There was very little communication thus far, and no one knew why they were meeting in an abandoned junkyard.
A group of data analysts had received a strange message from their boss. It simply said to show up at a certain spot the next day at 11:00 a.m., no details or explanation included.
When the workers arrived, they saw…nothing – just a huge heap of garbage. And standing in front of it all, with a huge smile pasted on his face, was their boss. “Good morning, everyone, and thank you so much for coming!” the boss called out to his employees. “At this time, I would like everyone to spend ten minutes walking around the landscape. Get a feel for the area, but whatever you do, don’t touch a thing.”
Even more confused now, the data analysts began walking around the piles of junk. What a thrilling tour it was. Heaps of cans, clothing, and all sorts of clutter were haphazardly strewn across the ground. There were a few clearings amongst the garbage, and the employees gravitated toward these areas to get away from the mess. After what seemed like an eternity, the boss called everyone to one of the clearings. The employees were surprised to see a helicopter waiting for them. A little confused, but happy to leave the garbage behind, they all climbed in, muttering to each other underneath their breath.
As the helicopter took off, the boss began speaking: “You are all data analysts. You spend your days preparing charts, making projections, and typing reports. It’s often easy to feel lost in this work, to lose sight of what you are achieving with all of your effort.”
The employees nodded, still confused as to why they had to go through all of this just to hear this message. At this point, the boss told them to look down from the helicopter windows toward the landscape below.
Below them was a masterfully designed miniature replica of their city, made out of the very garbage they had just walked through.
“We take that which is meaningless, and we turn it into a meaningful masterpiece. I wanted you to experience firsthand the power of what you do on a daily basis.”
Creating Order out of Chaos
The human mind possesses the powerful ability to create order and meaning from disorder and chaos. We find patterns in scattered texts, correlations in scrambled data, and harmony in individually meaningless pieces of information. Applying this ability to spiritual wisdom allows one to enter the gateway into the infinite, gaining access to the deepest and most powerful truths of existence.
Let us take a step back and examine the division and organization of the Chumash itself. Why is the Torah split into five separate books, instead of joined together as one complete sefer? And if the Torah does, in fact, require organization, why specifically divide it into five parts? In order to understand the answer to these questions, let us study a fundamental concept related to order, one which will shed light on all the books of the Torah.
The Five Stages
The Vilna Gaon explains, in the name of the Arizal, that everything in the universe is comprised of five stages or parts. The Torah reflects this essential spiritual pattern and is therefore made up of five unique books. In order to understand the uniqueness of each sefer in the Torah, we must understand this five-stage pattern. To do so, let us analyze the process of transforming thought into speech and action.
The initial stage of every thought is a flash of inspiration, the instant when an idea enters the mind, but remains ethereal, undefined, and still somewhat elusive. This initial point of thought is referred to as ratzon, and reflects the conception and root of all thoughts, ideas, and concepts.
For example, if one is struggling to solve a problem, he may be lying down in bed when he suddenly experiences a flash of inspiration, and the solution just drops into his consciousness. However, at this initial stage, while he may know that he has the solution, he still can’t fully grasp what it is; it’s there, but he can’t put his finger on it. Only after this initial moment does the idea begin to develop into a more concrete and expressed idea within his mind.
This is the second stage of the creative process, where the flash of inspiration becomes more expressed and further defined as a general idea or concept. At this stage, while the idea is tangible, it is still general and not fully defined, creating a klal – a framework or category. This stage of thought is referred to as machashavah or chochmah, reflecting general thought, ideas, and concepts.
In the third stage, the general idea of the second stage begins to take on detail, becoming a full-fledged, defined thought-process. The simple idea increases in sophistication and complexity, the klal begins to reveal its pratim, and general thought begins weaving and intertwining in unique and creative detailed pathways. At this stage, the general idea is broken down, analyzed, and understood. While the second stage is the general solution to the problem, the third stage is the detailed formula for solving the problem. This is referred to as hirhur (detailed thought), and it reflects binah (understanding), detailed intellectual understanding of the general principles of machashavah. In this stage, you can actually picture the ideas in your head, as the abstract wisdom becomes expressed in the form of detailed understanding within your imagination. This is also why the root of the word “imagination” is image; at this stage, you can picture ideas in fully developed images rather than abstract ideas. This is why thoughts of sin are called hirhurei aveirah, from the word “hirhur,” because sinful thoughts generally take the form of physically enticing images, rather than conceptual, abstract ideas.
The fourth stage is where the concrete thoughts within your mind become expressed outwards into the physical world. This is embodied in the process of speech, whereby one takes the detailed ideas from within one’s mind and shares them with others. Speaking, writing, and other physical expressions of one’s inner thoughts are all forms of this fourth stage, which is referred to as dibur (speech). This fourth stage reflects the concept of process and the connection between one’s inner world and the outside world.
The fifth stage is the final, expressed form of that original flash of inspiration, now a fully expressed entity in the physical world. It is the manifestation of spiritual potential, the endpoint of the creative process. The initial flash of inspiration has now taken on shape, expressed as the words themselves, the written text, the completed action.
Building a House
If you were to build a house from scratch, a creative project, you would go through these same five steps. First, you would need to create a general architectural design for the structure and layout of the house, an overarching theme. After spending a few days struggling to come up with an idea, you suddenly have a flash of inspiration. You’ve got it; you know exactly what you want to build. But, strangely enough, you still don’t have any way of formulating this idea to your employees or even to yourself. You simultaneously have the idea and don’t have it – a paradox.
But moments later, you begin to gain clarity and are now able to formulate this inspiration as a general idea. You begin to conceptualize the shape of the house, the overall design, the basic theme. The details have not yet emerged, but the overall structure is in place, and the direction is clear. You know the style of the house, the size, how many rooms it will have, and the conceptual layout.
Then comes the arduous task of developing meticulously detailed plans for each aspect of the house: what style doors for each room, what type of furniture to buy, what kind of kitchen to install. You figure out which tools you need for the job, and how long it will take to complete it. This is where the general idea becomes detailed and fine-tuned, where the creative mind becomes narrowly focused, and where the big ideas are fragmented into smaller, measurable goals.
Next is the transition from mind to body, from ideas to action: Workers are hired, tasks are assigned, and construction ensues. This is the physically creative process, where the internal idea becomes expressed into the external world, where the theoretical is converted to the actual. This is the stage where most of the work occurs, where struggle arises, and where it is easiest to give up. It is at this stage that you must remind yourself of the original goal, the dream, the initial flash of inspiration. And if you keep pushing and follow through on your commitments, after what may seem like an eternity, the work will finally be done.
What was once only an idea, a dream within your mind, is now an existing reality in the physical world. You remember looking at an empty plot, and now, you are looking at a fully built house. The creative process is complete; the fifth stage is now fully experienced. In our next article, we will delve deeper into this fascinating topic and try to understand it on an ever more profound level, showing how the structure and layout of the Chumash is in accordance with this five-step template.
Rabbi Shmuel Reichman is the author of the bestselling book, The Journey to Your Ultimate Self, which serves as an inspiring gateway into deeper Jewish thought. He is an international speaker, educator, and the CEO of Self-Mastery Academy. After obtaining his BA from Yeshiva University, he received s’micha from RIETS, a master’s degree in education, a master’s degree in Jewish Thought, and then spent a year studying at Harvard. He is currently pursuing a PhD at UChicago. To invite Rabbi Reichman to speak in your community or to enjoy more of his deep and inspiring content, visit his website: www.ShmuelReichman.com.