The Greatness of Man and His Purpose
The author of Chesed l’Avraham writes: “Life spreads to all the worlds by emanations from on high, and the spreading of this abundance is possible only by means of the connections that exist between them. The connections between the worlds are accomplished solely by man, for it is to achieve the union of all these worlds that he was created, and it is through him that an abundance of blessing and success spread to all the worlds.” He continues and states, “The vitality of man comes from the world of Asiyah, his mind from the world of Yetzirah, and his soul from the world of Beriah. He carries the name Adam, which pertains to all the worlds, and it is through him that an abundance of good fills all the worlds.” Such are his holy words.
Due to the fact that a man has a portion of all these worlds within him, only he can establish connections between them, connections through which abundance spreads to all the worlds. We see that, essentially, it is man’s responsibility and mission to connect these worlds to one another, for he stems from each of them. If he were to sever one of the links that connects these different worlds, be it only for a moment, all of Creation would suffer as a result!
Let us try to understand this. It is written, “And G-d blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which G-d created to make” (Genesis 2:3). G-d finished the work of Creation on the sixth day, just before the arrival of Shabbat, and man (G-d’s preferred creation) was made last so that he could be responsible for all of Creation. This is like a king who builds a magnificent palace, splendid in all its details, and who calls for a servant and commands that he guard the property, telling him, “This house is mine, and it must always be kept in a state of perfection, always as splendid as now.”
And yet, at the end of the verse, it is written, “to make,” which indicates that there is still something to complete, that the world still lacks something. According to what we have seen above, it is clear that in this world man has the task of watching over Creation as he received it, and to add to the beauty of the world. The Sages have said, “Man was created on the eve of Shabbat … so that he could immediately enter the banquet. It is like a king that builds a palace that is splendid in its least detail, prepares a great banquet, and when everything is ready he brings his guest into it, as it is said, ‘Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out her seven pillars. She has prepared her meat; she has mingled her wine; she has also furnished her table. She has sent forth her maidens; she calls upon the highest places of the city’ [Proverbs 9:1-3]” (Sanhedrin 38a). For man to accomplish his task, he should be concerned that, above all, he never severs the connections between the worlds, this in order that an abundance of light emanating from G-d can spread to all places.
We know that the first man was created in such a way that he contained within himself a part of all the worlds, hence it is man who commands and connects them. It is in this way that G-d’s light and abundance can flow to all corners of Creation, for these worlds are connected one to the next.
How can man connect the worlds, as well as the Ten Sephiroth, to their source, to G-d? Only by means of the Torah, as it is said, “The uppermost knot of the Tefillin is a commandment of the Torah” (Menachot 39a). The Torah is a light (Proverbs 6:23) that illuminates all the worlds. G-d’s intention is for man to fulfill his holy task – that he live from the sweat of his brow without becoming indebted to others. When he lives a holy and pure life, he receives a reward from G-d that is in proportion to his good deeds, according to G-d’s promise.
That being said, let us now return to the subject of the first man. On the day G-d created man, he placed him in the Garden of Eden “to till it and to guard it” (Genesis 2:15). Yet this work and safeguarding were only for a few hours a day (see Sanhedrin 38b). If, during those hours, man had maintained his state of purity and holiness, all the connections between the worlds could have been interlinked, and the infinite light would then have continued to flow for all the generations. Such is what the Sages have said: “G-d showed the first man all the generations and its leaders” (ibid.). That is to say, all the generations were dependant on the first man. If he had carried out his task to perfection, he would not have been chased from the Garden, and death would not have entered into the world.
That is why it is written, “to make” (Genesis 2:3). G-d left man a certain task to perform in order to provide him – him and all the generations to come – with the merit of living and rejoicing in the infinite light. Yet to our great misfortune, the first man failed in his task on the very first day he was created, and he was chased from the Garden. G-d laments over him (Bereshith Rabba 19:18) because of this sin, a sin that up to our day we have not succeeded in rectifying so as to make G-d reign in this world through the connections that link the worlds.
And yet, even in our day, man has the ability to carry out this reparation. He possesses the means and the power to do it by his Torah study, as the Sages say, “Great is Torah, for if not by its merit, heaven and earth would not exist” (Nedarim 32a). It is by the study of Torah that man spreads abundance in all the worlds by means of holy connections, and all of Creation perpetuates itself by the merit of the uppermost knot of the Tefillin, which attaches man to the Torah.
At present, we understand the need to immerse ourselves in a mikveh on the eve of Shabbat, which as we know is helpful for effecting the repair of the brit, the sign of the covenant that sanctifies the Jewish people.
The word mila alludes to the 40 days of the formation of the embryo (see Sotah 2a). During these 40 days, it is determined if the fetus will be a male, a man being the one who has the mission of connecting all the worlds in order to make the waters of life – the abundance that spreads in a holy way to all the worlds – spring forth. A man should understand and never forget that G-d desires and wants that the embryo should be a male at the end of its 40 days of formation, this in order for him to connect all the worlds by the abundance that spreads through the sanctified connections that link them. This also allows us to understand the statement of the Sages: “Up to 40 days, it is permitted to pray and ask that the infant not be deformed and that it be a boy or a girl. However after 40 days, it is forbidden to pray that it be a boy or a girl, for it is useless to pray and ineffective to ask for something that has already occurred” (Berachot 60a). This is because, as we have said, after 40 days G-d Alm-ghty has already decided what the fetus will be.
The letter mem in the word mila has a numerical value of 40 (referring to the 40 days of the formation of the child), and the word yeled (“child”) has a numerical value of 45, which is also the numerical value of one of G-d’s Names. We see, therefore, that the task which man is responsible for, as well as his purpose in life, is to make sure that he does not damage the holiness of this connection (which the sign of the covenant represents). It is through it that all the worlds are linked, and it is the mark of the covenant between him and G-d. Whoever harms this sign harms the Name of G-d as much as he harms man himself, who was created to be the permanent connection between all the worlds. If he harms this sign, it is as if he denied the Name of G-d that he carries within him (G-d forbid).
Let us now explain the sin of the first man, who was created on the sixth day. G-d left him the task of continuing the work of Creation and perfecting it, this during the few hours that preceded the beginning of Shabbat. If he had obeyed G-d’s will, death would never have entered the world, yet because of our great sins he damaged the sign of the covenant (see Sanhedrin 38b). The Arizal explains that the first man did not wait until Shabbat to join with his wife Chava, which provoked the jealously of the serpent. The deterioration of man began as a consequence of his premature union with Chava. If he had waited until the night of Shabbat instead of uniting with her during the day, the Divine light would have protected him. Yet for not having waited, he ended up eating from the Tree of Knowledge. All this happened on the day before Shabbat (see Arizal, Ta’amei HaTorah).
The mikveh on the eve of Shabbat comes to correct the sin of the first man. Whoever purifies himself in the mikveh on the eve of Shabbat receives the holiness of Shabbat and its enveloping light, which prolongs the creation and the formation of man, and which connects the worlds to each other in order to fill them with abundance. We therefore see how awesome the secret of the purifying waters is. When a man descends into a mikveh, he prolongs the beam of the primordial, infinite light upon himself, the light from which all the worlds were created. Which beam of light is this?
We know that when G-d wanted to make His creations know His goodness and mercy, and to lavish them with the abundance of His goodness, He, so to speak, “withdrew” Himself to create a void in reality. He then made a beam of the infinite light descend from Him, and it reached that nothingness, that void. From that void and beam of light the Ten Sephiroth were created, and from them came the worlds. This “withdrawal” of G-d was only meant for man, only for beings capable of rejoicing in G-d, and from the moment that He created them, He put all the worlds into their power, with the obligation to connect and unite them. This is a sign of G-d’s great generosity.
Such is the secret of the mikveh. In descending into the mikveh, which holds 40 seahs of water, a man accepts the sovereignty of G-d, his Creator. At the same time, he accepts the fact that at the end of his 40 days of formation in the womb of his mother, he became a man, attached to the Name of G-d. From that moment on, all the worlds are connected to one another and receive an abundance of Divine goodness.
When a man finds himself in the water of a mikveh, he prolongs this beam of infinite light upon himself, a beam with which G-d created the Ten Sephiroth, and this beam continues and gives birth to all that exists and fills all the worlds with an outpouring of abundance.
Everything that we have asserted thus far is indicated by the word mikveh itself.
The letter mem (whose numerical value is 40) represents the 40 seahs of water in the mikveh, as well as the 40 days of the embryo’s formation in the womb, so that it can carry the name “man”. The letter kuf represents the beam (or line, kav in Hebrew) of infinite light that descended into the void, a void created as soon as G-d “withdrew” Himself, and into which the light spread. From there the Ten Sephiroth, as well as the worlds of Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah were created. Without this light, the void would not exist. The letter he (whose numerical value is 5) represents the five forms of purity that a man takes upon himself on the eve of Shabbat when he is immersed in the mikveh.
All of the above illustrates just how the meaning and goal of the mikveh are profound and awesome. A man immerses himself in the mikveh on the eve of Shabbat to repair the foundation that was damaged by the first man, and he receives the infinite light in order to connect and unite the worlds to one another, for it is to continue the work of Creation that man was created, as it is written: “which G-d created to make.” A man must be extremely careful not to damage the sign of the holy covenant, for that would be damaging the foundation of the creation of man and denying the Name of G-d that he carries within himself. If he guards and purifies himself, he becomes like the first man before his sin, and thanks to the purification that occurs in the mikveh, he unites all the worlds together in holiness and purity. He also prolongs upon himself an abundance of goodness, which surges forth by means of the worlds, starting from that very same beam of light that connects them. It is for this purpose that man was created.
By virtue of being purified and sanctified, we will merit what the Sages have mentioned: “The one who sanctifies himself a little is sanctified a great deal; the one who sanctifies himself below is sanctified from above; the one who sanctifies himself in this world is sanctified in the World to Come” (Yoma 39a). Amen.