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Recently I came across this teaching from Chassidic or Kabalistic works which apparently has something to do with our 'task' in this world:

Hayom Yom: Tackling Life's Tasks; Translated from the writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson

"The Divine service of Jews transforms yesh, the self-centered perspective that pervades our material world, into ayin, G‑dliness".

I also found this teaching:

Hasidic thought follows the kabbalistic understanding of creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing, yesh me’ayin) in terms of the emanation of the Sefirot and the universe (of yesh, that which is) from Ein Sof (the Limitless, the Ground of Being), known as ayin (nothingness), because this aspect of deity is utterly beyond all comprehension.

In some versions of Hasidism, notably in Habad, this doctrine sometimes results in a thoroughgoing “acosmism.” That is, from the point of view of G-d, as it were, there is no created universe at all. Since the universe emerges out of nothingness, its nature is to revert to nothingness so that its continued existence is possible only through the supernatural act of G-d that keeps it in being. Suspended over the void, the universe has to be created anew at every moment of time (Tanya, part II, chap. 1-7). Because creation involves the emergence of “somethingness” (yesh) from the divine nothingness (ayin), it is the task of the tzaddik to reverse the process by acknowledging God in all he does and thinks, thus restoring the somethingness of things to the nothingness whence they come (Menehem Mendel of Vitebsk, Pri HaAretz, pp. 3-4, commentary to Genesis 1:16).

Could someone clarify for me: How it is derived from the idea that creation involves the emergence of somethingness (yesh) from the divine nothingness (ayin) that it is our task to reverse this process? i.e. to transform yesh into ayin? And what does this mean?

P.s. are there any good commentaries, explanations (in English) which I could read to learn more?

  • This q seems extremely broad. Is OP asking about the concept in theological literature, Hasidic thought or Kabbalistic? (FTR, the technical term is creatio ex nihilo.) – Oliver Oct 24 '17 at 20:05
  • I think that the idea of Hashem continuing the creation means that Hashem has to keep an explicit intention that it continue to exist. Otherwise it would fall back into a state of nonexistence – sabbahillel Oct 24 '17 at 23:18
  • Waaay too broad. Maybe you can limit it to one question? – DonielF Oct 24 '17 at 23:37
  • @Oliver changed my question, hopefully it's more understandable what I'm asking for – Levi Oct 25 '17 at 20:09
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    Not really. I still do not quite understand the question. I think that there may be two different meanings to the term ayin that are getting mixed togethether. – sabbahillel Oct 25 '17 at 21:01
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How it is derived from the idea that creation involves the emergence of somethingness (yesh) from the divine nothingness (ayin) that it is our task to reverse this process? i.e. to transform yesh into ayin?

I assume your question is from the quote "Because creation involves the emergence of “somethingness” (yesh) from the divine nothingness (ayin), it is [therefore] the task of the tzaddik etc". I would answer that because "yesh" is not true reality, it is a hiding of G-d, a negative situation. In Chabad texts it is sometimes referred to as G-d being in exile. So it follows that one should strive to undo or reverse this state. Note that the word "ayin/nothing" is used since the creator is inaccessible to the creation.

And what does this mean?

In Chabad philosophy (in my view) G-d's desire was for a finite (yesh) creation to achieve infinity (ayin), ending up with a coexistence of finite and infinite, this only being possible through the effort of the finite creation. In Chabad texts this is often based on the verse in Genesis "G-d took the man, and He placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it etc" The only path for the finite to achieve this is via performance of the Mitzvot these being the particular method G-d chose to achieve this.

P.s. are there any good commentaries, explanations (in English) which I could read to learn more

I would start with Shaar Hayichud VeHaEmunah from Tanya, here: http://www.chabad.org/library/tanya/tanya_cdo/aid/7987/jewish/Chapter-1.htm

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By ayin we don't mean nothing. Rather we mean the divine, which we call nothing because we don't know what it is. Were you to say ayin meant actually nothing, then you would be saying we would actually come from nowhere, which obviously won't work within religion. http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=31626&st=&pgnum=57&hilite= 1/3 way up the page end of the line words וביאר הענין

So saying our task is to transform the yesh into ayin, is exactly the same as saying make the mundane into holy = use the world to serve hashem. I think this is a basic Jewish concept. Sorry nothing Kabbalistic about this one.

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