Preparing for Creation, God made plans and drew sketches, but they proved inadequate, until he created teshuvah, repentance, and with its light he created the world. This light emanates from Binah (understanding), the third sefira, potency, in the Tree of Life. Binah which is also referred to as the upper mother, and the womb of the world is thus the essence of teshuvah, which literally means return. Binah also links the lower seven potencies which pertain to our world with the upper part of the Tree of Life and the hidden divine infinite.
The force and importance of teshuvah for sustaining the world is illustrated by Sefer ha- Zohar (The Book of Splendor). Before he created man, God discussed his ideas with the ancient Torah that warned that man is about to sin and that the world, let alone man, would not survive divine wrath. To this God answered he had already created teshuvah in order to allow for forgiveness.
Rosh ha–Shanah, the Jewish festival of the New Year, celebrates the creation of the world, but also the Day of Judgment. As such, it marks the beginning of the journey of teshuvah, which culminates ten days later with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Joseph Gikatilla (a Spanish Kabbalist from the 13th century) explains repentance with an unexpected twist. Binah, the mother, is the spiritual origin and source of all beings and souls. When a person sins, the soul’s three different parts (other Kabbalists speak of five parts) are cut off from each other and become detached from their divine source. All three parts of the severed soul are doomed to restless and painful wandering. This terrible schism ruptures the divine realm, and the divine flow of blessings that connects the potencies escapes and lands in the hands of the other side, namely evil. The act of repentance becomes crucial for both the human and divine realms.
Gikatila perceives teshuvah as liberation from suffering and return to the source, where the soul becomes whole again. Repentance is also associated with the world-to-come; the stray parts of the soul are reunited as the redeemed soul holds to its origin in the womb of Binah.
For the divine realm, return becomes the union between the supernal mother, Binah, and her daughter, the potency of Malkhut. The latter is also the displaced Shekhinah, the feminine aspect of the divine that was exiled by human transgression. Surprisingly, instead of seeing redemption as the heterosexual union between the masculine and feminine aspects of the divine, Gikatila envisions the epitome of salvation in the union between mother and daughter.
It leaves one wondering what would a psychoanalyst, say Freud, have to say about this…
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