From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky
Job came to help rectify Abraham's father Terach
The portion of the Torah read this week begins:
"And G‑d appeared to him [i.e., Abraham] in the plains of Mamre, as he was sitting at the opening of the tent in the heat of the day." (Gen. 18:1)
The initials of the words "And G‑d appeared to him in the plains of…" [in Hebrew, "vayeira eilav y-h-v-h be-alonei" - vav-alef-yud-beit] spell "Job" [in Hebrew, "Iyov", alef-yud-vav-beit]. The initials of the words "G‑d…in the plains of Mamre" [in Hebrew, "y-h-v-h be-alonei mamrei" - yud-beit-mem] spell the word for "levirate" [in Hebrew, "yavam" - yud-beit-mem]. This alludes to the statement of our sages that Job was the offspring of a leviratic marriage. (Zohar 2:33a)
[G‑d had previously] told Abraham: "You will come to your fathers in peace." (Gen 15:15) What sort of tiding was this? Rather, as our sages state, [G‑d hereby] informed him that Terah, his father, who was then an idol-worshipper, would repent." (Bereishit Rabba 30:4; Rashi on Gen. 15:15)
The expression "come to your fathers in peace" means that when the individual dies, his soul will repose in paradise with those of his forebears. Since Terah was an idol-worshipper, what sort of reassurance was G‑d offering Abraham here? We must therefore conclude that G‑d was telling Abraham that Terah would repent and that his soul would rest in paradise.
The words "in the heat of the day" allude to the statement of our sages that on that day G‑d removed the sun from its sheath (Baba Metzia 86b), this being the equivalent of Gehinom.
One who…guards the purity of his sexuality merits Abraham's protection…
Abraham at all times sought guests to host. Since this incident occurred shortly after his circumcision, G‑d wished to let Abraham rest, so He made it extra hot so that people would refrain from traveling and no one would be on the road for Abraham to invite into his tent. The sun is seen as being encompassed by a sheath that protects the world from its rays. One aspect of the purification process of Gehinom is unbearable heat.
Abraham "…was sitting at the opening of the tent," referring to [our sages' statement] that he sits at the entrance of Gehinom and keeps whoever is circumcised and sealed with the holy covenant and has not blemished it from entering. (Eruvin 19a)
Abraham was the first Jew to be circumcised, and the covenant of circumcision is known to this day as "the covenant of Abraham". Thus, whoever fulfills the commandment of being circumcised and guards the purity of his sexuality merits Abraham's protection. Allegorically, this simply means that guarding sexual purity is sufficient merit to be spared the ordeal of Gehinom even if one has sinned in other ways that would have otherwise required that he undergo the purging process.
Now, this caused Terah to be reincarnated. When he returned, he descended as a woman and married according to leviratic law.
I.e., she married the brother of her deceased, childless husband. In such a case, the first child of this union is considered the child of the deceased man. Although Terah repented of his sin of idolatry before he died, he evidently had to be reincarnated in order to right his sexual sins. He thus descended as a woman - presumably to experience female consciousness and thereby realize the seriousness of having "used" women. As a woman, s/he suffered being childless and losing her husband. S/he then had to marry the deceased husband's brother.
The key to the rectification of Terah's sexual sins was the sexual purity and idealism of his son, Abraham. The fact that Abraham (re-)introduced the idea of sexual integrity into the world allowed Terah's soul to be set straight.
The result of this union was Job. Job [thus lived] in the generation of Isaac. He was not comforted by the words of any of his [three] friends who came to console him. He was only comforted when he met Isaac, [who is called in the book of Job] Elihu ben Berachel the Buzite. (Job 32:2) Isaac was called Elihu ben Berachel [literally, "Elihu the son of he whom G‑d has blessed"] for G‑d blessed him. [Elihu ben Berachel] was "from the family of Ram", meaning Abraham.
Job's name is alluded to in the description of the splitting of the sea…
Job, like Isaac, was a grandson of Terah. He lived in "the land of Utz," and Utz was the son of Nahor, Abraham's brother. After G‑d inflicted suffering upon Job, his three friends came to console him. But Job was not consoled by their words, since they each tried to convince him that he had done something to deserve this suffering. Only the younger Elihu was able to console Job.
Abraham's original name was Abram (Avram), meaning "the father of Ram."
chanoch adds: Actually Avram means “elevated father”. Ram is not a Hebrew word. Thus the translator is mixing Hebrew – Av – father and English - Ram. This is not recommended, in my opinion.
This is why Job said, "I therefore detest [my words] and am comforted over dust and ashes." (Job 42:6) This alludes to Abraham, who said, "I am dust and ashes." (Gen. 18:27) [Job said, in effect,] "Now, because of him, I am comforted."
Having passed his test, Job completes the rectification of the soul of Terah, initiated by the spiritual accomplishments of Abraham.
This is why his name was Job [Iyov] for he was the father of Abraham - who considered himself dust and ashes before his Maker – reincarna-ted. chanoch adds: - Terach.
The letters that make up the word "Iyov" (alef-yud-vav-beit) may be rearranged to spell "his father" (in Hebrew, "aviv" – alef-beit-yud-vav).
chanoch adds: alef – beit translates as father. Final vav translates as “his”. The letter yood does not fit with this narative. See below
This is also alluded to in the fact that "Job" [Iyov] permutes to spell "and he came" [vayavo].
Job is also alluded to in the verse [describing the reaction of the Jewish people to the splitting of the sea] "And the people revered G‑d, and they believed in G‑d and in His servant Moses." (Ex. 14:31) The initials of the words for "…G‑d, and they believed in G‑d…" [in Hebrew, "et y-h-v-h vaya'aminu be-y-h-v-h" - alef-yud-vav-beit] spell "Job" [Iyov].
We can now understand why Job's name is alluded to in the description of the splitting of the sea.
This is because Job apparently did not figure at all in this incident.
chanoch adds: I do not understand the relevance of the above comfort.
And also [we can now understand] why G‑d delivered him into the hands of Samael.
A shepherd once was tending his flock next to a river…
Samael is an angel identified with the Accuser in the heavenly court, i.e., with Satan. The beginning of the book of Job describes how "G‑d said to Satan: 'Did you notice My servant Job? There is no one like him on earth; a wholesome and upright man, who fears G‑d and shuns evil.' Satan answered G‑d, 'Is it for no reason that Job fears G‑d? Have You not set a protective wall about him, about his household, and about everything he owns from all around? … Send forth Your hand and touch everything that is his, and see if he does not blaspheme You to Your face!' So G‑d said to Satan, 'Everything that is his is hereby in your hand….'" (Job 1:8-11)
The parable our sages use to explain this is: A shepherd once was tending his flock next to a river. [A wolf attacked the flock, and the shepherd threw it a lamb to divert its attention from the rest of the flock.] (Y. Sotah 5) Now, in the parable, the wolf would certainly be satisfied with one sheep, for he has no desire to eat the whole flock! But in the analogous case, Samael was accusing the entire Jewish people, saying, "These are idol-worshippers, and those are idol-worshippers!" How, then, would he be satisfied just to receive [permission to inflict suffering upon] Job?
At a certain point while the Jews were crossing the Sea of Reeds on their way out of Egypt, the Egyptians entered the sea in pursuit. At that point, we are told, the heavenly accuser protested to G‑d, saying, "Both these and those are idol-worshippers. Why are You planning to save these and drown those?" G‑d thereupon "threw Satan a bone", i.e., suggested that he inflict suffering upon Job. This diverted his attention from the Jewish People, who proceeded to cross over to dry land unimpeded, leaving G‑d to overturn the sea on the Egyptians.
Furthermore: why did G‑d use Job to ransom Israel? This seems biased, to say the least. "If Tuvia sinned, should Zigud be punished?" (Pesachim 113b)
To understand this, we must explore another matter first.
…purity of insight is dependent upon the purity and force of one's intentions
We have seen that at "the covenant between the parts", G‑d said to Abraham, "…your seed will be sojourners in a land not theirs. [They will serve them, and they will oppress them for four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation that they will serve, and in the end they will leave with great wealth. You, however, will come to your forebears in peace; you shall be buried in good old age. The fourth generation will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite will not be full until then.]" (Gen. 15:13-16)
In this covenant, G‑d promises Abraham the land of Israel in exchange for his children going into exile. It is called "the covenant between the parts" since it was "endorsed" by Abraham and G‑d (represented by a pillar of fire) passing in between the severed halves of several animals. The idea expressed was: "just as these halves are not complete without each other, so are the two of us not complete without the pact that binds us together."
Why, [in this passage,] does G‑d interrupt [the description of what is to befall Abraham's descendants] with the statement that Abraham will come to his forebears in peace?
Furthermore, [as we said above,] what sort of tiding is this, seeing that [Terah] was still serving idols, selling them, and through them causing everyone to err?
Know, then, that chochma is what clarifies everything, and the elevation [of the sparks of holiness that fell from Tohu] depends chiefly upon it.
The key to differentiating between good and evil - and knowing how to release the kernel of good within evil in order to liberate it - is chochma, or insight. The purer one's insight, the clearer one will be able to recognize what is good and what is evil, and purity of insight is dependent upon the purity and force of one's intentions.
By way of analogy: when a blacksmith strikes his hammer on a piece of iron, sparks fly forth from it. If the blacksmith is an expert, he collects these sparks and returns them to their original state.
Apparently this refers to the slivers of iron that break off the larger piece. The skilled blacksmith knows how to "recycle" these splinters and use them.
This is the essence of the sages' dispute over whether or not a blessing is to be pronounced over unripe fruit. (Berachot 40b) He who contends that we do not recite a blessing over them feels that once they have fallen off the tree and the forces of evil have appropriated them, they are not suitable for a blessing.
As long as unripe fruit remains on the tree, it can ripen and become edible. Thus, it potentially can be eaten and thereby elevated into the service of G‑d (assuming the person eating the fruit uses the energy and "lift" he gets from eating it for holy purposes). Once the unripe fruit falls (or is picked), however, it has lost its chance to ever become fit for food; it has thus fallen into the realm of evil and can only become useful again through the roundabout way of decomposing and turning into fertilizer for the next generation of crops.
He who contends that we do recite a blessing when we eat them feels that since they issued from the realm of holiness, they still possess some holiness and may therefore be returned to their source. As it is written: "He plans out schemes, so that no one be banished from him." (Sam. II 14:14) They are therefore suitable for a blessing.
Satan considered Job a fair exchange for the Jewish people…
Thus you will understand that when G‑d told Abraham that "your seed will be sojourners…and in the end they will leave with great wealth", Abraham asked how this could be, inasmuch as Terah - the progenitor of the clan - was so depraved. How could he be rectified and rectify others? G‑d therefore told him that "you will come to your forebears in peace", telling him that Terah would repent.
This is also why G‑d told him, "the fourth generation will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite will not be full until then." I.e., Job was amongst them, but was not yet rectified. Afterwards, [when he passed his test and was rectified,] he is called "a 'finished' man" [ish tam]. (Job 1:1)
Although this phrase refers to Job before he was tested, we are told that after his suffering G‑d restored to Job all his previous wealth and happiness. Presumably this means that he did not suffer spiritually either, and remained as "finished" as he was to begin with, if not more so. Or perhaps just being born, Job signified the completion of the rectification of Terah, who, as we said before, had been reincarnated as Job's mother.
Nonetheless, Job was a non-Jew, and the "shells" claimed him as their own and his merit protected them.
For all his perfection, Job was not part of the line of Abraham (being descended from his brother Nahor, as above), and thus was not a link in the chain of the primogeniture of the Jewish people. We are told that when the spies entered the land of Israel, they found the inhabitants mourning over Job's passing, since his merit protected them. (Rashi on Numbers 14:9)
The Arizal concludes by saying that this is why Satan considered Job a fair exchange for the Jewish people, and why it was not unjust that G‑d offered him as "ransom" for Israel. Before his trial, he was the as yet unrectified Terah, the source of the evil of idolatry that the Jewish people were in the process of uprooting. But whereas the line of Abraham was on the way to receive the Torah, i.e., to replace idolatry with its opposite, the true spiritual path, Job's task and trial was merely to renounce idolatry and remain true to G‑d throughout his test. Since he thus represented the hope and perfection of the rest of humanity, Satan was satisfied to vex him instead of the Jewish people. Unwittingly, he thereby enabled Job, and by extension, all humanity, to reach perfection.
Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."
Kabbalah teaches that Abraham's advisors each had a spiritual agenda.
From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky
"And G‑d appeared to [Abraham] in the plains of Mamre." (Gen. 18:1)
All that we are required to rectify in this world is only for the purpose of causing Zeir Anpin and Nukva to couple. For we receive the means of livelihood, divine beneficence, and children only from them, who are our [spiritual] father and mother.
G‑d has set up the creational order such that He channels our needs into the physical world via the spiritual world. The latter must therefore be functioning properly in order for the channels of divine blessing to flow properly. In this context, the divine blessings are the "offspring" of the union of the spiritual male and female antecedents of our own souls.
Thus Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai interpreted the verse: "Your father and mother will rejoice" (Proverbs 23:25) to mean that "your father" is the Holy One, blessed be He, and "your mother" is the Community of Israel. (Zohar III:55a, 61b, 119a, 156a, 240b; Berachot 35b)
These are appellations of Zeir Anpin and Nukva, respectively.
The divine emotional attributes…must possess mature, adult intellect….
Nonetheless, we are also required to rectify, together with them, the coupling of Abba and Imma, so that intellect descends [from them] to [Zeir Anpin and Nukva] that will enable the latter to couple. Then, divine beneficence, food, and children and all other needs will descend [into the material world] from them.
In order for Zeir Anpin and Nukva - the divine emotional attributes and their means of expression - to couple fruitfully, they must possess mature, adult intellect. Otherwise their union will be subject to what we might call the vagaries of immaturity, i.e. of undeveloped emotions whose self-orientation will prevent them from interacting smoothly with each other. This maturity they receive from their "parents", Abba and Imma, i.e. from the divine intellect proper. But in order for Abba and Imma to transfer intellectual consciousness and perspective to Zeir Anpin and Nukva, they themselves must couple properly.
We must therefore question what our sages, of blessed memory, said, namely, that "The Holy One, blessed be He, will not enter the Upper Jerusalem until He will enter the Lower Jerusalem". (Taanit 5a)
Jerusalem is the 'home' into which the male principle enters in order to couple with the awaiting female principle….
G‑d "entering" Jerusalem is an appellation for the coupling of the male and female principles, alluded to by the terms "the Holy One" and "Jerusalem", respectively. More precisely, Jerusalem is the "home" into which the male principle enters in order to couple with the awaiting female principle. In its plain meaning, this statement refers to the spiritual antecedent of Jerusalem and the physical Jerusalem, but in its mystical meaning, it implies that Abba and Imma do not couple unless Zeir Anpin and Nukva do so first.
This cannot be, for those above [Abba and Imma] are called "the companions that never separate" (Zohar III:4a) as opposed to those below [Zeir Anpin and Nukva] who are called "lovers", who do not couple constantly but only on known occasions.
Why, indeed, are [Abba and Imma] called "companions that never separate"? It is stated in the Zohar (Tikunei Zohar, introduction 1b, 21b) in reference to the verse, "you shall send away, send away the mother" (Deut. 22:1), that this implies two divorces, that of the Supernal Shechinah and that of the Lower Shechinah.
The Supernal Shechinah is Imma and the Lower Shechinah is Nukva.
This is alluded to [more explicitly] in the words "the mother" [in Hebrew, "et ha-eim"]: The direct particle ["et"] alludes to the lower "mother", which encompasses all the letters of the alphabet, from alef to tav.
In Hebrew, the direct object (here, "the mother") is usually preceded by an untranslated particle, "et", spelled alef-tav. Inasmuch as malchut (Nukva) is the means of expression, i.e. thought, speech, and action, it encompasses the entire language of expression. These are the "letters" of thought, the letters of speech, and the "letters" of action.
Nukva is the lower "mother", the source of the world below it.
The word "mother" [itself] refers to the supernal "mother" [Imma].
It thus appears that there is a situation in which Imma is "divorced" from Abba. How then can the Zohar insist that their union is continuous?
There are two types of coupling, one external and one internal….
The answer is that there are two types of coupling, one external and one internal. The external one is never lacking and requires no arousal from below, and exists in order to sustain all the worlds. As our sages state, "[marital relations] are good for the woman, good for the embryo, and good for the milk." (Nidah 31a)
The external, superficial coupling of Abba and Imma is indeed continuous, and supplies all reality with the minimal life-force it requires in order to continue to exist.
The statement of the Sages reads: "During the first three months of pregnancy, marital relations are harmful to the woman and to the embryo; during the middle three months, they are harmful for the woman but good for the embryo; during the final three months, they are good for the woman and good for the embryo." Presumably, the Arizal is referring to the final trimester, when the woman is most visibly a mother.
The second is for the sake of issuing new souls into the world. It is with reference to this coupling that "The Holy One, blessed be He swears that He will not enter the Upper Jerusalem until He enters the Lower Jerusalem."
The term "new souls" means both literally new souls that will invest physical bodies, and all new spiritual revelations of divine consciousness.
The meaning is that [He will not enter the higher Jerusalem] until Zeir Anpin and Nukva are ready to enter. The meaning cannot be to really enter, for the purpose of their coupling [i.e. that of Zeir Anpin and Nukva] is to elicit [new] souls from Abba and Imma, and if Abba and Imma to do not elicit mature mentality for themselves, how can it descend from them to Zeir Anpin and Nukva? The order followed in the transmission of [new] souls is as follows: Zeir Anpin and Nukva elicit them from Abba and Imma; Abba and Imma elicit them from Arich Anpin; and Arich Anpin elicits them from Atik Yomin, and so on, to the end of all levels, for "the higher one is presided over by a higher one yet, [and there are yet higher ones above them]." (Ecclesiastes 5:7)
Judgment is predominant in the feminine archetype, while inclusiveness predominates in the male archetype….
Therefore, the words "until He enters…" mean "until they are ready to enter".
From all this, it follows that our main task is to rectify Zeir Anpin and Nukva and cause them to couple, and that the principle coupling consists of the sweetening of the states of gevura [of Nukva] by coupling them with the states of chesed, i.e. the coupling of gevura with the states of chesed.
Gevura (judgment) is predominant in the feminine archetype, while chesed (inclusiveness) predominates in the male archetype.
Know that the states of gevura within the feminine archetype are embodied in the [final] letters mem-nun-tzadik-pei-chaf, whose combined numerical value is 280.
These five letters possess final forms, which indicate the stopping of the flow of meaning in the word.
mem-nun-tzadik-pei-chaf = 40 + 50 + 90 + 80 + 20 = 280.
With this you will be able to understand a deep secret. Namely, the one who gave Abraham the advice to circumcise himself was Mamre, who personified the states of gevura. For the numerical value of his name is 280 plus the kolel.
When G‑d commanded Abraham to circumcise himself, he consulted with Einar, Eshkol, and Mamre. Einar said, "You will make yourself a cripple. The relatives of the kings you killed will come and kill you." (Another opinion: Einar told him, "You're already 99 years old; why subject yourself to this pain?") Eshkol said, "You are old; if you cut yourself you will bleed to death." (Another opinion: Eshkol said, "Why arouse the wrath of your enemies [who oppose doing anything that promotes consciousness of the Divine]?") Mamre said, "Your G‑d stood by you in the fiery furnace, in the famine, in your war against the kings, and if He asks you to circumcise yourself you won't listen?"
commentaries on the paragraph above: Bereishit Rabba 42:8; Midrash Tanchuma, Vayeira 3. The opinions in parentheses are those of Bereishit Rabba. According to Chizkuni, Abraham did not "consult" with his three friends, for he intended to fulfill G‑d's command unhesitatingly. He merely wished to test their reaction to what he was about to do and found that only Mam-Re had the proper attitude. According to Da'at Zekeinim (a commentary written by the authors of the Tosefot), Abraham asked his friends whether or not to circumcise himself publicly or privately, or how to convince his servants to circumcise themselves also. According to the Maharal of Prague (Gur Aryeh), Abraham consulted with his friends in order to demonstrate that even if they counseled him against fulfilling G‑d's command he would do it anyway, and to demonstrate that he was fulfilling G d's command with full awareness of what he was doing, not impetuously.
"Mamre" is spelled: mem-mem-reish-alef = 40 + 40 + 200 + 1 = 281.
280 signifies, as we saw, the states of gevura, which seek to couple and thereby be sweetened.
As long as Abraham was uncircumcised, he could not couple, for the supernal chesed that is revealed in the mouth of Imma withdraws when it reaches the foreskin. [Mamre] therefore advised him to circumcise himself.
The mouth of Imma signifies malchut of Imma, the expression of the intellect as it passes from Imma to Zeir Anpin. If the chesed issuing from Imma to Zeir Anpin encounters a foreskin, a blockage, in the yesod of Zeir Anpin, it recedes back into Imma. Zeir Anpin is thus left without the full mentality of Imma, and cannot properly couple with Nukva.
As we know, Abraham had three friends: Einar, Eshkol, and Mamre. Einar personified the states of gevura within Zeir Anpin, which number 320, this being the numerical value of Einar.
"Einar" is spelled: ayin-nun-reish = 70 + 50 + 200 = 320.
Eshkol personified yesod [of Zeir Anpin], which is associated with the name Sha-dai, and causes the states of chesed within the name Eh-yeh, which is associated with Imma, to descend. This is indicated by the fact that the numerical value of the regression of Eh-yeh is 44, as you know, and thus the combined numerical value [of this regression] and the name Sha-dai is the same as that of Eshkol [plus the kolel].
"Eshkol" is spelled: alef-shin-kaf-vav-lamed = 1 + 300 + 20 + 6 + 30 = 357.
"Eh-yeh" is spelled: alef-hei-yud-hei.
Its regression is:
alef alef-hei alef-hei-vav alef-hei-vav-hei
= 1 + (1 + 5) + (1 + 5 + 10) + (1 + 5 + 10 + 5) = 4(1) + 3(5) + 2(10) + 1(5) = = 4 + 15 + 20 + 5 = 44.
"Sha-dai" is spelled: shin-dalet-yud = 300 + 4 + 10 = 314.
44 + 314 = 358.
Eshkol thus signifies the effect of the name Sha-dai [yesod of Zeir Anpin] on the name Eh-yeh [Imma].
This is the meaning of [the name Sha-dai as the One] "Who sustains and provides for all".
The name Sha-dai, as we shall see, is explained in various ways. Here, it is taken to mean "whose Divine power suffices to sustain all reality" [See Rashi on Gen. 17:1].
(It could be that the phrase "who sustains and provides for all" alludes to the name Eshkol, the last syllable of which, "kol", means "all".)
chanoch adds: Eshkol can be translated as “all fire” or all passion”
This is why [yesod] is called "Sha-dai", for it is the external dimension of yesod, which [participates in] the external coupling, which causes everything [else] to couple and provides for everything, as we explained regarding Imma. This means that just as Imma participates in two types of coupling, so do Zeir Anpin and Nukva participate in two types of coupling.
Just as with Abba and Imma, the external, superficial coupling of Zeir Anpin and Nukva channels the basic life-force necessary to keep the world functioning.
These are the states of gevura within yesod. As our sages explained, the name Sha-dai means that [G‑d] is the one who said "enough" to His world (Chagigah 12a). [This name] gives strength and [the ability to] limit to the states of gevura, for the [unhindered] states of chesed extend without limit.
The name Sha-dai describes G‑d as simultaneously being powerful enough to provide infinitely, and powerful enough to limit the inherent nature of Creation….
If the attribute of chesed had operated unchecked during Creation, the world would have gone on being created infinitely. The attribute of gevura, powered by the name Sha-dai, limited and reigned in the attribute of chesed.
Thus, the name Sha-dai describes G‑d as simultaneously being powerful enough to provide infinitely, and powerful enough to limit the inherent nature of Creation to extend without limit.
They also said [that the name Sha-dai means that G‑d] overrides the natural order [See Ramban on Gen. 17:1]. This is [also] done through the states of gevura.
G‑d is the only one with the power and ability to override the natural order He established.
Thus, we see that all three explanations of the name Sha-dai reflect its association with the states of gevura within yesod.
Thus, Einar and Eshkol respectively personify the gevura-states within Zeir Anpin as a whole -and within yesod of Zeir Anpin in particular. Neither of these gevura-states are sweetened by the coupling of Zeir Anpin and Nukva. Only the gevura-states of Nukva itself are so affected.
These two, i.e. Einar and Eshkol, are not sweetened by coupling. They therefore did not advise Abraham to circumcise himself, for they would gain nothing by it.
But Mamre, whose main sweetening occurs through coupling, did advise Abraham to circumcise himself. For as long as Abraham was uncircumcised, chesed withdrew from him and he [i.e. Mamre] could not be sweetened. He therefore advised him to circumcise himself.
This is the meaning of "And G‑d appeared to him…", i.e. now that chesed has been revealed in the mouth of Imma, because Abraham circumcised himself, the Shechinah appeared to him, in order to receive these states of chesed.
Nukva prepared to receive the states of chesed that would sweeten her inherent gevura.
And how did the Shechinah appear to him? "…In the plains of", meaning "in the strength of": G‑d revealed Himself to Abraham in the strength of the states of gevura, which are alluded to by the word "…Mamre", whose numerical value is 280, as we explained. [The states of gevura revealed themselves to Abraham] in order to be sweetened by the coupling [of Zeir Anpin and Nukva].
Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim and Likutei Torah;
G-d wanted to bring forth the souls of Israel that had been stored away from before Creation until this moment.
From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky
This week's Torah reading includes the story of how Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. (Gen. 18:20-19:29)
[We will now explain] the [mystical] explanation of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. [We will also explain] why the three angels - Michael, who announced to Abraham that Sarah was going to have a child - Gabriel, who overturned Sodom - and Raphael, who rescued Lot (Gen. 18:2, Rashi) each of whom came to fulfill a separate mission, all came together at once instead of one after the other.
Inasmuch as each of these angels had a separate mission, it would seem that there is no reason why they all visited Abraham at once.
[They did so] because it was necessary.
The angel Michael's mission (to announce to Abraham that he was going to father Isaac) was similar to the missions of Gabriel and Raphael (to destroy Sodom and save Lot), as we will see; therefore, these two missions had to occur at the same time. Gabriel's and Raphael's missions are combined into one for this exposition because destroying Sodom was also part of rescuing Lot, as will be explained.
First, the Arizal discusses Michael's mission:
G‑d wanted to bring forth the holy seed, the souls of Israel that had been stored away from before Creation until this point. There were two thousand years of Tohu, during which G‑d was creating worlds and destroying them.
chanoch adds: These 2000 years of Tohu represent creating and destroying worlds. This is the creation of the universe, which science says isn 13.5 billion light year old. Yet actually this is the current limit to humanities ability to see distance.
The souls…had to be held back until a proper spiritual setting could be created….
Humanity in general was originally intended to fulfill the role that, after Adam's sin, was reserved for the Jewish people. Thus, the souls that G‑d originally intended to send to the world in its first years had to be held back until a proper spiritual setting could be created for them. This setting was the Jewish people.
The Sages state that "The world spans six thousand years [before the messianic millennium]. [The first] two thousand years of Tohu ('chaos', 'disorder'), two thousand years of Torah, and two thousand years of the days of the Mashiach." (Yalkut Shimoni, Isaiah 393; ibid. Hosea 522, etc)
The year 2000 Anno Mundi after creation (1761 BCE) coincides with Abraham's 52nd year, so roughly speaking, Abraham marked the transition from the period of Tohu to the period of Torah, or Tikun (since the rectification of reality can occur only through the Torah). Although the Torah was not actually given until 448 years after this, the Sages state that the forefathers kept the entire Torah before it was given, and the creation of the Jewish people that began with Abraham was the preparation for the giving of the Torah. Thus, the period of Torah can justifiably be considered to have begun with Abraham.
The year 4000 Anno Mundi after creation (240 CE) is relatively close to the death of Rabbi Yehudah Nesiah (230-235 CE), the grandson of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi (recorder of the Mishnah) and the last effective leader of the Sanhedrin. "Although the Sanhedrin [and the position of Nasi-'President'] did not disappear altogether, it ceased being the center of Torah for the whole of Jewry, since it lacked the leadership of a Nasi who was a great sage in his own right. And so it was that the leading sages dispersed, each one establishing his own school of Torah learning, which stood side by side with the Sanhedrin. But all these became diminished in standing and authority when compared to the newly arising Torah center that was being established in Babylonia." Historical reference. Many of the inhabitants of the Land of Israel left at this point.historical reference. Thus, this year may be considered to mark the point when the emphasis in Judaism shifted from learning Torah toward yearning for the redemption from exile, in other words, for the Messianic Era.
There were numerous 'proto-worlds' preceding the Creation….
The Sages also state that before the creation of the world, G‑d was "creating worlds and destroying them." (Kohelet Rabba 3:14) In Kabbalah, this is understood to refer to the fact that there were numerous "proto-worlds" preceding the Creation of the world of Atzilut, the ideal, rectified world (of which the subsequent worlds, including the physical universe we live in, are just an imperfect reflections). Although necessary stages in the progression toward the ideal world of Atzilut, these worlds were "scrapped" in terms of being used as the ideal archetype for reality. The main "proto-world" or imperfect precursor of Atzilut was the world of Tohu.
There is thus a thematic connection between the Kabbalistic world of Tohu and the notion of the "two thousand years of Tohu" that preceded Abraham, and, in fact, the two thousand years of Tohu are a manifestation in this physical world of the world of Tohu in the spiritual dimension. In other words, the course of history in our physical world mirrors the spiritual course of "history" (in quotes because this "history" occurs outside the creation of time) in the development of the spiritual worlds.
[This is alluded to in the Torah's account of how] various people fathered children and died, and then [their children] fathered children [and died], and so on. (Gen. 5) Then He wiped them all out in the Flood, and replanted them through Noah until [He began again in] the generation of the Dispersion, when the nations were destroyed and all the evildoers were dispersed. In this way the world of Tohu was wiped out, [remaining so] until Abraham rebuilt it [as the world of Tikun].
This is the mystical meaning of [our sages' statement that in the verse] "These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created" [in Hebrew, 'b'hibaram'] (Gen. 2:4) [that the word for "when they were created" is a permutation of the word for] "through Abraham" ['b'Avraham'] (Bereishit Rabba 12:9)
"B'hibaram", Hebrew for "when they were created", is spelled: beit-hei-beit-reish-alef-mem.
"B'Avraham", Hebrew for "through Abraham", is spelled: beit-alef-beit-reish-hei-mem.
The fact that the word for "when they were created" can be permuted to the word for "through Abraham" implies that the creation of the world was in a sense dependent on Abraham, or his merit.
Through the covenant [with Abraham] the world [of Tikun] endures - as it is written, "Were it not for My covenant by day," (Jeremiah 33:25) referring to Abraham - despite the presence of impurities, i.e. Ishmael and Esau, as it is written, "For through Isaac it will be called for you seed," (Gen. 21:12) - i.e. holy seed.
Until the Torah was given the world's existence was unstable and precarious…
The Sages point out that in the verse "And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day" (Gen. 1:31), the day is preceded by the definite article, which is not the case with the preceding five days of Creation. This, they say, is to connect the sixth day of Creation with the day on which the Torah was given, the sixth day of Sivan, 2448. The work of Creation (completed on the sixth day) is dependent on the acceptance of the Torah by the Jewish people. Without this acceptance, the world's existence is unnecessary, or pointless, and therefore until the Torah was given the world's existence was unstable and precarious. (Rashi ad loc., etc) This is indicated in the verse "Were it not for My covenant by day and by night, I would not have established the laws of heaven and earth", meaning that were it not for the observance of the Torah by the Jewish people day and night, G‑d would have no purpose for the world and its laws of nature.
Here, "by day" is taken to refer to Abraham, since the world was plunged in spiritual darkness until Abraham, and "Abraham began to shine light" (Shemot Rabba 15:26).
The covenant G‑d made with Abraham was that he would make him the progenitor of the Jewish people and that they would inherit the Land of Israel as the ideal setting for accomplishing their mission, to be a "light to the nations" and disseminate divine consciousness through reality, making the world into G‑d's home.
The verse: "for through Isaac it will be called for you seed" is understood to mean that Abraham's true seed, the genetic line of the Jewish people, is passed on only through Isaac, and not through Abraham's other sons, Ishmael and the sons of Keturah (Gen. 25:1-6).
To continue on to part 2, see below
Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim.
From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky
Isaac embodied the messianic potential latent within Abraham.
From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky
[This article is a continuation from Part 1: see above]
In the verse: "for through Isaac it will be called for you seed" (Gen. 25:1-6) the word for "through Isaac" can also mean "in Isaac", and this is taken to indicate that only part of Isaac's seed will transmit the genetic line of the Jewish people. Thus, only Jacob plays this role, and not Esau, Isaac's other son. (Rashi on Gen. 28:15)
Then, in Abraham, [G‑d] found [a vessel for] all the seed of Israel, and the souls that existed before the world was created existed in him. For until then, the world was in the order of Tohu, without the covenant. That is why the world only was able to endure through the covenant of Abraham. This is the [mystical] meaning of the idea that G‑d "created them" "through Abraham". Understand this.
Since this was the case, G‑d also wanted the soul of the Mashiach to appear and be manifest. [The soul of the Mashiach] was also stored away before the world was created, as it is said, "and the spirit of G‑d was hovering over the water." (Gen. 1:2) [Our sages said that] this refers to the spirit of the Mashiach. (Bereishit Rabba 8:1) It existed even before this.
Since the purpose of the Jewish people - to make the world into G‑d's ultimate home - will be accomplished fully only through the Mashiach, the descent of the souls of the Jewish people at this point in history had to be accompanied by the descent of the soul of the Mashiach. Otherwise, the Jewish people would lack the sense of direction and purpose necessary for them to accomplish what they were meant to accomplish.
The fact that the "spirit of the Mashiach" was "hovering over the waters" at the outset of Creation indicates that the world was created for the end to which the Mashiach will bring it - that the Mashiach is a necessary ingredient in Creation, without which it cannot exist.
The name of the Mashiach is listed as one of the seven things that preceded the creation of the world. Tana d’vei Eliahu Rabba 31; cf. Bereishit Rabba 1:4) (The other six are the Torah, teshuva, Purgatory (Gehinom), the Garden of Eden [the abode of the soul in the afterlife], the Throne of Glory, and the Temple. All these are related to the process of achieving the purpose of Creation.)
It had been "lost" in Sodom, as it is written, "I have found David, My servant" (Psalms 89:21), and our sages said that this means that G‑d found [the seed of David's soul] in Sodom, in the person of Lot, Abraham's nephew.
Lot fathered (through incest with his daughter) Moab (Gen. 19:30-37), who became the progenitor of the nation of Moab. Ruth, the ancestress of King David, was a Moabite. (Ruth 1:1-4, 4:13-17) King David, of course, was the ancestor of the Mashiach. Thus, the soul of the Mashiach was latent in Lot, who had chosen to live in Sodom. (Gen. 13:11-12)
It was therefore necessary that all three [angels] come at the same time: One [came] to find [the souls of] Israel in Abraham. One [came] to overthrow Sodom, so that Lot could [be extricated from there by the third angel and] leave there and hide in the cave where G‑d had wine waiting for him so David, the [progenitor of the] Mashiach of the G‑d of Jacob (par. Samuel II 23:1), could [eventually] be born. Therefore, the three came at the same time. Understand this.
chanoch adds: The above paragraph is a different understanding of the tasks of the three Angels. This is 2 of the 70 meanings of these wors. Yet how do we reconcile the teaching that Angels have 1 task to accomplish at a time. Michael came to announce the birth of Isaac which is also the same as finding the souls of Israel in Avraham. Gavriel came to destroy Sodom and also transform Lot's wife to Salt so that the third Angel Rafiel could heal Avraham and also extract Lot to hide in the cave with the wine. Thus we see that these subjets are really the same essence of the actions.
Until this point in his life, Lot only had daughters, all of whom were already mature by this time. Therefore, it is unlikely that he would have had sons had he remained in Sodom and not have had incestuous relations with his daughters. Therefore, the incest had to be arranged so he could father the nation that would carry the soul of the Mashiach latent within him. Furthermore, the society of Sodom was so degenerate that it presumably could not have "hosted" the soul of the Mashiach; therefore, G‑d had to extricate it from there.
Lot's daughters, thinking that G‑d had destroyed humanity again, gave their father wine to drink in order that he repopulate the world through them. The Sages say that G‑d arranged for there to be wine in the cave where they fled in order for Lot to father the two nations of Ammon and Moab. (Rashi on Gen. 19:33)
Furthermore, just as Isaac issued from Abraham, [the Mashiach, the future] Isaac issued from Lot, [as follows:]
The name Isaac [Yitzchak] can be seen as the combination of the words for "the end of the live one", referring to the Mashiach. This is the [mystical] meaning of the verse, "He asked of You life…" (Psalms 21:5), and of the phrase "David, King of Israel, lives and endures" (Liturgy for the Sanctification of the New Moon).
"Yitzchak" is spelled: yud-tzadik-chet-kuf.
"Keitz chai", which means "end of the live one", is spelled: kuf-tzadik chet-yud.
chanoch adds: another translation is “end of life”. This sounds like true chaos. Yet the meaning is Isaac has the soul of Mashiach which means that there is no longer a purpose for this physical world of pain and suffering. Using the same idea / tool Mashiach spelled Mem Shin Yud Chait spells the phrase “Name of Life” spelled Shin Mem Chaitn Yud.
The Mashiach…actualizes the divine purpose of Creation….
"The live one" refers to the sefira of yesod, inasmuch as the male reproductive organ has "dead" (flaccid) and "live" (erect) states. The end of the "live one" refers to the crown (glans) of the organ. As this is the point where the drive of self-actualization is realized, it refers also the Mashiach, the one who actualizes the divine purpose of Creation. The verse and phrase quoted both indicate the connection between "life" and the Mashiach.
As we will see presently, this explains why Abraham had to be circumcised prior to fathering Isaac.
The Arizal now discusses how Abraham merited fathering the Jewish people.
This occurred because Isaac was born when Abraham and Sarah were old, and had entered the primordial days. (Gen. 24:1)
The verse "And Abraham was old, having come into days" occurs after Sarah died, when Isaac was already 37. Nonetheless, the Torah stresses how Abraham and Sarah were (already) old when Isaac was born.
The Zohar interprets the phrase "having come into days" to mean "into the primordial days that always renew [a person] like the eagle" (Zohar III:170b), alluding to the verse, "[G‑d] renews your youth like an eagle." (Psalms 103:5) The "primordial days" are the six lower sefirot of Atik Yomin (corresponding to the six days of Creation). Since Atik Yomin corresponds to delight, the source of life, an influx from this level renews a person's youth. Indeed, after this verse and the ensuing story of Isaac's marriage to Rebecca, the Torah recounts how Abraham married again and fathered eight more sons.
[As we said,] the seed of Israel was transmitted through Isaac, and [the souls of] Israel pre-existed in [G‑d's] thought, as it is written, "In the beginning, G‑d created…," [and the Sages said that this means] "for the sake of Israel, who are called 'the beginning', as it is written, 'Israel is holy to G‑d; [they are] the beginning of His produce.'" (Jeremiah 2:3)
The word for "in the beginning" can also mean "by means of [that which is called] 'the beginning.'" The Jewish people is one of the entities referred to as "the beginning", as indicated by the verse from Jeremiah. Thus, "In the beginning G‑d created heaven and earth" can be interpreted to mean: "For the sake of the Jewish people, G‑d created heaven and earth".
The point emphasized here is the fact that the Jewish people are termed "the beginning" indicates that they precede the creation of the world. Thus, the Sages say, "The thought of Israel preceded everything." (Bereishit Rabbah 1:4)
"His produce" refers to bina, whereas Israel ascended in thought.
This means that they - Israel originate in the highest aspect of thought, chochma, which precedes bina.
They therefore did not issue from Abraham until he was old [in Hebrew, "zaken"]. [This is alluded to by the fact that our sages say that the word "zaken" is an acronym for the words] "the one who has acquired wisdom." (Sifra, Kedoshim 7)
"The one who has acquired wisdom" is spelled: zeh she-kanah chochma. These letters spell "zaken" (spelled zayin-kuf-nun).
The proof of this is that when [Abraham] fathered Ishmael, he was 86 years old, in the prime of his years of strength [in Hebrew, "gevura"].
The Sages say, "When a person is eighty years old, he acquires gevura" (Avot 5:21), based on the verse, "The days of our lives are seventy years, or by means of gevura, eighty years." (Psalms 90:10) At this age, Abraham was thus more connected to gevura, the left side, than to chochma, the right side. He was not yet "old".
He was not circumcised [when he fathered Ishmael].
This was because Ishmael was not "the end of the living one", the consummation of Abraham's drive to self-perpetuate and impregnate reality with his divine mission. Therefore, the glans of the reproductive organ did not have to be exposed.
When Isaac was born, [Abraham] was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 years old. This is alluded to in the name Isaac [Yitzchak].
"Yitzchak" is spelled: yud-tzadik-chet-kuf. The numerical value of tzadik is 90 and the numerical value of kuf is 100. The allusions in the other two letters of this name are as follows:
The chet alludes to the eight days [from birth] to circumcision. The yud alludes to the yud in the name Chaya, for that was [Eve's (Chava's)] name before the [primordial] Sin; only after the sin was she called Chava. Eve was built out of Adam's side, and when this side was built [into Eve], [Adam's] helpmate [in Hebrew, "eizer"] and enduring seed [in Hebrew, "zera"] came into being, to produce holy seed, for "Israel is holy to G‑d".
Abraham fathered Isaac at the age of 100…because only then did he achieve the level of divine chochma necessary for this….
Before the sin of partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, Eve is not referred to in the Torah by her name, only as "the woman" or "his wife", etc. Only after the sin does Adam name her Chava, or Eve. This alludes to the tradition that she had a different name before the sin.
Before Eve was made out of Adam's side, they were connected to each other back to back. They could not couple in this state; only when Eve was separated from Adam could they face each other, engage in martial relations, and produce offspring.
The words for "helpmate" and "seed" are permutations of each other. "Ezer" is spelled: ayin-zayin-reish; "zera" is spelled: zayin-reish-ayin. This indicates that the "help" that the female gives the male is the possibility to produce offspring.
The yud in Isaac's name thus refers to the original woman, who was formed into Adam's wife so they could bear children. As we saw above, these children were intended to be the bearers of the messianic mission that was later given to the Jewish people.
The birth of Isaac to Abraham when the latter was exactly 100 years old is also alluded to in the name Abraham [Avraham] itself: it may be read as a combination of the two words for "a son [at] one hundred [years old]" [in Hebrew, "bar meiah"], for at the age of 100 ["meiah"] he fathered a son [in Aramaic, "bar"], i.e. Isaac.
"Avraham" is spelled: alef-beit-reish-hei-mem.
"Bar meiah" is spelled: beit-reish mem-alef-hei.
This is the meaning of [the Sages' statement that] "when they were created" is a permutation of "Abraham", and that when he was old he ascended to the level of Israel in G‑d's thought.
And the numerical value of the word for "100" [in Hebrew, "meiah"] is equal to the combined numerical value of the letters used to spell out the name Ab [=72, Havayah] spelled out with yuds, which signifies Abba, i.e. in [G‑d's] thought.
The name Ab:
Yud-vav-dalet hei-yud vav-yud-vav hei-yud.
The letters used to spell out the name Havayah here are:
vav-dalet yud yud-vav yud = 6 + 4 + 10 + 10 + 6 + 10 = 46.
chanoch adds: This is referring to the concealed letters of the spelled out Name. 26 = revealed letters of Yood Hai Vav Hai. 26 + 46 = 72
"Meiah" is spelled: mem-alef-hei = 40 + 1 + 5 = 46.
As we have seen, the four spellings-out of the name Havayah (72, 63, 45, 52) correspond to the four letters of the Name and the four basic partzufim. Specifically, the name Ab (=72) corresponds to the yud and Abba, the partzuf of chochma.
Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim.
From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky
And one woman, of the wives of the prophets' "children" [i.e. disciples] cried to Elisha: your servant, my husband, died…and the creditor has come to take my two children for himself as slaves… (Kings II 4:1)
"And one woman": "Woman" refers to the soul, referred to by King Solomon as "the G‑d fearing woman."
"…of the wives of the children of the prophets": The Hebrew word for prophet, "navi", is related to the expression "neev", which means "speech" (as in the phrase "neev s'fasayim", "speech of the lips" from Isaiah 57:19), referring to the speech of G‑d, which the prophets perceive and grasp. So prophets, in this context, refers to the soul, which also perceives and grasps Divinity.
"…cried to Elisha": "Elisha" refers to G‑d (Ei-li Sha, lit. G‑d turned to pay atention).
The soul cries out to G‑d that this love has died.
"…my husband has died": "My husband" - in Hebrew, "ishi" can be read as "aish" - the Hebrew word for "fire", and the letter yud: i.e. "the fire of yud"; this refers to the burning love of the soul that inspires its desire to be subsumed in the yud, the supernal chochma
The soul cries to G‑d that this love has died.
"…and the creditor": The Hebrew word for creditor, "nosheh", is related to the word for "forget". Joseph called his eldest son Menashe, because "G‑d has made me forget…[my father's house.]" (Gen. 41:51) "The creditor" thus refers to the animal soul, which has caused the soul to forget its root, its source in divinity.
"…my two children": "Children" refers to love and awe of G‑d. The emotions are called offspring, since they are produced by the intellect. Love and awe are the primary emotions, the others being its offshoots. (Tanya 1:3)
So "the creditor" has come, cries the soul to G‑d, to take my "two children" as slaves, to employ them toward destructive loves and debilitating fears. Not only does the animal soul cause me to forget Divinity and to squelch my love and awe of G‑d, it wishes to take these very attributes and enslave them to its ends.
"And Elisha said to her…": G‑d says to the soul…
"What have you in your house?": What part of you has not been commandeered by the animal soul? What is left "inside your house", i.e. in your deepest depths?
"And she said, 'Your maidservant has nothing but a jar of oil'": The soul responds that it still retains its essence, its untouchable core.
[Oil is associated with chochma. (see Zohar 3:34a, 38b, and Nitzutzei Orot ad loc.; Tanya 1:53) Regarding olive oil, the Gemara cites the verse (II Samuel 14:2): Yoav sent to Tekoa and brought a wise a woman from there…. The Talmud then inquires as to the distinction of Tekoa and explains that because the people of Tekoa use a lot of olive oil (regilin bishemen zayit), wisdom is found among them. Thus also Rashi ad loc.: "Olive oil opens the heart."(Menachos 85b)
The jar of oil thus refers to the chochma of the soul, over which the animal soul can have no control. See Tanya: This aspect of the soul causes the Jew to remain loyal to his faith in the face of death. This loyalty cannot be explained rationally (since it is exhibited by those who otherwise ignore their faith) and is therefore attribute to the intuitive nature of chochma, which is the soul's knowledge of G‑d that cannot be rationally defined. (1:19)]
"And he said to her, 'Go borrow for yourself vessels from the outside…empty vessels - do not be sparing…":
G‑d tells the soul to engage in Torah and mitzvahs, which are vessels to contain the light of G‑d.
Finite man does not by nature possess the tools with which to interact with the Infinite. The most sublime, spiritual, transcendent, human experience is just that - a human experience. It is only through fulfillment of the divine mitzvahs that man creates a connection with the Infinite. (See also Likutei Torah, Re'eh, 32d)
And even if those vessels are empty, even if your fulfillment of Torah lacks a spirit of love and awe, even if it is like a body without a soul, nevertheless, do not be sparing.
"Pour oil upon all these vessels…": Draw into your "empty vessels" - uninspired acts - the revelation of the essence of your essence. Then…
"You and your children will live with the remainder…": The soul and its attributes of love and awe will eventually be enlivened.
Providing empty vessels has another interpretation as well: Recognize and let it sink in that you are an empty vessel, devoid of true wisdom, lacking love and awe of the Ultimate Reality. Mourn your distance from divinity and this will allow the light of the soul to shine. This advice is given in the Zohar, which cites the master of the academy of Gan Eden:
"A wooden block that the fire does not ignite, is crushed…a body that the fire of the soul does not ignite is crushed and then it is ignited..." (Zohar III:168a. See Tanya 1:29)
In fact, the light of the soul that is introduced through this meditation surpasses the natural light of the soul. This is as in the verse, "like the increase of light from darkness." (Ecclesiastes 2:13) The simple meaning of the verse is "I have seen the advantage of wisdom over folly like the advantage of light over darkness."
The Last Gate
Now we can understand the connection between this section of the haftorah and the parasha. (The second half of the haftorah speaks about Elisha's promise to a woman that she would have a child, which parallels the story of the promise of the birth of Isaac in this parasha. What, however, is the connection between the parasha and this part of the haftorah?)
The beginning of the parasha speaks of G‑d's revelation to Abraham. Abraham had just been circumcised and G‑d came to him to fulfill the mitzvah of visiting the sick.
Our soul contains…all of the 49 gates that were attained by Abraham through his own efforts as well as the fiftieth gate, which he was given as a gift by G‑d…
[Editor's note: Fifty gates: The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 21b) speaks of fifty "gates" of bina ("understanding"). These fifty gates are seen to comprise the seven emotions inter-included of each other (7x7=49) plus one additional, transcendent level. This division into 49+1 is reflected in the fifty-year agricultural cycle, which is composed of seven 7-year sabbatical cycles (7x7=49) followed by a fiftieth super-sabbatical, the jubilee year. See Rabbi Moshe Wisnefsky's commentary on Arizal.]
The Ari (Taamei Hamitzvot, beginning of Vayeira) writes that the word "choleh", meaning a sick person, has the numeric equivalent of 49. This means that before Abraham was visited by G‑d, he was on the level of the 49th gate of understanding. This is the level to which a human being can reach through his own efforts. The fiftieth level cannot be attained by man through his own deeds. Rather, after he has done all that is in his power, he is granted the revelation of the fiftieth gate by G‑d as a gift.
Similarly, during the 49 days of the Omer, between Passover and Shavuot, we count each day, ascending the 49 gates of understanding. The fiftieth day is Shavout, but we do not count it. It is beyond us; thus we receive it from G‑d as a gift.
The significance of G‑d visiting Abraham is that G‑d grants Abraham the fiftieth gate. Until then Abraham had been limited to the realm of creation, 49. He had reached the pinnacle of achievement for a human being. Yet he was not complete. He had reached the ceiling of human completion. G‑d cured Abraham from being sick - choleh, 49 - and granted him the power of the fiftieth gate. He then entered the realm of the Creator.
As heirs of Abraham, our soul contains within it, in potential form, all of the 49 gates that were attained by Abraham through his own efforts as well as the fiftieth gate, which he was given by G‑d.
This, however, speaks only of the soul. The body introduces a quite different reality. The body and animal soul conceal the natural resources of the soul. This conflict is addressed in the haftorah. The soul is reassured that, though its fire seems to have been doused, it is still one with G‑d. Indeed that is why it cries out to G‑d; it is disturbed by the concealment. It is not completely numb.
The outcome of this cry is that "you and your children will live with the remainder", i.e. the soul is awakened to such an extent that it performs beyond its natural capacity; there is a surplus of light that can be channeled for goodness.
Adapted from Maamarei Admur Hazaken Haktzarim, p.137, Sefer Hamaamarim Melukat 4:43. Likutei Sichos 5:334-5
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