The Mystery of the Showbread

The loaves of bread in the Tabernacle allude to unifications in the spiritual worlds.

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

The portion of the Torah read this week discusses the architecture and vessels of the Tabernacle, including the Table and the Showbread. (Ex. 25:23-30) The details of the Showbread are given in parashat Emor. (Lev. 24:5-9)

[We will now discuss] the mystery of the Showbread, i.e. the twelve loaves that were always warm.

The loaves were baked on Friday, placed on the Table on the Shabbat, and eaten by the priests the following Shabbat. Miraculously, they stayed fresh for the whole week. (Menachot 96b)

You already know that above there are several types of couplings, which are [all] metaphorically referred to as "eating", as in the mystical meaning of the verse, "Eat, beloved ones". (Songs 5:1)

Eating is a euphemism for sexual relations….

Eating is a euphemism for sexual relations. Thus, we find that when Potiphar made Joseph in charge of his household and business affairs, "He left all that he had in Joseph's care, and with him in charge, he concerned himself with nothing except the bread he ate." (Gen. 39:6) Rashi comments: "This means his wife." And indeed, Joseph says when Potiphar's wife propositions him, "He has denied me nothing but you, being his wife." (Genesis 39:9)

Similarly, when Jethro heard that Moses had saved his daughters from a shepherd, he said to them, "Why did you leave the man [there]? Call him [here], and let him eat bread." (Ex. 2:20) Rashi comments: "Perhaps he will marry one of you," as Moses indeed did, as we are told in the next verse: "He gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses."

The verse quoted above is from the Song of Songs, the love poem between G‑d and Israel.

As to why eating should be a metaphor for sexual relations…

Now, the coupling of Abba and Imma is affected by the mazal of the beard of Arich Anpin. The numerical value of the word for "bread" [in Hebrew, "lechem", which has a numerical value of 78] is the same as that of the Aramaic word for mazal ["mazla"].

"Lechem" is spelled: lamed-chet-mem = 30 + 8 + 40 = 78.

"Mazla" is spelled: mem-lamed-zayin-alef = 40 + 30 + 7 + 1 = 78.

Divine consciousness…is channeled through the beard of Arich Anpin….

In order for a couple to unite in marital relations, there must be some inspiration that descends upon them from above. In the case of Abba and Imma, this inspiration is a spark of divine consciousness that descends upon them from the preceding parztuf, Arich Anpin, the will. Specifically, it is channeled through the beard of Arich Anpin, which, as we have discussed previously, subdivides into 13 "tufts", which in turn correspond to G‑d's 13 Attributes of Mercy. These attributes are called "mazalot" (pl. of "mazal"), meaning "channel of flow", since the root of "mazal" is nun-zayin-lamed, which means "to flow". Thus, the zodiacal signs are also called "mazalot", since they channel the divine beneficence into the natural world.

In other words, the will to live and enhance life is the motivation for Abba and Imma to couple. In prosaic terms, we might say that a couple can engage in marital relations either as an expression of love for each other or of their desire to become parents together. When focusing on the latter intention, their coupling is like that of Abba and Imma ("father" and "mother"), and the inspiration they draw upon to unite in this way comes from their own precedent, or parents. (The former intention is represented by the coupling of Zeir Anpin and Nukva.)

The names of the partzufim are in Aramaic, taken from the Zohar, as is this concept of mazal. That is why the numerical analysis uses the Aramaic term "mazla" rather than the Hebrew "mazal".

(The text refers to Arich Anpin by the Zoharic term Atika, not to be confused with the partzuf of Atik Yomin.)

[This mazal] is the sixth [of the thirteen], and [the letter representing the number 6, vav] is spelled out by doubling itself with another vav. These [two 6's] are manifest as the twelve loaves, arranged in two arrays of six each. They also manifest the two letters hei [of the name Havayah], whose numerical value when spelled out also equals twelve.

Coupling is referred to as heat….

One of the ways the letter vav, the third letter of the name Havayah, can be spelled out is vav-vav. These two vav's represent the two arrays of six loaves arranged on the Table.

The letter hei appears as the second and fourth letter of the name Havayah. One of the ways it can be spelled out is hei-alef; the numerical value of this combination is 5 + 1 = 6. So, the two hei's again give us two sets of six.

These twelve [loaves] derive from the three names Havayah present in the [said] mazal, which [together] comprise 12 letters.

The numerical value of these three names Havayah is the same as the numerical values of the words for "bread" and "mazal".

Yud-hei-vav-hei: 10 + 5 + 6 + 5 = 26. 3 x 26 = 78.

Since Abba and Imma couple continuously, this bread, i.e. the mazal that motivates them to couple, must be continuously on the table, as it is written, "[and you shall place] showbread on the Table before Me continuously." (Ex. 25:30)

For this reason also it was always warm, as it is written, "to place warm bread on the day it is taken off." (Samuel I 21:7) [It was always warm] to indicate that [the mazal, too,] is always warm, arousing the continuous supernal coupling [of Abba and Imma].

The Levite…exhibits no strict judgment….

Warmth and heat, in the vernacular also, are metaphors for sexual arousal. Rabbi Wolf Ashkenazi notes here that some texts add: "We find that coupling is referred to as 'heat', as it is written, '…whenever the flock are in heat.'" (Gen. 30:41)

[Only] the priests [were allowed to] eat this bread. This is because the priests manifested chochma, the beginning, the High Priest of all the ten sefirot.

The right axis of the sefirotic array alludes to the three types of priests: chochma to the High priest, chesed to the regular priests, and netzach to the assistant [segan] priests. The left side of the sefirotic tree alludes to the Levites. (See Sha'ar Ma'amarei Rashbi on the Idra, Zohar III:131b) The priests, who officiated at the sacrificial rites in the Temple, channeled the divine benficence downward to the people, and thus manifested the attribute of chesed, G‑d's lovingkindness. The Levites, in contrast, accompanied the Temple service with music, arousing the emotions of the people and focusing their consciousness upward, on G‑d. This ascent is an attribute of gevura, G‑d's strict judgment, for any ascent implies a transcedence or rejection of the lower level one is ascending out of.

Through this you may understand the meaning of the phrase: "The Levite Priests…" (Joshua 3:3) We see, in fact, that the Torah sometimes calls the Levites "priests", as it is written, "They will approach the priests, the children of Levi," (Deut. 21:5) and the like. The reason for this is that the archetypes for the priests and the Levites are chochma and bina, respectively. Since, as we have said, [these two sefirot] never part, the Levite on this level is "sweetened", i.e. [he exhibits] no strict judgment. He therefore is closely allied to the priests, and they all exist together, as one.

But below, [in their physical manifestation], the Levites manifest strict severity. They therefore cannot connect with the priests [as they do in their spiritual archetype]. This is why the showbread is eaten only by the priests, who manifest chochma.

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

Angels and Arks

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

Kabbalah teaches that the cherubs above the ark manifest various spiritual forms of love.

In this Torah portion, G‑d tells Moses to make an ark in which to house the Tablets of the Covenant. From the top cover of this ark protruded two cherubs.

Regarding the ark-cover and the cherubs, there are those of the opinion that the cherubs are [manifestations of] Zeir Anpin and Nukva, and there are others of the opinion that they are [manifestations of] netzach and hod [of Imma], and there are still others of the opinion that they are [manifestations of] Abba and Imma.

According to the Sages, the two cherubs represent the pairing of G‑d and the Jewish people. When G‑d was pleased with us, the cherubs faced each other; when not, they miraculously turned away from each other.

The Kabbalistic archetype for the romantic dynamic of union and estrangement is the relationship between the partzufim of Zeir Anpin and Nukva….

The Kabbalistic archetype for the "romantic" dynamic of union and estrangement is the relationship between the partzufim of Zeir Anpin and Nukva, whose union is intermittent, and depends upon the behavior of the Jewish people, whose souls are derived from Nukva. The more "mature" partzufim of Abba and Imma do not undergo such vicissitudes in their relationship, and their union is constant.

Inasmuch as all [opinions in the Torah] are true, know that [the cherubs] are in fact [manifestations of] Abba and Imma, which are like Zeir Anpin and Nukva [except that] they never, ever part.

They [also] manifest netzach and hod [of Imma], which enter into Zeir Anpin. For this reason, they had [middle-aged] adult faces, to indicate that they entered into Zeir Anpin. For if Abba and Imma were in their place, above, it would have been proper for them to have had elderly adult faces, rather than [middle-aged] mature faces. Rather, [you we must assume that] they were [manifestations of] netzach and hod that entered Zeir Anpin.

Three times a day…their faces would change from that of children to that of adults….

The Sages state that the cherubs on the ark-cover had the faces of children. (Chagiga 13b; Sukka 5ab) The Zohar states that three times a day, during the daily prayers, the cherubs would miraculously spread their wings, and at that time, when the Jews experienced expanded mature consciousness, their faces would change from that of children to that of adults.

In Kabbalistic terms, mature consciousness is the presence of the mentality of Imma in Zeir Anpin. The facet of Imma that can enter Zeir Anpin is its netzach and hod, as we have explained previously.

About this, it is said, "And spread over us the shelter of Your peace" In our Liturgy, second blessed after the recitation of the Shema in the evening service is, referring to the shelter of Solomon.

The word for "peace" [in Hebrew, "shalom"] is closely related to the name "Solomon" [in Hebrew, "Shelomo"].

This refers to the fact that when netzach and hod of Imma enter Zeir Anpin, Zeir Anpin's intellect matures and this quiets the internal strife going on inside us. The mentality of Imma [i.e. Imma itself, which cannot enter Zeir Anpin] "hovers" over us, acting as an inspiration, protecting us.

In any case, the union of the two cherubs signifies the union of Zeir Anpin and Nukva, who, when united, resemble the constant union of Abba and Imma.

Apparently, when netzach and yesod of Imma enter Zeir Anpin, this somehow completes yesod of Imma, as will be now stated, and this sets in motion the proper functioning of the cherubs/ark-cover, the revelation of G‑d's will through the Torah.

When yesod of Imma is completed, yesod of Abba - which is the Torah - becomes manifest. And where is it manifest? In the Ark [of the Covenant], which [manifests] malchut of Imma.

Insight is drawn into the mind when the mind has created in itself…an awareness that it needs to be filled….

When yesod of Imma, i.e. the womb of the mother, is ready, the yesod of Abba, the father's procreative organ, is aroused to fertilize it. Insight is drawn into the mind when the mind has created in itself a vacuum, a womb, an awareness that it needs to be filled. This is possible only if the individual feels a sense of selflessness, a willingness to relinquish his present imperfect worldview in favor of a more perfect one.

chanoch adds: This is the Kavenah to build a vessel. Lern it well and practice it intil it becom es who you are.

Malchut of Imma is the interface between Imma and the lower partzufim, the ability of the intellect to create emotions and their expression.

chanoch adds: Intellect does not create emotions except to act out emotions. Emotions are the protection and needs of the body. This my opinion.

Similarly, when we remove the Torah [scroll] from the ark [in the synagogue], we are [in effect] removing the Torah, i.e. chochma, from the ark, i.e. malchut of bina. We then take it to the reader's platform, i.e. malchut.

Reading the Torah is revealing G‑d's will into the world, i.e. manifesting the divine insight of chochma as developed into a new vision of reality in bina that is now ready to revitalize and re-inspire the world.

We will now describe how this dynamic is manifest in the array of angels in the higher worlds.

Similarly, we find reference to the seraphim - which are cherubs - being in Beriya, which is [associated with] bina, and to chayot being in Yetzira, and ofanim in Asiya.

There are two seraphim, even though innumerable camps of millions [of angels are derived and] issue from them. They correspond to yud-hei, i.e. chochma inside bina, which together enter Beriya.

The seraphim are the more "intellectual" angels, who personify divine consciousness based on intellectual comprehension of divinity. The letters yud-hei signify chochma and bina.

It is stated in the Zohar that the four worlds are dominated by the four levels of divine consciousness indicated by the four letters of the the name Havayah, respectively. Thus, the world of Atzilut is dominated by chochma/yud, pure divine awareness. Beriya is dominated by bina/hei, divine intellect. Yetzira is dominated by the midot/vav, divine emotion. Asiya is dominated by malchut/hei, divine expression.

This is the name Y-ah in the world of Beriya, as Rabbi Yishmael said, "I saw Akatriel Y-ah Havayah Tzeva-ot…." (Berachot 7a)

In Atzilut it is impossible for there to be any duality whatsoever….

Evidently, these four names of G‑d correspond to the four letters of the name Havayah, the four worlds, the four partzufim, etc. The name Akatriel is obviously related to keter, the super-rational sefira that serves as the source of insight given into chochma, and is thus associated with the world of Atzilut. Y-ah, as just stated, refers to chochma within bina, the experience of Beriya. Havayah is associated with tiferet, the central of the six midot. Tzeva-ot is associated with netzach and hod, which are manifest as G‑d's actions in the world of Asiya.

These are [the two archangels] Michael and Gabriel, who are termed "seraphim", and are the strength of the states of gevura.

Bina is on the left side of the sefira-tree, and therefore associated with gevura; thus seraphim, the angels of Beriya, are also associated with gevura. In particular, the word "seraph" means "fiery angel" or "burning angel", referring to the burning up of self-awareness that accompanies deep intellectual comprehension of divine reality. The relentless, consuming nature of fire is associated with gevura.

This is indicated by the fact that the numerical value of seraph [= 580] is the same as that of the word for "strength" ["tokef"].

"Seraph" is spelled: sin-reish-pei = 300 + 200 + 80 = 580.

"Tokef" is spelled: tav-kuf-pei = 400 + 100 + 80 = 580.

They are each twice the numerical value of the final letters.

The letters mem, nun, tzadik, pei, and chaf possess final forms, indicating a stopping or restraint (gevura) of the flow of divine life-force represented by the letters of the alphabet.

mem-nun-tzadik-pei-chaf = 40 + 50 + 90 + 80 + 20 = 280.

2 x 280 = 560.

Each one includes itself and its fellow with it.

This statement apparently completes the calculation from 560 to 580.

When we reach the world of Asiya, the forces of evil are quite abundant….

Below them are the chayot, in Yetzira. There are four chayot, in this order: netzach is included within chesed, hod is included in gevura, yesod is included in tiferet -this is three. The fourth is malchut, which issues from the back of tiferet; it is the fourth chaya. [The names of the chayot are] Michael, Gabriel, Nuriel, and Raphael. They are all aspects of Metatron, for he is the main chaya, while these [four] others are manifestations of him.

They are the six extremities, which are the six vav's, whose combined numerical value is 36.

The seraphim are above them, as it is written, "Seraphim were standing above Him." (Isaiah 6:2)

The word for "Him" in this verse is lo [lamed-vav], whose numerical value is [30 + 6 =] 36. Thus, the verse may be read, "The seraphim were standing above the 36".

The ofanim are below [these], in Asiya. In fact, there is only one ofan, as it is written, "And behold, there was one ofan on the earth" (Ezekiel 1:15), but innumerable camps [of derivative ofanim] issue from it.

All this is because in Atzilut it is impossible for there to be any duality whatsoever, but below Atzilut - even though the infinite light of G‑d spreads throughout Beriya, Yetzira, and Asiya - it shines through veils. It shines into Beriya through one veil, into Yetzira through two veils, and into Asiya through three. [Therefore,] the infinite light of G‑d does not cling to them [i.e. these worlds], and they are therefore termed "worlds of separateness".

We can therefore speak of two or four [entities in these worlds], as is required a-propos to the matter.

When we reach the world of Asiya, the forces of evil are quite abundant there, and it is therefore termed "the world of death". For this reason, the ofanim, which are [the angels] in Asiya, possess no intrinsic life-force, being from "the world of death", rather, their life-force comes from Yetzira.

This is the meaning of the verse, "For the spirit of the chaya was in the ofanim" (Ezekiel 1:20). And, [as we know,] the chaya is in the world of Yetzira. Thus, the spirituality and life-force of Yetzira descends into the ofanim of Asiya, and there is no [life-force] in the ofanim except whatever reaches them from Yetzira.

This is why "when the chayot, the ofanim followed; when the former moved, the latter moved, and when the former stop, the latter stop" (Ibid.), for the spirit of the chaya is present in the ofanim, and the latter's life-force comes from the former.

chanoch adds: This whole essay provides hints to the world of Angels that are new to most people. It requires contemplation since the hints relate also to our understandings of the Sefirot and to Names of Angels. Look to the ending letters of the Names of Angels.

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