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From Teshuvah to Redemption – The Secret of the Etrog


A Generation of Seekers

Our generation is a generation of teshuvah. Teshuvah begins by seeking for the truth, searching for who I am, and why I am here. There are many people on the road, seeking answers to their questions. Together with teshuvah, many people search for natural healing alternatives.  Both of these phenomena go hand-in-hand. The sages teach that there is a strong connection between teshuvah and healing, "teshuvah is great, for it brings healing to the world."[2] God is the healer of all flesh who connects our souls to our bodies. If we want to be healthy, we need to be in touch with the Almighty who says, "I am God, your Healer."[3]

People begin to search for something deeper when they feel a sense of emptiness in their lives, a lack of meaning. Many Israelis travel to the Far East after their military service and begin to search for something beyond. Sometimes a Jew out of his natural habitat thinks more freely and is more open to hear the truth. Many discover the connection to God when they are distant from the Holy Land, in the various Jewish homes that host them. There, they discover the meaning of their Jewish roots.

Just as teshuvah relates to healing, so redemption depends on teshuvah, "If the Jewish people do teshuvah, they will be redeemed."[4] As the Previous Rebbe of Chabad said, "Immediate teshuvah, immediate redemption."[5]

The origin of these three related concepts, teshuvah, healing and redemption, is a fourth concept, from which the process begins: faith. Belief in God is "the fundamental foundation and the pillar of wisdom."[6] Sometimes, when people first set out on their quest, they believe in something undefined, which is difficult to call "God." They search for purpose, which lies in the inaccessible, unconscious niches of the mind. They conclude that if life has purpose then someone, or something gave it purpose. That Someone expects something from me. They aspire to reach the unknown, and discover God. Without faith, a person lives with nothing beyond his natural instincts.

These four concepts have a particular order: first we need faith. Faith is why people look for something that is missing in their life. They have a conviction that there is something beyond what meets the naked eye, maybe there is a God. If not, there would be nothing for them to look for. The mazal (zodiac sign) of Elul, the month of teshuvah, is Virgo, the virgin. One allusion to the seeking effect of this month is that the numerical value of "Virgin" (בְּתוּלָה) is 443, which is also the numerical value of "Maybe there is a God" (אוּלַי יֵשׁ אֶ־לֹהִים).

Elul, the Month of Teshuvah and Seeking

God's purpose for redeeming us from Egypt was to give us the Torah on Mt. Sinai. Before the Giving of the Torah, all the Jews were healed. God gives us the Torah, which is the ultimate goal of redemption, when we are all healthy, strong and happy.

The advent of Mashiach and final redemption is the revelation of a new dimension of Torah, "[A new] Torah will exude from Me" – and in order that we can all receive this new revelation of Torah from Mashiach, we need to be healthy in mind and body. At Mt. Sinai there was no-one who was blind or deaf, everyone was at their peak state of health. To be healthy enough to receive the new Torah, the revelation of the great light of redemption, we need to do teshuvah. The beginning of teshuvah is to strengthen our faith in God, and our faith in His Torah, i.e., faith in the fact that God communicates with mankind. This leads naturally to the belief that life has purpose. First we believe and then we do teshuvah, which brings healing. Once we are healed, we are redeemed.

Four Types of Completeness

Faith, teshuvah, healing and redemption must all be "complete," as we find in the siddur. After the morning prayers, many have the custom to read Maimonides' 13 Principles of Faith, all of which begin with the phrase, "I believe with complete faith." The most famous is "I believe with complete faith in the advent of Mashiach." Regarding teshuvah, we say three times a day in the Amidah prayer, "Return us with complete teshuvah before You." Further on in the Amidah we say "Heal us … with complete recovery" (רפואה שלמה). Regarding redemption, there are versions of the Amidah that state, "And redeem us a complete redemption soon and in our days" So we see that the sages added the word "complete" to each of these words.

The initial letters of these four words (אֶמוּנָה תְּשׁוּבָה רְפוּאָה גְּאוּלָה) spell, etrog (אֶתְרֹג). The service of teshuvah begins in the month of Elul and reaches its conclusion after Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Then, on Sukot, we take[7] the etrog, which is a physical object that symbolizes the psychological service that we accomplished during the days preceding the festival. This begins with our faith in the advent of Mashiach, which began on Tisha B'Av. According to the sages, Tisha B'Av is the day on which Mashiach is born, the day on which faith in the coming of Mashiach is born in the collective Jewish heart.  This is the profound meaning of the verse in Psalms that states, "When I plummet to the depths of the abyss, here You are!" Sometimes we discover God at the lowest moments of our lives, a discovery that activates the redemption process. "The end (the redemption) is wedged in the beginning (faith)." All four concepts, faith, teshuvah, healing and redemption are alluded to in the etrog. The most important law concerning the etrog is that it must be whole, that it should not be lacking. So too, each of these four concepts must be complete.

Emphasizing the word "complete" implies that there is a possibility that it could be incomplete. In Chassidut we learn that something that is whole always has two complementary dimensions, which seem to contradict one another; an inner dimension and an outer dimesnion. The idea of completeness (שְׁלֵמוּת) alludes to the fact that the two dimensions are at peace (שָׁלוֹם) with each other. If only one dimension manifests, it competes with the other dimension and the phenomenon is not complete. By understanding how faith, teshuvah, healing and redemption, each contain two dimensions we can understand how they should manifest completely.

In Chassidut, a most important concept is "innerness" (פְּנִימִיוּת). Chabad Chassidut in particular emphasizes that we should experience every event from its inner dimension. One important verse that describes the wrong attitude in Chassidut is, "the fool does not desire insight, but the revelation of his heart." The fool does search for something, but his quest is to experience his own ego ("the revelation of his heart"). Many people travel to the east expecting to find that, but if God helps them, they realize that the external trappings of life and even the satisfaction gained by superficial mystical experiences are artificial, and they begin to search for true insight.

Everything needs to be complete with both dimensions, especially the four concepts that are explicitly coupled with completeness. We should not deny or ignore the external aspects of reality, because when both dimensions, internal and external, come together, reality becomes complete. External reality is significant only when it comes together with the inner dimension of reality and (in the present order of reality) is subordinate to it.

In this world, the body is subordinate to the soul, it receives its energy from the soul. However, in the future, the soul will be nourished by the body. Divine influx will flow from the body to the soul. Then, the advantage of the external dimension of reality will become revealed. In this world, the Infinite Light that fills all worlds shines first to the soul and through the soul to the body. But in the future, the Infinite Light that surrounds all worlds will become revealed. God's surrounding light shines first to the outer dimension of reality, to the body, and from the body to the soul. So we see that each one of the two dimensions of reality has an advantage over the other and both must unite in order to manifest the completeness that God desires in His creation.

Defeating Amalek

The sages state that even God's Divine Name Havayah (the essential Name of God) is at present not complete. They learn this from the phrase that relates to the ongoing war against the Amalekite people. Amalek is the essence of skepticism, which is the power that opposes faith. The numerical value of Amalek (עֲמָלֵק) is 240, which is equal to the numerical value of "doubt" (סָפֵק). Amalek aspires to sever the first two letters of the Divine Name of God, the yud and the hei, from the second two letters, the vav and the hei, as the sages interpret the phrase, "For a hand is upon the throne of Kah, a war of God with Amalek from generation to generation"[8] (כִּי יָד עַל כֵּס יָ־הּ מִלְחָמָה לַֽהוי' בַּֽעֲמָלֵק מִדֹּר דֹּר). The Divine Name, Kah, is spelled only with a yud and a hei. It is the inner aspect of the Complete Name (which is why it is also one of the Names of God that it is forbidden to erase), but it has only half the letters of Havayah. The vavhei, the other two letters of the Divine Name of God are the outer aspect, the body, as it were, of the Name. This is illustrated in the verse, "The concealed things are for Havayah your God, and the revealed things are for us and for our children."[9] We need both yudhei, the internal aspect, and vavhei, the external aspect, in order that this Name of God be complete. Similarly, everything must be complete, with its inner dimension, the hidden part and with the outer dimesnion, the revealed part. God's war against Amalek in every generation is to repair and unite the two halves of His Divine Name—the internal and the external aspects of reality—between which Amalek wishes to separate.

Complete Faith

Now that we understand the meaning of completeness, we can contemplate the inner and outer dimensions of each aspect within the four concepts mentioned above, beginning with faith.

The Jewish people are "believers the sons of believers."[10] We inherit our inherent faith from the Patriarchs, especially Abraham, of whom the verse states, "And he believed in God and He considered it a charitable deed for him."

After the Splitting of the Red Sea, the verse states, "And they believed in God, and in Moses, His servant."[11] To be a believing Jew, we need to believe in God and in His true prophet. According to Maimonides, there are 13 principles of faith. Nonetheless, the main pillars of faith for the Jewish people are that there is a God who communicates with us through the Torah, which He gave to us via the true prophet, Moses, His faithful servant, as the verse states, "Moses commanded us the Torah…" (this is the first verse that a father teaches his young son to say in Hebrew).

Which is the revealed dimension and which is the hidden dimension of faith?

The obvious answer is that the inner dimension is believing in God's existence and experiencing His providence throughout life, and sensing how "From God the steps of a man are directed and in His ways he desires."[12] The external dimension of faith is that we are commanded to believe that God has a prophet with whom He communicates and we must accept his prophecy. This is an authentic possibility, which reflects one facet of the Torah. But, the Torah is a multi-faceted gem. Chassidut explains it from the opposite perspective. Our faith in God is the external aspect of faith. But, Moses was a not merely one prophet who taught us to walk in the way of God. In every generation there is a spark of Moses that appears in one individual who has the power to reveal a hidden and more profound dimension of our faith in God. In general, that spark of Moses is concealed. If it were to be uncovered in full, that individual would be revealed as the Mashiach, who will reveal the innermost secrets of the "new Torah," which will bring us to a higher and deeper realization of our faith in God that will usher in the era of the ultimate redemption.

In order to penetrate this deeper level of faith, we need to connect to God's messenger who teaches us the Torah in every generation, especially the innermost dimension of the "new Torah" (the Torah of Mashiach).

On Rosh Hashanah, there is a mitzvah from the Torah to blow the shofar. But, in the month of Elul, the custom is to blow the shofar every day to wake us up from a deep slumber so that we return to God in heartfelt teshuvah. The numerical value of the expression, "And they believed in God and in Moses, His servant," is 586, which is the numerical value of shofar (שׁוֹפָר). This alludes to the double measure of faith necessary to proceed with our teshuvah. If so, according to these two interpretations, there are two dimensions to faith, "And they believed in God and in Moses, His servant,"

Complete Teshuvah

Some might ask, if we believe in God, why do we need the Torah? Is it not enough to believe in our hearts. They might even quote the Talmudic phrase, "The Almighty desires the heart."[13] This thought leads to severing the two levels of belief in God, and in Moses, who transmitted the Torah to us. Contemplating the inner and outer dimensions of faith helps us understand that our faith must be expressed through loyalty to the Torah. This leads to a further understanding of the two levels of teshuvah.

Teshuvah can be either outward, or inward. The sages define these two types of teshuvah as teshuvah from fear and teshuvah from love. Fear of punishment stems from the kelipah ("husk") of nogah (translucent light), which contains a mixture of good and evil. Nogah lies inbetween the impure husks and holiness. It can motivate good things, but it is not from the side of holiness. God is the essence of goodness and everything that is truly holy is "only for God Himself," but nogah possesses egocentric motivations (fear of punishment and pursuit of reward), which vitalize the evil husks. Fear of punishment is an external motivation. But, there are other levels of fear that are completely holy, such as fear of sin (fear of being severed from God by sinning), awe of God's exaltedness, fear from shame (i.e., feeling ashamed that I exist in a way that conceals God's light). When we do teshuvah from fear, "deliberate sins become unintentional,"[14] but the sin does not turn into something good.

When we do teshuvah from love of God, it turns "deliberate sins into merits."[15] After doing heartfelt teshuvah from love, the sin becomes a mitzvah. This is an incredible phenomenon. Doing teshuvah from love takes me back to the moment when I sinned deliberately, and turns what I did from evil to goodness, from darkness to light, from bitter to sweet.

In our generation we do not need to preach fear of punishment. There are people who may be motivated by it, but this is not the message that our generation requires. Especially in the month of Elul, God turns to our generation and gives us a wake-up call to do teshuvah. This could be teshuvah from fear that is completely from the side of holiness, or more specifically, teshuvah from love.

These two dimensions of teshuvah are a direct result of discovering our faith in God. Once we believe that there is a Creator to the world and that the Almighty has given us a mission, we need to conform to the rules. This is the lower level of teshuvah, which is teshuvah from positive types of fear. A ba'al teshuvah of this kind will begin doing what God expects him to do, i.e., the mitzvot. Conforming to God's rules is very important, but it is the outer dimension of teshuvah.

The inner dimension of teshuvah is teshuvah from love. There is a well-known allusion to the month of Elul in the phrase, "I am for my Beloved and my Beloved is for me" (אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי).[16] The initial letters of the four words of this phrase are an acronym for Elul (אֶלוּל). The inner dimension of teshuvah, from love, does not involve only conforming to God's rules. It is motivated by the desire to unite with God and cling to Him. The Zohar states that through love, we are drawn into God and God penetrates our being, so much so that we become completely unified and united as one essence. People who travel to India on a quest for the unknown, are not interested in conforming to the rules, quite the opposite. The visitor to the Far East is searching for God, like a young girl in search of her beloved. Indeed, the month of Elul is the mazal of Virgo, the maiden in search of her beloved, "I am for my Beloved." In the same way, her beloved is  searching for her love, "My Beloved is for me." The purpose of finding one's spouse is to come together through love, and to unite as one flesh. This is the inner essence of teshuvah.

We began by saying that our generation is a generation of teshuvah, and it is this inner level of teshuvah in particular that we are referring to, uniting with God. This must come together with the external expression of conforming to the rules. These are the two facets of complete teshuvah that will bring the complete redemption.

Complete Healing

It is clear that there are two dimensions to healing necessary for a complete recovery.  We wish anyone who is sick that they should have "a complete recovery, of soul and of body." It is common knowledge that there is a reciprocal, holistic relationship between body and soul.  To be healthy, means to be healed, body and soul. Physical healing is the outer, revealed dimension of healing, but without healing the soul, the concealed inner dimension, physical health cannot suffice.

There are a number of methods for healing the body, and the same is true of the soul. By reaching the truth of God through complete faith, and uniting with Him in true love and keeping His commandments. These two types of union unlock the power of healing from the "Healer of all flesh,who works wonders."[17] The sages explain that this is the wonder of unifying the soul and the body.

Complete Redemption

Redemption brings us to another set of concepts that also relates to teshuvah: the individual and the collective. Teshuvah can either be personal or national, similarly redemption is either individual or collective. We understand that if an individual does teshuvah, it will affect his behavior and his lifestyle. But, even if he becomes mitzvah-observant, it will not have a direct effect on the way the country is run. A pious individual may sit at home keeping all the mitzvot and living a comfortable life. The Shechinah (Divine Presence) will reside with him, and that is his personal redemption. But, "From the day the Temple was destroyed, the Almighty has no more in His world than the four cubits of halachah [Jewish law]." This is a description of national exile. The state of "four cubits" in the collective is a state of exile. Collective, national teshuvah will be reflected in the way the state is run, in the public domain, not just in the private domain of every individual Jew.

A Chassidic expression states that on the day Mashiach comes, we will read about it in the papers. Everyone will know, because it will reach the dimensions of the collective, both the Jewish people and non-Jews.

The redemption of the collective is the inner, hidden dimension of redemption, and the principal one. The complete redemption is when collective redemption and individual redemption unite, as alluded to in the seventh ("all sevens are dear") principle of Torah interpretation, "From a generalization that needs a detail and from a detail that needs a generalization."[18] The goal is to reach the redemption of the collective, and within it, the redemption of every individual from his personal troubles in body and spirit. Complete redemption will be when these two dimensions unite as one. The union of the individual and the collective depends on the union of all with God, the revelation that "God is all and all is God."

The concepts of individual and collective also refer to teshuvah. Until now, the principle type of teshuvah in our generation related to individuals. Someone became a ba'al teshuvah and another. But our aspiration is to reach the teshuvah of the collective. We need to arouse the Jewish people to do teshuvah and recognize that we are the people chosen by God to bring redemption to the world. This must become apparent in society and government. True and complete redemption for us, the Jewish people, and the entire world is the ultimate acheivement of mankind to unite with God.

A Maiden will Rejoice in Dance

We will conclude with another idea that is related to the mazal of the month of teshuvah, Elul: there is a verse that states "then a maiden will rejoice in dance." On the 15th of Av, and Yom Kippur, the girls go out in dance to find their soulmate.[19] The virgin maiden (whose month is the month of Elul) will rejoice in dance. In recent generations, the principle heralder of redemption is the founder of the Chassidic movement, the Ba'al Shem Tov. He taught the Jewish people how to do teshuvah from love. He interprets this verse in a unique way, saying that the dance of the maiden is "one foot in and one foot out." "One foot in" is coming closer and one foot out is moving away. There is something in dancing that relates to the two movements of "run and return" (which is the secret of life in general – "and the living beings run and return"). The pulse of life in dance, one moment I come close and the next, I move away. The same dynamic is evident in marriage, too. After the maiden finds her chosen soulmate, according to the laws of family purity, there are times when the couple must temporarily distance themselves from each other. There are times for coming close and there are times of distance,[20] between us and the Almighty, as a couple. The inner dimension of teshuvah through love, reflects the same dance of life as in married life, and the desire to cling to God as the verse states, "And he shall cling to his wife." If we translate this dance as the Ba'al Shem Tov described it, to the Jewish people as a whole, as a collective, there are times in history when the people are far from God and there are times when we are close to Him. However, it is not just a cycle that repeats itself, but a spiral. With every cycle of moving away and coming near we rise higher and higher and come closer to the true objective. For many generations, almost two centuries in the dance of history, the majority of the nation has been detached from its roots. Today too, there is the phenomenon of questioning even in religious circles. This is not just a personal-individual phenomenon but part of the secret of the dance of the Jewish people with their Beloved, the Almighty. When we understand that this is a dance, we realize that the time has come for the dance to continue with "one foot in." We can justify one foot out too, because that's what makes the maiden's dance joyful. But, the ultimate purpose of the dance is to reach complete union between the bride and the groom.

We wish everyone that we merit this clinging, which is teshuvah from love, the teshuvah of the collective. This type of teshuvah includes all of the indivduals, but ultimately it is redemption of the Jewish nation as a whole indivisible entity and, together with the Jewish nation, the world at large. And, as mentioned above in the name of the Previous Rebbe, "Immediate teshuvah, immediate redemption."

Faith-Teshuvah-Healing-Redemption in the Sefirot

The Four Stages – from Elul to Sukot

These four stages of faith-teshuvah-healing-redemption correspond to four time frames during the period between Elul and Sukot, the Time of our Rejoicing. We can construct a basic model by beginning with the most obvious correspondence. In this case, it is clear that teshuvah corresponds to the Ten Days of Repentance that begin on Rosh Hashanah and end on Yom Kippur. Since faith precedes teshuvah, as mentioned, we understand that the essence of Elul is faith in one God. The numerical value of "One" (אֶחָד), 13, alludes to the 13 attributes of compassion that God reveals to us during this month. These attributes are also known as the 13 rectifications of faith.[21] When God reveals His 13 attributes to us during Elul, even though we may not be aware of it, at some level, we know that the King is in the field,[22] and we set out to seek Him, which is the beginning of teshuvah, as mentioned. We sense that there is Someone to look for, and we need to extend ourselves beyond our normal limits to search for Him. This enables us to rectify our faith in Him.[23]

After we have achieved rectified faith in one God during Elul, we reach the Ten Days of Repentance, which relate to teshuvah. The tekiyah gedolah (grand blast of the shofar) after the Ne'ilah (closing) service on Yom Kippur is healing, because it represents the absolution of all sins. Redemption corresponds to Sukot, the "Time of our Rejoicing."

Finding the Key

When looking for a Kabbalistic system that parallels a particular process, we first look for the key that directs us to the appropriate model. This we do by finding a Torah thought that explicitly links one of the ideas to a Kabbalistic concept, finding an appropriate model (the 10 sefirot, the four letters of the Divine Name of God, the four Worlds etc.) and then finding relevant correspondences between the remaining ideas. By doing so, we can compare the correspondences. By perceiving the concepts through the prism of their Kabbalistic counterparts we often discover new insights into the subject at hand. In the case of the four concepts faith, teshuvah, healing, and redemption, we begin with teshuvah, which the Zohar exlicitly associates with binah (the sefirah of understanding). However, the teshuvah associated with binah is specifically higher teshuvah, which relates to clinging to God in ultimate union. This level is the level of the complete teshuvah that will manifest specifically in the future, which is also associated with binah (in the Book of Formation, binah is referred to as "the depth of the future"). In general though, teshuvah includes both teshuvah from love and teshuvah from fear, which relate to chesed (the sefirah of loving-kindness) and gevurah (the sefirah of might), respectively. This brings us to the realization that our current state of teshuvah corresponds to love and fear, which are the first two emotive powers of the soul. Having discovered this, the next stage is to find the model that incorporates this correspondence.

In Chassidut, the sefirot, which correspond to the powers of the soul, are often divided into three levels: the intellectual, emotive, and behavioral powers of the soul. Each of these levels contain three sefirot: the intellectual level contains chochmah, binah and da'at (the sefirot of wisdom, knowledge and understanding), the emotive level contains chesed, gevurah and tiferet (loving-kindness, might and beauty) and the behavioral level contains netzach, hod and yesod (victory, acknowledgment and foundation). The tenth and final sefirah, malchut (the sefirah of kingdom) stands on its own. It corresponds to the end-result of our actions. In its rectified state, malchut is a complete reflection of keter (the sefirah of the super-conscious crown) that lies above the ten sefirot.



Super-conscious keter – crown
Intellectual binah – understanding  

da'at – knowledge

chochmah – wisdom
Emotive gevurah – might  

tiferet – beauty

chesed – loving-kindness
Behavioral hod – acknowledgment  

yesod – foundation

netzach – victory
End-result malchut – kingdom

Emotive Teshuvah

As mentioned, teshuvah corresponds to love and fear, the two "wings" of the soul.[24] Without wings a bird cannot fly, which teaches us that without teshuvah, we cannot elevate ourselves beyond our present state of consciousness. Teshuvah manifests not in the mind but in the heart. Tiferet (the sefirah of beauty) is the final extention of binah (the sefirah of understanding), which is specifically called "the heart."[25]

Above, we mentioned that the initial letters of the phrase, "I am for my Beloved and my Beloved is for me" (אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי),[26] spell Elul (אֶלוּל). This phrase alludes to the service of clinging to God in prayer during Elul, as explained in the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Another acronym for Elul is in the phrase "[God will circumcise] your heart and the heart [of your offspring]" ([וּמָל הוי' אֱ־לֹהֶיךָ] אֶת לְבָֽבְךָ וְאֶת לְבַב [זַרְעֶךָ]). The Rebbe teaches us that this verse relates to the service of teshuvah during Elul. First, it is incumbent upon us to circumcise the foreskin of our hearts,[27] but once our teshuvah is complete, God circumcises our heart and the heart of our offspring. Complete teshuvah effects both "your heart" and "the heart of your offspring," which extends "to the end of all generations." "Generation" (דוֹר) is an abbreviation for the Aramaic expression "fear and love" (דְּחִילוּ וּרְחִימוּ), alluding to teshuvah from fear and teshuvah from love. The purpose of teshuvah is to circumcise the heart. From here we see that the place of teshuvah is in the emotive powers of the soul.

Intellectual Faith

Once we have decided that teshuvah is love and fear, the wings of the heart, and since we know that faith is above teshuvah, we can assign faith to the level above teshuvah in the intellectual powers of the soul. This is an innovation that requires contemplation. Usually, we teach that faith is beyond all reason, associated with the unknown and unknowable head in the super-conscious keter (the sefirah of crown). Yet, in the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe teaches that belief in God relates to the conscious power of chochmah (the sefirah of wisdom), i.e., the first of the intellectual powers of the soul. Similarly, in Kabbalah, "faith" (אֶמוּנָה) is related to the mother principle, which corresponds to binah (the sefirah of understanding).[28] In Sefer Hamitzvot,[29] Maimonides uses the term "to believe" in God, whereas in the Mishneh Torah,[30] he uses the term "to know." In order to keep the mitzvah of believing in God, we must "know" Him. First, one must believe, "Know the God of your father"[31] and then we can "serve Him." Here we see that faith is closely related to all the intellectual faculties of the soul. Indeed, the only way to approach a non-believer is through rational discussion.

We are taught that Abraham, the first Jew, attained his belief by power of intellectual reasoning.[32] This is the meaning of Abraham's original name, Avram (אַבְרָם), which divides into two syllables meaning "father" (אָב), referring to the father principle in Kabbalah, i.e., chochmah (the sefirah of wisdom), and "exalted" (רָם). Abraham used his exalted power of intellect to become the first true believer in God. From here we see that faith manifests in the intellectual level of the soul.

We know God with our intellectual power of da'at (the sefirah of knowledge), which is called "the key" to opening the six emotive powers of the soul. Once we succeed in revealing in our mind our super-rational faith in God, teshuvah comes naturally to the heart.

Instinctive Healing

Since faith manifests in the intellect and teshuvah in the heart, it follows that healing manifests in the instinctive powers of the soul. They are netzach, hod and yesod (the sefirot of victory, acknowledgment and foundation). These three sefirot correspond to three physiological systems, the endocrine system, which controls and moderates the hormones, the immune system, and the reproductive system, respectively. The immune system guards the body against foreign invaders, and is thus related to physical health, whereas dysfunction of the endocrine system often affects mental health. In Kabbalah, netzach (the endocrine system) and hod (the immune system) correspond to the two kidneys, which are called "consultant kidneys." They offer advice for healing the soul and the body. Similarly, the reproductive system (i.e., yesod, the sefirah of foundation), which relates to self-actualization,[33] is an important aspect of healing.

At a deeper level, usually, when we speak of the bond between body and soul, we refer to the bond between the neshamah (soul, נְשָמָה) and the body (גוּף). However, with regard to healing we speak of "the healing of the soul (nefesh, psyche, not neshamah)" and "the healing of the body." While the neshamah corresponds to the conscious powers of the soul, primarily to the intellect, the nefesh is the level of our soul that controls our unconscious, natural and habitual lifestyle.

When the soul (nefesh) is healthy, the body follows suit. Being healthy means acting naturally i.e., adopting a natural sense of sound psychological and physical well-being.

When a doctor gives a prescription for good health, he often prescribes walking (as an example of exercise), which we achieve with our legs, which like the kidneys, also correspond to netzach and hod. But, the simplest things are often the most difficult, because they require changing our habits. Once we get used to the new way of life, the habit becomes natural and then the person becomes well. Although it appears that we have no control over the workings of the immune and endocrine systems, with some effort, we can take control of bad habits that have become natural to us and form new habits that promote sound mental and physical health.

This is the foundation of the expresssion, "Great is teshuvah which brings healing to the world." Doing sincere teshuvah in our hearts leads us to creating a new, positive lifestyle.

Redemption – Action that Reflects the Super-conscious

Having explained this, it remains that redemption corresponds to malchut (the sefirah of kingdom). In particular, this manifests as "the end (malchut) is wedged in the beginning (keter)."

The three-stage process of faith, teshuvah, and healing concludes with redemption, which in Kabbalah alludes to the redemption of the 288 sparks that fell into the lower realm when the vessels of the World of Chaos shattered. This is alluded to in the sum of the numerical values of these four words (אֶמוּנָה תְּשׁוּבָה רְפוּאָה גְּאוּלָה), which equals 1,152, which equals 4 times 288, i.e., the average value of the four words is 288.

When each of these levels is refined in the ultimate redemption, they will reflect complete faith in God. This is alluded to in the sum of the numerical values of all of these words when the word "complete" (שְׁלֵמָה) is added to them, which equals 2,652, which equals 102 (the numerical value of "faith" (אֶמוּנָה)] times 26 (the numerical value of God's essential Name, Havayah).


[1]           Translation from a radio broadcast with Rabbi Ginsburgh for Kan Moreshet. Elul 5777.

[2]              Yoma 86a.

[3]              Exodus 15:26.

[4]              Shir Hashirim Raba, 5. See also Sanhedrin 97b.

[5]              Kol Koreh 1, 1st Sivan 5701 etc.

[6]              Mishneh Torah, Introduction to Sefer Hamada.

[7]              We hold the etrog in our left hand, which represents the service of might, "the left deters." Now, through our service of joyful teshuvah, "the left hand brings near" even more than the "right hand brings near."

[8]              Exodus 17:16.

[9]              Deuteronomy 29:28.

[10]             Shabbat 97a.

[11]             Exodus 14:31.

[12]             Psalms 37:23.

[13]             Sanhedrin 106b.

[14]             Yoma 86b.

[15]             Ibid.

[16]             Song of Songs 6:6.

[17]             Asher yatzar blessing.

[18]             Safra, Vayikra 1.

[19]             Mishnah Ta'anit 4:8.

[20]             See Ecclesiastes 3:5.

[21]             See Zohar Shemot 177a.

[22]             Rebbe Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Likutei Torah, Parashat Re'eh, p. 32.

[23]             The first two letters of Elul (אֶלוּל) spell the Divine Name pronounced Kel (א־ל), which has a numerical value of 31. The ordinal value of these two letters is 13, which is also the reduced numerical value of Elul (אֶלוּל). The sum of the numerical values of Elul (אֶלוּל) and "faith" (אֶמוּנָה) is 169, which equals 132.The Divine Name Kel is the Name associated with faith, as in the phrase "a God of faith without injustice" (Deuteronomy 32:4).

[24]             Tanya Ch. 40.

[25]          "Yesod imma ends in z"a of tiferet" (Etz Chaim, 331:3; 333:1) and "binah is the heart" (Patach Eliyahu, Tikunei Zohar 123a).

[26]             Song of Songs 6:6.

[27]             Deuteronomy 10:16.

[28]             Introduction to Tikunei Zohar 2a.

[29]             Sefer Hamitzvot, mitzvah 1.

[30]             Mishneh Torah, Sefer Hamada, 1:1.

[31]             I Chronicles 28:9.

[32]             See for example, Midrash Hagadol Bereishit 12; Bereishit Rabbah 18:13.

[33]             See Body, Mind, and Soul, p. 82-83.

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