Rabbi Isaac Luria - HaAri - Class 4 - Elevating the Flesh and Other Essays

Elevating the Flesh - Part 2

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

Proper intentions for slaughtering are the cosmic struggle between good and evil.

The first step of ritual slaughtering is preparing the knife. The knife must be perfectly smooth and free of any nicks. The shochet must check the knife by running it gently over his thumbnail before proceeding with the ritual slaughtering.

When you inspect the knife and sharpen it on the stone, your intention should be to remove all its defects [i.e., nicks]. The numerical value of the word for "defect" [in Hebrew, "pagam", spelled pei-gimel-mem] is [123] equivalent to three times the number of letters in the divine name Eh‑yeh when it is spelled in its simple form and two iterations of its spelling-out.

These [iterations of the name Eh‑yeh] are thus all manifestations of the attribute of judgment; you should intend to sweeten them.

The divine name Eh‑yeh is associated with the sefira of bina. Whereas chochma is the pristine experience of transcendent insight, bina is the analysis of the insight and its integration into the pre-existing mental structures of the mind. The mental process of chochma is an experience of wonder and openness, while that of bina is an experience of evaluation and judgment. Thus, the name Eh‑yeh is associated with judgment. Will it be slaughtered in order to…augment the world's consciousness of G‑d...?

It is instructive to note that the only time this name is used in the Bible is in the exchange between G‑d and Moses at the burning bush. Moses asks G‑d what he should tell the Jewish people G‑d's Name is. G‑d answers: "I shall be who I shall be". Rashi explains that G‑d was telling Moses to reassure the Jewish people that G‑d will be with them in future exiles, just as He was with them in the Egyptian exile. Thus, even the basic meaning of the name Eh‑yeh is associated with exile, a manifestation of the divine attribute of judgment.

The way this is done is by raising the number 41 to the number 42. Forty-two is the number of letters in the divine name Havayah when it is spelled in its simple form and two iterations of its spelling-out.

The divine name Havayah is associated with G‑d's attribute of mercy. There are four standard ways in which this name is spelled-out. If we consider the first three ways of spelling the name, we note that the number of letters in the simple spelling and two iterations of spelling-out together is 42.

[You should count only the number of letters in the spellings-out of] the name Havayah whose numerical value are 72, 63, and 45. Three times 42 [= 126, which] is the numerical value of the word for "defect" ["pagam", 123] plus one for each of the three letters that compose the word itself [pei, gimel, and mem].

These names Havayah indicate divine mercy, which you have now substituted for the attribute of judgment indicated by the 41 letters of the name Eh‑yeh, as we said.

The fourth spelling-out of the name Havayah, whose numerical value is 52 and is spelled out using the letter hei, does not possess 42 letters [in its simple spelling and two iterations of spelling-out].

Therefore, it cannot "counteract" the 41 letters of the spelling out of the name Eh‑yeh and does not figure in this meditation.

Now, when you slaughter the animal, have in mind that the numerical value of the word for "the slaughtering" [in Hebrew, "hashechita", spelled hei-shin-chet-yud-tet-hei] is 337, which is three times the numerical value of the word "Yabok" [spelled yud-beit-kuf, which has a numerical value of 112].

3 x 112 = 336; adding 1 for the value of the word "Yabok"as a whole gives 337. "Yabok" (or "Jabok") is the name of the river next to which Jacob wrestled with the angel of Esau. Slaughtering is thus a specific case of the cosmic struggle between good and evil, divine consciousness and gross material consciousness. Will the animal be slaughtered in order for man to satisfy his craving for meat, to aggrandize his animal nature? Or will it be slaughtered in order to heighten the awareness of G‑d's magnificence in creating the taste and satiation that accompany eating, and by utilizing the energy gained from eating to augment the world's consciousness of G‑d through Torah study and observance of the commandments?

[112] is also the combined numerical value of the names Havayah [26] and Elokim [86]. These two names are situated in the throat, which is where the animal is slaughtered.

This will be explained presently. Whereas during the sharpening of the knife, the negativity of the name Eh‑yeh was sweetened by the name Havayah, during the slaughtering itself, the negativity of the name Elokim will be sweetened by the name Havayah.

Have in mind that the numerical value of the word for "throat" [in Hebrew, "garon", spelled gimel-reish-vav-nun, which has a numerical value of 259] is three times that of the name Elokim.

86 x 3 = 258; adding 1 for the value of the name Elokim as a whole gives 259.

These [three names Elokim] are the three immature "brains" which descend there [i.e., to the throat], as part of the development process of Zeir Anpin, as is known.

As we have explained previously, Zeir Anpin passes through three stage of consciousness in the course of its development as a partzuf. These are fetal consciousness, suckling consciousness, and mature consciousness. Mature consciousness is characterized by the mature influence of the intellect over the emotions. In other words, the consciousness of the intellect must, so to speak, descend into the realm of the emotions.

The ideas and consciousness of the intellect…contract in order to pass through the neck on the way to the heart…

The conscious powers of the soul are all associated with corresponding locations within the body. Intellect is, of course, "in" the head, while the emotions are "in" the heart or torso. Between the head and the torso is the neck, which is of much smaller diameter than either the head or the torso. Thus, we may envision the ideas and consciousness of the intellect having to contract in order to pass through the neck on the way to the heart, where they can expand again to inform and permeate the emotions.

This contraction is necessary since intellect and emotion are two different worlds, and were the consciousness of the intellect to attempt to influence the emotions without any quantum leap of level (tzimtzum), the emotions would not be able to "relate to" or internalize any of the intellect's level of awareness. This neck-stage is thus crucial for the emotional maturation of Zeir Anpin (and by extension, every human being, who is a projection and manifestation of Zeir Anpin).

So, first, the three brains (chochma, bina, and daat) descend into the neck region on their way to the heart. But, as we said, these are mentalities of constricted consciousness, created by the power of contraction of the name Elokim. This name indicates G‑d's power and strength of restraint. In order for these levels of consciousness to be able to influence the heart properly, they must be influenced here, before descending any further, by the name Havayah, indicating G‑d's mercy.

At this point, these names are manifestations solely of G‑d's judgment. Therefore have in mind to elicit three names Havayah, indicating mature consciousness. [Combining the names Havayah and Elokim thus] will give three times Havayah-Elokim, which as we said, is the numerical value of the word for "the slaughtering".

By removing the blood…one allows…mature consciousness to shine into the soul incarnated into the animal…

By removing the blood [which embodies] the attribute of judgment, one allows the three names Havayah that embody mature consciousness to shine into the soul incarnated into the animal. This rectifies it.

Blood is red, the color of severity and judgment (gevura).

After this, meditate on the fact that there are two channels in the throat [i.e., the trachea and the esophagus]. The numerical value of the word [used here to refer to an indicator of kosher slaughter] "sign" [in Hebrew "siman", spelled samech-yud-mem-nun, 160] is the same as that of the name Eh‑yeh when spelled-out with the letter yud.

The numerical value of the first iteration of the spelling out of the name Eh‑yeh using the letter yud is 161. So this equivalence requires adding 1 for the value of the word for "sign" as a whole.

The numerical value of the word for "trachea" [in Hebrew, "kaneh", spelled kuf-nun-hei, 155] is the same as that of the name Eh‑yeh, when spelled out with the letter hei, plus 4 for sweetening each of the four base-letters of this name.

The numerical value of the first iteration of the spelling out of the name Eh‑yeh using the letter hei is 151.

The numerical value of the word for "esophagus" [in Hebrew, "veshet", spelled vav-shin-tet, with a numerical value of 315] is seven times the numerical value of the word for "man" [in Hebrew, "adam", spelled alef-dalet-mem, equaling 45]. This number [315] is also related to the 320 states of severity associated with the blood of the throat, which is also a manifestation of severity.

We are to picture the mentality of the brain figuratively descending through the two channels of the throat into the torso. The act of ritual slaughtering, which empties these vessels of their blood, neutralizes the negative forces that threaten to thwart the safe passage of divine consciousness from head to heart.

Seven is the number of emotions that compose Zeir Anpin, the archetypal man-figure, as we have noted. It is these seven emotions whose rectification depends upon the successful transference of mind-consciousness through ritual slaughter. Thus, the seven man-emotions are rectified via the esophagus.

The number 320 is derived from the 288 Sparks of divine light that fell from the world of Tohu and became embedded as self-oriented consciousness and egocentricity in the fabric of the lower worlds, including ours. To this number is added the number 32, the number of times the name Elokim (the name signifying divine judgment and severity) appears in the story of creation. The "320 states of severity" thus signify the negativity and egocentricity inherent in creation since the fall accompanying the primordial sin, which our task is to counteract by eliciting divine mercy and love.

The equivalence of 315 and 320 is arrived at probably by adding the definite article ("the", indicated by the Hebrew letter hei, which has a numerical value of 5) to the word for "esophagus" ("ha-veshet").

Now, through ritual slaughter, the dross in these states of severity is sweetened and refined.

chanoch's Commentary

The above essay is explaining the reason for the slaughtering of animals in a Kosher manner. Many of the gematriot are just stated while the deeper explanation of realizing how these numbers are arrived at needs to be done by the student as part of their growth and to reinforce their memory. If you have any problems proving these numbers to yourself send me a question by email. In addition the list of the 7 man emotions need to be contemplated by yourself to provide a strengthening of your memory. Also the Esophagus is used in meditations regarding the Shofar. This essay has a hint to the trachea which is included in the Shofar meditation, which includes in the Zohar. This is due to both the Shofar and the Esauphagus have the same letters in a different order and these letters relate to Satan as described in the Zohar on Pinchas.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Shaar HaMitzvot and Taamei HaMitzvot; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard." available at Kabbala Online Shop]

Mystical Significance of Hair - Part 1

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

Kabbalah teaches that hair is recognized for its spiritual power

For purposes of clarity, this commentary has been divided into three sections. The first section deals with practices, the second explores spiritual insights, and the third offers meditation instructions and a conclusion.

Section I: Practices

Before we explore the spiritual insights of the Arizal's teaching, we need first to understand what, in practice, our options are. We will start first with an examination of Halacha (Jewish Law) and then discuss Kabbalistic and Chassidic practices rooted largely in the teachings of the Arizal. (See part 2 of this presentation.)

According to Jewish Law, women are permitted to shave their own facial hair (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 181:12), and to shave the sides of their head (Ibid.181:6). Women are not allowed to shave (with a razor) any Jewish man's beard or peyot, i.e. side locks (Ibid.). According to some authorities, men are permitted to trim or completely shave their beard with either a scissors or an electric shaver that employs a scissor-like cutting mechanism (Ibid. 181:3,10 and Har Tzvi, Y.D. 143). These lenient authorities maintain that the Torah's prohibition applies only to using a razor in the prohibited zones on the man's beard and head (Makot 20A, Rambam, Avodat Kochavim 12:6).

A man should keep the hair of his head short, with the exception of course of the peyot and beard…

A man may allow his hair to grow in a moderate way, as long as: there is no impediment due to hair thickness to his putting on the head Tefillin, he does not wear long hair to emulate women, and his hairstyle does not follow uniquely gentile fashions. When a man or a woman gets a haircut, or a man trims or shaves his beard, each should have this done by a person of the same sex..

Kabbalistic and Chasidic practice don't avail themselves of these lenient halachic opinions (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 181:3 see Veyesh Osrim & 181:11 and the Arizal quoted above), and so Kabbalistic principles differs in the following ways:

1. A man does not shave, nor permit others to shave, his beard at all, with the exception of the mustache that overlaps the top lip, and this is only to be trimmed to above the lip with a scissors. (Writings of the Ari, Taamei Hamitzvot, parashat Kedoshim)

2. According to some, a man does not allow his peyot, i.e. the hair of his temples and upper sideburns between forehead to back of ears (i.e. sides of the head) to be trimmed (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 181:11) except when the peyot extend past the length of the beard and then are trimmed with a scissors. (Writings of the Ari, Ta'amei Hamitzvot, parashat Kedoshim)

3. A man should keep the hair of his head short (Ibid.), with the exception of course of the peyot and beard.

Section II: Spiritual Insights The path of Kabbala…soars to the level of passionate harmony with the spirit of the Divine Law.

The path of Kabbala is a profound, yet subtle spiritual path, nestled within the heart of Torah. The mitzvot explored here will distinguish clearly between a person, whose commitment to Torah is limited to the keeping of the letter of the Divine Law, and a person whose commitment soars to the level of passionate harmony with the spirit of the Divine Law.

Any part of the natural order can be perceived in a variety if ways. Hair, the subject of our exploration here, is no exception. For a scientist, hair is seen and understood in terms of its function in the human body; for a swimmer, in terms of its implications on the speed of the race; and for an advertising executive, as an instrument to attract customers. All these perspectives are understandable, yet far removed from how a Torah practitioner and Kabbalist relates to hair.

The Kabbalist, analogous to the scientist, is interested in understanding hair's spiritual dimension and function. Analogous to the swimmer, he is interested in how hair allows him to maneuver through the spiritual realm. Given the nature of hair, in what way does it obstruct the spiritual journey; in what way can it expedite it? The Kabbalist, like the advertising executive, is interested in attracting divine spiritual abundance and seeks to promote practices that facilitate that aim. These parallels reflect the statement of King Solomon, "One opposite the other did G‑d make." (Ecclesiastes 7:14) The wise will understand.

chanoch adds: This is probably the best explanation of the Kabbalistic mind set i have seen.

Many people today experience and relate to their hair as an important expression of their self and something that is integral to their self-esteem. Thus for moderns, it should be reiterated that the Torah gracefully allows them to keep their hairstyles. This is the case provided the hairstyles conform with basic Torah norms of modesty and with the laws relating to shaving and haircuts that we have seen above and will explain later. There is an element of the Torah, the Tree of Life, that makes space for a spectrum of people who are all in different places along the spiritual path. The disciple of Kabbala, representing the epitome of spiritual aspiration in Torah, seeks from the depths of Torah a way of relating to hair that brings greater spiritual purpose, understanding and maturation.

What is first made clear in the Arizal's teaching is that all hair, whether that of a man or a woman, has besides any physical qualities and psychological significance a distinct spiritual quality. This quality for a man and a woman are different in degree but not in kind. However, whether for men or for women, this quality can actually be different in kind, as we see with the attainment of the nazerite. The nazerite's hair is transformed from the quality of din (judgment) to that of rachamim (mercy) by their ascetic and spiritual practices. This transformation of the hair from din to rachamim explains the commandment (Num. 6:5) upon the nazerite to grow his hair long and thus to manifest the supernal rachamim latent within the divine persona (partzuf) of Atik Yomin that he has come to, in miniature, be expressed through their hair.

Initially, students of Kabbala need to develop this sensitivity to hair's spiritual quality and then they can start developing their appreciation for the Arizal's understanding and mappings of these various gradations of hair and the directives that follow from them. We are bidden to emulate G‑d in terms of specific character traits, all having their specific parallels in the sefirot…

First, it should be said that Kabbala has a complex yet ultimately simple understanding of G‑d. Accordingly, it calls upon us to emulate, and, so to speak, embody, a greater range of divine personas, or in proper Kabbalistic terminology, partzufim. In other words, in Torah (Rambam, Sefer Mitzvot, Mitzvah 8) we are bidden to emulate G‑d in terms of specific character traits, all having their specific parallels in the sefirot (Tomer Devorah). So too here, we are called to touch a more subtle dimension of G‑d's manifestation of Himself in creation and our psyche.

The Arizal, in the teaching above, refers to three partzufim: Nukva, Zeir Anpin and Arich Anpin. Here, we will deal with the first two, given that the nazerite's vow is not desirable for most contemporary Jews. (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 203:7)

"Nukva" is Aramaic for "female", and is also known as the Shechina (indwelling Divine Presence). It is a feminine/receptive dimension of the Creator's sefirotic personality, so to speak. Nukva corresponds to the sefira of malchut. How does the Kabbala reconcile the concepts of femininity and kingship equally associated with Nukva? Quite simply, Kabbala sees monarchy as depending on a kingdom, something that can only be given to the King, in a desired fashion, through the willing reception on the part of a people of the kingdom. Thus, it is said about Nukva/malchut, "There is no King without a nation" (Kad HaKemach, Rosh Hashanah Ayin, alef). Nukva is also as referred to as "bat" ("daughter") or "Knesset Yisrael" ("the Community of Israel") and represents the collective soul of the Jewish people. Although Nukva is receptive/feminine to the G‑dly dimensions above, it is active/masculine in relation to those below it.

"Zeir Anpin" is Aramaic for "Small Face" and represents the small face of G‑d. Zeir Anpin is how G‑d appeared to the Jewish people in the image of a young warrior with black hair.(See Sha'ar Hakavanot, Inyan Chag Hashavuot, for quotation of famous Midrash.) This prophetic glimpse of divine imagery was perceived at the crossing of the Red Sea when the Egyptians were drowned. It is possible that this dimension of G‑d is seen as the small face because it does not reflect the wholeness of the divine intention in relation to Creation. Rather, it is but a small dimension of the Creator's sefirotic projection. Zeir Anpin is also known as "Holy One, blessed be He" and is a masculine/active dimension of the Creator's sefirotic persona. Zeir Anpin is known as "ben" ("son") and is associated with the six sefirot of chesed, gevura, tiferet, netzach, hod and yesod.

Before we explain the nature of the hair of Zeir Anpin and Nukva, it is necessary to first explain the concept of hair as it pertains to the partzufim. First, though, it needs to be said that each partzuf is composed of ten sefirot, which have both Mochin (consciousness) and middot (attributes). In name, the Mochin are: keter, chochma, bina and the middot are: chesed, gevura, tiferet, netzach, hod and yesod. Malchut, as we have said, is receptive. These sefirot are depicted by analogy to a human like form.

Thus hair is also part of the human being and is viewed as reflective of the divine hair. One could look at our hair as being a poor analogy of the "real" divine hair. The hair of the partzufim is said to originate in the excess of the Mochin's processing and receptivity of the divine light from the Ein Sof. (Otzrot Chaim, Derush Adam Kadmon, pg. 6)

The hair of Nukva and of Zeir Anpin have the quality of judgment…

The hair of Nukva and of Zeir Anpin have the quality of judgment (din). Yet, Nukva, associated with the woman, is of a less severe quality and is only in need of being covered. This covering of the female's hair in Jewish law, applies to married, divorced, or widowed women. In Kabbalistic practice these women's hair are meant, within the bounds of practicality, to be covered entirely, and to be covered, ideally, nearly always with the exception of bathing.

[Note: See Zohar, parashat Naso 125b -126b, regarding spiritual importance and ramifications of women not covering their hair both at home and outside. See Magen Avraham, Orach Chaim 75:2 regarding extent that hair should be covered according to Zohar; also see Chatam Sofer, Orach Chaim 36; also Igrot Moshe, Even HaEzer, vol. I, 58 for strict and lenient Halachic views. See Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer 21:2 and Bayit Chadash on Tur ad loc. for requirement of hair coverings for women who are: married, divorced, widowed or single if not virgins. For this last inclusion, see Mishna Berura, Orach Chaim 75:11, Helkat Mechokek, Letter 2 and Shevut Yaakov vol. I, 103. There is room for leniency here from for widows, divorcees, and presumably single women. See Igrot Moshe Even HaEzer, vol. I, 57 and more so Igrot Moshe Even HaEzer, sect. 32 par. 4. In practice, one is advised to ask one's local Rav. There are stricter opinions see Yabiah Omer 4:3.]

A man's hair, though, is of a different variety. His judgments (din) expressed on the hair of most of his head, with exception of the sideburns (peyot), are considered in need of nearly complete elimination. This especially is the case if his soul is rooted in the distinctly aggressive dimension of the super-soul-root of Cain, the killer of his brother Abel. In the context of what has been said in regards to woman, the message is clear. A man, who is an embodiment of Zeir Anpin, needs to remove his judgments, i.e. hairs of most of his head, in order to rectify his nature. Men, it should also be noted also cover their hair (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 2:6 and see Shabbat 156b) and contrary to much popular lay opinion, this head covering is ideally supposed to cover the majority of his skull (Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim 1:1). Nor should a man walk four ammot (approximately six feet) without a head covering, or make a blessing without a head covering (Ibid.). In particular, Kabbalists wear especially large head coverings, almost equaling those of women's requirement.

Not so the hair of the man's beard. Here we are instructed that a man's beard represents channels for divine abundance and reflect supernal G‑dly qualities of kindness and trust, which men are called to embody. With regards to the man's beard, he is encouraged to let it grow unhindered. Here there is also the need for sensitization that beard hair is not something to pull, when debating a Talmudic argument, or to comb, for the cultivation of even a spiritual neatly kept image. Rather, a man is called to a radical experience of what Job stated, "From my flesh I will see G‑d." (Job 19:26) We can explain this verse as referring to the experience of the spiritual and G‑dly potential in the human body.

A woman, who expresses the divine persona of Nukva, is…embodiment of a tamed force of judgment in this world…

When the Arizal teaches that the hair of the head is of the quality of judgment, perhaps this is also tacit recognition, in one respect, of the intimate association of hair with ego. For anyone living in the Western world such a connection between hair and ego is beyond need of demonstration. Likewise, is the understanding nothing more than ego limits a person. The hair of the head, located as it is on the top of the human body, can be perceived as the keter (literally "crown") of negative human ego. Interestingly, a woman, who expresses the divine persona of Nukva, is required to cover her hair on the head but is not to eliminate it. In actuality, the opposite is true. She is discouraged from making herself hairless, given the need for her embodiment of a tamed force of judgment in this world. Women are rooted in the left side of the Tree of Life and correspond to the gevura. Her gevura needs to be contained but not eliminated. Men are rooted in the Right side of the Tree of Life, and find their source in the chasadim; therefore, their gevurot/dinim, i.e. the hair of their heads, needs to be eliminated largely but not completely.

How is it that our hair has come to embody the quality of judgment? And is this the way of responding to this reality? Kabbala explains that anything with a dominant quality of judgment, like hair, is inherently vulnerable to exposure and damage from the "Other Side" i.e. Evil. That there is evil in the world and that the world is in such a spiritually collapsed state of existence is a result of the fall of Adam and Eve. (Derech Hashem 1:3:8) Needless to say, before their fall Adam and Eve did not cover their hair, as they were both naked (Gen. 2:25), free of sexual lust and ego. (See Guide for the Perplexed, ch. 2)

We, as fallen human beings seeking redemption, need to respect the situation that we, as part of archetypal Adam and Eve, have collectively created. We need to work with this reality towards Tikun. Abrogating the covering of one's hair, for a man or a woman, in the present time, in the name of feminism or some preemptive neo-messianic spirit, when evil has yet to be eradicated, feeds the "Other Side" with exactly what it desires: the power of judgments. The Zohar states quite clearly that when we expose the judgments below, we cause a descent of the judgments above, in Nukva and Zeir Anpin, into this world below. These then later wreak havoc on our lives.

In the words of the Zohar: "Disruption of spiritual consciousness will befall a man who allows his wife to expose her hair; this [the proper covering of a woman's hair] is one of the foundational principles of modesty. A woman who let's her hair be seen in order to appear attractive causes poverty to her home, spiritual inferiority to her children and causes a negative spiritual influence to reside in the home… If all this in one's own house certainly in public places and certainly other brazen acts of immodesty…."(Zohar, parashat Naso 125b-126b)

Section 3: Meditation Instructions

When a man is beginning to have his haircut, he should intend:

1. To fulfill the will of his Maker in not having the corners of his head shaved with a razor.

2. To fulfill the will of his Maker in not having his beard cut by a razor.

Besides these preparatory meditations, he can intend:

1. To remove the judgments from his head to the extent that he does.

2. To do the meditation while reflecting on the above gematria of the word "ta'ar" ("razor"- see Part 1) and name of G‑d.

Throughout the day, a man can attune to his beard, as an expression of the divine names E-l Sha-Dai. This should not be done in the bathroom or an unclean place. While contemplating, a person can focus on opening his heart in kindness, and developing his inner strength, thus becoming more truly trusted as a vessel for the Divine Will.

A woman, when putting on her hair-covering, can intend to conceal and sweeten her judgments. She can also contemplate ways in which she can appropriately manifest her inborn quality of gevura. Hair, as a clearly sexual dimension of her existence, can suggest a meditation focused on the partial concealment of her physical self so that her spiritual self can illuminate creation with greater clarity.

The goal of the Kabbala is the transformation of a human being into a chariot for the Divine. Hair, an aspect of our existence that has been exiled into banality and perversion, in Kabbala is recognized for its spiritual power, properties and potential. Contemporary Jewish spiritual seekers are encouraged to work with this Kabbalistic tradition and experiment with its fruits.

Although the experience of Divine Law is at times experienced as an external imposition on the self, experience shows that with the humbling of the heart and the opening of the mind Divine Law, is in actuality a greater, albeit often more concealed, expression of the soul's knowledge and intuitive wisdom.

[Adapted by Zechariah Goldman from Taamei Hamitzvot, Kedoshim]

Mystical Significance of Hair - Part 2

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

Trimming facial hair has profound implications in the higher worlds

The following is a careful translation from the Ari; it is, however, a difficult selection. For an introduction to the topic and extended commentary by our translator, please see part one of this presentation.

Do not cut off the hair on the sides of your head. Do not shave off the edges of your beard. (Lev. 19:27)

When performing a commandment, a person should do so to fulfill the will of his Creator, Who commanded him. For example, when a man's hair is cut, he should bring to mind that he will not allow the hair of the sides of his head to be shaved, nor the hair of his beard.

The mystical explanation is the following: There are the three types of hair of the head - those associated with Arich Anpin, Zeir Anpin and Nukva. However, the hairs of Arich Anpin are of a quality of complete mercy and are all channels of lights that allow the lights to descend below; it is not appropriate to cut them. Therefore, the nazirite whose hair signifies Atik [associated with Arich Anpin] does not cut his hair at all, as has been explained regarding the commandment of the nazirite. However, in Zeir Anpin it is fitting to cut of the hair of one's head, particularly someone whose soul is rooted in the root soul of Cain.

The beard hairs are channels of divine spiritual abundance…

It is proper for a man to intend, when getting his hair cut, that he is a reflection of Zeir Anpin, and that he is removing all the judgments from himself by means of the razor [in Hebrew, "ta'ar"], which has the numerical value of the divine name Ado-nai. This numerical equivalency is achieved when each letter of this divine name Ado-nai is spelled out in full, and the total numerical value of each letter is added up. Ado-nai transforms the judgment; therefore, it has the numerical value of "razor" ["ta'ar"] to remove the judgments…

"Ta'ar" is spelled: tav (400), ayin (70), reish (200), with a total numerical value of 670 plus 1 for the entirety of the word, equaling 671.

"Ado-nai" spelled-out is : alef (1), lamed (30), pei (80), dalet (4), lamed (30), tav (400), nun (50), vav (6), nun (50), yud (10) vav (6), dalet (4), with a total numerical value of 671

However, you already know that the head [of a person] incorporates allusions to the ten sefirot, and that its allusion to malchut constitutes the secret of the Sides of the Head. Thus, "side" [in Hebrew, "pe'ah"] has the numerical value of the divine name Elokim, and "pe'ah" is always in malchut.

"Pe'ah" is spelled pei (80), alef (1), hei (5), with a numerical value of 86.

"Elokim" is spelled alef (1), lamed (30), hei (5), yud (10), mem (40), also with a numerical value of 86.

However, there is no sustained existence to the world except through the judgments, and it is not fitting to remove them completely. To that end, we need to retain only the dimension of malchut [i.e. pe'ah], but this applies only to the head of Zeir Anpin [man]. However, Nukva [woman] does not shave her head. The reason is that since she corresponds to Nukva, and since all the judgments are in Asiya [related to Nukva], were she to remove the judgments from the head of Nukva, there would not remain any judgments in the world. Accordingly, a woman needs to keep her hair and does not shave her head.

My master was extremely careful not to get a haircut after midday, that is after the time arrives for praying the Large Mincha. Even on the eve of the Shabbat [i.e. Friday afternoon], he was cautious.

It is fitting that a man not uproot any hair from his beard at all, for the beard hairs are channels of divine spiritual abundance. He should intend that the top of the beard is the First Tikun.

The divine name "E-l", in the secret of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, and the hair of the beard on the left and right is twice the numeric value of the Hebrew word for "beard" ["zakan"], which is also the numerical value of the divine name "Sha-dai".

"Zakan" is spelled zayin (7), kuf (100), nun (50), and when doubled has a numerical value of 314.

"Sha-dai" is spelled shin (300), dalet (4), yud (10), also with a total numerical value of 314.

Together the beard as a whole is "E-l Sha-dai". For this reason a man should be mindful at all times not to grasp his beard so that he does not uproot any hair from it.

[Adapted by Zechariah Goldman from Taamei Hamitzvot, Kedoshim]

The Kabbala of Marriage

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

Two Lights - Betrothal and Marriage

The laws of divorce in the Torah begin with the phrase: "When a man takes a wife and engages in marital relations with her…". (Deut. 24:1) The laws of betrothal and marriage are derived from this passage. In Jewish law, "betrothal" (kidushin) is not simple engagement, but rather a legally binding relationship that establishes a quasi-marital bond between the betrothed couple. The marital bond is not fully actualized until "marriage" (nesu'in), which occurs when the couple first engages in marital relations.

Know that when a man betroths a woman, a certain spirit from the spirit of the husband is drawn down upon her. [This spirit] is an encompassing light.

There are two types of "lights", or spiritual energies: "Encompassing" light does not enter into the operative consciousness of the entity it encompasses; rather, it serves as a source of inspiration or protection. In contrast, "inner" light informs the consciousness of the entity it enters and remakes its possessor's world-view, changing the way the possessor lives his or her life.

Once the encompassing light has been drawn down upon her from his spirit, he can then engage in full marital relations with her. This imparts to her an additional level of spirit from him, an inner light.

Marital relations involve the union of the souls of the couple, not just their bodies…

"Full" marital relations involve the union of the souls of the couple, not just their bodies. By the same token, full union is not possible without bodily union, either. But the ideal is that these two types of union enhance each other. Therefore, no matter how close the couple become by being betrothed, their full spiritual union is not possible until their marriage is consummated.

Betrothal must therefore precede [marriage], for the inner spirit cannot enter her until the encompassing spirit of this same [inner] spirit enters her first.

Note the use of the verb "to enter" for the encompassing spirit as well as for the inner spirit. This is because the "encompassing" spirit does not physically surround the entity to which it has been given, but metaphorically. It is a present within the entity as is the inner spirit, but since it does not inform its consciousness, it is always "at a distance".

As you know, [the partzuf of] Leah is formed from malchut of bina [i.e., of Imma], and [that of] Rachel from malchut of tevuna. Since they all shine from the same place, they all join together during marital relations.

Leah, the partzuf of the thought, develops from the intellect proper. Rachel, the partzuf of speech, develops from the "applied intellect," tevuna.

Now, Leah is manifest in the dalet of the knot of the [head-]tefillin, and Rachel is also manifest as a dalet. When they join together, they form the closed mem of the word "to increase [lemarbeh] the reign." (Isaiah 9:6)

The final mem can be envisioned as two dalet's, one written normally and the other upside down and backwards, forming the angular mirror-image of the first one.

The final mem occurs in the middle of a word only once in the Bible, in the verse, "To increase the reign and for peace without end over the throne of David and his kingdom…." The word for "to increase" [le-marbeh] is spelled lamed-[final] mem-reish-beit-hei.

[The final mem] is formed of two hinges and two doors. The two hinges are the two yud's, i.e., the thorns in the backs of the dalet's, this being what distinguishes the letter dalet from the letter reish.

The word dalet actually means "door". Thus, each dalet that makes up the closed mem can be envisioned as a door swinging on a hinge, i.e., the point where the two lines of the dalet meet. Since the upper stroke of the dalet extends beyond the vertical stroke, the excess may be seen as a yud, act as the hinge around with the two strokes of the dalet swing.

These [two yud's may also be conceived of as] the two "handles" [to the doors], the 28 "times" of Ecclesiastes.

The word for "handle" is yad, which is also the word for "hand" and the basic meaning of the name of the letter yud. This word is spelled yud-dalet, and its numerical value (10 + 4) is 14. The two yud-handles have thus a combined numerical value of 28.

In the beginning of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon lists 28 "times," in the form of "A time to…and a time to…." (Ecclesiastes 3:2-8)

The door swings on its hinge, whose [influence] extends in either direction only by virtue of the power of the yud, for the yud represents the soul while the dalet represents the body.

The soul animates the body. In general, the letter yud signifies chochma, the first conscious sefira, the first manifestation of the soul in the body. The letter dalet is often understood to refer to malchut, the last sefira that "possesses nothing of its own", but rather serves as the means the other sefirot use to find expression in the world. As such, it is a fitting representation of the body, which serves as the means for the soul to express itself in the world.

Of these two yud's it is written, "those who desecrate it shall surely die." (Ex. 31:14) The word for "those who desecrate it" can be understood to mean "its emptiness." The numerical value of the word for "emptiness" ["chalal"] is the same as that of the word for "life" ["chaim"].

The verse "those who desecrate it shall surely die" refers to those who desecrate the Shabbat. The root of the verb "to desecrate" ("le-chaleil") is the word for "emptiness" or "vacuum" ("chalal").

Chalal: chet-lamed-lamed = 8 + 30 +30 = 68.

Chaim: chet-yud-yud-mem = 8 + 10 + 10 + 40 = 68.

The phrase "those who desecrate it shall sure die" can thus be read, "its emptiness is surely death". The "emptiness" is the hollow of the doorway, the space through which the door swings. The door is the body, and the body by itself, without the soul, is a lifeless corpse.

This is the mystical significance of the phrase [in the preceding verse,] "You shall keep My Shabbats." The arms [of Shabbat figuratively] spread out to add from the mundane [weekdays] to the holy. The yud indicates Shabbat itself. All this will be [more fully] explained, please G‑d, when we explain the significance of the two Shabbats [implied in the plural "My Shabbats"].

Shabbat is to the week as the soul is to the body, and thus as the hinge is to the door. The workweek gives us a chance to express and actualize the inspiration we draw from Shabbat, but without Shabbat the workweek is a lifeless corpse. In order for this relationship to be clear, Shabbat must "take over" some of the weekday; this is why we add some time to Shabbat before it begins (at sundown on Friday) and after it ends (at nightfall on Saturday).

Now, the dalet spreads forth as the mem of malchut. The yud alludes to the point of Zion of malchut, this being the mystical significance of the Holy of Holies.

The yud is often conceived of as a geometric point, since it is the smallest of the Hebrew letters and the graphic origin of the others - all other letters can be drawn by first drawing a yud and then extending it in one way or another.

The Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum of the Temple, is the point of union between G‑d and the Jewish people…

The word for Zion (in Hebrew, "tziyon") also means "point" or "dot". When malchut is first emanated, its initial form is that of a single point that must then be "fleshed-out" or "constructed" by transferring the malchut's of the preceding sefirot to it - through coupling with Zeir Anpin. "Zion" is a synonym for Jerusalem, the seat of the Kingdom of David (who also personifies malchut). The Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum of the Temple, is the point of union between G‑d and the Jewish people, and is thus allegorically referred to as the "bridal chamber."

Specifically, "Zion" indicates the yesod of malchut, the womb. (Etz Chaim 35:3)

For what we said [above, that malchut] takes the form of the yud, you can understand the mystical dimension of betrothal, which requires the groom's money.

It was not stated explicitly before that malchut takes the form of the yud, but it was stated that the yud signifies the soul and Shabbat, both of which are manifestations of the sefira of malchut. Nukva of Zeir Anpin is the origin of the soul, and Shabbat is the seventh day, corresponding to the seventh of the seven middot, malchut.

Although a man may betroth a woman "in three ways, with money, with a document, or with intercourse," (Kidushin 1:1) the prevalent way is with money (i.e., an object of value, such as a ring), which he gives to her in the presence of two witnesses, saying, "Be betrothed to me with this ring according to the laws of Moses and Israel."

This [money] embodies the mentality he gives her, which is embodied in the yud, which has three tips.

We have seen elsewhere that the point of the yud represents a coin. The yud has three tips: two to the left and one below. These three tips represent the three sefirot of the intellect, chochma, bina, and daat.

This yud comprises chesed and gevura.

The origins of chesed and gevura are present in daat, as we have explained previously.

When [the bride] receives this radiance [of encompassing light] from him, she assumes the form of the vav within the six extremities, her back to him. The dalet thus represents [this phase of] coupling.

As we have explained previously, the dalet appears to be postured with its back to the preceding letter, the gimel (from gomel, "bestower").

The large dalet alludes to how [the partzuf of] Leah is opposite [that of] Rachel. [Zeir Anpin] gives her her dalet for the purpose of coupling. This is the mystical meaning of the four times the word "truth" occurs in the blessing "True and certain," as has been explained elsewhere.

In order to couple, the feminine partzuf has to be "developed" to the point where it is of equal stature with the male partzuf…

In order to couple, the feminine partzuf has to be "developed" to the point where it is of equal stature with the male partzuf. This, as we have seen previously, is accomplished by the male partzuf transmitting his intellect to the female partzuf, so they can be "of one mind" and couple completely. (This is perhaps reflected in the teaching that before marital relations, the husband must "gladden" his wife with words, helping her focus on the mitzvah they are about to perform.) The dalet given to Leah is the four parts of the intellect (the numerical value of the dalet is 4): chochma, bina, and daat, which divides into two (the sources of chesed and gevura within daat).

The blessing recited after the morning recitation of the Shema, linking the Shema to the Amidah, begins "True and certain it is…." The word "true" (or the adverb "truly," which is the same word ["emet"] in Hebrew) appears eight times in this blessing:

"True and certain, established and enduring…."

"Truly, the G‑d of the universe is our King…"

"His words are living and eternal…[Your] word is good and eternal, in truth and trustworthiness…"

"Truly, You are G‑d, our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers…"

"Truly, happy is the man who heeds Your commandments…"

"Truly, You are the master of Your people…"

"Truly, You are the first and You are the last…"

"Truly, You redeemed us from Egypt…"

The first four instances of "truth" in this blessing refer to the four aspects intellect given to Leah for the purpose of coupling. The second four refer to the aspects of intellect given to Rachel.

The mystical significance of the yud is also that the yud [is used to spell out] the name Eh-yeh, which receives the embryo.

The name Eh-yeh, as we know, is associated with the sefira of bina. Bina, as the partzuf Imma, is the mother that receives the seminal insight from Abba and develops it in her "womb" into a full-grown intellectual structure.

They [these yud's] also allude to the fact that in them are completed the ten names Havayah that act as feminine waters.

These ten names Havayah are the names used to make Zeir Anpin into a complete partzuf of ten sefirot.

In any case, from this dalet positioned with its back [to Zeir Anpin], when it faces him and receives the seminal drop, it becomes the name Havayah spelled out to equal 45, and is called the closed mem, just as bina encloses the yud of chochma within it.

Now, when it is positioned with its back [to Zeir Anpin], it possesses only one hinge and one door, as we have explained elsewhere (Etz Chaim 35:3) regarding the five states of gevura.

The feminine partzuf initially possesses only the five states of gevura; it receives the five states of chesed from the male partzuf. The hinge (1) and the door (dalet, 4) add up to 5.

But when she faces [Zeir Anpin], she receives the second hinge in the form of the five states of chesed. A door then issues from her, serving to contain the light, and thus there is then a hinge for each door.

She is then ready for intercourse, since she is a closed vessel and will not lose ("miscarry") the seminal drop of light that will deposited in her.

Corresponding to all this, the groom has to do this to her finger, for the yesod is only for her benefit.

He…makes her his partner in promulgating the divine image and consciousness…

The male yesod, the male consciousness' drive for self-actualization that propels it to seek expression, is fulfilled only when the consciousness that has developed to this point (beginning with Abba, through Imma, and into Zeir Anpin) is deposited in a vehicle for expression that will express it properly and not "spill" it into undesirable contexts (corresponding to the "death" inherent in the doorway, as above). Thus, the female partzuf has to have a closed womb that, as above, will contain the seed. The groom therefore places the ring on the bride's finger, signifying the seal with which he directs her reproductive powers and dedicates them to his particular soul-slant on the divine imperative to make the world into a home for G‑d. By courting her (before marriage) and "gladdening" her (throughout marriage), he brings their common soul-root to the forefront of her consciousness and makes her his partner in promulgating the divine image and consciousness.

The proof of this is that it is possible to betroth, as well, through intercourse.

As we saw above, there are three ways a man can betroth a woman, one of which is through intercourse. Although this is never done nowadays (and probably only rarely done in olden days), it was technically possible in more innocent times for a man to take two qualified witnesses and have them watch him say to his bride-to-be, "Be betrothed to me through this act of intercourse according to the laws of Moses and Israel" and then be secluded with her. They would then be betrothed and would have to separate until she had time to prepare her dowry and make arrangements for the actual wedding (back in those times, twelve months later). The intercourse they would conduct after the wedding, their second, would then formalize the marriage completely.

The closed mem is the image of the safe, closed womb that develops and nurtures the embryo…

The point of this is that betrothal is in order to focus the female onto one, specific male and thereby "close her mind," so to speak, to all the other, various possible ways of spreading Divine consciousness (i.e., "men"). The fact that this can be accomplished by an act of intercourse indicates that betrothal is for this purpose.

The ring signifies her yesod, which encompasses and contains the light within her.

Her yesod is her womb.

When the yud of the hinge is added to her via yesod, she is called "the closed mem". We thus have yud-mem, and she is called "the sea".

The closed mem is the image of the safe, closed womb that develops and nurtures the embryo. The numerical value of mem is 40, and it takes 40 days for the embryo to form. (Ibid.) When the embryo reaches full term, the closed mem changes into the regular, open mem, and birth occurs.

The word for "sea" ("yam") is spelled yud-mem. The sea is an appellate for malchut, since, just as "all rivers run into the sea," (Ecclesiastes 1:7) malchut is the final repository for all the lights of the preceding nine sefirot, that flow into it in order to be transformed and transmitted to a lower level of reality, the outside world.

The formula "Be betrothed to me…" contains 32 letters, corresponding to the 32 pathways of wisdom.

The thirty-two pathways of wisdom are mentioned in Sefer Yetzira, and are generally understood as the 22 letters and the ten sefirot.

chanoch adds: There are other oppinions that indicate the 32 paths relate to the 22 letters plus the 9 Vowels + the tenth vowel which is no vowel. In this scenario the 42 letter Name of Creation called the Ana Bekoach is the 32 paths of wisdom plus the Sefirot which are stages of Creation.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Ta'amei HaMitzvot and Shaar HaMitzvot; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard." available at Kabbala Online Shop]

"He Who Steals..."

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

The kabbala on the significance of theft and restoration

"Do Not Steal…Do Not Rob…" (Lev. 19: 11 and 13)

Know, that our sages said, "He who steals the slightest amount from his friend is as if he stole his soul." [Bava Kama 119a. The original for "the slightest amount" is "the value of a perutah," a perutah being the smallest coin; less than this amount is not considered money for legal purposes.] The mystical significance of stealing and robbing is as follows:

Stealing [causes a blemish] in the upper third of tiferet of Zeir Anpin, for it is there that the states of chesed become revealed, as is known.

As we have explained previously, the yesod of Imma envelops Zeir Anpin as far down as the upper third of its tiferet. From that point downward, the states of chesed that make of Zeir Anpin become revealed. Stealing is done clandestinely, so it causes a blemish in the upper, concealed third of tiferet, while robbing, which is done out in the open, causes a blemish in the lower, revealed two thirds of tiferet.

The inner dimension of tiferet is 'mercy' or 'empathy' - the ability of the soul to feel for another person

Chesed is the raw material out of which all the emotions are built; it is thus the basic ingredient of all of Zeir Anpin.

The inner dimension of tiferet is "mercy" or "empathy" (rachamim) - the ability of the soul to feel for another person. Stealing (or robbing) is obviously the direct antithesis of this: in order to steal, an individual must forget about the other person's feelings. Stealing and robbing thus blemish, i.e. weaken, the power of tiferet above.

This is the mystical significance of the double restitution, for the thief causes a blemish above, in the concealed levels, while the robber causes a blemish in the revealed levels.

Unless he admits his crime on his own, someone who steals from his fellow must restore twice the amount he stole; in this way he suffers the loss he intended to inflict on his victim. (Mishna Torah,Geneivah 1:4.)

When one steals "down below" [in this world], he causes the forces of evil to steal "up above" [in the spiritual worlds] the souls emerging from the supernal female, malchut [i.e. the partzuf of Nukva].

She acquired these souls by virtue of her coupling [with Zeir Anpin].

The union of Zeir Anpin and Nukva of a specific world produces souls possessing the state of consciousness of that world. This coupling is part of the process the soul undergoes as it descends from its Divine origin into a physical body. On the way, it must first descend through the various worlds to be "processed" and thus acquire the successively dimmer states of consciousness of those worlds. This process continues until it has descended in consciousness to the level of this physical world.

...the task of infusing the world with Divine consciousness and goodness will be slowed down

This supernal "kidnapping" or "crib-robbing" means that the forces of evil are empowered by the theft below to claim a certain amount of the souls being born into this world as their own. These souls will be born with less empathy or mercy than they would have otherwise. This means that the task of infusing the world with Divine consciousness and goodness will be slowed down or even suffer a setback.

As is known, coupling is known as [carnal] "knowledge," as it is written, "And Adam knew his wife, Eve." (Gen. 4:1) We are also taught that feminine knowledge is "light." Therefore, the [thief must make] double restitution, for the numerical value of the word for "double" [kefel] is the same as that of the word for "light" [kal, 130].

The Talmud (Kidushin 80b) says "Women have 'light' knowledge." This generally means that although women possess daat, their daat is initially less objective than is men's. This relative subjectivity is necessary for women to fulfill their task of manifesting Divinity in the world; men's relative objectivity renders them unfit for this task.

In any case, by robbing Nukva of her offspring, the forces of evil are attacking her use of her "lightness" of knowledge.

Kefel: kaf-pei-lamed = 20 + 80 + 30 = 180; Kal: kuf-lamed = 100 + 30 = 130.

We will now see another reason for the double restitution.

When someone steals 'down below', he also causes the forces of evil to steal 'up above', the ascending souls.

Furthermore, when someone steals "down below," he also causes the forces of evil to steal "up above" the souls ascending as "feminine water" to malchut; this further causes the descent of the [seminal] drop of "male water" from the male [partzuf, i.e. Zeir Anpin].

"Male water" and "feminine water" (the imagery of rain and evaporation - or perhaps even that of geysers) are the Zoharic terms for "arousal from above" and "arousal from below," respectively. When a soul completes its task (or a task) on earth, it (or the positive energy created by this good deed) ascends back through the spiritual realms into its source in malchut. This upward surge from below elicits a corresponding downward response from above, and causes a further revelation of Divine beneficence and goodness in the world.

When a person steals, however, the forces of evil are empowered to steal this upward surge for themselves, preventing the concomitant, downward "male" response from occurring.

[He thus causes] a double blemish, for which he must therefore make double restitution.

Now, as we said, when someone steals "down below," he causes a blemish "up above" by causing the forces of evil to steal souls in the way we have described. This is the mystical meaning of our sages' statement that "[he who steals the slightest amount from his friend] is as if he stole his soul." They made a point of saying "he stole his soul" rather than some other expression [in order to include the mystical interpretation just cited]. May G‑d preserve us [from this sin].

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

Preparing for Kabbala

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

Observance of the mitzvot is primary…to eliminate the thorns…

"I, the author, adjure on the great name of G‑d, anyone into whose hands these [kabbalistic] pamphlets fall, that he should read this introduction. If his soul desires to enter the chamber of this wisdom, he should accept upon himself to complete and fulfill all that I write, and the former of creation will testify upon him, that to him will not come damage to his body and soul, and to all that is his, and not to others, because of his running after good, and one who comes to purify and come close, first before everything, fear of G‑d, to attain fear of punishment, for awe of G‑d's greatness that is the more internal fear, he will not attain, except from the maturation of wisdom. …he needs [to heed] the admonition: turn from evil and do good; and pursue peace

His essential involvement in this knowledge should be, to eliminate the thorns from the vineyard, for those who engage in this wisdom are therefore called tenders of the field. And certainly the evil shells will be aroused against him, to seduce him and to cause him to sin; therefore, he should be watchful that he not come to sin even unintentionally, so that they will have no relation to him. Accordingly, it is necessary to guard against [adopting] leniencies [in Torah Law], for the Holy One Blessed Be He is exacting with the righteous, like a thread of hair. For this reason, he needs to abstain from meat and wine during weekdays, and he needs [to heed] the admonition of "turn from evil and do good; and pursue peace."

Pursue peace: it is necessary to seek peace, and not to be demanding in one's home, whether for an insignificant or a significant matter and certainly a person should not succumb to anger, G‑d forbid! To be cautious in all the details of the commandments, even the words of the Sages

And he needs to distance himself to the ultimate distance [from evil].

Turn from Evil:

To be cautious in all the details of the commandments, and even the words of the Sages for these are included in [the negative commandment] do not stray [from the word that I (G‑d) command you].

To rectify the damage [one has done] before one goes to the coming world.

To be careful not to get angry even when disciplining his children; in principle, he should not get angry at all.

In addition, he needs to be watchful of arrogance, specifically in matters pertaining [to his observance] of Halacha, for the power [of arrogance] is great, and in this regard, arrogance is a terrible sin.

With every pain he suffers, he should examine his deeds, and [then] return to G‑d.

He should also immerse [in a mikva] at the necessary time [as soon as possible after any seminal emission].

He should also sanctify himself during marital relations so that he should not [egoistically/sensually] benefit.

There should not pass any night, [where he does not] think every night what he did during the day, and [he should] confess [and repent].

He should also minimize his business dealings, and if he has no livelihood, except through business, he should intend that Tuesday and Wednesday from noon and on, the intention should be [that these times are set aside] to the service of his creator.

Any speech that is not of a mitzva and necessary, he should refrain from, and even in a matter of a mitzva he should desist [from speaking] during prayer. he should refrain from any speech that is not of a mitzva and necessary

And do good:

To awaken at [Torah-defined] midnight to recite the order [of the Tikun Chatzot] in sackcloth and ashes, and great crying, and with intention [fulfilling], all that comes out of his mouth. And afterwards he should immerse in Torah for whatever time he can be without sleep, and at least a half hour before dawn, he should awaken to immerse in Torah study.

He should go to the synagogue before dawn, before the obligation of talit and tefillin, to be watchful that he should be one of the first of the ten [men that make a minyan].

Before entering [the synagogue], he should accept upon himself the positive commandment "and you shall love your neighbor as yourself," and only then enter.

To complete the hint [alluded to in the word] tzadik [tzadi = 90; dalet = 4; yud = 10; kof = 100] every day, that is [comprised of] 90 amen's, 4 Kedushot, 10 Kadishes, 100 Blessings.

Not to interrupt his awareness from [the sensations of holiness and consciousness emanating from] his tefillin during prayer, except for Amida and while engaged in Torah study.

It is necessary to be wrapped in talit and tefillin when he immerses himself in Torah study [during the day and afternoon].

To meditate, during prayer, on the [kabbalistic] intentions, as it is written in Etz Chaim.

That he always places before his eyes the [Divine] Name, a product of four [letters] Havayah [Yud-Hei-Vav-Hei], and he should veer from it, as it is written I have placed G‑d before me always.

That he meditatively focus while reciting all the blessings, and specifically the blessings before enjoyment [made over eating in general].

His labor in Torah needs to be, Pardes, and do not think that they will reveal to him secrets of Torah when he is empty of knowledge, as it is written [in Scripture that] [G‑d] gives wisdom to the wise. And one needs to be cautious that he not let escape from his mouth anything of this wisdom, that he has not heard from a man who is not worthy to depend on, as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his colleagues have warned.

[Etz Chaim, "Introduction", p. 22-23]

1 The Force of Transmission

From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky

Pirkei Avot 1:1 - The Force of Transmission

The Arizal explains secrets about the transmission of the Mitzvot.

In relation to the passage of the Mishnah 1:1 in Pirkei Avot: "Moses received the Torah from Sinai [and transmitted it to Joshua, and Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly]", it was pointed out that with regard to Moses, the expression "received" is used, whereas with regard Joshua, the expression "transmitted to" is used.

It would seem that it would have been more consistent either to speak of both of them as having "received" or as having been "transmitted to." Furthermore, the next two stages - the elders and the prophets - are not spoken of as having received or having been transmitted to. Finally, the prophets are said to have "transmitted" it to the Men of the Great Assembly. Why not follow the precedent and simply say, "and the prophets to the Men of the Great Assembly?"

chanoch's Commentary

Do you understand the issue here. We are discussing how the laws of the Torah came down nto you. This is a serious issue. Thus the question is raised is how was it transmitted to different people in the chain of teachings. The Mishna uses different terms regarding different people - This is the question.

..."transmitted to" implies being acted upon forcefully.

It was answered that "transmitted to" implies being acted upon forcefully. As it is written, "and [the conscripts] were handed over from among the thousands of Israel" in connection with [the conscription for] the war against Midian.

The word for "were handed over" (yimasru) is the same verb used in the Mishnah quoted for "transmitted" (masrah, masru).

The Jews had to be conscripted by force [to fight the war against Midian] since they knew that Moses would die thereafter. As it is written, "Avenge the vengeance [of the Israelites against Midian] and then be gathered [unto your people]."

...Moses had to transmit it to Joshua again forcefully...

Thus, the verb in question denotes involuntary transmission.

Therefore, inasmuch as our holy Torah "is longer than the earth [and wider than the sea]", Moses had to transmit it to Joshua again forcefully, for Joshua was unable to receive it all on his own. Only Moses had the power to receive it easily. But Joshua received it only on Moses’ power, beyond his ability.

chanoch's Commentary

This helps explain the statement by the Sages - Moshe is the sun and Joshua the moon. Joshua's connection to HaShem is through Moshe. Our psychic abilities when developed allow us to plant words and ideas in the minds of other people. Yet we can not do this with our understanding of the ideas and words. To do so would create "bread of shame" and take away "free will" from that person.

As for "and Joshua to the elders": Since he was transmitting it to many people, his own power was not required, for amongst many people, one will remember most of what he learned, another most of what he learned [and thus they will all, together, cover the subject]. It is therefore not as difficult as it is with an individual who has to remember the whole Torah by himself.

chanoch's Commentary

This teaching is logically correct but it is true? The paragraph says that when many people are taught at the same time that each one will remember different aspects of the teaching and thus in total all of them will remember all of the teaching. If this is true then how do we explain that oral traditions of other nations are lost? Perhaps they were not taught to enough people at one time? or perhaps that the subject matter may have some parts that were not truth? Or the statements are lost since the capability of human beings change over time.

The same pertains for "and the elders to the prophets," a transmission from the many to the many.

But as the generations wore on, human intellect diminished, until even transmission from the many to the many required power. It is therefore stated that "the prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly."

Thus, it never happened that one individual [was responsible for] knowing the whole Torah other than in the cases of Moses and Joshua.