Articles with the “Elokim” tag

The Passages recited before the blowing of the Shofar


In this powerful chapter of Psalms, the name of God, Elokim, appears seven times. Elokim is the screen that shields the receiver from the infinite overwhelming light of God, expressed in the essential four-letter name, the Tetragrammaton, which is spelled in Hebrew yud-hei-vav-hei, and which we are forbidden to pronounce. This essential name of God represents the infinite, while Elokim represents the finite, the Divine energy that is clothed within restrictions of time and space. When we recite this name the seven times, we pierce the seven heavens and overcome the seven levels of veils, and from our narrow, constricted, finite place—reflected in the narrow mouthpiece of the shofar—we extend into a wide, vast place of the Infinite light.

Koli Shima

Taking the first letters of these verses, we spell out kra Satan (rip apart Satan).

Satan is nothing more than a concealment of the Divine. It is the power of kelipa, which translates in our own life as uncertainties, doubts, and the inability to see our Divine purpose. In its grasp, we perceive life as random, giving rise to even greater confusion and covering over the Divine life force within us. But when we rip apart the kelipa, we realize what it is a shell. The kelipa is a mirage—when we peel it away, there is nothing there.

The sound of the shofar blasts open a cosmic opening in the restricted place of kelipa, allowing Divine energy to flow into this world and into our lives.

Min Ha’metzar

“From the depths I call out to you, and You answer me with expansiveness.” This is the theme of the shofar—a simple cry from the deepest parts of our soul, penetrating all worlds and inspiring a renewed and expanded desire for God to create and assume kingship.

Unmasking the Mystery

Unmasking the Mystery

Olam — the Hebrew term for world, universe, creation — is rooted in the word helem (concealment). The way this material-based universe operates, the way it was set up and created is that creation does not unambiguously point to a creator, notwithstanding the classic philosophical argument made famous in medieval Europe, of design; as a painting is proof of an artist, or a book of an author. Despite this logical reasoning, there are those who look at creation and see nothing. Some claim to see, instead of the presence of an intelligent Source, a great void or emptiness. Just because the odds are extraordinarily slim that this universe could be a random occurrence does not, to some, render this impossible. They seem to suggest that this profoundly intricate world is one fluke in an infinite meaningless chaos.

“If God exists,” one witty modern philosopher once wrote, “then He has written a detective story with all the clues pointing the wrong way.” Certainly, for some believers, proof of the creator is found scattered throughout all of creation, from a sunset to the birth of a child. But others simply don’t find such evidential proof — for some these are mere natural occurrences. Indeed, on some level they are the working of nature. This, however, is where the concept of miracles comes into play.

While nature conceals, miracles reveal. Nature may not point overtly to a creator, but miracles do. In the world of miracles there are two types: miracles that shatter the workings of nature, suspending and overwhelming the natural course; and miracles that are vested within the workings of nature, miracles that intermingle with what we call nature.

There is Teva (nature), and there is nisim geluim (open miracles) and nisim nistarim (hidden miracles). Open miracles defy logic. When they occur, our conventional mood of thinking is suspend, and we stand in awe at the occurrence. There is no way for us to honestly grasp what just occurred, and the least we can concede is that we don’t yet have an explanation. Concealed miracles pique our interest and rouse us to take a deeper look, but they do not force us to submit our lack of understanding. When a hidden miracle transpires, the hand of God can be detected to those who wish to see it, but only indirectly. Evaluating the details of the event, we come to a realization that something mysterious was and is at work.

Purim is the embodiment of a miracle wrapped within the costume of teva/nature. Taking a superficial glance at the story of Purim, nothing miraculous pops up. The story seems to be obscured in ambiguity and chance occurrences. Just a simple reading of the text offers a tale of chance and coincidence, nothing miraculous or out of the ordinary. And yet the details don’t add up unless we attribute the mysterious unfolding to a higher power and cause. True, no one event is miraculous or out of the ordinary; still together there is an incredible combination of circumstances and events that weave a fantastic tale of the remarkable.

Let us revisit the story once again: The story opens with Achashverosh throwing a great feast and wanting to show off his queen Vashti. He asks her to appear but she refuses. Angered at her refusal, the king gets rid of her and searches for a new queen. So far nothing miraculous has yet occurred. It so happens that the girl the king saw fit for his new queen was none other than the Jewess Ester, the cousin of the court Jew Mordechai. Some time later, by mere ‘coincidence,’ Mordecai overhears a plot to kill the king and informs the court and saves the life of the king. Meanwhile Haman, the wicked adviser of the king has plotted to kill off the Jews in the kingdom with the consent of the king. One sleepless night as the king is tossing and turning in bed, he asks to be read from his book of remembrances, and the tale of Mordechai saving his life is retold. A bit later on, Ester reveals herself as a Jew and asks for the decree to be annulled, and to top it all off, when the king walks into the queen’s chamber, he finds Haman there, and his anger is sealed and the decree revoked.

Essentially this is a tale of great happenstances or coincidences. As a whole, there are no events or one event that stands out as miraculous. If anything, the miracle is a hidden one, weaved within the fabric of the story. Unlike Chanukah, for example, where a jug of oil with barely enough oil to last one day burned for eight days, or Passover, where a group of slaves were saved and redeemed, the story of Purim does not manifest any such events. It is a tale, a miracle that is hidden, enclothed within the workings of nature. So much so that it even lends itself to be ascribed to mere happenstance or coincidence.

Ester, the one who appears to be the heroin of the tale, is obscured in a great hiddenness. No one in the court knows her identity. Remember she does not even tell her husband, the king, her point of origin. Furthermore, her Hebrew name is Hadassah but she takes on a new Persian name Ester, which means a star. So much so is her life a secret that even her new name hints to secrecy as well. Ironically, the name Ester in Hebrew is derived from the root word “str” — hidden As the Talmud equates her name with the passage in the Torah, God says: “I will surely hide (hastir astir) My face from you…” (Deut. 31:18) There is a double measure of hiding, hastir astir — the depths of hiding. She is living with her identity in secret. She hides in her new identity and name, Ester, and the name she assumes means also hiding.

There are many levels of hiding. Basically one is a hiding that screams to be found while that other is such a deep level of hiding that no one looks any longer, and the fact that something is hidden is itself hidden.

This is reminiscent of the story of Avraham, the son of the Maggid of Mezritch. Once young Avraham burst into his father’s study and began to weep bitterly. He had been playing hide and seek, he told his father, and having hidden in the ultimate hiding place, he waited, and waited, to be found. When after a long time he emerged from his hiding place, he found that his friends had given up on finding him, forgot about him and had gone on to other games. He hid so well that the fact that he was hiding was hidden. After some thought, the Maggid tearfully said; “Our creator plays a game of hide and seek with us. The objective is for us to find, discover and reveal heaven within a grain of sand. For some the cover up, the concealment is so thorough that soon they forget that there is a game being played. How sad it must be for the One who hides.”

The story of Purim speaks of such depths of hiding. The other great heroin of course would be God, certainly as the scroll is one of the books in the Torah. Yet this book is unusual in that it does not contain any of the traditional biblical names of God. Mordecai seems to make a vague reference to God when he says to Ester that the Jews will be saved if not by you, then by someone else. But the typical names of God are not present. Some early commentaries point out that the reason there is no mention of God is because since the story of Purim was also recorded in the native language of Persian for the archives of the kings, had the name of God been explicitly written, idol worshipers of that generation or of years to come would read the names of God as idols. To assure that a book of Torah does not become a source of idol worship, the holy name of God was omitted.

Notwithstanding this interpretation, there is a deeper reason for the overt omission. Everything can and should be understood on multiple levels. The fact that this book does not mention God is more than to simply negate a negative result, but there is a positive understanding of this, as well, as we will shortly explore. Everything is divinely orchestrated, and the fact that the name of God does not appear indicates the idea of concealment. So much so that there are those who can read the tale of the Megilah as another great story in the history of world literature.

The name the holiday is representative of this idea of hiding. The name that we call the holiday also reflects this apparent randomness of nature and coincidence of occurrences. Purim is called Purim because Haman cast a Pur — a lot to determine the day he desired to rid the kingdom of the Jews, and so the day is called Purim. We don’t choose the outcome of a lot; it chooses for us. We have no control over a lottery, wish as we may. It appears to be something of random, without choice and purely accidental.

Today as we celebrate this holiday, we drink and imbibe intoxicating sustenance more than the usual. Some of us wear masks and dress up; all this reinforces the concept of causation and hidingness. Purim is divinely arranged to be in the month of Adar which possesses the astrological sign of Pisces. Fish are surrounded and encircled by water. They are engulfed by water, their source of nourishment; otherwise they cannot survive. Water covers them; fish exemplify the idea of hiding.

Still and all — and this is why this day is a holiday, a festive and cheerful time — the point of it all is to reveal the hidden, to show that there is really no such thing of happenstance or mere coincidence. As Ester means hidden, the word Megilah means to reveal, as in Megale. The scroll of Ester, the Megilah of Esther literally translates as “revealing the hidden.” The objective thus becomes to read the scroll, to read into the story and uncover within the story, within the maze of the seemingly unrelated and chance events, the hand of God. By deeper reading and paying attention to tale as its being unfolded, one comes to this amazing realization; the awareness that nothing simply occurs.

On a cosmic level the female heroin of the story Ester is the embodiment of the entire Keneses Yisrael — the congregation of Israel. The creator’s relationship with creation is viewed often in terms of man and wife, or male and female. The male impregnates and offers, while the receiver, the female is where creation is birthed and actualized. The bounty and spiritual plenty comes from above but ultimately is revealed, though often with the hardships of labor, through the articulation of the below.

Nature on its own conceals the divine energy that sustains it. Elokim is the source of nature, as both Ha’Teva — the nature and the divine name Elokim have the numeric value of eighty-six. Speaking of creation, the Torah says “in the beginning, Elokim created.” Elokim, the aspect of concealment creates a universe of concealment. Philologically speaking the name Elokim can be spilt into two words, Elam — muted and Yud/Hei – a name of God. Together it means that Elokim is the limiting force that mutes the more transcended energy of the Infinite. Still, the divine light is there, just there silently. Our task becomes to discover, unveil and reveal God within nature, to put together the puzzle and see the hand of God within the workings of nature. Purim is a holiday which allows us and gives us the strength and vision to observe this truth. Ultimately it empowers us to elevate the seemingly ordinary present into something extraordinary; transforming the natural into the miraculous and the everyday into the unique.