Candle on the River

Kabbalistic meditations on Chanukah show that redemption depends on consciousness

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

In the following meditation, the Ari introduces us to the mystical methods by which, in the merit of Chanukah, we draw down sublime holiness to lower realms rarely privy to such lofty divine light. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches that the holiday of Chanukah, whose name is rooted in the Hebrew word "chinuch", meaning "education" or "becoming accustomed", guides us in our constant struggle with the forces attempting to distance us from G‑d - those of the power of impure imagination, or in Hebrew "m'damei"; by purifying our imaginative capabilities we are able to break the primary force behind all our negative qualities and illusions. (Likutei Halachot, hilchot Chanukah 1:1)

The word "m'damei", whose numerical value (89) equals that of the word "Chanukah", is rooted in the letters dalet and mem, which spell the Hebrew word for "blood". Blood represents the negative powers of judgment, our mission it is to sweeten. Via the 44 (the numerical value of dalet, 4, and mem, 40) lights we kindle throughout Chanukah (including the shammas) and the awakening of consciousness they embody, the kelipot become nullified before us. - see the note below As we witness so clearly in our times, all that seems to stand between our present situation and complete national redemption is our resolve and clarity of our national will. In light of these insights, Chanukah, in which we celebrate our redemption from foreign powers which attempt to delude us into abandoning our G‑d and His Torah, is a particularly auspicious time for meditation, especially on the lights and lamps of the Chanukah menora.

Note: There is a custom to increase charity giving of money - gelt – in Yiddush during Chanukah. This custom is also related to the Aramaic word for money" is "dami", which shares the same root letters as the above.

The mystical meditations one should have for the lighting of the [Chanukah] lights primarily revolve around one supernal and complete mystical unification called "Ner" [Hebrew for "candle"]….Briefly, there are three primary aspects of the unification of Zeir Anpin and Nukva: Havayah [united] with Eh-yeh [which has a numerical value of 47], Havayah with Elokim [equaling 112], and Havayah with Ado-nai [equaling 91]. Sometimes one aspect becomes united, sometimes two, and sometimes all three, in which the above become completely unified - and [then] Nukva is called "Ner" [whose numerical value is 250], equaling the total of the above six divine names.

Havayah = 26 + Eh-yeh = 21 = 47


Havayah = 26 + Elokim = 86 = 112


Havayah = 26 + Ado-nai = 65 = 91


47 + 112 +91


47 + 112 +91 = 250

"Ner", spelled nun = 50, reish = 200 = 250

Kolel can be used as well. The Kolel = one for each name, as will be explained

In the first blessing ["…Who has commanded us to light the Chanukah candle" = Lihadlik Ner Chanukah], all three [above unifications] are hinted at [in the word "candle"].

In the second blessing ["…Who created miracles…"], the second unification is hinted

And in the third blessing ["…Who has given us life…"], the lowest of all is hinted at.

During the holiday, the loftiest of supernal levels of holiness are actually accessible even in the lowest of realms…

I [Rabbi Chaim Vital] have found in another manuscript that the first name Havayah [the one unified with Eh-yeh] should be Ab [72], spelled out with yuds, the second Havayah [the one unified with Elokim] should be that of SaG [63], and the third Havayah [the one unified with Ado-nai] should be that of MaH [spelled out with alefs, 45].One should meditate on these three [ways of spelling out the name] Havayah when one says the word "l'hadleek" [meaning "to light", in the first blessing], which has the numerical value of these three names, Ab, SaG, Mah.

Ab = 72 + SaG = 63 + Mah = 45 + Plus 1 for the kolel = "l'hadleek" = 180. LeHadleek is spelled lamed (30),hei (5), dalet (4), lamed (30), yud (10), kuf (100) plus the kolel = 180.

Ab = 72 נר יוד אהיה ויו יהיה יוד אהילואוההיים יודאהאדואונהאי

[Also,] if one spells out the name Eh-yeh in the above meditation with yuds, equaling 161, uniting it with the Havayah spelled with yuds, equaling 72, one gets the numerical value of the word "regel" [Hebrew for "foot", equaling 233]. This hints at the fact that Chanukah is called a "pilgrimage festival" [in Hebrew, "regel", literally meaning "foot"], among the other holidays, as is mentioned in the handwritten notes in the introduction to the Tikunei Zohar [even though it is not literally one of the three primary pilgrimage festivals]...This is the secret of the concept that the optimal time to light one's Chanukah menora is "until feet [literally 'foot', 'regel'] cease in the marketplace"…

The commandment to publicize the miracle of Chanukah demands that we light our menoras in a place visible to passers-by and at a time not so late that no one will be found in the streets to see them. The above term hints that the power of Chanukah is so great that, during the holiday, the loftiest of supernal levels of holiness (represented by the above unification of divine names, the "foot" - or "regel") are actually accessible even in the lowest of realms. These less than lofty dominions are represented by the term "marketplace" (in Hebrew, "shuk", related to the word for "thigh", associated with the sefira of hod, the eighth sefira from above), a place characterized by diffusion, disharmony, and susceptibility to the External Forces. (Ibid. 2:6, 3:1) Chanuka shows us that sparks of holiness are everywhere and gives us the ability to redeem them, shining holy light even in realms of darkness.

During the blessing…one should meditate on the supernal River…

One should meditate on the idea that the initials of the words "…to light the Chanukah candle" [in Hebrew, "l'hadleek ner Chanukah", in the first blessing] are the holy name called "Nachal" [meaning "stream" or "river"], which emanates from the initials of the words "He preserves kindness for two-thousand [years]" [in Hebrew, "notzer chesed l'alefim", the eighth and ninth of the Thirteen Attributes of Divine Mercy], as is known. The significance of this is [to show] that light [i.e. divine sustenance] is transmitted from supernal Imma to Zeir Anpin, in order that he have enough strength to connect with the three above unifications, those of the Candle Meditation.

Generally speaking, once access to the sefira of bina, the eighth sefira when counting from below and the lowest of the sefirot associated with the "head" (keter, chochma, bina) has been achieved, so too are the remainder of the supernal sefirot of the "head" accessible. In the same way, the eighth of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, that of "Notzer Chesed", grants access to the totality of the thirteen. The eight-branched Chanuka menora as well as the eight days of the Chanukah festival hint at this deep secret.

Thus, [during the blessing "…to light the Chanukah candle"] one should meditate on the supernal River [in Hebrew, "nachal", the initials of the blessing "l'hadleek ner Chanukah"], that it is the spelling-out of the name Havayah with alefs [known as "Mah"] - with the letter alef of the spelling out of the letter vav transformed into the name Eh-yeh expanded [in Ribua], like this:

Yud, vav, dalet - ...להדליק נר חנוכה

Hei, alef Vav - alef, alef-hei, alef-hei-yud, alef-hei-yud-hei – vav - יוד הא ו א אה אהי אהיה ו הא

Hei, alef - 13 Attributes Components - - נוצר חסד לאלפים

This name – Lamed – Nun - Chait[which has the same numerical value as "nachal", "river", 88], indicates the concept of Imma, which "shines" [her light] unto Zeir Anpin as she is enclothed within him…

chanoch adds: This is why we leave the word “shell” out of the Chanukah Blessing unlike the Shabbat Candle Blessing.

After, in the word "Chanukah" [again, within the first blessing] have in mind that in the same way that [via our meditations] we drew divine sustenance from Imma to Zeir Anpin with the River Meditation [above] in order that they [Ed. likely Zeir Anpin and Nukva] unite via the three unifications, known as the Candle Meditation - so too, now we [utilize] the name Sag [Havayah spelled-out to equal 63], of Imma, whose numerical value plus the simple value of the name Havayah [26] adds up to 26 plus 63, the same as the numerical value of the word "Chanukah" [plus the kolel: 89].

Here, "Chanukah" is spelled: chet (8), nun (50), vav (6), chaf (20), hei (5), totaling 89, which is also the same as "nachal", the "River" mentioned above.

This [time, via the meditation] we are drawing divine sustenance in Nukva, which [itself] is called "Candle" [or "Ner"], and thus we arrive at the "Chanukah candle" ["Ner Chanukah" of the blessing].

Also, on the word "Chanukah", one should meditate upon what the Sages taught that it is made up of the words "chanu-" [meaning "encamped" or "rested"] and "-ka" [spelled chaf, hei, the numerical of 25], which is the secret of the 25 letters of the six names that a person should concentrate on in the Candle Meditation.

The Zohar (Tikunei Zohar, 13) teaches that these 25 letters are also the secret of the 25 letters of the verse "Hear, O' Israel, the Lord is our G‑d, the Lord is One." (Deut. 6:4)

[Translated and edited by Baruch Emanuel Erdstein from Shaar HaKavanot, Inyan Chanukah]

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

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".

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.

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.

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 "contaminateto 3 vessels " by association with false gods and ideologies.)

chanoch adds: This also relates to the concept of Kashrut as it relates to remove the process of cooking on Shabbat. Essentially there is no transfer of energy beyond 2 frames of reference. Unless it is directed for a higher purpose as part of the Plan of Creation. This is my opinion and my understanding of “a seal within a seal”.

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.)

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.

chanoch adds: Reflected light also known as returning light flows up not down. As such it adds a sefirahnto each of the sefirot it passes thru. These additional sefirot complete the partzufim and create a complete structure of 10 sefirot.

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;

Painting a Portrait of Mashiach

Rabbi Ginsburg of

“Nobody knows how they will be until they will be,” writes Maimonides about the Messianic days. Nonetheless, he dedicated two chapters in his “Laws of Kings and Wars” to a description of the Mashiach, the process of redemption and the Messianic days.


We are commanded to believe in the coming of Mashiach, to anticipate his arrival, and to do all in our ability to hasten it. Without a ‘picture’ of Mashiach, that would be quite difficult. The hard work of bringing the Mashiach demands a concrete picture to which we can aspire. (Even though it is not clear that what we are picturing will ultimately take place in reality).

chanoch adds:By having a picture we have a goal. Goals can change yet the goal demands actions to manifest the goal. We do not believe we know. We do not accept the command we choose to manifest the command by ourn own choice and free will.

The sages say that in Egypt, the Israelites would spend Shabbat reading the scrolls about the redemption and imagining that reality. Shabbat, the day of rest, is the time to envision a ‘picture’ of the redemption and then to work hard during the six days of the week by its light. (Of course, we can also ‘work’ toward this goal on Shabbat within the parameters of the holy day).

From the verse from which we learn about the three festive meals that we eat on Shabbat: “Eat it today, for today is Shabbat for God, today you will not find it in the field,”[missing footnote] we can discern three ‘portraits’ of Mashiach (who announces every day that he will come ‘today’).

“Eat it today” portrays the Mashiach as a good era for both the public and the individuals of the Nation of Israel and the entire world: Abundance, prosperity and peace. In the words of Maimonides, “In that time there will be no hunger and no war and no jealousy and competition, the good will be in great abundance and all delicacies will be as common as dust.”

chanoch adds: Yet we will not allow the good to become taken for granted. We will always demonstrate appreciation for the good.

“For today is Shabbat for God” portrays the ultimate inner goal of the Messianic days: Knowledge of God. In the words of Maimonides, “And the sages and the prophets did not desire the days of Mashiach…in order to eat and drink and be happy, but rather so that they would be free to study Torah and its wisdom…And there will be no other concern for all the world other than to know God alone. And thus Israel will be great sages and will know the concealed things and they will attain the knowledge of their Creator to the extent of the ability of man, as it says, ‘For the world will be full of the knowledge of God, like the waters cover the sea.”

“Today you will not find it in the field” reveals an even deeper portrait. The Mashiach is not outside, in the field. He does not fit in with any known portrait in reality. It is only when we fulfill the continuation of this directive, “Let each person sit in his place, no man shall go out from his place on the seventh day,”[missing footnote] that the Mashiach will sprout inside every person in his place. “Tzemach (plant) is his name and in his place, he will sprout.”[missing footnote]

These three portraits are three dimensions of the redemption, and actually three Mashiachs (or three faces of the Mashiach): Mashiach the son of Joseph, Mashiach the son of David and the Faithful Shepherd (Ra’aya Meheimna). The portrait opens our minds to understand the work that we need to do for the Mashiach.

The Mashiach of “Eat it today” demands hard work in order to effect good for the Nation of Israel and all humanity, with concern for both the general public and the individual, for both body and soul. He is constantly inspecting the results, employing his self-consciousness, to know what is actually accomplishing good results in reality.

The Mashiach of “For today is Shabbat for God” demands hard work in order to herald the message of God in the world and to open the world’s hearts to God. He aims for enlightened Divine consciousness, which forgets the needs of the dark world.

What work does the Mashiach of “Today you will not find it in the field” demand? Does he demand that we surrender our familiar portrait of Mashiach in the existing field of possibilities? The hardest work of all (but yet, the nearest to us of all, “for this thing is very near to you”) is to give birth to ourselves – to actualize our own infinite messianic potential, concealed within us – with natural consciousness of the treasures that we have deep inside.