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Amidah-Ki Tisa-Gevurot

We have learned that the soul has ten aspects, corresponding to the ten Sefirot. We left out an important idea: the explanation that even Chochmah, the first of the ten, is only a vessel for the soul’s essence. Just as the physical brain is only a container for intellectual potency and the wisdom that evolves from the soul, so, in turn, the soul’s intellectual potency is only a vessel for its essence.


Man’s intellect does not always function evenly. Sometimes his mind is clear, other times it is not, so much so that he talks nonsense. Since the intellect is always changing, we cannot say that it is the essence of the soul, and that the soul’s essence consists only of the then aspects comprising intellect and attributes, or even that the soul is one indivisible reality, to wit, intellect. Rather, the intellect is merely a vessel. Even will, or Ratzon, which stands higher than intellect, Chochmah, in the sole, is only a vessel.

That is why the mind has the capacity to grow. An infant has a very small mind, and as he grows up, attains greater intellectual and affective attributes. Since the soul was in him from the very beginning, why was his mind undeveloped? The answer is that the soul transcends intellect, and the latter is a force that emanates from the former. In order for this force to expand overtly, there must be a vessel to contain it, a function filled by the brain, which becomes the vessel for the light of the intellect. Hence, in childhood, because of the smallness of the brain, the intellect’s  illumination is limited. But the soul itself is enclothed in it from the very beginning.

Now, the essence and substance of the soul are part of God, Who is beyond the ten aspects, which are limited, but is rather “a simple, indivisible light.” So, too, wrote the Maharal (Second Preface to Gevurot Hashem) “If you were to ask, ‘ Since His substance is neither intellect nor corporeality then what is He?’ Our reply would be, ‘ Can you really understand the soul in the human body?’ Certainly, then, you cannot ask such questions about the Creator, of Whom it is written in this week’s portion, Ki Tisa, , “for man shall not see Me and live (Exodus 33:20).” It is clear that the soul itself transcends intellect. (Likkutei Torah, Vayikra)

“Who is like You, O Master of mighty deeds, and who is comparable to You, O King Who causes death and restores life and makes salvation sprout!”

“It is furthermore necessary to know that God’s true nature cannot be understood at all by any being other than Himself. The only thing that we know about Him is that He is perfect in every possible way and devoid of every conceivable deficiency (Derech Hashem 1.1.2).”

It is appropriate that in the blessing of the Amidah that describes the Resurrection that we remind ourselves that God’s Being and Essence transcend our intellectual grasp. It is this idea that we express when we say the words, “Who is like You.”

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