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Chanuka: For the Miracles or For the Routine

  • Rav Itamar Eldar
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

by Rav Itamar Eldar

Yeshivat Har Etzion




For the miracles or for the routine

Rav Itamar Eldar


Progressive adding or progressive detracting


            One of the most well known disputes regarding the lighting of Chanuka candles relates to the number of candles that must be lit each night of the holiday. The Gemara states as follows:


Our Rabbis taught: The precept of Hanukkah [demands] one light for a man and his household;  the zealous [kindle] a light for each member [of the household]; and the extremely zealous, — Bet Shammai maintain: On the first day eight lights are lit and thereafter they are gradually reduced; but Bet Hillel say: On the first day one is lit and thereafter they are progressively increased. Ulla said: In the West [Eretz Israel] two Amoraim, Rabbi Yose bar Avin and Rabbi Yose bar Zevida, disagree. One maintains: The reason of Bet Shammai is that it shall correspond to the days still to come, and that of Bet Hillel is that it shall correspond to the days that are gone. Another maintains: Bet Shammai's reason is that it shall correspond to the bullocks of the festival [of Sukkot];  while Bet Hillel's reason is that we promote in [matters of] sanctity but do not reduce. (Shabbat 21b)


            Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel disagree about the manner in which the extremely zealous light Chanuka candles. According to Bet Shammai, on the first night they light eight candles, and then on each subsequent night they light one candle less. According to Bet Hillel, they light one candle on the first night, and then add one additional candle on each subsequent night.


            The Gemara suggests two ways to understand this controversy. According to the first explanation, Bet Shammai maintain that we light candles corresponding in number to the days that are still to come. Thus on each night we light a number of candles equal to the number of days left until the conclusion of the holiday. In contrast, Bet Hillel contend that we light candles corresponding in number to the days that have already gone, that is to say, equal to the number of days that have passed from the beginning of the holiday until now.


            In essence, we are dealing with two different counts, one counting down and one counting forward. There is an essential difference between counting down and counting forward. When we count down, we demonstrate that we are striving towards a particular objective, counting the time remaining until we reach it. We stand in anticipation of this objective. The present moment is insignificant; it is defined solely in relation to the time remaining until we reach the objective, but in itself is void of meaning. When, in contrast, we count forward, it is the objective that is insignificant. When we start with the number one and count forward, we don't know where the count is supposed to stop. Perhaps at five, perhaps at ten, perhaps at a hundred, for the objective is undefined. All that we can know with regard to such a count is how much time has passed from the beginning of the count until the present moment. From this perspective, the present moment itself has meaning; it is counted in and of itself, and not as a point in time along the road to some objective.


            According to Bet Hillel, importance is attached to each and every day in and of itself. Each passing day becomes part of the count and is mentioned on each subsequent day: Two days have passed, three days have passed, eight days have passed. According to Bet Shammai, each day marks a point of time along the road to a certain objective. When the day has passed, and we reach the next point in time, the first point vanishes from the world. The eighth candle is lit only on the first night; after that day has passed, it is never lit again.


            In great measure, this dispute corresponds to another dispute between Hillel and Shammai:


It was taught: They used to say about Shammai the elder that all his life he ate in honor of Shabbat. So, if he found a comely animal he would say: "Let this be for Shabbat." If he later found a more comely one, he would put aside the second for Shabbat and eat the first. But Hillel the elder had a different approach, for all his deeds were for the sake of heaven, as it is said: "Blessed be the Lord day by day" (Tehilim 68:20). It was likewise taught: Bet Shammai say: From the first day of the week, prepare for Shabbat, but Bet Hillel say: "Blessed be the Lord day by day." (Betza 16a)


            The Gemara describes the greatness of Shammai who would live all week in anticipation of Shabbat. Each comely animal that he found, he would set aside for Shabbat. In contrast, stands Hillel, all of whose actions were for the sake of Heaven. In other words, when he found a comely animal, he would eat it that very day.


            One way to understand this dispute relates to the issue of trust in God. This is the way that the dispute was understood by the author of the piyyut "Chai Ha-Shem":


My soul thirsts for God/ may He fill my granary to satiety/ I lift my eyes to the hills/ like Hillel and not like Shammai. (Seder Kiddush for Shabbat day)


            The author of this piyyut praises Hillel's trust in God as opposed to that of Shammai. Hillel allowed himself to eat the comely animal because he put his trust in God, believing that as Shabbat drew near God would send him an even more comely animal.


            It seems, however, that there is another way to understand this dispute, one that finds expression in what the Gemara says about Hillel, "all of his actions were for the sake of Heaven," and "blessed be the Lord day by day."


            Shammai, in his usual manner, counts down; all of his days are directed towards Shabbat which is the climax, from which it follows that the weekdays are all subordinate to it and of no importance whatsoever.


            Hillel, on the other hand, wishes to reach a spiritual climax every day. All of his days and all of his actions are part of his standing before God. He eats the comely animal on the day he finds it in order to honor that day which is meaningful in and of itself. That very day offers an opportunity to perform a deed for the sake of Heaven, and to merit the blessing of God that is bestowed on each and every day. Shammai wakes up in the morning and counts how many days remain until Shabbat. Hillel, in contrast, wakes up and blesses the new day, saying, "Welcome, day such-and-such."


Heaven and earth – which was created first


            These ideas seem to be connected to a more profound issue relating to God's presence in this world, and they may be sharpened by way of yet another dispute between Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai:


Our sages taught: Bet Shammai say: Heaven was created first and the earth was created afterward, as it is stated: "In the beginning God created heaven and earth" (Bereishit 1:1). But Bet Hillel say: The earth was created first and heaven afterward, as it is stated: "In the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven" (Bereishit 2:4). Bet Hillel said to Bet Shammai: According to you, a man should build the upper story of the house first and the lower story afterward, as it is stated: "It is He that builds His upper chambers in the heaven, and has founded His [lower] vault upon the earth" (Amos 9:6). Bet Shammai replied to Bet Hillel: According to you, a man should first make a footstool and then make the throne, as it is stated: "The heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool" (Yeshaya 66:1). But the Sages say: Both were created at one and the same time, as it is stated: "Yea, My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has spread out the heavens; when I called to them, they stood up together" (Yeshaya 48:13). (Chagiga 12a)


            Bet Shammai base themselves on the opening verse of the book of Bereishit: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," learning from here that the heaven was created first.


            Bet Hillel, in contrast, base themselves on the first verse in the second chapter of the book of Bereishit: "In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heaven," learning from here that the earth was created first.


            The reasoning put forward by each side demonstrates the profundity of this controversy.


            Bet Shammai perceive the relationship between heaven and earth as that between a throne and a footstool. Heaven, argues Bet Shammai, is God's throne, whereas the earth is His footstool. It is the way of man to first build the throne and only afterwards the footstool. Bet Shammai's image radiates not only upon the order, but also upon the focus. God's principal dwelling place, according to this image, is in heaven; only its fringes stand upon the earth.


In contrast, Bet Hillel's image is that of a house with an upper story. The earth is the house and heaven is the upper story, and it is the way of man first to construct the house and only afterwards the upper story. This too has ramifications not only regarding the order but regarding the focus as well. A person's principal place of dwelling is in the main part of his house; only occasionally does he go up to the attic. So too according to this image, God's principal dwelling place is on earth; only on occasion does He go up to heaven.[1]


It seems that the different perspectives regarding God's presence in the world give rise to different attitudes towards the world in which we live.


According to Bet Shammai, man encounters God in that which is holy; everything else is subordinate to it. Shabbat is the moment during which we merit to ascend to heaven and appear before God, and thus the other days are subordinate to it, void of meaning and importance. And we might add, the other days are perhaps even void of an encounter with God, for God's place of dwelling is in heaven, and not on earth.


According to Bet Hillel, man encounters God everywhere, and we might even say, specifically in our world and not in the heavenly holiness, for God is found on earth. Blessed is the Lord day by day. And all of man's actions are for the sake of heaven, for God is present in everything and at all times. There is no such thing as "subordinate time," for each and every moment affords an opportunity for an encounter with Him.[2]


Gratitude for the miracle or for what happened in its wake


            In light of all that has been said above, let us return to Chanuka and try to understand the spiritual meaning of the two counts, that of Bet Hillel and that of Bet Shammai.


            The miracle of the cruse of oil marks the eight-day period of waiting until the regular supply of ritually pure oil could be renewed. Getting through those days was made possible by the miracle of the cruse of oil, through which a tiny amount of oil lasted for eight days.


            This waiting period, assert Bet Shammai, is accompanied by the constant expectation of the arrival of the oil and the renewal of the routine lighting of the candelabrum in the Temple. Every day that passes marks further progress toward the objective – the arrival of the oil and the renewal of the fixed and routine lighting. From this perspective, the holiday reaches its climax on the ninth day, when the count reaches zero, the moment of take-off. The situation is similar to that of the launching of a spaceship, when we count down to the moment it blasts off. The ninth day, on which no candle is lit, marks the arrival at the objective, and thus, the count is completed. From this perspective, the climax of joy, according to Bet Shammai, is actually on the ninth day, the day immediately following Chanuka, the day that marks the return to regular routine. While we have merited this return to routine thanks to the miracle that lasted eight days, it is this return to routine that marks our having reached our objective.


            According to this, Bet Hillel's count becomes less understandable. Why should we count and look backwards to the days that have passed? Surely our attention is turned to the objective – return to routine and renewal of the supply of oil!


            Bet Hillel, however, choose to focus on a different point. The days that have passed relate to the miracle itself. While Bet Shammai light candles each day according to the days that remain, saying: In four more days the routine of lighting will be restored, in three more days, in two more days, and so on, Bet Hillel light candles each day according to the days that have passed since the miracle started, saying: For four days already God in His mercy has performed a miracle for us, for five days already, for six days already, and so on.


            Bet Hillel choose to focus on the great lovingkindness embodied in the miracle of the cruse of oil, and the wonderful gesture that God bestowed upon us through this miracle. Bet Hillel - following their master, Hillel – choose to focus on the moment itself and on the lovingkindness that radiates from it, and not necessarily on the objective towards which we are headed. From this perspective Bet Hillel may actually prefer that Bet Shammai's objective should never be reached, because along with the return to routine the miracle will also come to an end, and this is something that Bet Hillel is unwilling to give up on.


            For Bet Shammai, the transition from the eighth day, on which a single candle is lit, to the ninth day, on which no candles are lit, is desirable, and to a certain degree even gladdening, because it indicates that the objective has been reached. For Bet Hillel, the transition from the eighth day, on which eight candles are lit, to the ninth day, on which no candles are lit, is abrupt and painful. It marks the end of the days of miracles and lovingkindness, and from this perspective, Bet Hillel prefer that they should never end.


            This may be likened to an elderly lady who wishes to cross the street, when suddenly the local mayor appears, takes her by the hand, and crosses her over. A woman from the school of Bet Shammai would prefer to cross the street as quickly as possible in order to arrive at her destination which the mayor in his kindness is helping her to reach. A woman from the school of Bet Hillel would prefer that the street never come to an end, for she delights in the honor and intimacy that the mayor is showing her.


            It seems that this distinction is connected to the definition of the experience of offering gratitude, as formulated by the Sefat Emet:


"They established them and made them as festival days with praise and thanksgiving." Praise involves light and joy. Thanksgiving involves fear and submission. For this is the quality of a person who becomes elevated and through apprehension comes to great submission. This is a sign of true and enduring love. And similarly it is written: "The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever" – for that which brings to fear is enduring. This is also the quality of the Jewish people - when the Holy One, blessed be He, shines upon them and redeems them, they submit themselves greatly. This is what is written: "Praise the Lord; give praise, you servants of the Lord" – through praise, they submit themselves and accept more fully their subservience. Therefore, the next year, when they saw that through the redemption through which they became elevated, they also submitted themselves, and they saw that it was an enduring matter, they established them as festival days with praise and thanksgiving. This is the matter of progressively adding and progressively detracting – both are true, for each day of Chanuka one must rise up and become excited in the service and love of God, blessed be He, and also greatly submit oneself each and every day. Therefore, Bet Shammai say that he detracts, they being the aspect of gevura and fear, and Bet Hillel that of love and chesed, as is known. The truth is that praise involves an illumination of the nefesh and the neshama. Just as the soul overcomes, so the body submits. And thanksgiving is with the body. The term "modim" implies that they disagree, for the body is in dispute with the nefesh, and on these days it submits itself to the neshama. (Sefat Emet, Chanuka 5650).


            The Sefat Emet discusses two psychological states, the state of praise, which is light and joy, and the state of thanksgiving, which is fear and submission.


            Praise gives expression to expansion and going beyond our limits. We are joyous and happy about the lovingkindness that we have merited, and we delight in God's love for His people that radiates from this lovingkindness.


Thanksgiving involves recognition and acceptance. "'Modim' implies that they disagree," says the Sefat Emet at the end of this teaching. Thanksgiving resolves prior disputes and uncertainties. There is submission on the part of the inner aspects of man that oppose God.


Joy and love are functions of expansion and excitement. In contrast, submission and fear are functions of gevura and contraction. The more this state grows, the more the person effaces and submits himself.


The Sefat Emet connects these two states to the dispute between Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai regarding the order of lighting Chanuka candles. Progressive detraction, states the Sefat Emet, marks a position of growing submission and self-effacement, the climax of which, as we have seen, occurs on the ninth day, when no candles are lit, marking total submission and self-effacement – nothingness before God. Progressive adding, on the other hand, marks a position of ever-growing love and joy. Each additional day brings more and more light, the climax occurring on the eighth day, with the lighting of eight candles.


The Sefat Emet proposes that in essence there is no dispute; there is room for both psychological states. The manner in which these two states may be integrated is through the distinction between soul and body. The soul, according to the Sefat Emet, does not need submission, but rather love and added light. The body, on the other hand, requires submission and self-effacement. The difference follows from the basic state of the two. The body in its basic state opposes the soul and draws man down to material reality. The soul, on the other hand, is in a basic state of yearning that is aimed upward to its root. It is therefore in need of added light, whereas the body needs submission and effacement.


The Sefat Emet asserts that the more light that is added to the soul, the more the body is nullified. The more the praise, the more the submission. Thus, the two states do not contradict each other, but rather they complement each other and lead the one to the other.


It should be noted that this insight does not dull the sharpness of the transition, according to Bet Hillel, from the eighth candle to the "ninth candle." From the perspective of submission and fear, we understand how on the ninth day a person returns to his routine, out of total submission and out of profound understanding that there is none other than Him. But the pain of the transition from the great love and joy of the eight candles to the ninth day does not abate, according to the Sefat Emet. The transition from the days that mark the growing nearness to God, when God reveals Himself more and more through His manifest miracles, to the day on which the lighting of the candles is already a natural act, with no Divine intervention, so that the count comes to an end – remains sharp and drastic.


His ways are eternal


            The words of R. Nachman of Breslov may be able to alleviate this pain:


The days of Chanuka are days of thanksgiving, as it is written: "And they established these eight days of Chanuka in order to give thanks and praise, etc." Days of thanksgiving are the aspect of the pleasure of the world-to-come. For this is the primary pleasure of the world-to-come, to give thanks and praise to His great name, blessed be He, and recognize Him, blessed be He, for in this way we draw near and close to Him. For the more we know and recognize Him, blessed be He, the closer we draw to Him. For everything else will be nullified in the future, having the aspect of: "All the sacrifices will be abolished, except for the thanksgiving offering (Midrash Rabba, Tzav, parasha 9, Emor, parasha 27, see there). For nothing will remain in the future other than the aspect of thanksgiving, to thank and praise and know Him, blessed be He, as it is written (Yeshaya 11:9): "For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea," which is the entirety of the pleasure of the world-to-come.

The aspect of thanksgiving, which is the pleasure of the world-to-come, is the aspect of the halakhot. For the halakhot that one merits to learn, and especially one who merits to have new insights into them, is the aspect of the pleasure of the world-to-come, the aspect of (Nidda 73): "Whoever studies halakhot every day is assured of life in the world-to-come." For when a new halakha is proposed, there is new understanding and knowledge, and knowledge is the primary pleasure of the world-to-cone, as stated above… For this reason, the thanksgiving offering is called a halakha, for a thanksgiving offering is brought when one emerges from distress. For when one suffers some distress, God forbid, the primary distress is in the heart, for the heart knows and feels the trouble most, as it is written (Mishlei 14:10): "The heart knows its own bitterness," for "the heart understands" (Berakhot 61), and so it feels the distress most greatly. In a time of trouble, all the blood gathers and rises to the heart, just as when there is trouble in a certain place, God forbid, everyone gathers to the local Sage to receive from him advice. Similarly all the blood gathers and rises to the heart to seek counsel and a scheme against the trouble. It floods the heart, and then the heart is in great trouble and distress, for not only does the heart worry on its own, because it experiences the trouble more than all [the other organs], but the blood also floods it and causes it great distress. Therefore, when, God forbid, a person is faced with trouble, the heart throbs strongly, for it wishes to move by itself and cast [the blood] away from itself. Therefore it throbs strongly at a time of trouble, God forbid, and then later when the person emerges from the distress, his blood circulation returns to its natural course in the pathways of the body. For this reason, the thanksgiving offering, which is brought upon emerging from some distress, is called "halakha," after the tahalukhot damim, the orderly "procession of blood" after one has emerged from distress, as stated above. (Likutein Moharan Tinyana, 2:1-2)


            R. Nachman is trying here to connect together a number of concepts. He first asserts that thanksgiving is the aspect of the pleasure of the world-to-come. This concept of the pleasure of the world-to-come marks the unmediated intimacy between us and our Creator, for it contains nothing but delight in the splendor of the Shekhina and pleasure in the very intimacy.


R. Nachman contends that thanksgiving has the aspect of recognizing our Creator and drawing close to Him in an unmediated manner. It therefore has the aspect of the pleasure of the world-to-come. This comes to expression in what Chazal say that the thanksgiving offering will not be abolished in the future.


R. Nachman proceeds by adding a third concept – Halakha.


R. Nachman first speaks of "Halakha" in its plain sense: "Whoever studies halakhot every day is assured of life in the world-to-come." Knowing Halakha, asserts R. Nachman, has the aspect of drawing near to and recognizing the Creator, which is itself pleasure which is the aspect of the world-to-come.


Thanksgiving ties in with Halakha, according to what has been said here, in that both are connected to the aspect of the world-to-come. R. Nachman, however, wishes to connect them directly as well, and for this purpose, he turns the concrete concept of Halakha into a more comprehensive psychological state. In his usual manner, R. Nachman uses a biological analogy in order to sharpen his point.


R. Nachman tries to describe the phenomenon of rapid heartbeat during times of stress. He paints a picture of blood besieging the heart, and the heart trying to remove the blood and cast it away. This finds expression in a stronger and more rapid pulse. When the stress is removed and relief arrives, the blood returns to its usual place. R. Nachman refers to this phenomenon as "tahalukhot hadamim" – "procession of blood - Halakha.


Even if this image is imprecise from a biological perspective, it offers a profound explanation of what happens inside a person during times of distress and in their wake. "The procession of blood" – Halakha, asserts R. Nachman, marks the return to routine. This may be likened to a terrorist act which brings together many rescue forces – police, army, ambulance crews, firefighters, and the like. When the incident is over, they all return to their routine stations. This is the psychological state of Halakha, and thus also of the thanksgiving that is offered at that time. R. Nachman's major insight here is precisely the routine, which marks the great moment, the great intimacy.


Let us return to Halakha in the concrete sense. Here too R. Nachman's great insight is that it is precisely Halakha, with its aspect of routine – "daily offerings in their order and additional offerings according to their law" – that marks the great intimacy. The study of Halakha is generally understood as dry, routine study, whereas the study of faith and creed, and in a certain sense even the study of Gemara, is viewed as invigorating. Here R. Nachman turns the tables upside down. It is precisely the study of Halakha through which we attain the aspect of the world-to-come, which is a delight and pure, unmediated pleasure.


How does the routine that follows in the wake of distress and in the wake of the miraculous rescue from it turn into an even more elevated moment than the miracle itself, and how does Halakha turn into eternal pleasure?


The root of the matter, according to R. Nachman, lies in the blurring, to the point of nullification, of the gap between miracle and nature, between the distress and consequent rescue, on the one hand, and routine, on the other.


In truth, we cannot understand what is nature and [what is] providence, for in fact nature is also God's providence. It is impossible for man to understand these two things as one, that is, that nature is truly His providence. (Likutei Moharan Tinyana 17)


            R. Nachman tries here to nullify the distinction between nature and miracle. "His providence," according to R. Nachman, is a code word for the Divine will that acts not in subordination to the natural order.[3] According to this, the entire difference between miracle and nature lies in the garments, for nature is in fact a miracle dressed up as natural laws.[4]


            We can now say that the role of miracles is to expose the miraculous reality that lies behind the reality of nature. R. Nachman writes as follows:


The revelation of the will is by way of the festival days, for each of these days proclaims, cries out, and reveals the will, that everything occurs solely by way of His will, with the aspect of "holy assemblies" [mikra kodesh, literally, "holy proclamation]. For the holy festival day calls out and proclaims His will, as stated above. For on each festival day, God, blessed be He, performed for us marvelous signs that were the opposite of nature, through which His will was revealed, everything following from His will, there being nothing necessitated by nature at all. (Likutei Moharan Tinyana 4, 6)


            The time of miracles is not "real time," but rather a preparation for the natural order that will follow, and its role is to expose the miraculous Divine governance that is found in nature itself.


            According to R. Nachman, the return to routine in the aftermath of days of miracles, as opposed to what we saw earlier, is not really a return to routine. From now on a new perspective on reality accompanies it, through which God's hand is evident in each and every action. The procession of blood that marks the return to routine bears within it the new perspective that comes in the wake of the miracle, whose impression is evident. From now on Halakha/routine wears the dress of delight. This is thanksgiving according to R. Nachman: The recognition of God's active presence in everything that happens.


            This psychological state brings routine to eternity and Halakha to the world-to-come, for it contains constant intimacy that is not dependent on any event. When a person merits to attain to this level, he rises in the morning, sees the sun shining and feels like a maidservant at the parting of the sea and like one who stood at the foot of Mount Sinai when God descended upon it. For such a person, routine turns into a holiday, and Halakha turns into something closely similar to the world-to-come.[5]


            This understanding gives new meaning to the Chanuka candles.


            R. Nachman of Breslov contemplates the miracle of the cruse of oil, and sees in it a "holy assembly" which teaches about the routine days that will follow.


            The miracle of the cruse of oil, the miraculous lighting of the candles ex nihilo, teach us that even on ordinary days, he who lights the oil is not the High Priest, but God:


On one Shabbat eve at twilight, [Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa] saw his daughter sad. He said to her: "My daughter, why are you sad?" She replied: "I exchanged my vinegar can for my oil can, and I kindled the Shabbat light with vinegar." He said to her: "Why should this trouble you? He who commanded the oil to burn will also command the vinegar to burn." (Ta'anit 25a)


            He who contemplates the natural world as "nature" sees the lighting of oil as nature and the lighting of vinegar as a miracle. But he who contemplates the natural world as a miracle dressed in natural garb, sees no difference between the lighting of oil and the lighting of vinegar. For this reason, he also fails to see a difference between the eight days during which the candles burned as a result of the miracle, and the ninth day on which they burned because the supply of oil had been restored.


            R. Nachman "progressively adds" in accordance with Bet Hillel, and every day the profound recognition regarding God's hand in the reality in which we live grows stronger. In contrast to the position of the Sefat Emet, however, the transition on the ninth day is not from eight candles to zero candles. R. Nachman's chanukiya has much more than eight candles, but after eight days of Chanuka, from the ninth day on, R. Nachman sees with his spiritual sight the hand of God extended towards the wick and lighting the world with His infinite splendor.


            The mitzva of lighting Chanuka candles and the miracle of the cruse of oil teach us to deeply contemplate the dark and wintry routine in the middle of which falls out the holiday of lights, and to acquire the ability to reflect upon the great light that stands behind this darkness, precisely on the days of dark routine. From the moment that the light of the days of Halakha that follow Chanuka is lit, we merit the aspect of the delight of the world-to-come.




[1] Let us add that it is not by chance that these ideas are connected to the first chapter of the book of Bereishit written in the name of Elohim which represents the trait of justice, as opposed to the second chapter of the book of Bereishit written in the name of the Tetragrammaton which represents the trait of mercy.

In the first chapter of Bereishit, God is described as Elohim, as the all-powerful, and as the Creator. He does not engage in dialogue with man; He neither addresses him, nor does He reveal Himself to him, nor does He command him. Nature is the focus of reality, and even the blessing of "Be fruitful and multiply," is part of the natural law that God implants in the world. From this perspective, God's resting place is in Heaven.

In the second chapter, God is described by the Tetragrammaton. There we meet a God who reveals Himself to man, who plants a garden in Eden, places man inside of it, and even walks about it Himself. Man is commanded and there is dialogue. Here God is present in the world; He is not described as merely having created the world and as directing it according to the laws of nature. According to this description, God's main place of dwelling is on earth.

Bet Shammai chose to look at the world through the spectacles of chapter 1, where Heaven was created first, and it is God's primary place of dwelling.

Bet Hillel, in contrast, chose to look at the world through the spectacles of the second chapter of Bereishit, where the world was created first and it is the main dwelling place of God. In their opinion, this is the appropriate perspective on the world, and on God's presence within it.


[2] It is related about the Ba'al Shem Tov that he was asked what is the most important thing in life, and he answered: "What I am doing at this very instant!"


[3] It should be noted that this issue is highly complicated, and it was the Rambam who devoted to it many chapters of his thought. The Rambam argued with the Islamic sects who tried to blur the difference between miracle and nature, and turn all of reality into a miracle. R. Yehuda ha-Levi also confronts this conception, arguing that it attaches no value to human actions performed in accordance with natural standards, for work does not bring sustenance, nor does sowing bring to harvesting, and the like. R. Nachman's position on this matter is complex, and it would appear that he is trying to hold the rope at both ends.


[4] "The essence of fear results from a revelation of the will, having the aspect of "He will do the will of those who fear Him" (Tehilim 145). For by way of the revelation of His will, fear comes into being. That is, by way of the revelation that all proceeds from His will, blessed be He, for He created everything with His will, nothing at all being necessitated, and He revives and maintains everything by His will, blessed be He, there being no natural order whatsoever. Through this fear comes into being, for there is reward and punishment, and there is reason to fear Him, blessed be He. As our Rabbis, of blessed memory said (Berakhot 4): '"And Ya'akov feared greatly." He said: Perhaps sin will be a cause.' But when God's will is not revealed, and people think that there is necessity in nature, God forbid, and it is as if everything is conducted by the natural order, God forbid, there is no room for any fear whatsoever. For there is no reward and punishment at all, God forbid, for everything is conducted solely on the basis of the necessity of nature, God forbid. We see then that the essence of fear results from a revelation of God's will" (Likutei Moharan Tinyana, 4, 5)


[5] Anyone who wishes to see how concrete Halakha turns into delight, according to R. Nachman of Breslov, should study the marvelous work, "Likutei Halakhot," authored by his disciple, R. Natan, on the basis of his teachings, on the laws of the Shulchan Arukh.


(Translated by David Strauss)