Light of Creation
רבי לוי בשם רבי בזירה שלשים ושש שעות שימשה אותה האורה שנבראת ביום הראשון. שתים עשרה בערב שבת ושתים עשרה בליל שבת ושתים עשרה בשבת. והיה אדם הראשון מביט בו מסוף העולם ועד סופו כיון שלא פסקה האור התחיל כל העולם כולו משורר שנאמר (איוב לז) תחת כל השמים ישרהו למי שאורו על כנפות הארץ. כיון שיצאת שבת התחיל משמש החושך ובא ונתירא אדם ואמר אלו הוא שכתב בו (בראשית ג) הוא ישופך ראש ואתה תשופנו עקב שמא בא לנשכני ואמר (תהילים קל) אך חשך ישופני.
Rabbi Levi in the name of Rabbi Bezeirah: The Light created on the first day was used for 36 hours. 12 hours on erev Shabbos, 12 hours on the night of Shabbos, and 12 hours on Shabbos. Adam haRishon could see with it from one end of the world until its [other] end.
– Yerushalmi Berakhos 8:5, 60b
I posted a series on the Rambam’s notion of Creation, and how much it resembles the tradition of Qabbalah found in Lithuanian sources like R’ Chaim Volozhiner’s Nefesh haChaim or the works of the Leshem. (HT: The Leshem, whose writings often refer to the Moreh Nevuchim.) The Rambam speaks of a chain of forms, or thoughts, that we call angels, each contingent on the prior link of the chain, through which G-d’s Thought becomes the objects and events in this world. The Qabbalists speak of Light that descends through worlds, at each stage assuming ever more abstract forms, that cause the forms and substances of the world below it.
Two of the points made and buttressed there:
Rav Chaim Volozhiner holds that only the human soul connects this world to the higher ones, and thus events in this world only have metaphysical effects via their effects on the people involved.
I then connected this to Rav Dessler’s understanding of the Maharal’s position on miracles. The world around us isn’t some objective reality, it is colored by what our minds impose in how we as people perceive and understand things. And so, when Hashem performs a miracle, the miracle needn’t be shared by every person involved. What was blood to the Egyptians was water to the Jews.
I suggested that this is the mechanism by which the Nefesh haChaim’s principle worked. Events in this world, by changing the human soul, changed the perceiver and thus influences the world he experiences in the future.
I believe this quote from the Yerushalmi shows the link between the notion of the Supernal Light and Rav Dessler’s (rather Kantian) notion of the role of perception.
In Michtav Me’Eliyahu I, “Olamos deAsiyah veYetzirah” pp 304-312, Rav Dessler writes about the difference between the four worlds discussed in Qabbalah. As in his general pattern — which of the olamos one is in depends on how one looks at the world. There R’ Dessler writes that Adam, before the sin, was in a state such that what he considered the lowest world, the olam ha’asiyah (world of action), is the world we identify with the one above the lowest, the olam hayetzirah (world of giving forms).
Rav Dessler also discusses the difference in the consciousness of Adam before the sin in his discussion of the time of creation, in vol II pp 150-154, “Yemei Bereishis veYemai Olam”, in the section subtitled, “Zeman: Qevi’as Mahuso“. The section’s name (“Time: Establishing His Nature”) is a bit of wordplay — referring both to establishing what is the essence of time, and that that essence comes from the nature of the person.
People think of themselves as stable, and the world moves around them. But this is an error. With each moment and each impression, some of the potential of the person is actualized. It says in Nidah 30b that a baby before birth sees “from the end of the world until its [other] end”. But when he’s born, he enters the hiding caused by time, the unity of creation speaking the Unity of the Creator is concealed, and only the present seems real. In the world of action (olam ha’asiyah), every moment is fixed by the action. Every moment following the Torah adds some light to his mahus, and similarly ch”v in the reverse. Through his free will [thus connecting this definition of the time to the one in the opening of the lecture] he establishes his nature, thereby giving a flow to time.
Note that Rav Dessler places the flow of time as a feature of the lowest world, an illusion created by free will choosing actions, and thereby changing the nature of the soul who acts. Earlier in this essay, R’ Dessler writes that since Adam before the sin lacked this same kind of decision-making, we can not know how he perceived time.
To close the loop to the gemara, realize that the higher worlds are realms of lesser tzimtzum, less concealment of the Divine Light, and we get the idea that Even and Adam lost the light when they ate from the fruit, they lowered down to the olam which we now inhabit. But until then, this extra Light of the higher world let Adam, like an infant before birth, see “from one end of the world until its [other] end.”
Thus we see that the Yerushalmi describing Light as giving the ability to see — perceive — across the entire universe can be identified with Rav Dessler’s notion that one’s choice of perception defines one’s world.