Kabbalah and the Calendar

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

Kabbalah outlines the mystical identities of the months.

In this week's Torah reading, G‑d tells Moses:

"This month will be for you the first of the months; it will be for you the first of the months of the year." (Ex. 12:2)

chanoch adds: Please review the gematria link for Bo Here: It will help with your understanding ofn thisn dicussion: https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Gematria-of-Parasha-Bo-5779.html?soid=1102037575871&aid=plP44qt2Uxo

Since this communication occurred two weeks before the Exodus (Bo 12:6), this verse establishes that the month of the Exodus, Nisan, is to be counted as the first of the twelve months. This verse thus establishes the basis of the Jewish calendar:

"[G‑d] showed [Moses] the new moon and said, 'When you see the moon renewed [like this], consider that day the first of the month." (Rashi on Ex. 12:2)

Furthermore, Nisan is always supposed to be in the spring. (Rashi on Deut. 16:1) However, since the Jewish calendar is based lunar months, it is necessary to intercalate the year when the lunar year lags behind the solar year.

chanoch adds: Intercalate was formed from the Latin prefix inter-, meaning "between" or "among," and the Latin verb calare, meaning "to proclaim" or "to call." It was originally associated with proclaiming the addition of a day or month in a calendar.

Know that all the months are [manifestations of] malchut [i.e. Nukva of Zeir Anpin]. There are two aspects to this [relationship]: the first is the way [malchut relates to the months] intrinsically, and the second is the way [it does so] by virtue of its relationship with the male [partzuf, Zeir Anpin], as we will explain with G‑d's help.

The moon is one of the physical manifestations of the feminine principle….

The Jewish calendar is, as we said, a lunar calendar, and the moon is one of the physical manifestations of the feminine principle, Nukva of Zeir Anpin. The moon reflects the light of the sun, just as Nukva receives its inspiration from Zeir Anpin. In general, Zeir Anpin is associated with the three dimensions of space [the six sefirot from which it is constructed correspond to the six directions], and Nukva is associated with time.


chanoch adds: The six directions of space are: Up Down Left Right Front Back. Time represents Chesed as it is the space between cause and effect for the purpose of doing Teshuvah.

[This relationship between malchut and the months] beings with the month of Nisan. Now, know that all the months are called the "head" month, because they all are [in some way] a beginning. And therefore, every month has the larger number of days, i.e. 30.

The order [of the association between the months and the various aspects of malchut] is as follows:

In the following section, the six months of each half year are associated with six of the seven organs of the head - skull, 2 ears, 2 eyes, nose and mouth. The association between these seven organs [excluding the skull and splitting the nose into the 2 nostrils] and the seven days of the week, the seven visible planets, the seven blessings of divine beneficence, and the seven letters of the Hebrew alphabet that can take a dagesh kal is given in Sefer Yetzirah 4:7-14. There are, however, differing versions of this text, as explained by Aryeh Kaplan in his commentary on nthe Sefer Yetzirah. The Arizal's system is given in Etz Chaim 5:6.

chanoch adds: The 7 Hebreew letters refers to the letters with 2 sounds.

beit – chochma - right ear

gimel – bina - left ear

dalet – netzach - right eye

kaf – hod - left eye

pei – tiferet - right nostril

reish – daat - left nostril

tav – malchut – mouth

As we said, in the following system, the nose is considered as one entity and the skull is considered.

Nisan is associated with the gulgalta [of Nukva].

The gulgalta ["skull"] of a partzuf is its keter, which in psychological terms is the will to actualize the content of the partzuf. The exodus from Egypt was and is an act of will, as we see from the fact that those Jews who did not want leave Egypt remained there, perishing in the plague of darkness.

Iyar and Sivan are associated with the two ears [of Nukva].

Iyar is the month of counting the Omer, the preparation for the giving of the Torah, which occurred in Sivan. These two months are thus focused on hearing the word of G‑d. In the chart above, the two ears are chochma and bina, the sefirot of the intellect used for learning the Torah.

Tamuz and Av are associated with the two eyes….

Tamuz and Av are associated with the two eyes [of Nukva]. This is why the Temple was destroyed in the months of Tamuz and Av, as an expression of the verse, "My eyes, my eyes, flowed with water" (Lamentations 1:16) [the repetition] alluding to the two eyes.

Now, when we understand what these eyes are, [we know that] they are manifestations of netzach and hod. Therefore, the destruction occurred mainly in the left eye, the month of Av. This is the mystical meaning of the phrase "…sick the whole day" (Lamentation 1:13); [the word for "sick", "davah",] when spelled backwards, spells the word "hod".

Netzach is located on the right axis of the sefira-tree and hod on the left. These two sefirot are associated respectively with Tamuz and Av and the right and left eyes. Netzach and hod are associated with prophetic insight, the divine consciousness promoted by the Temple.

"Davah" is spelled: dalet-vav-hei.

"Hod" is spelled: hei-vav-dalet.

Both these verses are from the Book of Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah's dirge over the destruction of the first Temple.

Elul is associated with the nose [of Nukva].

In the associations above, the two nostrils are associated with tiferet and daat, which define the middle axis of the sefirotic tree, just as the nose is on the central axis of the face. In Sefer Yetzirah, Elul is associated with sexuality, carnal "knowledge" in the Biblical idiom.

This leaves the mouth, which is not associated explicitly with any month, but whose presence [in this array] is hidden.

The mouth, the organ of speech, is associated with malchut, the sefira of expression.

This same order applies to the [association between Nukva and the months due to its relationship with the] male, [Zeir Anpin]:

Tishrei is associated with the skull of the male.

chanoch adds: In the discussion above Nisan to Elul is considered female. Tishrai to Adar is considered male. This is the teachings of Chassidut. There is another opinion based on the idea that Nisan to Elul is potential and Tishrai to Adar are actual. This implies that Tishrai to Adar being actual are female and Nisan to Elul are male. This is the teachings of Kabbalah. Why does it matter? It will make a difference in certain meditations.

Just as Nisan is considered the first year of the month from the seasonal perspective, Tishrei is considered the first month in that years are counted from it.

Our ongoing process of self-refinement is more dependent on our own initiative during the "male" half of the year….

It is explained in Chasidut that our ongoing process of self-refinement is more dependent on our own initiative during the "male" half of the year, i.e. from Tishrei to Adar. During the "female" half of the year, i.e. from Nisan to Elul, G‑d takes the initiative and our job is just to capitalize and respond to this initiative. The clearest indication of this is the festival of Pesach, in which we were pulled out of Egypt by G‑d Himself. Similarly, the springtime renewal of nature, which occurs in Nisan, practically forces us to undergo a similar renewal of inspiration, and all we have to do is respond to it and ride the wave of renewal.

In contrast, the male half of the year begins in the fall, as night becomes longer and the forces of evil represented by darkness gain more and more control. During this half of the year, we have to summon more of our own inner strength to progress in our divine self-redefinition; hopefully we have stored up this strength during the spring and summer months, just as we eat during the winter from the food that has grown and been harvested in the spring and summer. The clearest expression of this dynamic is the High Holidays of the month of Tishrei, in which we work on ourselves intensely in order to establish a higher and more profound relationship with G‑d for the coming year. This process involves awakening our deep, innate desire and will to relate to G‑d and accomplish His will, which, as we said, is synonymous with the skull.

Cheshvan and Kislev are associated with the two ears [of Zeir Anpin].

Cheshvan possesses no festivals; this reflects the male abstraction of chochma. The festival of Kislev is Chanukah, in which the intellect of the Torah vanquished Greek pagan philosophy.

Tevet and Shevat are associated with the two eyes [of Zeir Anpin].

Adar is associated with the nose [of Zeir Anpin].

Here, too, the mouth['s place in this array] is hidden.

[The fact that the mouth is hidden] is the mystical reason behind the commandment of sanctifying the new month, in which the judges [of the rabbinical court] are required to verbally sanctify the month.

Astronomically, a lunar month is a fraction of a day longer than 29 days. Since calendar months can only be composed of full days, a calendar month can be either 29 or 30 days long, depending on when the new moon is sighted. When witnesses testified before the central court in Jerusalem that they had seen the new moon, the court declared that day the first day of the new month. This is called "sanctifying" the month, for once the first day of the month is determined, the day on which any holidays that fall in that month is also determined.

By using their mouths to verbally articulate the sanctification of the new month, the judges mystically complete the array of associations between the face-organs of malchut and the months.

chanoch adds: In modern times the verbal announcement is the three step process performed in orthodox and some conservative synagogues.

Now, since the mouth is missing from the male [array], the only month that may be intercalated is Adar.

chanoch adds: It would seem that the ARI agrees with the teachings of Chassidut with respect to the gender of the months. Yet the earlier Kabbalists teach differently. Ultimately each Student of Kabbalah will need to decide which path they choose to follow.

As we said, in order to keep the holiday of Pesach in the spring, i.e. after the vernal equinox, it was sometimes necessary to add a thirteenth lunar month to the year. The only month Jewish law allows to be doubled in order to do this is Adar.

The mystical reason for this is that in the array of face-organs, the order is: skull, ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. Since the mouth follows the nose - which is associated with the month of Adar -the only place the mouth can be used to insert another month into the array is after [the first] Adar.

This was the mistake of King Hezekiah, of blessed memory, who intercalated a second Nisan in the month of Nisan. His mistake was that we must only intercalate a second Adar, for it takes the place of the mouth of the male, and thus forms part of the preceding year, completing [it with] the mouth. Nisan, in contrast, is part of the next year.

In the beginning of his reign as king, Hezekiah restored the service of G‑d to its full force, after his wicked father, King Achaz, had suspended it. "Hezekiah then sent word to all of Israel and Judah…to perform the pesach-sacrifice to the L-rd, the G‑d of Israel. For the king and his officers…decided to perform the pesach-sacrifice in the second month, for they could not perform it in its time [i.e. in Nisan], for not enough priests had sanctified themselves yet, and the people had not been gathered to Jerusalem by then." (Chronicles II 30:1-3) In order to give the repenting populace time to purify themselves before offering the pesach-sacrifice, King Hezekiah decided to add an extra month to the calendar.

According to one opinion in the Talmud, he made this decision in the month of Nisan, and added a second Nisan so that the festival of Pesach could be postponed. According to other opinions, he did intercalate a second Adar, but he did this on 30th day of Adar, which is forbidden by the Sages. Since the 30th day of Adar can potentially be proclaimed the 1st day of Nisan (if witnesses testify that they saw the new moon on that day), the sages declared that this potential sanctity disqualifies it from being declared the 1st day of the intercalated Adar. In other words, we may not declare the month that would have otherwise been Nisan to be a second Adar on the very day this month could have become Nisan [had we not decided to intercalate]. When King Hezekiah did this, he was interfering with the proper order of the months. (Sanhedrin 12ab)

* * * * *

Regarding the [order of the] months, we have already explained (in our exposition of the prayers of Rosh Hashanah) that [the months] from Tishrei to Adar [are associated with] the six extremities of the male [partzuf, Zeir Anpin]. In this context, Adar is associated with the nose of the male, and Nisan with the mouth of the male, which becomes the skull of the female. This is because the breath issues from the mouth of the male [in order] to [become] the skull of the female.

The month of Nisan thus plays both roles of male mouth and female skull. The words of the male inspire the female, transforming into her will.

Through the breath of the judges the skull of Nukva is formed….

Thus, Nisan is used both by him and by her. This is why we intercalate the month of Adar and none other, so that the intercalated month may assume the association of the mouth of the male. For the same reason, [the court] must sanctify the month verbally and proclaim, "Sanctified!", as it is written, "[these are the festivals of G‑d…] that you shall proclaim in their [proper] times." (Lev. 23:4) For through the breath [of the judges] the skull [of Nukva] is formed.

The judges here act as the mouth of Zeir Anpin, sanctifying time [i.e. Nukva], inspiring the collective source of the souls of the Jewish people to bring divinity into reality through sanctified islands of time [the festivals], each of which grants us a unique and essential aspect of divine consciousness, which we then transfer into our daily lives.

The text now proceeds with a sentence that Rabbi Chaim Vital argues is incorrect from a philosophical or semantic perspective.

There are also six [months] from Nisan to Tishrei, in which scheme Elul is the female nose and Tishrei her mouth and his skull.

If this is true, then the same process works in reverse. But…

It appears to me, Chaim [Vital], that the mouth can only be associated with Nisan [and not with Tishrei], when his mouth becomes her skull. But Tishrei is only his skull, and not her mouth. For his skull cannot be formed from her mouth, and the proof of this is that [if it were so] we would intercalate Elul just like Adar.

Since we don't, it means that there can be no second Elul to assume the association of the mouth of the female. The mouth of the female therefore, in this paradigm, remains hidden, and does not become the skull of the male. What this essentially is saying is that there is a difference between the male and female archetypes, and that they are not simply inverses of each other. True, the female can inspire the male, but then she is manifesting her male aspect.

[Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Taamei HaMitzvot; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."]

The Power in a Name

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

The consciousness of intellect is altogether different from that of emotion.

The description of the final three plagues, that of locusts, darkness, and the slaying of the firstborn, opens with the verse: "And G‑d said to Moses, "Come to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, in order that I place these signs of Mine within him."" (Ex. 10:1)

Pharaoh did not know about [the aspect of G‑d signified by] the Name Havayah, and in fact denied [the aspect signified by] this Name [G‑d forbid], as it is written, "I do not know G‑d [Havayah]." (Ex. 5:2) However, he did recognize [the aspect of G‑d signified by] the Name Elokim, as it is written, "It is the finger of G‑d [Elokim]." (Ex. 8:15)

The Name Havayah signifies transcendent G‑dliness, the aspect of divinity that is not limited by the laws of nature. Elokim, in contrast, signifies the aspect of divinity that G‑d uses to run the world and is thus subject to the laws of nature. The numerical value of Elokim [86] is the same as that of the word for "nature" [ha-teva]. Pharaoh was the ruler of Egypt, the Hebrew word for which [mitzrayim] literally means "limitations." Pharaoh and Egypt knew only of G‑d as present in the limited functioning of nature, the laws of cause and effect, survival of the fittest, and so on. He was therefore the archetypal antithesis to the Jewish notion of G‑d the Creator and therefore Master of nature.

...in order for an idea to give birth to an emotion, the intellect-consciousness must be greatly reduced.

This is because Pharaoh received his sustenance [and consciousness] from the neck of Zeir Anpin, in which are present the three immature mentalities, known as [Pharaoh's] chief butcher, chief butler, and chief baker.

The consciousness of intellect is altogether different from that of emotion, so in order for an idea to give birth to an emotion, the intellect-consciousness must be greatly reduced. When this happens, and only the synoptic conclusion of the intricate intellectual development of the idea remains, the individual's consciousness is free enough of its prior intellectual preoccupation to react emotionally to the concept. However, this contraction process entails an inherent danger: that the full intellectual realization that was present when consciousness was focused on the idea will be forgotten. If this happens, then the person is vulnerable to all sorts of spurious ideas and distorted emotional responses.

Anatomically, this passage from the head to the heart is manifest as the throat. Just as the intellect must be contracted in order to become emotion, so are the head and torso bridged by the narrow neck.

The front of the head - particularly the face - reflects the full expression of the intellect (as it is written, "the wisdom of a man lights up his face" Ecclesiastes 8:1). The neck, being the back of the head, is out of touch with this full consciousness and therefore signifies the danger of forgetting the full import of the idea as the idea travels from the head to the heart. Thus, the Hebrew for Pharoah [pei-reish-ayin-hei] is composed of the same letters that make up the word for "the neck" [in Hebrew, 'ha-oref', composed of the letters hei-ayin-reish-pei].

The three main channels descending through the throat are the trachea, the esophagus, and the jugular vein. These three are the physical manifestation of the contraction of the three mentalities of the intellect [chochma, bina, and daat] that allows for emotional response, as we have said. Inasmuch as they "feed" the mentality of Pharaoh, i.e., that of constricted divine consciousness, they are personified by his three henchmen, the chief butcher, the chief butler, and the chief baker.

The three of them are Names Elokim.

The Name Elokim signifies the contraction of divinity into the context of nature, as we said.

Since Pharaoh did not receive his sustenance from the expanded consciousness [of the intellect], which is [three] Names Havayah - for whenever they are manifest the forces of evil are annihilated - he did not know them.

As long as the full, properly developed intellectual conception of a divine idea is retained in an individual's consciousness, there is no chance for evil to make inroads into his thinking. It would be totally incongruous for evil to suggest transgressing G‑d's will or focusing on oneself when the individual's mind is filled with divine awareness. Only when the revelation of divinity [signified by the Name Havayah] has been occulted [this being signified by the Name Elokim] can evil stand a chance of derailing the individual from his intended path.

Now, even when Pharaoh acknowledged [the existence of the Name Havayah] due to the plagues that were visited upon him, he still only wanted to acknowledge the aspect judgment of the Name Havayah. This is alluded to in the verse: (Ex. 9:27) "This time I [admit that I] have sinned; G‑d [Havayah] is the righteous one, and my people and I are the wicked ones." In this verse, the initials of the words for "this time, G‑d is the righteous one, and I" [in Hebrew ha-pa'am YKVK ha-tzadik ve-ani, hei-yud-hei-vav] spell [a permutation of] the Name Havayah [KYKV], in which the first hei precedes the yud [which it normally follows], and the second hei precedes the vav [which it normally follows].

The Name Havayah, derived from the verb "to be" and thus carrying the meaning of "to bring into being," signifies the process through G‑d creates and sustains the world. The four stages of this process (contraction, expansion, descent, expansion) are represented by the four letters of the Name. When the Name is written as it usually is, this indicates the normal orderly progression of creativity. A permutation of the Name signifies some variation on this normative progression. Here, the first pair of letters of the Name are reversed and then the second pair are also reversed.

...it was G‑d's attribute of judgment that smote them.

This [permutation of the] Name Havayah is the feminine [manifestation, that] of judgment, as is known, in which judgment prevails over mercy.

As we have explained previously, the feminine principle in creation is that which is driven to reveal and manifest divinity in the world. Since pursuing this objective entails a certain amount of danger to the individual's divine consciousness, the feminine elements of creation are endowed with a heightened sense of judgment and discernment, which enables them to identify evil in all its disguises.

This allusion also alludes to the fact that it was G‑d's attribute of judgment that smote them.

Now, G‑d wanted to subdue [Pharaoh's] heart and nullify him in order that [the forces of evil] not gain a foothold through him, and in order that the Jewish people be able to be freed from his dominion. Therefore, it was not enough that he acknowledged the Name Havayah only in its manifestation in judgment.

Pharaoh had to acknowledge the masculine aspect of the Name Havayah as well, i.e., the aspect of mercy, which is openly supernatural.

Therefore it is said, "…in order that I place these signs of Mine within him." [The word for "sign" (in Hebrew 'ot') also means "letter." The word for "signs of Mine" ('ototai') may be split into the word for "signs" (otot) and the letter yud. Since the numerical value of the letter yud is ten,] the mystical meaning is thus: "…in order that I place these ten letters within him." This refers to the full spelling-out of the Name Havayah, in which there are [usually] ten letters. For G‑d sought to fill in the Name Havayah that Pharaoh acknowledged with its inner letters, giving a total of ten letters.

When [judgment] functions independently of its complement, mercy, there is clear danger of degeneration back into the constrictions of the natural order.

The spelling-out of the Name Havayah indicates the full manifestation and revelation of this Name. Pharaoh would thus be forced to acknowledge the full spectrum of meanings in the Name Havayah, and not only its aspect of judgment.

Pharaoh identified with the judgmental aspect of the Name Havayah since - even though the Name Havayah in general indicates G‑d's transcendent power that is not limited to the bonds of nature - judgment in any case implies a harsh submission to the rule of law, leaving no room for overturning the established order. When this divine attribute functions independently of its complement, mercy, there is clear danger of degeneration back into the constrictions of the natural order. This is what Pharaoh sensed - as does evil in general. This is what necessitates the extra precautions against evil attaching itself to holiness that apply to all feminine elements of all creation.

As you know, Pharaoh attaches himself [to Zeir Anpin, i.e., holiness] at the level of the Names Elokim of constricted consciousness. When the Names Havayah manifest themselves within these Names Elokim, the latter are nullified. This is the mystical meaning of "…within him": within Pharaoh himself.

The conventional translation of these words is "in his midst," or something similar. The literal translation is, however, closer to the mystical meaning of the verse.

To return to our subject: G‑d wanted to smite them from this point on using the power of the spellings-out of the Names Havayah. Now, the plagues that were going to occur after this point were that of locusts, that of darkness, that of killing the firstborn, followed by the splitting of the sea. Corresponding to these four are the four different methods of spelling-out the Name Havayah, in ascending order: The locusts came from spelling out the Name Havayah with the letter hei, giving a numerical value of 52. The darkness came from spelling out the Name with the letter alef, giving a numerical value of 45. The smiting of the firstborn came from spelling out the Name such that its numerical value is 63, and the splitting of the sea from spelling out the Name with the letter yud, giving a numerical value of 72.

As we have explained previously, there are four principle ways in which the Name Havayah can be spelled out, giving four different numerical values:

Name of filling – yud - hei - vav – hei – Value

the yud-filling - yud-vav-dalet – hei-yud - vav-yud-vav – hei-yud - 72

the combined filling – yud-vav-dalet – hei-yud - vav-alef-vav – hei-yud - 63

the alef-filling - yud-vav-dalet – hei-alef - vav-alef-vav – hei-alef - 45

the hei-filling - yud-vav-dalet hei-hei - vav-vav – hei-hei - 52

To explain: If you picture every letter hei as composed of three letters vav, the spelling-out that equals 52 will then equal 104.

In place of every hei (= 5) substitute three vav's (3 x 6 = 18). Thus: 52 - (4 x 5) + (4 x 18) = 52 - 20 + 72 = 104.

Now, 2 x 104 (which is the numerical value of Yitzchak) is [208,] the numerical value of the word for "locust."

Yitzchak ("Isaac"): yud-tzadik-chet-kuf = 10 + 90 + 8 + 100 = 208.

Arbeh ("locust"): alef-reish-beit-hei = 1 + 200 + 2 + 5 = 208.

This is the mystical meaning of the verse, "I multiplied [Abraham's] seed and I gave him Isaac." (Joshua 24:50)

The word for "I multiplied" [Hebrew 'arbeh'] is the same as the word for "locust." Presumably is this because locusts travel in swarms.

Together, ["Isaac" and "locusts"] produce the numerical value of the word "brow" [in Hebrew 'kadkod']. They represent two spellings-out of the Name Havayah, each having the numerical value of 52 and being spelled-out with the letter hei, as we have illustrated. This is the mystical meaning of the verse (Gen. 49:26) "…and as the brow of the consecrated one of his brothers," which [Jacob] said of Joseph, who was the child of his old age.

To explain: When the Names Havayah that signify expanded consciousness enter into those Names Elokim that signify constricted consciousness, the latter descend into the throat. These three Names Elokim possess 15 letters [3 x 5], 15 being the numerical value of the Name Kah [yud-hei = 10 + 5]. These subsequently descend as far as the sefira of yesod, which is personified by Joseph. There they become manifest as three times the Name Havayah spelled out to equal 52, three times 52 being [156] the numerical value of "Joseph" [in Hebrew Yosef is yud-vav-samech-pei, 10 + 6 + 60 + 80 = 156].

No more was found of this manuscript.

[Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Shaar HaPesukim and Likutei Torah; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard." available at Kabbala Online Shop]

Depths of Exile and Redemption: Part 1

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

In yet unrectified realms, evil battles for spiritual territory.

The first verses of parashat Bo read:

And G‑d said to Moses: "Come to Pharaoh, for I have made his heart heavy, and the heart of his servants, that I may place these signs of Mine in his midst, and so that you can tell your children and grandchildren how I mocked Egypt, and about My signs that I placed upon them, and so that you can know that I am G‑d [Havayah]." (Ex. 10:1-2)

We should ask:

1. Why does this verse not read: "that I may place these plagues of Mine in his midst?" Why does it refer to "these signs of Mine?"

2. Why does it read "…in his midst" instead of "upon him"?

[In order to answer this,] know that the four exiles differed one from the other. In one, evil enveloped the "head" of holiness; in one, it enveloped the "torso"; in one, it enveloped the "feet". The common denominator, however, is that in all exiles, evil envelops holiness and conceals it. The allusion to this is in the verse: "The wicked crowns the righteous." (Habakkuk 1:4)

Each exile obstructed a certain aspect of holiness, keeping it from shining and spreading its corresponding level of divine consciousness into the world. By surviving and overcoming these exiles, the Jewish people neutralized the corresponding powers of evil to oppose holiness.

The Hebrew word for "crowns", "machtir", in the verse quoted also means "surrounds", just as a crown surrounds and encompasses the head.

You might think that there are five exiles - Egypt, Babylonia, Media, Persia, Greece, and the present exile - so how can we speak of only four? The answer is that Egypt and Babylonia were equivalent, equally deep and of the same nature. Our sages indicated this by saying "Pishon refers to Babylon" Bereishit Raba 16:4) [and] "Pishon refers to Egypt." (Rashi on Gen. 2:10)

The four rivers...express the consciousness of divine oneness…

The four rivers that originated in the river that watered the Garden of Eden express the consciousness of divine oneness present in the Garden splitting into the consciousness of plurality that informs reality outside the garden. Thus, they epitomize the idea of exile, i.e. the state of lower consciousness that leaves us with the impression that the world is governed by a plurality of opposing forces. This gives rise to the disorientation and confusion that characterizes the state of exile.

Homiletically, the verse "A river went forth from Eden to water the garden; from there it divided and became four heads" (Gen. 2:10) is taken to allude to the four archetypal empires.

In the Egyptian exile, evil clothed the "neck" of holiness, i.e. the three highest sefirot all at once. In the Babylonian exile, evil clothed the "head" [of holiness], as it is written, "You are the head of gold." (Daniel 2:38) Of this it is written, "Her [i.e. Jerusalem's] enemies were the head," (Lamentations 1:5) meaning that they clothed the [holy] head. Thus, these two exiles were equivalent; that is why they are counted as one.

The Book of Daniel opens with the story of Daniel's interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, in which he saw a great statue, the various parts of which represented the empires that would dominate the exiles. The head represented Babylonia, the torso and arms represented Media and Persia, the torso represented Greece, and the legs represented Rome.

Media and Persia [clothed] the "arms" [of holiness]; this is why they are counted as two, inasmuch as there are two arms. Greece [clothed] the "torso"; it is therefore counted as one. [In] the present exile [evil clothes] the legs [of holiness], there are therefore two [aspects to it:] Edom and Ishmael, corresponding to the two legs and feet.

The former Roman Empire [Europe and North Africa] was inherited by Christianity and Islam.

This is alluded to in the verse: "…who have defamed the heels of your Mashiach" (Psalms 89:52), since this exile is that of the feet. That is why it is written, "And [the stone] smote the image on its feet." (Daniel 2:34)

This exile is the final one before the advent of the Mashiach. Both Christianity and Islam have corrupted the doctrine of the Mashiach, known to them as the "messiah". The downfall of the whole stature/statue of exile will be a blow to its "feet", i.e. to this final exile.

[To continue with Part 2: The Butcher in the Throat, see below.

(Please be forewarned that Parts 2 and 3 of this series are quite difficult and most appropriate for the advanced student of Kabbala.)

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim.

The Butcher in the Throat: Part 2

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

The three channels of sustenance in the neck correspond to three names of G-d.

To read Part 1: Depths of Exile and Redemption, see above

The Egyptian exile is referred as [encompassing] the throat, for Pharaoh was situated on the neck of holiness, which is opposite the throat.

The word "Pharaoh" [spelled pei-reish-ayin-hei] permutes to spell "the neck" [in Hebrew, "ha oref", spelled hei-ayin-reish-pei]. In this context, the word "neck" connotes the nape, or back of the neck.

Evil can never face holiness directly…

This is because evil can never face holiness directly, for [holiness] is a great light, and this blinds evil. This is the mystical meaning of our sages' statement that "the wicked do not greet the Shechinah," (Sota 42a) for they cannot face it directly. Rather, they are attached to it from the back, facing the Shechinah's back, and this is how they derive their sustenance.

In Hebrew, the idiom for "to greet" is literally "to receive the face of". If we imagine the forces of evil as cosmic leeches or other such sucking creatures, the imagery of them sucking off the back of the body conveys the idea that they receive only minimal life-force from holiness. The front of the body houses much more vitality.

Pharaoh was facing the neck, sitting and feeding off it. There are three channels of sustenance in the neck: the trachea, the esophagus, and the blood vessels.

"The blood vessels" are probably the two common carotid arteries, which supply blood to the brain.

These are the three names Elokim, whose numerical value [plus the kolel] is the same as that of the word for "throat" [in Hebrew, "garon", 259].

"Elokim" is spelled: alef-lamed-he -yud-mem = 1 + 30 + 5 + 10 + 40 = 86. 3 x 86 = 258.

"Garon" is spelled: gimel-reish-vav-nun = 3 + 200 + 6 + 50 = 259.

The name "Elokim" signifies contraction [tzimtzum], in this context, the contraction of life force flowing from the head to the torso.

Joseph manifested the "covenant of the tongue", which includes them all. [This is] also [evident from the fact that] the numerical value of the word for "tongue" [in Hebrew, "lashon", 386] is that of two names Elokim, one simple [86] and one spelled out with yuds [300].

Speech and sexuality represent the individual's potential to influence the outside world….

The "covenant of the tongue" is first alluded to in Sefer Yetzira (I:3), being mentioned as opposite the other covenant, that of the sexual organ. These two organs - those of speech and sexuality - represent the individual's potential to influence the outside world. Since they are the two main locations of exchange and contact between the individual and his environment, a not-yet rectified world, they must be guarded and their holiness preserved. Hence, the two covenants.

These two covenants are mutually dependent. If a person's sexuality is unrectified, so will be his speech, and vice versa. Thus, Joseph, who usually personifies sexual purity, here plays the role of purity of speech, the opposite of the degenerate spiritual state of Egypt. We see here how unholy speech has the effect of blocking the passage of holy energy from the intellect [the head] to the emotions [the body].

"Lashon" is spelled: lamed-shin-vav-nun = 30 + 300 + 6 + 50 = 386.

Elokim spelled out with yuds:

alef-lamed-pei, lamed-mem-dalet, hei-yud, yud-vav-dalet, mem-mem = (1 + 30 + 80) + (30 + 40 + 4) + (5 + 10) + (10 + 6 + 4) + (40 + 40) = 300.

This is why [Joseph] was sold to the chief butcher, for [this aspect of] evil comprises three facets, corresponding to the trachea, the esophagus, and the blood vessels, which were embodied by Pharaoh's three deputies: the chief butler, the chief baker, and the chief butcher [respectively].

We are using the term "chief butler" to translate the Hebrew "the deputy in charge of drink."

The chief butler corresponded to the trachea. True, no liquid can enter the trachea, so how can we assert that the chief butler corresponds to it? The answer is that the lungs are particularly hot, and therefore exemplify gevura. As it is stated in the Zohar, "the lion faces the right," (Zohar II:80b, 120a, III:241a, etc.) the numerical value of "gevura" being the same as that of the word for "lion" [in Hebrew, "aryeh"]. It tends toward the right in order that [chesed and gevura] inter-include. Therefore, since it is so hot, it draws to itself all types of moisture and thereby cools off, and then fans the heart. This is why the chief butler corresponds to the trachea.

We exhale hot air, indicating that the lungs are naturally hot. Heat and fire exemplify gevura, power and strength. The lion, the strong beast, also exemplifies gevura, yet in Ezekiel's vision of the Chariot (Ezekiel 1:10), it is on the right side, the side of chesed. This signifies rectified gevura, i.e. gevura tempered by chesed.

"Gevura" is spelled: gimel-beit-vav-reish-hei = 3 + 2 + 6 + 200 + 5 = 216.

"Aryeh" is spelled: alef-reish-yud-hei = 1 + 200 + 10 + 5 = 216.

The chief baker corresponds to the esophagus, which in turn corresponds to gevura.

The baker bakes bread, the main food, swallowed by the esophagus.

The chief butcher corresponds to blood vessels in the middle [of the neck]. There are two [such blood vessels], leaning in either direction.

The butcher slaughters the animal, draining its blood. He therefore is associated with the blood vessels.

Joseph [as we said] corresponds to all these aspects [on the side of holiness].

This is the meaning of the verse: "Do not interpretations [of dreams] belong to G‑d [Elokim]? Please tell me [your dream]." (Gen. 40:8) Since interpretations come from Joseph, he therefore said, "Please tell me." He meant: since you derive your sustenance from and are governed entirely by the name Elokim - this being the meaning of "Do not [the] interpretations [of your life] belong to G‑d [Elokim]" - you, Pharaoh, have no conception of the name Havayah, only of the name Elokim. And, indeed, [Pharaoh] said, "I do not know Havayah." (Ex. 5:2) He had no connection to this name. On the contrary, when this name is revealed, [Pharaoh and the evil he personifies] is completely destroyed.

Pharaoh and the Egyptians therefore] did not recognize that this name is what was attacking them [in the plagues]. Only at the sea did they finally recognize this, as they said, "I will flee the Children of Israel for Havayah is fighting for them." (Ex. 14:25) This implies that until then, they thought that the plagues came from the name Elokim. They therefore did not fear them, for they, too, had a connection to the name Elokim. But once they realized that the plagues originated in the name Havayah, they said, "I will flee," because it threatened to destroy them completely.

This is why God now said to Moses, "Come to Pharaoh…in order that I place these signs of Mine…." That is, "do not think that I am going to relate to him through the name Elokim, and that the plagues are going to originate in the name Elokim, to which he has some connection. Rather, I am going 'to place these signs of Mine in his midst,' meaning My name Havayah." This is also explains the use of the phrase "in his midst", [referring to the way G‑d is going to relate to Pharaoh].

The Hebrew word for "signs", "otot", is similar to the Hebrew word for "letters", "otiot", inasmuch as letters are symbols for the sounds they represent. Thus, mystically, this phrase may mean: "…in order that I place the letters of My true name [Havayah] in his midst." His "midst" means "in his consciousness".

This is what Joseph meant [in his reply to Pharaoh]: "G‑d relates to you [presently] only through His name Elokim, and this is why the interpretation of your dreams is through this name. Therefore, please tell them to me, since I comprise all these levels and I can therefore interpret them."

As said above, Joseph, epitomizing the covenant of the tongue, comprised all the holy aspects corresponding to the deputies of Pharaoh.

Thus, when the chief butler related his dream, it was all in proper order. He said, "The vine had three branches," (Gen. 40:10) these being the three deputies. The word for "deputy" [in Hebrew, "sar"] represents two names Elokim, one in the progressive iteration and the other spelled out with the letter yud.

"Sar" is spelled: sin-reish. The numerical value of the letter sin is 300; that of reish is 200. We have seen above how the name Elokim when spelled out using the yud has the numerical value of 300. The progressive iteration of the name Elokim is as follows:

Alef alef-lamed alef-lamed-hei alef-lamed-hei-yud alef-lamed-hei-yud-mem =200

1 + (1 + 30) + (1 + 30 + 5) + (1 + 30 + 5 + 10) + (1 + 30 + 5 + 10 + 40) = 200

5(1) + 4(30) + 3(5) + 2(10) + 1(40) = 5 + 120 + 15 + 20 + 40 = 200.

Thus, the word for "deputy" implies the name Elokim, and the three deputies were three names Elokim, as above.

[Joseph] interpreted his dream: "You will put Pharaoh's cup…." He hoped that he would be connected to him and be on the right [side], and thereby be rescued through him.

After interpreting the chief butler's dream and saying that he will be spared, Joseph asked him to remember him to Pharaoh and have him freed from jail.

But at this point, he was connected to the chief butcher, who was in the middle. That is why he [later] married his daughter.

chanoch adds: The chief butcher is Potifar

Joseph mistakenly thought to connect himself to chesed, when in fact he was connected to tiferet. Joseph, personifying yesod, is firmly grounded in the middle axis of the sefirot. It was thus not proper for him to seek salvation from someone associated with the right axis. Sexual fidelity and purity is about balance, not leaning toward one extreme.

Joseph married Osnat, the daughter of Potiphar, the chief butcher. (Gen. 41:45, 37:36)

The chief baker began his dream with the word, "even" [in Hebrew, "af"]. This signifies the addition of gevura and strength. Even though he also mentioned three wicker baskets, signifying the three deputies, as they each inter-include the others, he mentioned all three only after he said the word "even". [Joseph] turned his dream upside down, and interpreted it to mean that he would die.

This was evidently because the word "even" indicated that the chief baker emphasized gevura too much. In Hebrew, the word "even" used here is "af", which also means "nose", an idiom often used to refer to anger.

…for the throat is parched during its exile…

Since the exile [of Egypt] was at the level of the throat, from which issues speech, Moses [the redeemer from this exile] had "uncircumcised lips" and could not talk [well]. This is the meaning of the verse "…my throat is parched" (Psalms 69:4), for the throat is parched during its exile.

In order to redeem the Jewish people from exile, Moses had to experience it himself. This he did by being hard of speech.

The five letters of the name Elokim signify the five states of gevura, and produce the 120 permutations in Zeir Anpin. This number is the numerical value of the word for "shadow" [in Hebrew, "tzeil"].

The name Elokim is composed of 5 letters. 5 letters permute in 120 ways: 5 = 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 120.

"Tzeil" is spelled: tzadik-lamed = 90 + 30 = 120.

The Hebrew word for "shadow" ["tzeil"] is related to the word for "image" ["tzelem" in Hebrew].

Tzelem" is spelled: tzadik-lamed-mem. Thus, "tzelem" is "tzeil" with the addition of a final mem. This letter usually indicates sealing off, since its form is a closed square.

The word for "shadow" ["tzeil"] signifies these 120 [permutations of the name] Elokim, which are male in nature. The word for "image" ["tzelem"] signifies these 120 [permutations in their] female [version]. [The latter] are sealed within [Nukva], appearing as two doors [closing it off] so that evil cannot derive any sustenance from him.

We thus look at the word "tzelem" as the word "tzel" in essence, with the incidental addition of the final mem.

We therefore find the word for "shadow" in the plural, as in the verse "The shadows have fled" (Songs 2:17). This refers to the 120 male [permutations] and the 120 female [permutations]. But the word for "image" appears only in the singular, not in the plural, for the final mem is affixed only in the female.

To continue with Part 3: The Finger of G‑d, see below

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim