DA’AT – KNOWLEDGE
The concept of “connection” or “unification” in Torah literature is reflected by the word “da’at,” typically translated “knowledge” or “to know.”
The spiritual state identified in Chassidut as corresponding to the sefirah of da’at is that of yichud (“unification”) (1)
“Da’at” applies at physical and spiritual levels. We see it mentioned early in the Torah regarding an inappropriate union:
Genesis 2:17 – But of the tree of the knowledge (da’at) of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.
Later, Adam makes a physical connection with his wife, the same term is found:
Genesis 4:1 – And Adam knew (“yada” from da’at) Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord.
Da’at is considered a “quasi-Sefirah,” appearing vertically on the central column beneath the “supernal triad” of Keter, Chokhmah and Binah. It is considered the outer manifestation of Keter. When studying the ten Sefirot, either Keter or Da’at is considered, but not both.
The reason for this status is explained in Rabbi Moshe Miller’s commentary on the Zohar:
“… there are only ten Sephirot, not eleven. However, sometimes keter is counted in the ten, and at other times da’at is counted instead of keter, depending on whether we are looking at them from the point of view of the Creator, or from the point of view of the created. In the process of creation, in which the Sephirot are emanted from above, i.e., from God to the physical world, keter is counted, and not da’at, since it is the first emanation, the manifestation of the Divine Will, whence all other emanations derive. … But when the process is from below to above, man elevating himself from level to level in his desire to cleave to God, da’at is counted and not keter, since the latter is a level so sublime that it is in general beyond the scope of the average individual’s ability to internalize or comprehend.” (2)
The process of achieving da’at/knowledge is expressed in terms of advancing though the path of emanations of G-d (the Sefirot) through the worlds of Asiyah, Yetzirah and Beriah. When a person attains the Da’at (knowledge) of a lower world, it enables him to attain the Yesod (foundation) of the next (higher) world. (The same concept is applied to levels of the soul, progression of man from idolatry to union with G-d, etc.)
The Matrix is also a story of connectivity between people, places and things. Some of these are experienced directly by Neo, others involved the people he interacts with. Neo’s experience with this “Da-at/Yesod connection” began as he reached a level of da’at of the Matrix world which was his ‘reality’ at the time. (See comments on Oracle regarding levels of understanding.)
Neo’s knowledge of his world causes him to seek a greater truth and enables his connection to Trinity. She represent the ‘presence’ of a greater reality in the Matrix world, akin to the concept of the Shekinah in our world. By connecting to her, he gains access to the Yesod/foundation of the next level of understanding:
This is behind the first serious discussion between Morpheus and Neo:
Morpheus: I know (da’at) exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know (da’at) something. What you know (da’at) you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know (da’at) what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know (da’at) what I’m talking about?
Neo: The Matrix.
Morpheus: Do you want to know (da’at) what it is?
Here, Neo’s limited da’at of the Matrix world enables him to make a connection to the foundation (Yesod) of the “real” world (in this case, Zion) that he had previously been unaware of. Entering into this Yesod/foundation (of Ze’ir Anpin) he continues to increase his Da’at’ that will enable him to advance up the path of the One.
The Matrix movie uses fighting as a metaphor for the process of making this connection. This is why Neo must “fight” Morpheus, who represents the next level on Neo’s path, in order for Neo to come to the da’at of this level.
Morpheus pushes Neo via their sparring to make the next connection:
Morpheus: What are you waiting for? You’re faster than this. Don’t think you are, know (da’at) you are. Come on. Stop trying to hit me and hit me.
It is all summed up in this one statement from another character:
Seraph: You do not know (da’at = connect) someone, until you fight them.
Da’at is also seen as a “balance” between the “left and right” – it is called the “confluence of wisdom and understanding.” Thus, if a person is “out of balance” in terms of either not moving forward when they should (too much of the left/restrictive aspects) or they “bite off more than they can/should chew,” (too much of the right/expansive aspects), they hinder “da’at/knowledge” and fail to advance.
A text regarding the danger of premature advancement is Exodus 19:11-13:
And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. Not a hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow; whether man or beast, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds long, they shall come near the mountain.”
A text regarding failure to advance when one should, would be Hebrews 5:12 to 6:1:
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of G-d; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Messiah, let us go on unto maturity; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward G-d.”
Whenever Neo or the other characters fail to make a connection, it is due to a faulty perspective. As the Oracle says:
“We can never see past the choices we don’t understand.”
Additional information on da’at is found in Section 2.
- Basics in Kabbalah. The Ten Sefirot: Divine Emanations – Da’at, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
- Zohar, Selections translated and annotated by Moshe Miller,Rabbi Moshe L. Miller, Fiftieth Gate Publications and Seminars, Morristown NJ, 2000, p.42.