As we have learned, exile represents the shattering of Hashem’s nation into shards. This reality where each shard stands alone produces small-mindedness, a constricted perception which allows one to experience only those matters relating to his own individual life. We compared this constricted consciousness to the “havla d’garmi”, the vapor of life that exists within the bones in the grave, providing them with a few sparks of life so that they will be able to arise with techiyas hameisim.

Similarly, slight sparks of life have descended upon am Yisrael during the time of our exile – a consciousness that matches our constricted existence, the state of our nation in its crumbling and separation. We have sinned, and therefore we have been broken apart and have fallen into small-mindedness, similar to disjointed bones. But in His Goodness, Hashem has brought down to us delicate vapors of life that may be likened to the crowns atop Hebrew letters[1] – fitting for our exilic capacity of reception, just like the havla d’garmi that is fitting for the disjointed body that lays in the grave.

The rendering of light and life force fit to the small-mindedness of exile is the deeper meaning of this that the Torah is said to have fallen at the time of the destruction of the Beis HaMikash and descended in an awesome way, becoming constricted in exile to the point that the majority of its light and holy emanations have become hidden and concealed.

In its lofty state, as revealed in Eretz Yisrael when the Beis HaMikdash is built and am Yisrael are in their full glory, the Torah is incredibly elevated – exalted and high to an extent that is impossible for us to picture during the time of our exile when the neshama has departed and the body has been shattered into many pieces. The Torah of the Shechinah in its complete illumination cannot be grasped by broken souls laying under the burden of the nations of the world, a People sitting in darkness after the Shechinah Elyonah has departed from them. “You have placed me in darkness like the eternally dead.” (Eicha 3:6)

The difference between am Yisrael in exile and am Yisrael in a state of redemption is more dramatic than the difference between the life of a newborn baby and that of an adult. It is the difference between death and life, a difference to which no distinction between various life circumstances can compare.[2] Indeed, when the Beis HaMikdash was standing, the soul shone within a complete and living body and the Shechinah stirred within every heart. Naturally, the spirit of prophecy illuminated with its brilliance, to the extent that am Yisrael were connected to elevated levels, experiencing their lives as one unit – a complete nation whose essential identity was the aspect of Hashem’s mate as expressed in Shir HaShirim, which was written when the Shechinah was in a state of completion during the time of Sholomo HaMelech’s Mikdash.

In the rich, holy life of the Mikdash and prophecy, each individual perceived the meaning of his life in a way of expansivity, as a portion of the holy torch that illuminates the earth and all that fills it. Shabbos, tefillin and tzitzis, Torah study and mitzvah observance, as well as the working and building up of the land – these were all seen as shoots and twigs in a tremendous tree of many branches which included all of am Yisrael as one being. Together with these, the secrets, mysteries, and hidden treasures of Torah shone with their full strength in holy unifications, in the wisdom of prophecy and its instruction. All of am Yisrael studied the secret of their soul until they attained prophecy, ‘double the number of those who left Egypt.’ (Megillah 14a)

In this awesome state of the Shechinah’s revelation, there was no need to discuss the benefits of our mitzvah observance and the reward for their fulfillment. For am Yisrael saw their heavenly portion in their own lives, in the holy rays of light in the Beis HaMikdash – revealed in their full glory at the time of the entire nation’s ascent for Aliyah l’Regel – which spread throughout the land. These were the sweet fruits of their holy labor, shining and illuminating to the greatest extent in their this-worldly lives.

This is why we do not find in the works of the Prophets any treatment of Olam HaBa or this world as a means toward an end. Because when the glow of Olam HaBa shines within Olam Hazeh through the resting of the Shechinah Elyonah in the Beis HaMikdash, the visions of prophecy, and the sheer quantity of prophets – double the number of those who left Egypt, there was no need to speak about reward for mitzvos and the benefit of their fulfillment. The benefit and reward were shining with a great revelation and incredible clarity. It is about this wondrous reality that it is said, “You have seen your world in your days.” (Berachos 17a) This was our state when we lived the richness of our lives with expanded consciousness and shining with the holy light that illuminated us from within.

However, when we descended into exile, the world grew dark around us. The Shechinah departed, the soul was concealed, and the body was left alone to dwell in the earth. Piece by piece, the body became disjointed into separate shards, until eventually only a fine dust remained, spread across the entire world without Shechinah, without the revelation of Hashem, without the glory and honor of Kingship, without the Beis HaMikdash and without prophecy.

To be continued…

[1] Eitz Chaim 8:6. The lights that departed are the Nekudos and Te’amim, the mystery of the Torah’s secrets which are the aspect of Te’amim, and its life force, the aspect of letters, as will be explained later. See the Raavad’s commentary to Sefer Yetzirah 5:1, Zohar Vol.3, 223:2, and Tikkunei Zohar 4:2.

[2] See Ein Ayah, beginning of perek Bamah Beheimah.


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Rav Reuven Sasson
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