Two Types of Da'at
It is explained in Kabbalah and Hassidism that da'at itself is an essential paradox, for on the one hand, it contains the characteristic of closeness and connection (in Kabbalah, the chassadim of da'at) while on the other hand it contains the characteristic of distance and rejection (the gevurot of da'at).
These two “sides” of da'at give rise to two different states of consciousness called hakarah, “recognition,” and yedi'ah, “knowledge.” Hakarah stems from the root nechar, which also means “foreign,” implying that recognition is knowing something initially separate or foreign, something that derives from a place of unfamiliarity, as Ruth says to Boaz: “Why do I find favor in your eyes that you should recognize me [lehakiraini], I am a foreigner [nochriah].” In “recognizing” something foreign one overcomes the tendency of one's external nature to reject a “foreigner.”
(Thus, in truth, the gevurot of da'at serve to reject evil while simultaneously endowing the soul with the power to overcome the tendency to reject that good which appears foreign.)
Yedi'ah, on the other hand, from the same root as da'at, means “knowledge” in general, which in Hebrew implies “connection.” Yedi'ah naturally connects to truth and good, identifying oneself with them.
The relationship between these two forms of da'at is external vs. internal; yedi'ah is relatively external, whereas hakarah is relatively internal. While yedi'ah knows and connects naturally to good, it is unable to find and link to the kernel of good hidden in the apparent “other” or “foreigner.” Yedi'ah extracts the known good from the “shell” whose good is hidden from the eyes of the observer (the “service of clarification”). Hakarah, “recognition,” on the other hand, is the ability to unite (the true “service of unification”) with that which initially appears as foreign. That recognition which is able to “know” the other, the alien, is the essential, inner power of da'at and is the inner force which illuminates and gives life to the relatively external consciousness of yedi'ah (which itself is internal relative to the emotions of the heart that it enlivens).
The most fundamental relationship between souls is the relationship between husband and wife, from which we can gain an understanding of all human relationships. Regarding the connection between man and woman we find both expressions of da'at used in the Torah. With regard to the first marriage of mankind, we find the use of the term yedi'ah, “And Adam knew his wife Eve.” Regarding hakarah, our sages commented on Ruth's words to Boaz mentioned above, “This teaches that she prophesized that he was destined to recognize her in the way of the land (i.e. through their marriage).”
Just as da'at allows deep connection to another person, a connection that erases the gap between the two, it also creates a stable point of view of one's fellow as “another.” This recognition sometimes includes an awareness of a need to keep one's distance from one's fellow. Paradoxically, the awareness of the gap between the two ultimately allows for a truer and deeper connection between them, for it necessitates a mighty effort to overcome the gap. By means of this effort one comes to delight in the connection between the two-that-are-one, one-who-is-two.
We thus have two kinds of awareness: on the one hand, a consciousness which perceives everything which is naturally attractive (“good”) and likable as an extension of one's self, yedi'ah, the relative externality of da'at; on the other hand, a consciousness which comes from recognizing the “other”-ness and difference from one's self, hakarah, the relatively inner experience of da'at. The significant novelty in the second type of da'at, in hakarah, is that it creates a dynamic relationship of I-You, I-Him—intimacy together with modesty, as will be explained. Our sages tell:
Once there was a man who married a woman who had only one arm, and he did not recognize that about her until the day she died. Rebbi said: how modest was this woman, that her husband did not notice this. Rabbi Chiyah told him: It is her way to be modest! Rather, how modest was this man who did not recognize this about his wife.
Hakarah, the inner experience of da'at, is truly paradoxical, as may be understood from the passage quoted above. For although it connects different beings, e.g., man and wife, it leaves their knowledge of each other “limited,” maintaining reticence and modesty. This modesty is expressed by the sages as, “The heart does not inform the mouth.” Though the unconscious heart knows, the knowledge of the heart does not reveal itself to the mouth, to express its knowledge consciously.
Rectification of consciousness is particularly dependent on the modesty relating to I-You relationships, for this is the place that hakarah, “recognition,” appears and is the one that is able to act as a bearer of paradox, “revealing a measure,” while simultaneously “concealing two measures.”
In order to reach hakarah, the inner experience of da'at capable of bearing the paradox of knowing yet modestly keeping the knowledge hidden, a person needs to achieve bitul, the nullification that is the inner attribute of the sefirah of chochmah, “wisdom.”
We explained that bitul is the first of three possible ways to conceal experience and keep it from falling into superficiality4.
Chochmah, or bitul, its inner experience, protects the experience from the danger of “self-consciousness.” Although the experience of self-existence is real, the light of chochmah has the power to nullify the aspect of negative self-consciousness in the experience. The experience thus maintains both its innocence and its intensity.
Agility and Moderation - Pinchas and Joshua, Male and Female
According to the Ba'al Shem Tov, the rectification of negative self-consciousness depends upon reaching a state of zerizut bimtinut, “agility with moderation.” This pair of apparently contradictory attributes parallels the paradox of intimate knowledge with inherent modesty. In order to understand how to rectify our consciousness and overcome the feeling of being an entity separate from God, we will examine the terms zerizut, “agility” and metinut, “moderation”.
We usually find different types of people each having one of these two attributes. For example, Moses had two main disciples, Pinchas and Joshua. Pinchas is known as having been a zealot, “agility” being his essential characteristic, while Joshua was a “lad who did not move from the tent,” the characteristic of metinut, “moderation.” Interestingly, when the Children of Israel entered Israel, Joshua was the one chosen to lead the nation, and fight the war of conquest. Predictably, since there was no active collaboration between the two, Pinchas' agility did not appear within Joshua's moderation, and Joshua was negligent in the conquest of the land, many portions of the land remaining in the hands of the Canaanites.
Agility is a “male” attribute, for it is the male power which “shoots like an arrow.” to give birth to and change reality. In contrast, moderation is a “female” trait, as we find in the last passage of Proverbs, “She girded her loins with valor,” the Hebrew word for “her loins,” motneha, being cognate to metinut, “moderation.” The female is calm and in a moderate state while she receives the “male” abundance, retains it and gives it time to grow.
In one person, these two properties of agility and moderation together, form a state of bearing of opposites “agility with moderation.”
With regard to awareness, the male side looks at reality from a “objective” point of view, seeing reality without taking notice of oneself as an observing “subject,” separate from objective reality. Conversely, the female side is “subjective;” woman was created to be aware of herself (her appearance etc.). She at once senses reality from a subjective position while, when in a rectified, balanced state (a state of marriage), is able to relate to herself, to disconnect and examine herself critically from without (as an object). When the male side illuminates the female side (in marriage), self-awareness expresses itself as constructive self-criticism. The synthesis between the two of them creates a consciousness that on the one hand flows naturally while on the other hand is able to criticize when needed.
A more practical implication is that one's actions need to be carried out naturally and with agility, without looking at oneself from the outside while doing them. The person will then not become self-righteous because of what he is doing and because he is the one doing it. At the same time, the act is carried out with moderation, which allows the actions to mature and bear fruit, moderation which includes an ability to criticize and an awareness of deficiencies which might compromise the actions. This balanced state is expressed in the phrase of the Talmud concerning a Torah scholar: “he studies Torah constantly, yet does not become self-righteous.”
Each state of consciousness alone is deficient, and only by their synthesis do they complete one another. The “male” consciousness of agility can degenerate into “as reckless as water,” as was said about Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, meaning hastiness and impulsiveness. “Female” consciousness by itself tends to be complacent and is not stimulated to change reality and permeate it with Divine awareness.
Rectified consciousness is thus a paradoxical one of “agility with moderation.” In order to reach this state, other than directing the “female” consciousness to constructive criticism of oneself, the main concern of the female consciousness needs to be that its rendezvous be with none other than God. The “You” part of the recognition must be the Divine Omnipresence, otherwise the consciousness will be directed back toward the “you” of the self (meaning one will see oneself as a separate object, not for the sake of constructive self-criticism). This in turn causes a feeling of self-consciousness and disconnection from God, the Source of Life. When the “female” consciousness is directed toward God, a person reaches the inner state of da'at, and the secret of modesty, which allows one to open one's heart and wholeheartedly seek God, “With all my heart I seek You.”
4 The other two, as mentioned, are feeling the boundless bliss of being filled with Divinity, which leaves no room for foreign and external feelings; and the natural gratefulness and submission before God for the grace of the experience.