What is the Secret of the Bible?
Adapted from “Light of Qabalah – The Unknown Secret of the Bible”
By Dr. Ruth Borchard
Dr. Ruth Borchard, who celebrates her 90th birthday in perfect health this February, is the author of “Light of Qabalah”; “John Stuart Mill” (biography), “Four Dialogues of Plato” (ed.); “History and Symbolism of the Rose”; “The Jewish Pilgrim’s Progress” (novel); “The Introspective Listener” (music), and other novels, children’s books and film scripts.
The Bible as One Unit – And as Our Task
“The Torah of the Lord is perfect…” (Ps. 19, 8).
The Bible was given to man to be studied with the help of the methods indicated by the Oral tradition. ‘The study of the Torah transcends all things, being greater than honouring father and mother’ (Megillah 16b).
Since Sinai, each generation has added its share of insight. Nevertheless, the text is inexhaustible. “Its understanding is fuller than the sea and its counsel is greater than the deep” (Ben Sira 24, 28f).
Jewish tradition asserts that the natural laws of the universe are described in the Bible. (A. Safran, The Kabbalah, p.16). But this forms only a small part of the whole. For the text also refers to the supernatural worlds and their dynamics. Beyond the quantitative natural and supernatural laws, the Bible contains the qualitative human-divine values of harmony, truth, beauty, and justice. This is told to man in human language, for the Torah is ‘the food of man’s soul’; hence the Psalmist sings “Your Torah is within my heart” (Ps. 40, 9). Man’s task is to unify the lower with the upper levels of being, and the Jew in particular is taught how to fulfill his task of being a purified priest to mankind: by observing the precepts of the Bible.
In creation, man is the pointer of the scales, the index-hand of the balance. Each of his living moments and each of his deeds produce cosmic consequences.
An insight into the perfect design occurs as a blink of the eye, and yet the joy of such insight brings most perfect happiness. The insights of modern scientists which are pursued with such passion today are but a pale shadow of the insights into the harmonic law of creation shown in the Bible.
The Divine Law was given to man to teach him how to consciously preserve a harmonious balance in his life, by accepting the absolute standards of the Bible for his conduct, in the use he makes of his energies and of those of nature.
“G-d is the Divine mathematician, both in His works and in His words” (Rav. B. Horovitz, Jewish Study Magazine No. 33, pp.34-50). As G-d is perfect, so His works are perfect. In the Bible text, each single person, thing, place, date, idea, precept, genealogy – each single fact contained in the text – is a crossing point of structures of the total design. Each has its appointed place, meaning and function in the balance and harmony of the whole. In each fact mentioned we can find several of the strands of the overall design, interweaving and converging on several levels.
The Torah was given so that man could cooperate with G-d in the purpose of creation, and do so with increasing understanding.
By unifying earth and heaven, matter and spirit, man cooperates in transcending nature and natural law: life bursting the limits of matter into spirit by transmutation. Water falls – the dew rises. The Torah is the water of life falling into our world here – the dew is man’s understanding of how and why. “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, My speech shall flow as the dew” (Deut. 32, 2).
The primeval ‘serpent force’ entwines the tree-of-life (Gen. 2, 8-9; 3, 1-6). It is inherent in creation, it causes the fall of the spirit into materialism. But its expansive urge can be overcome, from the beginning of creation: the serpent force is not rejected – but it can be sanctified, transmuted, and sublimated. Its force can be used for the purpose of creation. The shadow of the body serves as fuel for the upward burning of the light. Despite evil and death, G-d is good and His creation is good. This certainty of the Bible fills the Jew, despite his unutterable suffering throughout history, with his indestructible optimism, his joy of life. Yes, the world is a wedding feast!
Teshuvah – Return to Lost Absolute Values
Our present Western society has swung in reaction against the long Christian rejection of the body to the idolisation of the body, sex, and sensation. All taboos are fast dissolving, and we are reaching the utmost in unfettered individualism, subjectivism, personal experience, taste, and style: the denial of all norms, standards, and authority. Women and men refuse to have children: ‘a car rather than a kid’. Barrenness used to be a woman’s ultimate disgrace, a curse from G-d; a man’s seed was holy. Today, degeneration rules atomised individuals. There is a deeply pessimistic culture.
There is objective, non-arbitrary truth, beauty and harmony embodied in the Bible. It does not need to be accepted by blind faith, but by the intense use of our rational faculties.
To many, especially amongst the young, this will come as a great relief: the happiness of knowing for certain: ‘if I do this and don’t do that, then I shall fulfill myself, without harming my neighbour, not interfering with nature, but doing the will of G-d’. There are valid objective limits to all man’s actions: to his science, and technology, to his social organisation and personal behaviour. Mankind, by obeying the Noachide laws, and the Jew by accepting the blessings of the other Mitzvot – match themselves, body and soul, to the pattern of divine wisdom. This produces a psycho-physical transmutation, purification and peace. Step by step, hour by hour, we tip the scales towards unity and balance – or to the opposite. Any act in either direction sets up its own momentum: each single ‘right’ deed, and each mitzvah generate more of their kind. The beginning of the way is not in thinking, but in doing – Yirah (Seeing with awe) and understanding will follow. It is his soul, the neshamah, the central innermost divine spark in man that gives life to understanding (Job 32, 8).
The Biblical laws for man’s conduct in general, and for the Jew in particular, form a coherent whole that matches the harmonious whole of creation. The halachah – the body of precepts for the Jew – are an exact and dynamic energy system molding the psycho-physical whole of the Jew to match the Wisdom Law. Each individual precept, mitzvah, fulfills its exact function. Each interlinks a distinct area of the personality with a distinct area in the supernatural scheme of creation. Each mitzvah observed ‘builds a man’s house (or body) in the world beyond’ (Zohar). This supernal body built by a man’s good deeds while he is in the flesh here is the bearer of his everlasting life in the light. Those who fail to build this body of light are ground to matter at death, adam to adamah, man to dust (Gen. 3, 19)
The Bible is the universal law of harmony. This law is timeless. The Bible, rightly read, is the valid teaching for all generations, including the 21st century. There is no single problem of today or tomorrow to which the Bible does not offer the clear answer.
The text lays down specific rules of conduct for all man’s actions: as an individual; in the family; as a social being; regarding plants, animals, and nature as a whole. From the structural laws of the Bible there flow clear indications as to what must be observed to keep the polarities balanced on every level.
Man has the choice. He is fallible. By accepting – if only as a working hypothesis – G-d as the creator of a harmonious order, he has an absolute standard to give him a firm hold. We fall, we err, but at any moment we can make reparation and return to sanity.
The basic question is this: Is man the lord of this world, to use it for his own ends, to set his own standards – or is it G-d? Is man master of his fate and of this wilderness, our universe? Or is he the servant, to ‘keep and tend’ the Master’s perfect garden? (Gen. 2, 15)
If we deny the possibility of a G-d-given order, we lose ourselves beyond return, choosing death and dissolution, instead of being ‘inscribed in the Book of Life’. The creation of our material universe was called into being for the sake of man, for G-d to love and be loved.
Man can regain his innocence, even in our modern Western society, not by the denial of his intelligence, but by its most intensive, sensitive, and subtle use.
The over-riding aim of all study must be the re-establishment of the original perfect scheme of creation: then man is consciously cooperating with G-d in the establishment of the Kingdom of G-d on Earth.
Man is the only being in creation given power to upset the original order. But its inherent balance unceasingly strives to redress itself. The organism always tends towards health. Nature always tends to a balanced circulation through all its planes. Most people want to live in peace: all man must do is to stop interfering for his own short-term ends – and peace will follow.
The key to understanding the Bible is knowledge of the wisdom pattern. With this key in our possession, the vast volume of Hebrew tradition and its enigma become understandable and even illuminates the text of the Bible for us. The search of the ancient teaching, the stories and commentaries is unending.
With awe, here and there, we perceive indeed something of the finger of G-d himself, beckoning us nearer… even sometimes seeming to guide us towards another discovery in the tradition, in the Bible: another light of understanding is lit up. (This is described in the book, “The Unknown Secret of the Bible”.) There is the distinct feeling: G-d wants me, even me – He is waiting, drawing me on.
Does He really mean us to peer over the edge of our world? Indeed yes, so as to be nearer to Him. We know that all we really see is but the hem of the glory of G-d-immanent in His works: only a tiny spark of G-d Himself.
Modern western man – by his science and technology – is increasing the area of choice, of l’arbitraire (Bergson) at ever-increasing pace. This dynamism is inescapable.
It is the creative force implanted by G-d in man – but cut loose from the balancing bonds of the wisdom law, it is the serpent force run riot. The sum of all mankind’s goodwill is thrown into the balance: the unwitting result is chaos, and the Bomb.
The solution lies in Teshuvah, in the return to the teachings of the Bible.
This book is a signpost for modern man – particularly the Jew who is despairing in the world he has made for himself and for his children. It points the beginning of the way back to lost absolute values.
Today, there is a new generation of Jews engaged in the loving search of the holy text. We have caught a fleeting glimpse of the avalanche of new discoveries by means of Codes and Kabbalistic Research, described in “The Unknown Secret”.
There used to be a self-imposed censorship of the Kabbalists to refuse publication of their teachings. Most of their writings exist only in manuscript. On the other hand, there is the crying need of our times for knowledge of the protective power of the Hidden Wisdom: for understanding nature, man, and society.
There is a need for research into the principles inherent in the text: for pooling and coordinating results; for an agreed terminology; for an ongoing bibliography of publications in the field (also indicating work in progress); for a digest of new discoveries.
Rabbi Kook writes (Light of Return, p.102): “Return – Teshuvah, will give strength and power – for the building up of the nation and its perfection, for its renaissance and the strengthening of its position… A newly born people shall arise… that possesses the magnificence of nationhood… and recognises that the decline in the state of morality hinders literary development (and art)… In order to improve literature (and art), the artists must first purify their souls – so that there may be an uplifting to the pure heavens of the pure literature (and music)… which flows forth from the source of Israel’s Wisdom”.
Our plea is to accept – at least as a working hypothesis – that the Bible is built on the exact system of the dynamic, purposive Wisdom Law – and to fit every discovery into that overall scheme.
The plea of the Jew of today goes even further: let us stand up and testify to the One Torah: Thirty-five years ago, even an Orthodox Jew hardly dared assert the unity of the Torah. History, linguistics, evolutionary thinking, and so-called ‘scientific’ Bible criticism had made such inroads that few would admit that they were ‘fundamentalists’. Doubt about the Bible had crept into the heart of the educated Jew. Today we can stand upright again and point to the abundance of proof, even mathematical proof: the Torah is One.
Now let us assert also, with confidence and pride: Torah is All-comprehensive. “Everything is hinted at in Torah” (Avoth 5, 22; Taanit 9b).
In complete faith, let us fulfill our destiny as Jews: to be priests to mankind!