The Other Excursion

Ramchal takes another short excursion, this time in his comments to Petach 33, and offers this definition of and the difference between Chochma and Binah which are both elements of the thinking process (as well as elemental components of creation and reality, of course).

The term Chochma (literally, “wisdom”), he explains, represents “how things are arranged in the depth of the mind” and it’s in its nature “to be hidden and concealed”. The Binah aspect of the mind (literally, “understanding”), he says, “reveals the hidden mysteries of Chochma”. That’s to say that Chochma represents the deep and passive unconscious, while Binah represents the rational and actively conscious mind. Others have spoken in like terms while yet others have presented them otherwise.

See Zohar 3, p. 235b and elsewhere where Chochma is broken down into two terms: Koch Ma, meaning, “the potentiality of whatever (exists)”, including one’s thoughts, suggesting that it’s in fact one’s latent, unconscious thoughts. For Binah see Chagiga 14a which speaks of it as granting one the ability to “understand one thing from another” — to consciously expand upon the initial intuitive notion and follow its course. The two are discussed at great length, along with Da’at, in Chabad literature: see especially Tanya 1:3 and Iggeret HaKodesh 5.

(c) 2012 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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