Eleven Days Fall from Edom

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

Each stage of the Exodus hints at the process of the rectification of the entire Creation.

In the beginning of Parashat Devarim, Moses begins his farewell address to the Jewish people before his death. As part of this address, he rebukes them for having sinned. Although when they first left Egypt, G‑d was rushing them through the desert in order to enter the land of Israel as quickly as possible, their sins caused Him to prolong their stay in the desert for forty years. A sign of how fast they were originally traveling is the fact that, "it is eleven days [travel] from Horeb via Mt. Seir to Kadesh Barnea" (Deut. 1:2; see Rashi ad loc.) but they miraculously traversed this distance in three days.

chanoch adds: The number 11 can be considered all of creation – 10 Sefirot + the negative system. The number 11 is also the number of the components of the Ketoret which has the essence of drawing closer to the Creator. The number 3 is a code word for unification of all positive things eliminating the negative aspects. It represents the 3 columns of the Tree of Life. Thus one aspect of this story is to minimize the negative aspect.

The mystical interpretation of this verse is as follows:

[These eleven days] correspond to the seven primordial kings that died and the four backs of Abba and Imma.

As we know, the seven kings of Edom are the physical correlate to the seven lower sefirot of Tohu whose vessels shattered. This was the origin of evil, i.e. "separate-consciousness" as opposed to "divine consciousness". The lower worlds (Beriya, Yetzira, and Asiya) were constructed out of the fragments of these vessels, and thus are realms of increasingly non-divine-oriented consciousness.

chanoch adds: There are 8 Kings of Edom. 7 reportedly died. The 7 referred by the ARI are those who died.

Eleven, however, indicates an excess, a…wasting of divine energy….

In the collapse of the world of Tohu, not only did the seven lower, emotional sefirot shatter. The sefirot of the intellect suffered a less drastic fall as well. As we have explained previously, the reason they did not shatter completely is because of the difference between intellect and emotion. Intellect, being more abstract, is not an experience of self-assertion as much as emotion is. The sefirot of the intellect, therefore, did not clash with each other to the extent that the sefirot of the emotions did. However, since the overall tone of the world of Tohu is one of self-assertion and self-orientation, the external, or "back" of the intellectual sefirot of chochma and bina did clash somewhat and in the process lose some of their intensity, or "fall". The reason why there are four "backs" of these two sefirot is because they exist both in their totally abstract forms (which evolve in the next world, Atzilut, into the partzufim of Abba and Imma) and their more "applied" forms (which evolve in Atzilut into the partzufim of Yisrael Saba and Tevuna).

chanoch adds: In my opinion, the explanation for 4 backs – 2 each for Abba and Ema – is the two lines that come from Chochmah to Binah and Chesed; from Binah the two lines to Chochmah and Gevurah. These lines are pictured in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life Glyph.

Thus, we have a total of eleven fallen elements: the four partial collapses of the intellect and the seven total collapses of the emotions.

These [eleven fallen elements] are the source of these eleven days.

The number eleven is especially significant because it is one more than ten. Ten signifies holiness, the complete functioning unit of the ten sefirot. The array of ten sefirot is perfectly balanced and when operating as intended is the channel for the transmission and distribution of holiness (G‑d-consciousness) throughout reality.

Eleven, however, indicates and excess, a spillage, an over-doing or wasting of divine energy. To explain this we will digress briefly from this text and quote another passage from the Arizal's teachings: (Etz Chaim 11:10)

The significance of the eleven ingredients of the incense, the eleven goat-skin overhangings [of the Tabernacle], and the eleven curses in Parashat Ki Tavo [is as follows]:

There are ten kelipot of Nogah.

Kelipot are layers of evil. Nogah is the realm of evil that is "neutral", i.e. consciousness that is simply "non-Divine" as opposed to "anti-Divine".

They possess holy life-force, which enlivens them.

The divine life-force…hovers over their heads, and shines onto them from there….

In order for anything to exist, even evil, it must have some G‑dly life-force in it, i.e. some will from G‑d to keep it in existence. The difference, then, between evil and holiness is as follows:

As regards the ten holy sefirot, the [Divine] life-force [that enlivens them] is absorbed within them, and thus they are counted only as ten.

Since holiness is G‑d-consciousness, the holy sefirot are not an existential contradiction to G‑d's will, so G‑d's enlivening energy can become part of them.

But with regard to the kelipot, the [Divine] life-force [enlivening them] cannot be absorbed within them, because the holy does not mix with the profane. Rather, it hovers over their heads, and shines onto them from there. Together they are thus regarded as eleven [entities].

Since evil is by definition antithetical to G‑d-consciousness, it cannot "host" divine life-force.

This is the [mystical] meaning of [the statement of our sages]: "Whoever adds, detracts." (Sanhedrin 29a )

We return now to our original text.

[These eleven days] are "via Mt. Seir", this being the mystery of the kings of Edom.

The eleven fallen levels produce, as we have noted, the existence of evil in the lower worlds….

The eleven fallen levels produce, as we have noted, the existence of evil in the lower worlds ("lower" meaning "below Atzilut"). Mt. Seir is the abode of Esau, the wicked brother of Jacob, the progenitor of the kingdom of Edom. "Edom" in Hebrew means "red", and is thus associated with bloodshed and bloodlust, just as Esau chose to be a hunter rather than a farmer. Edom eventually produced the nation of Rome, which destroyed the holy Temple, decimated the Jewish people, and exiled them from their land.

These [eleven fallen levels also] give rise to the eleven overhangings of goat-skin.

The word "seir" in Hebrew means "goat". Although goats are kosher animals and were offered as sacrifices in the Temple, the Torah also makes reference to "goat-devils" (Lev. 17:7; Isaiah 13:21) associating the goat with evil. Thus, the eleven goat-skin overhangings in the Tabernacle signify the "shell" nature of evil. The shell is the inedible part of the nut or fruit, and must be discarded. On the other hand, the shell performs a vital function in that it protects the nut or fruit while it is growing, just as ego and selfishness help a child develop a necessary sense of self before he graduates to a mature consciousness of selflessness. Thus, the goat, again, has its place in the Temple, both as an offering and as a protective covering.

Now, in order that the "day" shine out of the night - i.e. that the [sparks of holiness inherent in evil be liberated through the] process of separation accomplished [by our proper use of physicality] - the Destruction had to take place.

The purpose of the creation of evil is so that these high-energy sparks of Tohu can be released from their non-holy context and made part of the holy order. Thus, holiness acquires an added energy and impetus that it does not possess otherwise. This is known as bringing "the lights of Tohu into the vessels of Tikun".

Thus, any descent in level is ultimately for the purpose of a subsequent ascent, in order to capitalize on the latent energy implicit in the lower level and harness it for goodness and holiness.

This is the mystical meaning of this verse: There are eleven "days" from "Horeb", meaning that issued from the dregs of the Destruction. As our sages said, that G‑d was building and destroying worlds [before He created our world].

The word "Horeb" ("Chorev" in Hebrew) means "destruction". The beginning of the verse thus means that the revelation ("days") of divinity we are striving to bring about is made possible by the eleven fallen levels of the destroyed world of Tohu.

These previous versions of the world were…created and then destroyed….

In the Midrash, we are told that the fact that the Torah records that G‑d pronounced this world "good" when He created it implies that He had been creating and destroying other "versions" of it before finally settling on this one, which He considered "good" relative to them. According to Kabbala, this does not mean (G‑d forbid) that G‑d had to go through various "tries" until He got it right; rather, these previous versions of the world were the preparatory stages of Creation (Akudim, Nekudim, Tohu, etc.) that were imperfect but necessary precursors to this world. They were created and then destroyed so that the ruins of their destruction would linger as the existential constituents of our present reality, giving it its potential for elevation to levels higher than its own origin.

chanoch adds: The process of these worlds is as follows, im my opinion: Akudim – dots grow into lines which is Nekudim. Fter the destruction of Nekudim the world of Tohu - unformed is created. This indicates a spiritual creation without a body. Then the world of Bohu - void is created, which indicates the level of body without a soul. Then the world of darkness is ncreated. This indicates the creation of the desire to receive which follows a process to become the world of tikun. Our physical world.

The verse alludes to the fact that our redemption is dependent upon [the process of effecting] these "days" [i.e. revelations caused by the elevation of the sparks], as is known. For [the Redemption will not occur] until all the "souls" are released from the "body" of evil, and ascend every day into holiness.

Our sages state, "The son of David [meaning the Mashiach] will not come until all the souls have been emptied out of the Body, (Yevamot 62a) referring to the celestial storehouse of souls. (This is one reason why religious Jews seek to have as many children as possible.) Here, this phrase is being used allegorically, the "souls" meaning the sparks of holiness hidden within the coarse "body" of evil.

This is alluded to by the words "until Kadesh", meaning, until they ascend and become sanctified to come afterwards into this world as "weekday souls", as is known.

Kadesh means "holiness". [This sentence may mean that the sparks of holiness liberated by our involvement with the physical world become somehow embodied in the souls of the children conceived by marital relations conducted on weekdays (as opposed to on Shabbat). But I have to verify this. - Rabbi Wisnefsky]

The verse ends with the word "Barnea", indicating that these sparks wander back and forth all throughout the exile until their final elevation and redemption, may it be speedily, in our days.

The word "Barnea" is here allegorically interpreted to mean "one who wanders" (bar-na [v'nad]).

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim and Likutei Torah, parashat Devarim; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Evil Among the Nations

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

Kabbalah explains why we were told to eradicate only 7 of the 10 evil nations.

We must understand why, with regard to the seven [Canaanite] nations, G‑d commanded us "you shall leave no soul alive", whereas with regard to Seir, Moab, and Ammon, He commanded us not to attack them.

In the book of Genesis, G‑d promises to Abraham the land of Canaan, which comprises the territory of ten nations: the Kenites, the Kenizites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizites, the Refaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites. (Gen. 15:19-21) The first three were synonymous with the Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites.

We will inherit the land of the other three nations in the future….

In the time of Moses, however, whenever the Torah lists the peoples of Canaan whose land G‑d will give to the Jewish people, only the last seven of these ten are mentioned. Thus, our sages note, G‑d only gave the latter seven nations to the Jews in the time of Moses, and we will inherit the land of the other three nations in the future, when Mashiach comes. (Bereishit Rabba 44:23) The Jewish people are commanded to entirely wipe out these seven nations: "Of the cities of these peoples whom G‑d is giving you to inherit, you shall leave no soul alive. Rather, you must wipe them out: the Hittite, the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, as G‑d has commanded you." (Deut. 20:16-17)

In the portion of the Torah read this week, Moses reviews the journeys on which he led the Jewish people on their way to the threshold of the Land of Israel. They were told by G‑d not to wage war against the descendents of Esau, who inhabited Mt. Seir (ibid. 2:2-8) or to wage war against Moab (ibid. 2:9) or Ammon. (ibid. 2:17-19) In contrast, they were commanded to fight and conquer the two Amorite kings, Sichon (ibid. 2:24-25,31) and Og (ibid. 3:2).

The seven nations are the earthly manifestations of the seven evils….

The explanation is that the seven nations are [the earthly manifestations of] the seven evils, i.e. the vessels that broke. Thus, all the holiness [that was originally in them] has left them.

In the world of Tohu, which collapsed, the full breakage of the vessels occurred only in the seven lower sefirot, from chesed to malchut. When the vessels of these sefirot broke, they could contain nothing of the holy "lights" that had been in them. These lights therefore left the vessels, and the broken vessels fell into the lower worlds, becoming the source of all the egocentricity and evil of these worlds.

[Some of] the holiness remained, however, in first three [sefirot]. The [earthly manifestations of these sefirot] were the Kenites, the Kenizites, and the Kadmonites.

In the first three sefirot of Tohu, the vessels were more spiritual than they were in the lower seven sefirot. This is simply because emotions, the lower seven sefirot, are much more subjective than intellect or super-intellect (the first three sefirot). Therefore, even though there was no inter-inclusion amongst the sefirot in the world of Tohu (this being the reason why the vessels broke, as we have explained previously), this was not so crucial in the case of the first three sefirot. Their essential natures were not as self-assertive and exclusive of other natures, as were those of the seven lower sefirot.

Since the shattered fragments of the emotions (middot) of Tohu are embedded in our world, we can refine them and elevate them. This we do whenever we refine our animal natures, and the completion of this process will usher in the Messianic Era. Since, however, the intellect and super-intellect of Tohu did not break and did not become embedded in the existential fabric of our order of existence, we cannot refine it.

In the [messianic] future, the holiness will completely depart [these sefirot], and thus we will then be commanded to "leave no soul alive" of them, as well.

The elevation and refinement of the intellect and super-intellect of Tohu will occur only in the messianic future, when we will be able to eliminate the negative aspects of these sefirot as well.

These [three nations] are synonymous with Seir, Ammon, and Moab. Seir alludes to the first [sefira, keter], as it is written, "and the he-goat [in Hebrew, "seir"] is the king…" (Daniel 8:21)

"Keter" literally means "crown" and is thus the sign of kingship. Seir, the southernmost of the three kingdoms on the far side of the Jordan, thus signifies keter, or the super-intellect, of Tohu.

Moab means "from the father" [in Hebrew, "mei-av"] and thus alludes to chochma.

Emotions…possess their own roots and origins within the pre-conscious mind….

Lot's daughter conceived her son by her own father. When she named him, she expressed this in the name she gave him, since Moab means "from the father". The people of Moab descended from this incestuous union. Abba ("father") is the partzuf of chochma and thus this nation alludes to the chochma of Tohu. Moab was situated immediately north of the kingdom of Seir, and the Jewish people, traveling northward from the Sinai desert, encountered them immediately after their encounter with the Edomites in Seir.

[The name] Ammon [permutes to spell] "noam" [which means "pleasantness"], alluding to bina.

The insight of chochma, since it is abstracted from any contextual relationship to the individual's way of thinking, is not accompanied by any sense of conscious pleasure or joy. (There is a sublime, only semi-conscious sense of pleasure, but it is as abstract and ephemeral as the insight itself.) This occurs only when the insight is integrated into the existing mental structure, which is the function of bina. The new, higher perception of reality that is produced engenders a sensation of pleasure and happiness. In a similar fashion, we are taught that the liquid that corresponds to chochma is water, while that which corresponds to bina is wine.

Ammon was situated immediately north of Moab, and the Jewish people passed by their land immediately after they passed by the kingdom of Moab.

Now, Seir is Edom (See Gen. 32:4, 36:9; Deut. 2:5). The seven kings who ruled there were not from that land, they just ruled over it. This is indicated by the fact that each one is mentioned together with the country he came from, since they themselves were not from Edom.

We just identified Seir with keter of Tohu, which did not break. Yet the "seven kings of Edom" are always identified with the seven lower sefirot of Tohu, which did break. The Arizal solves this by saying that the "seven kings of Edom" ruled in that country but were not actually from it. Thus, Edom itself does indeed signify keter of Tohu. The fact that foreign kings occupied the territory of Edom before its kingdom was properly established would indicate the strong connection between the super-intellect (or subconscious) and the emotions. As we are taught in Chasidut, although the emotions are revealed and guided by the intellect, they possess their own roots and origins within the pre-conscious mind (i.e. keter).

Now, when the Torah describes how the Jewish people were not to wage war against Ammon and Moab, it points out that these lands were formerly occupied by the Refaim. Thus, it might be assumed that their territory was indeed part of that of the seven nations the Jews were meant to conquer in Moses' time, since, as we pointed out above, the Refaim were one of these seven. The Torah, however, points out that this is not the case, and that G‑d gave these territories of the Refaim to other parts of Abraham's family, i.e. the nations descended from the sons of Lot (Ammon and Moab).

In the course of this discussion, the Torah makes mention of the fact that the Refaim who formerly occupied the land of Moab were also called Eimites (Deut. 2:10-11), and those who formerly occupied the land of Ammon were also called Zamzumites (Deut. 2:20).

The Zamzumites personified the evil portion of chochma [of Tohu] that was removed, as it is written, "as he schemed" [in Hebrew, "zamam"] (Deut. 19:19). The Mixed Multitude is [spiritually] derived from them, as well as anyone who has evil thoughts or fancies.

The name "Zamzumites" is etymologically related to the word for "scheme" ["zamam"]. They thus personified the fallen, corrupt version or use of insight, i.e. scheming and plotting evil.

We said above that Ammon signified the bina of Tohu. So, either the Arizal here means to include the Eimites together with his mention of the Zamzumites as former inhabitants of the lands associated with the intellect of Tohu, or he is referring to the process of how chochma enters and informs bina, i.e. that the Zamzumites actually hail from chochma but they settled the land of bina.

The mitzva of circumcision is intended to sever the Jew from his egocentric, material orientation….

In any case, this perversion of intellect is the source of all evil thoughts and fancies, as well as of the distorted way of thinking associated with the Mixed Multitude. The Mixed Multitude were the Egyptian converts that accompanied the Jewish people on their exodus from Egypt. Since their motives for conversion were not pure (they were impressed by the victory of the Jews over the Egyptians rather than the merits of monotheism over idolatry), they were the cause of much of the suffering the Jews underwent in their desert trek. The first and most heinous of these instances was that of the Golden Calf, which was in essence a warped vision of the role of Moses as the intermediate between G‑d and Israel.

The fact that these nations (Edom, Moab, and Ammon) were not to be engaged in conflict indicates, as we said, that until Mashiach comes we do not possess the power to rectify the wild, unrectified intellect and super-intellect of Tohu. We are thus taught in Chasidut that when untoward thoughts enter our minds, we must not attempt to elevate them or refine them, but simply push them away and bypass them, just as we passed by the lands of these nations without engaging in any conflict. We are bidden to rectify our emotions, however (as signified by the seven Canaanite nations), by utilizing our intellects to meditate and contemplate life in such a way that engenders proper emotions and emotional responses.

chanoch adds: Can you tell the difference between a negative thought and an emotional thought? Most people can not. That is why Kabbalah teaches binding by striking which stops your reaction at the level of thought.

The Arizal now turns to discuss the two nations that Moses and the Jewish people were allowed and even bidden to conquer. These were actually two branches of one kingdom, that of the Amorites, which, as we saw above, were one of the seven nations.

[The name] "Sichon" is etymologically related to the word for "young donkey" ["sayach"] (See Rosh HaShanah 3a). [He personified] the type of evil identified with the donkey, which is also identified with the foreskin over the [organ of] circumcision.

The Hebrew word for "donkey", "chamor", is related to the word for "material" ("chomer") and "materialism" ("chumriut"). Sichon is thus the personification of gross materialism, or the desire for sensual gratification.

The mitzva of circumcision is intended to sever the Jew from his egocentric, material orientation and thereby prepare him and make his suitable for the pursuit of spirituality and holiness. As is explained in Chasidut, the presence of the foreskin renders sexual relations more immediately personally gratifying, but desensitizes the individual to the experience of his wife. Sexual relations thus remain an essentially narcissistic experience. The removal of the foreskin puts the individual more directly in contact with his wife, and thus he shares her experience as well. This, of course, serves to spiritualize and therefore augment the sensual experience in ways not possible in the narrow, egocentric context.

The removal of the foreskin, i.e. the propensity toward gross, self-oriented materialism, thus sensitizes the individual to the presence of an other person, and ultimately, readies him for encounter with the ultimate Other, HaShem.

Og, in contrast, [personified the type of evil] identified with the mucous membrane which covers the [organ of] circumcision. As it is written, "he drew a circle" ["ag ugah"] (Taanit 23a) This is a particularly difficult form of evil [to deal with] inasmuch as it is very close to holiness.

The olive tree signifies the sefira of yesod….

The name "Og" (spelled ayin-gimel) is etymologically related to the root ayin-vav-gimel or ayin-gimel-gimel, which means, "to form a circle". Thus, it refers to the mucous membrane which encircles the glans of the penis underneath the foreskin, and which must also be peeled back as part of the rite of circumcision. The removal of the foreskin is called "mila" (meaning "cutting") and the removal of the mucous membrane is called "pria"(meaning "peeling" back).

This membrane is obviously much more subtle and delicate than the coarse foreskin. It therefore embodies a much more abstract, delicate form of evil that is therefore much more difficult to root out than the usual, coarse evil. In Chasidut it is explained that the foreskin signifies the evil that exists in the outer dimension of the heart, while the mucous membrane signifies the evil that exists in the inner dimension of the heart. The evil of the outer dimension of the heart is the individual's gross lust for material and sensual forms of pleasure and gratification.

chanoch adds: In a Jewish Brit Milah Ritual there are three steps. Only two are discussed here. Please refer to the ohar in the Parasha of Lech Lecha for the third step.

These two kings [Sichon and Og] were the kings of the Amorites. This kingdom personified the sefira of yesod, as it is written, "two and three berries on the head of the uppermost bough". (Isaiah 17:6; Sanhedrin 95b )

The preceding phrase reads: "Only gleanings shall be left of it, as when one beats an olive tree: two or three berries on the topmost branch…" The olive tree signifies the sefira of yesod. The condensed essence of any thing is considered the "oil" of that thing, and yesod is the condensed essence of the preceding five sefirot, as we have explained previously. Yesod is associated in human anatomy with the male organ of procreation, and man's vital seed is considered his condensed essence, capable of reproducing him. Thus, the two Amorite kings, Sichon and Og, personify the two layers covering the sefira of yesod that must be eliminated in order for the Jewish people (and each individual Jew) to reveal their innate sensitivity to each other as well as to G‑d, and thus be prepared to enter the holy Land of Israel.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Shaar HaPesukim and Likutei Torah, parashat Devarim; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

1000 Lights of Understanding

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

Moses could only enlighten the nation according to his level.

Before his death, Moses blessed the Jewish people: "May G‑d, the G‑d of your forefathers increase you a thousand fold." (Deut. 1:11) To this, the Jewish people replied, "Moses! You are setting a limit to our blessing (by limiting it to a thousand fold increase)! The Holy One, blessed be He, has already promised Abraham: 'I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth' meaning, if a person can count the dust of the earth, so will he be able to count your offspring. (Gen. 13:16) Moses replied, "What I said is my own blessing [i.e. the maximum extent to which I can bless you]. But as for G‑d, He will indeed 'bless you as He spoke of you.'" (Rashi, ibid.)

To understand this, let us note that the numerical value of "Moses" [in Hebrew, "Moshe" = 345] is the same as that of the divine name E-l Sha-dai.

"E-l Sha-dai" is spelled: alef-lamed, shin-dalet-yud

When these names are spelled out and the kolel is added, their numerical value is 1000.

alef – alef-lamed-pei - 1 + 30 + 80 = 111

lamed – lamed-mem-dalet - 30 + 40 + 4 = 74

shin – shin-yud-nun - 300 + 10 + 50 = 360

dalet – dalet-lamed-tav - 4 + 30 + 400 = 434

yud – yud-vav-dalet - 10 + 6 + 4 = 20

111 + 74 + 360 + 434 + 20 = TOTAL = 999 + colel of 1 = 1000

This 1000 [in Hebrew, "elef"] is the 1000 of bina, for these divine names are located there; this is the mystical meaning of the statement: "Alef-beit, alef-bina."

In the Talmud, the meanings of the names of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet are interpreted as a sequence: "The Rabbis told Rabbi Joshua ben Levi: 'Children have come to the house of study and said things the like of which was not said even in the days of Joshua the son of Nun: "'Alef beit' [means] 'learn understanding' ['alef bina']. 'Gimel dalet', [means] 'show kindness to the poor' ['gemol dalim'], and so on. (Shabbat 104a)

Moses…could only impart to them the spiritual potentials associated with Imma….

The phrase "alef-beit" is interpreted as "learn understanding" since the word alef also means "to learn", and the word for "understanding", "bina", begins with the letter beit.

The word "alef" is spelled the same way as the word for "one thousand", "elef". Thus, the phrase "alef-bina" may also be read, "the thousand of bina", giving the relationship between the number 1000, the numerical value of the spelling out of the names E-l Sha-dai.

In the parallel passage in Likutei Torah, Moses and the names E-l Sha-dai are described as being in the world of Beriya rather than in the partzuf of Imma (of Atzilut). This accords with the fact that the partzuf of Imma "nests" in the world of Beriya, i.e. that bina is the dominant consciousness of the world of Beriya (while chochma is the dominant consciousness of Atzilut, the emotions are the dominant consciousness of Yetzira, and malchut is the dominant consciousness of Asiya).

This is also the significance of the "one million shield-bearers of the first world", mentioned [in the Zohar].

In the Zohar, one of the appellations of the world of Beriya is "the one million shield-bearers". (Zohar III:132a; see Chasdei David #118) One million is a thousand thousands, i.e. 1000 entities inter-included amongst themselves. This world is called "shield-bearers", since it is the first world in which the energy of holiness must be protected from the forces of evil, just as bina must be protected from the sensation of ego that accompanies understanding and integrating an insight of chochma.

Now, Moses' power [to bless] reached [only] as far [up] as Imma; this is why he blessed them to increase [only] a thousand fold.

This is perhaps related to the idea of the "a thousand lights" that were detracted from Moses' understanding of the Torah because of the sin of the Golden Calf and are returned to his soul every Shabbat. (See our excerpt on parashat VaEtchanan, first installment. Chanoch adds: see the ARI Vaetchanan study next week

G‑d's blessing transcends the limits of understanding and is infinite…

Evidently, since Moses' task is to teach the Torah to the Jewish people, meaning to make them understand it, he could only impart to them the spiritual potentials associated with Imma, the partzuf of bina, understanding.

But as for G‑d Himself, "He will bless you [as He spoke concerning you," i.e. infinitely] from the supernal partzuf of Abba.

G‑d's blessing transcends the limits of understanding and is infinite, this being the experience of insight, or chochma. Hence we see that intellectual understanding is a limited form of connection to G‑d, and that our connection to Him must be predicated on assumptions and involvement that transcends intellect. In this way we can "access" His infinity as well, and produce an infinite "progeny" of shades of heightened divine consciousness with which to "populate" reality.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Shaar HaPesukim and Likutei Torah; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Destruction of Body and Soul

By Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz; adapted from Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Eliyahu Munk

The Temple and its Destruction are matters of the soul

Parashat Devarim is always read in the three weeks of mourning culminating in the fast of the Ninth of Av; its content is most appropriate at that time.

The reason we have lost the Temple and have been sent into exile is that we were guilty of violating those Torah laws designed to perfect our soul, body and financial dealings. Our sages have said that during the period of the First Temple, Israel sinned by worshipping idols, engaging in sexual licentiousness and committing murder. (Jerusalem Talmud Yoma 1:1)

The sin of worshipping idols is essentially one of the soul…

Ever since the destruction of the First Temple, the damage done by committing these sins has not been repaired, not even when the Second Temple was built. This is why five important manifestations of G‑d's presence [proof of the high spiritual level of the Jewish people] were missing during all the years that the Second Temple functioned. Our sages found this alluded to in the defective spelling of the word "I will be glorified" in Haggai: "Go up to the mountain, get timber and rebuild the House; then I will look on it with favor and I will be glorified [in Hebrew, 'v'echbedah'] - thus said the Lord." (Haggai 1:8) The missing letter hei was the prophet's way of telling Israel that the Second Temple would be inferior to the first in five respects. (Yoma 21)

The sin of worshipping idols is essentially one of the soul; the very thought that there are other deities besides G‑d is prohibited.

Sexual licentiousness is, of course, a sin committed by the body. There is no other sin that involves as many limbs and organs simultaneously as engaging in sexual intercourse.

Murder also involves all parts of the body; all the organs and limbs of the victim are rendered useless. Jerusalem had been described as "filled with blood". (Isaiah 1:15)

That same generation had also been guilty of unfair dealings in monetary matters, as described in the verse: "Your rulers are rogues and cronies of thieves; all of them greedy for bribes." (Isaiah 1:23)

The making of vows, or failure to honor them, also involves one's soul. The immediate cause of Nebuchadnezzar's attack on Jerusalem was King's Zedekiah's having broken his solemn oath to the former not to rebel against his rule. (II Kings 25:1) This is why the elders of Zion are reported as having put dust on their heads and having lowered their heads to the ground; (Lamentations 2:10); Eicha Rabba (2:14) relates that the members of the Jewish Supreme Court at the time of King Zedekiah were executed as punishment for violation of the vows. According to the Midrash, the oath of loyalty had been taken on the Golden Altar, i.e. in the Sanctuary.

[Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]

By Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz; adapted from Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Eliyahu Munk

To Understand Understanding

Translated and annotated by Rahmiel-Hayyim Drizin from PaRDeS HaBahir

"How can this have happened? How can there be wisdom without compassion?"

For an explanation of the methodology of this series, see the introduction.

"Prepare for yourselves wise and understanding men, known among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you." (Deut. 1:13)

Peshat (basic meaning):

Rashi: "prepare for yourselves"

Prepare yourselves for this matter.

"understanding [men]"

"A wise man is like a rich money changer..."[i.e. men] who understand [and derive] one thing from another. This is what Arius asked Rabbi Yose: "What is the difference between wise men and understanding men?" [Rabbi Yose said] "A wise man is like a rich money changer: When people bring him dinars to examine, he examines them. When they do not bring [money] to him, he sits doing nothing. An understanding man, however, is like a merchant money changer: When they bring him money to examine, he examines it, and when they do not bring it to him, he goes out and brings his own [money - i.e., he does not wait for people to come to him, he goes to them]

"well-known among your tribes"

Men whom you recognize, for if one were to come before me wrapped in his tallit, I would not know who he is and of what tribe he is, and whether he is suitable. But you know him, for you have raised him. Therefore, it says, "well-known among your tribes."

"and I will make them heads over you"

As chiefs and respected persons over you, i.e., you should act towards them with respect and reverence. This teaches us that Israel’s transgressions are hung over the heads of their judges, since they [the judges] should have prevented them [from sinning] and direct them along the right path.

Remez (hinted meaning):

Baal HaTurim: "And I shall place them as your heads"

The word "Va’asimam/I shall place them" is spelled defectively, without a yud (= 10). This indicates to you that the Torah admonished 10 times regarding judges. Alternatively, it is spelled defectively to indicate to you that the guilt lies with the head leaders, for it is within their power to protect yet they did not protest.

Derash (interpretive meaning):

Ohr HaChayim: He used the word "for yourselves" before mentioning that they should be from their respective tribes as the fact that the judges were selected from within their respective tribes resulted in many beneficial effects for the members of the tribes.

"and I will place them as heads over you":

Although Moses told the people that the appointment of these judges would be for their benefit, i.e. that they themselves would be allowed to select these judges, the fact remained that these judges would exert their authority over the people, if necessary, by means of force.

Mei HaShiloah: In this verse, Moses proposes to appoint wise, understanding, and reputable individuals to be leaders over the tribes. In verse 15 he appoints only wise and reputable ones. What happened to the understanding ones? In the ninth verse, Moses said, "Eicha esa l'vadi/How can I bear your troubles by myself?" In every parasha, the 9th verse carries additional depth beyond the simple meaning. What is the depth here?

The 'Eicha'-cry of Moses hints to the Eicha of Jeremiah the prophet...

The 'Eicha'-cry of Moses hints to the Eicha of Jeremiah the prophet which opens the Book of Eicha/Lamentations read on Tisha B'Av: "Eicha Yashvah badad/How can Jerusalem sit alone?" Moses let us know well in advance that there would be times when we would scream "Eicha, how could this have happened? Part of the answer is that he could find no one of bina/understanding who could explain "Eichah/how?"

According to Kabbalah, the word for this month Av, also meaning 'father,' stands for chochma/wisdom, as it exists without softening by bina/understanding. Bina represents Imma/mother, who reflects and contains until understanding is squeezed out with any drops of sweet sorrow. This is compassion in action.

Chochma, however, is a flash of idea, without such "patience". Chochma and bina are 2 friends who never separate, and work well. But when bina has no chochma, it might hold on forever. When chochma has no bina as in the month of Av, it may break situations without motherly compassion Thus the wail of Eichah/How can this have happened? How can there be wisdom without compassion?

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

Zohar Vayakhel 201:

Afterwards, Rabbi Yosi opened with the following verse: "And every wise hearted individual among you shall come and make." (Ex. 35:5) We already explained this text but come and see: when G‑d said to Moses "Take wise and understanding men", he searched throughout Israel but did not find men of understanding. This is why, "So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known," (Ex. 35:15) but 'understanding' is not mentioned. You might say that understanding is in a grade superior to wisdom, and this of course is right.

What is the difference between them? We explained about a wise man, that even a pupil who imparts wisdom to his rabbi is considered wise. A wise man knows for himself what ought to be done. A man of understanding has many levels in him, because he examines everything and knows for himself and for others. You may derive this from "A righteous man regards the life of his beast". (Prov. 12:10) And also "righteous ruling in the fear of Elokim." (II Samuel 23:3) And here, "wise hearted" is precise, Man is wise in his heart, and not elsewhere, because wisdom lies in the heart. But a man of understanding exist both above and below, and observes himself and others.

Commentary by Rahamim LeHayyim:

Chochma/wisdom, bina/understanding, and da'at/applied Knowledge are 3 different things. 'Rabbi Eliezer the son of Azariah would say: If there is no chochma/wisdom, there is no fear of G‑d; if there is no fear of G‑d, there is no chochma/wisdom. If there is no da'at/ applied knowledge, there is no bina/understanding; if there is no bina/understanding, there is no da'at/ applied knowledge." (Avot 3:10)

Mentalities lacking integration are like islands in the sea...

We need integration. Mentalities lacking integration are like islands in the sea, each powerful and rich in resources, but isolated, and unable to assist the greater whole.

Perhaps what the Zohar is telling us is that although chochma is more sublime, more intuitive, and "higher" in absolute and abstractness, that da'at is in a sense "higher" in that it is concrete, it is of this world, and it is practical. We should not be so spiritually minded that we are of no earthly good.

Bina means to be able to discern the trees from the Forest, to be able to uses the left-brain for real life problem solving. Da'at takes this and puts it into action, applies the knowledge of chochma and the analysis of bina, marries them together, and voila, we have a product!

Chochma is parsed as koach mah, lit. "the power of What?" Bina, however, asks a more refined question of "Mi/Who?", Mi having a gematria of 50, representing bina's 50 gates. Not "What is this?", but rather "Who's going to get the job done?!"

Translated and annotated by Rahmiel-Hayyim Drizin from PaRDeS HaBahir

Venting Wrath on Wood and Stone

Why does Assaf appear to dedicate a hymn to the destruction of the Temple, instead of an elegy?

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

"G‑d was also angry at me on your account." (Deut. 1:37)

This is difficult as we have no independent evidence of G‑d having become angry at Moses on account of the sin of the spies. I believe the correct meaning of these words must take into account what the Talmud said in connection with the people crying during that night. (Ta'anit 29 on Numbers 14:1) The Talmud says that because of their needless weeping on that night the Jewish people were condemned to weep on that date with good reason for many many years, when they would mourn the destruction of both Temples which occurred on the anniversary of that fateful night.

...they would mourn the destruction of both Temples which occurred on the anniversary of that fateful night.

The Talmud adds that if Moses had been allowed to enter the Holy Land the very first Temple would have been the final Temple, i.e. there never would have occurred a destruction of the Holy Temple. (Sota 9)

In this connection there is an interesting Midrash where Assaf appears to have dedicated a hymn to the destruction of the Temple. (Midrash Tehilim on Psalm 79:1) The Midrash asks, predictably, that instead of dedicating a hymn to such an event Assaf should have written an elegy, a song of mourning! The answer is that Assaf composed the hymn in gratitude to G‑d who had vented His wrath on buildings of wood and stone such as the holy Temple and the city of Jerusalem instead of on human beings.

If we extrapolate on the reasoning of the Midrash and consider the fact that the Temple Moses would have built would have become indestructible, then every time the people sinned G‑d would have had to pour out His wrath at the people themselves instead of at the Temple. In order to avoid such a thing from ever occurring, G‑d decided to let Moses die on the East Bank of the Jordan. This is what Moses meant when he said that G‑d’s anger at him worked in Israel’s favor, i.e. biglalchem, "for your sake."

Had the sin of the spies not occurred, Moses would have entered the Holy Land with the result we have just described. The world biglalchem is derived from galgal, "revolving," or in the metaphysical sense "transmigration (of souls)." When G‑d decreed death on Moses which would result in his ultimate reincarnation, He did the Israelites a great favor by venting His wrath at Moses at that time.

Alternatively, the meaning of the words: "G‑d was also angry at me on your account" may be that Moses implied that ‘if you would not have become guilty of this sin and I would have been allowed to enter the Holy Land and build the Holy Temple, there never would have arisen an occasion for G‑d to become angry at you at all, as you would have retained your level of righteousness permanently.’ Had it not been for this sin, the power of evil would never have become as great. Now that this had happened, G‑d realized that once the Israelites would enter the Holy Land they would not be able to maintain their spiritual high. We can derive all this from a study of the song Moses composed in parashat Ha’azinu.

In that event, G‑d would have cancelled His oath...

You may counter that this may be fine homiletics, but the fact remains that Moses’ death in Transjordan was caused due to his failure to speak to the rock at the waters of Meriva (Numbers, Chapter 20) not to the sin of the spies. The answer which I have mentioned already on that occasion is that had Moses spoken to the rock at that time the Israelites could have recovered the spiritually high level they possessed prior to the sin of the spies by means of watching that great display of G‑d’s power. In that event, G‑d would have cancelled His oath not to let Moses enter the Holy Land seeing that he had become the instrument of sanctifying the name of G‑d on such a scale. As a result, Moses would have entered the Holy Land, would have built the Temple, and the Jewish people would have lived there permanently, trouble free. Israel’s sin at this stage then had prevented all these scenarios from occurring.

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