The Jew and Egypt

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

During the Egyptian exile, the Jewish people elevated all its divine sparks.

chnoch adds: The pronoun “its” is unclear. Does it apply to sparks in Egypt or to sparks that is the responsibility of the Jewish people to elevate.

Punishment or Wrongdoing?

It is stated in the Torah that [one of the punishments for national wrongdoing is that] "G‑d will return you to Egypt in ships…and you will be sold there to your enemies as slaves and handmaidens, and no one will buy" (Deut. 28:68). Why is causing us to return to Egypt a punishment? The Torah does indeed tell us that "you shall see them [the Egyptians] no more" (Ex. 14:13), but is going against the Torah's command a punishment?

The exile of Egypt to the upper tip of the yud, which outweighs them all…

Also, why did G‑d say this about Egypt, but not about other exiles? Why is He against our returning to Egypt, but permits us to travel to Babylonia or Media?

Further, why do our Sages normally speak of only four exiles - Babylonia, Media, Greece, and Edom - as in the verse "And behold, a dark fear…" (Gen. 15:12) but the exile of Egypt, which was more severe than any of these, is not mentioned together with them? [i.e. when discussing Abraham's vision of the future of his descendants: "'And behold, a great, dark fear fell upon him'. 'Fear' refers to Babylonia…. 'dark' refers to Media…. 'great' refers to Greece…. 'fell upon him' refers to Edom'" (Bereishit Rabba 44:17).]

Finally, why is the exodus from Egypt mentioned in the Torah so many times?

The Answer

The four exiles correspond to the four letters of the name Havayah, and the exile of Egypt to the upper tip of the yud, which outweighs them all and is greater than them.

The four letters of the name Havayah correspond to chochma, bina, the middot, and malchut, respectively, while the upper tip of the yud corresponds to keter, the source of them all. The super-conscious is more powerful and its rectification therefore more crucial than all the other powers of the soul.

Therefore it is mentioned repeatedly [in the Torah] and is not mentioned together with the other [exiles], for it is in a class by itself.

The purpose of exile is to elevate the fallen sparks of holiness…

Now, the purpose of exile is to elevate the fallen sparks of holiness that [were scattered all over the earth and] were mixed in with evil due to the sin of Adam. This is the meaning of the verse, "There is a time when a man overcomes another man to his detriment" (Ecclesiastes 8:9), meaning that the "evil man" overcomes the "holy man" to his own detriment, for the fact that he oppresses Israel and rules them allows Israel to totally extract from him all the sparks of holiness within him.

"Evil man" and "holy man" here mean the forces of evil and good. Just as in the vision of Ezekiel the array of divine attributes flowing into Creation had the form of a man - and the anatomy of terrestrial man reflects this organization of forces, so are the forces of evil arranged in the human form.

And wherever they go, the Shechinah goes with them, in order to elevate her component parts.

The Divine Presence accompanies the Jewish people in their exile, in order to reconstruct herself out of the fallen sparks of her shattered self.

That is why we are commanded not to return to Egypt, but are not so prohibited with regard to other nations [that have oppressed us], for we have not yet elevated all [the divine sparks] within them.

"And they emptied out Egypt", meaning that during the Egyptian exile the Jewish people elevated all the divine sparks that inherited in that culture and country.

This is why the punishment for wrongdoing is that G‑d "will return you to Egypt in ships". Since Egypt corresponds to the upper tip of the yud, and there remain divine sparks to elevate in the other lands, which are compared to Egypt like the body is to the head, Israel must return to Egypt.

By returning to Egypt, the general exile, Israel can then proceed to elevate whatever sparks remain in the derivative exiles of the other nations.

But as to Egypt itself, "no one will buy". When there were sparks of holiness embedded within them they desired to rule over Israel. But since Egypt has already been totally refined, it no longer has any desire to enslave Israel. Therefore, they will not want to buy them as slaves.

Babylonia corresponds to the head, as it is written: "You are the head of gold" (Daniel 2:38). Media and Persia correspond to the two arms, Greece corresponds to the body, and Edom and Ishmael correspond to the two legs. This is why the latter two exiles are long.

The Arabs…will rule over the Jewish people for a time concurrent with the exile of Rome…

The present exile is seen as an extension of the Roman exile (Edom is Rome), since culturally and legally, Western civilization shares the values and worldview of ancient Rome. A subset of this exile is that of Ishmael, the Arabs, who are seen as an antithesis of Roman civilization and values, and who will rule over the Jewish people for a time concurrent with the exile of Rome.

This is also why our Sages refer to the final stages of the exile as "the heels of the Mashiach" (Sota 49a) for in that time it will be necessary to elevate [the divine sparks] that have become enmeshed in the lowest elements [of these exiles], the feet.

Regarding this body, our Sages said: "The son of David shall not come until all the souls have been emptied out of the Body" (Yevamot 62a) referring to the holiness that has been mixed in with the evil of the "evil man" mentioned above.

The usual meaning of this saying is that all the souls waiting in their spiritual storehouse (known as the "Body") must be born into this physical world at least once in order for Mashiach to come. Here, it is being interpreted to mean that all the divine sparks ("souls") must be elevated and thus emptied out of the body representing the exiles of Israel.

Now, as we said, Egypt outweighs all the other exiles for it corresponds to the tip of the yud and transcends the rest of this "body". Therefore, when the Mashiach comes and the process of elevation and refinement of the sparks will be completed, "death will be swallowed up forever" (Isaiah 25:8) and the sparks will be totally elevated as they were in Egypt. About this time it is written, "As in the days when you went out of Egypt I will show him wonders".

Translated and adapted by Rabbi Moshe Wisnefsky from Likutei Torah and Sefer HaLikutim, parashat Ki Teitzei; 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.

chanoch adds: In the writings of the Sages there are 2 different reasons for how this wasted seed was caused. One is that Adam was influenced through dreaming by Lillith – pronounced L – L. The other relates that the sperm built up and was ejaculatedby the excess pressure.

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 of 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); 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 – titled “Exodus from Immaturity”, 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 – inner element – Incarnation Elevation

chanoch adds: the inner element relates to modern astrology of “mutability”. Incarnation elevation relates to the ability of a human soul to be elevated from immaterial to plant to animalm to human s studied in our dvnced reincarnation.

Nisan – Aries – fire – water - ?

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.

chanoch adds: Note the discomfort nby modern Rabbinic authorities to be unwilling to use the word astrology which is the words used in the Zohar Talmud and other ancient sources. This nis my opinion. Hebrew astrology is a science just like astronomy is a science. It is exact. Yet it detracts from the authority of the pulpit Rabbi who has not been taught how to use the signs in the stars properly. This is also my opinion.

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.

chanoch adds Both the astrological signs and the planets were created by the same letter – in this case Mars. Which is created first – planet or astrological sign? Whichever is first is the cause. In Kabbalah the planet was created first. Yet I do not know the source for this teaching. Perhaps they were created simultaneously.

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.

chanoch adds: The time of the Exodus was a period of transition from mthe age of Taurus – Bull to the age of the Ram; just as we transitioned to the age of Aquarius the last 500 years. This is a teaching that I have not heard from modern western astrology. Yet this teaching is regarding changing overall frame of reference.

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. Gehinom [this Midrash is printed in Otzar Midrashim, vol. 1, p. 91]; see Reishit Chochmah, Yira 12-13. 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."

chanoch adds: Sheol is one of 7 Hells described in the Zohar, There are 7 Heavens – 7 Hells or Gehinom's and 7 earths in the middle – 6 referred to as inner earths and 1 – our physical earth. Only those sentenced by nthe spiritual court to the lowest Hell will never arise. The essence of these souls is apportioned among other human souls so that this energy is not lost. This is my undertanding of the teachings of the Kabbalah.

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.

"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.

chanoch adds: HaShem creates this opposite that. In earler generations the soulnwas stronger meaning a more intense or passionate desire. The body also had this more passionate selfish desire. It was necessary for the body to be afflicted to break down this stronger essence to allow the soul to control the body. In our generation the soul's desire is weak as is the bodies desire and affliction is not necessary except in a few people. An example was a young man caught with drugs in Thailand and was sentenced to caning.

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;

Battling Evil - Level by Level

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

In Kabbalah, each of the Ten Plagues responds to a related emanation of wickedness

We must now explain briefly the order of these ten plagues that the Holy One, blessed be He, visited upon the Egyptians in Egypt. The plagues were: blood, frogs, lice, the horde of animals, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and slaying the firstborn. They correspond, in ascending order, to the ten [sub-] sefirot of Nukva, otherwise known as Malchut.

To explain:

1. Blood. As I have told you, the numerical value of the simple progressive iteration of the name Eh-yeh is 44, that of the word for "blood" [in Hebrew, "dam"].

Eh-yeh: alef-hei-yud-hei. The simple progressive iteration [achorayim] of this name is:

Alef, alef-hei, alef-hei-yud, alef-hei-yud-hei:

1 + (1 + 5) + (1 + 5 + 10) + (1 + 5 + 10 + 5) = 44.

Dam: dalet-mem = 4 + 40 = 44.

This plague issued from the Malchut of the holy feminine principle [i.e., the partzuf of Nukva] and smote the evil Malchut, i.e., Nukva of Zeir Anpin in the realm of evil. [Specifically,] this plague attacked her outside her head.

Meaning her skull [in Hebrew, "gulgalta"], signifying keter of the evil Nukva.

2. Frogs. The sum of 320, the number of states of strict judgment, as is known, plus the numerical value of the simple progressive iteration of the name Ado-nai, which is 126, plus the kolel for both of them, is the numerical value of the word for "frog" [in Hebrew, "tzefardei'a", which equals 444].

According to Rabbi Shalom Sharabi, the kolels here should be added to the numerical value of the word "frog" (444), giving 446, the sum of 320 and 126. [This is also implied in the parallel passage in Pri Etz Chaim.]

Ado-nai: alef-dalet-nun-yud. The progressive iteration of this name is:

alef alef-dalet alef-dalet-nun alef-dalet-nun-yud:

1 + (1 + 4) + (1 + 4 + 50) + (1 + 4 + 50 + 10) = 126.

Tzefardei'a: tzadik-pei-reish-dalet-ayin:

90 + 80 + 200 + 4 + 70 = 444.

This plague issued from the yesod of the holy feminine principle and smote the brains of the evil Nukva.

This is the mystical meaning of the word for "frog" [tzefardei'a], which can be seen as a combination of the words for "bird" [in Hebrew, "tzipor"] and "knowledge" ["dei'a"], referring to the daat [of this Nukva]. As you know, the brains of [this Nukva] are manifest as two birds, as mentioned in the Zohar (I:218) and as we have explained elsewhere (Sha'ar Ma'amarei Rashbi, VaYechi; Etz Chaim 48:2; Mevo Shearim 6:2:5:6).

This plague… smote the highest part of the skull…the location of the hair on the head

3. Lice. The numerical value of the word for "lice" [in Hebrew, "kinim"] is 120. This is the numerical value of the name Elo-him, 86, plus the number of letters in the second iteration of the name Ado-nai, 34.

Kinim: kaf-nun-yud-mem = 20 + 50 + 10 + 40 = 120.

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

The second iteration of the name Ado-nai:

simple spelling - spelling-out of - expansion of the spelling-out of


alef – alef-lamed-pei

lamed – lamed-mem-dalet

pei – pei-alef


dalet – dalet-lamed-tav

lamed – lamed-mem-dalet

tav – tav-vav


nun – nun-vav-nun

vav – vav-alef-vav

nun – nun-vav-nun


yud – yud-vav-dalet

vav – vav-alef-vav

dalet – dalet-lamed-tav

This plague issued from the hod of the holy feminine principle - for, as you know, Imma's influence extends until hod - and smote the highest part of the skull encompassing the head of the evil Nukva, the location of the hair on the head. [This plague] also [smote] the malchut - the final [sub-]sefira of the evil Zeir Anpin, otherwise known as Samael, the husband [of the evil Nukva]. As is known, lice nest in the hair of the head.

chanoch adds: By this time, one can realize that the negative tree is upside down relative to the Tree of Life. Most people visualize the positive tree as a mirror image of the negative tree – feet to feet – hip to hip – head to head. If that is the case, then these plaques, described by the Ari, do not make sense. Only an upside down tree makes the Ari correct. Learn the true meaning nof relativity. Be open to change your view of reality, your agenda, to fit the facts.

Imma, intellectual inspiration, extends its influence as far as hod, the last of the midot with original content. Yesod and malchut are just the coalescence and expression of all that has preceded them. Thus, this plague, although issuing from hod, is primarily a "head" plague.

It appears to me, Chaim [Vital], that this is also the mystical meaning of the verse, "And G‑d will smite the skull of the [wayward] daughters of Zion with lesions" (Isaiah 3:17), that He infested their heads with families of lice, as our sages explain (Yalkut Shimoni, Isaiah, 247, 267.)

The homily is based on the fact that the word for "smite with lesions" [sin-pei-chet] is also the root of the Hebrew word for "family" ["mishpacha", shin-pei-chet].

4. Horde. In Hebrew, this word [in Hebrew, "arov"] is written without the [expected] vav. It thus expresses the simple progressive iteration of the name Havayah, whose numerical value is 72, plus the simple progressive iteration of the name Elo-him, whose numerical value is 200. Their sum is the numerical value of the word for "hoard" [272].

Havayah: yud-hei-vav-hei. The progressive iteration of this name is:

yud, yud-hei, yud-hei-vav, yud-hei-vav-hei =

10 + (10 + 5) + (10 + 5 + 6) + (10 + 5 + 6 + 5) = 72.

Elo-him: alef-lamed-hei-yud-mem. The progressive iteration of this name is:

alef, alef-lamed, alef-lamed-hei, alef-lamed-hei-yud, alef-lamed-hei-yud-mem

= 1 + (1 + 30) + (1 + 30 + 5) + (1 + 30 + 5 + 10) + (1 + 30 + 5 + 10 + 40) = 40 + 2(10) + 3(5) + 4(30) + 5(1) = 40 + 20 + 15 + 120 + 5 = 200.

Arov: ayin-reish-beit = 70 + 200 + 2 = 272.

This plague issued from the forehead [i.e. netzach] of the holy feminine principle and smote the yesod of the evil Zeir Anpin, i.e., Samael.

The Hebrew word for "forehead" is "metzach", etymologically related to "netzach". Also, "netzach" ["victory"] signifies resolve, which we express by contracting the skin on the forehead.

chanoch adds: contracting the skin of the forehead creates lines that allows us to read the meaning.

5. Pestilence. The numerical value of the word for "pestilence" [in Hebrew, "dever"] is equivalent to the combined numerical values of two names Elo-him, 172 - the numerical value of the word for "heel" [in Hebrew, "eikev"] - plus the number of letters in the second spelling-out of the name Ado-nai, 34. 172 plus 34 equals 206, the numerical equivalent of the word for "pestilence".

Dever: dalet-beit-reish = 4 + 2 + 200 = 206.

As above, the numerical value of Elo-him is 86. 2 x 86 = 172.

Eikev = ayin-kuf-beit = 70 + 100 + 2 = 172.

We saw above that the number of letters in the second spelling out of Ado-nai is 34.

Evil behavior changes G‑d's natural mercy into judgment…

This plague issued from the tiferet of the holy Nukva and smote the hod of the evil Zeir Anpin.

This is the mystical meaning of the verse, said in connection with this plague, "behold, the hand of G‑d is…", indicating how the name Havayah written in its natural sequence [yud-hei-vav-hei] - which signifies tiferet, the inner motivation of which is mercy - is inverted to hei-vav-yud-hei, signifying strict judgment.

In this verse, we first see the name Havayah spelled in its natural order of letters, followed immediately by the word "is" - which is usually left out in Hebrew. This word is spelled hei-vav-yud-hei, which of course is a rearrangement of the letters that spell the name Havayah. Thus, evil behavior changes G‑d's natural mercy into judgment.

6. Boils. This plague issued from the gevura of the holy feminine principle. Now, the numerical value of gevura is 216. From gevura on down to malchut are manifest five more [sub-]sefirot, each comprised of ten [sub-sub-sefirot], giving a total of 50 [sub-sub-sefirot]. 216 plus 50 equals 266. When 102 is added to this number, we have 368, the numerical value of the word for "boils" [in Hebrew, "shechin"]. 102 is the sum of the numerical values of the three expansions of the three names Havayah whose total numerical values are 72, 63, and 45, these being 46, 37, and 19, respectively. 46 plus 37 plus 19 equals 102. They signify the states of judgment that extend to the realm of evil, as we have explained elsewhere (Etz Chaim 19:2) in our explanation of the passage of the Mishna (Shabbat 6:8) that begins, "an amputee may go out with his wooden leg".

Gevura: gimel-beit-vav-reish-hei = 3 + 2 + 6 + 200 + 5 = 216.

Shechin: shin-chet-yud-nun = 300 + 8 + 10 + 50 = 368.

As we have learned previously, there are four principle ways in which the name Havayah is spelled out [based on how we spell out the letters hei and vav], which produce four separate numerical values. The first three of these are 72, 63, and 45. When we consider only the letters used in the process of spelling out [the milui], we have:

chanoch adds: we have explained these milui aspects in other classes. 72 – 26 = 46; 63 – 26 = 37; 45 – 26 = 19.

The passage of the Mishna cited states that a person with a wooden-leg is allowed to walk in the public domain on the Shabbat, and this is not considered carrying for him (which would be forbidden). The numerical value of the word for "wooden-leg", in Hebrew, "kav", is 102.

[As stated,] these states of judgment issued from the gevura of the holy Nukva and smote the netzach of the evil Zeir Anpin.

[As for these states of judgment], the letter shin of "shechin" [boils] signifies the 300 states of judgment and severity. To these, add the numerical value of the name Havayah spelled out to equal 52 [i.e., with the letter hei], plus the number of letters in the name Ado-nai [4] and the number of letters used to spell it out [12]. This gives 368, the numerical value of the word for "boils."

According to Rabbi Shalom Sharabi, the 300 states of severity are the three sefirot on the left axis of the sefira tree [bina, gevura, and hod], each sub-divided into ten sub-sefirot, which themselves are then subdivided into 100 sub-sub-sefirot, giving 300.

The name Havayah spelled out to equal 52:

yud-vav-dalet hei-hei vav-vav hei-hei = (10 + 6 + 4) + (5 + 5) + (6 + 6) + (5 + 5) = 52.

The name Ado-nai is spelled out with 12 letters:

alef-lamed-pei dalet-lamed-tav nun-vav-nun yud-vav-dalet

300 + 52 + 4 + 12 = 368.

7. Hail. The numerical value of the progressive iteration of the name Elo-him is 200. Adding to this the number of letters in the name Elo-him [5] plus the kolel gives 206. This is the numerical value of the word for "hail" [in Hebrew, "barad"].

Barad: beit-reish-dalet = 2 + 200 + 4 = 206.

Hail is made of water, which…expresses chesed. But it was commingled with flaming fire…

This plague issued from the chesed of the holy feminine principle, for hail is made of water, which derives from and expresses chesed. But it was commingled with flaming fire, originating in gevura. It smote the tiferet of the evil Zeir Anpin.

8. Locusts. This plague manifests four names Elo-him spelled out. This name spelled out in two iterations uses 52 letters. These four expanded spellings are called the four "sons of G‑d." There are two that originate in chochma and two that originate in bina. Their combined number of letters is the same as that of the word for "locust" [in Hebrew, "arbeh"].

These locusts were an impure species, signifying strict judgment, as opposed to the pure species of locusts [permitted by the Torah]. "The Torah spoke of four sons"; these are the four names Havayah spelled out with the letter hei. [Ref. the Passover Haggada, referring to the four times in the Torah where G‑d describes how we are to teach our children about the exodus from Egypt.]

As we see, the name itself is 5 letters, the first iteration uses 13 letters, and the second iteration uses 34 letters. 5 + 13 + 34 = 52. This number is the numerical value of the word for "son" (ben: beit-nun = 2 + 50); thus, the double spelling-out of the name Elo-him is, so to speak, the "son" of Elo-him.

4 x 52 = 208.

Arbeh: alef-reish-beit-hei = 1 + 200 + 2 + 5 = 208.

As we have seen, the numerical value of the name Havayah when spelled out with the letter hei is also 52. This spelling out of this name can thus alos be considered a "son" of Havayah. Since the name Elo-him signifies judgment, the "sons" of this name are the forbidden, non-kosher locusts. The four "sons of Havayah" are the kosher species of locusts.

They issued from the bina of the holy feminine principle, and smote the gevura of the evil Zeir Anpin.

9. Darkness. This is alluded to by the well-known 325 states of judgment, which we explained elsewhere. These states of judgment are the 320 powerful sparks, the states of judgment of the Egyptians. The additional 5 are actually states of mercy that sweeten the said 320 states of judgment, this giving a total of 325. These 5 [states of mercy] were the light that shone for Israel during the days of the Egyptian darkness, as it is written, "and there was light for all the Children of Israel in their habitations." (Ex. 10:23) And thus, "light" is mentioned five times in Torah's description of the first day of Creation. The alef of the word for "light" alludes to the three alefs that complete the calculation to get 328, the numerical value of the word for "darkness" [in Hebrew, "choshech"].

Choshech: chet-shin-chaf = 8 + 300 + 20 = 328.

[Amended according to other versions cited by Rabbi Shalom Sharabi.]

Each plague expressed a different combination of divine power channeled by Nukva to destroy its evil opponents…

It will be recalled that in the plague of frogs, the 320 states of judgment operated without any such mitigation [from the 5 states of mercy].

The 3 necessary to bring the calculation from 325 to 328 are derived from the letter alef when graphically split into two down the middle of its middle stroke. When drawn this way, the alef splits into two combinations of the letters yud and vav. The combined numerical values of these four letters is 32, corresponding to the 32 pathways of wisdom, i.e. Abba. As is known, the 320 states of judgment are rectified through thought, i.e. Abba.

The split alef: yud-vav-vav-yud = 10 + 6 + 6 + 10 = 32.

These [states of judgment] issued from the chochma of the holy feminine principle and smote the chesed of the evil Zeir Anpin.

10. Killing the Firstborn. This plague issued from the keter of the holy Nukva and smote the three highest [sub-]sefirot of the evil Zeir Anpin. The initials of these three sefirot - keter, reishit chochma, bina - spell the word for "firstborn" [in Hebrew, "bechor"]. This is similar to what is explained in the Zohar (Tikunei Zohar 70, pg. 119b) regarding the word for "blessed" [in Hebrew, "baruch"] and the name of the River Kevar.

Chochma is referred to as "reishit chochma" ["the beginning of wisdom"] based on the verse: "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of G‑d." (Psalms 111:10) Also, chochma is the first conscious sefira, and is therefore known as "the beginning".

In summary:

plague - smiting sub-sefira in the holy Nukva - evil sub-sefira smitten

1. - blood – malchut - keter of Nukva

2. - frogs – yesod - brains of Nukva

3. - lice – hod - skull hair of Nukva and malchut of Zeir Anpin

4. - horde – netzach - yesod of Zeir Anpin

5. - pestilence – tiferet - hod of Zeir Anpin

6. Boils – gevura - netzach of Zeir Anpin

7. - hail – chesed - tiferet of Zeir Anpin

8. - locusts – bina - gevura of Zeir Anpin

9. - darkness – chochma - chesed of Zeir Anpin

10. - firstborn – keter - keter-chochma-bina of Zeir Anpin

If we consider all this, we see here yet another overturning of Victorian stereotypes. Here, the female is the attacking warrior, and she attacks not only her opposing female principle but also - and chiefly - the evil male.

The female is the attacking warrior, and she attacks …the evil male…

In this tour de force of feminine power, Nukva seems to be mustering all her possible sources of divine energy, based on various combinations of divine names. Thus, we see why the Ten Plagues first of all had to be ten, and secondly, why they took the specific forms they did: each plague expressed a different combination of divine power channeled by Nukva to destroy its evil opponents.

According to how we have defined the male and female components of consciousness previously, this makes sense: if the female is the drive to concretize divinity in the world, it should specifically be the female that gets incensed over the forces that oppose this drive, namely evil.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Shaar HaPesukim and Pri Etz Chaim;