B’etzem Hayom Hazeh Yatz'u
Kol Tzivos Hashem Me’eretz Mitzrayim
A synopsis of the Maamar found in Torah Or
ONE OF the most dramatic events in the Torah is recounted in this week’s Torah reading: the exodus from Egypt. After its account of how the Egyptian oppressors had been brought to their knees by miraculous demonstrations of G-d’s omnipotence, the Torah triumphantly states (Exodus 12:41), “On that very same day, all the hosts of G-d went out from the land of Egypt.”
In addition to its simple, narrative meaning, the expression, “the hosts of G-d” can be used as a springboard for discussion of some fundamental principles of Judaism, notably the significance of the various names of G-d; the progression of G-dly revelation over time; and the difference between the Pentateuch and the books of the Prophets.
Let us begin by noting several related things. First, the word “hosts,” although not particularly common in modern English, denotes a multitude of troops. In our context, it refers to the vast population of Jews redeemed from Egypt; as we shall see below, on a more mystical level it can refer to other “troops” as well. Second, the Hebrew word for “hosts” is tzvaos, a word which is also used as a name of G-d. (In that context, out of respect for its holiness, it is pronounced “Tzvakos” unless spoken in prayer or formal Torah reading.) Third, by the rules of Hebrew grammar, two nouns can join together to form a construct in which the first noun takes on the additional meaning “of,” e.g., “the children of Israel,” “the hosts of G-d.” In such cases (known as smichus), the first noun often changes form slightly. Thus, in our verse, the single word for “hosts of,” tzivos, is the same word as that for “hosts,” tzvaos. Finally, this word is found in the Torah on either side of the construct, as “the hosts of G-d” and as “G-d of Hosts.” In the latter phrase (Havaye Tzvakos in Hebrew), the word is considered a Divine name.
The Talmud (Brachos 31b) observes that “from the day that the Holy One, may He be blessed, created His world, there was no person who called the Holy One, may He be blessed, “Tzvakos,” until [the prophetess] Chana came [and did so].” (See I Samuel 1:11.) In recognition of this, G-d promised her, “Your son is destined to prophesy using this name,” as it is written (I Samuel 15:2), “And Samuel said, ‘So says the G-d of Hosts: “I have remembered, etc.”’”
There are many words used in the Bible and rabbinic literature to describe G-d (e.g., “great,” “mighty,” “awesome”), but there are only seven words which Jewish law considers Divine names, which are holy and forbidden to be erased. The name Tzvakos is one of these (see Shavuos 35a). Interestingly, this particular name of G-d is not used even once in the Pentateuch, and in the rest of the Bible it is never found other than in combination with another Divine name – virtually always the name Havaye (G-d’s four-letter name, the Tetragrammaton). To understand the significance of the name Tzvakos, we must preface the concept of the Divine names generally and the special status of the name Havaye in particular.
Now, the everyday words we use to describe G-d, such as “wise,” “kind” and “mighty,” serve to help us understand G-d as He wishes to be known to us. These human attributes cannot be said to describe G-d’s true “Self,” so to speak, at all, since He is not a human. G-d’s true “Self” is utterly unknowable and indescribable by any term or name. However, since it is G-d’s will that we mortals be able to relate to Him, He manifests Himself to us in these ways.
Yet there seems to be quite a gap between G-d, the utterly unknowable and indescribable by any term or name, and our being able to perceive Him as wise, kind, etc. How is this gap bridged?
As explained in the synopsis of the discourse Erda Na (found in the Torah portion Vayeirah), to understand the answer we must know something of the mystical concept of oros and keilim, “lights” and “vessels.”
G-d chooses to manifest Himself within the universe in ten principal ways, known as the ten “sefiros.” These are referred to by names intended to hint at their respective spiritual natures: “wisdom,” “understanding,” “knowledge,” “kindness,” “strength,” “beauty,” “victory” or “eternity” [the Hebrew word for which, netzach, means both things], “glory,” “foundation” and “sovereignty.” Yet this does not imply any plurality in G-d Himself (G-d forbid), for these ten forms of Divine manifestation are only for our benefit: G-d Himself is not any of these, He is simply perceptible to us through them.
In a famous simile, the great Kabbalist Rabbi Moshe Cordovero compared this to water contained in vessels of differently colored glass. Although the water in each vessel is the same colorless liquid, it appears white when viewed through the white vessel, red through the red vessel, and so on. The same is true of light viewed through differently colored lenses. Similarly, G-d – Who is indescribable and indivisible – is the same and unchanged regardless of which “vessel,” or sefira [the singular of sefiros] He is viewed through; it is only the vessels, not the “light” they contain, that are different.
The indivisible G-dly emanation (for even this is only an emanation from G-d, and not G-d Himself) which is, allegorically speaking, “contained” within the colored glasses is referred to as the Or Ein Sof, the “Light of the Infinite One,” while the spiritual parameters of its manifestation to us – the contours of the pitcher which shape the fluid inside; the color of the glass which is imparted to the contents – are called keilim, or “vessels” for that “light.” Thus, in speaking of the ten principal means of Divine manifestation, the ten sefiros, we must understand that each sefira consists of two components: the or, or “light,” within; and the keli, or “vessel,” without. The “light” in each sefira is the same; it is only the “vessels” which are different.
Descriptions of G-d as “wise,” “kind,” “mighty” and the rest can only be applied to G-d as He is perceived by us through the “lenses” of the sefiros. To apply such terms (or any terms at all, for that matter) to G-d “from His own perspective,” i.e., not as He is manifest through the sefiros, is not only meaningless, but actually absurd. This is what is meant by the statement of Elijah the Prophet (found in the introduction to Tikkunei Zohar), “He [Himself] is not of any of these attributes at all.” Indeed, it is said of G-d (Megilah 31a) that “Where you find G-d’s greatness, there do you find His humility.” That is, when we praise G-d as “great,” it is not really his being “great” that we are praising, for this is meaningless as applied to G-d. It is actually a deliberate and inconceivable “lowering” of Himself – to the point that He can be perceived as “great” – that makes such a description possible at all. Thus, in reality, it is G-d’s “humility,” His willingness to come down to our level (in a manner of speaking), that we are praising by describing G-d in terms such as “great.”
Another point must be understood before going on. This physical world, in which G-d’s presence and participation are so hidden from our perception that it is even possible to mistakenly believe there is no G-d at all (G-d forbid) is the end result which G-d had in mind, so to speak, in creating the universe. This is because G-d wanted us to come to our own realization – guided by the Torah – that He is King of the universe and to subjugate ourselves to Him of our own volition, which would not be possible if everyone could see G-d as plainly as day. To make this possible, G-d created not just this one world, but a virtually endless progression of spiritual worlds in which His presence is increasingly hidden until we arrive at the point of this physical world, with its total concealment of G-dliness. These innumerable spiritual worlds are grouped into four broad categories, known as the realms of Atzilus, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, in which Atzilus is the spiritual realm “closest” to G-d’s very Self – that is, in which G-d’s presence is hardly concealed at all – and Asiyah is that in which G-d has so thoroughly concealed Himself that even this physical world can exist.
Each of these realms – Atzilus, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah – allows for the existence of created entities on varying degrees of spiritual awareness. That is, the realm of Beriah, for example, is considered the habitat of souls whose ability to perceive G-d and worship Him is commensurate with the great degree to which G-dliness is openly revealed there; the souls originating in the realm of Asiyah, by contrast, do not have the same spiritual capacity. Within each of the four realms, G-d manifests Himself through the ten sefiros. Thus, the “creatures” of Beriah derive their great perception of G-d through the “lenses” of the keilim component of the sefiros within Beriah, and so on with respect to all the worlds.
Now, in the realm of Atzilus – the highest spiritual realm – the degree of G-dly revelation is so great that in fact, no independent existence is possible. The keilim of the realm of Atzilus are not something “apart” from G-d, even on a very subtle level, but are themselves considered an aspect of G-d, as it were. Yet their “existence” is the first step in the entire progression, for in the next “lower” world, Beriah, the keilim are no longer considered G-dly (although the or, the “light,” within them certainly is), and so on until this physical world.
Let us now return to our discussion of the names of G-d.
We said above that descriptive terms like “kind” and “mighty” only apply to our perception of G-d “filtered” through the keilim of the ten sefiros. For this reason, such terms are not holy in and of themselves, for, as explained above, they do not apply to G-d Himself. On the other hand, the seven holy names of G-d which are forbidden to be erased are identified with the keilim themselves. Since the keilim of Atzilus are themselves G-dly, these seven names of G-d, which are the keilim, are holy. The Divine name Kel (properly pronounced E-l in prayer and formal Torah reading), for example, is identified with the keli of the sefirah of chesed (“kindness”); the name Elokim (Elo-him) with the keli of gevurah (“strength”); and the name Ado-nay with malchus (“sovereignty”).
By contrast, G-d’s unpronounceable (even in prayer and Torah reading, where it is read as the name Ado-nay), four-letter name – pronounced for everyday purposes by scrambling its letters to read Havaye – is the inner aspect of all the other names, which are the keilim. That is, the name Havaye is associated with the oros, the lights, within the keilim. That is why the name Havaye combines with all of the other Divine names, as in the verse (Genesis 2:4), “On the day that G-d, the L-rd [Havaye Elokim] created earth and heaven,” and in the Scriptural expression “G-d of Hosts” [Havaye Tzvakos]. The name Havaye is that which draws the Or Ein Sof into the names Elokim and Tzvakos (in the above examples), as it is the intermediary between the oros and the keilim and binds them together.
We will return to the above ideas shortly. Let us now introduce a new concept: the progression of G-dly revelation over time.
As discussed above, G-d created the world “one step at a time,” in the sense that He started with a realm in which He was only slightly concealed, and, through countless intermediate steps, ultimately brought about this physical world, where He appears completely hidden. The goal of the entire progression, however, is, as explained, that even in this lowest world, we should reveal G-dliness by our study of Torah and performance of mitzvos. The world was not “ready-made” with G-dliness fully manifest in the physical world; even now, this is something we are still striving to accomplish, day by day, person by person, mitzvah by mitzvah. It was G-d’s will that over the course of Jewish history, His radiance and revelation be drawn further and further down into the lower realms and made as accessible to their respective inhabitants as it is to the more refined spiritual beings; this was accomplished through the efforts of various saintly souls who were best suited for the particular task, and whose birth into the world occurred at the appropriate time to fulfill it.
For example, the giving of the Torah after the Jews left Egypt was a revelation of G-dliness simply staggering in its magnitude. For reasons of His own, it was G-d’s plan that prior to that period in time, the world was not ready for that revelation. The soul of Moshe (Moses) was spiritually best qualified, as it were, to transmit this G-dly manifestation to the Jews, which is why G-d chose him to bring us the Torah. However, although the entire corpus of Torah knowledge was included in what G-d gave Moshe, what Moshe actually received in an openly revealed manner was the Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses. It was not until later in the course of time that G-d revealed the holiness contained within the books of the Prophets, each book at the hands of the particular prophet. The same is true throughout Jewish history, as the G-dliness implicit within the Torah has been gradually made explicit through the contributions of such great souls as the rabbis of the Mishna and Talmud, the great commentators and codifiers like Rashi, Rambam, the author of the Shulchan Aruch (the universally accepted codification of Jewish law), and so on. This process has continued today with the revelation of the very essence of the Torah, that part known as chassidus, and will culminate with the revelation by Messiah of the deepest and loftiest G-dly knowledge in a clearly revealed and comprehensible manner.
The above is not merely a description of the course of Jewish scholarship. Each stage in the revelation of the Torah has literally been the manifestation in earthly form of the spiritual “light” of G-d – contained within the Torah – being drawn further and further “down to earth.” What is more, there is a very real and practical consequence to this: that additional revelation provides us with the spiritual fortitude and strength we need to maintain (and, indeed, increase) our worship of G-d despite the challenging conditions of succeeding generations.
Anyone familiar with the accomplishments of generations past knows that we who are alive today are not of the same spiritual stature as our forebears. To compare the average Jew of our time with the average Jew who lived in the period of Rashi, for example, or of the sages of the Talmud, or the Holy Temple, or the generation of Moshe, would only confirm the well known adage that the generations have tended to decline over the years. Indeed, none of those periods would compare favorably with its predecessors.
The mystical explanation of this phenomenon is that our souls today tend to stem from lower in the spiritual hierarchy (the realms of Atzilus, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah) than did the souls of former generations, which in turn were not as lofty as their own predecessors, and so on. If the souls in Moshe’s time were closer to the realm of Atzilus, our “modern” souls are more like the lower reaches of Asiyah; we just don’t have the same spiritual capacity that they did. (It is important to understand that this is only a quantitative assessment of the souls. From a qualitative standpoint, however, all souls are equal. No one in our time, for example, will be held to account for why they did not reach the same level of spiritual distinction as Moshe did; that would be unreasonable. Rather, each person is expected to achieve his or her own spiritual potential – whatever that may happen to be – and if they do, each and every one of us is considered fully as righteous as Moshe himself.)
In any event, the result of the above is that, just as a professor can present a profound and difficult concept to a brilliant graduate student in very advanced terms but would need to reformulate and thoroughly simplify the presentation of the same concept for a lay audience, which is simply unable to relate to the more advanced version, the G-dly light inherent within Torah – while perfectly accessible to the Jews of Moshe’s time – had to be made more and more explicit for the benefit of succeeding generations in history.
In fact, this could only have been accomplished by succeeding generations. A soul such as that of Moshe, rooted in the loftiest heights of heaven, could only draw the G-dly revelation which is the Torah so far: he could bring the “light,” the G-dly revelation, which G-d desired to bestow upon the Jews down to his own level, but no lower than that. (That is the mystical significance of Moshe’s protest, when charged by G-d to lead the Jews out of Egypt so that they could receive the Torah, that he was inadequate to the task because he had a speech impediment (see Exodus 4:10). “Speech” is the revelation to others of what is within one’s own mind, and in our context it symbolized the transmission to the Jews of the Torah as Moshe himself understood it. Moshe’s concern was that, owing to the rarified stature of his soul, he would be unable to transmit the Torah to the Jews “beneath” him, and that someone else would therefore be better suited for this task.)
Accordingly, as the generations progressed and souls originating at relatively lower levels of the spiritual hierarchy came to populate the Jewish people, G-d saw fit to allow His “light” to be drawn farther down – to their level – by someone whose soul could indeed relate to them. (Paradoxically, we may thus identify an advantage of later generations over earlier, in that the later generations were able to express the G-dly revelations of the Torah more thoroughly, to bring them more fully “down to earth.”) And once the Torah became accessible again to the people of each respective age, they were able to observe the mitzvos of the Torah – which are conduits for the spirituality G-d transmits into the universe – in such a way as to bring the spirituality associated with those mitzvos down to levels it had not previously reached. At our point in Jewish history, the entire process has been completed: even the souls of Asiyah have now been enabled to relate to the Torah, as it has been drawn down to our level through the successive realms of Atzilus, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah. We have thus been able, through our worship and mitzvah-observance, to reach up by means of this “Torah-bridge” and bring the awesome light of G-d Himself, the Or Ein Sof “contained” within the mitzvos, all the way down to the point of its open expression even in this physical world.
Now, the Pentateuch contains the 613 mitzvos of the Torah: 248 positive precepts (like “put on Tefillin”) and 365 negative injunctions (like “do not steal”). The spiritual source of these mitzvos is the name Havaye (see the synopsis of the discourse Ze Sh’mi L’Olam in the Torah portion Sh’mos, in which the first two letters of the four-letter name Havaye are identified as the source of the negative mitzvos and the latter two letters of the name Havaye as the source of the positive mitzvos), particularly as invested within the so-called “emotional” group of sefiros in the realm of Atzilus – i.e., all but the first three, which are the “intellectual” sefiros of “wisdom,” “understanding” and “knowledge.” The attributes of chesed (“kindness”) and gevurah (“strength” or “restraint”) and related qualities are all within this group, collectively known as z.a. (an abbreviation for ze’er anpin, or “minor countenance”) of Atzilus. All the details of the mitzvos – forbidden or permitted, valid or invalid, guilty or innocent, etc. – are bound up with these spiritual attributes: that which is permitted and valid has its source in the chesed aspects of za, while one who transgresses a negative mitzvah (G-d forbid) draws upon themself something of the gevurah aspects of za, in that they are punished, etc.
What Moshe in particular was able to achieve was the bringing of the light of the Ein Sof down to the point where it could invest itself within the keilim of za of Atzilus in the first place, and utterly unite with them (for, it will be remembered, in the realm of Atzilus, even the keilim are G-dly). As mentioned earlier, this or (light) within the keilim of Atzilus is identified with the name Havaye, and this union of the name Havaye – the Or Ein Sof – and the keilim of za is, as explained in the previous paragraph, the source of the mitzvos of the Torah. This is why Moshe merited that the Torah be given through him: it was his spiritual achievement that, very literally, made it possible.
(This level was also the primary source of Moshe’s prophetic powers, which, however, had to be transmitted by way of the realm of Beriah, as explained in Sha’ar Hak’dusha (“Gate of Holiness”) by Rabbi Chaim Vital of blessed memory, Part 3, Gate 6.)
Prior to the giving of the Torah, the Jews were unable to relate to G-d by means of the mitzvos, a fact whose significance is now more clearly understood: Moshe had not yet “enabled” the source of the mitzvos – the investiture of the Or Ein Sof, through the name Havaye, into the keilim of za of Atzilus. This is also consistent with G-d’s statement to Moshe (see the synopsis of the discourse Vay'daber Elokim El Moshe … Va’eira El Avrohom found in the Torah portion Va’eira) that before the Torah was given, the name Havaye was unknown even to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Nevertheless, Moshe did not bring the Or Ein Sof down to the level at which it would unite with the keilim of the lower realms – Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah – in the same way in which it utterly united with the keilim of Atzilus. Nor, however, did Moshe need to do so, for the Jews of Moshe’s time were of such lofty spiritual stature that they were able to relate to the Torah as it stood in the realm of Atzilus. It was only as the generations progressed, and the souls of the Jews were no longer of such lofty origin, that they began to lose touch with the Torah – which, from their lower perspective, now seemed “up in the clouds” – and they transgressed. This occurred in the time of the prophets, which is why the books of the prophets are full of rebuke and exhortation to the Jews to repent.
We are now in a position to understand why, in the Pentateuch, the name Havaye is used, but the name Tzvakos never appears; while, beginning with the prophetess Chana, the books of the prophets frequently use the combination, Havaye Tzvakos.
For, as noted at the beginning of this synopsis, the Divine name Tzvakos is the same word as that which means “hosts,” or “great multitudes.” The significance of this is as follows:
The spiritual world of Atzilus is characterized by unity as opposed to diversity and multiplicity, since in Atzilus G-d’s presence is so manifest that there is no room for independent existence and all is one with Him. The lower realms, those below Atzilus, are just the opposite: since, in those realms, the Or Ein Sof does not utterly unite with the keilim, there is room for diversity and multiplicity. Each of the countless beings – legions of souls and angels – of these realms is considered an individual in its own right; these are the innumerable hosts of heaven.
Now, when Moshe, whose prophetic powers reached into the realm of Atzilus, spoke to the Jews, he was transmitting to them G-d’s own words, since in Atzilus, the Or Ein Sof pervades all and there is nothing apart from G-d. Moshe was actually a conduit; it was G-d Himself speaking through his mouth. The prophets after Moshe, though, were not capable of the same level of prophetic inspiration; their prophesies flowed from the level of Beriah. This posed a problem with respect to their task of rebuking the Jews and urging them to repent. When G-d Himself rebukes someone (in the manner in which G-d Himself was speaking directly to the Jews through Moshe’s mouth), there is a direct connection between that person and G-d, and the value and efficacy of the rebuke is of a different order entirely than if a mere mortal were doing the rebuking.
Thus, it was in the age of the prophets that the time had come for the Or Ein Sof to descend farther, infusing even the realm of Beriah. In this way, the light of G-d united with the keilim of Beriah in the same absolute manner as in Atzilus, so that when the prophets transmitted their prophetic inspiration originating at this level, they, like Moshe, were literally conveying the word of G-d Himself – not merely telling the people what they, in turn, had “heard” G-d say. Through the prophets, the Torah once more came down to the level of the Jews.
(Although there is a principle (Shabbos 104a) that “a prophet may not introduce an innovation [over the Torah as taught by Moshe],” the above is not an innovation. Instead, the very same Torah as taught by Moshe was drawn down by the prophets from the realm of Atzilus to that of Beriah – that is, it was brought within reach of the Jews of their day – without adding or subtracting anything.)
Since, as noted above, the realm of Beriah is one of diversity, inhabited by the “hosts” of heaven, G-d’s infinite light – the Or Ein Sof – being manifest in that world effected a transformation: His unity pervaded Beriah as well, and the formerly “separate” hosts were shown to be one with G-d after all. (It is important to avoid confusion on this point. Needless to say, nothing was “added” to G-d (as if such a thing were possible) by the “creatures” of Beriah becoming absorbed in His unity. G-d was, is, and always will be One with a simple, all-pervasive unity that encompasses all realms equally. From that perspective – which is the true one – everything in Beriah and everywhere else was always nothing more than a manifestation of G-d and had no existence independent of Him. However, since G-d wanted to create a physical world in which He appeared hidden, for the reasons described earlier, He concealed His light from the perspective of the created universe, making it appear to created beings like us as though we are “separate” from him; but that appearance of independent existence is nothing more than an illusion. Everything in this entire discussion – about G-dliness being drawn down to places it formerly was not – must be understood in this light. In reality, G-d is, and always has been, everywhere. However, in accordance with His wish that we gradually come to recognize that for ourselves, He has allowed that fundamental truth to be revealed, through the spiritual effects of Jewish worship, in gradual stages over time. This is what is meant by the hosts of the realm of Beriah “becoming” one with G-d.)
The Divine name Tzvakos signifies this. Before the prophets drew the Or Ein Sof into Beriah, the hosts (tzvaos) of Beriah were not one with G-d, and the word describing them is therefore not holy. (On the contrary, the word tzvaos actually connotes a multitude of separate individuals, as opposed to the true unity of G-d.) The very same word as a Divine name, however, represents G-d as He is united with the hosts of Beriah: the actual hosts themselves are G-dly, and the word, referring now to G-d, is holy.
This may be better understood by the following examples. The word “person” cannot properly be applied to either a disembodied soul or a lifeless body; it refers to the soul (the main thing) as it is invested within a body (its container). Use of this one term to describe the combination is an indication of their integration into one entity, a “person.” Likewise, “knowledge” refers to abstract data, independent of the one who “knows” it. A person who acquires knowledge can be described by adjectives, like “wise” or “knowledgeable,” but these do not connote that the person and the knowledge are a single entity. Such words are really part of a phrase, whether explicit or understood: a “wise person,” or a “knowledgeable person.” However, there are certain nouns (more so in Hebrew than in English) which actually refer, like all nouns, to a thing, and not an aspect of that thing: “sage,” for example, may perhaps be said to describe specifically the person as they are suffused with knowledge. There is no separate “knowledge” component to the term “sage”; it refers exclusively to the person. It is as though the knowledge possessed by that person is no longer a separate entity, but is part and parcel of the sage; it cannot be referred to separately, but is inherent in the description of the person. The Divine name Tzvakos, likewise, connotes not merely that the hosts of Beriah exist but are subjugated to G-d; rather, it means that G-d Himself is the tzvaos, which are not separable from Him.
The prophets were able to bring about this great revelation and unity because of the fact that, as mentioned above, G-d essentially transcends all distinctions between “levels” of creation anyway. It is, after all, only from our limited perspective that G-d appeared not to have been revealed within Beriah, but since, in fact, G-d is everywhere (not just in the spatial sense, but even in the spiritual realms), the prophets were able to tap into that reality (in mystical terms, the concepts of igul and sovev kol almin) and express it openly within Beriah.
This is hinted at by the language of the verse (I Samuel 1:10) describing Chana’s prayer, in which she became the first to use the name Havaye Tzvakos: “and she prayed to G-d,” in which the Hebrew words for “to G-d” are al Havaye. As explained elsewhere (see, for example, the synopsis of the discourse Ha’azinu), the Divine name Havaye symbolizes the manner in which G-d makes Himself manifest to created beings by “concealing” his full radiance from our perception and “compressing” it into a form we can withstand. “Al Havaye” literally means, “upon Havaye,” and the implication is that her prayer was directed to a level of G-d which transcends the set order of gradual revelation represented by the name Havaye. Only from this exalted level could Chana reach up and elicit the manifestation of the Or Ein Sof within Beriah as much as within Atzilus.
However, even in the books of the prophets, the name Tzvakos is not used alone but is preceded by the name Havaye: as explained above, the name Havaye refers to the Or Ein Sof as drawn into and united with the keilim of Atzilus; that was a necessary prerequisite to the further progression of the Or Ein Sof into Beriah, symbolized by the name Tzvakos.
Finally, the reason the word “hosts of” is used in our verse (“On that very same day, all the hosts of G-d went out from the land of Egypt”) in the smichus construct – in which, grammatically, the word tzivos (“hosts of”) in the phrase “hosts of G-d” is subordinate to the word Havaye (“G-d”) – as opposed to as a word in its own right, is as follows:
The “hosts” referred to may be understood as being the 202 “sparks of holiness” that the Jews elevated to their spiritual source and brought up with them out of the land of Egypt. (See the synopsis of the discourse V’Hinei Anachnu M’Almim Alumim, found in the Torah portion Vayeishev, where it is explained that 288 sparks of G-dliness “fell” into the created realms. The Jews succeeded in restoring 202 of these during their sojourn in Egypt; it was left to us, their descendants, to elevate the rest.) These 202 sparks are the spiritual “spoils” the Jews took with them from Egypt, as it is written (Exodus 12:36), “and they despoiled Egypt.” They are also alluded to by the verses (Exodus 12:38), “and a mixed multitude [of Egyptian converts] (erev rav) also went up with them,” and (Deuteronomy 3:26) “you [Moshe] have enough (rav),” since the Hebrew word rav in these verses is numerically equivalent, by the rules of Gematria, to 202.
The 288 sparks of holiness are spiritually derived from the four Divine names comprised of 72, 63, 45 and 52 letters respectively. While the meaning of this concept is beyond the scope of this synopsis, the relevant point for our purposes is that a name is something used for the benefit of others; one does not need to use one’s name when alone. The name identifies a specific person as a discrete entity among other people. When the Jews left Egypt and raised the 202 sparks up to the point of re-absorption into their spiritual source, the elevated sparks were thereby divested of their status as independent entities and became one with G-d. They could no longer be referred to by name, but only as subordinate to G-d, as in the phrase, tzivos Havaye, the “hosts of G-d.”
(An analogy to this degree of absorption into G-d can be taken from a person contemplating the greatness of G-d. Such contemplation, at first, may cause the person to be conscious of G-d’s greatness and to feel total dedication to Him. However, although commendable, at this stage the person still has enough sense of their own self to experience that consciousness and feel that dedication. On the other hand, it is possible to meditate on G-d’s greatness to the point at which the person loses all sense of self, in which case they cannot be said to have any consciousness or feeling at all. This is the absorption into G-dliness and loss of separate existence we are discussing.)
Of course, it was the Jews’ exodus from Egypt – as opposed to that of the elevated sparks of holiness – that is the main theme of our story. Regarding this, it is written (Exodus 12:51), “On that very same day, G-d brought the Children of Israel out from the land of Egypt by their hosts [i.e., in their great multitudes].” In this verse, the Hebrew words for “by their hosts” are al tzivosam, which, as explained above regarding Chana’s prayer, literally means “upon their hosts” (still using the subordinate, smichus, form of the word). The significance of this is that, while, as we have been saying, the subordinate word tzivos – hosts [of] – may be taken as alluding to the elevated sparks of holiness, the souls of the Jews themselves – the Children of Israel – stem from a higher level than that (“upon,” or transcending, their “hosts”).
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Ó 2002. Please note that the foregoing is an informal synopsis by a private person, and that, therefore, errors are possible. Also, the Hebrew original contains much more than could possibly be presented here, and constitutes a much more direct transmission of the Alter Rebbe’s teachings. Furthermore, the synopsis may contain supplementary or explanatory material not in the original, and not marked as such in any way. Thus, for those with the ability to learn in the original, this synopsis should not be considered a substitute for the maamar. Good Shabbos!