Harshness and Honey

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

Kabbalah teaches that Temple offerings are meant to sweeten the world.

In this parasha, we are told:

Do not make any flour-offering that you bring to G‑d chametz [leavened substance], for you must not offer any leavening or honey in fire to G‑d. (Lev. 2:11)

The reason we must not offer these two [i.e. chametz and honey] is that they are identified with all the states of severe judgment of the immature and mature stages of development [of the partzufim, respectively].

The institution of animal sacrifice must be seen as an expression of G‑d's mercy….

In its discussion of the laws of animal sacrifices, the Torah uses exclusively the name Havayah, which indicates G‑d's mercy, and never the name Elokim, which indicates G‑d's judgment. Thus, it is clear that the institution of animal sacrifice must be seen as an expression of G‑d's mercy, and not as some primitive way of placating a vengeful G‑d, G‑d forbid. - See commentary of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch to the beginning of the book of Leviticus.

Therefore, whatever is associated with severe judgment must not be burned on the altar, in order not to arouse these divine attributes. As we will see, chametz is associated with immature judgment, while honey is associated with mature judgment.

Chametz manifests the three mentalities of the immature state of the name Elokim.

The name Elokim, as we said, is associated with G‑d's attribute of judgment.

[This may be seen by the fact that] (1) the numerical value of the letter shin [300] is the same as that of the name Elokim when spelled out with the letter yud, and that (2) the numerical value of the letter reish [200] is the same as that of the name Elokim in its progressive iteration, and that (3) the numerical value of the letter alef [=1] is the inclusive representation of the third name Elokim.

The word for "leaven" - any agent that makes flour into chametz - in Hebrew is "seor", which is spelled shin-alef-reish.

When the name Elokim is spelled out (spelling out the letter hei with a yud), the numerical value generated is 300:

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

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

hei – becomes – hei – yud = 5 + 10 = 15

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

mem – becomes mem – mem 40 + 40 = 80

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

The progressive iteration of the name Elokim yields a numerical value of 200, as follows:

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) = 200

Since chametz and honey both manifest severe judgment, it is forbidden to burn them on the altar….

It is explained elsewhere in the Ari's writings (Shaar HaKavanot, Pesach 4, 81c) that the name Elokim spelled out with the letter yud is associated with chochma of Imma, the progressive iteration of the name Elokim is associated with bina of Imma, and the name Elokim spelled out with the letter alef (i.e. in which the letter hei is spelled hei-alef) is associated with daat of Imma. This explains how the letter alef of "seor" – Hebrew for chametz - indicates the "third name Elokim", i.e. the name Elokim spelled with this letter.

Honey, in contrast, manifests the states of severe judgment of the mature stages.

The numerical value of the word for "honey" (in Hebrew, "dvash") is 306:

"Dvash" is spelled: dalet-beit-shin = 4 + 2 + 300 = 306.

There are 320 states of [mature] severe judgment. [This number is 306 - the numerical value of the word for "honey" -] plus 14, as we have explained in our explanation of the shofar of Rosh Hashanah. [The numerical value of the first two letters of the word shofar,] shin-vav [306], is the same as that of the word for "honey" ["dvash"]. To this is added 14 for the [14] joints of the hand that grasp the shofar.

The numerical value of the Hebrew word for "hand" ("yad", spelled yud-dalet) is 14, and the hand possesses 14 joints (3 in the 4 fingers and 2 in the thumb).

Together they add up to 320. As for the [other letters of the word "shofar",] pei-reish, they manifest other states of severe judgment, as is known.

For the allusions in the word "shofar", see our translation of the passage that discusses this.

Since chametz and honey both manifest severe judgment, it is forbidden to burn them [on the altar].

The numerical value of the Hebrew word for "honey" ("devash", =306) is the same as that as the word for "in fire" ("isheh", alef-shin-hei: 1 + 300 + 5 = 306) in this verse. The latter word can also be seen to allude to the three manifestations of the name Elokim we saw above. The alef refers to the name Elokim spelled out with the letter alef; the shin refers to the name Elokim spelled out with the letter yud; and the hei (= 5) refers to the five letters of the name Elokim not spelled out at all, but merely iterated progressively. Thus, honey also alludes (in a more indirect way) to these same names.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Shaar HaMitzvot and Taamei HaMitzvot; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Four Holy Faces

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

One can choose to which chariot's influence he submits himself.

Know that all the animals, beasts, and fowl have a soul which descends from [originates in] and is influenced by the Holy Creatures. If the creature is ritually pure [it descends, etc.] from the Holy Chariot, and if it is ritually impure it derives from the Impure Chariot.

The "Divine Chariot" is described most vividly in the first chapter of the book of Ezekiel but appears elsewhere in the Bible as well. It is generally understood to be a depiction of the hierarchy of divine powers through which G‑d channels His life force into the world. Each detail of the vision embodies a different aspect of this organization of life powers, and all the details eventually find their way into various manifestations in this world.

The "Holy Creatures" here are the four celestial beings that bear the Divine Chariot. "This was their appearance: they were human figures, but each one had four faces, and each one had four wings…. Their faces and their wings were alike on the four of them…. As for the likeness of their faces: each one had a human face [in the front]; each of the four had a lion's face to the right; each of the four had an ox's face to the left; and each of the four had an eagle's face [in the back]." (Ezekiel 1:5-10)

Corresponding to this "Divine Chariot" is an "impure chariot", or the array of powers through which G‑d channels life force into the realm of evil. This was created in order to sustain the forces of malevolence until its purpose has been served and it can be dispensed with.

The souls of the domesticated animals descend from the face of the ox of the Chariot. [Those of] the wild animals descend from the face of the lion in the Chariot. [Those of] the fowl descend from the face of the eagle of the Chariot.

The permitted (kosher) domesticated animals of this world are derived from the face of the ox in the Chariot; the permitted wild animals are derived from the face of the lion (even though lions themselves are not kosher); the permitted birds are derived from the face of the eagle. Forbidden animals and fowl are derived from the corresponding faces of the beasts of the Unholy Chariot.

The animal soul of man descends from the human face of the Chariot, whether the holy or the impure one, as detailed at length in the Zohar (III:240-242).

The inner is always entirely holy…

When a person sins, the Zohar explains, "…he draws down upon himself a spirit from the side of impurity, which then has complete sway over him. But if he makes an effort to purify himself, he is assisted [from on high] to do so. When the Temple stood and he brought his offering, his atonement was [nonetheless] suspended until he repented and broke the pride of that spirit and humbled it." Thus, the individual has the power to determine to which chariot's influence he submits himself, the holy one or the impure one.

All this, nonetheless, applies only to the superficial, [i.e. animal soul], for the inner [divine soul] is always entirely holy.

The divine soul remains pure, undefiled by the influence of the unholy chariot on the animal soul, even if the person chooses to sin.

It is from there [i.e. from the divine soul] that the inner Nefesh-Ruach-Neshama are derived.

Although both the divine soul and the animal soul possess all five aspects (from Yechida to Nefesh), when we speak of the three aspects of the Nefesh-Ruach-Neshama, we are (usually) relating to these aspects the divine soul; when we speak of the animal soul we (usually) only consider the Nefesh.

Now it sometimes happens that when the soul of an evil man is descending [into the world to be born], and at the same time the soul of a domesticated or wild animal is being emanated [downward into a physical animal being born], the human soul is grafted onto [the soul of the animal] in order to punish it, in accordance with the decisions of the heavenly court.

Someone who dies without repenting for his sins is sent down again into an animal body…

This is a description of transmigration of souls (gilgul), wherein someone who dies without repenting (i.e. having done teshuva) for his sins is sent down again into an animal body. This experience is extremely painful and frustrating for the divine soul, in that it cannot express its divine nature in the same way as it can in a human body (by learning Torah and doing mitzvot, etc.). This experience is meant to "demonstrate" to this soul what it has wrought by its sins in its previous lifetime(s), and thereby scour it of its love of the material side of life. Once cleansed of this, the soul can proceed with its ascent in the spiritual realms. The purpose of divine punishment is not to exact retribution or vengeance, but to effect the restitution of the soul to its former, proper, spiritual status.

With this we can understand the mystery of the sacrifices, which bring close those who are far.

The Hebrew for "sacrifice" ("korban") is from the verb "to be close" ("karov"); the sacrifice is designed and intended to bring the one who offers it close to G‑d.

It can also happen sometimes that [the sinner descends and] is found in the animal's food. [In either case, whether he is reincarnated into the animal or its food, the animal] is later offered on the altar. And when the proper rites are performed on it, [the human soul within it] is brought close again to its source and rectified.

Even if the sacrificial animal does not contain any reincarnated human soul within it, it nonetheless contains within it something of the 288 Sparks [from the vessels world of Tohu] that fell and shattered; these are now rectified.

All animals (and, indeed, all physical reality) contain sparks from the fallen world of Tohu. When the animal is sacrificed, it elevates these sparks, as well as sparks from the animal kingdom generally.

This also explains why there is unfit [treif] and fit [kosher] food. If an animal [after being slaughtered] is [found to be] fit, and is then eaten by a "fit" individual, it indicates that there is a spark of holiness in it, and fortunate is the one who elevates it. But if it is found to be unfit, this indicates that the time has not yet come to for it to be liberated from the clutches of evil. [Inasmuch as these forces of evil are allegorically] called "the dog", we are therefore commanded, "You shall cast it to the dogs." (Ex. 22:30) This is until its punishment has been completed, and it is reincarnated again into a fit animal, and a fit individual eats it; then it will be elevated.

Not all animals belonging to kosher species are permitted to be eaten according to Jewish law. Such animals have to be properly slaughtered according to Jewish law.

The sacrificial rite is considered synonymous with eating.…

Assuming nothing went awry with the slaughtering, the animal is then inspected to see if there are any signs of fatal lesions on the lungs or other conditions that would indicate that, before it was slaughtered, it was on its way to die anyway. If this is the case, it is considered "unfit" ("treif", literally "torn", since such internal injuries usually result from the animal having been "torn" by some animal of prey). The Torah prescribes that such carrion be given to the dogs, since, although it may not be eaten, benefit may still be derived from it.

The "fit" individual referred to here is one who eats in order to serve G‑d; if he does, the energy (and mass) he derives from eating the food is elevated into holiness. If he does not, then the animal vitality either remains at the level of the animal, or worse, in the case of someone who intentionally commits a sin, is caused to descend into the realms of explicit evil.

If the slaughtered animal is found to be unfit to be eaten or sacrificed, it means that the soul or divine spark it was hosting is not yet ready to be elevated by human consumption and must return again to repeat the process until it is sufficiently "scrubbed" of its existential crust to ascend into holiness.

From the above passage we see clearly how at least one aspect of the sacrificial rite is considered synonymous with eating, and that the same dynamic of rectifying the primordial shattering of the vessels of Tohu (which was later acted out in the primordial sin of the Tree of Knowledge) applies to both. From here come all the sayings of our sages that a man's table is like an altar and effects atonement for him, the custom to salt the bread (just as the sacrifices were salted), and so forth. The cosmic responsibility each of us bears when he lifts his fork to his mouth is evident from this passage, as well.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Ta'amei HaMitzvot, parashat Vayikra; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Bringing Kingdoms to the King

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

Kabbalah explains how all elements of Creation were rectified via Temple sacrifices

As is known, the word "Kabbala" means in Hebrew "parallel" or "correspondence". By paralleling the different structures and elements that exist within Creation, Kabbala demonstrates its underlying unity and how all Creation reflects and expresses the same divine powers that create it. In the following exposition, we will encounter in quick succession the main conceptual structures that correspond to the four letters of the divine name Havayah, which expresses the basic pattern of divine creative energy that sustains and informs all levels of reality.

chanoch adds: Kabbalah actually translates as receiving. Parallel or corespondence may be correct. In my opinion, these are cntrived to justify the comment and explain the Ari's essay to the people with limited background.

Concerning the commandment of the sacrifices:

After the Torah discusses the construction of the Tabernacle in the Torah portions Terumah, Teztaveh, Ki Tisa, Vayakhel and Pekudei, it begins to discuss the ritual of the sacrifices that are offered in the Tabernacle. This is the subject of parashat Vayikra.

As is known, the divine name Havayah [alludes to the five principle partzufim of the world of Atzilut, as follows]: The [upper] thorn of the yud corresponds to Arich Anpin, the yud to Abba, the hei to Imma, the vav to Anpin, and the [final] hei to the Nukva [of Zeir Anpin].

The following chart summarizes the correspondences between the sefirot and the partzufim that develop out of them, adding the correspondence between the partzufim and the letters of G‑d's name Havayah.

sefira in Tohu - partzuf in Tikun - the name Havayah

keter - Atik Yomin = "the Ancient of Days" - upper thorn of yud

keter 2 - Arich Anpin = "the Long Face"

chochma - Abba = "father" - yud

bina - Imma = "mother" upper hei

mountains - chesed, gevura, tiferet = upperZeirAnpin

legs - netzach, hod, yesod = lowerZeir Anpin - "the Small Face" - vav

malchut - Nukva = "the female" of Zeir Anpin - hei

chanoch adds: I added some words to this chart to help identify partzufim names and relate them to the Sefirot.

Atik Yomin is not alluded to explicitly in the name Havayah, since it is considered the inner dimension of the outer partzuf of keter, Arich Anpin.

Now, corresponding to these, the Holy One, blessed be He, created [five "kingdoms" in this physical world]: the silent [i.e., inanimate or mineral], the vegetable, the animal, the articulate [i.e., man], and the soul.

Creation unfolds through successive levels of consciousness of G‑d…

Creation unfolds through successive levels of consciousness of G‑d; each of these levels is called a "world". Every world is thus simply a projection of the preceding one onto a lower spiritual level. Thus, even our physical world reflects the spiritual structure of the highest spiritual realm, the world of Atzilut. The fact that the elements of this world may be organized into different "kingdoms" in accordance with the level of life they exhibit means that this hierarchy exists as well in the spiritual realms. The Arizal here tells us that the five "kingdoms" correspond to the five partzufim of the world of Atzilut from which they descend.

There are many ways in which these correspondences are evident. Malchut is described as "possessing nothing of its own", i.e. whatever content it possesses it receives from the other sefirot. In this sense, it may be considered to be "silent" or "inanimate".

The most visible indication of a person's growth…is his emotional behavior…

The emotions (chesed to yesod) are the context in which a person's maturity develops. Although there is also a difference between a mature intellect and an immature one, the most visible indication of a person's growth and development on the ladder of humanity is his emotional behavior. The emotions are thus the "vegetative" aspect of the personality, that which exhibits growth and development.

The intellect, the chief sefira of which is bina, is the source of vitality and animation in a person. Only when a person understands the importance and significance of something does he get animated about it and pursue it. Thus, the sefira of bina is manifest in the world as the animal kingdom.

The insight (chochma) which recognizes the divine element of reality is what differentiates man from animal; thus, the manifestation of chochma in this world is the human being.

Finally, the spiritual intent and purpose of Creation embodied in the sefira of keter manifests itself in the spiritual consciousness of man itself, his divine soul.

sefira in Tohu - partzuf in Tikun - the name Havayah - Kingdom

keter - Atik Yomin = "the Ancient of Days" - upper thorn of yud - soul

keter 2 - Arich Anpin = "the Long Face"

chochma - Abba = "father" - yud - mankind

bina - Imma = "mother" - hei - animal

chesed, gevura, tiferet, netzach, hod, yesod - Zeir Anpin = "the Small Face" - vav - vegetable

malchut - Nukva = "the female" of Zeir Anpin - lower hei - mineral

Now, from each of the four lower levels there are elements that need to be elevated and refined. All of these elements were rectified by the sacrifice.

All the worlds that were created subsequent to the world of Atzilut were constructed out of the fallen remains of the shattered world of Tohu, the immature version of Atzilut. These divine sparks from the world of Tohu are embedded within all aspects and facets of reality in all the lower worlds, including, of course, the lowest one, our physical world. By using any particular element of reality for a divine purpose, the spark enlivening it is released from its existential entrapment in anti-spirituality and ascends back to its source, spiritualizing reality in the process. When all the sparks will have been liberated in this way, the world will have attained its maximal spiritual potential and Mashiach will come.

chanoch adds: Please realize that the word that is better to be used for the three lower words is formed and not created.

The Temple is the microcosm of Creation…

The prototypical example of this process is the sacrificial service in the Holy Temple. The Temple is the microcosm of Creation, and the rites performed within it are both symbolic of and actualizations of the wider divine service that mankind performs in the world at large.

To wit: Salt is a mineral, and through it the mineral kingdom was rectified. The wine and the oil [offered with the sacrifices] rectified the vegetable kingdom. The animals rectified the animal kingdom. The confession the animal's owner recited over the animal corresponds to the articulate kingdom [i.e., man]. The intention of the priest while he was offering the sacrifice corresponds to the soul within [man]. Through these five aspects of the sacrifice, the four "kingdoms" are elevated.

All animal sacrifices were salted when they were offered on the altar (see Lev. 2:13). Wine and oil were also offered along with most animal sacrifices (see Ex. 29:38-41). Immediately before the animal is slaughtered, the owner of the sacrifice must confess his sins (in the case of a sin offering or burnt offering) or express his thanksgiving and joy (in the case of other offerings) to G‑d.

The intention of the priest while offering the sacrifice is an essential aspect of the rite; if something is amiss in his intentions, it can render the sacrifice invalid. (Ref. Mishna Torah, Ma'aseh HaKorbanot 3:14-15.)

These [five aspects of the sacrifice] are the Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya, and Yechida.

In addition to manifesting themselves in the material reality of this world (and the "proto-material" reality of the spiritual worlds), the five partzufim correspond to the five aspects of the spiritual reality of Creation, i.e. the Divine Soul. They thus correspond as well to the five aspects of the sacrifice:

sefira in Tohu - partzuf in Tikun - the name Havayah - aspect of sacrifice - level of the soul

keter - Atik Yomin - "the Ancient of Days" -upper thorn of yud - the intention of the priest - Yechida

keter 2 - Arich Anpin = "the Long Face"

chochma - Abba = "father" – yud - the confession - Chaya

bina - Imma = "mother" - hei - the animal – Neshama

chesed, gevura, tiferet, netzach, hod, yesod - Zeir Anpin = "the Small Face" - vav - the oil and wine - Ruach

malchut - Nukva "the female" of Zeir Anpin – hei - the salt - Nefesh

Fire is a symbol for malchut…

The Nefesh = "life force" is the behavioral aspect of the soul and thus corresponds to the sefira of malchut, the expression of the higher sefirot. The Ruach = "spirit" is the emotional aspect of the soul, and thus corresponds to the emotional sefirot = the middot, from chesed to yesod. The Neshama = "breath" of life is the intellectual aspect of the soul. The Chaya = "living one" is the soul's innate wisdom, and the Yechida = "single one" is the soul's identity within G‑d's essence.

This is the mystical meaning of the verse [describing the sacrifice]: "a fire offering, an aroma that is pleasing to G‑d", "...an aroma...pleasing to G‑d" Cf. Lev.1:9, 13, 17, 2:2, 9, 3:5, 23:18; Num. 15:10, 13, 14, 28:8, 24, 29:36 [as we will now explain]: The word "a fire offering" [in Hebrew, "isheh"] corresponds to Nefesh; since it is the feminine, this word can be also read to mean "woman" [in Hebrew, "ishah"]. Also, fire is a symbol for malchut, as in the phrase "a consuming fire" (Deut. 4:24, 9:3).

Creation…cannot bear the intensity of the revelation and is consumed…

The word "Nefesh" literally means "blowing"; this may be one conceptual link to fire, which one blows to increase. In addition, fire reduces the offering to its mineral constituents. Malchut, the sefira that corresponds to the soul-level of Nefesh, is the feminine principle in Creation. The phrase "a consuming fire" describes G‑d when revealed to Creation, which unless properly prepared cannot bear the intensity of the revelation and is consumed by it. The indwelling of G‑d in creation is the feminine aspect of G‑d, the Shechina, or Divine Presence.

The word for "aroma" [in Hebrew, "reiach"] corresponds to the Ruach, which in turn corresponds to the world of Yetzira and the partzuf of Zeir Anpin.

As opposed to the bland, inanimate characterization of Nefesh, Ruach is characterized as colorful and fragrant, due to it's being the location of the emotions. The words "reiach" and "ruach" are also obviously cognate to each other.

The four/five letters of the name Havayah, the five partzufim, the four/five kingdoms, the five aspects of the sacrifice, and the five levels of the soul, all correspond as well to the four/five worlds. We may thus expand the above charts as follows:

sefira in Tohu - partzuf in Tikun - the name Havayah - aspect of sacrifice - level of the soul - World

keter - Atik Yomin - "the Ancient of Days" -upper thorn of yud - the intention of the priest - Yechida – Adam Kadmon = Primordial

keter 2 - Arich Anpin = "the Long Face"

chochma - Abba = "father" – yud - the confession - Chaya – Atzilut = Emanation

bina - Imma = "mother" - hei - the animal – Neshama – Briah = Creation

chesed, gevura, tiferet, netzach, hod, yesod - Zeir Anpin = "the Small Face" - vav - the oil and wine - Ruach – Yetzira = Formation

malchut - Nukva "the female" of Zeir Anpin – hei - the salt - Nefesh – Asiah = Action

"…that is pleasing" corresponds to the partzuf of Imma, the Neshama of Beriya. "…to G‑d" corresponds to the inner soul of this Neshama, i.e. Abba. With it, we have constructed the full four-letter name Havayah. This is the secret of the phrase "a sacrifice to G‑d [Havayah]" (Lev. 1:2). [In offering a sacrifice,] the person sublimates the four powers [alluded to] in the name Havayah [and manifest in the four "kingdoms" of Creation], as we have mentioned.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Ta'amei HaMitzvot.

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