The enigmatic title of this chapter is a quote from the book called the Zohar. It’s the most famous kabbalistic treatise, and most Kabbalah that is studied these days is based on it. It is attributed to a sage from Talmudic times named Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (about 170 C.E.)
Israel is the name given to Jacob, the third of the Jewish patriarchs, when he wrestled with an angel in Genesis 32:29 (see also 35:10). It also refers to the Jewish people as a whole. They were formed as a people from Abraham’s time until Moses, and were established with God’s mandate on Mount Sinai.
In the previous chapter we discussed the idea of man being a microcosm of the universe. In one sense everything in creation mirrors man and vice versa. The point of creation, however, was just for man, and therefore he has more importance than all the rest of creation. In the beginning of Genesis, even though he was created last, man is the central figure. The universe is the arena in which he fulfills his divine task. The vehicle to communicate that task is the Torah. Although the word Torah can refer to the actual scroll of the Bible, it also refers to the entirety of God’s instructions to man.
There are the written instructions, which include the five books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Writings; as well as the oral instructions, which include the Mishna, Medrash, Talmud, and Kabbalah. There is a tradition, however, that all of the oral instructions are hinted to in the written instructions, which in turn are all hinted to in the five books of Moses. Therefore our title technically refers to the entirety of knowledge that is imbedded in the five books of Moses. As instructions to man, then, the Torah represents the very will of the Creator. His will is the closest to Him we can come. It’s the next best thing to God’s actual presence, as it says in Exodus 33:20 “for no man can see Me and live.” In this way we say that God and the Torah are one, as it is the greatest manifestation or revelation of God we have here on earth. In the Zohar, the Torah is even referred to as one long name of God. In a matter of speaking it is His very words, thoughts, and desires.
If you think about it, you realize that the creation itself is also an expression of God as well. He created it. It is His handiwork, and it has His wisdom all the way through it. He made the apple pretty to look at, a pleasure to smell, delicious to eat, and healthy. If one examines the universe properly one can come to the unmistakable conclusion that there is a Creator and designer; it could not have been an accident. Psychologists often examine great works of art and draw conclusions about the artist. With the creation, though, God purposely designed His universe to hide Himself just a bit beneath the surface. Not only that, but since God’s oneness fills the universe and constantly wills it into existence, the universe is more like a living self-portrait with a thin veil to look past.
Man is God’s most important and special creation and thereby the greatest expression of His will. Man also, as a microcosm of all creation, is a representation of the whole of God’s will as manifested in the world. So just as the universe and the Torah are fused and connected with God, so is man. Yet it is man in his fulfillment of the purpose of creation that best expresses the presence of God. Therefore as the Bible forms this nation called Israel as the embodiment of God’s will through history and the people charged with the task to follow His instructions, they become as close to the actual presence of God as you can get as a nation.
In expressing the idea that God’s will to create the universe is embodied in the Torah, the Zohar states that God looked into the Torah and then created the universe. Somehow it is the blueprint of creation. They also say that there are 600,000 primary souls that make up the Jewish people in any generation. Symbolically, though not technically, there are 600,000 letters in the Torah. The Torah, the Jewish people, and God are one to the extent that they can keep their separate identities and still be one. Israel, as it lives the principles of the Torah, also becomes a living expression of God’s will in man. They are the people that were given the instructions, and they are the ones who are living those instructions. Israel, the Torah and God are all one.
It must be noted as a side point at this time that Israel is not an exclusive club. Anyone who sincerely wants to join Israel by converting may do so.