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Rav Nachman Shiur #10: The "Empty Space" (Part 1)

By: Rav Itamar Eldar


Before approaching the second section of R. Nachman's teaching no.64, which we began to study in shiur no.5, let us summarize the principal points that we have covered thus far:


We encountered two basic approaches to the perception of Divinity and to its relationship with the world – the transcendental approach and the immanent approach.  We saw how each of these views has ramifications for the relationship between man and God.


           The immanent approach, in chassidism in general and in R. Nachman's teachings in particular, brings with it significant change in two realms with regard to the dialogue that man maintains with God.


i.   The first is that it is possible to serve the Holy One and to maintain a dialogue with Him in (or through) all of man's actions, and not only through "religious acts" that are related to Torah and mitzvot.


ii.  The second relates to coping with spiritual falls, failures, and heresy.  R. Nachman teaches that since Godliness exists permanently in the world and in man, the consequences of heresy and spiritual failure is simply a change within the framework of the relationship between man and God.  Just as heresy and spiritual falling is an expression of hiding, so too  teshuva and ascent are expressions of revelation, exposure, encounter and finding God in that same place where man lost Him.


On this second realm, R. Nachman describes two ways of "finding" that arise from different spiritual situations and different levels of Hashem's concealment and revelation within those situations.


1.   One level refers to a spiritual reality in which the Holy One is present but concealed.  In such a place man's task is to expose the hidden Godliness, to bring it to consciousness and to maintain a dialogue with it.  Man achieves this through "utterances of holiness," prayer and speech that facilitate the exposure of the Godliness that exists in that place and in that person.


2.   The second level is a spiritual reality in which the Holy One is absent.  Here Divinity is revealed not through speech and definitions, but rather through the experience of seeking; through the sense that Hashem indeed exists in this place, but the person cannot find, sense, or define Him.  This feeling, according to R. Nachman, is THE FINDING OF GOD in that place, for this is the very essence of that sort of revelation: the essence of not-knowing.


On both of these levels, R. Nachman's basic assumption – and one that he is not prepared to question for even a moment – is that "there is no place that is devoid of Him."  He insists that there is no reality that does not contain Godliness, and therefore any experience of "absence of God," any heresy, is no more than an instance of concealment.  By looking deeper and turning one's heart towards Godliness, one shall surely find it.


As we saw in shiur no.6, R. Nachman also addresses in teaching no.64 a new element in the thought of the Ari z"l, the "empty space."  This space, as we have seen, is enormously paradoxical.  On one hand it must of necessity be completely devoid of Divinity, in order to facilitate the creation of the world, with its boundaries, limitations, and multiplicity.  On the other hand, the power of the rule that "there is no place that is devoid of Him" still applies; there can be no existence, no reality, without God.


R. Nachman concludes the first section of teaching no.64 by stating that "therefore it is completely impossible to comprehend the nature of the 'empty space' until the future time."


We have also seen that since Divinity prevails throughout all the worlds and in all of existence, R. Nachman regards the principle of "tzimtzum" as being a type of movement which is immanent to the dissemination and inspiration of Divinity.  As such, it assumes existential expression in daily existence, including man (shiur no.7).


In the section that we shall study presently, R. Nachman continues to attempt to identify, in the reality of man and of the world, that Divine movement that expresses the "empty space," which itself also represents a fundamental element in existence.  It is a profound philosophy:


Know that there are two types of heresy.  There is a heresy that comes from external wisdoms, concerning which it is written (Avot chapter 2), "Know what to answer a heretic."  For this heresy has the possibility of an answer (teshuva), because it comes from external wisdoms, which are left-over remainders, since they represent (or result from) the shattering of the vessels.  For the greatness of the light caused the vessels to shatter, and it was from this that the "kelipot" (shells) came into existence, as we know.  And external wisdoms come from there – i.e., from the shattering of the vessels, the left-over "waste" resulting from holiness.  Just as man has many types of left-over wastes, such as nails, hair and perspiration, as well as other wastes and excretions, likewise every external wisdom comes from left-over conscious waste from holiness.   Similarly witchcraft comes from left-over conscious waste.


So far there is nothing new in relation to previous shiurim.  Again R. Nachman translates into existential terms the spiritual reality of concealed Divine existence.  This time, R. Nachman relates to kelipot that carry with them the left-over Divine light that was not gathered back into the vessels.  This light is hidden in the depths of the kelipot and gives them their vitality.  This is a negative phenomenon, but it carries within it the Divine vitality that gives it its existence.  R. Nachman thus regards heresy that comes from external wisdoms as the tangible revelation of that Divine reality.


It should be noted that the expression "external wisdoms" is appropriate to that mystical essence to which R. Nachman attributes their source.  "Wisdom," in kabbalistic terminology, is the Divine source, the fundamental root of reality.  When R. Nachman speaks of a Divine light that emanates from "the left-over waste of holiness," the appellation "external wisdom" describing a Divine light that is external, that exists outside of holiness, is certainly apt.


This appellation also suits the existential experience of the encounter with external wisdoms.  On more than one occasion R. Nachman depicts philosophers as trying to be too clever, for they make capricious and excessive use of the intellectual powers given to them.  They try to exceed their capacities, causing a shattering and a loss of control, and – consequently – a scattering of the light in an uncontrolled and unbounded manner.  He writes,


Therefore, one who falls into this type of heresy – and one should certainly run and distance oneself from it; nevertheless, one who stumbles into it may find salvation to extricate himself.  For he may find the blessed God there, if he seeks and hunts for Him there.  For, since they originate in the shattering of the vessels, they contain some sparks of holiness and some letters that were shattered and fell to there, as we know.  And therefore he may find Godliness and good sense there, to answer the questions posed by this type of heresy that comes from external wisdoms, which originate in the left-overs of the shattering of the vessels.  For there is Divine vitality to be found there – i.e., the INTELLECT (GOOD SENSE) AND THE LETTERS that were shattered and that fell to there.  And therefore there is teshuva (or "an answer") for this type of heresy, and concerning this it is written, 'Know what to answer the heretic.'


As in teaching no.3 (which we addressed in shiur #8), here too the order is most instructive:  "It is possible for him to find salvation to extract himself, FOR he can find the blessed God there….  And therefore he can find Divinity and intellect there to answer the questions posed by this heresy….  It is not the answers to questions and the extrication from the trap of heresy that bring a person to Hashem, as we might think, but rather Hashem and the closeness to Him that bring the answers and the extrication.  Since heresy arises from Hashem's concealment, His exposure dissolves the heresy.  And since we are speaking of a situation in which Divinity is only hiding, all that man needs is to reveal it and thereby solve his problems.


The reality described by R. Nachman in this description, and the means of escaping it, seem to me to correspond to the reality of doubt into which man may fall and as a solution to which R. Nachman proposes speaking "utterances of holiness" (see shiur #8).  He describes this aspect of Godliness as an intelligible reality that may be defined.  It is composed, as he describes it, of intellect and letters that have fallen into kelipot.  It has content and may therefore be spoken about.  "For so long as I speak about Him, I shall surely continue to remember Him."  One may hereby receive answers to his doubts and questions.


In the previous shiur (no.9) we spoke about a different category of doubts, where the Godliness within them is a reflection of the "sealed utterance."  The sealed utterance as we saw is not defined and is the root of all defined utterances.  It is connected to the "silent aleph," which is likewise unable to be defined or understood, in contrast to the other letters, which are differentiated, each with its own specific pronunciation.


The reality of Godliness that is a "sealed utterance" or a "silent aleph" is the antithesis of intellect and letters, the reality of Godliness described above.  Intellect provides the possibility of understanding, defining and responding to doubts, in contrast to the "sealed utterance," and the letters allow a person to speak utterances of holiness, in contrast to the silent aleph.


In the case of doubts and heresies that arise from a reality of Godliness which reflects the "sealed utterance," a person remains with his questions, and reveals Godliness by addressing the doubt (that remains with no answer) toward the Godliness.  Then the question changes from a "kashia" (an abbreviation – see previous shiur) to "Hear, Hashem, my voice when I cry out" (sichot 146) – i.e., the question itself becomes the encounter with Hashem.  Yet in the case of doubts and heresies arising from a reality of Godliness that reflects intellect and letters, a person speaks utterances of holiness and reveals the Godliness, thereby enlisting the intellect and the letters that exist within that heresy to solve and respond to the question.


R. Nachman now moves on to a different type of heresy:


But there is another kind of heresy, which is "wisdom" that is not wisdom at all, but because it is deep and people do not understand it, it therefore appears to be wisdom.  Such as, for example, when a person makes a false deduction in his study of Gemara, Rashi or Tosfot, and since there is no-one learned enough to counter this deduction, it therefore appears that he has uttered a great and wise conclusion, even though in truth it is no insight at all.  In this manner the scholars have several puzzles and questions, which are in truth no wisdom at all, and the questions are nullified in their essence.  But since human intelligence is unable to answer them, they appear to be wisdoms and true questions.  And in truth it is impossible to answer such questions, for such questions of this type of heresy come from the "empty space," and in that empty space there is no Godliness, as it were.  And therefore these questions, which come from there - from the aspect of the empty space – are completely impossible to find any answer to them, i.e., to find the blessed God there.  For if the blessed God could be found there, then it would not be empty, and all would be Infinity.  Therefore concerning this heresy it is written (Mishlei 2), "None who go to her (this foreign wisdom) return."  For there is no teshuva (or "answer") for this heresy, since it comes from the empty space, from which Hashem contracted His Divinity, as it were."


Until this point, R. Nachman has described two different types of questions.  One type is a question that has an "answer" (a "teshuva").  Here Godliness exists in the "teshuva" that is concealed within the question.  In other words, Godliness is revealed in the form of the answer (the "teshuva").  The second type is a question that has no "answer" (no "teshuva").  Here Godliness is concealed within the very question itself when it is addressed in the form of a cry, "ayeh."  In other words, Godliness is revealed here in the form of the question.  What is common to these two situations is that we are speaking of a reality in which Godliness is concealed, and through our adoption of the correct course of action (utterances of holiness in the first instance, or a cry of "ayeh" in the second), the hidden Godliness can be revealed.


Now R. Nachman describes a spiritual reality of a different sort.  It differs from the two situations described above with reference to their common element, the hidden Godliness.  The empty space, the spiritual foundation underlying the heresy and doubts that R. Nachman describes here, is different from every other spiritual reality in that it is meant to be devoid of all Godliness.  Godliness is not hidden or concealed but rather absent!


Yet things are not so simple.  R. Nachman defines quite clearly the nature of the questions and doubts that arise from this reality.  On one hand, he concludes that these questions have no answer (there is no "teshuva" for this heresy) since they originate in the empty space.  If teshuva and the solution to a doubt are the presence of Hashem, then in the absence of Hashem, heaven forefend, there can be no teshuva and no solution. 


On the other hand, R. Nachman teaches that these questions, originating in the empty space, are not questions at all, and in fact they are just an exploitation of man's weakness.  They stem from his inability to understand and to see that they are not questions that may or may not be answered, but rather questions that never even begin.


How do these two concepts coexist? Are we speaking of good questions that have no answers, or of pseudo-questions that are really not questions at all?  The solution to this difficulty lies in the nature of the empty space as described by R. Nachman in the previous section of this teaching.


     The empty space, as we saw in shiur no.5, expresses the extreme polarity of our understanding of Godliness.  We are speaking about the very first, most initial stage in the coming into being of existence.  We are not yet dealing with a complex reality containing Divinity and containing garments, a reality comprised of revelation and concealment, lights and vessels.


The polarity is absolute.  At one moment there is the Infinite that fills everything.  An Infinity with neither revelations nor concealments, neither vessels nor kelipot.  One Infinite light with no room for doubt, for consideration, for heresy or for absence.  And the next moment there is an empty space, which likewise contains no revelation and no concealment, no lights and no vessels.  Only a space containing nothing.  No Godliness and no impression thereof, no intellect and no letters – not even vitality.


R. Nachman, as we saw in the previous shiur, refuses to accept this polarity.  He insists that we assert both things together concerning this empty space.  It is empty and devoid of Godliness, for if this was not so, we could not speak of Creation or of man.  But it is also full, for "there is no space that is devoid of Him."  These two concepts cannot exist together, and the peace between them will be made only at the end of days, but until then, the echo of this contradiction leaves its impression on man's reality and finds its place in the world of doubts and heresies.  And it is thus that R. Nachman defines the reality of doubt and heresy arising from the empty space.


The fact that heresy and doubt arise from the empty space – i.e., from a reality of absence of Godliness rather than concealment of Godliness – has two ramifications.


The first pertains to the authenticity of the questions.  R. Nachman is prepared to accept the reality of concealment, but not the reality of absence.  "We say these words," R. Nachman reluctantly asserts, "because we have no choice.  Because we cannot understand in any other way the transition from Infinity to the bounded and limited.  But within ourselves we know with certainty that there can be no reality that is devoid of Godliness." Therefore he concludes that this heresy, whose source is not in concealment but rather in absence, is actually unfounded.  It is based on a virtual assumption that is uttered only out of our intellectual weakness and our inability to understand things otherwise.  This is analogous to a scholar who exploits his partner's lack of knowledge by presenting an apparent difficulty that in reality has no basis.  The entire reality of the doubt that is born out of the empty space has its source in the "human" point of departure which, in this instance, does not reflect the objective reality. 


Our perception that there exists a spiritual reality in which Divinity conceals itself is a perception that accurately reflects the objective reality, because humans have been given the ability to understand the Divine steps describing the coming-into-being of situations of concealment.  Therefore the doubts and heresies that rest upon this Divine reality are authentic, and require our authentic attention.  However, doubts that are born in the empty space have their foundation in the false assumption of the absence of Godliness.  It is a "human" assumption that does not reflect the objective reality, and therefore such doubts have no real existence.


The second ramification, according to R. Nachman, arises from the necessity of saying – despite all the above – that the empty space from which these heresies and doubts arise is indeed devoid of all Godliness.  If we say that this difficulty arises from the absence of Godliness – and, as we have said, the way to free ourselves from the clutches of such questions and heresies is through finding the Godliness that is concealed within them – then a person who falls into this type of doubt has nowhere to turn.  He cannot find and expose the Godliness within this reality, since, as it were, God is not there at all, and therefore he remains with his doubts, with no answer and with no encounter.


As we have seen above, we have already encountered a reality in which R. Nachman concludes that it is impossible to find answers to doubts, but this reality is completely different.

Not every Divine revelation, explains R. Nachman, provides an answer and solution to a person's doubts.  There are some revelations which themselves represent the doubt.  A person who calls out to Hashem, "Where ("ayeh") is the place of Your glory?" does not find the solution to his doubts, but he finds the Godliness that is concealed within this question.  It is an elevated Godliness, approached through lack of knowledge and lack of answers.


The lack of answers in the doubt described in this section is an absence that does not arise out of concealment or out of the nature of the Godliness that is concealed, but rather from absence.  A person who falls into this type of doubt cannot even shout his "ayeh."


We may perhaps illustrate the difference between these two experiences as being comparable to the difference between a woman whose husband is killed by terrorists and a woman whose beloved is captured, and concerning whom she receives signs of life from time to time.  The second does not know where he is, nor can she even be certain that she will ever see him again, but she knows that he still exists.  She knows that he is thinking about her right now; she is alone, but at every moment he is with her.  His living heart beats within her and she is full of hope that one day her love will be realized and they will meet again.  The first woman lacks any spark of hope.  Her world is dark, with no light upon the horizon.  No heart beats within her, and she sits in terrible, incurable isolation.


A person who has fallen into the empty space – the empty space that, from a certain perspective, is devoid of all Godliness – is like someone whose God, heaven forefend, has died, as it were.  The existence of God for a person allows him to convert all the distances, all the concealments, into a longing that is part of the relationship.  But when God does not exist for a person, there is no way out and no purpose: "None who go to her, return."


Having described this doubt and its difference with the previous type of doubt, we will in the next shiur, present Rav Nachman's plan to cope with this situation.  





In last week's shiur, we described how a person who has fallen into the empty space - the empty space that, from a certain perspective, is devoid of all Godliness - is like someone whose God, heaven forefend, has died, as it were.  The existence of God for a person allows him to convert all the distances, all the concealments, into a longing that is part of the relationship.  But when God does not exist for a person, there is no way out and no purpose: "None who go to her, return."


How, then, do we cope with this type of doubt? What is a person to do, if he has fallen into this type of heresy? R. Nachman continues:


Only Israel, through their faith, overcome all the wisdoms, and even this heresy that comes from the empty space.  For they believe in the blessed God without any logical investigation or wisdom - only in perfect faith.  For the blessed God "fills all the worlds and turns all the worlds."  Thus He is, as it were, within all of the worlds as well as around all of them.  But there must be a separation or difference, as it were, between "filling" and "turning" or "surrounding."  For if not, then all is One.  But (it is possible) through the concept of the empty space, from which the Holy One restricted Himself, as it were, and in which He created all of Creation.  Hence we find that the empty space encompasses the whole world, and the blessed God – Who surrounds and turns all the worlds – also surrounds the empty space.  And therefore it is appropriate to say, "He fills all the worlds," i.e., all of Creation, which is created within the empty space.  And He also "surrounds all the worlds," i.e., He also surrounds and turns the empty space.  And between them lies the empty space, from which His Godliness is restricted, as it were."


Here R. Nachman introduces a new concept into the picture.  It is the concept of God as "surrounding all the worlds," which represents a perception that, to a large degree, is the antithesis of his philosophy and of all that we have seen thus far.


We have already noted (shiur #7) that this concept gives expression to the transcendental view of Godliness, in which Hashem is perceived as being above the world and outside of it.  In the above excerpt R. Nachman sharpens this idea even further, stating that it is not enough that Hashem is above and outside, but that there also needs to be some separation between Himself and what He is surrounding – the world.  "For if not, then all is One." The transcendental aspect of Godliness expresses distance and separation, and this is the perception of "surrounding all the worlds."


But until now we have seen these two perceptions as mutually contradictory – if we accept one, then we must necessarily reject the other.  Now R. Nachman wants to maintain both simultaneously.  How can we connect these opposites? If something is far off, then it cannot be within, and if it is within, then it is not far off!  The solution to this contradiction, and what facilitates the simultaneous existence of both, is the empty space.


The empty space, then, has a significant role to play in existence.  And again, as we saw previously concerning the idea of tzimtzum, we are not speaking about a one-time function.  The empty space is what maintains both aspects – filling and surrounding – in existence together for so long as anything exists.


How does this help to save us from the harm caused by the empty space? R. Nachman continues and explains:


And behold, it is through faith – the belief that the blessed God fills all the worlds and surrounds all the worlds.  Since He surrounds all the worlds, therefore the empty space itself comes into being from the wisdom of the blessed God.  And certainly, in truth, Godliness does exist there, only it is impossible to perceive it and to find God there.  Therefore they review all the wisdoms and questions and heresies that come from the empty space, for they know that there surely cannot be any answer for them.  For if we could find answers to them, then we would be finding God in them, and then there would be no empty space, and there would be no possibility of Creation coming into existence.  But in truth, of course, there is an answer for them, and of course there is Godliness to be found there.  But through investigation we lose ourselves there, for it is impossible to find God there, for it is the "empty space."  We must just believe that the blessed God surrounds this, too, and that of course there must be Godliness there as well.


R. Nachman, as we have seen, will not relinquish either of these two aspects – filling or surrounding.  The faith in both at the same time, explains R. Nachman, is made possible only on the basis of the acceptance of the empty space as facilitating their simultaneous existence.


The picture painted for us by R. Nachman in the previous excerpt allows a person to change his attitude towards the empty space.  We see before us the world, and within it – Godliness.  This world is surrounded by an empty space, which is completely devoid of Godliness.  And this empty space is itself also surrounded by Godliness.  This picture (which is no different in form from that of the Ari z"l as described by R. Nachman) likewise focuses on two critical points:


i.  That the empty space occupies a tangible space, and that this is its permanent place even after the creation of the world

ii. The Godliness that surrounds the empty space is not a Godliness that is pushed aside in order to facilitate the space's creation, and thereafter the action takes place only within the empty space.  Rather, this Godliness is one of two ways in which God communicates with the world, and it in fact maintains a relationship of "surrounding" with the world.  From this perspective, its ability to maintain this type of connection with the world – an active and eternal connection – is facilitated thanks to the existence of the empty space.


The empty space, as a result of these emphases, becomes a part of Hashem's communication with the world.  There is a "filling," which is the Godliness that is concealed within Creation, and there is the "surrounding."  And what is this surrounding?


     The surrounding is the Godliness that is revealed to the world by means of the creation of a channel between it and the world.  The channel is part of the movement of Godliness seeking to maintain a relationship of encompassing and turning.  As Rav Nachman puts it, "Because He turns all the worlds, therefore the empty space itself must also come into being out of His wisdom.  We have only to believe that the blessed God turns this too, and that certainly in truth there is Godliness there too."


Previously we have seen that R. Nachman's way of defining something as a thing that contains Godliness is by turning it into part of the dialogue between man and God.  Utterances of holiness turned man's falls into places where Godliness exists, while the shout of "ayeh" turned man's doubts into a place where there is Godliness.  And now, the fact that the empty space serves Godliness in allowing it to appear in the world in the aspect of "turning" it, makes the empty space, too, into a place where Godliness exists.


Yet in contrast to the previous stages, here this is not sufficient.  The statement that Hashem can reveal Himself in the form of question and doubt may be understood, and it allows man to encounter God in a tangible way within that doubt itself, but here R. Nachman maintains that God's revelation as "turner" also includes within itself His absence.  But this knowledge does not allow one to encounter Him in the place of His absence, for He is not there.  Therefore, the question remains: what is a person to do if he falls to such a place? R. Nachman continues:


"Therefore Israel are called Hebrews (Ivriim), for through their faith they bypass (ovrim) all the wisdoms.  Even those wisdoms that are not wisdoms – i.e., the second type of heresy, which comes from the empty space.  And for this reason the blessed God is called, in Shemot 3, "the God of the Hebrews" (Elohei Ha-Ivrim), which is derived from (Yehoshua 24) "over the river" (ever ha-nahar).  "This term connotes the sides, i.e., that Godliness turns even the empty space, which comes into being through tzimtzum.  God constricted ("tzimtzem") the light to the sides.  And for this reason Israel are called "Ivriim," for through the faith that they have in the blessed God, the "God of the Ivriim," they bypass (ovrim) all the wisdoms, and also that which is not wisdom – i.e., the second type of heresy.  And therefore it is certain that from this second type of heresy one should beware and be exceedingly careful, to run and escape from it, not studying or looking at their words at all.  For if he does, heaven forefend, he would surely sink therein, for concerning this it is written: 'None who go to her, return,' etc." (Likutei Moharan Kama 64:2)


So far R. Nachman had proposed to a person who has fallen into heresy and doubt that he open his eyes, look deeper, and find Godliness within the place where he is.  He stressed that one should not run from his feelings, his recognitions, and from what is happening to him at the time.  Here, however he demands that the Jew close his eyes, block his ears, ignore his senses completely and continue forwards.


Let us return to R. Nachman's picture.  A person who falls within a reality is required to look deeper, at what fills it, to reveal it and expose it.  A person who has fallen into the empty space, on the other hand, has nothing to grasp – "None who go to her will return."  But R. Nachman suggests to this person that he close his eyes, and to paint instead his picture in his mind.  The empty space is not Infinite.  There is something beyond it.  Something surrounds it.  All in all, it is part of a larger picture.  Although it is true that within the empty space – as least as far as one can see – there is no Godliness, but beyond it there is.  It itself is one of the kinds of communications that the Godliness surrounding it maintains with man.  And therefore – ignore it.  Do not fear the emptiness that fills it; do not fear the sense that there is no Godliness where you are.  The sense is correct, at least as it appears to us, but even God's silence and His absence - are part of the dialogue that He maintains with you.  It is a dialogue of a different type, with which you are not familiar: the aspect of "turning all the worlds."


Hashem reveals Himself in intellect and in letters.  He is also revealed in the sealed utterance that expresses the shout of "ayeh" that man addresses to his God.  And now, He is also revealed in His silence.  We cannot understand how, nor can we understand the significance of revelation in silence, but we know through the aspect of "turning" that this, too, is revelation.  Somehow we must say that Godliness is to be found even within the empty space.


R. Nachman maintains that this perception can develop only within the nation of Israel, who are "Ivriim" – i.e., "those who pass by."  The attribute of transition, of passing, that is being described here is the perspective.  "We survived (passed by) Par'o; we shall survive this, too," in the words of a popular Hebrew song.


There are some who claim that a Jew has a special ability to put down his head when stormy winds are blowing and to wait it out until things calm down.  This ability was acquired through bitter historical experience, by living through the various trials and tribulations that we have passed in the course of our history.  A regular person, faced with a severe problem, fears that his world is crumbling, that there will be no good outcome.  But a Jew has no such fear.  We lived through Par'o, the Crusades, the Inquisition, and Hitler – we shall survive this, too.  I do not believe that this is a reflection of a hardening of our sensitivity.  It is simply a perspective that allows a Jew to place the events around him into an historical framework that has a beginning and an end.


The beginning and the end are what give a Jew who has fallen into the abyss of doubt the ability to proceed onwards.  He does not question, he does not seek to find answers.  If he does so, he sinks forever in the limbo of the depths of heresy.  He is even aware that there is no answer, but with perspective he knows that Hashem encompasses even this.  He feels, at times, like someone who, heaven forefend, has no God, but he knows that God "turns" and surrounds this.


The significance of this feeling is the readiness to accept that not only God's concealment in reality is part of the dialogue that He maintains, but even his absence, at times, is part of that same dialogue.  Returning to the metaphor of the woman and her husband, we are speaking here not of a spouse who is dead, but rather of one who at very rare moments gets up, collects his things and leaves the house.  The ability of the spouse remaining at home to pass over this, to accept this as part of their dialogue, is what determines whether this relationship will end as a case of "None who go to her, return" - or not.


The practical ramification with which R. Nachman concludes this section is the subject of the next section, which we shall examine in the next few shiurim: the practical directive to distance oneself from questions, from difficulties, from heretical utterances that arise out of the bottomless limbo of the empty space.  To pass over them, with the deep faith that these, too, are part of Hashem's word.  And this despite the gross doubt that they contain, leaving no place for God to appear there – even in the form of a question, in the sense of "Hear, Hashem, my voice when I cry out."  There are moments when even the cry, "This is Torah and this is its reward?!" have no place.


At such moments existence is covered over by a still voice of silence, and only God's word can break it: "Be silent; thus it arose in thought before Me."