Teachings of the ARI - Rabbi Isaac Luria - Holyness - Reincarnation - Other Teachings

Northern Exposure

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

The first word of the Torah also alludes to hidden beginnings.

"In the beginning [in Hebrew, "bereishit"], Elokim created the heavens and the earth." (Gen. 1:1)

Why did the Torah begin with the letter beit [of "bereishit"], and not with an alef? Why was the alef saved for the first letter of "I am G‑d" - "Anochi" - the first word of the Ten Commandments? The fact that the Torah begins with the letter beit teaches that the Torah has or contains two aspects: peshat [its simple or literal meaning] and sod [its deeper meaning].

chanoch adds: Don't forget about the two middle levels Remez and Drash

The sod of the Torah…its "soul" corresponds to the World to Come…

The peshat of the Torah is its "body", while the sod of the Torah is its "soul". Its "body" corresponds to This World, while its "soul" corresponds to the World to Come. The important thing to know is that, although the complete revelation of the "soul" level of the Torah is reserved for the World to Come, this does not mean that "drops" or "inklings" of that deeper level are not accessible now.

The Torah in which the Holy One took delight [before creating the world], as well as the Torah that the tzadikim learn in the Garden of Eden, is none other than its level of sod. Indeed, the Torah studied in the Garden of Eden was the initial Torah.

Therefore, [the fact that the Torah begins with the letter beit] also teaches that the Torah [that we have here in the physical dimension] is the "second" Torah, the one that was enclothed [assumed the lower form of This World] and which is a "garment" for the initial Torah [its "soul"]. Again, for this reason the Torah begins with a beit, which itself is the second letter of the alef-beit.

[Our Sages cautioned (Chagiga 14b) that] we do not have permission to speak about what precedes alef, for this relates to questions such as: What is Above? [What preceded this world?] What is below? Etc. Alef corresponds to the dimension of Atzilut, the "first" world, in that it precedes Beriya, the "second" world. This teaches that the Torah that we have comes from Beriya. Accordingly, it uses the word "bara" [meaning "created"], since it is only up to This World [the level of Beriya] that we have permission to speak. For this reason, the Torah begins with the letter beit.

Atzilut, and all the more so anything that precedes it, in contrast, we may only contemplate in thought.

chanoch adds: Note that the statement states the Talmud cautions. It does not forbid. The Kabbalah does explore the idea that the Torah will change even as it is popularly thought to be eternal. Yet i have never heard a discussion of what is the difference between the Torah of Atzilut and the Torah of Beriah.

Atzilut thus corresponds to pure thought. Beriya corresponds to oscillating thought, i.e. the intermediate stage that takes place as we translate pure thought into words. Yetzira corresponds to speech, and Asiya corresponds to deed.

This set of correspondences is alluded to in the verse, "He saw it, and He declared it; He measured it; yes, and He examined it". (Job 28:27)

"He saw" - pure thought, corresponding to Atzilut, chochma

"He declared" - oscillating thought, corresponding to Beriya, bina

"He measured" - speech, corresponding to Yetzira, tiferet

"He examined" - deed, corresponding to Asiya, malchut

Alternatively, the reason the Torah begins with the beit of "bereishit" is because the letter beit is breached [open] on one side, and enclosed on three sides. In this sense, its form is like that of the world.

The intention behind this was that, if any man would think to declare himself a deity, people would challenge him to create [i.e. complete] the fourth "side" of the world. Caius Caligula is one such example.

Regarding Caius Caligula, we find in the Talmud: "It happened once that Shimon HaTzadik heard a voice from heaven issue forth from the Holy of Holies announcing, 'The enemy's decree [to place a statue of himself] in the Temple has been annulled.' At that moment, in another part of the world, Caius Caligula was slain and his decrees annulled. They noted down the time [when the voice from heaven was heard] and it tallied [with the time of Caligula's assassination]". (Sotah 33a; see Josephus, The Jewish War, Book II 9:1)

This breached side is none other than the north side of the world, as the verse indicates, "He stretches forth the North over Tohu, and suspends the earth upon nothingness". (Job 26:7) That is, the Blessed One placed the Firmament over all the other directions - east, west and south - as a dome is placed over walls. Only over the breached north side of the world is the Firmament suspended over Tohu.

Behold, the entire thickness of the earth, compared to the depth of the Atlantic Ocean, is like that of a mustard seed…

Physical evidence for this [spiritual principle] may be found in the fact that ships wishing to travel from the north-east to the north-west cannot travel west along the northern border. Instead, they must take a long roundabout route, traveling south along the eastern border, then west along the southern border, and then north along the western border, until they reach their destination in the north-west.

chanoch adds: A ship leaving Boston can not go along the Arctic circle to Alaska. This is what the above paragraph is describing. This also applies to other parts of the arctic circle in a more limited manner.

Clearly, if they could travel straight along the northern border, they would do so, for it is a much shorter route. Rather, that border is breached, like a city whose northern wall has been destroyed. Ships therefore cannot travel there.

Behold, the entire thickness of the earth, compared to the depth of the Atlantic Ocean, is like that of a mustard seed. For the Atlantic Ocean is five hundred years deep [i.e. it would take five hundred years to span it by foot], whereas the thickness of earth is a mere seven years.

Kabbalistic tradition always clothed information about the hidden spiritual dimension in the "scientific" facts of that time. In the words of the Maharal of Prague: "The Sages did not concern themselves in the least with physical phenomena, but with [underlying spiritual] essence..." (Maharal, Beer HaGolah, Be'er HaShishi, p. 128)

Note: "Our Sages encoded much of the esoteric tradition that they had received in matters relating to nature or astronomy. In other words, they utilized the knowledge of nature and astronomy that was accepted among Gentile scholars of their time [in order to transmit hidden knowledge]. Thus, they never intended to teach the 'physical' facts concerning these phenomena, but rather to utilize these facts as garments or vehicles for esoteric secrets. One should therefore not think that they were wrong because a particular [scientific] model that they used is no longer accepted. Their intention was to clothe the hidden tradition in the accepted knowledge of their generation. That very tradition could have been clothed in a different garment according to what was accepted [as scientific fact] in other generations. And, in fact, the originator of that particular haggadic statement would have done so himself had he stated it in those other generations". (Ramchal, Maamar HaAggadot, Introduction to EinYaakov)

In the Future.....G‑d will tell the North…to yield all of its goodness to the righteous…

Rav Chaim now returns to the original problem at hand, namely, the nature of the fourth, breached, side of the world. In one sense, this side seems to be identified with evil, desolation, etc. On the other hand, he will now quote verses to the effect that there is another, extremely positive aspect to the north:

[In order to further clarify the nature of this breached north side of the world,] we can pit one verse against another. One verse states, "Evil will emerge from the North upon all the inhabitants of the land". (Jeremiah 1:14) From here, it seems that the north represents Purgatory.

Another verse, however, states, "How great is the good [i.e. the light] that You have hidden away [in Hebrew, 'tzafanta', related to the Hebrew word for 'north', 'tzafon'] for those who fear You". (Psalms 31:20) And another verse states, "…whose stomachs You fill from that which is hidden". (Psalms 17:14) The word for "hidden away" ["tzafon"] in these two latter verses refers to Gan Eden, for it is there that the Hidden Good is stored away for the righteous. And another verse states, "I will say to the North, 'Give forth!'" (Isaiah 43:6), that is, in the Future, G‑d will tell the North [meaning that which is 'hidden away' - in Hebrew "tzafun" - i.e. Gan Eden] to yield all of its goodness to the righteous.

Purgatory and Gan Eden are opposites. How can one word represent both? And what does this have to do with the breached side of the world?

Rather, the truth is that North ["tzafon"] is the side of gevura and Isaac, just as South is the side of chesed and Abraham. Chesed is also associated with the element of water [which expands and spreads forth]. Similarly, Abraham performed chesed for the whole world.

These two places that emerged from the breached northern side of the world both preceded the world…

Isaac, on the other hand, embodies gevura and the element of fire, i.e. the north side of the world. [Gevura is the opposite of chesed; whereas chesed gives forth, gevura restrains.] For this reason, Isaac didn't want to bless Jacob. He didn't even want to bless Esau, except as a reward [i.e. in return for a kindness]. This is the meaning of what Isaac said to Esau: "Now take your sword and your bow, and go out to the field to trap some game for me. Make it into a tasty dish, the way I like it, and bring it to me to eat. My soul will then bless you before I die". (Gen. 27:3-4)

[The explanation for this seeming anomaly is this:] Just as Jacob and Esau both emerged from Isaac, so also Gan Eden and Purgatory emerge from the North, the breached side of the world.

Similarly, just as Gan Eden and Purgatory both preceded the world, so also did G‑d precede the Torah with the beit of "bereishit". In this way, He informed us that these two places that emerged from the breached northern side of the world both preceded the world.

We know that Gan Eden preceded the world from the verse, "G‑d planted a garden in Eden to the East [in Hebrew, "mi'kedem", which also means 'from before']. (Gen. 2:8) Similarly, we know that Purgatory preceded the world from the verse, "For its hearth is ordained of old… G‑d's breath, like a stream of brimstone, kindles it". (Isaiah 30:33)

This, then, is the meaning of "Bereishit": beit (the number 2) - reishit (meaning "beginnings"). It thus reinforces the knowledge that the righteous who keep the Torah will be rewarded, while those who nullify and negate the Torah will receive their due punishment.

[Annotated translation by Avraham Sutton of Likutei Torah, Chumash HaAri, Bereishit, p. 5-6.]

chanoch adds: Gevura meaning judgment has two ways to be perceived. If one has a proper cleansed vessel then judgment is received with joy and happiness. If the vessel is not clean or proper Judgement is perceived as something to avoid. i hope this helps our students to understand this particular section.

Spiritual Wages

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

G-d also rewards His 'employees' from the week through Shabbat

Rabbi Chaim Vital gives us an anecdotal illustration of the lengths the Arizal went to in order to deal with his employees properly.

My teacher [the Arizal] was extremely careful regarding the commandment of paying a worker [on time]. He sometimes put off praying Mincha until he had paid [his workers]. This sometimes meant waiting to pray until sunset if he did not have the cash to pay the wages and had to send people all over to ask others for money until he had enough to pay the wages. Only then would he pray Mincha, saying, "How can I pray to G‑d when such a great mitzvah comes my way? Can I put it off and still face G‑d in prayer?"

"The wages of a hired worker shall not abide with you [through the night] until morning." (Lev. 19:13)

In another verse [that details this commandment] it is written: "On the day he [earns them] you shall give [him] his wages." (Deut. 24:15)

The full verse is: "Do not withhold the wages due to your poor or destitute hired hand, whether he is one of your brethren, or a proselyte living in a settlement in your land. You must give him his wage on the day it is due, and not let the sun set with him waiting for it. Since he is a poor man, and to you he lifts his soul, do not let him call out to G‑d, causing you to have a sin."

Jewish law clarifies:

What is "on time"? If the workman had finished the work during the day, he should be paid before the end of that day; if he finishes his work in the evening, he should be paid during the night. Whenever a person performs any commandment…he accrues an additional level of Shabbat holiness - even on the weekday… So also is the case with the workman hired by the week, or month, or year, if he has finished his work during the day, he should be paid during the day; if he has finished his work during the night, he should be paid during the night, but not later.

chanoch adds: It is important to note the statement that when one performs a MItzvah he accrues additional Shabbat Holiness and as the workman doing the Mitzvah he expects his payment during the next Shabbat. Unfortunately this is not how many non orthodox people perceive this teaching of the Torah. It is important to relate that with respect to consciousness - what is not known does not happen. If one does not expect payment on the next Shabbat one will not receive it.

The employer does not transgress the law unless the workman demands his wages and he, the employer, has the money to pay. If the workman failed to demand his wages, or the employer lacks the money to pay the workman, then there is no violation of the law. Nevertheless, a scrupulous employer should, if necessary, borrow the money to pay the wages at the proper time, for the workman is poor and sets his heart upon his pay…"

chanoch adds: In my opinion, this halacha shows how Judaism has been influenced by the secular society. Is it the responsibility of the workman to make sure the employer has the funds to pay him? Of course this is not the workman's responsibility. Thus if the employer does not have the funds when it is due is the responsibility of the employer.

The initials of these words [in the above verse, "beyomo titein secharo"] spell Shabbat. This is because whenever a person performs any commandment or learns a lot of Torah on a weekday, he accrues an additional level of Shabbat holiness -- even on the weekday. This applies to the [full] extent individuals are capable of accruing additional measures of Shabbat holiness.

Learning Torah and performing mitzvot increases the individual's divine consciousness. Since Shabbat is the day of higher divine consciousness, we may conceive of the additional measure of divine consciousness attained by learning Torah and doing mitzvot as a "piece of Shabbat" that is added the individual. This happens, of course, even in the case of divine service performed on weekdays.

This accords with what Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai taught, namely, that Torah scholars possess on weekdays the [level of] soul that the unlearned possess on the Shabbat.

Thus, the reward that G‑d grants Torah scholars for their studies, or to those who observe the commandments, is likened to that of a worker who expects his wages. For such people earn their [spiritual] desserts daily - even on weekdays, when they accrue additional measures of Shabbat holiness. Therefore, the initials of these words allude to the Shabbat.

Furthermore, the wages mentioned in this verse can understood, as well, to refer to the reward one earns each day [for his study and/or observance of the Torah]. These combine with the other [reward], the additional measure of Shabbat holiness that comes automatically with the Shabbat, as is known.

On Shabbat, every Jew's consciousness ascends a spiritual notch, no matter what.

Thus, these two additional measures [of divine consciousness] are given to the person on Shabbat. In this sense, [both types of] "wages" paid to this type of "worker" are paid on the Shabbat. The Shabbat is therefore alluded to in this verse, and this is the mystical meaning of "he who toils on the day[s] before the Shabbat will eat on the Shabbat."(Avoda Zara 3a)

The employer is given an extra level of soul with which to sustain his soul…

The physical sense of this statement is simply that if one prepares his meals and other needs before Shabbat, he will be able to enjoy them on Shabbat, but if not, he will have nothing to enjoy because the preparations he should have done beforehand are forbidden to do on Shabbat. The spiritual sense of the statement is that the extent of one's spiritual experience or level of consciousness on Shabbat is proportional to the amount of spiritual preparation for Shabbat one engages in during the preceding week. In more prosaic terms: one cannot expect to live (think, eat) like an animal during the week and suddenly turn into an angel on Shabbat; if a person doesn't want to be left out of the action on Shabbat, he'd better put some time into refining himself while he still can - during the week.

Additionally, [this verse implies] that specifically someone who fulfills the commandment of paying a worker [on time] acquires the ability to attain an additional level of soul the following Shabbat. This reward is given to him measure for measure, for with regard to paying a worker [on time] it is said, "for… he lifts up his soul to you."(Deut. 24:15) Therefore, in recompense [for granting him his soul, so to speak], likewise the employer is given an extra level of soul with which to sustain his [weekday] soul [on the Shabbat]. And therefore, the Shabbat is alluded to in the initials of this verse.

The idiomatic meaning of "he lifts up his soul" is "he looks expectantly" or "he directs his desire."

[Adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from The Writings of the Ari, Ta'amei HaMitzvot.]

4 Who Entered the Orchard

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

Four Talmudic sages ascended to rectify the spiritual universes.

[augmented by Shaar Maamarei Chazal (p. 3b on Chagiga 14b), in square brackets with (SMC) at the end.]

Four entered the Orchard (Pardes). They were Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Acher [literally, "the Other", referring to Elisha ben Abuya], and Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva warned them, "When you enter near the stone of pure marble, do not say 'water, water,' since [there is actually no water there at all, and] it is written, 'He who speaks falsehood will not be established before My eyes' (Psalms 101:7)."

Ben Azzai gazed and died. Regarding him it is written, "Precious in G‑d's eyes is the death of His pious ones" (Psalms 116:15).

Ben Zoma gazed and was stricken [with insanity; he went out of his mind]. Regarding him it is written, "You have found honey, eat moderately lest you bloat yourself and vomit it". (Proverbs 25:16)

Acher gazed and cut the plantings [i.e. he became a heretic].

Rabbi Akiva [entered in peace and] departed in peace...

(Chagiga 14b)

The ministering angels also wished to cast down Rabbi Akiva, but the Holy One said, "Leave this elder alone, for he is worthy of making use of My glory"

(Chagiga 15b)

Since Adam committed his sin, we have been eating its fruits [suffering its consequences] throughout the entire period of This World. It will not be rectified completely until the advent of the Mashiach.

Now, these four sages were some of the greatest of their generation. [They were extraordinary in wisdom and piety, as is known, for they were able to see with Ruach HaKodesh, and they mastered the discipline of Maaseh Merkava, the Work of the Chariot (SMC).] Their intention therefore was nothing less than to rectify what Adam had caused to be defective.

It is possible that they intended to rectify the entire sin. Possibly, they wanted to rectify those aspects of Adam's sin that related directly to the root of their souls in Adam.

These sages saw and understood that they would have to rectify the very thing that Adam damaged. Adam had prematurely enlarged the keter of Zeir Anpin [before Shabbat], that is, before the entry of the mochin of Abba. This is what caused all the damage mentioned above. [That is, Zeir's daat, from the side of Imma, fell and descended below between his shoulders, into the upper third of the sefira of tiferet. (SMC)] It is therefore impossible to rectify that defect and raise up Zeir Anpin's daat, without first drawing up the fallen mochin of Abba and having them enter into Zeir. Only then will it be possible to rectify Zeir's keter, and to raise Zeir's daat up above to its place. With this, all will be rectified.

These four sages wanted to rectify this defect by all four of them working together…

Know, therefore, that anyone who wants to rectify this defect must draw all four mochin of Abba, namely, chochma, bina, and daat (which is made up of two aspects, namely, chasadim and gevurot). In order to do this, a very great tikun is required.

Now, understand that these four sages wanted to rectify this defect by all four of them working together. That is, each one would concentrate on drawing up one of the four mochin of Abba. [They didn't think that each of them had the ability to draw up all four mochin. (SMC)] The problem is that they erred in thinking this way. The only way they could possibly have succeeded would be if each of them drew up all four mochin. You will therefore find that even Rabbi Akiva's life was endangered when the ministering angels (alternatively: the attribute of din/judgment) wanted to cast him down.

The fact is that this is truly astonishing. Why would the angels want to cast Rabbi Akiva down? [alt: Could the attribute of din have cast him down?] We can understand wanting to cast down the others, for they sinned and were worthy of being punished. Rabbi Akiva, on the other hand, did not sin, but rather entered in peace [and departed in peace]. Why would they have cast him down had the Holy One not intervened and said "Leave this elder alone, for he is worthy of making use of My glory"?

The answer is, however, that Rabbi Akiva should have tried to rectify all four mochin of Abba. It matters not that, as we shall explain, in the process of concentrating on one, he was able to draw up all four. The fact remains that he should have striven to rectify all four and then draw them all up. Not having done so, this caused the angels to want to cast him down. And again, they would have done so, had the Holy One not intervened, saying that Rabbi Akiva was worthy after succeeding in drawing up all four by means of rectifying one.

This having been said, we will now begin to clarify the particular tikun that each of these sages intended to do:

Each of the Four Sages tried to raise up one of the Four Mochin of Abba:

Ben Azzai tried to raise up chochma of Abba

Ben Zoma tried to raise up bina of Abba

R' Akiva tried to raise up Crown of chesed [of daat]

Acher tried to raise up Crown of gevura [of daat]

Ben Azzai began by attempting to draw the chochma of Abba into Zeir Anpin. His assumption was that, if he could rectify the [fallen] chochma of Abba and draw it into Zeir Anpin, it [chochma of Abba] would then rise up and draw up the [fallen] chochma of Imma with it as well. Being on the right side [of Imma], which is the source of the chasadim [of daat], chochma of Imma would then draw up the fallen crown of chesed that had descended below (as mentioned above...) and raise it up to [its proper] position in daat. The chasadim of daat would then draw and raise up the [fallen] gevurot as well, being that the nature of chesed and gevura is always to join together. Similar to a man and wife, their sole desire is to unite, for in this sense they are like two mochin, like chochma and bina [which are called "two friends who never part"].

These two mochin-crowns…sought a more expansive place so that they could dwell at ease…

All this is true despite the fact that we explained above (...) that, when the chasadim and gevurot fell "between the shoulders," they became separated from each other, with the chasadim remaining on the right shoulder, and the gevurot remaining on the left shoulder. The reason this does not contradict what we said is because [ultimately] when these two mochin-crowns descended there, they found it to be a very constricted place. They therefore sought a more expansive place so that they could dwell at ease.

However [Ben Azzai reasoned], when the crown of chesed rises up, there is no question that the desire of the crown of gevura [to be one with its mate] will impel it to rise up together with it. In this way [he thought], daat would return to its place and all four mochin would surely be rectified.

And [again, according to Ben Azzai's plan] it was not necessary to draw the bina of Imma up together with chochma of Imma [although, in truth, that too had fallen], and to therefore draw up bina of Abba as well. This would be totally unnecessary for the simple reason that the entire purpose of drawing up and then bringing down the chochma and bina of Abba below, is to raise up the daat that had fallen below. Therefore, when the daat would rise up, the bina of Imma would rise up of its own accord. In truth, only daat descended…

However, Ben Azzai erred in his thoughts. For although we have explained elsewhere that both chochma and bina of Imma descended, this is not to be taken literally. In truth, only daat descended, for the reason that we mentioned above in connection with Adam's sin. The chochma and bina of Imma themselves, however, did not descend. Only their illumination [i.e. their NHY, that is, netzach-hod-yesod; otherwise called their "achorayim", their back side], the reason being that they had to stay close enough to keep daat alive [even] in its fallen state below. For daat is, after all, their offspring [i.e. of chochma and bina]. For daat is the chasadim and gevurot that came forth from chochma and bina of Imma, as is known.

In sum, the chochma and bina of Imma remain above, quite a distance from daat which descended below. When Ben Azzai then raised up the chochma of Imma by means of the chochma of Abba, the chochma of Imma did not have the power to raise up with her the fallen crown of chesed, because of its distance. Not only was chochma of Imma incapable to raising up the crown of chesed, however, but in addition, another defect occurred.

At first, [the illumination of] chochma of Imma was in fairly close proximity to both the chasadim and the gevurot, such that it was able to illuminate them and sweeten them. Now, however, when it rose up, it separated completely from the gevurot and became distant from them. As a result, they turned into extremely severe dinim [judgments] with no sweetening. Ben Azzai…died because he separated and cut chochma off from the gevurot…

For bringing about such a situation, death was decreed upon Ben Azzai. He died because he separated and cut chochma off from the gevurot. He caused a cleavage and "cut the plantings", and in doing so, greatly amplified the power of the dinim [judgments]. He therefore died, in the mystery of the verse, "They shall die without wisdom" (Job 4:21). That is, "They shall die because chochma has departed from them."

Be that as it may, since Ben Azzai's tikun was with chochma, and his desire was to raise up the chochma of Imma and the chasadim, both of which are on the right side, it is therefore said concerning him, "Precious in G‑d's eyes is the death of His pious ones [in Hebrew, "chasidav", from the root word "chesed"]" (Psalms 116:15). [Chesed is in the right column, immediately beneath chochma.] That is, he was considered precious and a chasid in the [partial] tikun that he was successful in doing.

Part 2 - Adapted by Abraham Sutton from the Writings of the Ari, augmented by Shaar Maamarei Chazal (p. 3b on Chagiga 14b),

Ben Zoma wanted to draw up the bina of Abba. He thought and reasoned like this: The third aspect of Adam's sin (see above) consisted in allowing the kelipot to grab unto and derive nourishment and power from the crown of gevura (the gevurot) when he caused it (them) to descend below and become separated from the crown of chesed (the chasadim). (This was the root of the third defect and blemish that Adam had brought about.)

"If so", Ben Zoma thought, "I will attempt to rectify and raise up the crown of gevura alone. In this way, everything else will automatically receive its rectification". Ben Zoma thus began by drawing up the bina of Abba so that it would draw up the bina of Imma, which would then draw up the gevurot, which are from her side [the left side]. In this way, they would all rise up above, and the chitzonim [the external forces of the kelipa - the forces of chaos, randomness and disorder, darkness and evil, etc.] would be prevented from grabbing unto them any more as they had as a result of Adam's sin.

Ben Zoma caused a great defect by joining the gevurot with bina of Imma…

But Ben Zoma also erred. At least the chasadim were together with the gevurot below before he started. The gevurot were therefore at least partially sweetened by virtue of their close proximity of the chasadim. In particular, bina, which is sometimes called supernal gevura [because it is the source of gevura] was far away [and far above] them [the gevurot]. [As the source of gevura, bina is also called "Ba'al Hagevurot", "Master of the Gevurot", as in the second blessing in the Standing Prayer.]

Now, however, the gevurot had risen up, and in the process had become distanced from the chasadim. If this wasn't enough, they now had bonded with bina of Imma which [as stated] is called Supernal gevura. In short, he caused all the gevurot to join together without the mediating and sweetening agency of the chasadim. The gevurot thus became extremely stern dinim [judgments].

And though Ben Zoma relied on Ben Azzai's accomplishments, he nevertheless caused a great defect by joining the gevurot with bina of Imma. Indeed, Ben Zoma's sin was more severe than Ben Azzai's. At least Ben Azzai had left the chasadim below to continue sweetening the gevurot. In addition, as mentioned, bina, Supernal gevura, had been far away from [and far above] the gevurot. Ben Azzai, therefore, did not cause a defect in them. He rather distanced the chochma of Imma from them by raising it up.

Ben Zoma, on the other hand, distanced the gevurot from the chasadim and the chochma. And in addition, he allowed them to bond with the gevura of bina [i.e. with bina, the supernal gevura], and they became extremely severe dinim [judgments]. He was therefore punished more harshly, for he gazed and was stricken, and went out of his mind.

It is the nature of the female to rise up and to seek the male…

The mystery of the matter is this: It is the nature of the female to rise up [i.e. to arouse passion] and to seek [to unite with] the male, as per the verse concerning Eve, "Your desire/passion will be to/for your husband". (Gen. 3:16) The male, on the other hand, has no desire to rise up [i.e. arouse passion] toward the female. It is human nature that she needs him, whereas he does not need her. [The male energy is giving, while the female energy is a receiving and nourishing one.] In the same way, if the chasadim rise up first, the gevurot naturally follow suit. Now, however, that the gevurot, which are female relative to the chasadim, have risen up, the chasadim will not necessarily rise up with them.

Now, behold, the inner level of daat of Zeir Anpin is yesod of Imma, within which are the crowns of chasadim and gevurot respectively. [In other words, yesod of Imma, which contains the crowns of chasadim and gevurot, is clothed with the level of daat of Zeir Anpin.] This yesod of Imma descended below. (Know, too, that daat is only complete/perfect when its two halves, chesed and gevura, are united.) Such that, when Ben Zoma brought forth [raised up] the gevurot from daat (which is none other than the yesod of Imma that descended below), one half of daat (i.e. the gevurot) went up, while the other half (the chasadim) remained below.

Having caused the gevurot to depart from daat, he too - measure for measure - was stricken with insanity. He lost his daat by going out of his mind. Because Ben Zoma relied on what Ben Azzai had already succeeded in rectifying

…he did not die, but rather went out of his mind…

It turns out that, in one sense, Ben Zoma was punished less severely than Ben Azzai. [After all, Ben Azzai died, and Ben Zoma only went out of his mind.] This is because Ben Zoma relied on what Ben Azzai had already succeeded in rectifying, and he actually added another partial tikun. For this reason, he did not die, but rather went out of his mind.

Thus, as we said, in view of the fact that Ben Azzai rectified the right side of chesed, he was called "Chasid" [in Hebrew, "pious/devoted one", who serves the Beloved out of complete selflessness and love]. Regarding him it is written, "Precious in G‑d's eyes is the death of His pious ones" (Psalms 116:15), which is a praise and an approbation [as brought in the Zohar on this verse].

Ben Zoma, on the other hand, is described disparagingly. Regarding him it is written, "You have found honey, eat moderately lest you bloat yourself and vomit it". (Proverbs 25:16) That is, as I have already informed you concerning the mitzvah of Shofar (Shaar Hakavanot, Rosh Hashanah, Drush 7; Pri Etz Chayim, Drushei HaShofar, chapters 1-2), there are 320 Judgments. "Honey", in Hebrew "devash" [which has a numerical value of 306], and which is considered the kind of sweetness that is the root and source of judgments, is equal to the numerical value of the first two letters of the word "shofar", the shin and vav [= 306]. Because Ben Zoma greatly amplified the severe power of the gevurot and the judgments, this disparaging verse was applied to him.

Rabbi Akiva rectified more than all of them. And furthermore, he did not sin, for focused more on rectifying the crown of chesed.

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

Anatomy of the Creation

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

The human form provides a model in which the worlds are enclothed

In the beginning, G‑d created the heavens and the earth... (Gen. 1:1)

In Man himself, we also find "earth" and "heaven". The diaphragm [right below the solar plexus] divides the organs of breathing [the respiratory system] from the organs of digestion. In the larger universe, this [diaphragm] corresponds to the firmament [atmosphere] that is spread out over the earth.

The diaphragm is thus seen as separating between the more spiritual aspects of the body ["heaven"] and the lower, more physical aspects ["earth"].

The Torah indicates clearly that the 'clothes' are not the Man…

Above it [the diaphragm] we thus have the heart, the lungs, the brain, etc., while below, we have the more corporeal and gross physical [organs]. According to this, the upper half of a person is the "heavenly" half, and the lower half is the "earthly" half. Man, in this sense, is a miniature world.

We see this in the verse, "Let us make Man in our image and in our likeness" (Gen. 1:26), wherein the G‑dly Tzelem ["image"] refers to soul of Man. The soul, in other words, is what the Torah calls [the real] Man [Adam]. This is seen in another verse that states, "Do not anoint the flesh of a man..." (Num. 30:32). The Torah indicates clearly that the "clothes" are not the Man.

chanoch adds: In our physical world we are taught from the time of birth to see each person as their clothing - their body. We almost never consider that the person we "see" is not the body but the soul. How can you overcome this indoctrination of our consciousness? It warrants each student of Kabbalah contemplating this question and finding a solution that works for them. Once one has found their solution it is good to share their technique with others. My solution is to spend a few minutes each day as i contemplate my connection with HaShem - my form of prayer to add "seeing" the soul of various members of my family - students - friends, whomever i expect to see that day. It is one reason that i do not take selfies or provide pictures of myself to my students. This gives them the chance to create the image of my soul for themselves.

At the beginning of Shaarei Kedusha, Rabbi Chaim Vital similarly writes:

It is known to the masters of the sciences that a person's body is not his essence [but rather a vehicle for his soul]. The body is therefore referred to as "Man's flesh", as in the verse, "Cover me [my essence] with skin and flesh, and surround me with bones and sinews" (Job 10:11). It is also written, "Do not anoint the flesh of a man..." (Num. 30:32). The inner being is the true self, while the body is merely a garment…

[In both these verses] we find that the inner being is the true self, while the body is merely a garment with which the soul covers itself while [sojourning] in this world. At the moment of death, when the soul departs, this garment is removed, and it is clothed in a pure, clean, spiritual garment. It is thus written, "Remove the soiled garments... and you shall be clothed in fine robes" (Zachariah 3:4); these "fine robes" are none other than the "rabbinical mantle" [in Aramaic, "chaluka d'rabbanan", or spiritual energy body with which the soul is clothed when it enters the Garden of Eden].

Just as a tailor makes a suit of clothes to fit a person's physique, so did the Holy One blessed-be-He make the body as a garment to clothe the soul. And just as a suit is cut and tailored according to the exact proportions of a person's limbs, so did the Holy One make the body according to the pattern of the soul. The body thus has 248 organs/limbs, along with 365 blood vessels which connect them and transport life-giving blood from one to the other, similar to a system of pipes.

With regard to the body, the verse states, "Let us make…" [indicating the level of Asiya]. For, indeed, the body is made from materials provided by the physical world. The same is [partially] true of angels. When they descend to our lower world, they too must "dress up" in a body that conforms to the laws of this material plane.

Concerning the ability of angels to "dress up" in a physical form, the Zohar states: "It has been established: These [angels are able to exist in this world because they] appear to humans in human form. And if you should ask: How do they transform themselves thus? They transform through many colors [energy frequencies]. When they are ready to actually descend, they dress up in [take on the molecular structure of] the earth's atmosphere, and they appear as humans." (Zohar I:58a)

In another place, the Zohar makes an important connection between the way angels descend into our world and the way that we (our souls) ascend into the spiritual dimension: "[At the moment of death] the spirit [Ruach] separates [and divests itself] of the lower soul [Nefesh] in order to [rise up and] enter the lowest level of the Garden of Eden [the world of Yetzira]. There it 'clothes' itself in the atmosphere of that Garden, in exactly the opposite manner that the supernal angels 'clothe' themselves in physicality when they descend to this world." (Zohar I:81a)

The soul…dresses up in the atmosphere of the worlds…

chanoch adds: Why does it say atmosphere of the worlds? This is the true understanding of what happens when someone does Astral Travel. read the book "protection from evil" by Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok for additional information.

These angels are of the level of Ruach [the world of Yetzira] about whom it is written, "He makes His Messenger-Angels Spirits" (Ps. 104:4). This means that He makes the Messenger-Angels of Yetzira descend to the world of Asiya-Action [the physical world] as messengers. The Ruach-Spirit of Man, on the other hand, goes up from the physical world to the lowest level of the Garden of Eden and 'wears' the garb of that dimension.

She [the soul] is refined there and has tremendous pleasure...

This is why the three angels who visited Abraham appeared to eat.

The Zohar (I:102a), Talmud (Bava Metzia 86b), and Midrash (Bereishit Rabba 48:14; Shemot Rabba 47:5) all cite the famous teaching that, "One should never deviate from the customs of the place he visits" (the Jewish equivalent of: "When in Rome do as the Romans"). Concerning Moses, it is written, "He remained there with G‑d [on the mountain] for 40 days and 40 nights without eating bread or drinking water" (Ex. 34:28), and "I remained on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights, without eating food or drinking water" (Deut. 9:9). The Midrash asks: Is it possible for a human being to go without food and drink for so long [and not die]? Rather, Moshe went up to heaven where there is no food, so he did not eat. [The Midrash adds at the end of 47:5: So how did he survive if he didn't eat? He was nourished by the radiance of the Divine Presence. And do not be surprised. For the Angels above that carry the Divine Throne are similarly nourished from the radiance of the Divine Presence.] Conversely, when the angels descended to Abraham, they seemed to eat and drink, as it is written, "He stood over them and they ate under the tree" (Gen. 18:8). The Midrash and Zohar both exclaim: Do you think that those supernal beings really ate? It only seemed that they were eating! Since angels are fire, the food was consumed as they put it in their mouths. All the while it seemed that they were eating like normal humans.

The same is true of the soul of Man. [In order to be born] it must dress up in the atmosphere of this-world.

This explains, as well, why the verse is spoken in the plural, "Let us make…." The soul is from the Blessed One. [In order to be born] it descends and dresses up in the atmosphere of the worlds [or actually dresses "down" in and through the various atmospheres of each lower world/dimension, each of which contributes another garment which the soul dons as it approaches our gross physical plane of existence].

[Speaking to these various levels and their angelic inhabitants, G‑d] thus says, "Let us make a garment for man, i.e. the soul, with which he will be able to descend into the dimension of Asiya". Man will then be "in our image" [in Hebrew, "be'tzalmenu", from the word "Tzelem"], referring to the spiritual image of the angels, and "in our likeness" [in Hebrew, "ki'demutenu"], referring to the physical garments within which they [the angels] clothe themselves when they enter the atmosphere of this world.

We thus see that Man consists of two aspects: Adam Elyon, Superior Man - the soul, and Adam Tachton, Inferior Man - the body.

chanoch adds: Learn well how important it is to start with the original Hebrew in the Torah. These two levels give an explanation as to why a human being has a reactive system that is faster than thought. i am referring to the well know response of a person's body to move away from pain. Like a baby who when touching a hot item removes the hand from the pain source.

[Translation and commentary by Avraham Sutton; Likutei Torah (Chumash HaAri, Bereishit, p. 6)]

Blood Brothers, Soul Brothers

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

The shedding of blood damages the Divine Image

Based on the fact that the soul clothes itself within the body [see Anatomy of Creation], we can understand the meaning of another enigmatically worded verse, "If the blood of the man shall be spilled by a man, his [the second man's] blood shall be spilled, for in the image of G‑d He made man." (Gen. 9:6)

chanoch adds: Please note there is no leniency in this verse for shedding blood in war.

The Ari re-reads the first half of this verse to refer to the soul and the body:

chanoch adds: this comes from the fact that Adam is mentioned twice in the first half of the verse. The first time it says HaAdam which the ARI teaches refers to the soul. The second Adam does not have the definite article and the ARI teaches that this second Adam refers to the body

"If the blood of the man…by a man" refers to the blood [ i.e. Nefesh)] of The Man [the Superior Man - Adam Tachton] by a man [which inhabits the Inferior Man - Adam Elyon]. For it is known that the blood is the Nefesh.

In the Torah, the reason given for the prohibition against eating/drinking the blood of any animal is, "For the soul of all flesh is [in] its blood". (Lev. 17:14) In another place, it is written, "For the blood is the soul." (Deut. 12:23) In every case connected with blood, the word that is used for "soul" is by a man.

The same applies to man. Man's Nefesh is said either to be his blood, or in his blood. One way or the other, the Nefesh is directly associated with the blood. Nefesh, as known, is the lowest aspect of the five levels of the soul; the aspect that "comes to rest" (in Hebrew, "nafash") in the body. Nefesh is thus the link between all the higher aspects of the soul, and the body.

Man…is a combination of two completely diverse and dissimilar elements, namely, the body and soul…

In Derech Hashem (3:1:1), the Ramchal writes:

Man is different from any other creature. He is a combination of two completely diverse and dissimilar elements, namely, the body and soul [Neshama]. [When we speak of man's soul, however, we are actually speaking of two different things.] One type of soul [Nefesh] that man has is the same that exists in all living creature" is . It is this [animal] soul that is responsible for man's natural feelings and intelligence…

chanoch adds: This is an important statement for a student of Kabbalah to evaluate. It implies that the "animal soul" is the source of intelligence. Clearly we can accept the Nefesh is responsible for man's natural animalistic feelings like lust - anger - passion - me only attitude and many other feelings. Yet what is the Hebrew word being translated as "intelligence is very important.

In addition, there exists in man a spiritual entity that is very different and much higher [than this animal soul]. The only reason that this entity becomes part of man is to bind him to the Highest Roots… It is through this spiritual entity that the influence bestowed upon man from the Highest Sources is transmitted. From the divine soul, this influence is transmitted to the animal soul, and then to the body.

The Nefesh Elyona [supernal divine soul] directs the Nefesh Tachtona [the lower, animal soul] and through it, performs its necessary functions… The divine soul is bound to the animal soul, which in turn, is linked to the most ethereal aspect of the blood. In this manner, the body and the two souls are bound together [in a chain].

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan comments on the statement, "The divine soul is bound to the animal soul, which in turn, is linked to the most ethereal aspect of the blood." He writes: When one man kills another, the main damage done is to the second man's body…

Rabbeinu Bachya on Leviticus 17:11 writes that this refers to the last revi'it of blood in the body [a revi'it is a quarter of a biblical lug, i.e. approximately 3 oz.]. In Sota 5a, s.v. Adam, Rashi writes that this is the minimal amount of blood with which a person can live, while Tosafot writes that this is the amount of blood in the heart. A third opinion is that of Rambam on Mishnayot Ohalot 2:2; he writes that this is the amount of blood with which a person is born.

The most significant explanation is that of the Ari in Etz Chaim 42:1. He explains there that this "revi'it of blood" refers to the highest element of the blood, namely, the "essence life-force of the brain", which, in effect, is the interface between the spiritual [divine soul] and the physical [body].

We can understand this on the basis of other statements found in Etz Chaim. The nerves, as well as the veins and arteries, are said to contain the most refined fraction of the "blood". (Etz Chaim 20:5, 40:12, 41:1) The only thing that flows through the nerves, however, is the neural impulses, and therefore these impulses must be considered the most refined fraction of the "blood". This, of course, is the "essence life-force of the brain" mentioned above, since all mental activity depends on neurological impulses. According to this, the "animal soul"… depends on this "blood," namely, the neurological processes. This is the meaning of the statement, "the soul is [in] the blood." The reason for the prohibition against eating all blood would then also be because this neurological activity directly depends on the blood for sustenance. (Aryeh Kaplan, notes to Derech Hashem, Part Three, note 3, p. 347)

Rabbi Chaim Vital continues:

The verse informs us that, when one man kills another, the main damage done is to the second man's body. The reason for this is now given, "For in the Tzelem Elokim [image of G‑d] He made man.?" Unlike Gen. 1:26, where Tzelem and Demut are both mentioned, the verse mentions Tzelem ["image", which is associated with the soul] but not Demut ["likeness", which is associated with the body]. This comes to tell us that the main punishment for manslaughter is for the evil and damage that is inflicted on the victim's soul.

[But this itself could lead to a mistaken understanding.] A man-slaughterer might mistakenly think that, by killing his victim's physical body, he is thereby doing a favor for his soul. After all, he is releasing it from its dungeon! The soul…yearns constantly to rise up [and return] to her Father's house…

For, indeed, the soul is a "portion of G‑d from on high". (Job 31:2) She therefore yearns constantly to rise up [and return] to her Father's house. [Until then] she is dejected, for she is forced to inhabit a material body. If so, the man-slaughterer concludes, he should be rewarded [for releasing her], not punished!

But the Torah has already provided an answer to this distorted view of reality. "For in the image [Tzelem] of G‑d"; this is [again] none other than the spiritual aspect of man, his soul, i.e. "He made man" - the physical aspect, the Asiya-body. For, as we explained, when the soul descends, it dresses up in the atmosphere of this world [which is none other than the body of Asiya].

This makes harming the body tantamount to harming the soul.

[Now, it is known that the descent of] the Shechinah into this lower dimension is for a very exalted purpose [i.e. for the eventual elevation of all the worlds back into divinity]. [As such, it is the divine parallel of the soul's descent into the body.] For the Shechinah is none other than the G‑dly Presence that wishes to [reveal itself and] dwell in all its glory in our physical world.

This last phrase is borrowed from the second half of the verse, "His deliverance is surely near for those who fear Him; the time is close when He will cause the radiant glory of His indwelling presence to be revealed in our land". (Psalms 85:10)

On the other hand, it is known that one who worships idolatry causes the Shechinah to depart from Israel, leaving this world like a dead body [without a soul]. Causing a man's soul to depart and to leave this world is tantamount to causing the Shechinah to depart from Israel…

The man-slaughterer's sin is exactly the same. Causing a man's soul to depart and to leave this world is tantamount to causing the Shechinah to depart from Israel. Why? "For in the image of G‑d, He made man." Thus, just as one who causes the Shechina to depart is deserving of punishment, so also, is one who has caused the soul of a man (which is a portion of G‑d on high) to depart is deserving of punishment.

I have found two sources for the above parallels. First, Yevamot 63b:

We have a tradition: If one does not [marry and thus] try to fulfill the command to "be fruitful and multiply", (Gen. 1:28, 9:7) it is as if he has spilled blood [i.e. committed manslaughter]. It is thus written, "If the blood of a man shall be spilled by a man, his [the second man's] blood shall be spilled, for in the image of G‑d, He made man". (ibid. 9:6) Immediately following this, it is written, "You shall therefore be fruitful and multiply…" (ibid. 9:7)

Rabbi Yaacov explained: It is as if he diminished [G‑d's] presence [in the world], as it is written, "For in the image of G‑d, He made man," which is immediately followed by, "You shall therefore be fruitful and multiply" [i.e. not only to replace one human soul for another, but to replenish the quantum of G‑dliness in the world that was depleted by the loss of human life]

… When Cain killed Abel, the Shechinah departed and went up to the 2nd firmament…

Our rabbis have taught us: It is written, "When it [the Ark] came to rest, he [Moses] said, 'Return, G‑d, [to rest Your presence on] the ten thousands of Israel's thousands." (Num. 10:36) We learn from here that the Shechinah does not rest on less than a minimum of two ten-thousands (20,000) plus two thousands (2,000) (= 22,000). If, therefore, there were 21,999 Jews, and such a person desisted from having children, hasn't he thereby caused the Shechinah to depart from Israel!

Abba Chanan said in the name of Rabbi Eliezer: It is written [concerning Nadav and Abihu], "They had no children." (Num. 3:4) Behold, if they had had children, they wouldn't have died!

Others say: [Where do we learn that one who doesn't have children] causes the Shechinah to depart from Israel? It is written [concerning Abraham], "I [G‑d] will uphold My covenant between Me and between you and your descendants after you throughout their generations, an eternal covenant. I will be G‑d to you and to your offspring after you." (Gen. 17:7). When you have offspring, the Shechinah rests [on you] When you have no offspring, upon whom shall the Shechinah rest? On trees and rocks?!

The main source for the concept of departure of the Divine Presence from the world is found in Bereishit Rabba 19:6. There, it is recorded that, when Adam sinned, the Shechinah went up and departed from the earth plane to the 1st Firmament. This means that the consciousness of G‑dliness became occluded and hidden from men's minds. In the generations that followed, the Shechinah made six additional major "departures." The Midrash enumerates all seven stages of this occlusion process:

Rabbi Abba bar Cahana said: It is written, "They heard G‑d's voice moving about in the Garden." (Gen. 3:8) The word [translated as] "moving about" is "mit'halech", a reflexive form of the verb "to walk", indicating that the Shechinah, which was meant to dwell below, was now departing and going up in leaps and bounds. Once Adam had sinned, the Shechinah departed to the 1st firmament. When Cain killed Abel, the Shechinah departed and went up to the 2nd firmament. When men began to worship idolatry during the generation of Enosh, the Shechinah departed to the 3rd Firmament. The sins of the generation of the Flood caused the Shechinah to depart to the 4th Firmament. The sins of the generation of the Tower of Babel caused the Shechinah to depart to the 5th Firmament. The sins of the Sodomites caused the Shechinah to depart to the 6th Firmament. The sins of the Egyptians in the days of Abraham caused the Shechinah to depart to the 7th Firmament.

[Translation and commentary by Avraham Sutton; Likutei Torah (Chumash HaAri, Bereishit, p. 6)]

Four Aspects of the Emanated

There is an Emanator and an emanated

By Rabbi Chaim Vital; translated and adapted by Shabtai Teicher

Understanding the Worlds

The emanated is composed of four basic elements: fire, air, water, and earth. They are the four letters of the Holy Ineffable Name (Yud, Hei, Vav, Hei). They are Chochma and Bina, Tiferet and Malchut. They are ta'amim (the canticle musical notes), nekudot (the vowel points), tagin (crowns drawn on the top of certain letters in the Torah) and otiot (letters). They correspond to Atzilut, Beriya, Yetzira and Asiya. They are the four aspects of Man.

The first aspect is the internal Man consisting of his spiritual element of soul - the NaRNaCh (Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya). The second is the body. The third is the clothing on the body. The fourth is the house. The Man and his body and his clothes dwell within the house.

Each of these aspects consists of four aspects, and they are as follows:

The first aspect, which is the spiritual part of Man, consists of: Neshama of the Neshama (i.e., Chaya) Neshama Ruach Nefesh.

The second aspect, which is the body, consists of the bones with the brain marrow that is within them, the sinews, the flesh, the skin.

Concerning this there is a verse (Job 10:11): "You have dressed me with skin and flesh, and with bones and sinews you have covered me."

The third aspect, which is the garments, consists of those four garments that must be worn by the priests when they are serving in the Temple. They are: Shirt, Pants, Hat, Belt.

The additional four that are worn by the High Priest are higher aspects from another world, as the Zohar explained. One set of four are the garments of the holy name AdoNoY, and one set of four are the garments of the holy, Ineffable Name, YHVH. Essentially, there are only four.

The fourth aspect, which is the house, consists of the House, the Courtyard, the Field, the Wilderness.

An Intermediary Aspect

In each of these four cases there is another (a fifth) aspect that includes all of the subsequent particulars; it is an intermediary between one general category and another, and it includes both of them.

For example, the natural philosophers say that intermediary between the Mineral and Plant kingdoms is the coral (also called "almogim"). Coral is rock, but it grows like a plant.

The intermediate between the Plant and Animal kingdoms is a creature called the Adney Sadeh described by the Mishnah Kela'im (8:5). It looks like a dog, but it grows from the ground, and it is rooted in the ground by a sort of umbilical cord from whence it gets its nourishment. If you would cut this cord it would die.

Note:It may well be that this creature is not known these days to botanists or zoologists. Nevertheless, it is described by the Mishnah, which is a legalistic text and does not deal with mythical creatures. Therefore, it must be assumed that the Adney Sadeh did exist at one time, and the rabbis of the Talmud were familiar with it, even if it has become extinct in our world. Thus, the Mishnah as a source legitimizes the Ari’s exposition here.

Intermediate between the animal and the human is the monkey.

Four Aspects in the Analogy of Man

Similarly, there is an aspect that is an intermediate between the Creator, may His Name be blessed, and the [human] creatures. All the spiritual elements of Man are included in this aspect, about which it is said, "You are children of the Lord your G‑d" (Deut. 11:1), and "I said that you are G‑d" (Psalms 82:6). It has also been said about it (Genesis 17:22 and Midrash Rabbah, Genesis 47): "G‑d arose from upon Abraham", and our sages have said, "The patriarchs were the vehicle". The intention here is to refer to a very small spark that is an aspect of G‑dliness. It derives from the last place in G‑dliness, and it is ensconced within another potency or spark that is a created being, and it is a very, very subtle soul. In this spark, which is called Yechidah, are the roots of the four spiritual elements of NaRNaCh (Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya).

Between the spiritual soul and the body is an aspect that includes elements of both general categories. It is the revi'it dam.

The revi'it dam is, simply, a portion of blood. This portion is called a revi'it, which means a fourth. It is the fourth part of a loge (about 0.125 liter). When this amount of blood spurts forth from an animal that has been slaughtered, then the animal is considered dead. The Ari does not consider the revi'it dam as a mere amount, but as a specific aspect of blood that contains the life force or nefesh of the animal, as is written: "…Because the blood is the nefesh (life-force)" (Deut. 12:23).

It contains the last spark of the Nefesh, which is the fourth part of the Nefesh, or the Nefesh of the Nefesh, and that is why it is called "the fourth". This spark is ensconced within a portion of blood, the revi'it dam, and becomes one with it, as it is written, "The blood is the Nefesh…" which was talking about this specific revi'it dam. It is the choicest of all the four aspects of the body whose every part is subdivided into four. It is the first of the four and the highest aspect of the brain marrow within the bones. Ensconced within it is the life force in the blood that spreads out from there to sustain the body. The roots of all four aspects of the body are contained within this superior revi'it dam. Thus, it is intermediate between the soul and the body, and it is comprised from elements of both of them.

In other words, as we shall soon see more clearly, the intermediate is an extension of the lowest aspect of the higher category (in this case, the soul), and it is the highest aspect of the lower category (the body). Also, it contains the root of all the aspects of the lower category that will come after it.

chanoch adds: This seems to be a machlochet. Is the soul consolidated like a lump of sugar in only a part of the blood or is it spread throughout the blood? Or is there a third aspect which is what i learned from my teachers that the immune system white blood cells is the soul. The red blood cells are part of the body and the balance of the blood is mostly water with many other aspects. It is possible that the white blood cells are only a fourth of the total volume or some other measure as indicated in the above discussion.

Similarly, between the second aspect [the body] and the third [the clothing] is an intermediate aspect -- the hair and fingernails of Man. As is known, [the fingernails] were the garments of Adam, the First Man, in the beginning. They are joined to the skin [the last aspect of the body], and they are very similar to the body of Man. When hair is removed from the body it can be made into garments, as is done with the wool of sheep and goats, etc. Not only that, but even when they are on the body they are similar to garments, as the hair of animals is their clothing. This is an indication that the garment of Adam, the First Man, was fingernail material. We also find that it was the clothing of Nebuchadnezzar, as it is written: "…Until his hairs were grown like eagle's feathers, and his nails like bird's claws." (Daniel 4:30)

Thus, hair, and according to Chazal, fingernail material as well, is intermediate between the general categories of the body and the garments; and they participate in both categories as well. They are part of the body, and they can be made into garments.

In the same way, between the aspect of garments and the aspect of the house are tents. They are made from wool and flax, which are aspects of garments, and they also serve as aspects of houses. (This aspect of tents needs further inquiry, for there may be another thing involved in it.)

Above Chochma: the huili, Keter

Now, after examining the allegory [of the world of Man], we will return to talk about the supernal worlds, which are the allegorized. They are none other than the four elements, the four Letters of the Tetragrammaton, the four sefirot -- chochma and bina, tiferet and malchut.

Chochma is the first of the four. It follows, therefore, that chochma is called reishit. The Hebrew word for "the first" is reishit.

Indeed, reishit is the first word of the Torah that starts "In the beginning…" or "At first". In Hebrew the phrase is "be-raysheet". The prefix "be" simply means "in" or "with". Also, the "official" Aramaic translation of the Bible, the Targum Yonatan, written by one of the great rabbis of the Talmudic period, R' Yonatan ben Uziel, translates the Hebrew word "be-raysheet" as "be-chochma", - with chochma, or in chochma.

chanoch adds: Be-Chochma translates as "with or in Wisdom" indicating the Torah is all about Wisdom.

And the earth was empty and void (tohu ve-bohu)...

Now, since chochma is reishit, the first…

You can understand why keter is a supernal aspect and yet not really part of the world to which it is the crown, similar to the crown of a king that is above his head and not part of his head. Accordingly, keter is not included as a sefira of the world, and in its place we count daat-knowledge, as stated in the Sefer Yetzira. Nevertheless, there are times when we do count keter as one of the ten sefirot. The entire matter may be understood from what has been explained beforehand in the name of the natural philosophers. There is an intermediary between each of the aspects.

chanoch adds: Keter is the intermediate between the Ain Sof and the Beginning of the Sefirot. This is why Keter is sometimes counted among the Sefirot and other times not counted among the Sefirot. Do not make the mistake that when Keter is not counted there is only 9 Sefirot. There is always 10 Sefirot and Keter is replaced by Daat which is composed of both Chochmah and Binah.

The same idea was introduced by Ramban (R’ Moshe ben Nachman) in his commentary to the beginning of the verse, "And the earth was empty and void (tohu ve-bohu)..." (Genesis 1:2). He wrote, in the name of Sefer Habahir, that before the four elements were created there was created a primal matter called [in Greek] the "huili". It is something that is prepared to take on the shapes of the four elements afterwards, but at first it is without any shape or distinction whatsoever. Since it is before the tohu (emptiness) it is called efes (zero), or nothingness, as it is written, "…They are accounted to him less than nothing and emptiness" (Isaiah 40:17).

We see from the verse that "nothing", the efes, comes before "emptiness", the tohu.

Furthermore, the Hebrew word for "grasping" (nitfas) is always used for intellectual comprehension and perception. According to the Ari, the word efes - zero - nothing is derived from the same root because nothing can grasp it, as it says in the Zohar, "No thought can take hold whatsoever of You".

The idea is as follows. The Infinite is also called Nothing (Efes-Zero) because nothing can grasp it. It has no substance and no shape whatsoever. After it there came into existence the tohu (emptiness), which is keter. After that there came into existence the bohu (void), which included the four elements, chochma and bina, tiferet and malchut.

However, the Bohu is not yet raysheet, Chochma. As we will soon see, it is the second aspect of Keter. It is not the four elements in actuality, but only in potential.

It has also been taught about the Bohu that the word is a combination of two other words: Bo, which means “in it,” and Hu, which means, “it is.” Thus, the word itself means “It is in it,” which is an indication that it is the first to assume the shape of the four elements, at least potentially, and within it, so to speak, is the Infinite Himself.

The Intermediary is Keter

How could one shine upon the other and how could one create the other since they are polar opposites if it were not for an intermediary?

It is absolutely necessary that there should be an intermediate level between the Emanator and the emanated because they are distant from each other as far as can be, more than between heaven to earth. How could one shine upon the other and how could one create the other since they are polar opposites if it were not for an intermediary that is close to the Emanator and close to the emanated, and joins them. This intermediary is keter, which is called tohu-emptiness. There is no element within it, and it is only indicated in the Holy Ineffable Name (YHVH) by the crown on the top of the first letter, Yod. It is the intermediary.

When the scribe begins to draw he first puts the pen down on the blank parchment and makes a dot. This dot is the crown of the first letter of the Ineffable Name, Yod. As such, it is intermediary between the blank parchment and the beginning of the writing.

chanoch adds: This metaphor of a dot of ink on the white parchment implies two forms of infinity and that is how intermediary comes into being. The white parchment is considered infinite meaning without limit. The dot creates limitation on the parchment while at the same time the dot is infinitely small. To me this is the union of two infinities.

Comparable to keter is the primal matter called the huili that contains the root of the four elements in potential and not in actuality. That is why it is called tohu - emptiness ….

Another meaning of the word Tohu derives from the root tavha, which means "astonishment".

It astonishes the mind of human beings because it does not contain any shape or form whatsoever. Nevertheless, it is an emanation and contains the potential of the four elemental shapes. Indeed, it is possible to call it Infinite and Emanator; and some of the kabbalists did say that keter is the Infinite. It is also possible to call it emanated because the Infinite is certainly greater than it. Consequently, the sages have warned us, "In things that are wondrous beyond you, do not investigate" (Chagigah 13a).

Nevertheless, what can be said about it, ultimately, is that the keter is the intermediate aspect between the Emanator and the emanated. It is the last possible aspect of the Infinite. It emanated another aspect that contains the root of the ten sefirot greatly hidden and in great subtlety, and in such a way that there can be among the emanated no greater subtlety than it. Above it, besides the tohu, there is only the Absolute Nothingness.

Two Aspects of Keter -- Atik Yomin and Arich Anpin

Consequently, there are really two levels to this aspect. [The first] is the lowest aspect of the Infinite, if it were possible to say such a thing. It is like the malchut of malchut (of the Ein Sof -- Infinite), although such a thing cannot really be said because there is no image or sefira whatsoever in that place, and we only say so in order to use words that can reach the ear. This level, the lowest of the Ein Sof, includes all of what exists above it by receiving from all of them, as it is known in general, that every aspect of malchut receives from all the levels that are above it. This level, the lowest of the Ein Sof, emanates another aspect that is the highest of all the emanated. It contains the root of all the emanated, and it influences all of them. Thus, the smallest aspect of the Emanator has emanated the greatest aspect of the emanated, and there is nothing else between them. After this aspect of the Emanator there is no other aspect of the emanated closer to it or more similar to it [than the second, lower aspect of keter].

Keter has an aspect that is applicable to the Ein Sof, and it has an aspect that is applicable to the emanated. These two aspects are called, respectively, Atik Yomin and Arich Anpin, and both together are called keter.

Both of these levels, together, are really one aspect called keter. By virtue of one of its aspects, some kabbalists have called it Ein Sof, but other kabbalists, because of its second aspect, have called it keter and accounted it in the number of the ten sefirot. Our opinion is like neither of them. Rather, we consider it an intermediate aspect between the Ein Sof and the emanated. It has an aspect that is applicable to the Ein Sof, and it has an aspect that is applicable to the emanated. These two aspects are called, respectively, Atik Yomin and Arich Anpin, and both together are called keter. Understand this well.

Along these lines it has been said in another place that within the "head", which is the keter, or Arich Anpin, of Beriya, there is ensconced the malchut of the malchut of Atzilut. It is the Atik Yomin of Beriya. Understand this well.

The word for 'I' is Ani whose letters are the same as those for the word Ayin, which means 'nothing'. The rule is that the emanated has only four levels. They are the four letters of the Ineffable Holy Name (YHVH). They are ABY''A (Atzilut, Beriya, Yetzira, Asiya), and they are chochma and bina, tiferet and malchut. That is why the Torah begins from "be-reishit", from "the beginning", and [the sages said] "there is no reishit except chochma".

It was not said, "reishit is always chochma", but it was said in a negative way, "there is no reishit except chochma".

The sages said it in a negative way to specifically exclude keter. There is an intermediary that includes aspects of both the Emanator and the emanated. It is called keter. This keter includes all of what was above it even though it is the smallest aspect of all of them and receives nourishment from all of them. In turn, it is the root of all the ten sefirot of the emanated, and it influences all of them.

Do not be surprised if we sometimes say that the ten sefirot of Atzilut divide into the four letters of YHVH, and sometimes we say that they divide into five partzufim [arrangements of particular configurations of sefirot]. When we say that they are four, we are counting only the actual emanations, but when we say that they are five we are counting their root in the Emanator, together with the emanated themselves.

You should also know that it is exactly the same with all the ten sefirot of each and every world, and it is also the same in the details of each and every partzuf. Every higher aspect is called Emanator relative to the aspect lower than it, which is called emanated. And the emanated is always divisible into four letters, even in any one of its ten sefirot, or in any one of the ten sefirot of any one of them. In each particular [no matter how detailed] there is an intermediate aspect called keter. Understand this well; it is a key to understanding all the lessons.

It is also the meaning of the verse, "I am the first, and I am the last". Keter is the first, and it is the last.

The word for "I" is Ani whose letters are the same as those for the word Ayin, which means "nothing".

It is Ani, and it is Ayin. The malchut of the Emanator is its last aspect; it is called Ani, as is always the case with malchut. In the aspect of root of the emanated it is keter, which is the first, and it is called Ayin whose letters are the same as Ani.

[Adapted from Etz Chaim by Shabtai Teicher.]

chanoch's Commentary

For the majority of human beings the above discussion and attempt to explain Tohu and Bohu is incomprenensible. The more words expressed the more confusing the subject becomes. In the Sefer Esser Sefirot - Ten Luminous Emanations there are 16 Chapters that bring the Creation from the Ain Sof to the physical worlds including the Creation of all aspects of Souls and the emanated. In Chapter 5 there is a teaching that takes the whole chapter of a subject called "Mati VeLo Mati". This translates from the Aramaic as "It is there and it is not there". This paradox is what is discussed above. i strongly recommend as did my teachers to study this Sefer. This is considered the deepest study of the Kabbalah. My teacher described this chapter as the item that separates the men from the boys in the study of Kabbalah. Yet The Light is in the effort. Let me know if you wish to study this with me.