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Thought for the Day: Ma'aseh Merkava, Ma'aseh B'reishis, Arayos

More from the first introduction to G'vuros HaShem; after all, it's good to know about reality.

The gemara (Chagiga 11a) says that one may expound on ma'aseh merkava only to himself, ma'aseh b'reishis to a single talmid (at a time) only, and arayos to two (at a time) talmidim.  Why these three topics have restrictions in how they are taught and why these particular restrictions is the topic d'jour.

There are three dimensions to creating a new system: the thought to create the system, the creation of the parts, and the creation of the rules by which the parts interact.  The Maharal does not use these terms, but they are also called different "olamos" (worlds) and there are four: olam ha'atzilus, olam ha'bri'a, olam ha'y'tzira, and olam ha'asi'a.  The Maharal has lumped bri'a (yeish mei'ayin -- something from nothing) and y'tzira (yeish mi'yeish -- something from something) into one concept of creation.  That is also not uncommon, as you see in the kaddish: l'olam [atzilus] u'l'olamei [plural, b'ri'a and y'tzira] almai'ya [asi'a].  (There's some very, very cool stuff being expressed in davening.)

The Maharal uses the pasuk "b'rov am hadras melech" (the magnitude of the glory of the king goes like the size of his nation) [Mishlei 14:28] in a fascinating way.  Usually the d'rash from that pasuk is understood to mean that it is better to do a mitzvah together rather than everyone separately.  For example, it is better for one person to make kiddush on Shabbos and Yom Tov than for everyone to make their own kidduch.  Why?  B'rov am hadras melech -- more people are united in the mitzvah of kiddush.  The Maharal, however, focusses on the word "am" (nation).  It is only a glory for the king when it is a nation functioning together.  HaShem is only "king" once creation is finished, because only then can there be a nation.  Therefore taking about the epoch "before" creation is in full swing is just not the same as learning about the fully functioning world.  Hence the restrictions.

Why these particular restriction?  The Maharal notes that a lesson is best learned when the learning environment is as much like the topic being learned as possible.  At the ma'aseh merkava stage, there is only HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  Just as the rider on a chariot is separate completely from his vehicle, HaShem is alone and separate from His world; therefore ma'aseh merkava can only be expounded to one's self.  Ma'aseh b'reishis, on the other hand is all about a direct connection between the Creator  and His creation, hence the rav expounds to a single talmid.  Finally, arayos -- which the Maharal says really means the secrets/foundation of what it means that some relationships are permitted and some forbidden is about how the creation interacts with itself to bring the creation to its desired purpose.  You need two to tango, so arayos is taught rav to two talmidim.


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