Vaera: Chapter 5

General and particular


Rabbi Yosi opens with: "And I shall take you to me as a people and I will be to you as an Elohim and you will know that I am Hashem your Elohim." Rabbi Shimon tells us that the first and most important precept is to know God in the general sense - to know that there is a supernal ruler who is the master of the world and who created all the worlds, heaven and earth, and all their beings. Just as this is the beginning of the precepts, the end of them is to know Him particularly -- General and Particular are Beginning and End. They are also the secret of male and female as in Zeir Anpin and Nukva. At the end of 40 years of wandering following the exodus from Egypt, Moses told the children of Yisrael: "Know therefore this day, and consider it in your heart that Yud Hei Vav Hei is the Elohim." This then is the particular. Rabbi Shimon says that the fear of Hashem is the beginning of knowing Him in particular. We are told next that a person should perfect the 248 limbs of the soul of man - the 248 positive precepts. After he has been perfected in general, he will know in particular. Rabbi Shimon turns to a discussion of the limbs, the days of the year, the Sfirot and their cures. Blessings, life and cures come down to a person only after he completes all 248 precepts. The first word of the Torah when it was given on Mount Sinai was "Anochi (I am)," which is the secret of the first precept of knowing Him in general. "For Hashem your Elohim is a consuming fire" is an allusion to the particular.


In order to know God we must start by acknowledging that He exists and that He created all the worlds, heaven and earth, and all their inhabitants. If we find it difficult to 'know' God, to encounter Him in a particular and personal way, we can start encountering Him in a general way. We may quietly remember what we know of the world and its people, and what we imagine of heaven and the angels, and then recall that God made them all. This understanding will lead us to the wisdom that enables us to encounter God in the particular. The Light contained in this passage encourages us in our endeavors.