Sexuality and the Suspicious Spirit

Kabbalah exposes the spiritual roots of righteous sexuality.

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

In this Torah portion, G‑d gives the laws of the suspected adulteress (called in Hebrew, "sotah"). The passage begins:

G‑d spoke to Moses, saying: "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: '[This is what should be done] should any man's wife stray and be unfaithful to him, and a man lie with her carnally unbeknownst to her husband, and she was secluded and defiled but there was no witness against her, and she was not seized. If a spirit of jealousy had come upon [the husband] and he had warned his wife, and she was defiled, or a spirit of jealousy had come upon him and he had warned his wife, and she was not defiled. Then the man shall bring his wife to the priest and bring her offering for her, one tenth of an ephah of barley flour. He shall neither pour oil over it nor put frankincense on it, for it is a grain-offering of jealousies, a grain-offering of remembrance, recalling iniquity. The priest shall bring her forth and present her before G‑d. The priest shall put holy water in an earthen vessel, and the priest shall take some earth from the Tabernacle floor and put it into the water…. (Num. 5:11-17)

He may proceed with the ritual if he is sure that his motivations are pure….

chanoch adds: How can a spirit of jealousy be pure motivation. It must be mixed with an aspect of anger and other impure motivations. This is my opinion based on my understanding of the word jealousy.

The word translated above as "jealousy", "kinah" and the one translated as "had warned", "kinei", are from the same root. Thus, a more literal translation of the phrase in which these words occur would be: "If a spirit of jealousy had come upon him and he had expressed his jealousy to his wife [by warning her not to be secluded with the other man]…."

Our sages said, "A man only warns his wife if a spirit of purity enters into him [from heaven]." (Sotah 3a)

This is based on the idiom "a spirit of jealously had come upon him."

It is considered commendable for a man to warn his wife not be secluded with another man if he senses that she is becoming overly frivolous or flirtatious. The feminine principle of reality can "lose track" of its purpose and misdirect its energies in the course of going about the business of expressing divinity in the world, and it is the male principle's role to re-inspire her with the purity of intention his abstract orientation provides. The Sages disapprove of a husband who is uninterested in the moral purity of his family, beginning with his wife.

To be sure, a husband can delude himself into thinking an overbearing manner or unreasonable suspicion is a "spirit of purity". There is therefore an opinion in the Talmud that the spirit that enters into the husband, causing him to warn his wife, is in fact a spirit of impurity. The Sages therefore advise husbands to assume their wives are innocent of any wrongdoing unless they have clear justification to suspect otherwise. (Jerusalem Talmud Kidushin 4:4) Even if the husband is convinced that there is cause for concern, he must first appeal to his wife privately to improve her behavior. (Mishneh Torah, Sotah 4:19) If this does not work, he may proceed with the ritual if he is sure that his motivations are pure - he may not invoke the rite in jest, in anger, or in order to frighten her. (Ibid. 4:18) Furthermore, the rite only works if the husband himself is not guilty of adultery. (Sotah 47b)

The Arizal now discusses what this "spirit of jealousy" is in mystical terms.

Know that Joseph manifested the sefira of yesod, and that his numerical value is the same as that of "Zion" [in Hebrew, "Tzion" = 156], which signifies the yesod of malchut [the feminine], while Joseph manifest the yesod of the male principle, which enters this "Zion"


Joseph is associated with yesod because he exhibited sexual purity in the incident with Potiphar's wife (Gen. 39:7-20), and yesod is associated anatomically with the male sexual organ.

"Joseph" (in Hebrew, "Yosef") is spelled: yud-vav-samech-pei = 10 + 6 + 60 + 80 = 156.

"Zion" (in Hebrew, "Tzion") is spelled: tzadik-yud-vav-nun = 90 + 10 + 6 + 50 = 156.

Zion therefore specifically refers to…the womb of the world….

The word for "Zion" ("tzion") means "point", "sign", or "designation". It is also an appellation for the Holy Land, the location designated for the revelation of G‑d's presence. Specifically, "Zion" refers to the inner sanctum (the "Holy of Holies") of the Holy Temple. We have seen previously how the Holy of Holies is considered the "bridal chamber" where the marital union of G‑d and the Jewish people takes place. "Zion" therefore specifically refers to the female sexual organ, or the "womb" of the world, where reality is impregnated with divine consciousness and from which new divine consciousness is born and spreads throughout the world.

[156] is also three times the numerical value of the 52-Name [Ban] that are given from the yesod of Zeir Anpin to the yesod of Nukva. This is why the numerical value of both "Joseph" and ""Zion is three times 52, as is mentioned in connection with [our exposition of Psalm 25 (Shaar HaKavanot, Inyan Nefilat Apaim, 3rd discourse ), which begins,] "Unto You, O G‑d, I lift up my soul." As is explained there, [these three 52-Names] are manifestations of Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshama.

Psalm 25 is recited in the daily liturgy as part of Tachanun, the penitential prayers recited after the climax of the prayers, the Standing Prayer. After achieving total self-effacement and union with G‑d in the Standing Prayer, we become acutely aware of our shortcomings, and for these we ask forgiveness in Tachanun. Psalm 25 expresses remorse for sin and rededication to G‑d. We rededicate ourselves, mystically, by elevating our consciousness out of the world of Asiya and up through the three worlds into the world of Atzilut. By doing this, we arouse G‑d to forgive us. Thus, the elevation of consciousness through these three worlds creates three forms of arousal, signified by the three 52-Names mentioned here. The three worlds of Beriya, Yetzira, and Asiya correlate to the three aspects of the soul, Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshama, which manifest the three "garments" of the soul - intellect, emotion, and action – respectively.

Significantly, the sin mentioned explicitly in Psalm 25 is in the verse "Recall not the sins and transgressions of my youth…," referring to sexual sins. Thus, the Psalm we recite in order to arouse G‑d to restore our sexual purity is connected with the theme of sexual purity alluded to in the names of Joseph and Zion.

The fact that the numerical value of "Joseph" is 156 alludes also the [following] mystical principle I have taught you:

When righteous people pass away, their souls ascend and enter malchut….

There are five states of chesed and five states of gevura [that descend from Imma into Zeir Anpin], which are manifest as ten names Havayah. The five states of gevura [descend] into malchut [of Zeir Anpin], while the five states of chesed [descend] into [the five sub-sefirot] from chesed to hod. All these five issue [to Nukva] via yesod [of Zeir Anpin]. [Yesod, however,] has its own Name Havayah. Thus, there are [in yesod] five name Havayah's [manifesting the five states of chesed that enter Zeir Anpin] and one of its own, giving six. Their combined numerical value is thus 156.

The numerical value of the name Havayah is 26, and 6 x 26 = 156.

[156] is also the numerical value of the word for "jealousy" [in Hebrew, "kinah"].

"Kinah" is spelled: kuf-nun-alef-hei = 100 + 50 + 1 + 5 = 156.

Hence, we have a direct connection between the sefira of yesod, i.e. sexuality, and the idea of righteous jealousy.

This explains what is written in the Zohar [about yesod]: "Then, a righteous one dons jealousy…." (Zohar II:211a )

This passage of the Zohar describes what happens when righteous people pass away. Their souls ascend and enter malchut, which adorns itself with the sparks of holiness these souls have elevated in their lifetime and brought with them. Yesod, seeing how beautiful malchut has become by adorning itself with these good deeds, is aroused to couple with it.

The term the Zohar uses for yesod in this context is "a righteous one" ("tzadik"). "Righteousness" is particularly associated with yesod because the main test of righteousness is in sexual behavior. Thus, Joseph, the archetype of sexual purity, is traditionally called "Yosef HaTzadik", "Joseph, the righteous".

The term the Zohar uses to describe yesod's arousal to couple with malchut is "donning jealousy". Jealousy is typically experienced physiologically by increased adrenalin flow and body heat, similar to sexual arousal. Until now, we have seen that the "jealousy" of yesod is its insistence on purity in sexual behavior. Beyond this, there is a deeper connection alluded to here between jealousy and sexuality. Let us note first that in English, "jealousy" implies "zealousness", and in fact, "zealous" could be a better translation of the root kinah than "jealous".

Holy sexuality is an expression of a person's passion for transmitting his personal vision of divine reality to the world….

We have defined the experience of yesod, as the drive for self-actualization and for the promulgation of the insight of divine consciousness to which one has been privy. In this light, holy sexuality is an expression of a person's passion for transmitting his personal vision of divine reality to the world (either in the form of children that will be imbued with his values, or metaphysical divine energy that will have a positive influence on reality, which, we are taught, is one result of marital relations conducted with love and proper intentions).

Thus, holy (as opposed to mere bestial) sexual passion is an expression of zeal and dedication. This perhaps explains why the Zohar here says that in order to couple with malchut, yesod "dons jealousy/zeal".

This, then, is the mystical meaning of the saying "A man only warns his wife if a spirit of purity enters into him", for this [spirit] originates from the [holy] side, that of the supernal [sefira of yesod, identified with] Joseph.

Thus, the "spirit of jealousy" is the ideal of pure sexuality, associated with Joseph and yesod. This spirit of Joseph is manifest as its numerical correlate, "kinah", the "jealousy" that inspires a husband to warn his flirtatious wife not seclude herself with her suspected paramour.

Interestingly, the essential episode of jealousy in the Torah is that of Pinchas, who was incensed over the sexual sins of Zimri and Kozbi; here, too, we find a link between "jealousy/zeal" and sexuality.

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

The Secret of Levi's Genes

Kabbalah explains the nature of feminine strength.

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

The following commentary by the Ari follows that of the previous Torah portion which is Bamidbar.

The meaning of the phrase: "according to their families and their fathers' houses" (Num. 4:22) is as follows: From the five states of gevura, two female partzufim are constructed, i.e. Leah and Rachel. As is known, the female partzufim are constructed wholly out of states of gevura.

...thought and speech...respectively are the two female partzufim of Leah and Rachel…

The female is the essence of expression, and the two principal forms of expression are thought and speech, which respectively are the two female partzufim of Leah and Rachel, the two wives of Jacob, who personifies Zeir Anpin.

The first to be built is Leah, who is called "their fathers' house". This is because [our Sages] call "woman" the "home". Leah is the higher [of the two houses] since she absorbs [443] lights, this number being the numerical value of the word for "their fathers" when written without the vav.

The word for "fathers" (in Hebrew, "avot") is generally written alef-beit-vav-tav, but it may be written without the vav as well, since the vav in this case plays the role of a vowel (the cholam) that can be also written as a diacritical mark, like the other vowels. This is, in fact, how the word is written throughout the portion of the Torah we are discussing.

Since "fathers" come conceptually before "families", "their fathers' house" is the higher of the two levels. The number 443 here will be contrasted with a smaller number, 370, associated with Rachel.

These lights are the same as those of the four alef's in the four divine names Eh-yeh [alef-hei-yud-hei], whose numerical value is 444, the same as that of the word for "their fathers" with the kolel.

When the letter alef is spelled out (alef-pei-lamed), its value becomes (1 + 80 + 30 = ) 111. 4 x 111 = 444. The divine name Eh-yeh ("I shall be") is associated in Kabbala with the sefirot of keter and bina. Specifically, the netzach-hod-yesod of Imma (the partzuf of bina) are expressed by four iterations of the name Eh-yeh. The intellect of Nukva is derived from the alefs of these four names. (Sha'ar HaPesukim on Psalms 39:5; Sha'ar HaKavanot, Keriat Shema 6)

As I have explained elsewhere, this is alluded to in the verse: "Make known to me, O G‑d, my end, and what is the measure of my days". (Psalms 39:5) The word for "my end" refers to [the partzuf of] Rachel, while the word for "the measure of" [in Hebrew, "midat", spelled mem-dalet-tav, whose numerical value is 444] refers to Leah.

The word for the phrase "according to their families" [in Hebrew, "le-mishpachotam"] refers to Rachel. The reason for this is as follows: We may divide this word in two, lamed-mem-shin and pei-chet-vav-tav-mem. [The partzuf of] Rachel comprises ten [sub-] sefirot, and each sefira possesses one divine name Havayah, spelled out in such a way that its numerical value is 52.

When the divine name Havayah is spelled out yud-vav-dalet hei-hei vav-vav hei-hei, its numerical value is 52. This is one of the four basic ways the name Havayah may be spelled out. Each of the four spellings of the name Havayah is associated with one of the four basic sefira-groups (72 with chochma, 63 with bina, 45 with the midot, and 52 with malchut).

This is alluded to in the verse: "I am not better to you than ten sons?" (Samuel I 1:8)

The numerical value of the word for "son" [in Hebrew, "ben", beit-nun] is 52. The ten sons in this verse allude to the ten spellings-out of the name Havayah in the ten sub-sefirot of the partzuf Rachel.

[The numerical value of all these names together,] 10 x 52 = 520. If we add the kolel of each of the ten names Havayah, this gives an additional 10, giving us a total of 530. If we add to this the number 5, signifying the five states of chesed together with the five states of gevura, this gives 535. Alternatively, we can add to 530 the female [partzuf], represented by the final letter hei of the name Havayah [and whose numerical value is 5]; this also gives us a total of 535.

This number is the numerical value of [the second set of letters into which we divided the word for "according to their families,"] pei-chet-vav-tav-mem, together with the kolel. Thus, this number represents [the partzuf] of Rachel.

The number of lights that she absorbs is 370, which is the numerical value of [the first set of letters into which we divided the word for "according to their families,"] lamed-mem-shin.

With regards to these 370 lights, it is known that there are 370 lights that shine from the upper face of Zeir Anpin, as is explained elsewhere. It is explained there that they spread out in a straight, descending line until they reach the yesod of Zeir Anpin. This phenomenon is called "peace" [in Hebrew, "shalom"].

The 370 lights originate in the partzuf of Arich Anpin. (Etz Chaim 13:13-14; Zohar 1:4b) The number 370 is derived by various ways, the simplest being based on the general process of inter-inclusion of the sefirot. The three intellect-sefirot of Arich Anpin undergo a tenfold iteration twice, thus giving a total of one hundred for each sefira and a total of 300 for the intellect as a whole. The seven emotion-sefirot, in contrast, undergo only one tenfold iteration; this gives 7 x 10, or 70. The sum of the iteration of all ten sefirot is thus 370.

These 370 lights are said to shine out of the face of Arich Anpin, and in so doing manifest tremendous good will and mercy. Even in everyday parlance, when someone is in an especially happy mood we speak of his face "lighting up". Arich Anpin is the partzuf of the super-rational will, so when "light" or positive energy emanates from its "face", G‑d's good will is manifest in Creation.

Abstract intellect that does not produce an emotional response is not worth much…

When these 370 lights reach Zeir Anpin, they shine in it as well, and thus the emotions are "lit up" by the will. As we have explained previously, Zeir Anpin is the main partzuf of any particular world, which simply means that the measure of man is his emotions. This is why the emotions are called in Hebrew "middot" (literally, "measures"). Man's intellect is, of course, his distinguishing human factor, but abstract intellect that does not produce an emotional response is not worth much. Similarly, he may possess all kinds of good intentions and wills, but these become actualized only beginning with emotions (which in turn serve as the motivation for action).

The emotions (chesed, gevura, tiferet, netzach, and hod) all coalesce in yesod, the sefira of sexuality. Sexuality is the drive to connect with the world and affect it; to reproduce one's image and imprint on reality. The most profound and physical manifestation of this drive is, of course, the drive to have children and perpetuate oneself and his ideals for posterity. But in essence, any interactions between the person and the world outside him (including interactions with any other creature) are "sexual" in that in the interaction he seeks to leave his imprint on reality in some way.

If everything is working right, and the 370 lights of Arich Anpin are shining into Zeir Anpin, and they affect all the emotions including yesod, it means that the person's sexuality is holy and in consonance with the positive energy and "good will" informing his whole being. This phenomenon is called "peace" - the individual is not torn between what he knows his higher ideals should be and the negative egocentricity his un-rectified sexuality pulls him toward, but rather his sexuality is a pure expression of the highest, positive, wholesome, creative energy possible.

chanoch adds: It is incredible to understand how corrupted has become modern society. What does peace mean to modern society? Kabbalah is awesome once one has reached a level to perceive true peace, even or an instance.

This is because the sefira of yesod is represented by a small vav [whose numerical value is 6], and when the 370 lights descend to it, they add up to 376, the numerical value of "peace" [in Hebrew, "shalom", spelled shin-lamed-vav-mem].

The vav represents yesod since it is the final of the six emotions. Also, the straight-line form of the vav evokes the image of the 370 lights shining in Zeir Anpin, descending along a straight path into yesod.

The concept of "peace" is associated with the sefira of yesod - in addition to the reasons cited above - because the word "shalom" is related to the Hebrew word for "perfection" ("sheleimut"). A person whose sexuality is warped is considered "blemished", while one whose sexuality is on track is considered "complete". This idea is closely allied, obviously, with the relationship between yesod and "peace" mentioned previously.

As you know, all these [370] lights are states of chesed, and that is why they descend to yesod.

In the process the 370 lights shining from the face of Arich Anpin into Zeir Anpin, they shine from the two "cheeks" of the face, the shining skin where there is no beard-hair. One way the number 370 is derived is that the two beams of light from the cheeks are each a manifestation of the divine name E-l (spelled alef-lamed), as this name is "filled in":

When a letter is written or sounded the milui – filling is the letterws that spell the name of the letter. Below this is coded as “hidden”

letter - filling = value

alef – alef = 1

hidden lamed – lamed = 30

hidden pei – pei = 80

lamed – lamed = 30

hidden mem – mem = 40

hidden dalet – dalet = 4

Total = 1 + 30+ 80+ 30+ 40 + 4 = 185

185 x 2 = 370. The inner dimension of chesed is love, and the real manifestation of love, of course, is in the person's sexuality, or yesod.

chanoch adds: The process from inner dimension to the exterior is what potentially leaqds to the corruption of love becoming lust. This is my opinion.

This is also why "Joseph was of beautiful form and beautiful appearance", (Gen. 39:6) from the glow of these 370 lights.

Joseph personified the attribute and sefira of yesod. He thus reflected the light that shines into this sefira from the face of Zeir Anpin.

The glory of the face is the beard…

This is also the mystical reason why our Sages say, "the glory of the face is the beard" (Shabbat 152a), for someone who possesses the attribute of yesod, the attribute of Joseph, has a beard and the glory of the face, which is, as we said, these 370 lights.

On the verse, "And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him" (Gen. 42:8), Rashi explains that this was because when they had seen each other last, the brothers already had beards, but Joseph had not grown his yet; but by this time, his beard had grown. Thus, the beard plays a key role in the drama surrounding Joseph.

A eunuch, in contrast, lacking the attribute of yesod, lacks the glory of the face, i.e. the beard.

The biological reason why a person without a procreative organ doesn't grow a beard is, of course, because without sexual hormones his "secondary sexual characteristics" (e.g. a beard), will not appear. The mystical reason for this, however, is that without a vehicle for expressing his sexuality, which, as we said, is his drive to impress his unique expression of divinity on Creation, the person will lack the "glory of his face" - there will be no reason for the 370 lights to emanate from him.

Once these [370] lights reach Joseph - i.e. yesod [of Zeir Anpin] - they pass through his back to [the partzuf] Rachel, which is situated there. This is the mystical meaning of the verse: "Rachel was of beautiful form and beautiful appearance", (Genesis 29:17) [i.e. she received the attributes of Joseph], whereas Leah, the higher partzuf is not referred to as being beautiful.

As explained in Chasidut, Leah and Rachel signify the two principal vehicles of expression (i.e. of malchut): thought and speech, respectively. The difference between these is that thought is chiefly inwardly directed (i.e. it is a means of expressing one's ideas to oneself) while speech is outwardly directed (one talks to others). This is the mystical reason why Jacob preferred Rachel to Leah: he sensed that she personified speech, which is a more effective way of making one's imprint on reality than is thought, and therefore was driven to channel his sexual/creative energy specifically through her. This also why, despite the fact that thought (Leah) is a higher revelatory experience to the thinker than speech is to the speaker, only Rachel is described as being beautiful. The glow of beauty is the reflection of the glow of the 370 lights of good will, optimism, and purity, and these are fully manifest only when they flow into full expression.

It appears to me that this is the mystical significance of the verse: "And then Joseph and Rachel approached and bowed down." (Genesis 33:7) Rachel was behind Joseph.

When Jacob introduced his family to his brother Esau, the Torah says that first the handmaids and their children approached Esau and bowed down to him, then Leah and her children, and finally Joseph and Rachel. Since in the case of the handmaids and Leah, the mothers are mentioned first and then the children, this indicates that the mothers were in front of their children when they bowed down. In the case of Rachel and Joseph, however, Joseph moved in front of Rachel, in order to hide his mother's beauty from the wicked Esau.

Thus, we see that Rachel is positioned behind Joseph. This would explain why, in this sense, Rachel "receives" her beauty from Joseph, even though in the plain sense, obviously, the order was the other way around: Joseph inherited his beauty from his mother.

The sons of Merari also manifest the five states of gevura…

The sons of Merari also manifest the five states of gevura, but they manifest the five states of gevura of the "feminine waters" that exist in the yesod of Nukva. This is why they are called "Merari", meaning "bitter", referring to the states of severe judgment they comprise. For they are the lowest states of gevura in [Nukva].

Thus, the numerical value of "Merari" [spelled mem-reish-reish-yud] is 450, which is 5 x 90, the numerical value of the word for "water" [mayim, mem-yud-mem], referring to the five states of gevura, each one of which is a type of "feminine water".

It is for this reason that when G‑d commands Moses to count them, He does not use the idiom "lifting up their head", but simply says: "The sons of Merari, number them…." They manifest the hardest and most bitter states of gevura in the yesod of [Nukva] that do not ascend. For were they to ascend, they would make the higher states of gevura bitter.

As we said above, only the descending states of gevura (corresponding to the clan of Gershon) rebound when they hit yesod of Nukva. The third, and lowest set of the states of gevura, does not rebound.

In reference to the sons of Gershon, however, who [manifest the states of gevura] which spread throughout her body, the idiom "lifting up their head" is used.

I do not recall the mystical significance of the sons of Kehot, but it seems to me, Chaim [Vital], that they manifest the five states of gevura in the daat of Nukva. This would explain why the sons of Kehot are on a higher level than the sons of Gershon.

This is a logical assumption, for of the three sub-categories of the first category mentioned at the beginning of this passage, two have already been assigned, and only the highest sub-category remains for the clan of Kehot.

The job of the Kehot clan is explained first (at the end of parashat Bamidbar), before those of the clans of Gershon and Merari (at the beginning of parashat Naso). Furthermore, the Kehot clan's job is to pack and unpack the actual vessels of the Tabernacle (the ark, the menorah, the two altars, and the table), referred to as "the Holiest of Holy", while the other clans are to pack and unpack the boards and curtains that comprise the Tabernacle structure and the curtains surrounding the Tabernacle compound.

Now, in the directive to count the sons of Gershon, the expression "according to their fathers' houses and their families" is used, while in the directive to count the sons of Kehot and Merari, this expression is reversed. This is because the sons of Gershon manifest the states of gevura that descend and re-ascend, as we have explained. Their light is not noticeable until they have ascended; their light thus may be considered to shine only after they have ascended.

Therefore, their light reaches first [the partzuf] Leah, who is called "their fathers' house", and only afterwards reaches [the partzuf] Rachel, who is called "their families". This is not the case with the sons of Kehot and Merari [and consequently, the order for them is reversed].

chanoch adds: Here is a vertical chart showing the 3 sons of the Tribe of Levi and their dutues and family house relationship.

Sons Name – State of Gevura – House / Family Relationship

Sons of Kehot

the five states of gevura in daat of Nukva

"according to their families and their fathers' houses"

Sons of Gershon

the five states of gevura that spread through the body of Nukva

"according to their fathers' houses and their families"

Sons of Merari

the five states of gevura in yesod of Nukva, the "feminine waters"

"according to their families and their fathers' houses"

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

Cosmic Hair-Do's

Kabbalah reveals how the Nazirite manifests one of the most supernal realities.

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

In this Torah portion, G‑d gives the laws of the Nazirite. One of the laws regarding this type of vow is that "all the days of the vow of his Naziritehood, a razor shall not pass over his head; until the fulfillment of his days that he vows as a Nazirite to G‑d, he will be holy; he will grow the hair of his head uncut." (Num. 6:5).

We began to explain this concept in our comments to parashat Kedoshim, with regard to the law concerning [the prohibition of cutting] the corners of [the hair on] the head [i.e. the sidelocks] and the beard. There, we explained the there are three types of hair [in the spiritual realms]:

The hair of Arich Anpin…is white and embodies absolute mercy….

[The first is] the hair of Arich Anpin, which is white and embodies absolute mercy. They are channels of light, [shaped] like the letter vav. It is therefore not proper to cut them.

The color white indicates mercy, as opposed to red or black, which indicate judgment. As a person ages and his hair turns white, his youthful insistence on having his way generally calms and he becomes more able to appreciate the other side of issues.

The Nazirite, who alludes to this level (Zohar III:127b), must [therefore] "grow the hair of his head uncut" in order not to sever the channels of the supernal mercy.

To explain: the numerical value of the word for "razor" [in Hebrew, "taar", plus the kolel] is the same as that of the name Ado-nai when spelled out.

"Taar" is spelled: tav-ayin-reish = 400 + 70 + 200 = 670.

"Ado-nai" spelled out is alef-dalet-nun-yud:

simple spelling – filling – value

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

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

nun – nun – vav – nun = 50 + 6 + 50 = 106

yud – yud – vav – dalet = 10 + 6 + 4 = 20

total = 111 + 434 + 106 + 20 = 671

The name Ado-nai is a permutation of the [Aramaic] word for "judgment" ["dina"], alluding to the fact that [this name] embodies the attribute of judgment. It is therefore manifest as a razor, which cuts and shaves. [The prohibition against the Nazirite shaving his hair] is intended to indicate that it is necessary to remove the element of judgment from [this name].

The feminine principle must act judgmentally in order to actualize the divine imperative to promulgate divine consciousness throughout reality….

The name Ado-nai is generally associated with the sefira of malchut or the partzuf of Nukva of Zeir Anpin. A king must exercise judgment in order to rule effectively, and similarly, the feminine principle must act judgmentally in order to actualize the divine imperative to promulgate divine consciousness throughout reality, since this necessitates opposing forces that are antagonistic to this.

In the Torah, the laws of the Nazirite follow the laws regarding the procedure for testing a suspected adulteress. Rashi, explaining the contextual meaning of the text (peshat), says that this is because whoever sees a woman undergo this ordeal should understand this to be a signal from above that he has to avoid wine for a while, since wine leads to licentiousness. Thus, it would appear that the institution of Naziritehood is meant in some way to rectify a blemish or misuse of femininity. The suspected adulteress is accused of having misused her sense of judgment, perhaps by directing it too harshly at her husband and therefore thinking she needs to see male input elsewhere. The rectification of this is by infusing an element of mercy into the faculty of judgment.

Malchut / Nukva is also our faculty of expression, which should ideally be wed to the holiness of the Torah (signified by Zeir Anpin). The "adultery" we are suspected of in this context is using our faculties of expression to express unholy ideas or sentiments, perhaps because our warped sense of judgment is too harsh on the Torah, causing us to imagine that the Torah is too "dry" to satisfy our thirst for emotional expression. Here again, the remedy is an influx of holy mercy.

Similarly, it is necessary to cut the hair of Zeir Anpin, for [its hair] embodies strict judgment, [as indicated by the fact that it is] "black as a raven" (Songs 5:11).

The hair of Zeir Anpin thus signifies judgment, and therefore its force must be limited.

The numerical value of the word for "razor" [in Hebrew, "taar" = 670] is [also] the same as that of the word for "one who sucks" [in Hebrew, "matzmetzit"], this being the mystical meaning of the verse "On that day, G‑d [Ado-nai] will shave with the hired razor…" (Isaiah 7:20).

"Matzmetzit" is spelled: mem-tzadik-mem-tzadik-yud-tav = 40 + 90 + 40 + 90 + 10 + 400 = 670.

The prophecy from which this verse is taken refers to G‑d's vengeance against the forces of evil, who attempt to "suck" life force from the forces of holiness and goodness. The "hired" razor means a professional razor, which is sharper than a household razor.

In contrast, the hair of Arich Anpin is white and embodies [G‑d's] mercy; it is therefore forbidden to cut it. Thus, with regard to Arich Anpin, the razor is replaced by [the phrase] "he will be holy" [in Hebrew, "kadosh yiheyeh"], the numerical value of which is the same as that of the word for "razor".

In fact, the numerical value of these two words is only 474, not 670:

"Kadosh yiheyeh" is spelled: kuf-dalet-shin yud-hei-yud-hei = 100 + 4 + 300 +10 + 5 + 10 + 5 = 474.

So, the Arizal now goes on to explain how, indeed, their numerical value is the same as that of the word for "razor".

We have already explained in our comments on the passage in the Zohar known as the "Idra", regarding the 410 hairs on the head of Arich Anpin, that their number is the same as the numerical value of the word for "holy" ["kadosh"].

"Kadosh" is spelled: kuf-dalet-vav-shin = 100 + 4 + 6 + 300 = 410.

This [number] is also the numerical value of the name Ab [= 72], [Havayah] spelled out with the letter yud, [as follows]: [we first consider] the four yud's in it, each one comprising 10 additional units. Thus far we have 400.

Inasmuch as the numerical value of the letter yud is 10, a yud that comprises a complete of 10 sub-categories (corresponding to the 10 sefirot) may be represented by the number 100 (10 x 10). Four such yud's, therefore, produce the number 400.

If to this we add [one unit for each of] the ten letters used to spell out [the name], we have 410, this being the numerical value of the word for "holy" [kadosh].

Thus, in this calculation, the actual values of the letters used to spell out the name Havayah (and increase its numerical value from 26 to 72) are not considered; only the fact that there are ten of them altogether. Since it is the use of the letter yud that distinguishes this spelling-out from the other three (63, 45, and 52), we only consider here the actual numerical value of the four yud's used in the spelling out:yud-vav-dalet hei-yud vav-yud-vav hei-yud.

As is known, all aspects of the head of Arich Anpin, including the 13 groupings of hair on it, are [manifest as] names Havayah spelled out with the letter yud. Therefore, all this hair is holy, for all holiness is manifest in chochma, which is indicated by the name Havayah whose numerical value is 72 by virtue of it being spelled out with the letter yud.

As we have seen, the four spellings-out of the name Havayah themselves correspond to the four letters of the name Havayah, the name Ab [= 72] corresponding to the yud, which, as we also know, is associated with chochma.

(The difference between the adjective "holy" [in Hebrew, "kadosh"] and the noun "a holy thing" ["kodesh"] is explained in our discussion of the "Holiness" [the third blessing] of the morning weekday prayer, which beings "We sanctify You and esteem You….")

So, we have explained that the numerical value of the word for "holy" ["kadosh"] is 410.

Now, the word for "he will be" ["yiheyeh"] in atbash is the word "he sucks" [in Hebrew, "mitzmetz"].

"Yiheyeh" is spelled yud-hei-yud-hei. These letters become mem-tzadik-mem-tzadik in the substitution system known as atbash, in which the first letter of the alphabet is replaced by the last, the second by the second-to-last, and so on. The system takes its name from the first two replacement pairs, alef-tav and beit-shin.

The letters mem-tzadik-mem-tzadik spell the word "mitzmetz", which means "he sucks" or "one who sucks".

Thus, the two words that make up the phrase "he will be holy" ["kadosh yiheyeh"] transform to spell the word for "one who sucks" ["matzmetzit"].

"Matzmetzit" is the feminine form of "mitzmetz". We saw above that "matzmetzit" is spelled mem-tzadik-mem-tzadik-yud-tav. The first four of these six letters are the masculine for "one who sucks", "matzmetz", which, we saw, is the word for "he will be" ("yiheyeh") in atbash. The numerical value of the last two letters, yud-tav, is 10 + 400 = 410, which, we saw, is the numerical value of the word for "holy" ("kadosh"). Thus, the two words for "he will be holy" ("kadosh yiheyeh") transform into the word for "one who sucks" ("matzmetzit"), the first via numerical value, the second via atbash.

The sidelocks of the head always embody the sefira of malchut….

It is in this way that the numerical value of the phrase "he will be holy" is the same as that of the word for "razor".

Rabbi Shmuel Vital notes that in Scripture, the word for "holy" ("kadosh") is spelled without a vav, and therefore its numerical value is only 404, not 410. He proposes that this discrepancy can be resolved by invoking the statement of our sages that in certain contexts the written form a word takes precedence, while in others, the phonetic form takes precedence.

All this indicates that what on the lower level [Zeir Anpin] is manifest as "one who sucks", having the numerical value of the word for "razor", is manifest on the higher level - Arich Anpin - as "he will be holy", meaning that it must not be cut. Therefore, "he will grow the hair of his head uncut".

Nonetheless, all this applies [only] in a general way to the hair of the head of Arich Anpin. With regard to the sidelocks of his head, however, their significance has been explained in our discussion of the commandment [not to cut] the corners of the head[-hair] and the beard.

This is explained also in our discussion of the Thirteen Attributes [of Mercy] recited during the weekday morning prayers. [As stated there,] the sidelocks of the head always embody the sefira of malchut of the head, that is, of the hairs. The difference is that in Zeir Anpin, it is manifest as the name Elo-him spelled out with the letter yud, while with regard to Arich Anpin it is written: "See now, it is I, it is I who is He, and there is no other god with Me." (Deut. 32:39) It possesses only names Havayah.

The phrase "…and there is no other god with Me" literally reads, "…and there is no elokim with Me." If we understand the word "elokim" here to be the divine name Elo-him (rather than just the word for "gods"), this verse can be taken to refer to a level where G‑d is not manifest through the name Elo-him, but only through the name Havayah. This is the level of Arich Anpin.

Wherever in Zeir Anpin there is a name Elo-him, there is in Arich Anpin a transformation of the name Havayah via atbash, i.e. the name Mem-tzadik-pei-tzadik, the numerical value of which is 300, just as is the name Elo-him when spelled out with the letter yud. This indicates that it is an aspect of judgment.

In atbash, the name Havayah (yud-hei-vav-hei) transforms into the letters mem-tzadik-pei-tzadik. The numerical value of these letters is 40 + 90 + 80 + 90 = 300.

This is also the numerical value of the name Elo-him spelled out with the letter yud:

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

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

hei – hei – yud = 5 + 10 = 15

yud – yud – vav – dalet = 10 + 6 + 4 = 20

mem – mem – mem = 40 + 40 = 80

total = 111 + 74 + 15 + 20 +80 = 300

Furthermore, this is a transformation of the name Havayah, which signifies mercy, and the opposite of mercy is obviously judgment, which is signified by the name Elo-him.

Thus, the numerical value of the word for "sidelock" [in Hebrew, "peah"] is the same as that of the name Elo-him.

"Elo-him" is spelled: alef-lamed-hei-yud-mem = 1 + 30 + 5 + 10 + 40 = 86.

"Peah" is spelled: pei-alef-hei = 80 + 1 + 5 = 86.

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

Crown of Abstinence

Kabbalah explains that the source of all vows is in the sefira of bina.

From the teachings of Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

"...he must abstain from wine and alcoholic drink." (Num. 6:3)

The nazir is on a spiritually even higher level than the High Priest….

In connection with the words "a display of superior wisdom" (Num. 6:2) I have already explained (on Leviticus 21:10) what the High Priest represented. Here the Torah teaches that the nazir is on a spiritually even higher level than the High Priest. The High Priest's dominating attribute is that of chesed, whereas the predominant attribute of the nazir is bina, which is ranked higher than chesed in the list of sefirot.

Seeing he is "crowned" with this attribute the Torah calls such a person "nazir", a reference to the "nezer" [Hebrew for "crown"] worn by the High Priest. This is the meaning of the words "the crown of his G‑d is on his head". (ibid. 6:7) Because of all this, "a razor shall not cross his head" (ibid. 6:5) "the growth of his hair on his head shall continue growing", (ibid. 5) "his head shall be sanctified". (ibid. 6:11)

All of this is subsumed under the heading "a display of superior wisdom". Converting such wisdom into something concrete requires the attribute bina. This is described in the Torah by the words "to make a vow". (ibid. 6:2) The part of the brain in which vows originate is the part where the attribute bina is located.

Selected with permission from the seven-volume English edition of "The Torah Commentary of Rebbeinu Bachya" by Eliyahu Munk.

From the teachings of Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

The Rank of the Firstborn

Kabbalah came even before Creation

From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

G‑d's original plan, we must remember, was to give the Torah to Adam. This is why Adam was created…. Adam had been the "firstborn" of all humanity, since he was the first human being ever. We also find that Israel is called "Adam". This, in turn, means that Israel is called "firstborn", as we know from the verse "My firstborn son Israel". (Ex. 4:22) However, the rank of the Levites as firstborn outranks that of Israel as a whole, since the Levites represent the" Ruach Adam/spirit of man", whereas the remainder of the tribes of Israel only represents "Nefesh Adam/soul of man."

The spiritual Torah preceded the universe by 2000 years…

To make certain that we appreciate this point, the Torah writes concerning the tribe of Levi, "They will teach Your laws to Jacob, and Your instructions to Israel". (Deut. 33:10) This refers to the revealed Torah, the practical Torah, the commandments that have to be fulfilled and the transgressions that have to be avoided. However, the spiritual Torah is the true "firstborn", having preceded the universe by two thousand years; this is the Torah alluded to on the tablets that the clan of Kehot carried in the Holy Ark. The tablets after all, "were the handiwork of the Almighty" (Ex. 32:16) just like the "spiritual Torah", which had preceded the written Torah.

This Torah then must be viewed as the real firstborn, having preceded the Torah that was given to humankind to observe. Accordingly, the Kehotites are mentioned first because they carried the Holy Ark containing the tablets, i.e. the spiritual essence of the Torah. From this perspective, the Kehotites deserved to be considered the firstborn.

Now it is clear why the clan of Kehot was counted first. In matters that must be performed in this material world, we view Gershon as the "firstborn", but in matters that are exclusively the domain of the spiritual world, we consider Kehot as the "firstborn".

Translation by Eliyahu Munk.

From Shenei Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz

Holy Earth

The ground of the Temple Mount actually "knows" its Creator.

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

"This man has to bring his wife to the priest…." (Num. 5:15)

The objective for the whole legislation regarding the adulteress is for the priest to examine the man's wife in a place where G‑d "resides".

I have already explained elsewhere that this place is called the "higher" earth, on account of G‑d having His residence there. It is not included in the part of the earth which had been subjected to G‑d's curse as a result of man's sin.

Waters which are found in the sacred precincts of the Temple are sacred, by definition….

Also any of the waters in that area are not subject to "tears", i.e. have not been afflicted by the said curse. This is why G‑d commanded that "holy waters" be taken for this procedure. Waters which are found in the sacred precincts of the Temple are sacred, by definition. This does not contradict the legal precept that these waters be taken from the copper basin which serves the priests to wash their hands and feet.

The Torah also commanded the priest to use earth from the floor of the Holy Temple precisely because it is the closest to G‑d's residence. The reason that this earth should not now be dug up is also because if it were already at hand it is closer to the site where G‑d resides. The closer the earth is to the place where the Shechinah resides, the more its awareness of its proximity to its Creator. Earth from outside the precincts of the Temple would not be as aware of the nearness of G‑d. The earth is better able to fulfill what the Creator demands of it once it has "tasted" the proximity of the Lawgiver.

The reason that G‑d commanded for the earth to be added to the water and not vice versa is based on the waters having been created before the earth during the process of creation. When our sages decided that if the earth had been in the vessel before the water the whole procedure is null and void, they did not nullify the procedure in the event that both water and earth had been poured into the vessel simultaneously. The reason is that such a procedure still resembles the order of Creation when water and solid particles were thoroughly mixed up before G‑d created the light. We do not find that earth is ever at the bottom of the source of spring water however.

Rabbi Shimon held that it does not matter whether the earth had been placed in the vessel first as long as the water is holy water. (Sotah 16) He obviously felt that this suffices for both the waters and the earth to be imbued with the appropriate awareness for both elements to perform the task G‑d allocated to them as part for the whole procedure.

The residue of the names of G‑d provided the water with the power to produce the desired effect….

The Torah commanded to write the portion regarding the adulteress, including the holy name of G‑d where it appears, and to allow the bitter waters to erase these holy names of G‑d due to the nature of the water and the earth it contains. The residue of the names of G‑d provided the water with the power to produce the desired effect in the woman who drank this water.

The Torah also commanded for the meal-offering of the woman in question to consist primarily of barley, i.e. a reminder of the offering Cain had brought, who had offered something of inferior value. This inferior offering was also an indirect result of the sin committed by Adam and Eve.

This is what the Torah means when it speaks of "a reminder of sin", i.e. Adam's sin in the Garden of Eden. It was this Original Sin which had led to the weeping of the waters and the curse which rests on Earth.

When the [suspected] adulteress drinks this mixture of water, earth and the residue of the holy name of G‑d which dissolved in that water, the name of the meal-offering as "reminder of sin" is most appropriate if she has indeed been guilty of marital infidelity. It will recall also earlier sins.

When the waters become aware of this, they will turn bitter reflecting on their own sorry fate, as we described earlier. These waters will then take revenge on this woman who has caused them all these tears and they will ruin the woman's intestines. All of this will be accomplished by the power of the holy Name of G‑d which has been dissolved in these waters.

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

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