In the beginning
Before G-d created the world, everything was infinite.
But G-d wanted to reveal His kingdom.
And there is no king without people.
And so He needed to create a world with people who know that there is a King.
But you cannot understand G-d without certain knowledge, certain emotions, certain kinds of vessels to understand Him. Because there must be emotions of love, of strength, of beauty, of eternity, all kinds of deep emotions.
Because you only know G-d via your heart.
And the moment you have emotions, it is already finite.
G-d put aside all the great lights, and there was left an empty space, and in this empty space He created the world.
You know, G-d is infinite. But we cannot understand G-d in an infinite way. We can only understand G-d in a finite way, because we are finite people.
So G-d had to create finite vessels to create the world.
‘Finite vessels’ is that we can know G-d in a finite way.
Wisdom in your heart
What is the vessel for all the vessels for those emotions in your heart?
There is wisdom in my mind, and there is wisdom in my heart. The wisdom of my mind is very good, but it’s nothing. It’s deep, but it doesn’t get there. You cannot know G-d just with the wisdom of your mind.
You have to know G-d with the wisdom of your heart.
Because the heart is the deepest depth there is.
Good and Evil
Then G-d created two things: There is a good voice in your heart, that means your heart is a vessel for good, and yet your heart is also a vessel for evil.
So G-d created you and gave you a heart and all those deep things, and with all those emotions you should know that there is one G-d.
But what happens if you have evil thoughts? Then you’re defiling this holy depths of yourself which G-d gave you in order to understand Him.
I want you to know something very deep. “Metumtam” in Hebrew means “closed up.” What happens to you when you’re evil? You’re closing yourself up from G-d, from the world. Something happens to you, you’re covered up. Like you take a bottle and you close it; you can’t put anything in anymore.
To be holy means to be completely open, that everything is flowing into you.
But when you’re doing wrong, you’re just closed up, and nothing happens.
But then you also have to know that the truth is that, the heart basically a great fire, there is a great fire burning in the heart.
And the heart is so big that the heart wants to know G-d in an infinite way also.
So, therefore, King David said, “I make a little hole in my heart: libi chalal bekirbi.” The same way as G-d made an empty space in His heart, in His world for you, so you have to make, like, an empty space for G-d, to understand Him in your heart.
And this is because then, if you make a little empty space, G-d can shine all these vessels of holiness, of emotions, into you. Then you will know how to serve G-d.
But if you think evil things all the time, your heart is closed up, and then you cannot use the same heart to understand G-d.
So the moment you think, ‘I want to serve G-d,’ that means that, at that moment, you make a little empty space in your heart, and G-d can reveal Himself to you there.
What does it mean to pray?
If someone asks you, “What is it to pray?” that answer is that to pray means to make an empty space in your heart with words. Every word you utter, you make a little depth in your soul, a little empty space in your heart.
You know what praying is? Praying is that G-d is revealing Himself to you. We always think; ‘I’m asking G-d.’ It’s not true. Prayer means that G-d is revealing His kingdom to you.
And with every word you utter, you make a little empty space in your heart and G-d can be there.
Don’t overdo it
But then when you make a little empty space in your heart, don’t overdo it, because otherwise you’ll burst.
So in a certain crazy way, you have to yearn for the infinite, but if you’re infinite, so then G-d cannot tell you / reveal Himself to you. So you have to yearn in an infinite way for the finite. Because what does it mean to have holy thoughts? That means that the holy thoughts, like, make G-d a little bit finite in order to bring Him closer to your head.
You have to know that Yerushalayim [Jerusalem] is a house of prayer.
There is a high Yerushalayim, and there is a low Yerushalayim. There are two houses. There is a high house and there is a low house.
What is a high house and what is a low house? The low house is that, in a finite way, you are making a way for G-d, and through this finite little house, G-d is shining the infinite on you.
Everybody knows that you are a little part of G-d. And where is G-d? G-d is in your heart. If G-d is in your heart, that means your heart is infinite. And, therefore, like, the flame in your heart is mamash infinite, and in the most infinite way you’re burning up; “I want to know what G-d is.”
But sometimes you’re burning up so much that you cannot do anything. Because every act you are doing is a finite act. And, therefore, it’s really hard / frustrating. You know, sometimes you want to be so infinite, but this isn’t how it is in this world.
It’s very strange. If you come to somebody and say, “Would you like to know G-d in an infinite way?” He’s ready. But if you ask him, “Would you like to know G-d in a finite way, and put on tefillin every morning?” and he says, “No.” why is it? Because, basically, you’re yearning for the infinite, right? You’d like to know G-d in an infinite way, which is really true. But you have to realize one thing. You are living in this world, and you will not know G-d unless you do the finite things.
G-d promises you that into this finite thing that you do, He will pour in the infinite. This is the vessel.
So the same way as G-d made empty space for you, you have got to make yourself empty.
‘Empty’ means that for one minute, you stop being infinite. That’s very strong / powerful. Everybody wants to know G-d in an infinite way. But you can’t. So you have to make yourself finite. That means taking your infiniteness away from you, making yourself empty.
‘Empty’ means that in that place, you’re not infinite. That is the place where G-d is really living. And this is the secret of creating the world. And this is the secret of serving G-d more and more and more.
Questions and answers asked during the teaching
Question: Shlomo, there’s something bothering me about what you said about your heart bursting.
Rebbe Shlomo Carlebach: If I’m serving G-d in an infinite way, I’ll blow my mind, I’ll get crazy the next minute. Why do a lot of kids become a little bit religious and then they mamash get crazy. It’s a holy thing, because they’re really yearning for G-d in an infinite way. But they didn’t keep it. They didn’t make an empty vessel in their hearts.
Question: That’s what you mean when you taught us about ‘annihilation,’ isn’t it?
Rebbe Shlomo Carlebach: That’s pretty good. You are mamash top. It is one of the ways, but it’s a very strong thing.
Annihilation means to make an empty space. To go against your being infinite, and let G-d do the thing. It’s saying to G-d, “I’m ready for You to let me know You on Your terms.”
Listen to this: What’s the whole thing of having good thoughts or evil thoughts? Good thoughts mean, “I want this world to be right.” What’s the greatest, greatest holiest thought? “I want this world to exist. I want me to exist. I want G-d to exist in this world.”
So the way for G-d to exist in the world is – there has to be a little empty space.
Question: How do you divide the finite regarding the acts of deeds that you’re talking about like tefillin and tzitzis, from the finite of making money? Does that come from the same source?
Rebbe Shlomo Carlebach: Do you mean what Rebbe Nachman says, that the most empty space is money? But this is G-d’s empty space. G-d emptied Himself. Wherever I make money, G-d isn’t there because I think I’m doing it; ‘It’s my power,’ right? Money makes you powerful. This is one spot where G-d isn’t manifest. It’s empty space. And you have to fill it with G-d again.
But the empty space Rebbe Nachman is talking about here is that you want to serve G-d so much… Listen, I can walk up to a person, and love them so much that I mamash kill them with my loving. Coming on too strong, you know, cool it.
And the same way if we come to G-d, saying, “Listen G-d, I want to serve You in an infinite way, blow my mind.” So G-d says, “Cool it brother.”
But the thing is, if I cool it completely, I become dead, and that’s bad too. There has to be some of both.
Question: What bothers me is that, if you’re really speaking in terms of actually the way it is, as long as both are the same areas, money and tefillin and tzitzis, it’s not so great.
Rebbe Shlomo Carlebach: No, it’s a different thing because I’m talking about your empty space, and G-d’s empty space. G-d’s empty space is money. My empty space is mitzvas [good deeds]. I don’t know if I’m making myself clear.
Question: There’s a good finite and there’s a bad finite. It’s not all just…?
Rebbe Shlomo Carlebach: There has to be finite, but this finite has to be such a holy finite that it doesn’t cover up the infinite. It has to be infinitely finite.
And this is the house above and the house below.
You can see this even on a human level, for example, with married couples. Imagine, a lot of people are very close before they get married. And then, when it comes to the finite thing, waking up in the morning and talking to each other, it does not work out so well. Because they’re very good together on the infinite level, but on this empty space level they don’t click.
And then there are a lot of couples who are tremendous on the finite level, but they’re dead, right? Everything goes clock, clock, clock, but there is nothing between them. This infinite thing isn’t between them.
So this is called the low house and the high house.
And the same is in the service of G-d. Everybody just wants to have a revelation of G-d; ‘I’m ready to be Moses on Mt. Sinai.’ But are you ready to be Moshele the water carrier and kindle lights at the proper time?
What happened to you when you sinned? Why did you do wrong? Basically every child wants to serve G-d in the most infinite way. The only area where you failed G-d is that you couldn’t make this empty space within yourself.
So teshuva [returning to G-d] is that you’re connecting the infinite to the finite again.
Because you are doing teshuva so strongly, therefore the dividing wall between the infinite and the finite is less. Obviously. A tzadik is a very holy person, but you see in him the finite more than the infinite. And in a bal teshuva, the holiness of a person repenting is that this infinite fire is mamash obvious. It’s mamash burning in an infinite way.
Therefore, Rebbe Nachman says, this is the whole thing about Shabbos. Shabbos is – the holiness of Shabbos is, the vessel is – that you’re yearning for G-d in a most infinite way, and even the Shabbos is infinite too. That means that all the mitzvas that you are doing, they’re all finite mitzvas. They’re very holy, but, they’re also cutting me off a little bit from the infinite. So it’s hard. But Shabbos is not doing anything. So on Shabbos, Shabbos itself is a vessel for the infinite. So that means on Shabbos my infinite and my finite are together.
Question: But you do things on Shabbos in a finite way.
Rebbe Shlomo Carlebach: What do you do?
Rebbe Shlomo Carlebach: But the mitzvah of Shabbos is praying? The mitzvah of Shabbos is Shabbos.
Listen, on Shabbos you also eat, and you also sleep. But this isn’t where it’s at. This finite is more on the top level of infinite.
There’s a strong difference between eating matza and eating on Friday night. Matza, you have to eat matza, it’s an act that has to be fulfilled, and the piece of matza has to be that long or that short, and that thin. On Shabbos, even if I eat challah – it has to be kosher…
Question: It has nothing to do with Shabbos.
Rebbe Shlomo Carlebach: It has to do with Shabbos, but it’s still infinite, because on Shabbos the mitzvah is the bliss of Shabbos, and you have to eat in order to keep up your level of bliss. But you know, you’re not fulfilling the mitzvah with the chewing like you do with the matza. You’re doing the mitzvah by being in the state of bliss.
So, therefore, he says Bereshit is ‘B reshit – 2 beginnings.’ There is a beginning of the infinite and a beginning of the finite.
Question: What do you mean by “beginning?”
Rebbe Shlomo Carlebach: When G-d created the world, bereshit is the first word in the Torah, it means ‘at the beginning.’ And the Zohar HaKadosh says, Bereshit means ‘bet – reshit,’ two beginnings.
Question: Would you clarify what you mean about two beginnings?
Rebbe Shlomo Carlebach: I don’t know exactly either. Rebbe Nachman speaks about the two beginnings, the finite beginning and the infinite. This is how G-d created the world. The infinite has to be completely intact and they both have to go together. That means if for one thing you’re just becoming a finite Yiddelah [Jew], you’re off, right? And if you’re just infinite, you’re a very holy Yiddelah, but you’re not the way you should be. You have to be both. Two beginnings, finite and infinite.
Question: Can a finite vessel receive the infinite?
Rebbe Shlomo Carlebach: There are vessels that can receive the infinite. This is the whole thing of Torah and mitzvas, that in finite vessels you receive the infinite. But if you don’t use those vessels, then either you’re completely nothing or you’ll go out of you mind.
What is a real person?
A real person is someone who really integrates the infinite and the finite in a million ways. But most people, either they’re completely infinite, or they’re finite. Either way is bad. That means that even whatever you do, you must have the strength to do it in a finite way. Why aren’t most of us better? Because we’d like to be the holiest man the next morning, but when you woke up the next morning and you’re not the holiest man, so you give up. Because you have this infinite yearning, but you don’t have the strength just to be finite. Don’t be the holiest. Just be a little bit holy.
It’s like one Rebbe said: Everybody would like to be the greatest scholar in one night, but this one night they also want to sleep.
Especially when it comes to the service of G-d, it’s a very delicate thing. You have got to have this infinite yearning because, if you don’t, you’re not with it. You’ve got to be infinite.
The doing has to be finite and the yearning has to be infinite.
Rebbe Nachman says something in addition at the end. That’s why the custom is that a kallah [bride] gives her chassan [groom] a tallis [prayer shawl]. Because a tallis is infinite, to let him know that their house will be a combination of the finite and the infinite. This is a gevalt.
Question: As you become more infinite, or aware of more of the infinite, do you become less finite?
Rebbe Shlomo Carlebach: No, on the contrary. I’ll tell you something very deep. If you love somebody very much, then you’re also ready to do them little favors. They both become deep, because if you’re really with it, then you know that the finite is also infinite. And if you’re bad, then to you the infinite is finite.
This is completeness, this holy depth. The combination of the high house and the low house….
Then you can say, when I pray it has to be in a completely infinite way. And yet it also has to be finite. The holiness of the prayer book, it’s the most finite thing in the world, those words were written up two thousand years ago. But the way I’m praying, it has to be in an infinite way.
You see what it is, today a lot of people do ‘creative services.’ And it’s a beautiful thing. I wish we could make up prayers, but why does it fail? You know why? Because creative service means I’m praying in an infinite way, but they’re using the most finite language there is. Because they don’t have the holiness to know the secret of saying finite words which contain the infinite. I heard this reform rabbi saying a creative service as part of a meeting of the Sisterhood. It was sweet, basically sweet. He wants to say something; but the way he said it is not even finite anymore, just stupid. Because between finite and stupid there is a very fine line.
What makes a good doctor? A good doctor, if he looks at your nose, and he is in a certain way infinite, then he can mamash see the way the nose is connected to the foot. And the way the connection to the foot is connected to the brain and the brain to your whole personality. Infinite ways. And if he’s a finite doctor, he’ll look at your nose, and he’ll say, “I’ll give you a spray for your nose.”
It’s the same way between people. Someone can tell you a little thing, but if you’re on the infinite level, you can hear everything out of this one little word.
Rebbe Nachman is saying, basically, that since your heart is the place where you fathom G-d, it’s infinite. It’s infinite. Because if it wasn’t infinite, how could G-d be there? But since you’re living in this world, G-d gave you finite vessels to understand His infinity.
Rebbe Nachman says the heart is there because real wisdom is in your heart. It’s much deeper than the mind. The mind receives from the heart.