To Light Up the Night

Developing character traits is like kindling the menorah's flames

From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky

"Speak to Aaron and say to him: 'When you kindle the lamps, the seven lamps are to shine toward the front of the candelabrum.' And Aaron did thus; he kindled the lamps toward the front of the candelabrum…." (Num. 8:2-3)

The lamps of the candelabrum (the seven-branched menorah of the holy Temple) were all in a straight line; the "front" of the menorah is thus interpreted to mean the lamp situated on top of its middle shaft. The word used for "kindle" literally means "cause to ascend". The Arizal will explain why two separate terms are used for the burning of the lamps: "kindling" and "shining".

chanoch adds: The above paragraph is comment by the translator and editor. Remember there are 70 different explanations forneveryn word in then Torah. Here are two additional potential understandings. When theb third Temple is in use and the Chanukiah of 8 candles is in use the word “front” will be a code word for the center point which is connected to “Zion”. Zion is the center point between the spiritual world and the physicl world. This point is within the Holy of Holyes. Another idea for the word “front” is in front of each candle. Perhaps the wall behind the candle miraculously turns into a mirror reflecting all the light in front of each candle. All of this paragraph is my opinion.

Note as well that in G‑d's command, Aaron is only required to make sure the seven lamps shine toward the middle lamp of the candelabrum, whereas in describing how he fulfilled the command, we are told that he also kindled them facing toward the front of the candelabrum. This, too, will be explained. In the course of this discussion, many points touched upon in the previous installment will be developed and elucidated.

chanoch adds: Not sure what is the previous installment.

The menorah is [the physical manifestation of the partzuf] Rachel, the Nukva of Zeir Anpin, which is postured back to back [with Zeir Anpin itself].

As we have explained previously, Nukva of Zeir Anpin appears as two partzufim, Leah and Rachel, just as Jacob (the personification of Zeir Anpin) had two wives with these names. And just as the main wife of Jacob was Rachel, the main iteration of the partzuf of Nukva is that of Rachel.

When the partzuf of Rachel is initially emanated (or "built"), it is positioned back to back with Zeir Anpin. This corresponds to the Midrashic account of the creation of Adam and Eve, in which they were created as a sort of Siamese twin, joined back to back, and had to be "sawed" apart in order to later turn toward each other and mate. Similarly, the partzuf of Rachel, once emanated, must be further developed in order to mate with Zeir Anpin. This is the process of kindling the lamps of the menorah, as will be explained now.

Its seven lamps are [the physical manifestation of] the seven lower sefirot [of the partzuf of Rachel], from its chesed to its malchut. These [together] are called its "body", and they are depicted as the three branches of the menorah: left, right, and center.

chanoch adds: Which is the right side as each side can be right or left depending on which way you view it? An example is the person saying Kadish takes 3 steps back and bows toward the left then the right and finally the center. The reason it is to the left first is the left is the right of the Schechinah which is the ark when facing the congregation.

The menorah, of course, had seven branches, but what is meant here is the general subdivision of three branches to the right, three to the left, and the central shaft.

As is known, the five states of gevura in [Nukva's] daat spread throughout its seven lower sefirot, similar to the way the five states of chesed spread throughout the body of Zeir Anpin.

Whereas Nukva is constructed mainly out of different states of gevura, as we have explained, Zeir Anpin is constructed out of different states of chesed.

[In Zeir Anpin,] the five states of chesed [within its daat] spread forth from chesed to hod, and the aggregate of their shining forth pools into yesod, and then the aggregate that shines in yesod pools into its malchut. This is the mystical meaning of "the seal within the seal", as we have explained in reference to Hoshana Rabba. (Shaar HaKavanot, Sukkot 6, 106b)

The "seal within a seal" is a halachic concept: wine, etc., which has been touched by idolaters, is considered defiled unless it is sealed with a double seal. (Avodah Zarah 31a; Mishna Torah, Ma'achalot Asurot 13; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 118) The mystical correlate of this concept is the seal given by G‑d on the promise of His beneficence given at the beginning of each year. This seal is seen as G‑d's assurance that He will bestow His beneficence on the Jewish people (and via them to all worthy recipients among the other nations and creatures of the world), but not to the forces of evil (i.e. the "wine" will not be "contaminated" by association with false gods and ideologies.)

chanoch adds: According to Kabbalah wine seen by idolaters is considered “pasul – contaminated” since the bottle is only one seal. In large communities or events large Jewish men stand between the wine bottle and or Kiddush cup and the community. It is also behind the reason some communities require each person to say their own Kiddush. “cooked” or pasteurized wine is exempt from the need for a seal within a seal as the cooking is considered its own seal. This is my opinion.

The lights of night…shine via the lamps of the menorah…

The first seal occurs during the Neila ("closing") prayer of Yom Kippur, when the judgment which began on Rosh Hashanah is "signed and sealed". But this judgment is subject to further certification by the holiday of Sukkot (which is also a time of judgment, albeit in a more positive vein). Thus, on each day of this holiday, special prayers are recited called "hoshanot" (prayers for salvation). The last day of Sukkot is the final, closing day of this second judgment period, and is called Hoshana Rabba (the "great salvation") after the extra long hoshanot recited on it.

In the terminology of Kabbala, the divine effulgence which flows through the middot becomes "solidified" and ready to be transmitted to the world when it reaches the sefira of yesod, the sefira of drive-for-transmission, but it is only fully assured of uncontaminated transmission when it reaches the sefira of malchut, that of full expression.

The five states of chesed [that spread through] Zeir Anpin are alluded to by the five times the word "light" is mentioned in the account of the first day of Creation, and are called lights of "day". The five states of gevura [that spread through] Nukva and shine in it are called the lights of "night"; these shine via the lamps [of the menorah]. Thus, the seven lamps - which are the vessels [that hold the burning oil and wicks] - manifest the seven lower sefirot of Nukva, while the seven lights which burn in them, shining from the fire and flame of the burning wicks inside the lamps, are the lights that shine via the vessels.

[first day of Creation…: Gen. 1:1-5: "And G‑d said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. And G‑d saw the light that it was good, and G‑d divided the light from the darkness. And G‑d called the light day…."]

What gives the sefira its unique identity…is the context in which the light shines…

Every sefira is composed of a "light" and a "vessel". In most contexts, the light is simply the divine energy or creative force, which is a uniform, simple entity that does not change from one sefira to another. What gives the sefira its unique identity is its vessel, which is the context in which the light shines. The standard analogy for this is clear water that is poured into different colored glasses. Although water is colorless, it will appear to assume the color of the glass it is poured into. Similarly, G‑d is a simple, unified essence, but He acts through the various attributes of the sefirot, which may be diametrically opposed to one another (e.g. chesed and gevura). The dichotomy of light and vessel allows the one G‑d to assume a multitude of attributes without compromising His unity. (A more detailed analysis of this issue leads to the conclusion that the lights, also, have some a priori identity even before they enter their respective vessels, but this discussion and its ramifications are beyond the scope of the present exposition.)

chanoch adds: The above paragraph is the translator editor comment. It is not complete. If it is accurate it applies to each individuals midot – character trait and personality trait.

As we have explained elsewhere, the states of chesed [that spread throughout] Zeir Anpin are divided into two categories. As far down as its "chest", they are covered within the sheath of the yesod of Imma, which reaches this far. From its "chest" and below, however, they are exposed lights. Thus, the exposed lights are the lower two-thirds of tiferet [of Zeir Anpin] - this is what is meant by "from the chest downward" - plus the two full lights of netzach and hod [of Zeir Anpin]. They are thus two and two-thirds [exposed] light.

The five states of chesed of Zeir Anpin originate in Imma (the partzuf of bina), as will be explained further on. They are transmitted from Imma to Zeir Anpin via the yesod of Imma. In psychological terms, this simply means that the love or enthusiasm that expresses itself throughout the entire emotional array originates in the intellect, specifically in bina, where the insight of chochma is developed into a full conceptual structure that can elicit an emotional response. Since intellect, however, itself is self-referencing and self-oriented, it is only the yesod of bina, the drive of the intellect to actualize itself, which is interested in changing reality by eliciting an emotional response.

Mercy…is much more subjective and oriented toward the needs and condition of the intended recipient of the new reality…

This drive, the yesod of Imma, thus envelopes and is the context within which the five states of chesed are manifest in Zeir Anpin, at least as far as its "chest", i.e. as far as the first, upper third of tiferet of Zeir Anpin, inclusively. To that point, as they manifest through chesed and gevura and the beginning of tiferet, they are enveloped by the consciousness of their source in the intellect. From this point onward, however, this awareness of where the emotional response is coming from is lost, and the emotional response (i.e. the spreading forth of the five states of chesed through Zeir Anpin) assumes a life of its own. This is what is meant by calling these states of gevura "revealed" or "exposed" or "unsheathed" from that point on.

The inner experience of chesed is love; that of gevura is fear; that of tiferet is mercy. Love and fear are still abstract enough to retain awareness of their source in the intellect; their thrust is simply the transmission or withholding of the idea, without too much reference to the recipient. Mercy, in contrast, is much more subjective and oriented toward the needs and condition of the intended recipient of the new reality; therefore, only its first third, or intellectual, abstract aspect (recall that every sefira itself subdivides into ten sub-sefirot, grouped into "thirds" of intellect, emotion, and drive) can retain the consciousness of where it's coming from. The rest of it is focused on where it is directed.

Since these two and two-thirds lights are divested of any envelope restraining them, they descend rapidly down to yesod [of Zeir Anpin].

In contrast to the deliberate nature of intellect, emotion is characterized as being impetuous and forceful.

They then rebound, ascending as reflected light, and spread through the three axes of Zeir Anpin until they reach its keter. In this way, they cause Zeir Anpin to grow and mature.

By receiving and transmitting the inspiration of chochma and bina (Abba and Imma), Zeir Anpin matures. The flow of positive energy, well-rooted in insight into holiness and its intellectual development, serves to make the emotionality of Zeir Anpin more and more holy and mature in its orientation. The three "axes" here mentioned are the right, left, and middle lines of the sub-sefirot of Zeir Anpin (right: chochma, chesed, netzach; left: bina, gevura, hod; center: keter, daat, tiferet, yesod, malchut). When the light of the five states of chesed (that originated from Imma) reach the keter of Zeir Anpin, they influence its will, which in turn sets the tone for the overall focus of the partzuf.

The rebound occurs at the level of yesod, the outward drive for actualization of the emotions. By actualizing itself outwards, the partzuf itself gains and matures internally. This is because self-actualization and propagation promote self-validation and the remaking of the self in the image one is projecting outwards. One "rises to the occasion", so to speak.

This is akin to the common experience that by helping someone else or teaching someone else, the helper or teacher gains and grows immensely. As our sages have said, "more than the householder helps the pauper, the pauper helps the householder" (Vayikra Rabba 34:10), and "I have learned much from my colleagues, more from my teachers, but most of all from my students" (Taanit 7a).

A similar process occurs in Nukva. For when these states of gevura issue from the back of Zeir Anpin [in order to develop Nukva], they cannot issue simply as lights of gevura; rather, there issue with them some of the vessels and "walls" of Zeir Anpin itself, which clothe and envelop them.

As will be explained later, these vessels and "walls" are the sheath of yesod of Zeir Anpin, which is the context in which these lights of gevura issue, just as the states of chesed issued from Imma in the sheath of its yesod.

It thus follows that just as in Zeir Anpin [the states of chesed] are partly covered and partly exposed, so is it with regard to Nukva: [the states of gevura] are partly covered and partly exposed, for the vessels of Zeir Anpin [partly] cover them.

Now, with regard to Zeir Anpin, the sheath [covering the five states of chesed] is the yesod of Imma. Since it [yesod of Imma] is short, it ends at its [Zeir Anpin's] chest. In contrast, however, the sheath covering the states of gevura [spreading through] Nukva originates in the yesod of Zeir Anpin, which is long, reaching until the bottom of tiferet of Nukva.

The passage from Imma to Zeir Anpin is a change of essence, from intellect to emotion. Therefore, as we said, the intellectual actualization-drive (yesod) can extend only so far as the intellectual aspect (the upper third) of tiferet of Zeir Anpin. In contrast, the passage from Zeir Anpin to Nukva is just a change of focus, from emotion per se to the expression of emotion. Therefore, the actualization-drive of Zeir Anpin can extend all the way down to the end of tiferet of Nukva. In other words, the consciousness of the emotions themselves can remain in the expression-consciousness of Nukva as far as its tiferet (or mercy, empathy). From that point on, the transmission consciousness (netzach and hod) takes over.

It thus follows that in Zeir Anpin, two and two-thirds of its states of chesed are exposed, while in Nukva only the two states of gevura manifest in its netzach and hod are exposed. This is one difference between the states of gevura [of Nukva and the states of chesed of Zeir Anpin]: the extent to which they are exposed or concealed.

A further difference is regarding the "height" [of the point where they become exposed]. That is, in Zeir Anpin, where they are exposed from the "chest" down, the descent, which the states of chesed traverse, is relatively tall.

The states of chesed, once they become exposed, traverse the remaining two thirds of tiferet before they reach yesod of Zeir Anpin. (The sefirot of netzach and hod do not add any length to the descent of the states of chesed, for yesod is positioned directly under tiferet, just as the reproductive organ is the lower extremity of the torso in the human body, the legs - which correspond to netzach and hod - being off to the side.)

But in the case of Nukva, there is almost no descent for its states of gevura to traverse whatsoever, for as soon as they emerge from the bottom of its tiferet they immediately enter its yesod.

Now, it is known that chief way the states of chesed cause Zeir Anpin to mature is by the force of their descent and headlong rush into its yesod.

Even in English, we see that the word "emotion" is related to "motion". The chief "usefulness" and effect of emotions is their force, which provides their impact. The impact of the states of chesed on Zeir Anpin is proportional to the force and intensity with which they "assault" its yesod.

This is clearly demonstrable: if a stone falls from a height of ten cubits, it will rebound upward one or two cubits. But if it falls from a height of twenty cubits, it will rebound upward double the distance.

Therefore, in the case of Zeir Anpin, when their descent was from a great height, the states of chesed were able to rebound as reflected light all the way up its stature, and to spread through all three of its axes, as well, reaching its keter. But in the case of Nukva, there are two drawbacks: firstly, in the number of exposed states of gevura, of which there are only two in contrast to the exposed states of chesed in Zeir Anpin, of which there are two and two-thirds, and secondly, in the height of their descent and fall, which is practically naught, as we have explained.

Once they have been exposed, their light…expands and spreads outward…

Thus, [Nukva's] exposed states of gevura that descend to its yesod are not capable of rebounding up to its keter and at the same time spreading upward through all three of its axes, as do the rebounding states of chesed in Zeir Anpin. In order that they be able to reach Nukva's keter, they do not spread upward through its three axes; rather, they ascend to its keter only through the middle axis. In this way, the intensity of their light is not diminished by being spread through the other two axes.

We are only concerned that Nukva's central axis be illuminated [by the light of these states of gevura, and not that the other two axes be illuminated by them]. This is because [at the top] of these two axes are Nukva's two brain-lobes, those of chochma and bina, which shine downward through the left and right axes. But its keter [initially] possesses no such brain, and it is improper for its keter to be inferior to its chochma and bina. It is therefore crucial that the states of gevura ascend to keter in order to shine as the brain of keter itself. We have explained a similar process elsewhere with regard to why the states of chesed of Zeir Anpin must ascend to its keter.

You might ask, these two states of [exposed] gevura ascend back through the middle axis and pass through tiferet, whose light, as we said, is entirely sheathed. If so, how can they act to enlarge and mature them, since they become hidden again, as they were to begin with?

It would seem that on the rebound, the exposed states of gevura would re-enter the consciousness of the upper triad of emotions, which, as we said, in Nukva is still permeated with the consciousness of Zeir Anpin, the emotions in and of themselves. Thus, it would seem, these lights would lose their inertia and revert to their previous, subdued state.

The answer to this is that once they have been exposed, their light - which was initially confined and constricted within the sheath [of the yesod of Zeir Anpin] -expands and spreads outward. Therefore, even when they return upward [to the level of tiferet] and become hidden [within the sheath], they cannot become confined and constricted as they were originally. On the contrary, they cause the sheath to expand. Thus, the vessel of their sheath [into which they enter] together with those states of gevura that remained covered [within it] now become greatly energized by their impact and expand concomitantly, to the extent that the place [i.e. the level of tiferet] can no longer contain them. This is similar to the process we explained elsewhere regarding how the states of chesed affect Zeir Anpin.

Thus, both the vessel of tiferet and the lights of those states of gevura that remained hidden within it gain immeasurably by the impact of the returning, reflected light.

Aaron …represents the way the flow of Zeir Anpin inspires and causes Nukva to mature and develop…

We may now begin to explain the mystical significance of kindling the lamps of the menorah [in the holy Temple]. The descent of the states of gevura [within Nukva] down to its yesod is called "kindling" the lamps and "making them shine". This is the process referred to in the verse [quoted above] by the words, "the seven lamps are to shine…." The idiom "causing to ascend" is not used here, as it is earlier in the same verse.

In contrast, the ascent and rebound [of these states of gevura] from yesod of Nukva to its keter is a different aspect [of kindling the lamps] and is referred to with the idiom "causing to ascend".

It is to this that our sages referred when they said that the meaning of "causing the lamps to ascend" is that Aaron should kindle [the wicks] "until the flame ascends by itself" (Shabbat 21a).

It rebounds on its own power. The mystical meaning of the verse is thus: "In order to make the lights ascend, they must first shine/descend through the seven middot of Nukva."

Aaron, however, did more than he was commanded to. For he was only commanded to make sure that the wicks faced the middle shaft of the menorah, which embodies the middle axis [of Nukva], when the [five states of gevura] were descending [through Nukva]. As it is written, "the seven lamps are to shine toward the front of the candelabrum."

[The word for "front" (in Hebrew, "penei") also means "the inner part of", or in this context, the central shaft.]

He, however, waited in order to ensure that even when they re-ascended they would do so only through the middle axis, as we explained. This is the mystical meaning of the following verse: "And Aaron did thus; he kindled the lamps toward the front of the candelabrum…." In this verse, the idiom of "shining" is not used, as it is in G‑d's commandment to him.

The reason why Aaron did this is as follows: when the two exposed states of gevura descended down to yesod, they separated from each other, since there was no sheath forcing them together. This is only to be expected, inasmuch as they were netzach and hod, which are two opposite forces, the first belonging to the right side and the second to the left. Therefore, when they ascended on their rebound, they were also separated, each one tending toward its native axis. But had they been allowed to pursue this path, this would have dissipated their light such that they would not have been able to reach [Nukva's] keter, as we explained above. He therefore tarried [in the process of kindling them] until "the flame ascended by itself", that is, such that the light ascended solely into the middle axis, which is called "the front of the menorah". Once it has entered this channel it can no longer diffuse to the right or left because [this channel] is bounded by walls preventing this. Rather, the light must perforce ascend directly up the middle line, until it reaches keter.

Aaron's characteristic trait was that of love, as we are taught: "Be of the students of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving the creatures and drawing them near to the Torah" (Avot 1:12) By kindling the menorah, he thus aptly represents the way the flow of Zeir Anpin (the emotions, the principle one of which is love) inspires and causes Nukva to mature and develop.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Shaar HaMitzvot and Taamei HaMitzvot;

Meriting the Land of Israel

Kabbalah discusses the mystical reasons Moses did not enter the Holy Land.

From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky

Toward the end of this parasha, we are told how G‑d bestowed the gift of prophecy on the seventy elders. At that time, Miriam was standing next to Moses' wife, Zipporah, when Gershom ran to Moses, saying, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp."

When Zipporah heard this, she said, "Woe to their wives if they have become prophets, for they will now separate from them, just as Moses has separated from me." Miriam overheard this and assumed that Moses had done this because he felt it was inappropriate for a prophet to become defiled by marital relations (See Lev. 15:18) just as G‑d had bidden the whole people to refrain from marital relations in preparation for the revelation at the Giving of the Torah. (Ex. 19:15)

However, she also knew that she and her brother Aaron had received prophetic revelations and had not been required to separate from their spouses, so she assumed that it was Moses' own idea to separate and thought that this was unfair to Zipporah. Miriam later told Aaron about this, and Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses regarding how he was treating Zipporah. The Torah describes this as follows: "Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses regarding the Cushite woman he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. They said, 'Has G‑d spoken only to Moses? Has He not spoken to us, too?'" (Num. 12:1-2)

The Land of Israel is the earthly manifestation of the 'woman of valor'….

Zipporah is here referred to as "the Cushite woman" because her physical beauty was as incontestable as the darkness of the skin of a Cushite woman, and in addition, her deeds were also as faultless as a Cushite woman is black. The absoluteness of her character contrasts with the way he was mistreating her - at least in Miriam's and Aaron's eyes.

However, the Torah refers to Moses' wife as "the Cushite woman" for another reason, as well.

My master [the Arizal], of blessed memory, told me that he heard from a great sage in our generation by the name of Rabbi Kalonymus, of blessed memory, an explanation of this passage of the Torah, as follows:

We have seen how the patriarch Jacob's body and skeleton were both buried in the Land of Israel. (Gen. 49:4-13)

"Body" here refers to the flesh.

Joseph's bones were buried [in the Land of Israel], but not his body.

He was buried in Egypt. (Gen. 50:26) His body had decomposed by the time his bones were taken out of Egypt. (Ex. 13:19) They were buried in Shechem. (Joshua 24:32)

Neither Moses' body or bones [were buried in the Land of Israel].(Deut. 34:5-6)

The reason for this is that the Land of Israel is the earthly manifestation of the "woman of valor" who "fears G‑d." (Proverbs 31:10,30)

The phrase "fears G‑d" can also be read "the fear/awe of G‑d". Thus, mystically, the "woman of valor", Nukva of Zeir Anpin, is also the (lower level of the) fear of G‑d, the aspect of our relationship with G‑d associated with the sefira of malchut.

Because Jacob did not marry Timna, the sister of Lotan, as our Sages relate (Sanhedrin 99b; Yalkut Shimoni, Bereishit 129), he merited to have both his body and skeleton buried in the Land of Israel.

In giving the genealogy of Esau and the history of his progeny, the Torah also describes the people who originally inhabited the land he eventually possessed, the Chorites.

"These are the sons of Seir the Chorite, the [original] inhabitants of the land: Lotan, Shoval, Tzivon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan. These were the tribal chiefs of the Chorites among the sons of Seir in the land of Edom. The sons of Lotan were Chori and Hemam, and Lotan's sister was Timna. "(Gen. 36:20-22)

The reason the Torah tells us who Lotan's sister was is because she wanted to convert to Judaism, but neither Abraham, Isaac, nor Jacob would accept her. She even offered to be Jacob's concubine, but Jacob refused her. She then declared, "I would rather be a concubine to anyone from this nation [i.e. a descendant of Abraham] than a princess in another nation" and indeed, became Esau's son's concubine: "Timna was a concubine of Esau's son Eliphaz, and she bore Amalek to Eliphaz." (Ibid. v.12)

Regarding Joseph: he did sin in thought, and drops of his semen issued from between his fingernails, but he did not complete the evil act by injecting [his seed] into that foreign woman. Therefore, his skeleton was buried [in the Land of Israel] but not his body.

Joseph sold as a slave to Potiphar, the priest of On, in Egypt. Potiphar's wife tried to seduce Joseph, and although he initially demurred, he eventually agreed. As he was about to complete the illicit act of relations, the image of his father suddenly became fixed in his mind, and he relented. He dug his fingernails into the ground in order to control himself, and miraculously, the flow of semen issued from his fingers into the ground instead of issuing into Potiphar's wife. (Gen. 39:7-12; Rashi on Gen. 49:26)

Regarding Moses: he went to the Land of Cush and lived there for forty years, and actually married the wife of the [slain] Ethiopian king, and lived with her [outwardly] as man and wife, as is recounted in the accounts of Moses' life. Even though he did not approach her physically, he was still not buried in the Land of Israel at all, neither his body nor his bones.

chanoch adds: Righteous people do not decay – either body or bones. Josheph is Righteous so why did his body decay? Perhaps the embalming procewss that was done in Egypt.

The Land of Canaan is associated with the moon….

The Written Torah does not tell us what happened to Moses between the time when he fled Pharaoh's henchmen, at about the age of 18, and when he became Jethro's shepherd and son-in-law, at about the age of 77. There are a few versions in the Midrashim of what happened, but according to the most detailed one, Moses slew the Egyptian in the year 2386, when he was 18 years old. He fled to Ethiopia, where he joined the army and 9 years later was coronated king. This is when he "married" the widow of the previous king of Ethiopia, or "Cush".

He remained king of Ethiopia for 40 years, from 2395 to 2435. In that year, at the age of 67, he left Ethiopia and went to Midian. After the incident with the shepherds at the well, Jethro imprisoned Moses for ten years. Zipporah fed Moses secretly during these ten years, and finally convinced her father to release him. In 2445, at the age of 77, Moses and Zipporah were married, and shortly after had their first son, Gershon. The incident of the burning bush occurred in the year 2447, when Moses was 79 years old. (See Seder HaDorot, s.v. 2386, 2387, 2392, 2435, 2444)

Thus far are the words of the said sage [Rabbi Kalonymus], of blessed memory.

To this, my master added an explanation of this passage [regarding Miriam's accusation of Moses], as follows:

It is stated prior [to this passage] that "Eldad and Medad were prophesying in the camp". (Num. 11:27) Our Sages teach us that they were prophesying that "Moses will die [in the desert] and Joshua will bring Israel into the Land of Canaan" (Sanhedrin 17a) Following this, "Miriam and Aaron spoke" (Num. 12:1) about this matter, and were discussing why Moses should die in the desert before being able to enter the Land. It could not yet have been clear to them that the reason for this was [Moses'] sin with regard to [bringing forth water from] the rock, for this incident did not occur until [37 years later], after Miriam's death, as recounted in parashat Chukat (Ibid. 20:1-13). They therefore concluded that the reason must be that [Moses] fully and legally married a Cushite woman, and therefore he was barred from entering the land, similar to what the above-quoted sage said.

[Having said this,] they then proceeded to rule out another explanation [for why Moses would not enter the Land of Israel]. Namely, as it is written in the Zohar, the Land of Canaan is associated with the moon. Therefore, Joshua, about whom our Sages said, "Joshua's face was like the face of the moon [relative to Moses' face, which was like the face of the sun]" (Baba Batra 75a), entered it. Moses, in contrast, whose "face was like the face of the sun", which expresses a higher level [of spirituality] than the moon [does], did not enter it.

The sun and moon are associated with Zeir Anpin and Nukva, respectively. Zeir Anpin shines with the radiance of the emotional sefirot, which are reflected in Nukva, their means of expression. This is similar to the way the moon reflects the light of the sun. Similarly, Joshua's spirituality - evidenced as the glow of his face - was a reflection of his teacher Moses'.

The Land of Israel, the quintessential "land", is also associated with malchut, inasmuch as heaven and earth are also respectively associated with Zeir Anpin and Nukva.

It thus would appear that Moses did not enter the Land of Israel because he was of a higher spiritual order than it; only his disciple, who was of a lower spiritual order, was "low" enough to enter it.

The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge are respectively associated with Zeir Anpin and Nukva….

It would follow that [Moses'] denial of entry [into the Land] was to his credit, rather than the result of some lack on his part. [Aaron and Miriam] ruled out this explanation by saying, "Has G‑d spoken only to Moses? Has He not spoken to us, too?" - meaning: "We are on the same level of prophecy as he is; if so, why are we going to enter the Land and he not? Rather, it must not be because of his preeminence but because of some lacking of his that he is not entering the Land, namely, because 'he married a Cushite woman,'" etc., as we have explained. They did not know [at this point] that they, too, would not be entering the Land of Israel.

G‑d then told them that the reason [Moses would not be entering the Land] was indeed because of his preeminence, in accordance with the explanation given in the Zohar. As for their argument that "has He not spoken to us, too?" G‑d told them that it is faulty. For, "If there be a prophet among you [I, G‑d, will make Myself known to him in a vision; I will speak to him in a dream.] This is not so with My servant Moses; [he is faithful throughout My household. With him I speak mouth to mouth; unambiguously, without riddles, so he beholds the image of G‑d. So why were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?]"(Num. 12:6-8) [In other words,] he alone is "the face of the sun", and therefore will not enter the Land, which is referred to mystically as the "holy moon".

Although Aaron and Miriam were correct that their level of prophecy was higher than Joshua's, it was still not on the level of Moses'.

This is similar to the mystical explanation given in the Zohar [of Moses' words] in the verse, "Is there a tree there, or not…." (Ibid. 13:20)

When Moses sent spies to report on the Land, he told them to see "what [kind of] land it is. And the people who inhabit it: are they strong or weak? Are there few or many? And what of the land they inhabit? Is it good or bad? And what of the cities they live in: are they in open cities or in fortresses? What is the soil like: is it rich or poor? Are there any trees in it or not?" (Ibid. 13:18-20) The latter phrase literally reads: "Is there a tree in it or not?"

Meaning: If the Tree of Life, which is tiferet, known as the "sun", is there, I shall enter it; if not, I will not.

The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge are respectively associated with Zeir Anpin and Nukva.

It follows from the above that the Arizal, based on the Zohar, holds that it was not because Moses formally married the widow of the Cushite king that he was denied entrance into the Land of Israel, but because he was essentially above its level. He puts Rabbi Kalonymus' interpretation into the mouths of Miriam and Aaron as their supposition that G‑d then refuted.

* * * * * *

Rabbi Shmuel Vital (Rabbi Chaim Vital's son) notes that after Timna became Eliphaz's concubine, she bore him Amalek, the ancestor of the nation that became Israel's archenemy. The Sages state that this was because Jacob, in fact, should have married her. He could have elevated the good in her (evinced by her desire to convert) and thereby nullified the bad in her (that became manifest later as Amalek). Thus, from our Sages words, it appears that Jacob erred by not accepting Timna, while in Rabbi Kalonymus' exposition, it appears that he was rewarded for repelling her.

This inner Amalek derives from our reluctance to answer the challenge….

He resolves this dichotomy by proposing that it would have indeed been preferable for Jacob to marry Timna, even if by doing so he would have forfeited his ability to be buried in the Land of Israel. By preventing the emergence of Amalek, he would have saved his descendants from much suffering and removed an obstacle in the way of the Redemption. (One of the conditions that must be met before the Redemption can occur is that Amalek's descendants must be wiped out.) Not being buried in the Land of Israel would be a small price to pay for this, especially since Moses himself was also not buried in the Land of Israel, and our Sages say that this was in order that he be able to bring the generation that died in the desert to the Final Redemption with him.

If this is true, its psychological implications are far-reaching. We are taught that Amalek signifies the coldness in our relationship with G‑d that comes from doubts that the "inner skeptic" plants in our mind, and the above exposition implies that this inner Amalek derives from our reluctance to answer the challenge of absorbing and elevating the good elements of materiality and foreign culture out of fear of the contamination it will entail. These unredeemed elements of non-Jewish culture later come back to haunt us in the form of doubts and the cultured sophistication that cools off our enthusiasm for holiness.

So, what is better - to insist on ascetic purity of mind, soul, and body, as Jacob did, or to sacrifice purity in order to elevate the non-Jewish world and thereby avoid the doubts and indifference of Amalek? We could propose that Chasidut would answer that Jacob could not have allowed himself the risk of elevating alien culture because the Torah, with its solid anchoring in holy lifestyle and consciousness, had not yet been given. Moses, on the other hand, who represented the Giving of the Torah, could allow himself this risk.

The lesson for us would then be that only to the extent that we are solidly grounded and immersed in the holiness of the Torah and its ways can we allow ourselves the broadmindedness to absorb, include, and elevate the elements of worldly culture that can be, and indeed beg to be, assimilated. If we do not trust the power of the fire of the Torah to burn off the dross of this unrefined raw material, these elements will eventually plague us as seeds of doubt and as a coldhearted attitude in all things holy.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Shaar HaPesukim and Likutei Torah.

Nursing Prophets

Kabbalah teaches that some the greatest Jewish prophets suckled on Higher Wisdom.

From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky

In this parasha, Moses complains to G‑d that he cannot lead the people by himself: "I cannot carry all this nation by myself, for it is too heavy for me." (Num. 11:14)

In response, G‑d told Moses, "Gather for Me seventy men of the elders of Israel…and take them to the tent of meeting, and they will present themselves there with you. I shall descend and speak with you, and I will set aside some of the [divine] spirit that is upon you and place it upon them." (Num. 11:16-17)

To select the seventy, Moses took six from each tribe, i.e. 72 elders, and placed 72 pieces of paper in a box. On 70 of them were written the word "elder" and two were blank. Each of the 72 elders took a paper from the box; the 70 who selected a paper with the word "elder" became the 70 selected to become Moses' assistants; the other 2 did not. "And G‑d descended in the cloud and spoke to [Moses] and He set aside some of the spirit that was upon him and placed it upon the seventy elderly men. As the spirit descended upon them, they prophesied unceasingly."

Now, there were two men [of the seventy chosen] in the camp who remained [because they felt unworthy of the gift of prophecy]. The name of the first was Eldad and the name of the second was Meidad. They were amongst those who chose ballots [with the word 'elder' on them]. But they did not return to their tents but instead prophesied in the camp [because G‑d gave the gift of prophecy anyway]. So the youth ran to tell Moses, saying, 'Eldad and Meidad are prophesying in the camp!' Joshua ben Nun, the servant of Moses, responded from amongst his youths, and said, 'My master, Moses, stop them!' But Moses said to him, 'Are you jealous on my behalf? Would that all of G‑d's people were prophets because G‑d placed His spirit upon them!'" (Num. 11:25-29, as understood by Rashi)

You know that our Sages said, regarding the verse: "Where were you when I established the earth?" (Job 38:4) that all the righteous [of all generations] originate in one or another of the limbs of Adam. (Shemot Rabba 40:3) Eldad and Meidad originated in his two breasts, [the organs] which [in the female] provide milk for the baby.

Therefore, the word for "breast" [in Hebrew, "dad"] is alluded to in both their names. The difference is that one [i.e. Eldad] originated in the right breast, indicated by the letters alef-lamed, and the other [i.e. Meidad] originated from the left breast, indicated by the letters mem-yud.

The names Eldad and Meidad both end with the letters dalet-dalet, which spell "dad", the word for "breast". They differ in their first two letters.

To explain: In general, the female is indicated by the name Elokim.

The name Elokim is thus the channel through which the name Havayah is expressed….

G‑d's "proper" name is the name Havayah, which comes from the verb meaning "to bring into being", and therefore signifies G‑d as Creator, i.e. as the active force that brings reality into being. But, as we know, G‑d's creative force must be constricted in order to allow for creatures conscious of themselves as independent beings, and this constrictive divine force is indicated by the divine name Elokim. The name Elokim is thus the channel through which the name Havayah is expressed. Content and expression, as we have explained previously, are the fundamental properties of male and female, respectively.

In [the female's] three middle [sefirot], the name Elokim is manifest as follows:

The female archetype is, of course, a partzuf comprising ten sefirot. The middle triad of sefirot consists of chesed, gevura, and tiferet.

The [first] two letters of Elokim, alef-lamed, are manifest on the right side, this being the mystical meaning of the verse, "The chesed of G‑d [E-l] is the whole day." (Psalms 52:3) This [manifestation of the name Elokim on the right side] produces [the right breast,] Eldad.

The two letters alef-lamed spell the divine name "E-l", which, as we see from this verse, is associated with the attribute of chesed, which in turn is situated on the right axis of the sefirotic tree.

The [final] two letters of Elokim [in reverse order], mem-yud, are manifest on the left side; this produces [the left breast], Meidad. [This manifestation] is related to bina, which is on the left side and is called "who" [in Hebrew, "mi"], indicating the 50 Gates of Understanding.

Bina is the source of gevura, which is situated opposite chesed, on the left side. According to the Sages, (Rosh HaShanah 21b) there are fifty "gates of understanding" divinity. These are alluded to in the verse "Her husband is known in the gates," (Proverbs 31:23) which is interpreted in the Zohar to mean that G‑d (the Jewish people's "husband") is known "by each person according to the estimation of his heart", since the Hebrew word for "estimation" ("hasha'ara") is related to the word for "gate" ("sha'ar").

The numerical value of the last two letters of the name Elokim, mem-yud, is 40 + 10, or 50. Thus, these two letters allude to the 50 Gates of Understanding. In addition, these two letters spell the word for "who" (in Hebrew, "mi"), which is also seen to allude to bina in the verse, "Lift up your eyes on high, and see who [mi] created all this." (Isaiah 40:26) The numerical value of the word for "all this" ("eileh", spelled alef-lamed-hei = 1 + 30 + 5) is 36, alluding to the 6 sefirot from chesed to yesod inter-included within each other (6 x 6 = 36). The verse thus reads: "…and see that bina is the origin of the six midot."

Bina is also associated with the heart, the seat of understanding….

Also, the Egyptian exile is the constriction of bina, preventing it from giving birth to its natural offspring, the midot. The Hebrew word for "Egypt", "mitzrayim", may be permuted to spell the words for "the constriction of mi" ("metizar mi"), i.e. of bina.

Although we normally associate bina with the left lobe of the brain, let us recall that according to the Zohar, bina is also associated with the heart, the seat of understanding, and the heart tends to the left side of the body. Nonetheless, we would have expected the allusion to be based on gevura rather than bina. Perhaps the preference for bina is an allusion to the Sages' saying that G‑d put the mother's breasts "in the place of bina" (Berachot 10a) i.e. next to the heart.

This leaves the letter hei in the middle, between the alef-lamed and mem-yud of Elokim.

Thus, we see that the name Elokim divides symmetrically, the two letters on the right becoming manifest as the right breast, the two letters on the left being manifest as the left breast, and the middle letter (hei) signifying the middle axis of the sefirot.

It is manifest as the milk channel, situated in the middle between the two breasts spreading out in either direction. It produces two types of milk, one type going to the right breast, and one type going to the left breast.

By and large, women do not menstruate as long as they are nursing. According to the Sages, this is because the woman's menstrual blood is converted to mother's milk during the lactation period. (Bechorot 6b; Nidah 9a) Since blood comes from the heart, in between the two breasts, the "channel" of milk from the heart to the breasts may be conceived of as being in the middle as well.

We will now explain how the letter hei of the name Elokim becomes milk, as we have stated.

Milk that issues from the right breast is sweeter than the milk that issues from the left….

Now, it is known that the milk that issues from the right breast is sweeter than the milk that issues from the left breast, since the former originates in [the side of] chesed. Thus, there are two types of milk, and these must be derived from the letter hei, as we have said.

The explanation is this: there are two aspects of the letter hei; one is its spelling-out and the other is its shape.

Regarding its spelling out, there are three ways to spell out the letter hei: either with a yud, a hei, or an alef, i.e. hei may be spelled either hei-yud, hei-hei, or hei-alef. The mnemonic for these three letters is the [Aramaic] word for "let there be" [yehei].

Yehei: yud-hei-alef.

The combined numerical value of these spellings-out is [31] the same as the numerical value of the name E-l.

hei-yud: 5 + 10 = 15; hei-hei: 5 + 5 = 10; hei-alef: 5 + 1 = 6; 15 + 10 + 6 = 31.

E-l: alef-lamed = 1 + 30 = 31.

If we then add 3 for the three ways of spelling, we have 34. If we then add 5 for the simple numerical value of the letter hei, we have 39. If we add 1 for the kolel of all these aspects together, we have 40, the numerical value of the word for "milk" [in Hebrew, "chalav"].

"Chalav" is spelled chet-lamed-beit = 8 + 30 + 2 = 40. Thus we have seen how the spelling out of the letter hei "produces" milk.

Regarding its form, note that you can picture the letter hei in two ways: as a dalet and a yud or as a dalet and a vav, for the "leg" of the hei can be small, like a yud.

The two connected strokes of the hei form the letter dalet. The left, disconnected "leg" of the hei can been visualized either as a yud or as a vav.

The combined numerical value of these two forms is 24.

dalet-yud = 4 + 10 = 14; dalet-vav = 4 + 6 = 10; 14 + 10 = 24.

If we add to this number the numerical value of the three letters that can be used to spell the letter out, i.e. yud-hei-alef, we have [40] the numerical value of the word for "milk".

24 + yud-hei-alef = 24 + 10 + 5+ 1 = 40. We thus see how the form of the letter hei produces milk.

These are the two aspects of milk that originate from the letter hei of the name Elokim, which is situated between the two breasts, alluded to by the letter-pairs alef-lamed and mem-yud, and that extend [from it] in either direction.

The milk Eldad and Meidad sucked from the world of Atzilut was divine consciousness….

Elsewhere the Arizal states explicitly, "the two prophets, Eldad and Meidad…suckled from the two breasts of the lower feminine archetype, Nukva of Zeir Anpin." (Mevo She'arim 5:2:3) The most obvious connection, then, is that the "milk" Eldad and Meidad sucked from the world of Atzilut was divine consciousness, which manifested itself in them as the inspiration of prophecy.

In addition to this, it is explained in Chasidut (Torah Ohr 55d-56a) that the spiritual/psychological analog to a suckling infant is an individual's newborn divine consciousness he attains after contemplating G‑d's divinity. After contemplating the reality of G‑d, he will feel how this divine awareness fills his being with vitality, energy, and inspiration. But if he is honest, he will also realize that he carries a lot of negative spiritual baggage that frustrates and undermines his ability to derive the full benefit and life power he could from divine consciousness. This will lead him to become angry and upset over his spiritually crippled state, but this anger, once he steps back for a minute and views things a bit more objectively, will give way to a feeling of pity on his divine soul. This pity, in turn, will give way to joy, when he realizes that G‑d is on his side and is fully capable of drawing him into His presence despite his shortcomings, provided he seriously and earnestly desires this.

This joy that follows the shock of the rude awakening is similar to the sweet milk the infant enjoys after the shock of birth. The milk we live off of - in our initial stage of spiritual development, which the Arizal calls "the mentality of nursing" ("mochin d'yenika") - is our joy in the knowledge that G‑d loves us and cares for us, like a nursing mother cares for her child.

This is why G‑d as He relates to the forefathers (i.e. the stage in our development when we are still children) is called E-l Shadai. These two names are usually translated as "G‑d Almighty", but the second name more literally means "my breasts".

In any case, nursing is identified here with joy, and joy is one of the prerequisite conditions for prophecy.

In the Midrash, it is stated that since Eldad and Meidad humbly withdrew from the honor of prophecy, considering themselves unworthy, G‑d declared that "since you diminished yourselves, I will make you greater than all the others." (Sifrei, Beha'alotecha 95) They exceeded the others in five ways: the others only prophesied about the following day, while they prophesied about what would happen in another forty years; the others did not enter the Land of Israel, but they did; the others are not mentioned in the Torah by name, but they are; the others eventually ceased prophesying, for their prophecy was derived from Moses', but they did not stop prophesying, for their prophecy came from G‑d Himself. (Bamidbar Rabba 15:19; Sanhedrin 17a)

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sha'ar HaPesukim and Likutei Torah, parashat Beha'alotecha.

Preparing for Perfect Prophecy

Kabbalah teaches that ideal prophecy is perfectly in tune with the body.

From the Ohr HaChaim commentary by Rabbi Chaim (ben Moshe) ibn Attar

“Please listen to My word: if there be a prophet among you...” (Num. 12:6)

When G‑d speaks about appearing to prophets “in a dream,” this does not mean that they actually dream. Rather, it describes the impact of G‑d’s communications to such prophets as being similar to that of people who experience a dream while asleep, even though G‑d always communicated with His prophets while the latter were awake.

Only Moses...did not prostrate himself or go into convulsions, as did other prophets...

Only Moses was able to maintain his regular posture when G‑d communicated with him; he did not prostrate himself or go into convulsions, as did other prophets. Neither did he receive such communications in the form of a riddle or parable. Every communication Moses received from G‑d was crystal clear, requiring no further elaboration. This is what the Torah means when it describes such communication as “I speak with him mouth to mouth.”

All the Israelites saw that each of the 53 times when the Torah reports that G‑d spoke to Moses (in order that Moses should communicate what He said to them), the message was crystal clear and could be understood by anyone with a command of the Hebrew language. The same applies to all the wealth of wisdom contained in the Written Torah. Anyone who immerses himself in that part of the Torah will find that he can understand it.

chanoch adds: 53 translates in Hebrew as many words. Among them is Garden and nursery school. Also 53 means “the yovel = Jubilee” – “with eating” – “from oneness”.

This is in contrast to the writings of Isaiah and Jeremiah, many of which are extremely obscure, full of parables and enigmas. The prophecies of the so-called Minor Prophets, such as Zechariah, are even harder to unravel, so that none of us can be certain of the events to which these prophecies relate.

We need to examine why the prophecies given to Moses were all so clear, whereas those granted to the abovementioned prophets appear so confusing.

The Kabbalists explain that the phenomenon of man being a composite of body and spirit is bound to prevent him from being able to receive undiluted spiritual input. Any attempt to subject man to such additional spiritual input upsets the fragile equilibrium between the forces of body and spirit which constitute a human being. It is only natural, therefore, that when a human being is called upon by G‑d, his body will tremble, be subject to convulsions, etc.

...his body is no longer a hindrance to his receiving communications from G‑d . . .

The only human being able to retain his composure when thus addressed by G‑d is one who has succeeded in transforming the material part of himself into the perfect state in which G‑d has created it. Once man has achieved this, his body is no longer a hindrance to his receiving communications from G‑d, and he will be able to do so as a matter of course.

When there are no people around who meet these specifications, and G‑d has found Israel worthy to receive prophetic communications, He has no choice but to choose someone to whom He transmits His word in a manner which upsets the body and mind of the recipient. As a result, the world abounded with prophets who had to receive their messages in the form of parables and riddles, so that the equilibrium of their bodies and minds would not be permanently upset.

The reason that we find that Zechariah’s prophecies were even more enigmatic than those of his predecessors is that he was one of the last of the prophets. Subsequent generations did not create an environment in which G‑d saw fit to communicate His word to prophets anymore.

When G‑d spoke about His communications to Moses being “mouth to mouth,” He meant that His word did not have to travel through the airwaves, or some other part of the atmosphere, which would dilute it (and therefore make it unclear) in order to make it accessible to less-than-perfect man. When G‑d emphasizes that His word appeared to Moses as a “a clear vision,” this means that Moses did not have to go into convulsions, etc., when he received communications from G‑d. G‑d could show Moses a clear vision, and Moses could behold it and understand it—without it being distorted.

When the Torah adds: “...not by means of riddles," this is an elaboration of how G‑d’s word reaches Moses. The Torah is careful not to say that G‑d’s word traveled from G‑d’s mouth to Moses’ ear, but “mouth to mouth.”

King Solomon asked G‑d to grant him “a listening heart”...

King Solomon asked G‑d to grant him “a listening heart” to enable him to divine the truth behind the claims of litigants, etc. (see I Kings 3:9). He aspired to the highest level of prophecy. The Torah describes G‑d’s communication with Moses as “I speak within him” instead of the customary “I speak with him.” This formulation also means that no one else was privy to the fact that G‑d spoke to Moses.

Selected, with permission, from the five-volume English edition of "Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim ben Attar" by Eliyahu Munk.