection: the illumination and enlightenment of Divine creative consciousness above the abyss of primordial waters. Sentient reflection also manifests as both an I/Thou and an I/Other division, a bifurcation that is healed with compassion, lovingkindess, and the maturation of an empathic consciousness. That which is reflected in the primordial waters, the divine likeness and light reserved for the righteous, is the potential of sentience itself, called Adam Kadmon, the primordial earthling, or stated differently, our potential as human beings, as sentient beings is that of the Universe recognizing itself.

About Aharon N. Varady


Aharon's Omphalos is the hobbit hole of Aharon Varady, founding director of the Open Siddur Project. He is a community planner and environmental educator working to improve stewardship of the Public Domain, be it the physical and natural commons of urban park systems or the creative and cultural commons of libraries and museums. His advocacy for open-source strategies in the Jewish community has been written about in the Atlantic Magazine, Tablet, and Haaretz. He is particularly interested in pedagogies for advancing ecological wisdom, developing creative and emotional intelligence, and realizing effective theurgical praxes . He welcomes your comments, personal messages, and kind words.

Notes   [ + ]

1. the Earthling (ANV)
2. For a full treatment of this idea, see Yair Lorberbaum, In God’s Image: Myth, Theology, and Law in Classical Judaism, p.162-165, Cambridge University Press, 2015.
3. Yaakov corresponds to the sefirah of Teferet, and is called shleimah, the complete/perfect one. cf. Reb Dovid Seidenberg on the Ushpizin at the Open Siddur Project.
4. Gematria is a system of counting the numerical value of a word (since each letter is also a number) and comparing it to other values to find hidden meanings, as we will see.
5. Between earth and heaven, between the sefirot, and between G!d and Israel.
6. The sefirot are often called “faces,” and when there is unity between them they are said to be “face to face” rather than “back to back”; this also evokes the Torah’s statement that Moshe spoke with G!d “face to face” (Ex. 33:11), and the saying of the sages that the cherubim over the Ark of the Covenant faced each other when the Jews did G!d’s will and faced away when they didn’t (Bava Batra 99a on Exodus 29:20 and 2 Chronicles 3:13).
7. Yerushalmi, Nedarim
8. aka Gemini; a rare reference to astrology in Ḥasidic writing, though there is actually an extensive connection between Jewish astrology and the kabbalah.

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