The king is dead...

  There is a big square divided into 64 small squares having the same size: 32 blacks and 32 whites, on which we place, as for a game of Indian origin, 32 pieces, 16 each player; at the beginning, this game builds up a space which has got "blank" spaces as much as "filled" ones: 32 empty squares and 32 filled squares; the gap/empty space is between the two players. The space of that game is a determined space: black will never become white, never will a black or white space change its place; at its beginning and on its own, the space of chess it's closed and unchangeable. A finite and closed world, which the Jewish Qabalah calls din, word which has the numerical value of 64, as for Ghematria (Daleth = 4, Yod = 10, Nun =50 = 64); A chess-board is the numerical space of the din, which is a Jewish word for "judge", along with all the analogies that this word has, but which above all means: "so it is, and it can't be otherwise". According to the rabbinical reading, the world was initially created in accordance with the din's law, and couldn't have any chance of subsisting, because, as the Midrash explains, such a strictness is a quality of the being which does not permit survival.
And yet it's exactly this emptiness that divides the two players on the chess-board, which is the space where the Rabbis point out as the metaphor of the highest and most sublime place for love. Not therefore a place for competition developing as a rejection of the other, but as assumption of difference and "alterity".
At the beginning of the 19th century Rabbi Nachman from Braslav, in the chapter 64 ( and not by chance!) of his book Liquté Moharan, begins synthesising the thought of the famous cabalist Itzach Luria:
"When the Name, would He be blessed, wanted to create the world, there wasn't enough space to create it, because everything was endless. Because of this, He contracted (tzinsem) the "light" on the sides, and for the go-between of this retraction/contraction (tzintzum) an "empty space" (hallal hapanuye) took shape. And inside this empty space the time and measures which form the essential of the world's creation came to life. (...) With the conception of a space empty in itself, drawing back from himself to receive the diversity of the world, God created the world. (...)" The creation of an empty space, therefore, makes differences possible starting from separation. The tzintzum, the "contraction", bringing this emptiness, represents the paradigm of "the introduction of differences in the undifferentiated". Diversity inside separation, or rather distance, difference, from which no more fusion will be possible. Only bridges could be built across.
In fact, within the cabalistic idea, God "does not play chess" but: "
In 32 mysterious wisdom paths he engraved YHVH Sebaot, God of Israel, living God and King of the World; God of power, compassion and mercy, 'who live in eternity among sublimity and whose Name is Blessed'."( Sefer haYetzirah, Libro della Creazione, 1:1)
Now, a human being tends to prefer orderly spaces, with stable, reliable boundaries, apparently immutable, where everyone does not builds "the world",but "his own world". Between the many worlds, there are however, spaces, empty spaces where other worlds can be created, lively and dynamic places; this can be meant as what in Jewish is called the En-Sof : literally "no end", word on which we offer each time a translation turned to meanings like "ineffable, indeterminate , endless, immeasurable". And yet the chess game is not to be considered as a competitive game; actually its name comes from the Arabic "Shah mat", which means "the king is dead", but the game does not kill any king: just the end of a king or of a possible world. And in a game "to be", becomes a "can be". For this reason, in chapter 32 of Liquté Moharan, Rabbi Nachman guides us through a long play of fairy visions of queens and kings, towers and horses, to suggest us the idea that the 32 wisdom paths "engraved" by God in his Creation, must be counted adding to the 22 letters/consonants of the Jewish alphabet the 10 vowel sounds, without which those letters wouldn't have any sound, and would not be able to direct their "sense" into the air, reaching the other and his ears.
"Sing, dance, clap your hands, let the music rise!", urged Rabbi Nachman; often adding: "Being old is forbidden!", certainly winking, and calling to mind the laughter of Sara, Abraham's wife when she knew about her unbelievable pregnancy in such an old age, showing us how useless is to possess things that grow old and how light is the sonority of a voice which tunes up an armonic melody to project it into the space of the meeting with the other, of the exchange, the rules revolutions, of fading away into the limits; in that space, going through which every world which tend to implode because finished and unchangeable, paradoxically turns its "retraction" into expansion towards innumerable possible worlds. "Shah mat! The king is dead!" someone suddenly shouted, moving a white or black piece on the chess-board, and the sound of his voice was the same as Sara's laughter.


Claudio Ronco