Akdamus

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In preparation for Shavuot, instead of Parshas HaShavua, I would like to share something on Akdamos. Akdamos as beautiful as it is, has two things that do not allow most people to see its splendor. First it is usually said at Netz HaChama, early in the morning after a night of learning, and the ancient niggun which with it is said is like a lullaby and puts most people to sleep (sometimes even the person reading it). Secondly, even the words themselves in Aramaic are so difficult to understand that many people give up, and drowse off. Between these two aspects, Akdamos does not get its due.

It was actually written by a contemporary of Rashi, Rabbi Meir ben Rabi Yitzchok, who was the chazzan in the Yeshiva where Rashi learnt, and Rashi brings him with great respect wherever there was a question of the nusach of the Tefilah. Even the Nigun is among the more ancient and respected of the nigunim of the Tefilah. There are many Agadot about the writing of Akdamus and the life of Rabbi Meir, but this is not the time to go into those.

Akdamus has essentially two parts, and the content of Akdamus is connected to Shavuos in two ways. The first part is about the greatness of the Torah whch is even greater than the what the angels have, and the second is a conversation between Klal Yisroel and the nations, as to why we keep the Torah and the ultimate reward for keeping the Torah. The first part is obvious as to the connection to Shavuos. There is the Gemarra about Hashem taking the Torah from the Malachim and gives it to Moshe against their will. And the second is a variation on the Midrash that HaShem offers the Torah to the non-Jews and they reject it. That fact that the Jews keep the Torah even after the rejection by the non-Jews remains a question to the non-Jews that we need to re-answer every Shavuos.

Within Akdamus I would like to expand on a few lines[1].

The world is created as a unity, but it is hidden on what it exists

And with no struggle He perfected it, and with no effort

And with a weightless letter, that has no presence

The greatest miracle of the world is that there are countless creations, species, continents, and billions of people. On a surface level all of these seem to be pulling each in its own direction. The species combat each other for resources, and even more each person desires to find their own space and wealth separate and even in in opposition to teach other. The world seems to be the most un-unified place in the entire universe due to the multitude of beings contesting with each other.

But we say Shema every day, and we say that HaShem is one. That does not just mean that there is only one HaShem, but that HaShem is the unifying force which created all this. In certain Sefarim this is called the Sod HaYichud. That is the secret of that ultimately all of creation is to lead to the ultimate recognition of HaShem is Echad. If everything in the end will not work together than that can never happen.

But in order that we have a Nisayon to reach that level, HaShem hid that basis upon which the world exists. On the surface the world exists based on all the physical and biological forces which seem to be the source of the world. And each one pulls in its own way, and the world seems to be completely diverse. But the real source of the world’s existence, the level of unity is hidden. In the Sefarim of the higher levels we discuss the five levels of the world. They begin with Nefesh- the part connected to the physical; and end with Yechida-Unity[2]. When Adam and Chava sinned and left Gan Eden they lost the connection to Yechida. But ultimately it will exist, and the S’char of Olam HaBa is that connection to the unity of HaShem. And that is what is hidden in the world.

The Mesilas Yesharim writes at the beginning that any intelligent person realizes that man was not created for this world, but for the Olam Haba. Since the creation of this world was not the purpose, then this was not where the effort to create was expended. Even though for HaShem any differentiation of effort is irrelevant, and to create one bug or the Andromeda galaxy are the “same”; still this world since it is not the objective is described in Akdamos in our terms as being created with no effort, but at the same time being perfect.

Even the letter it is created with the weightless letter is referring to the letter Heh. It is the most insubstantial of all letters. The letter Heh which is the letter from which this world is created from; all it is, is a breath[3]. In Chazal the letters are divided into five groups each group requiring the use of a different part of the organs of speech to form it. But the letter Heh is the least of all. All it is, is a breath.

There are various reasons brought why the world id created with a Heh. Chazal teach us that Olam HaBa is created with a Yud, and Olam HaZeh with a Heh. Yud is the letter that symbolizes future. A Yud at the beginning of a word is the conjugation of the future tense. Olam HaBa is about the future. Even the word HaBa means that which is coming. It is a time of unending connection to HaShem, so it is all about the unending future.

Heh is the letter which when used as a prefix refers to a specific object which is here and now. Even when used as a verb the word Heh means to give an object that is in front of me. Olam HaZeh is the world as it is in front of me now, with no future. The future of Olam HaZeh is how much one uses it as a means to get to Olam HaBa. Therefore the letter Heh on its own has no substance. Olam HaZeh seems to be extremely substantial, but actually it is nothing, only a breath.

Each Heh is a specific individual object. But in reality the letter has no weight and no substance. Therefore we recognize the unity of the world from the way it was created with the letter Heh. If the world really was built from all of the objects that made it up, then the material would need to be so much more substantial. Since the basic material is so insubstantial, that that is to teach us that as much as this world looks important, it is nothing other than a means to an end to the next world.

This could also be part of the idea that the letter Heh is the letter of Teshuva. Something that is built and exists, then when it changes it is not easily repaired. HaShem created this world from the letter Heh to allow the possibility of Teshuva, so whatever we did in this world can be repaired and we can get to Olam Haba. That is part of the meaning that the Heh has an extra entrance to return when one does Teshuva.

This is the creation of the world for people. Angels are perfect. They do not move. As the Pasuk says[4], people are given movement among the stationary angels. Our world is created with the letter of Teshuva. It can fool us into thinking that we are angels, and we do not need to accomplish. But actually the reality of the world is hidden, but with effort we can realize that we need and can work and accomplish.

That is one of the lessons of Kabalas HaTorah

[1]  מחזור לחג השבועות – שבועות – סדר אקדמות: – הָקֵם עָלְמָא יְחִידָאֵי וְכַבְּשֵׁהּ בְּכַבְּשׁוּ תָא: וּ בְלָא לֵאוּ שַׁכְלְלֵהּ וּבְלָא תְשָׁשׁוּ תָא: וּבְאָתָא קַלִּילָא דְּלֵית בַּהּ מְשָׁשׁוּ תָא:

[2] נפש רוח נשמה חיה יחידה

[3]  מדרש תהלים מזמור סב – (בראשית ב, ד) אלה תולדות השמים והארץ בהבראם. בה”א בראם. והעולם הבא נברא ביו”ד. לפיכך, כי ביה ה’ צור עולמים. ולמה נברא העולם הזה בה”א. מה ה”א כשאדם מוציאה מתוך פיו, אין בה לא ריחוש שפתים ולא חריצת לשון. כך, בלא עמל ובלא יגיעה ברא הקב”ה את עולמו

[4]  זכריה פרק ג – (ז) כֹּה אָמַר יְדֹוָד צְבָאוֹת אִם בִּדְרָכַי תֵּלֵךְ וְאִם אֶת מִשְׁמַרְתִּי תִשְׁמֹר וְגַם אַתָּה תָּדִין אֶת בֵּיתִי וְגַם תִּשְׁמֹר אֶת חֲצֵרָי וְנָתַתִּי לְךָ מַהְלְכִים בֵּין הָעֹמְדִים הָאֵלֶּה:

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