The following is a brief email exchange I shared with a TM teacher who is well-versed in the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi that have been a source of profound inspiration for so many people.
“The angle I take when reading Torah [while studying Biblical Hebrew] is that there is nothing but God and that Torah is Self-Referral, the vibrations of God Knowing HimSelf. So the big mystery is: How can God pretend that He is Limited? How can He Pretend there is something other than Him?
It’s not clear to me how the letters create this illusion. Have you any thoughts, for example, on how God can pretend that Adam and Eve are separate from Him and that they violate His Commands? Perhaps knowing the Hebrew fluently and also the Dance of the Letters will help me get a sense of this.”
“How can God pretend that He is Limited?”
Although the Kabbalah of the Ari (Rabbi Isaac Luria) mentions “tzimtzum” — the “self-withdrawal” of God in order to make a place for Creation — the contradiction in this is obvious: How can God “withdraw?” How can there be a place “empty” of God?
The resolution to this is found in the Tanya of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady (known as “The Alter Rebbe”), founder of HaBaD hasidut:
The “limitation” of God is from the human perspective or perception only. In God’s own “perception,” no such limitation ever took place.
In fact, the Rebbe says that God’s midot/quality of “Gevurah” is in truth, the Divine quality of being able to “appear as limited,” in order for there to be a creation at all.
Sounds a lot like saying that the separation of creation from God is “maya” — or, more strictly in Vedanta, “mithya.” Vedanta, if I understand correctly, uses “maya” to designate those things that can be spoken of but which can’t exist. It gives the example of “the child of a barren woman”: If the woman can’t bear children, there can be no “child.”
“Mithya,” again, in my understanding, designates those things that appear to exist for a while, then cease to exist.
Another explanation of mithya:
Of Divine Names, the one associated with “Gevurah” is “Elokim.”
So the Rebbe interprets the opening verse of Torah/Bible, “B’rei’shith bara Elokim” — “In the beginning, God created…” — as: “In the beginning, the heavens and the earth were created by/with God’s ability to appear as if separate from Creation.”
The Tanya is actually divided into several parts. The first part is “Tanya,” itself. The second part is ‘Ha-Sha’ar ha’Yichud v’ha’Emunah’ — “The Gate of [understanding God’s] Unity and of Faith.”
The entire first part talks about overcoming the effects of material ignorance through the process of “hitbonenut b’g’dolat Ha-Shem” — which the Rebbe defines as contemplation of the sharing by God of Divine Existence with all else.
But the actual content/subject matter of this contemplation is in the “Sha’ar ha’Yichud…” As I was later told, the Rebbe’s original plan was for the “contemplation-part” to come first and the rest to come thereafter. But it seems as if he felt the need to provide an “introductory lecture” as a preparation for the contemplation itself.
This understanding — that God is always and will always be an unchanging “Unity” — is stated by the Rebbe to be the basis of real faith in and love of God. It corresponds to what Maharishi calls “the intellectual approach to God-realization” in an appendix to “The Science of Being…”
The name “HaBaD” is actually an acronym for the three parts of this contemplation:
“H” (or “Ch”) is for “het/chet” — the initial letter of the word “chochmah.” Usually translated as “wisdom,” the Rebbe uses it to mean having a broad overview of the idea/principle of Divine Unity.
“B” is for “bet” — the initial letter of “binah.” Usually translated as “understanding,” the Rebbe means by it a detailed understanding of the implications of the principle of Divine Unity. One might say that “Chochmah” is a “right-brain,” imaginative comprehension, while “Binah” is a left-brain, detailed/logical understanding. Both are needed
Both types/levels of understanding remain purely theoretical until they become so impressed upon one’s thinking that one’s mind and heart are changed by them.
“D” is for “dalet” — the first letter of “da’at.” Usually translated as “knowledge,” the Rebbe refers to its “biblical” use — i.e. Adam “knew” his wife; they “joined.” Thus, the Rebbe uses “da’at” as a kind of metaphor for ideas becoming so “joined” to one, and vice versa, that one transcends them and is also inspired and changed by them.
When I was first becoming re-involved in Judaism, I spent several Shabbatot in Crown Heights (home of the Lubavitch/HaBaD hasidim). “Hitbonenut” was not at all typically done. It had been replaced by veneration of the then-current Rebbe, z”l. I gather that it’s spoken of a bit more now.
So, given what the Alter Rebbe wrote roughly 200 years ago, perhaps the answer to your question is found within the question itself:
How can God “pretend…?” Because it is only “pretending.”
In truth, there is never a separation between “Creator” and “created.”
Regarding what the Hebrew letters have to do with this, there are several answers and sources. I like the Ba’al Shem Tov’s the best:
The letters and words which Torah says God “said” at the beginning of creation, e.g. “Let there be…”, are actually being proclaimed by God forever — even today; even at this very moment. All only “exists” because it is all being “called into existence” by God at this very moment.
What’s more — God remains in all created things. For human creation, one takes materials external to him/herself and creates something which then exists independently. For example, Rembrandt creates a painting, using paint, paintbrush and canvas; when he’s finished, he leaves the room and the painting still exists. For Divine creation, “the power/existence of the Creator must remain within the thing created for it to continue existing” — like the water of the ocean must remain in the wave. If the Creator “withdrew,” the thing — or all things — would cease to exist immediately. Maimonides also says about this that if all things suddenly ceased to exist, the Creator would continue unchanged.
As for what I think this has to do with Adam and Eve:
Going back to your initial statement, it might also be possible to consider that the entire Creation is “Self-Referral, the vibrations of God Knowing HimSelf” and that Torah is the revelation of the presence of the Unchanging even within the (seemingly) changing. Perhaps that’s why kabbalists say: Torah is the Name of God.