Earthly and Heavenly Unifications

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

Kabbalah illustrates the mystical roots of the various Temple offerings.

In this Torah reading, G‑d commands us to offer Daily (Tamid) offerings and Additional (Musaf) offerings on Shabbat and the holidays. The daily and additional offerings are "ascending-offerings" (Olah). In its listing of the Additional offerings, the Torah refers to each being required in addition to the Daily morning offering.

On Shabbat [you shall offer]…beyond the Daily Ascending offering…. (Num.28:9-10)

On the first days of your months [Rosh Chodesh], you shall offer…beyond the Daily sacrifice it shall be done…. (Numbers 28:11,15)

On the fourteenth day of the first month…Passover…you shall offer…beside the morning Daily sacrifice you shall do them…beyond the Daily sacrifice it shall be done…. (Numbers 28: 17, 23, 24)

On the day of the first fruits…on your weeks [Shavuot]…you shall offer…beside the Daily sacrifice you shall do them…. (Numbers 28: 26, 27, 31)

On the first day of the seventh month…a day of blowing [the shofar, Rosh Hashanah]…you shall do…beside the…Daily sacrifice…. (Numbers 29:1, 2, 6)

On the tenth day of the seventh month…you shall afflict yourselves [by fasting, Yom Kippur]…you shall offer…beside…the Daily sacrifice…. (Numbers 29: 7, 8, 11)

On the fifteenth day of the seventh month…you shall celebrate the festival [of Sukkot]…and you shall offer…beside the Daily sacrifice… (Numbers 29: 13, 16)1

The Torah refers to the [Additional] sacrifices of Shabbat, the first day of the month [Rosh Chodesh], and the Festival of Matzot [Passover] as being "beyond [literally "above"] the Daily ascending-offering", implying that [these sacrifices reach] "the highest of the highest [levels of spirituality]", as mentioned in the Zohar.(III:79b)

The Daily offering is already called an "Ascending" offering, so something "above" an "ascending" offering is "above the above".

chanoch adds: In my opinion, this language in the Torah is describing the movement of the worlds and Sefirot. An example is Shabbat where the world 0f Action elevatews to the world of Yetzirah.

But with regard to Shavuot, [the Torah] refers [to the additional offerings as being] simply "beside the daily ascending-offering".

It would seem that, contrary to this, it would be appropriate to refer to the day the Torah was given as being "above the daily [offering]", since this day is surely "the highest of the highest", more so than the Rosh Chodesh and the Festival of Matzot.

Let us also note the difference between the [active] phraseology of "you shall do" and [the passive] "shall be done".

In its description of the additional offerings of Rosh Chodesh, the Torah uses the passive, in its description of those of Passover, both the active and the passive, in its description of those of Shavuot (and Rosh Hashanah, but the Arizal is not focusing on this here), only the active. In its description of those of Shabbat, the Torah uses neither expression.

Through this we will be able to understand the [mystical] difference between Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, and the festivals.

Marital relations on Friday night imitate the coupling of the partzufim....

On Shabbat, there occur two types of couplings [between the partzufim]. The first involves the angels, and through them this coupling occurs. This coupling is thus called "the coupling of the angels", meaning that they act as "male waters" in order that they receive divine beneficence from above them.

As we have explained previously, "male waters" is the idiom used for "arousal from below," an act performed in order to elicit divine beneficence from above. The coupling of the sefirot initiated by the angels is seen as an internal system functioning within the workings of the channeling of divine beneficence earthward. The angels themselves are part of this "machinery" and elicit Divine beneficence as part of the divine plan.

chanoch adds: We think of Female Waters as actions below that initiate actions above that have the effect of starting or continuing the flow of Shefa – Beneficence to below. Here we are told that when the actions are due to the Angels initiating the below action it is considered part of the process of male waters that bring the flow down from above. Another explanation is that our physical world is upside down relative to the world of the Angels.

This coupling occurs on Shabbat night. We are therefore permitted to engage in marital relations on Shabbat night.

Marital relations on Friday night imitate the coupling of the partzufim (aroused by the angels) that occurs this night.

The second type is initiated by [human] souls [and occurs on Shabbat day]. We are therefore forbidden to engage in marital relations on Shabbat day, for we then have to raise "male waters" in order to effect the supernal coupling, which elicits a flow of souls [into the world].

Presumably, our marital relations can imitate a supernal coupling that is already occurring but not initiate one. Since the sefirotic coupling occurs anyway (thanks to the angels) on Friday night, we can imitate it and thus channel it. But on Shabbat day, it is up to us to initiate the supernal coupling, so we must focus on activities (prayer, Torah study, etc.) that effect this union, rather than channel it. We cannot simply channel the flow produced by the supernal union (by engaging in marital union below) because without our actions, there is no union to channel.

chanoch adds: On Shabbat day the energy is Chesed. If we are to initiate female waters we interfere with the flow expanding as is the nature of Chesed.

Shabbat is the return of everything to its source....

These two couplings occur through Jacob and Joseph, as is mentioned in the Zohar (II:259a). Since these two couplings occur on Shabbat, one through us and one without us, a higher and lower coupling, it is therefore said that "…on its Shabbat, above the daily ascending-offering and its libation." For this coupling occurs above: Zeir Anpin is absorbed within Abba and Nukva within Imma.

Shabbat is the return of everything to its source. The emotions and their means of expression are renewed within the intellect that gave rise to them, in this case, G‑d's idea of the world.

This is why it is written, "You shall guard Shabbat for it is holy unto you" (Ex. 31:14) implying that it is intrinsically holy, for Zeir Anpin and Nukva ascend to the level of Abba and Imma, who are termed "holy", as it is written, "It is a Jubilee, it will be holy unto you." (Lev. 25:12)

As we have explained previously, the Jubilee year manifests Imma. In general, the intellect is above and removed (holy, objective) from the subjective reality of the emotions.

In contrast, the festivals are called "a calling of holiness" (ibid. 23:2,4,37) but not holiness itself. This is why with regard to Shabbat it is written "above the daily sacrifice."

However, since there are two types of coupling [that occur on Shabbat], one through us and one without us, the Torah says neither "it shall be done", in the passive, nor "you shall do", in the active.

On Passover and Rosh Chodesh, a supernal coupling [also] occurs, but it occurs by itself, without our initiative. This is the meaning of the Zohar's statement that "the coupling that occurs on Passover is not from our side." (III:95b) Therefore, in the context of Rosh Chodesh and Passover, the Torah says, "above the daily sacrifice it shall be done," implying that (1) there is a supernal coupling and (2) it occurs by itself.

By the way, this also explains the difference between Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh in the following way. On Shabbat, the male principle due to the influence of Abba, but on Rosh Chodesh, the female principle predominates due to the influence of Imma.

chanoch adds: This begins the explanation of why Rosh Chodesh is a women's holiday.

Shabbat is a solar phenomenon, occurring every seventh day, while Rosh Chodesh is a lunar phenomenon, occurring when the moon begins its cycle anew.

This alluded to in the verse, "[The gate of the inner courtyard (of the Temple) will be closed during the six days of the workweek] but on Shabbat it shall be opened and on the day of the [new] month it shall be opened." (Ezekiel 46:1) We see first in this verse the name Havayah written in order in the context of Shabbat, in the initials of the words "days of the workweek, but on Shabbat..."

These words read: "yemei hama'aseh u'veyom haShabbat". The initials of these words, in order, are yud-hei-vav-hei, the name Havayah.

In the name Havayah [written normally], the "male" letters yud and vav overpower the "female" letters hei and hei.

The four letters of the name Havayah are associated with the four partzufim Abba, Imma, Zeir Anpin, and Nukva, respectively. Thus, the yud and vav are "male" letters while the two hei's are "female" letters. In the two couples, yud-hei and vav-hei, the male principle precedes and therefore dominates the female principle.

But in the context of Rosh Chodesh, it is written, "Shabbat it shall be opened and on the day of the [new] month." The initials of these words [also] spell the name Havayah, but with the first hei, which is Imma, ruling over the yud, which is Abba.

These words read: "haShabbat yipatei'ach u'veyom ha-chodesh". The initials of these words are hei-yud-vav-hei. This is the name Havayah with the first two letters reversed, indicating the ascendancy of the female (Imma) over the male (Abba).

chanoch adds: The permutation of HaShem's Name connected to Rosh Chodesh is also connected to the month of Shevat and the two Tribes of Joseph and Asher. The permutation connected to Shabbat is also connected to the month of Nissan and the Tribes of Reuben and Yehudah.

Returning to the main train of thought:

On Shavuot, marital relations are forbidden both by day and by night, as Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai states in the Zohar: we must stay up the whole night of Shavuot learning Torah. (Zohar Volume I:9a) This is because on the night of Shavuot we are preparing ornaments for the Matron.

The Torah was given in the early morning, and nation of Israel was still sleeping. G‑d had to wake us up to give us the Torah, and this is seen as a sign of disrespect for the divine gift of the Torah. In order to rectify this error, it is customary to stay awake the entire night of Shavuot learning Torah in anticipation of the annually repeated revelation that occurs in the early morning.

chanoch adds: The above paragraph is the religious explanation. We have taught about the two letter Jewels – Ornaments connected to the 24 books of the Torah.

The mikvah in which Nukva immerses is the Fiftieth Gate of Understanding…

A more mystical reason for this custom is the one mentioned here; we must prepare the "ornaments" for the matron, or bride. The giving of the Torah is the marriage between G‑d (the groom) and the Jewish people (the bride); the flow of the Torah's divine insight and wisdom from G‑d to us is analogous to the flow of vital seed from the groom to the bride on the wedding night.

It is stated in the Zohar that G‑d prepared Eve for her wedding with Adam by adorning her with 24 ornaments; (III:79a and I:48b) illustrating this, the numerical value of the word "and He brought her [in Hebrew, 'vayevi'eha'] to Adam" (Gen. 2:22) is 24. The primordial snake contaminated her with 24 types of venom; this is illustrated by the word "and I shall place enmity between you and her" (Gen. 3:15) in G‑d's curse of the snake being spelled with the same letters as the word for "and He brought her", its numerical value also being 24. When we received the Torah at Mt. Sinai, we were purified from the defilement of the snake (often understood as the fallen consciousness of self-orientation), and the 24 ornaments were restored to us, the new Eve. (The same word discussed above appears as the initials of key phrases in the passages describing how these 24 ornaments were restored. See Megaleh Amukot 206.)

The 24 ornaments are listed in Isaiah. (3:18-24) These 24 ornaments are manifest as the 24 books of the Bible (the 5 books of Moses, the 7 books of the prophets,2 and the 9 books of the Writings3 - see Midrash Tanchuma and Rashi, loc. cit.). It is therefore customary to spend the night of Shavuot reading selections of these books (chiefly, the beginning and end of each parasha of the Torah and book of the Prophets and Writings) plus selections from the Oral Law as well. This is called the tikun, "rectification" or "restoration" of the 24 ornaments of the bride.

The "matron" is the female principle, the Shechina, which is the collective soul of the Jewish people. The "bride" we are adorning by learning Torah on Shavuot night is thus essentially our individual selves as well as the collective community of Israel.

Since we are busy with the workings of the supernal coupling on Shavuot night, marital relations, seen as worldly coupling, are forbidden to us.

But [on Shavuot], Zeir Anpin is not rectified by us, but rather by Imma, as it is written, "…with the crown his mother [Imma] crowned him with on the day of his wedding." (Songs 3:11)

Therefore, marital relations are forbidden [on Shavuot] just as they are on Yom Kippur. This is the mystical meaning of the verse, "[she is my sister, my father's daughter] but she is not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife." (Gen. 20:12, see Rashi) The whole night there is no supernal coupling, for Nukva of Zeir Anpin must immerse herself the following morning, as is explained in the Zohar there. (See Zohar III:98b)

The verse quoted was Abraham's answer to Abimelech as to why he referred to his wife, Sarah, as his sister. Sarah was Abraham's niece, i.e. his father's granddaughter, but through a different mother. Since granddaughters often call their grandfathers "father", Sarah could loosely be called Abraham's sister.

This alludes to the relationship between Zeir Anpin and Nukva. They are both "offspring" of Abba and Imma, and are therefore brother and sister, in addition to groom and bride.

It is explained in the Zohar that Zeir Anpin and Nukva may couple only when Zeir Anpin and Nukva are receiving consciousness ("light") from Abba. (III:100b) For only the extremely intense light of Abba, i.e., the pure light of the original insight, can expel the forces of evil that always seek to intervene and siphon off the flow from Zeir Anpin to Nukva. Therefore, marital relations are chiefly encouraged on Shabbat night, when Abba is shining into Zeir Anpin and Nukva. At such times, they are considered more the offspring of Abba than of Imma ("…not the daughter of my mother, and [therefore] she became my wife").

On Festival nights, however, when Zeir Anpin is receiving consciousness chiefly from Imma, marital relations are not as encouraged. Specifically, on Shavuot they are forbidden, for on Shavuot, Zeir Anpin is receiving chiefly from Imma as the Torah, G‑d's "intellect", is being given over to Israel.

The Zohar explains that the mikvah in which Nukva immerses is the Fiftieth Gate of Understanding (bina, Imma), the level of divine consciousness granted to us on Shavuot by virtue of the 49 levels we achieved on our own by counting the 49 days of the Omer.

Imma escorts Zeir Anpin and Nukva to the bridal chamber…

The second tablets were given on Yom Kippur, so there is an affinity between Yom Kippur and Shavuot. Shavuot is the culmination of the "new year" that began with Pesach, the renewal of the spring, while Yom Kippur is the completion of the new year of Rosh Hashanah. (Sukkot and Shmini Atzeret are seen as the revelation of the consciousness that was already elicited from on high during the ten days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur.) Both Yom Kippur and Shavuot are therefore days of the giving of the Torah.

But on the day of Shavuot, Zeir Anpin and Nukva couple solely through the influence of Imma.

Imma escorts Zeir Anpin and Nukva to the bridal chamber, so to speak. The powerful flow of intellect into our consciousness that occurs when the Torah is given on Shavuot serves as sufficient inspiration for the union of the emotions and their means of expression. The excitement over new insights and understanding inspires us both to get emotionally involved with the Torah and to disseminate its message to the world.

This explains the textual differences [in the section about festival offerings in parashat Pinchas] with regard to Shavuot.

The supernal union of Shavuot is especially dependent on our active participation…

The Torah refers to the [additional] sacrifices of Shabbat, the first day of the month, and the Festival of Matzot [Pesach] as being "beyond [literally "above"] the daily Elevation-offering," implying that [these sacrifices reach] "the highest of the highest [levels of spirituality]" as mentioned in the Zohar. (Zohar III:79b)

The daily offering is already called an "elevation" offering, so something "above" an "elevation" offering is called "above the above".

But with regard to Shavuot, [the Torah] refers [to the additional offerings as being] simply "beside the daily Elevation-offering".

It would seem that, contrary to this, it would be appropriate to refer to the day the Torah was given as being "above the daily [offering]", since this day is surely "the highest of the highest", more so than the first day of the month and the festival of matzot.

But since the coupling [of Zeir Anpin and Nukva] occurs because of Imma and not Abba, it is not written, "above the daily offering".

On Shavuot, Zeir Anpin and Nukva do not ascend to the level of Abba, only to the level of Imma. They are thus "above" their normal level (and therefore the musaf offerings are "elevation [olah]-offerings") but not "above the above" ("al olat").

And because we prepare the Matron by night, it is written, "you shall do" [in the active sense], for we effect the rectification.

For this same reason, in the case of all the other festivals, the word "unblemished" is written before [mention of the daily offering], as it is written, "and seven one-year-old sheep, unblemished…[above/beside the daily offering]." But in the case of Shavuot, the word "unblemished" is not written until the end: "…beside the daily sacrifice and its meal offering you shall do them - they will be unblemished for you - with their libations." (Num. 28:31) This is because they are not unblemished and completed until after we rectify the Matron, and she immerses in the morning. Only after this are they perfected and fully rectified. It is therefore written first "you shall do" and only after that "unblemished".

Compared to all the other festivals, the supernal union of Shavuot is especially dependent on our active participation. This is accomplished by "preparing the bride's adornments", when we stay awake the entire night.

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

Anger without Ego

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

Anger, a type of idol-worship, distracts the soul from G-d

The portion of the Torah read this week begins with the story of Pinchas:

G‑d spoke to Moses, saying: Pinchas the son of Elazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, turned back My anger against the children of Israel by avenging My vengeance against them. I therefore did not destroy the children of Israel in My vengeance. (Num. 25:10-11)

The idiom "vengeance" is mentioned three times in this verse. [The numerical value of the root of this word, kuf-nun-alef, is 151, and is derived in three ways:] The numerical value of the divine name Eh-yeh, when spelled out using the letter hei is 151.

As explained previously, the divine names may be spelled out in various ways, depending on how the letters hei and vav are spelled. In the case of the name Eh-yeh (alef-hei-yud-hei), if the two letters hei are spelled out hei-hei, we have:

alef alef = 1; lamed = 30; pei = 80

hei hei = 5; hei = 5

yud yud = 10; vav = 6; dalet = 4;

hei hei = 5; hei = 5

111 + 10 + 20 + 10 = 151

Spelling out ("milui", in Hebrew) signifies the fulfillment of latent potential, similar to the birth of a fetus hidden within the womb. Thus, in a certain sense, anger is the psychological fulfillment of the name Eh-yeh, and rectifying it involves tracing it back to its source in this divine name.

Furthermore, the numerical of the name Eh-yeh squared is also 151.

Inter-inclusion is the characteristic of maturity…

If we take the sum of the squares of each of the four letters that compose this name, we have 12 + 52 + 102 + 52 = 1 + 25 + 100 + 25 = 151. This technique is called "ribu'a perati" ("individual squaring"), i.e. summing the squares of each letter that make up the word. Squaring signifies maturation and development, similar to the way a child matures as he grows into an adult. This is because squaring a number makes that number inter-include all its constituent units. For example, the number five may be envisioned as a set of five points, named A through E. If five is squared, we have 25 points, or five A's, five B's, and so on:

A of A; B of A; C of A; D of A; E of A

A of B; B of B; C of B; D of B; E of B

A of C; B of C; C of C; D of C; E of C

A of D; B of D; C of D; D of D; E of D

A of E; B of E; C of E; D of E; E of E

Inter-inclusion is the characteristic of maturity, since maturity means being able to see all sides of an issue and grant validity to other people. In Kabbala, the maturation of the sefirot from individual points into partzufim is the process that marks the transition from the chaotic, unstable world of Tohu to the rectified world of Tikun.

Here again, anger is paradoxically seen to be the result of the maturation of the name Eh-yeh, and its rectification involves tracing it back to its source in this divine name.

Finally, the combined numerical values of the names Elo-him and Ado-nai are 151.

Elo-him: alef-lamed-hei-yud-mem (1+30+5+10+40 = 86); Ado-nai: alef-nun-dalet-yud (1+50+4+10 = 65). 65+86 = 151. The name Elo-him signifies G‑d's attribute of judgment and severity, while the name Ado-nai signifies His attribute of authority and dominion (the word "adon" means "master" or "ruler"). When these two divine attributes are combined, this also can produce anger, and thus the rectification of anger involves as well tracing it back to these two attributes in the soul, as will be explained further on.

These three aspects of vengeance are alluded to in the verse: "I descended to the garden of nuts." (Songs 6:11) The numerical value of the word for "garden of" [in Hebrew, "ginat", spelled gimel-nun-tav] is 453, which is 3 times 151.

chanoch adds: The three aspects are Ehyeh – Elohim – Adonai. So where in your soul do they appear to manifest and or conceal is the actual question we need to ask.

The nut symbolizes in Kabbala the phenomenon of evil surrounding holiness, just as the shells of the nut surround the inner meat. Here, too, anger is a shell that must be discarded, and in so doing, one reveals the inner goodness of the soul.

This is the end of this passage in Shaar HaPesukim and its parallel passage in Likutei Torah. In Shaar Ruach HaKodesh, which contains (among other things) numerous remedies for various sins, these numerical equivalencies are discussed at greater length. Therefore, to help understand this passage, we offer links to two selections from Shaar Ruach HaKodesh:

  • Remedy For Anger – Part 1
  • Remedy For Anger – Part 2
  • Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from the Writings of the Ari; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

    The Strength of Sisters

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

    The daughters of Tzelofchad manifest supernal forces of divine strength.

    In this week's Torah reading, G‑d gives the Mitzvot regarding the division of the Land of Israel among the tribes, clans, and families of the Jewish people. After hearing these Mitzvot, the five daughters of a man named Tzelofchad , who had not had any sons, argued that they, too, deserved a portion of the Land, even though land had been only apportioned explicitly to sons. (Num. 27:1-11)

    Know that Tzelofchad [personified] the source of the [fives] states of gevura. This is alluded to by the fact that the letters of his name spell the words for "the shadow of fear [in Hebrew, 'tzel pachad']".

    Fear is the emotion associated with the attribute of gevura.

    His five daughters personified the five states of gevura.

    As we have seen previously, there are five states of gevura in bina and daat, which then become the gevura-components of the five principal sefirot of the emotions, chesed to hod.

    Specifically, they personify the five states of gevura that [remain within the yesod of Zeir Anpin, and] do not enter Malchut. Instead, other states of gevura take their place and enter Malchut, as is known.

    chanoch adds: The world could not exist if these states of judgement – gevura came directly into the physical world. Since they become sweetened by nthe five states of Chesed in the Sefirah of Yesod the world is able to handle these 10 states as they come into the world while in a mixed state of affairs. The work of man is to separate between the chesed and gevura states of consciousness.

    The earth, and specifically the Land of Israel, personifies Malchut….

    The first set of states of gevura that descend from Imma to Zeir Anpin remain within it until they are "sweetened" by the states of chesed within Zeir Anpin. They are then transferred to Malchut/Nukva.

    Therefore, Moses was unsure whether or not they deserved a portion in the Land, i.e. in Malchut.

    The earth, and specifically the Land of Israel, personifies Malchut. These five daughters personified the five states of gevura, but there are iterations of the five states of gevura that do not reach Malchut, so Moses was not sure whether they personified the iterations that reach Malchut or not.

    G‑d told him that since they do shine into Malchut, they deserve a portion of the Land.

    Even the iterations of the five states of gevura that do not themselves enter Malchut shine some of their light into Malchut, and therefore, no matter what iteration of the five states of gevura the five daughters of Tzelofchad personified, they deserved a portion in the Land.

    Of these five states of gevura, three of them are sweetened by the states of chesed [within Zeir Anpin] and two are not, as is known.

    The three that are sweetened were personified by the daughters Choglah, Milcah, and Tirtzah.

    This is because Choglah means "she has a holiday [in Hebrew, 'chag lah']". She celebrates because she is sweetened.

    Milcah's name indicates her essence.

    Milcah can be vocalized "malka", meaning "queen", clearly associated with malchut, "sovereignty".

    Tirtzah means "will" and "lovingkindness.".

    Tirtzah means "she will want", indicating goodwill and desirability, which is possible only if the gevura has been sweetened by chesed.

    The two that were not sweetened were Machla and No'a.

    "Machla" can be interpreted to mean "she will be wiped out", similar to "And he wiped out [in Hebrew, 'vayimach'] all life…." (Gen. 7:23)

    No'a is similar to [the words meaning "swaying" in] the verse: "The earth is swaying like a drunkard; [it is rocking to and fro like a hut. Its iniquity shall weigh it down, and it shall fall, to rise no more]." (Isaiah 24:20)

    These two names are thus associated with states of gevura that have not been sweetened with chesed.

    chanoch adds: These two Gevurah do get sweetened while in esod, although it is not sweetenened in comparison to the other three.

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

    Flying Letters of Life and Death

    By meting out justice on earth, Pinchas aroused heavenly mercy.

    From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

    At the time of his momentous act of zealotry, Pinchas saw the letters of the Hebrew word "met", meaning "dead", in his mind's eye, and this inspired him to be a barrier of "death". How did he do this? The Zohar, commenting on the lance which Pinchas used to slay Zimri, describes Pinchas as "garbing" himself with this lance in order to mete out justice here on earth so that mercy could be invoked in the parallel regions of Heaven.

    Pinchas… saw the letter mem fly in the air…

    He saw his own name [which has a numerical value of 208] rise heavenwards, and realized that his name had the same numerical value as that of Isaac the patriarch, who personified the attribute of Justice on earth. He also saw the letter mem fly in the air. This letter is an allusion to death - in Hebrew, "mavet".

    This allusion has already been commented on: "The woman saw that it was good…she took from its fruit, ate, and gave [to her husband]". (Genesis 3:6) We find here four words commencing with the letters vav tav, and in the middle of these words a word commencing with the letter mem. When you join this letter mem to the word to the four words which commence with the letters vav tav, you get the word "mavet", meaning "death", each time.

    In other words "death" is present in all four compass directions. This is what the sages had in mind when they referred to Pinchas' mind's eye as seeing the letter mem "flying" in the air.

    chanoch's Commentary

    The full verse of Genesis 3:6 is:

    ותרא האשה כי טוב העץ למאכל וכי תאוה-הוא לעינים ונחמד העץ להשכיל ותקח מפריו ותאכל ותתן גם-לאישה עמה ויאכל

    I have enlarged the letters described above.

    G‑d had instructed Gabriel to write...the letter tav on the foreheads of the righteous…

    By itself, the letter tav [the last letter of the above word meaning "death"] is strongly associated with death, written in blood, as we know from the statement of Rabbi Acha bar Chanina. (Shabbat 55) He tells us that G‑d has never issued a favorable decree and reversed Himself except in a single instance: when G‑d told the angel Gabriel, "Pass in the midst of the city, in the midst of Jerusalem, and mark a sign on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan for all the abominations that are done within it." (Ezekiel 9:4) G‑d had instructed Gabriel to write in ink the letter tav on the foreheads of the righteous so that the divinely appointed forces of destruction should not touch them.

    The foreheads of the wicked people, however, were to be marked with the same letter written in blood, so that they would fall victim to the forces of destruction. The ministering angels challenged G‑d on this decision, wanting to know in what way the former were better than the latter, seeing that they had failed to perform the commandment of admonishing their fellow-Jews. G‑d answered these angels that He was well aware that even if the righteous people had admonished their compatriots, it would have been to no avail. To this the angels replied that the fact that G‑d was aware that such admonitions would have proved futile did not absolve the righteous from at least having tried, seeing that they had no way of knowing whether their attempts to admonish the people would prove successful. The final letters in the words

    "In the beginning G‑d created" combine to make the word Truth…

    As a result of this, we read in verse 5 of the same chapter: "Then He said to these in my hearing [the prophet's] 'Follow him through the city and strike. Let your eyes neither spare nor show mercy. Old man, young man and maiden, children and women, massacre to utter destruction. But any man on whom is the sign do not approach. And begin from My Sanctuary'. So they began with the old men who were in front of the House." The Talmud says that Rabbi Yossef reads the word "My Sanctuary", in Hebrew "Mikdashay", as "Me-kudashay", meaning "My holy ones", referring to the people who observed all the commandments of the Torah from the letter alef [the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet] to the letter tav [the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet]. (Shabbat 55)

    A few lines further on the Talmud questions why the sign chosen for these markings had been the letter tav, and answers that this letter is the first letter of the word "tichyeh", meaning "you will live", as well as the first letter of the word "tamut", meaning "you will die". Shemuel said that the reason is that at that point the merit of the patriarchs had been exhausted and it no longer could be called upon to protect their descendants from G‑d's anger. Rabbi Yochanan, however, then said that the letter tav symbolized that these people could be granted grace only through the merit of the patriarchs. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, also on that folio, says that the letter is the final letter in G‑d's "seal", seeing that Rabbi Chanina taught that the "seal" of G‑d is Truth - in Hebrew, "emet". At any rate, we know that the combination of the letters mem and tav spell the word for "death", since there was a deadly plague [in Hebrew, "magefa"], which killed twenty-four thousand Israelites at that time. The letter tav, discussed in the Talmud, is also known to have been written in blood on the forehead of the wicked.

    Remember that the creation of the universe proceeded under the parole of "truth", since the final letters in the words "In the beginning G‑d created" [in Hebrew, "Bereishit bara Elokim" (Gen 1:1)] combine to make the word "emet", "truth". At the end of G‑d's creative activities we again find this reference to "truth" when we look at the final letters of the verse "And G‑d saw…" [in Hebrew, "Vayera Elokim et…" (Genesis 1:31)]

    Pinchas became Elijah, an angel who goes on living forever…

    The universe was created for the sake of man, i.e. adam, who represents the tithe of one tenth (in Hebrew, "maaser") of Truth, "emet". ["Adam" in Hebrew is spelled alef, dalet, mem.] The numerical value of the letter mem in Adam's name (40) is 10% of the numerical value of tav (400) in the Hebrew word for "Truth" (emet), and the letter dalet (=4) in Adam's name is one tenth of the letter mem (=40) in the word "emet". The letter alef in "emet" is, of course, irreducible.

    The serpent was the first to introduce the concept of lying into the universe by claiming that G‑d had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge before being able to create the universe. Proverbs (16:28) describes the serpent as saying, "A quarrelsome one alienates his friend."

    By removing the first letter of the word "emet", alef, all that you are left with is the word "met", meaning "dead". When you remove the first letter from the word "adam", you are left with the word "dam", meaning "blood". Anyone who is able to protest wrongdoing with a chance of success and fails to do so has blood inscribed on his head. Those were the people who, though they are described as having observed the commandments of the Torah "from alef to tav", i.e. "from A to Z", were not pious in the true sense of the word since they failed to admonish the other members of their society. Under such circumstances the letter mem which ought to symbolize a letter from the word for "truth", "emet", symbolizes the word "death", "mavet", instead.

    When the Talmud describes their piety in this matter, i.e. "from alef to tav", it merely wants to draw our attention to the missing letter mem in those people's piety. Hence the Angel of Death had unrestricted control even over such Torah-observant people.

    This brings us to the meaning of the verse "…He turned away My wrath…." (Num. 25:11) When Pinchas saw the letter mem flying in the air, he took the lance [in Hebrew, "ramach"] to publicly display his jealousy on behalf of G‑d and succeeded in transforming "My (i.e. G‑d's) wrath", in Hebrew "chamati" [spelled chet-mem-tav-yud], with the emphasis on the letters mem-tav [spelling the Hebrew word for "death"] in that word into the other two letters of "chamati", chet-yud [spelling the Hebrew word for "life"].This is why Pinchas became Elijah, an angel who goes on living forever.

    Chanoch adds: This explanation is one explanation. Another is that the souls of Nadav and Avihu joined with Pinchas and thus became Eliyahu

    [Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]

    From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

    Pinchas Everlasting

    Kabbalah teaches that truth is something of an eternal nature.

    From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

    The Torah informs us that Pinchas' father had married one of the daughters of Putiel (Ex. 6:25), who, according to the Midrash, had fattened calves [a play on the word "Putiel"] for idol worship. The other tribes mocked Pinchas, attributing his violent zealousness to his pagan ancestry. Since the name "Putiel", however, concludes with the two letters of the name of G‑d, the Torah alerts us to the fact that Putiel had converted to monotheism.

    Pinchas was transformed into an angel who would live until he could announce the Final Redemption….

    As a whole, the verse alludes to Joseph who controlled his desire in his involvement with the wife of his master Potiphar, whose similarly sounding name reminds us of what took place then. Just as Joseph preserved the holy covenant with G‑d then, so Pinchas, his descendant maternally, restored the holy covenant with G‑d by taking G‑d's revenge on Zimri. As a result, G‑d granted him, "My covenant of Peace". Targum Yonathan, on that verse, says that Pinchas was transformed into an angel who would live until he could announce the Final Redemption.

    chanoch adds: It is well known that Eliyahu – Pinchas will appear before Mashiach to announce the arrival of Mashiach. What is not well known that this not absolute. If Mashiach comes early as the verse “It will come in its time or I will hasten it”, indicates Mashiach will precede Eliyahu.

    It is further written [of Pinchas] that G‑d's covenant of life and well-being was with him, "the true Torah was in his mouth. He walked with Me in peace and equity, nothing perverse was on his lips. With complete loyalty, he served Me, deterring many from committing iniquity. For the lips of a priest guard knowledge and people seek Torah from his mouth, seeing that he is an angel of the L-rd G‑d of Hosts". (Malachi 2:5,6) This verse clearly alludes to Pinchas, since Pinchas became an angel, as our Sages comment on Joshua (2:4; Tanchuma quoted by Rashi)

    Since Pinchas prevented many from sinning, he is having the true Torah….

    Since Pinchas prevented many from sinning, he is described by the prophet as having the true Torah issuing forth from his mouth. Truth is an element that reinforces and strengthens religious belief and practice. It is not something merely personal, but is something that must be demonstrated publicly in order to convince a community to do penitence. Such a result is called "Truth". Truth is something of an everlasting nature. Concerning such truth, the prophet Jeremiah proclaims in the name of the L-rd: "Roam the streets of Jerusalem, search its squares; look about and take note; you will not find a man. There is none who acts justly, who seeks integrity - that I should pardon her." (Jeremiah 5:1) This is surely a very remarkable statement.

    How could the existence of even a single such man be questioned, when at that time there lived in Israel numerous prophets and pious men in Israel! Does not the same prophet (in chapter 24:1) describe that G‑d showed him a vision of the two Torah scholars of renown (Sanhedrin 38) who were exiled together with king Yechonyah? (Kings II 24:26-17) The answer is simply that these Torah scholars had failed to act publicly to call upon the masses to mend their ways, and return to the ways of the Torah. Jeremiah laments that there is not a single person in the courtyards of Jerusalem who has the moral courage to proclaim his convictions publicly! Rabbi Amram (in Sanhedrin 119) states explicitly that Jerusalem was destroyed because the Torah scholars ignored the commandment to admonish their fellow Jews.

    Translator's comments: He derives this from the verse "Her leaders were like stags that found no pasture". (Lamentations 1:6) The prophet there drew a parallel between the spiritual leaders of Israel and the stag whose head is usually down on the ground near its tail. The leaders of the Jewish people, similarly, buried their heads in the sand in order to, so to speak, "see no evil, hear no evil, etc." When contrasted with this kind of behavior, Pinchas stood out as a man of truth in whom the zealousness for his G‑d was paramount. This explains why he was rewarded with everlasting life.

    [Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]

    From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

    Pinchas: The Daily Sheep Offering

    Rav Kook on Parasha Pinchas


    The central daily offering in the Temple service was the Tamid, an offering of two lambs. One lamb was offered just after daybreak, at the start of the day’s service; the second lamb was offered in the afternoon, at its conclusion. The sheep were purchased using half-shekel coins collected from the entire Jewish people.

    Why was a small sheep used for the Tamid offering, and not a more impressive offering? And why use only young animals, less than a year old?

    Translator's comment: Maimonides wrote that offerings are chukim, Divine statutes for which we do not know the reason. Yet that assertion did not deter scholars throughout the ages - including Maimonides himself - from suggesting possible reasons to explain various details of the Temple service.

    Bulls and Sheep

    Some Temple offerings were brought from bulls, while others from sheep. A bull is usually a peaceful animal and a productive worker. But on occasion a bull can suddenly transform itself into a terrifying force of danger and destruction. For this reason, a bull is an appropriate offering for those seeking to atone for a life that has tragically fallen into a grave state of ruin and disaster.

    Sheep, on the other hand, provide a suitable offering when the problem is not one of destructive behavior, but rather a general spiritual decline and indulgence in materialism. The peaceful but mundane sheep are a fitting metaphor for our daily struggle against the negative influence of involvement in worldly matters.

    With regard to the Jewish people as a whole, one cannot speak of widespread corruption and moral decay. The Tamid offering, purchased with funds from the entire nation, does not atone for the extreme vices of evil individuals. Rather, it is meant to meet the nation’s general spiritual needs: to uplift lives from the poverty of a materialistic existence and renew their aspirations for a life rich with meaning and holiness.


    Why use sheep in their first year? Unlike older beasts, who are often difficult and ornery, these young sheep do not symbolize a life that is dominated by self-centered materialism. Since the intrinsic holiness of the Jewish people does not allow worldly influences to be etched deeply into the nation’s soul, the Tamid offering is best represented by young, relatively innocuous animals.

    (Sapphire from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Olat Re’iyah vol. I, p. 130)

    Offerings of Bread, Fire and Fragrance

    The Torah uses a series of almost poetic metaphors to describe the daily Tamid offering:

    “Be careful to offer My offering — My bread-offering, My fire-offering, My appeasing fragrance — in its proper time.” (Num. 28:2)

    What is the significance of these four descriptions: offering, bread, fire, and fragrance?

    Four Characteristics

    These descriptions correspond to four basic characteristics that are common to all Temple offerings. They are particularly relevant to the Tamid, however, as this communal offering aspires to integrate holiness into the daily life of the nation.

    “My offering.” In Hebrew, korbani. The word korban comes from the root karov, meaning “close” or “near.” Temple offerings are an expression of the soul’s underlying yearnings to draw close to God in all aspects of life.

    The Tamid offering, representing the entire people, expresses these yearnings in the soul of the nation.

    “My bread.” In Hebrew, lachmi. The Temple service reveals the inner harmony between the nation’s material and spiritual realms.

    Why does the Torah use the metaphor of bread? Bread has the remarkable ability to bind the soul to the body and its physical powers. The Hebrew root lechem also means “to solder together.” The offerings are a kind of Divine “bread,” cultivating the connection between the nation’s natural and holy qualities.

    “My fire-offering.” In Hebrew, ishi. Fire is a source of tremendous energy, capable of igniting and activating physical matter.

    Offerings reflect the fundamental truth that the Divine aspect of the nation’s soul is not limited to the intellectual and emotive spheres, but is also expressed in the physical realm.

    “My appeasing fragrance.” In Hebrew, rei'ach nichochi. The Temple offerings foster a sense of pleasantness and sweetness, both for the individual and the nation as a whole. This sweetness is a result of Israel’s special connection to God, and the nation’s corresponding lifestyle of sanctity and meaning.

    (Adapted from Olat Re’iyah vol. I, pp. 128-129

    Genuine Zealotry

    “Pinchas... zealously avenged My cause among the Israelites.... Therefore, tell him that I have given him My covenant of peace.” (Num. 25:11-12)

    Why did God present Pinchas, the archetypical zealot, with a covenant of peace? What was the nature of this covenant?

    The Prayer of Shemuel HaKatan

    The Talmud (Berachot 28b) recounts that Rabban Gamliel, who headed the Sanhedrin in Yavneh after the destruction of Jerusalem, saw the need to make an addition to the daily prayer. The Jewish people needed heavenly protection against heretics and informers. But Rabban Gamliel had trouble finding a scholar capable of composing such a prayer.

    In the end, Shemuel HaKatan (‘Samuel the modest’) agreed to formulate the prayer, called Birkat HaMinim. Why was it so difficult to find a scholar to author this prayer? What made Shemuel HaKatan so qualified for the task?

    By its very nature, prayer is a medium of harmony and understanding, full of kindness and love. Any scholar on an appropriate spiritual level is capable of writing prayers that are fitting for a holy and wise nation.

    A prayer decrying slanderers and heretics, however, touches upon powerful emotions of hostility and anger. We naturally feel hatred towards our foes and the enemies of our people. To compose a fitting prayer against enemies requires an individual who is utterly pure and holy, one who has succeeded in eliminating all hatred and petty resentments from his heart. In order that such a prayer will be pure, its sole intention must be to limit the damage and correct the evil caused by the wicked, as they impede the world’s spiritual and ethical progress. It is for the sake of this pure, unselfish motive that we plead that God vanquish the wicked and foil their evil plans.

    Even though one’s initial motives are pure, if he is subject to even the slightest feelings of animosity that are naturally aroused when one feels attacked, his thoughts will be tainted by personal hatred, and his prayer will deviate from the true intent. Only Shemuel HaKatan was a suitable candidate to compose this difficult prayer. His life’s motto was “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls” (Avot 4:24). Shemuel succeeded in removing all feelings of enmity from his heart, even for personal enemies. Only this saintly scholar was able to compose a prayer against slanderers that would convey the feelings of a pure heart, expressing the soul’s inner aspirations for complete universal good.

    Refining Zeal

    From Shemuel HaKatan we see that zealotry is not a simple matter. Zeal must be carefully refined to ensure that it is truly for the sake of heaven. As Rav Kook explained in Orot HaKodesh (vol. III, p. 244):

    “We need to refine the attribute of zeal, so that when it enters the realm of the holy, it should be a pure zeal for God. Since zealotry often contains some slight influence of human failings, our powers of self-examination must determine its primary motive. We must ensure that it is not based on personal jealousy, which rots one’s very bones, but rather a zeal for God, which provides a covenant of peace.”

    When God gave Pinchas a covenant of peace, He affirmed that Pinchas’ act of zealotry — defending the Jewish people from idolatrous influences — was performed with pure motives. Only God could testify as to the purity of Pinchas’ zeal, that he had acted solely for the sake of Heaven, without any admixture of pettiness or personal animosity. Pinchas’ zeal was the product of his burning love for God, an expression of his desire to bring true peace (shalom) and perfection (shleimut) to the world.

    Gold from the Land of Israel, pp. 275-277. Adapted from Olat Re’iyah vol. I, p. 278