quick summary: Enthusiasm needs to be observed carefully. Pure altruism is the key to healing the emotions. The Model for the seven produce gifts and the healing of the emotions (part 1)
The Seven Gifts and How they Rectify the World of Chaos
The light that originally shone into the vessels of the seven primordial kings can be likened to enthusiasm.1 Though enthusiasm in general is a good thing, it must first be “clarified” that it does not stem from an overbearing feeling of self-worth and power to do as one wills independent of the Almighty. Indeed, the enthusiasm of each of the seven kings of the World of Chaos stemmed from an egocentric yearning to rule over the entire world alone. This unclarified and misguided enthusiasm broke the seven king’s vessels, causing them to die. The remnants and memory of this first death continue to haunt our reality, creating the mistaken illusion that indeed death is a necessary part of life.
Altruism and Eternal Life
This background adds another facet to the significance of challah as the final of the seven gifts because, as such, challah corresponds to the last primordial king that died, and hence also represents our search for “eternal life.” Challah is thus the transitional element between the instability that an unrectified ego inserts into the World of Chaos, and the stability given to the World of Rectification by the altruism and selflessness of the tzadikim.2
What’s more, we learn that since these seven commandments are all “gifts,” it is specifically through acts of altruistic giving that our shattered vessels can be rebuilt in a lasting way. The altruism of giving is the essence of the world of tikun-rectification.
In the World of Chaos, the king’s gave, but for their own self-aggrandizement; their giving was born of selfishness. But, in tikun, in the state of rectification, there is true altruism (hashpa’ah be’etzem). All too often we find ourselves having “revealed” some new insight or truth and we immediately would like everyone around us to “see the light.” But, if for whatever reason others do not “get it” then we fall into a power-play mode, trying to make our case with more heavy-handed tactics. The end reveals that the original intent was far from purely altruistic. One who is a mashpi’a be’etzem—a purely altruistic person—does not measure the response to his or her acts of altruism. Instead, that which is given, is given without expectations. A rectified and purely altruistic giver also makes it possible for the recipients to accept the gifts of spiritual insight at their own pace and without experiencing the destructive feelings of shame or negative “indebtedness.”
The Masculine that is Feminine
As noted previously, the seven kings of the World of Chaos correspond to the seven earliest kings of Edom listed in Genesis 36. Indeed, there is a final, eighth king by the name of Hadar who, though he is listed with the other 7, did not die and unlike the others is noted together with his wife, Meheitavel. This reveals that the other seven, whose wives are not mentioned in the Torah, were either not married, or even if they were, their marriages were not noteworthy.
The Arizal explains, that it is particularly this point, that the eighth king enjoyed a constructive marriage with his wife, that saved him from “breaking” as well. In Kabbalah, between male and female, the male is usually understood as the “giver,” and the female the receiver. We might therefore mistakenly conclude that by just being male, one is already a “giver.” But, the death that destroyed the World of Chaos and its “masculine” kings indicates that giving must be rectified in order to sustain life. It is especially males (i.e., men) that are prone to falling into the false illusion of already being rectified because they give. The lessons learnt while striving to create a happy and lasting marriage go a long way in teaching us about pure altruism. Of (supposedly) masculine “givers” who link an expectation for compensation to their actions, the Talmud says: “Woe to him whose sons are [actually] feminine.”3 His (or her) seeming acts of giving are loaded with feelings of self-importance and self-worth.
Let us now list the seven kings, their corresponding sefirah and corresponding produce-gift:
Bikurim, Shavu'ot and the Sefirah of Knowledge
Let us look at what this correspondence reveals, beginning with Bela ben Be’or who corresponds to the sefirah of knowledge and the gift of bikurim. The root of the word “bikurim” is the same as that of “first-born.” Bikurim literally means: the first-born produce of the land. Indeed, the “first-born,” “the beginning,” are synonyms for the sefirah of knowledge.
The Torah describes the festival of Shavu’ot as the Day of Bikurim,4 for that is the first day thatbikurim were brought to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Thus, we learn that the festival of Shavu’ot is intrinsically linked with the rectification of the sefirah of knowledge. This sheds light on the fact that, though not explicitly linked in the Torah, the sages describe Shavu’ot as the “time of the receiving of our Torah,” and on Shavu’ot we commemorate the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai . It is the light of the Torah that contains the rectifying energy to rebuild our knowledge, or consciousness, so that it emerges out of the realms of the World of Chaos.
1. In general, the subjugation of the ego is required most when one suddenly feels a burst of enthusiasm to undertake some project or achieve some goal. The Talmud (Berachot 5a) learns about the “war upon the ego,” our central obligation in rectifying our selves, from the verse “Subject, and do not transgress; say in your hearts upon your beds, and stay silent forever” (Psalms 4:5). The Talmud explains that the four different parts of this verse instruct us about four different cumulative strategies for subjecting the ego. In Chassidut it is explained that indeed the “battle” is hardest, but most necessary, when a person first experiences a surge in enthusiasm. For more on this, see Rabbi Ginsburgh’s Sod Hashem Liyerei’av, “Milchemet Hayetzer.”
2. The explanation of how (and why) these seven primordial kings “died” is the central and most important topic in the Arizal’sEitz Chayim. Because the kings correspond to the emotional and behavioral faculties (the sefirot of knowledge through kingdom), the Rebbe Moharash, the fourth Rebbe of Chabad, used to say that Eitz Chayim is a book of musar, i.e., a book of moral teachings, this in contrast to Chassidut, and particularly Chabad. Both the Eitz Chayim and Chassidut strive to rectify the emotions by means of the intellect and its capacity for understanding. But, Eitz Chayim and Musar rely on the intellect as it relates to the emotional realm, which leaves the emotions (and even parts of the intellect) locked into a cycle of shattering and renewal, while Chassidut focuses on the intellect per se, as it stands above the emotional realm, subsequently leading to a rectification of the emotions in a non-interfering manner and freeing them from the endless cycle of shattering and renewal.
3. Pesachim 65a.
4. See Deuteronomy 26.