Itaruta mi-Le’ela

June 20, 2006

Arousal from Above; The basis of the first part of the three-part expression is the word “Er,” meaning “awake.” The meaning of “mi” is “from.” The basis of the third part of the expression is the root “Aloh,” meaning “to go up” or “to rise.” Thus, the meaning of the full expression, used widely in Kabbalah, and also widely used in Chassidut, is the bringing to wakefulness of the spiritual powers of a human being by inspiration from Heaven. The opposite of this expression is “Itaruta mi-Tata’a,” Arousal from Below.

The basic axiom of religious life is that there be contact between HaShem and his loftiest creation on earth, the human being, about whom King David wrote, “When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have established; what is man, that You are mindful of him? And the son of man, that You visit him? Yet You have made him but a little lower than the Angels, and You crown him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” (Tehilim 8:4-7)

This contact would still be impossible were it not for the fact of “Tzimtzum,” a process of Contraction whereby the Infinite and Eternal G-d, as it were, “contracts” Himself, so as to make Himself theoretically accessible to the human being, who remains, after all, limited and mortal.

One important aspect of “Arousal from Above” is Prophecy, whereby HaShem, as it were, speaks to human beings. In almost all cases of “Nevuah,” the view of HaShem experienced by the human being is described as being dream-like, through a “cloudy lens.” It was only in one case, that of Moshe Rabbeinu, that Jewish Tradition describes his view of HaShem as being through a “clear lens.” Moshe had the most direct experience of Prophecy, a form of “Itaruta mi-Le’ela,” Arousal from Above.

During the Exodus from Egypt, Jewish Tradition asserts that “The hand-maiden at the sea of Reeds saw what Yechezkel ben Buzi did not see in his Vision of the ‘Chariot’ of G-d.” And at Mt. Sinai, the nation as a whole was again raised to the level of Prophecy, as HaShem communicated to the Jewish People the Moral Law for which the Universe was created. But even then, the experience was too much for them. Jewish Tradition says that the People apprehended directly only the first two of the Ten Utterances: “I am the L-rd your G-d…” (Basic belief in HaShem as the Creator of the Universe and Controller of History) and “You shall have no other gods besides Me.” (Belief in the Absolute Unity of G-d) For the rest, they begged Moshe to intercede.

The Bible speaks of forty-eight male Prophets and seven female Prophetesses (according to Rashi), while it also speaks of “Children of the Prophets;” hundreds, even thousands of individuals who achieved some degree of Prophecy.

What might be considered a minor form of Prophecy, a response of “Itaruta mi-Le’ela” accessible to anyone willing to put all of his effort into an “Itaruta mi-Tata’a,” a self-Arousal from Below, into a task, which might otherwise have been beyond him, such as the learning of Torah. Then HaShem, observing this, so to speak, reaches down and by an act of “Itaruta mi-Le’ela” gives that person a boost of energy that enables him to succeed in the task that he set before himself, and complete the “circuit,” so to speak, between Creature and Creator.