Nazarene Space

Understanding Tanya

 Likutei Amarim Chapter 3

(Part 2)


James Scott Trimm

The Tanya continues:


Da'at, the etymology of which is to be found in the verse: "And Adam knew (yada) Eve," implies attachment and union. That is, one binds his mind with a very firm and strong bond to, and firmly fixes his thought on, the greatness of the blessed En sof, without diverting his mind [from Him]. For even one who is wise and understanding of the greatness of the blessed En Sof, will not— unless he binds his knowledge and fixes his thought with firmness and perseverence— produce in his soul true love and fear, but only vain fancies. Therefore da'at is the basis of the middot and the source of their vitality; it contains chesed and gevurah, that is to say, love with its offshoots and fear with its offshoots.

(Tanya; Likutei Amarim; Chapter 3)



The Shema says:



“Hear O Israel, YHWH, our Elohim, YHWH is one (ECHAD)”
(Deut. 6:4)

Now let us to explore how this passage is understood by the Zohar:

The [profession of] unity that every day is [a profession of] unity
is to be understood and to be perceived. We have said in many places
that this prayer is a profession of Unity that is proclaimed:

”Hear O Yisrael, YHWH“ first, [then] “Eloheynu” [and] “YHWH” they are all One and thus He is called “One”.

Behold, these are three names, how can they be one? Is it because we call them one? (literally: And also concerning the proclamation that we call them one?). How these are one can only through the vision of the Holy Sprit be known. And these are through the vision of the closed eye (or the hidden eye) To make known that these three are one (i.e. a Tri-Unity).

And this is the mystery of the voice that is heard. The voice is one. And is three GAUNIN: fire and air and water. And all these are one in the mystery of the voice.

And also here “YHWH, Eloheynu, YHWH” these are One. Three GAUNIN that are One. And this is the voice of the act of a son of man in [proclaiming] the Unity.
And to which he sees by the Unity of the “All” from Eyn Sof (the Inifinite One) to the end of the “All”. Because of the voice in which it is done, in these are three that are one (i.e. a Tri-Unity).

And this is the [profession] of the daily profession of Unity that is revealed in the mystery of the Holy Spirit.

And there are many GAUNIN that are a Unity, and all of them are true, what the one does, that the other does, and what that one does, the other does.
(Zohar 2:43)

(The Aramaic word GA’UN (sing.)/GAUNIN (plural) has the same meaning in the Zohar as the Aramaic word K’NUMA did in the Aramaic New Testament. GAUN comes from the word for “color” and refer to an “aspect, element, substance, essence”. )

Thus the Zohar understands the Sh’ma to mean that YHWH, Elohim and YHWH are three GA’UNIN. This section of the Zohar also recalls a reading from the Sefer Yetzirah:

Three “mothers”: Alef; Mem and Shin
Their foundation is a pan of merit
a pan of liability
and the tongue of decree deciding between them.
(Sefer Yetzirah 3:1)

Three “mothers”, Alef, Mem, Shin
in the universe are air, water, fire…
(Sefer Yetzirah 3:4a)

(Note: The letter SHIN has a gematria (numerical value) of  300 which is the same as the gematria of the phrase ”Ruach Elohim” (the Spirit of God).)

As it we will demonstrate the “tongue of decree deciding between them” is the Middle Pillar of the Godhead, which reconciles the two outer pillars of the Godhead, and through which flows the “offspring” of the love and fear of YHWH and their derivatives.

The Zohar also calls these three GAUNIN the three pillars of the Godhead. The Zohar teaches that the two outer pillars are reconciled by the middle pillar just as the “tongue of decree” decides between the two pans of the scale in the Sefer Yetzirah. The Zohar reads as follows:

Why, it may be asked, was it necessary to repeat the word “light”
in this verse? The answer is that the first “light” refers to the
primordial light which is of the Right Hand, and is destined for
the “end of days”; while the second “light” refers to the Left Hand,
which issues from the Right.

The next words, “And God saw the light that it was good” (Gen. 1:4),
refer to the pillar which standing midway between them,
writes both sides, and therefore when the unity of the three,
right, left, and middle, was complete, “it was good”, since there
could be no completion until the third had appeared to remove
the strife between Right and Left, as it is written, “And God separated
between the light and between the darkness.” …

This is the Middle Pillar: Ki Tov (that it was good) threw light
above and below and on all other sides, in virtue of YHWH,
the name which embraces all sides.
(Zohar 1:16b)

According to the Zohar the Middle Pillar of the Godhead is the Son of Yah:

Better is a neighbor that is near, than a brother far off.
This neighbor is the Middle Pillar in the Godhead,
which is the Son of Yah.
(Zohar 2:115)

The Zohar also says of the Son of YHWH:

The Holy One, blessed be He, has a son, whose glory (tifret)
shines from one end of the world to another. He is a great
and mighty tree, whose head reaches heaven, and whose roots
are set in the holy ground, and his name is “Mispar” and his
place is in the uppermost heaven… as it is written, “The heavens
declare (me-SaPRim) the glory (tifret) of God” (Ps. 19:1).
Were it not for this “Mispar” there would be neither hosts
nor offspring in any of the worlds.
(Zohar 2:105a)

This Zohar passage is intended to recall a passage from the Bahir:

Why are they called Sephirot?
Because it is written (Ps. 19:2),
“The heavens declare (me-SaPRim) the glory (tifret) of God.”
(Bahir 125)

The Zohar also says concerning the Son of Yah:

"We may also translate "he who withholds blessings
from the Son" (Prov. 11:26), whom the Father and Mother
have CROWNED and blessed with many blessings,
and concerning whom they commanded, "Kiss the SON
lest he be angry" (Ps. 2:12), since he is invested
with judgment (GEVURAH) and with mercy (CHESED)"
(Zohar 3:191b)

The Zohar also identifies the Middle Pillar as “Metatron”:

The Middle Pillar [of the Godhead] is Metatron,
Who has accomplished peace above,
according to the glorious state there.
(Zohar 3:227)

the Zohar teaches that Metatron is not just the Son of Yah, but that he is "first begotten of all the creatures of Elohim":

"And Abraham said to his oldest servant of his house…" (Gen. 24:2)
Who is this of whom it said "his servant?"
In what sense must this be understood? Who is this servant?
R. Nehori answered: "It is in no other sense to be understood
than expressed in the word "His servant," His servant,
the servant of God, the chief to His service.
And who is he? Metatron, as said. He is appointed to glorify
the bodies which are in the grave. This is the meaning of the words
"Abraham said to His servant" that is to the servant of God.
The servant is Metatron, the eldest of His [YHWH's] House,
who is the first-begotten of all creatures of God,
who is the ruler of all He has; because God has committed to Him
the government over all His hosts.
(Zohar 1:129b)


While the Middle Pillar provides us with a way of understanding the “offspring” of the Father and Mother as described in the Tanya, the Tanya takes the understanding a step deeper.  For Da’at (knowledge) may represent the Middle Pillar of the Godhead, it may also be seen in another way, as the Tanya says:


Therefore da'at is the basis of the middot
and the source of their vitality;
it contains chesed and gevurah, that is to say,
love with its offshoots and fear with its offshoots.


In this understanding the “offspring” can be seen as flowing out through DA’AT and encompasses the “Seven Middot” or “Seven Doubles” which encompass the seven lower sefirot.  Just as the Tanya divides the sefirot in to two groups:


Similarly is it with the human soul,
which is divided in two— sechel (intellect)
and middot (emotional attributes). 


Likewise the Zohar divides the Sefirot in the Godhead into two groups, the upper three forming the upper grade and the seven lower forming the lower grade. 


And according to the Zohar, Ps. 110:1 has one aspect of the Godhead speaking to another aspect of the Godhead:


Rabbi Simeon further gave an exposition of the verse:
The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand
Until I make your enemies your footstool (Ps. 110:1)
“The Lord says unto my Lord”: to wit,
the upper grade [of the Godhead], said to
the lower [grade of the Godhead], “sit at My right hand”,
(Zohar 1:50b)

The "love of G-d, dread and awe of Him, glorification of Him, and so forth." which are the "offspring" of Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge (CHaBaD) are personified to us as the Son of Yah!  When the Tanya teaches us to embrace these emotions the pour forth from our knowledge of Torah, it is teaching us to embrace the Son of Yah and in doing so to receive the outflowing of emotion that comes from CHaBaD (Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge).

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