Bar-Mitzvah and the Search for Chametz

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

The intentions the parents have when conceiving a child determine the nature of the child's spiritual garment "On the eve of the fourteenth, we search for chametz [leavened bread] by the light of a candle." (Pesachim 1:1)

This quote from the Mishnah refers to the search for chametz conducted on the eve of the fourteenth of Nisan. Here, it is interpreted allegorically to refer to the day before a boy's fourteenth year begins, i.e. the day before his thirteenth birthday, when he becomes bar-mitzvah.

For on the first day of the [boy's] fourteenth year, [his Good Inclination] enters [his body fully], in the merit of the Torah he learned in his youth - which is called "light", as in the verse, "…and the Torah is light" (Proverbs 6:23) - and in the merit of the commandments he was trained to perform as part of his education, which are called "a candle", as in the [same] verse, "For the commandment is a candle…."

The divine soul and the Good Inclination enter the individual's consciousness gradually...

The divine soul and the Good Inclination enter the individual's consciousness gradually, as the parents educate their child in its youth to accept the "yoke of the kingdom of heaven", i.e. to fulfill G‑d's commandments, study His Torah, and adopt the Torah's values. Ideally, by the time a child has reached the age of maturity, he or she has been fully inculcated into the Torah's lifestyle and is ready to accept his or her obligations. The divine soul and Good Inclination can then fully manifest themselves in his or her active consciousness.

In the merit of both of these, "we search for chametz", which is the Evil Inclination, and expel it and subdue it, and his [divine] soul and Good Inclination enter [his body fully].

Now, every person possesses [spiritual] leaven [in Hebrew, "se'or"], which comes from the seminal drop of his father. This is alluded to by the verse, "Behold, I was conceived in sin"(Psalms 51:7); [in which King David meant to say:] "My father Jesse had only his own pleasure in mind [when he conceived me]." (See Shaar HaGilgulim, introduction #38; Yalkut HaMachiri to Psalms 118:28)

Leaven, the agent that causes dough to rise, is a metaphor for the Evil Inclination, the source of ego and haughtiness in a person. (Berachot 17a )

...intentions the parents have when conceiving a child determine the nature of the child's spiritual "garment"...

Although Judaism does not believe in Original Sin, we are taught that the intentions the parents have when conceiving a child determine the nature of the child's spiritual "garment," through which he or she experiences life. Tanya, end of ch. 2; quoting the Zohar, Zohar Chadash, Liktuei Torah, and Ta'amei HaMitzvot. The more selfish the parents' intentions, the more spiritual work the child must do in order to refine his or her spiritual perceptions.

Since King David aspired to the highest levels of divine consciousness, he regarded even the slight amount of selfish orientation his righteous father presumably entertained while conceiving him, as an obstacle in his spiritual development that he had to overcome.

Chametz, [in contrast,] comes from the mother's seed, and is therefore called "machmetzet" ["fermenting agent"], in the feminine.

The Torah commands us to remove all "leaven" and "fermenting agent" from our possession before Passover.(Ex. 12:15-20) Rashi understands these two terms to be synonymous: leaven is also referred to as "fermenting agent" in order to indicate that even though it is inedible, it is still prohibited to possess it, just as it is prohibited to possess chametz.

We eat matzah, in order to expel the chametz, for seven days….

All this is expelled, and we eat matzah, which signifies the Good Inclination. We eat matzah, in order to expel the chametz, for seven days, corresponding to the seven years that are left before the person turns 20. At that age, he is judged by the heavenly court.

For certain sins, a person can be tried and punished by an "earthly," i.e. rabbinic, court. For such sins, a person becomes liable for punishment at the age of maturity - 12 for a girl and 13 for a boy.

For other sins, a person cannot be tried and punished by an earthly court but only by the heavenly court. For such sins, he or she becomes liable for punishment only at the age of 20. (See Bamidbar Rabbah 18:4; Midrash Tanchuma, Korach 3)

For during these seven years, a person must be extremely on guard against his Evil Inclination, inasmuch as he had become used to [being ruled by] it until he became thirteen years and one day old. He is therefore [during these seven years] like a sick person who is being healed of his infirmity, who, during the first few days, has to eat only light foods that will not harm him. We are therefore commanded to eat [only] matzah for the seven days of Passover.

[This is what] Rabbi Shimon [bar Yochai] responded to his son, Rabbi Elazar, who asked him if chametz embodies the Evil Inclination and matzah the Good Inclination why we are not prohibited from eating chametz the whole year; the response was that in the days [of Passover], we were like sick people who came out of Egypt, and therefore had to eat [only] matzah. Afterwards, when we were healed and healthy, eating chametz would not harm us. (See Zohar II:40a)

So, too, the young man must be very watchful against the Evil Inclination until he reaches the age of 20.

[This article is a continuation of "The Exodus from Immaturity", describing the Exodus from Egypt allegorically, as the spiritual dimensions of birth.] Exodus frm Immaturity is above.

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

The Exodus from Immaturity

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

Kabbalah explains how each person's personal development is a kind of Exodus.

This installment is a continuation of the previous installment, which began to describe the Exodus from Egypt allegorically, as the spiritual dimensions of birth.

It is known that the twelve signs of the Zodiac subdivide into [four categories corresponding to] the four elements, three [signs] associated with each element.

According to Rabbi Moshe Cordevero (known by his intials as "the Ramak"), in Pardes Rimonim (21:16), these correspondences are as follows:

Month – Sign – Element

Nisan – Aries – fire

Iyar – Taurus – earth

Sivan – Gemini – air

Tamuz – Cancer – water

Av – Leo – fire

Elul – Virgo – earth

Tishrei – Libra – air

Cheshvan – Scorpio – water

Kislev – Sagittarius – fire

Tevet – Capricorn – earth

Shevat – Aquarius – air

Adar – Pices – water

The sign of Aries is associated with the element of fire, and Scorpio is associated with the element of water, for a scorpion only kills someone if he is extremely cold.

Each of the seven planets is associated with two signs, except for the sun and the moon, which are associated with only one each (see Tikunei Zohar 18, p. 36a).

In Talmudic astronomy, the seven "planets" are the Sun, Mercury, Venus, the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. (5 x 2) + (2 x 1) = 12.

The two signs of Aries and Scorpio rule over Mars. This is why they slaughtered the Passover sacrifice on the 14th of Nisan, when the sign [of Aries] was in its strength.

Aries is a lamb, and the Passover sacrifice was a lamb. They slaughtered a lamb in order to weaken the power of the celestial lamb, Aries.

Purgatory of Fire is associated with Aries…Purgatory of Snow…is associated with Scorpio….

There are two facets of Purgatory, corresponding to these two signs. The Purgatory of Fire is associated with Aries, and is used [to purify] anyone who transgresses any of the Torah's prohibitions. Such a person actively performed a transgression.

The idiom for "actively" here is literally, "warmed himself up in order to." In order to purge this person of his fiery enthusiasm for whatever transgression(s) he did, he must endure the Purgatory of Fire. Holy enthusiasm must burn his enthusiasm for evil out of him.

There is also a Purgatory of Snow, which is associated with Scorpio, corresponding to a person who lacks enthusiasm and therefore transgresses an active commandment out of laziness, preferring to sit and do nothing.

The idiom for "lacking enthusiasm" is literally, "being cold." In order to purge this person of his indifference and coldness to G‑d's calling, he must endure the Purgatory of Snow, which freezes this coldness off of him.

Our sages state that the wicked do not repent even at the entrance to Purgatory, but rather steal the snow they find in the Purgatory of Snow, in order to cool themselves off with it when they are placed in the Purgatory of Fire.1 Thus, it is written, "Drought and heat snatch away snow waters, and Sheol, those who have sinned." (Job 24:19)

"Sheol" is the Scriptural term for "Purgatory". In the present context, this verse is understood to read: "To assuage the drought and heat of the Purgatory of Fire, those who have sinned snatch away snow waters from the Purgatory of Snow."

How is it possible to steal there? Since, when a person repents [out of love of G‑d] his intentional sins are transformed into merits, [these sinners] try to repent once they reach the Purgatory of Snow. They hope that their repentance will spare them having to undergo the Purgatory of Fire. This is the "theft" that they commit there, for they don't realize that repentance is effective only in this world.

They try to co-opt the coldness of the snow of Purgatory, i.e. the attribute of indifference, to repent for having enthusiastically committed transgressions. They hope that by now being cold toward these transgressions and uninterested in them, their former transgressions will be accounted as merits. This is "theft", since they are appropriating something that is not theirs to use for what they want to do.

Having concluded his digression about the zodiac, the Arizal returns to how the child emerges from the womb.

For all these reasons, the evil inclination is called "ruddy".

"They called him Esau." (Gen. 25:25)

This refers to the Evil Inclination, for with regard to every mention of Esau and Jacob in this passage, Esau is [allegorically] the Evil Inclination and Jacob is the Good Inclination. This is why it is stated, "They called him Esau," for his father and mother realize that [the newborn] has an Evil Inclination.

Only G‑d is aware of the full entrance of the Good Inclination into the child's consciousness….

Both the Exodus from Egypt and the birth of the twins Jacob and Esau serve as metaphors for birth. The first of the twins to be born was Esau, who allegorically refers to the Evil Inclination. The fact that Esau was born first reflects the fact that the Evil Inclination is the first fully-developed consciousness to emerge with the birth of the child.

It is essential that the parents realize this in order for them to approach the child's moral education properly.

The Arizal continues explaining the verse just quoted:

"Afterwards…" - this always means after a long time, in this case, after thirteen years and a day.

There are two words in Hebrew for "afterwards": "achar" and "acharei". There is a difference of opinion in the Midrash over which of these means "immediately afterwards" and which means "a long time afterwards". (Bereishit Rabbah 44:5) The Arizal here adopts the opinion of Rabbi Yudan against that of Rabbi Huna.

"…His brother came out."

This refers to the inclination to do good, which is fully manifest in the child when he or she reaches maturity at the age of thirteen or twelve, respectively.

It is not apparent to everyone when [the Good Inclination] enters [the child's consciousness]. Only G‑d is aware of this. Scripture therefore continues,

"And he named him 'Jacob'," meaning that "He", the one who knows, called him "Jacob".

In contrast to Esau, who was named by both parents ("they called him Esau"), Jacob was named only by his father, Isaac. But the Torah refers to Isaac not by name but just using the pronoun "he", so it may be interpreted allegorically to refer to G‑d ("He"). This reflects the fact that only G‑d is aware of the full entrance of the Good Inclination into the child's consciousness. Indeed, we see no apparent difference in the child's way of thinking from the day before his bar-mitzvah and the day after.

"And the boys grew" - This means that after they grew they became two; until this point they had been one.

chanoch adds: This also applies to your spiritual growth - as you grow spiritually a unity between the Nefesh and Ruach level of your souls develop.

"And Esau" - that is, the Evil Inclination - "was a man of the field", loving the affairs of this world. The "field" in this verse refers to This World.

"But Jacob was a sincere man, sitting in the tents", studying the Torah.

"Jacob was cooking some porridge." The "porridge" here refers to the thoughts he always entertained regarding how he could serve his G‑d. The word for "porridge" [in Hebrew, 'nezid'] means "thinking", as in the verse, "…which they planned [in Hebrew, 'zadu'] against them" (Ex. 18:11), understood according to the Aramaic translation: "…they were sentenced to the same affliction that they intended to perpetrate on them." This therefore refers to someone who is always thinking up ways to afflict himself in order to earn the life of the World to Come.

Before the advent of the Chasidic movement, the Kabbalistic conception of righteousness involved afflicting the body in various ways in order to weaken its stranglehold over the person's consciousness. As is well known, the Baal Shem Tov decreed that from his time on, this method of serving G‑d was largely outdated, and that from then on righteousness entails educating the body and focusing it on doing good rather than afflicting it.

One way or another, the Evil Inclination is subdued, since it sees that the person is focused on the World to Come [rather than this world]. This is the meaning of:

"And Esau…" - the Evil Inclination…

"…came in from the field…" - the delights of this world…

"…and was tired" - of all the thoughts of the Good Inclination.

"And Esau…" - the Evil Inclination…

"…said to Jacob" - the Good Inclination…

"'Please stuff me…'" - for you have been afflicting me for days with your good thoughts and fasts, so now, stuff my mouth with all I was deprived of all these days… "'…for I am tired.'"

"Jacob replied, 'Sell me today your birthright…'" - for on the first day the Good Inclination enters the individual's body (when he is thirteen years and one day old) it takes charge by force and the Evil Inclination is subdued before it.

Therefore, "on the eve of the fourteenth, we search for chametz [leavened bread] by the light of a candle." (Pesachim 1:1)

This quote from the Mishnah refers to the search for chametz conducted on the eve of the fourteenth of Nisan. Here, it is interpreted allegorically to refer to the day before a boy's fourteenth year begins, i.e. the day before his thirteenth birthday, when he becomes bar-mitzvah.

The intentions the parents have when conceiving a child determine the nature of the child's spiritual garment….

For on the first day of the [boy's] fourteenth year, [his Good Inclination] enters [his body fully], in the merit of the Torah he learned in his youth - which is called "light", as in the verse, "…and the Torah is light" (Proverbs 6:23) - and in the merit of the commandments he was trained to perform as part of his education, which are called "a candle", as in the [same] verse, "For the commandment is a candle…."

The divine soul and the Good Inclination enter the individual's consciousness gradually, as the parents educate their child in its youth to accept the "yoke of the kingdom of heaven", i.e. to fulfill G‑d's commandments, study His Torah, and adopt the Torah's values. Ideally, by the time a child has reached the age of maturity, he or she has been fully inculcated into the Torah's lifestyle and is ready to accept his or her obligations. The divine soul and Good Inclination can then fully manifest themselves in his or her active consciousness.

In the merit of both of these, "we search for chametz", which is the Evil Inclination, and expel it and subdue it, and his [divine] soul and Good Inclination enter [his body fully].

Now, every person possesses [spiritual] leaven [in Hebrew, "se'or"], which comes from the seminal drop of his father. This is alluded to by the verse, "Behold, I was conceived in sin"(Psalms 51:7); [in which King David meant to say:] "My father Jesse had only his own pleasure in mind [when he conceived me]." (See Shaar HaGilgulim, introduction #38; Yalkut HaMachiri to Psalms 118:28)

Leaven, the agent that causes dough to rise, is a metaphor for the Evil Inclination, the source of ego and haughtiness in a person. (Berachot 17a )

Although Judaism does not believe in Original Sin, we are taught that the intentions the parents have when conceiving a child determine the nature of the child's spiritual "garment," through which he or she experiences life. Tanya, end of ch. 2; quoting the Zohar, Zohar Chadash, Liktuei Torah, and Ta'amei HaMitzvot. The more selfish the parents' intentions, the more spiritual work the child must do in order to refine his or her spiritual perceptions.

Since King David aspired to the highest levels of divine consciousness, he regarded even the slight amount of selfish orientation his righteous father presumably entertained while conceiving him as an obstacle in his spiritual development that he had to overcome.

Chametz, [in contrast,] comes from the mother's seed, and is therefore called "machmetzet" ["fermenting agent"], in the feminine.

During these seven years, a person must be extremely on guard against his Evil Inclination….

The Torah commands us to remove all "leaven" and "fermenting agent" from our possession before Passover.(Ex. 12:15-20) Rashi understands these two terms to be synonymous: leaven is also referred to as "fermenting agent" in order to indicate that even though it is inedible, it is still prohibited to possess it, just as it is prohibited to possess chametz.

All this is expelled, and we eat matzah, which signifies the Good Inclination. We eat matzah, in order to expel the chametz, for seven days, corresponding to the seven years that are left before the person turns 20. At that age, he is judged by the heavenly court.

For certain sins, a person can be tried and punished by an "earthly," i.e. rabbinic, court. For such sins, a person becomes liable for punishment at the age of maturity - 12 for a girl and 13 for a boy.

For other sins, a person cannot be tried and punished by an earthly court but only by the heavenly court. For such sins, he or she becomes liable for punishment only at the age of 20. (See Bamidbar Rabbah 18:4; Midrash Tanchuma, Korach 3)

For during these seven years, a person must be extremely on guard against his Evil Inclination, inasmuch as he had become used to [being ruled by] it until he became thirteen years and one day old. He is therefore [during these seven years] like a sick person who is being healed of his infirmity, who, during the first few days, has to eat only light foods that will not harm him. We are therefore commanded to eat [only] matzah for the seven days of Passover.

[This is what] Rabbi Shimon [bar Yochai] responded to his son, Rabbi Elazar, who asked him if chametz embodies the Evil Inclination and matzah the Good Inclination why we are not prohibited from eating chametz the whole year; the response was that in the days [of Passover], we were like sick people who came out of Egypt, and therefore had to eat [only] matzah. Afterwards, when we were healed and healthy, eating chametz would not harm us. (See Zohar II:40a)

So, too, the young man must be very watchful against the Evil Inclination until he reaches the age of 20.

…to be continued.

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

Atone with Bricks and Mortar

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

Early generations set the pattern for nurturing evil in this world.

The meaning of Pesach and the exodus from Egypt [is as follows]:

As you know, the early [generations of mankind] forced the divine presence to ascend [out of the physical world] to the seventh heaven, because of [their] sins. (Bereishit Rabba 19:7; Etz Chaim 36:2)

Adam and Eve caused the divine presence to ascend from the physical world to the first [i.e., lowest] heaven when they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Cain caused the divine presence to ascend from the first to the second heaven when he killed his brother, Abel. The generation of Enoch caused the divine presence to ascend to the third heaven when they introduced idolatry into the world. The generation of the flood caused the divine presence to ascend to the fourth heaven because of their social and sexual sins. The generation of the tower of Babel caused the divine presence to ascend to the fifth heaven by declaring war on G‑d. The generation of Sodom caused the divine presence to ascend to the sixth heaven by their social sins. The Egyptians of Abraham's generation caused the divine presence to ascend to the seventh heaven.

...Adam attempted to repent for and rectify his sin.

The [souls of the] Jews of the generation that was in exile in Egypt were derived from the drops of semen that Adam emitted during the 130 years [he was separated from his wife]. (Eruvin 18b; Zohar 1:55a)

After Adam and Eve ate from the fruit of the tree of knowledge, G‑d informed them that they and their progeny would eventually die. In remorse for bringing death into the world, Adam attempted to repent for and rectify his sin. As part of this process, and because he reasoned that there was no purpose in bringing children into the world if they were destined to die anyway, he separated from Eve. It was only 130 years later that he realized the faultiness of his logic, by losing an argument with Lamech's wives. During these 130 years of celibacy, Adam apparently was not able to control himself completely, and committed the sin of wasteful emission of seed.

They had previously been incarnated as the generation of the flood, who used to also spill [their] seed on the ground, inasmuch as they were derived from the same origin. (Zohar 1:56b, 66b)

The generation of the flood was the first incarnation of the Adam's wasted drops. Since they were the first "generation" of this ill-conceived seed, their spiritual makeup was powerfully predisposed toward the same mentality that produced them. They therefore committed the same sin that this mentality led to.

They were eventually wiped out. This is the mystical meaning of the verse (Gen. 6:5), "And G‑d saw that man's evil was great," for wasteful emission of seed is called "evil," and one who wastefully emits his seed is also called "evil," as it is stated in the Zohar (1:57a) with reference to the verse, "the wicked will not abide with You." (Psalms 5:5)

It follows that the generation of the flood were veritably Adam's evil. This is also the mystical meaning of [G‑d's statement before the flood], "I will wipe out the man that I have created." (Gen. 6:7)

Inasmuch as the name Adam means simply "man," the phrase "And G‑d saw that man's evil was great" may be read, "And G‑d saw that Adam's evil was great," meaning that G‑d saw that [this generation, the physical embodiment of the souls produced by] Adam's evil [emission of seed], was [sinning] greatly [just as he did].

Similarly, the phrase in the following verse, "I will wipe out the man that I have created" may be read, "I will wipe out Adam, who I [personally] created," meaning that G‑d was planning to wipe out the generation because it was an embodiment of the sin of Adam himself.

They were later reincarnated as the generation of the dispersion. [This generation is also referred to as Adam's progeny, as it is written, "And G‑d descended] to see the city and the tower that the sons of man had built," meaning the direct progeny of Adam, reincarnations of his own seminal emissions.

(Gen.11:5)

Here, too, "the sons of man" can be read, "the sons of Adam."

[They were only figuratively his "sons,"] since they derived from seminal emissions of the male without the female. They also sinned.

…it is specifically the holiest souls that evil attempts to grasp

After [these two incarnations,] they had to be purified. For as I have already told you (Likutei Torah in the writings of the Arizal on Ezekiel), they were holy and powerful souls, but evil's grasp of them spoiled them. Once they would be purified and be rid of the sickness of impurity, they would be manifest as holy souls. As you also know, it is specifically the holiest souls that evil attempts to grasp.

We can perhaps understand this as follows. Rabbi Shalom Dovber of Lubavitch states that someone who has never committed the sin of "blemishing the covenant [of circumcision]" on some level cannot truly relate to the inner dimension of the Torah. Now, the most basic meaning of "blemishing the covenant" is wasteful emission of seed, but it can refer also to any sexual aberration, and more subtly, to any lapse of divine consciousness resulting from being seduced by some foreign promise of spiritual fulfillment. After all, wasteful emission of seed and sexual aberration in general is a misdirection of a person's potential into the wrong channels, and focusing on anything other than G‑d is essentially the same thing. The only difference is that in the first case we are talking about reproductive and/or romantic energy while in the second case we are talking about mental or creative energy; in either case, the potential that should have been used to propagate and promulgate divine consciousness throughout reality has been squandered.

But what causes a person to do this? If, as the Kabbala insists, we are all "hard-wired" to fulfill our purpose on earth, to make reality into G‑d's home by propagating divine consciousness throughout it, why would anyone do anything contrary to that end? The answer is that evil temporarily succeeds in convincing the person that the sin it is enticing him to commit will in fact serve this purpose, that the "high" he will get from committing the sin (or from diverting his attention from G‑d momentarily) will enhance his life, re-energize him, re-inspire him, or in some other way accomplish something in short order that it would take a long time to accomplish through the normal channels. Evil seduces us with a shortcut, because it knows that we know that the path to true, holy self-refinement is a long, hard, and tedious one. Evil plays on and capitalizes on our divine imperative and our impatience and frustration over how long it takes us to make real progress.

…anyone who has never fallen for this ruse...cannot really relate to the inner dimension of the Torah.

Hence, Rabbi Shalom Dovber said that anyone who has never fallen for this ruse in some way - even if only in a very abstract, refined way - cannot really relate to the inner dimension of the Torah. This is because the inner dimension of the Torah addresses not the do's and don'ts that the revealed dimension of the Torah addresses, but the more profound issues in life, such as "what is the meaning of life" and "why is there suffering in the world," etc. If a person has never been bothered and frustrated by these questions enough to fall for the bait of a shortcut to their solution, the inner dimension of the Torah will not speak to him.

Now, all souls come [into reality] with states of chesed and gevura, which are derived from daat. Coupling is a function of daat, this being the mystical meaning of the phrase, "And Adam knew his wife Eve." (Gen. 4:1) Coupling is referred to as "knowledge" because the seminal drop originates in daat [literally translated as "knowledge"].

[This is] also [true of] Moses' generation, as is known, for Moses personified daat and thus his generation was a generation of daat, as we have explained elsewhere. Etz Chaim 32:2) However, they were drawn to evil.

This is evident from the fact that they suffered the oppression of the Egyptian exile and slavery. Some deficiency of theirs caused a blockage in the flow of divine beneficence to them.

Thus, the whole purpose of the Egyptian exile was to purify these souls. This is why they were subjected to such oppression, and [the Egyptians] "made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks," corresponding to the mortar and bricks the generation of the dispersion used [to build the tower of Babel]. Understand this.

Of the generation of the dispersion, it is written: "They said to one another, 'Come, let us make bricks and burn them hard.' They had bricks for stone and bitumen for mortar." (Gen. 11:3) Thus, the Jews' suffering through mortar and bricks atoned for their sins with mortar and bricks in their previous incarnation.

Now, since [their] sin was only with respect to daat - for the sparks of their souls originated therein - Moses therefore knew that [their] exile also derived from there.

For, as mentioned above, and as the Arizal presently states, it is possible to understand the nature of the blemish being produced by examining the effect it produces. The fact that the Jews were being punished with mortar and bricks indicated that they were atoning for the sin of the generation of the dispersion, who sinned with mortar and bricks. And that generation had sinned by "blemishing the covenant," which is a function of daat, the sefira of coupling.

...evil is able to derive sustenance from this blemish...

To explain: whenever the Jewish people sin here below and thereby cause some flaw in some divine attribute or supernal sefira (G‑d forbid), evil is able to derive sustenance from this blemish and therefore attaches itself to that point.

We may envision evil as a disease that attacks a weakened immune system.

This is the secret to [understanding] the Egyptian exile, for Egypt and the impurity it embodied derived sustenance from daat. This is particularly so in light for what I have taught you, namely, that Pharaoh and Egypt are positioned in opposition to the supernal neck, which is the back of the supernal daat. This should suffice.

Daat is manifested in the body in the cerebellum, which is located underneath and at the back of the brain, near the neck. The word for "Pharaoh," as we have noted, permutes to spell the word for "the neck" [in Hebrew, "ha-oref"].

Clearly, this exile resulted from all the divine beneficence [that flows through daat] being siphoned off to Pharaoh and Egypt. Therefore, the Jews of that generation were subject to them. But, as you already know, when there is a flaw above due to the sins of the generation below, the divine energies depart, ascending [back to their source] in order that the powers of evil not derive [too much] sustenance from them.

When the divine beneficence is diverted from its natural flow, this "trips a switch" in the spiritual mechanism of creation that shuts off the valve of divine beneficence.

I have explained this to you with regard to why Zeir Anpin is at first only six extremities and does not ten become full [sefirot, i.e., a partzuf] until after the rectification process. (Etz Chaim 11:6) Similarly, at that time [i.e., of the Egyptian exile], Zeir Anpin reverted to its original state, that of "three folded within three." We always refer to this state as "the first impregnation." It returned to the womb of Imma, and was not revealed outside.

Rabbi Meir Poppers insists that the statement that Zeir Anpin returned to the womb of Imma must not be taken literally. Rather, Zeir Anpin remained a full, mature partzuf, but was informed only by the same level of mentality it possessed when it was in utero. This mentality is called in the Zohar "three folded within three," i.e., chochma-bina-daat concealed within chesed-gevura-tiferet and chesed-gevura-tiferet concealed within netzach-hod-yesod. The last triplet represents the autonomous functioning of the body, which is essentially what is functioning during pregnancy. Physically, this is reflected in the fact that the embryo is postured in the crouched fetal position, its head bent into the knees. This is also why the Pesach sacrifice was to be offered with "its head on its knees and on its innards." (Ex. 12:9)

Thus, we see that transgression in this world causes a blemish in the upper worlds, which backlashes as a withdrawal of divine consciousness and beneficence in order to prevent evil from taking the opportunity to siphon off this energy for itself. This "exile" of the divine presence is an immature mentality that must be reconstructed and re-matured in order to restore the optimal consciousness; this is the process of redemption.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Pri Etz Chaim (Shaar Chag HaMatzot);