Gilla Nissan

..” and the place of the dwelling of the Great Name is in between..”Abulafia

It was said about King David that he used to wake up at midnight to contemplate the Torah.

How did he know, pondered the Rabbis, when it was midnight? Wind from the north would come to stroke the five- stringed harp hanging above his bed. Midnight is a critical time.

It is not just a point in linear time which any clock can easily mark. It is a unique space where forces of life meet each other to create new beginnings. It can take one to great heights or to very low places. It is a teaching.

To know how to find the point of midnight , its precision and astronomical time, is to be able to see how midnight becomes purely precise psychological spiritual moments. How surprising it is to realize the possibility of accuracy in our inner life! Continually, in each moment of the day or night, “a point in between “can be found. It is spread all over in time and space waiting to be noticed. It is all over but in a precise order, moving all the time with precise spontaneity. . It was King David who knew the exact time. It was his mission to awaken people by this exact knowledge. It was the gift of the harp hanging above his bed. The Torah, as a discipline, teaches us the ability to elicit a response from above by learning to become an empty vessel which can receive the divine. Before the teaching was given, the awakening was initiated from above to below. Divinity, it was said, was concealed during Creation but then was revealed by the Torah.

Midnight in Hebrew is sounded: “chat-zot”. How sharp, how immediate ! It derives from the word “half.” The two syllable verb “lachtzot” means to cut in half or to cross over to the other side. The one syllable noun “chetz” is an arrow in Hebrew. It suggests the speed of its movement in space.

Midnight is the darkest time. We can break out of the darkness if we know the darkest point of the dark and go all the way there. The darkest point is truly a point of change.

With the blessings that start with “Barouch Atah Adonai..”, “Blessed be thee, oh God..”, we are called to go to a place which holds different forces, since Adonai, the name of God, derives, according to certain Kabbalists, from the word “Aden”, meaning in Hebrew a threshold. In blessing over all situations, life materials, and events, we are being constantly reminded to reaffirm this threshold space in which two forces can meet.

To go to the place of the broken heart, we are told, is to go to a complete place, where joy is on the other side of sorrow; it is to go to a place where the two opposites are held equally together.

We were told that the meeting point is in the middle and that this is the place where the Great Name dwells. The idea that “the middle point” is more sacred than any other place, can be an astonishing one to the linear mind. The beginning, or what comes from above being “less”, in a way, than the middle place is quite a strange idea. This threshold implies the meeting point of the higher and the lower. Experiencing them together in balance in “an in-between place”, a place that almost does not exist for us in an ordinary state, is the challenge of inner development. Yet, this middle point place is accessible all the time and everywhere.

A most well- known and perplexing teaching in Jewish tradition says: “ In the place where repentants stand, even completely perfected human beings cannot stand.” Repentants are people who are moving from a point of sleep to a new place of awakening, of seeing something new in their life. Again, they are in a certain kind of in-between point that is equated with supreme sacredness.

The ancient law of three that has many modern exemplifications implies that the world and life move and work in a constant triadic manner, where three forces are always blending with each other, in the middle, from above to below, and vice versa, creating results which are new beginnings of manifestations or octaves that serve the higher or the lower, depending on choice and level of awareness. These two forces , one from above, the other from below, are reconciled in the middle and create a moment of unity, wholeness, and oneness. This moment, in between, is more unknown and mysterious than the other two. In this teaching, it is called a third or reconciling force. In Tibetan Buddhism it is called “bardo”.

In Jewish tradition, which contains many different teachings, the name of this particular one is the Teaching of Nothingness. The nothingness between somethingness and somethingness. The Maggid from Mezerich stood in the middle of the kitchen and asked; when does the egg becomes a chicken ? When is it neither a chicken nor an egg ? Is the bark on the tree of knowledge the tree or not ? The desert between Egypt and the Holy Land is an open mysterious space which signifies change. The concept of a something that does not belong anywhere yet, meaning any transition between a and b and containing a state of nothingness where all returns to potentiality, is very developed in Kabbalah. The mystics had a fascination with the liminal, the coastal, and the “borderly”.

Another name for this intermediate space is Metatron. Metatron, or “ The Garment of Shaddai”, is the archangel or Minister of the Divine Face. Face is also a border line between two realities. Among his numerous names, such as “Divine Voice”, he is known as The Young One. He is the interface between the divine and the nondivine. In many places in the Book of Splendor, he is considered to be the most holy angel. He is the one in between God and the angels, creator of the outer worlds. He is the answer for the question: Where does the divine begin and end ?

The place where change takes place is sacred and mysterious. It is called in Hebrew, the “Ein Sof,” meaning Infinite or Endless. Everything is from Ein Sof; there is nothing outside of it . Since it transcends and conceals itself, it is the essence of everything hidden and revealed. It is natural, said Rav Kook, for each individual creature to be humble in the presence of God, to nullify itself in the presence of the whole-all the more so, in the presence of the source of all being, which one senses as infinitely beyond the whole.

Ein Sof” is the point where all returns, in a continuous fashion, to potentiality, wholeness, and unity. The way of all returning is important because it is paradoxical in nature; it does not return in a reverse movement, but moves forward towards the future. At the same time it precedes towards the past.

All that is taking place in us or around us contributes to these two different life streams.

Yet still both of these different streams are relating in very important ways, feeding on each other as in a dance; they were both initiated from the ultimate divine Source that started creation with one intention and purpose.

A major student of Rabbi Nachman says, in relating to this theme, that the purpose was God’s wish to reveal His Divinity. When He intended to do so, He created a lateral separation between Himself and everything, to divorce himself in order to be found and known. This act of withdrawing Himself to enable growth is an act of love. For this he needed to create worlds. If we did not have all worlds, who could know Him ? All would be one undifferentiated unity, with no difference between the Knower, the Known, and Knowing. Therefore, it was necessary to create the world by bringing it from potential to actuality, from a state of oneness to multiplicity.

Rabbi Nachman tries to illuminate this particular event by adding that at this point of split, from the one into the many, the element of choice came into being. God assumed that God could not be known unless the knower had the freedom to choose. If this essential element was not included, the world would not be able to stay in existence and would return immediately to its pre -creation state, to its roots, and instantly would become unknown. Knowing of God’s divinity would cancel creation and destroy the world since such knowledge implies unity. Therefore, the existence of the world demanded freedom of choice, which appeared below the creation of the world; this meant that there would be the possibility of making a mistake, to go the wrong way, to be perplexed, lost, etc. Mankind, from that point on, can choose to see this Truth about freedom of choice or can have the strength to choose the opposite, the lie that denies that Truth.

The ability to choose implies a special kind of awareness, which relates to our capability to witness, from that threshold, the two other forces; our higher nature and our earthly nature, both in us and in life. To be able to contain this complexity, is to be able to choose.

In a commentary of scriptures, it was said that at the point of separation, a light that comes from above splits into three, the middle one being described as a” wild wind” pulling the other two down below. This is the Shchina coming down to be in exile. This is Rachel weeping over her children refusing to be consoled. Tzadikim wake up at 12:00 o’clock at night to lament with her, saying special midnight prayers to restore the temple ( Tikon Chatzot).

The wind from the north coming from a place of grossness and darkness to stroke King David’s harp and wake him up, is the force which comes from the lower. It turns back to meet other forces that charge them at midpoint and cause a new beginning, the light of dawn.