19 June 2017

A Kabbalistic Model of the Oceans and Continents Part 3

Ocean world

Actually, that dry land rises above sea level is a miracle because according to the Torah (and science as well), it is only natural that water should cover the entire face of the earth and there should be no visible dry land. This is known from the natural order of the four archetypal elements: fire, air, water, and earth. In Torah, as was accepted for many thousands of years by all systems of thought, the elements’ natural position in relation to one another is pictured by four concentric circles. Earth is the innermost circle, next comes water, then air, and finally fire. The element of earth is completely circumscribed by the next larger circle of water. According to this order, earth is the lowest of the elements and therefore naturally should be submerged underwater. For this reason, according to the Genesis account of creation, on the third day, G–d had to command the waters to recede so that dry land emerge. Because of this miracle— that the land rises above the surface of the waters—one of our morning blessings praises G–d for this miracle that allows the world to continue to sustain revealed life.

However, this will not be the state of affairs forever. The sages explain that at the end of six millennia (corresponding to the six days of creation—one millennium for each day of creation), the waters will once more rise and submerge the surface of the land. This would of course lead to the destruction of all of our civilization.

Still, we should not understand this statement too literally. The correct way to understand this statement is as a metaphor. The waters that come to cover the earth represent knowledge. Specifically, whereas today we are not consciously aware of G–d’s Presence, at the end of six millennia, consciousness and awareness of G–d will cover the earth in a natural manner, just as the elemental water we have mentioned covers the elemental earth. 

According to this metaphor, all the souls that merit this level of Divine consciousness will get “wings” and for the entire (seventh) millennia (that corresponds to the Shabbat of creation) they will hover and fly in the air above the waters and the earth. The point of the metaphor is that in the future, things will return to their natural order (earth, under water, under air, under fire) and in this natural order, the souls inhabit the air that is between the fire and the waters that cover the earth. And this is exactly the image in the second verse of the Torah where the spirit of G–d (the Messianic spirit) was hovering and flying over the waters. In the future all of the souls will have the Messianic spirit and do this.

Now, we will discuss the particular correspondence of the oceans with the three higher sefirot. Before we begin, let us first present the correspondence in the form of our chart from above:

The Atlantic Ocean

The idiom used to describe the waters covering the earth, “chaotic and void” appears only three times in the entire Bible. The first time is in the second verse of Genesis. The second time this idiom appears is in a beautifully poetic verse from Isaiah: “The ka’athand the kipod [nocturnal birds] will inherit it, the owl and the raven shall dwell in it, and He shall stretch upon it a line of chaos and stones of the void.”7

Isaiah offers us an additional description of the nature of the chaos. He calls it a “line of chaos” (קו תהו ). A line can refer to either a straight line or—especially in terms of the rounded sphere of the Earth—a circle. In the tractate of Chagigah, the second chapter titled Ein Dorshim is the one chapter of the Talmud that is exclusively dedicated to the secrets of the Torah; it is the source of Kabbalah in the Talmud. There,8 the sages explain that this line of chaos is a green circular line that encompasses all of the dry land of the earth, and they explain that this refers to the one world ocean. We might think that because all of the world’s oceans are connected, this statement is not very helpful for our purposes. However, the particular part of the world ocean that was in the mind of the prophets of Israel (and of all of mankind that developed in Europe, Asia and Africa) was specifically the Atlantic. In Kabbalah, the line of chaos refers to the sefirah of understanding and to the mother principle. This is a very important reason why we see the Atlantic Ocean as corresponding to the sefirah of understanding.

The Pacific Ocean

The literal meaning of “Pacific” is “rest” or “peace.” On the one hand, the Pacific Ocean is the biggest of all the oceans, yet, for all its tremendous size, it is relatively peaceful. Peace and rest are inherent qualities the Shabbat—the day of rest and peace. In Kabbalah, the Shabbat is associated with the sefirah of wisdom and the father principle, indicating that wisdom is the most peaceful and quiet of all the sefirot. Another allusion to the quiet nature of the sefirah of wisdom is the sages’ aphorism that “wisdom is bound by silence.”9 The Pacific Ocean thus corresponds to the sefirah of wisdom and everything that it represents.

The Indian Ocean

Finally, we come to the Indian Ocean, which we already know must correspond to the final remaining intellectual sefirah: knowledge. In the Bible, the Indian Ocean has a great deal of significance. It is only natural to think that the most important ocean in the Bible is the Atlantic. This is because the Land of Israel borders on the Mediterranean Sea, which is an offshoot of the Atlantic Ocean. But, in the central story of the Five Books of Moses—the Exodus from Egypt—the sea that was split was the Red Sea, which is an offshoot of the Indian Ocean. In fact, the Red Sea is where the Indian Ocean seems like it is reaching up and trying to touch the Mediterranean Sea.

Reviewing our identification of the three oceans with the three intellectual sefirot—wisdom, understanding, and knowledge—we see that the correspondence follows the relative sizes of the oceans:

• The largest ocean, the Pacific, corresponds to the first intellectual sefirah, wisdom.
• The Atlantic, which is the second largest, corresponds to the second intellectual sefirah, understanding.
• The smallest of the three, the Indian Ocean, corresponds to the third intellectual sefirah, knowledge.

Now in Kabbalah, knowledge is directly connected to foundation. In the human body, knowledge corresponds to the posterior brain, which is considered the spiritual source of the reproductive seed, while foundation corresponds to the reproductive organ. Indeed, we see that on its eastern end, the Indian Ocean reaches to Australia, which among the continents corresponds to foundation. At its western edge the Indian Ocean touches Africa, which as we will see corresponds to the sefirah of might. The word for “might” in Hebrew, gevurah, stems from gever, one of the four synonyms for “man.” This particular synonym is the one used for the idiom ko’ach gavra, which means “the power of fertility.” In addition, the span of the Indian Ocean from Australia (foundation) to Africa (might) alludes to the name Yosef (Joseph is the archetypal soul of foundation) Yitzchak (Isaac is the archetypal soul of might), the name of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Earlier we noted that knowledge is the conscious manifestation of the sefirah of crown. This is of course reflected in the Indian Ocean. The Hebrew word for Indian is hodi, which literally means acknowledgment (this word stems from the same word that is the name of the sefirah of thanksgiving, hod), or splendor. In Hebrew, the name of each of the 22 letters is a word. The letters of each of these words make up the initials of a moral idiom. The three letters that make up the name of the fourth letter, dalet (ד ), are the initials of the idiom: “Know how to give thanks” (דע לומר תודה ). This beautiful idiom, which represents a state of rectified acknowledgment in the psyche, connects knowledge with thanksgiving, the literal meaning of splendor.10 The sefirah of crown is described as manifesting the splendor of G–d’s sovereignty.

Another related point that needs to be explained further is that if the Indian Ocean is seen, or experienced as the sefirah of crown, then all the oceans can be considered as one large body of water. Indeed, the Indian Ocean alludes to the crown because as mentioned, this was where the parting of the Red Sea occurred. The sages describe this event as spiritually revealing the usually unattainable essence of the crown to the Children of Israel. But, if it is counted as the sefirah of knowledge, then the three oceans have to be considered distinct bodies of water.11

Part 1, Part 2,  Continue to Part 4

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