This week in Los Angeles we have been teaching about the Law of Attraction, which has become a popular topic in the United States. When we were preparing and thinking about which topics in the Torah relate to the Law of Attraction, one thing that came to mind was a particular partzuf, a model, based on the ten sefirot in which one of the faculties is called the power of attraction. Before we look at this particular partzuf, let us look more carefully at the basic partzufim in Kabbalah and Chassidut and how they originate.
Kabbalistic model of the sefirot
Every full set of concepts from the world or from the human psyche, whatever it may be must in the final analysis parallel and correspond to the most basic of the models in Torah, that of the ten sefirot which Hashem uses to create the world. In the sefirot first there is the super-rational and super-conscious sefirah, the crown (hovering above and around the ten conscious sefirot to follow). Then come the three intellectual powers calledChabad (the acronym of the Hebrew words for wisdom, understanding, and knowledge). Finally, we have the seven emotive faculties from loving-kindness to kingdom. This is the most basic partzuf in all of Kabbalah and is one that hopefully everyone has memorized.
Chassidic model of the inner experience of the sefirot
Taking this basic partzuf, the first and most important correspondence that Chassidut teaches is that each of the sefirot has an inner experience, or a psychological motivation. For now let us describe the inner experience of each sefirah without fully explaining how it relates to the sefirah itself. The super-rational level of the crown subdivides into three sublevels called “heads”: faith, pleasure, and will. The three inner experiences of the intellect are selflessness, joy, and unification. The inner experiences of the next threesefirot, the primary emotions of the heart, are love, fear, and compassion. The next triad of sefirot is the emotions that manifest when a person begins to implement the primary three emotions in action. Their inner experiences are: confidence (active trust, the trust that Hashem is going to give me the power to accomplish my objectives in life), sincerity (in pursuing my goals), and devotion (in the sense of vital drive toward the fulfillment of my goals; the word in Hebrew is אמת , truthfulness). The final sefirah’s inner experience is that of the true holy king who always experiences in his heart that he is lowly. As much as he is exalted by his people, the true king, like king David, sees himself as lowly: “And I will be lowly in my own eyes.”1 Because he is lowly in his own eyes that is what makes him deserving in God’s eyes to be the king. Lowliness is like humility. Let us write thispartzuf out too. This too should be committed to memory:
faith (אמונה )
pleasure (תענוג )
will (רצון )
Similar to this partzuf, there are hundreds of partzufim or charts that take the model of the sefirot and apply them to some topic or some phenomenon. This is perhaps the most important aspect of Kabbalah today, as we will explain.
Today, we are going to look at one of the very first and most important partzufim, which to the best of our recollection we have never actually studied anywhere. As soon as the topic of the Law of Attraction was selected for Los Angeles, that sparked in our mind a recollection of this partzuf, in which the power of attraction appears. In this model, orpartzuf, as we will see, the power of attraction corresponds to loving-kindness.
Inter-inclusion in the mature sefirah
To understand this partzuf, we have to understand the inter-inclusive nature of thesefirot. Every sefirah once it is rectified and complete includes all of the sefirot, it becomes like a hologram in which every part reflects the whole. This is called the quality of inter-inclusion (or, hitkalelut, התכללות , in Hebrew). We might think that because in their mature form all of the sefirot now include all the others then the differences between them disappear and they all become the same thing. This is not the case. Even in its mature form, when the sefirah inter-includes all the other sefirot, each sefirah retains its particular function or essence. There remains one predominant characteristic sefirahwhich continues to give the whole structure its name. In the Arizal’s terminology, this is called the mature state of the sefirah, where the sefirah has become a partzuf in its own right. The particular partzuf that we are going to focus on in this class brings together the foundation aspect of each mature sefirah.
The foundation of each sefirah represents, as we stated earlier, the power to fulfill our goal without compromise, the drive to achieve what we set out to do.
Sometimes it is explained that kingdom represents the external reality upon which we are acting. Like the canvas on which the painter is painting. What appears on the canvas is what kingdom represents. Using this metaphor, foundation represents the brush that touches the canvas.
Right now, as we are speaking, people are writing notes on a piece of paper. The same interpretation applies: the pen is your foundation while the paper is your kingdom. The connection between the two is called a yichud, or unification. Like a groom and a bride (the pen is the groom, the paper the bride). So, foundation is the contact and the channel for writing what you are thinking and feeling and inscribing it on reality (even that which is in the super-conscious level of your soul). It does not yet mean that there are words involved, because verbal expression is related to kingdom. The link between your inside and the outside reality, that contact is called foundation.
The purpose of a human being is to connect with external reality—not to remain autistic. We have to be able to impress ourselves in a positive way on reality. The channel that impresses itself on reality, that channel is foundation. This partzuf that we are going to study now describes the foundations—the powers of contact—inherent in each of thesefirot. Each sefirah has its own foundation, which is its own individual drive and thrust to contact and connect and impress itself upon reality.
The origin of a partzuf
If you look in books of Kabbalah and Chassidut that were written in past generations, you will not find many examples of partzufim. Before our generation, there was very little disciplined integration of Torah material into partzufim, into models based on the sefirot. Of course, creating a partzuf based on the sefirot is not a new idea; it is one of the four innovations of the Arizal’s Kabbalah.2 In our generation, the Lubavitcher Rebbe in one of his early discourses gave us a lengthy example of how to construct partzufim based on four letters of God’s essential Name, Havayah.3 This is a very basic discourse that every person who studies Kabbalah today should read carefully.
Usually when we create such a chart that describes a partzuf, we begin with a topic that has already been discussed in Kabbalah and Chassidut. Very often, given the way that it has been presented in the past, even if you study and try to find all of the sources that relate to a particular topic what you will come up with is a partial picture. In other words, you will never find all the parts of the complete partzuf discussed in one place.
The inner experiences of the sefirot
Let us look at the example of the inner experiences of the sefirot that Chassidic teachings reveal. We find that even in the Tanya, the classic text of Chassidut, there is one place that some of the inner experiences are noted,4 but not all of them. In Kabbalah we of course have a complete description of the partzuf of the ten sefirot, their names, and more or less of an understanding of what each means. Kabbalah (in the introduction to the Tikunei Zohar) also tells us how the sefirot correspond to the limbs of the body. But, what they really mean as experiences of the soul, before Chassidut, this was not revealed. So let us explain what these inner experiences are and what they represent in relation to the sefirot.
Chassidut explains that the three primary emotions—loving-kindness, might, and beauty, which in the body correspond to the right arm, the left arm, and the torso—have an inner experience, which is their inner motivation. The word loving-kindness (and of course its Hebrew source, חסד ) does not denote the emotion of love (as experienced in the heart), but rather the outward expression of love, in particular the extension of the right hand to give (for which reason the sefirah of loving-kindness is identified with the right arm, and not with the heart). Now obviously a person will not extend his right arm to give if there is not an inner motivation causing the extension. What is that motivation? Love itself! This is the easiest inner experience to understand: love motivates loving-kindness. Who taught us that love is the inner motivation of loving-kindness? The Ba’al Shem Tov! Without him, left only with the classic texts of Kabbalah, I might never have known this. I might only have thought that loving-kindness is a power inherent in the right arm (not consciously aware of its origin in the heart).
When you look at the two words in English it is pretty simple, because loving-kindness, the outward expression or act, obviously includes the word love. But, in Hebrew, love (ahavah) and loving-kindness (chesed) are two different words. Actually, the composite word “loving-kindness” would not have been formed without this relationship already being revealed by the Ba’al Shem Tov. Normally, you would simply say “kindness” as in an “act of kindness.”
Each of the sefirot also corresponds to an archetypal soul. Loving-kindness as we all know corresponds to Abraham. In the Bible, we find the phrase: “loving-kindness to Abraham.”5 We also find that Abraham is described as “Abraham who loves Me [God].”6 So both the inner and external aspects are found explicitly in reference to Abraham. This is not so clear with regard to the other sefirot.
Now let us turn to might. That fear is the inner experience of might is totally counter-intuitive, unless you really contemplate it. Sometimes, when a person is afraid, his fear makes him flex a muscle and overcome what he is afraid of. This is the simplest way of understanding this relationship, but in any case it remains less than obvious.
The archetypal soul of fear is Isaac. Of Isaac we find an explicit verse: “the Fear of Isaac,”7 which describes how Isaac experienced and worshipped the Almighty. Yet, we do not find a verse that states that Isaac is a mighty warrior. Who is the mightiest person in the Bible, the greatest gibor, in Hebrew? That is Samson the gibor. That is why in Kabbalah, Samson’s soul is said to derive from Isaac’s. With regard to Abraham we find both idioms as we mentioned.
That mercy or compassion is the inner motivator of beauty means that a soul that is compassionate is beautiful. Such a human being is beautiful in the sense of praiseworthy.
Wisdom and understanding
So now let us take these three primary emotions. In Tanya it says explicitly that the inner experience of these three is love, fear, and compassion. This is a new revelation. Then, you will find somewhere else in Chassidut that it says that the inner experience (or motivator) of wisdom is selflessness. Elsewhere you can find that joy is the inner experience of understanding. These are clearly less intuitive. That selflessness brings about flashes of new insight, this is somewhat more intuitive. At the moment that you become nothing, that is the most appropriate moment in which you will receive a flash of new insight.
Why is joy the inner motivator or experience of understanding? This is less intuitive than the relationship between selflessness and wisdom. The explanation is that to fully understand means to fully comprehend something; to fully “get it.” If there is someone sitting here and listening but he or she does not fully get it, then that person is not happy. They may want to be happy, but they are not yet joyful. You smile completely when you get it completely. This is the explanation offered in Chassidut. Going a little deeper you can see that you make an effort to get it because you know consciously or unconsciously that you will smile when you do get it. So this latent smile that wants to come out is motivating your faculty of understanding.
In the Arizal’s teachings understanding is also called the mother principle, or partzufImma. How do we know that joy has to do with the mother principle? This is an explicit verse in Psalms: “The mother of the children is joyful.”8 The simple reading is that a mother who was barren, like the matriarchs, when God finally has compassion on her and she bears a child, then she becomes full of joy. But, what Chassidut adds to this is that joy is the motivator of motherhood. In other words, if you want to be a mother, you should try to experience joy. Joy brings out your motherhood, even if you have problems having children. Joy is the power of the soul that helps you have children. So what in the verse seems to be the effect (in this case joy is the effect of having children) in Chassidic analysis is revealed to be the motivation or the cause (joy causes childbearing).
Kabbalah in our generation
So what we have seen is that there is one place in Chassidut where the inner experiences of the three primary emotions are explained. The inner experiences of the other sefirotare each described somewhere else in Chassidic teachings. There is no one place that you can find all the parts of the partzuf discussed together.
For some mysterious but important reason the tzadikim that taught us Chassidut made it a point to never paint the full picture. They left it for our generation to do this. That each of the sefirot has its inner experience follows by simple inductive reasoning.
Now the same is true of the partzuf that we are going to now learn. This partzuf is one level beyond the basic understanding that each sefirah has an inner experience or motivation.
The responsibility and merit of our generation is to find the explicit beginning of a topic as it is discussed in Chassidut and then to take it from there. Our generation has been given clues upon which to meditate in order to complete the picture. This is like when you give a child a partial picture which is only an outline and then the child is told to fill it in and complete it. This is a general statement about the nature of the meditation of our generation.
Now we will look at the foundation of each of the sefirot, which is its drive to realize itself. As we said, it is the contact point between the sefirah’s inner reality and the external reality surrounding it. It is the drive to realize oneself on the canvas of the world. Where do we find this topic discussed? The Mittler Rebbe of Chabad, and his greatchassid, Rebbe Hillel of Paritsch, both use unique language to refer to the intellectualsefirot, wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. Almost consistently, in many articles, they do not refer to them by their usual names but by the termsהשכלה, השגה, הכרה , which we translate as perception, achievement (in the intellectual sense, i.e., comprehension), and recognition, respectively. Just as the alter Rebbe said in the Tanya that loving-kindness, might, and mercy are love, fear, and compassion, here we have another such integration of new terminology.
Now the topic of the terminology used in the Torah is of tremendous importance. To put it in perspective let us recall that God created the world with Hebrew words. The choice of a Hebrew word used in the Torah is not a stylistic choice as it would be in English. The greatest sage of the Kabbalah after Rashbi is the Arizal. All of what is today known as Kabbalah is the study of the Arizal’s revelations, most of which were written down by his disciple Rav Chaim Vital. In describing the secrets of creation, Rav Chaim Vital begins with the primordial contraction (tzimtzum) of God’s infinite light in order to make room as it were for the world to be created in. He begins with this image or metaphor. The question that needs to be asked is: did anything occur before the contraction? Were there any processes or things that happened within the infinite light before the contraction took place?
In the traditional writings of Rav Chaim Vital there are allusions to things that occurred before the contraction, but they are not discussed explicitly, implying that they are beyond us, too deep for us to comprehend. Whatever happened in the Infinite light before the contraction is not for us to contemplate. Nonetheless, there are other disciples of the Arizal9 that not only allude to what happened before the first contraction, they write about it openly. Still, it was Rav Chaim Vital, who was ordained and appointed by the Arizal to commit his teachings to writing, and he made it a point not to discuss what happened before the first contraction.
Which “side” did the Chassidic masters take? Did they follow the more traditional (and conservative) reading of Rav Chaim Vital or the unofficial writings of the Arizal’s other students? We find that Chassidut does indeed refer in detail to the processes that preceded the first contraction. Especially deeply immersed in this topic are the writings of the Mittler Rebbe, Rebbe Hillel of Paritch, Rebbe Isaac of Homil, and in later generations, the Rebbe Rashab. How is this possible?
The answer given is that the reason that the more traditional Sephardic Kabbalists concealed these teachings about what occurred before the initial contraction is that they appear in books written by the disciples who were not ordained or appointed by the Arizal to write his teachings. These writings were written based on things that the disciples heard, but the Arizal did not want them written down. For some reason the Arizal did not want these topics included in the official version of his teachings. Therefore, Kabbalistis before Chassidut felt that these alternate accounts of the Arizal’s teachings—though seemingly more complete—cannot be relied upon a hundred percent.
But, of course, the Chassidic discussion of these processes is one hundred percent reliable. What happened? Why can Chassidut talk about things that the Arizal could not reveal for everyone? The answer is that before the Ba’al Shem Tov there was no vocabulary to express these things. There was no fitting terminology. This is a simple statement to say, but a very profound one to understand. This is just to get a clue about how important terminology is. You can be the greatest sage and have all the insight in the world about everything, like the Arizal had, but if you do not have the proper words to express it, it is better not to say it; it is better to keep it a secret. Words are the vessels. What you know inside is the light. The question that needs to be asked is: do you have the vessels to convey your light? If we are talking about making an impression from one’s inner world, one’s inner experience, upon external reality, that itself requires vocabulary. You need the proper vocabulary. This proper language or terminology for giving a verbal description of the processes that occurred before the initial contraction is the language of Chassidut. By definition, Chassidic terminology is the only language capable of expressing things that happened within the infinite light before the initial contraction.
It is very clear that the Chassidic sages did not abandon the traditional terminology of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge for the three intellectual sefirot. But, they also liked to use different terms to describe the intellectual faculties. What we are explaining now is that they are not talking about the inner experience of the sefirot, because for this we know the terminology is different. They are still talking about the external aspect of thesefirot. But as we said before, they are referring to the foundation aspect of the sefirot, in this case, the three intellectual faculties.
Partzuf of the foundations of the sefirot
Before we continue let us bring the full partzuf that we have been talking about and are now going to explain sefirah by sefirah:
So now let us return to this new partzuf that will describe the power of foundation in each sefirah.
- Wisdom is called the power of perception, or השכלה (haskalah), in Hebrew.
- Understanding is called the power of comprehension (intellectual achievement), orהשגה (hasagah), in Hebrew.
- Knowledge is called the power of recognition, or הכרה (hakarah), in Hebrew.
We said that these three terms are explicit in the writings of the Rebbe’s.
What this immediately suggests is that if we get the idea of how these new terms work, we will be able to expand this particular terminology to the rest of the sefirot as well. Once more, the idea is that we are taking wisdom, for example, and discovering the contact that wisdom has with reality; how wisdom contacts and impresses itself upon reality.
When years ago we wrote this partzuf we of course wrote it entirely in Hebrew. When we translated the terms into English in preparation for this class, at first we thought that the term for wisdom should be translated as “intellect,” but on second thought, we decided that a better translation is “perception.” Haskalah literally does mean intellect, but the word sechel (from which it stems) is also cognate with the Hebrew root meaning to look or observe. That is why wisdom is always identified with sight, with spiritual sight. Even in English we often translate wisdom as insight, which obviously relates to sight. The experience of a new insight is a flash of light. If you take the concept of sight and you expand it, sight is considered the general and all-inclusive perception of reality.
We know of five physical senses (in Kabbalah the soul actually possesses 12 senses). Clearly a sense is the most primary channel that connects our psyches with reality. Much of modern philosophy from Kant and on is based on this idea: the only way that we know that something is out there is through our senses. If you do not have senses you are completely autistic. Wisdom is perception and even though it is primarily a sight experience it is the all inclusive channel through which the psyche perceives reality.
Perceiving reality is the beginning of the relationship between me and you, between me and everything that is outside of me. Why is sight the most important? Because if I can see you it implies that we are standing face to face. If I can only hear you, you may be standing far away. So when I say to perceive I mean the most direct perception possible which is seeing you face to face. But, for instance when the Torah was given, the Torah recounts that hearing became as near as sight: we saw the sounds. They inter-included so that everything became an experience of direct perception.
Perceiving the King
So we have explained the word for wisdom: perception. There is an image in the Zoharthat portrays the differential test for distinguishing between holy and non-holy souls or between holy and non-holy spirituality is that a decree is pronounced in Heaven: whoever wants to see the King and nothing more, should come right now. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, but you are not going to get anything more out of it other than the chance to bathe in the light of the King (לאסתכלא ביקרא דמלכא ותו לא ). You will not receive anything for yourself. It says that this pronouncement makes the distinction. Whatever is holy will run spontaneously to see the King. But, whatever is not holy will not make the effort, because what will it get out of it!? So holiness is a deep sense of wisdom.
We know that the inner experience of wisdom is selflessness. How does this work together? If you have selflessness than the only thing you want is to simply stand in the presence of the King. A person who is selfless does not want to get anything out of this experience. He just wants to be in the presence of the King.
Finding a king
Let’s say something more about this. Now in Eretz Yisrael there are a lot of problems. The basic problem from which all the others stem is that the Jewish people (regardless of observance) are not aware that the Torah commands us that upon entering the Land of Israel we have three public mitzvot to perform. The first is appointing a king, the second is to defeat the enemies of the Jewish people, and the third is to build the Temple in Jerusalem—and they must be performed in this order. So appointing a king is the key to success in the Land of Israel. Arguably, the reason nobody takes this seriously is because the concept of kingship and kingdom form the Renaissance and on has become a non-starter. Kings are considered corrupt, etc. Clearly, this is not an argument when it comes to the eternal commandments of the Torah, but this is what is blocking people’s mind from seriously thinking about what the Torah means when it tells us to appoint a king.
Therefore, the most important thing that has to be clarified to our people today is what the Torah means by a king. What the responsibilities of the king are, etc. This is a very important aspect of our return to the Land of Israel and the process of the complete and final redemption depends on it. This is also why Maimonides’ concludes his Code of Law with the Laws of Kings. It is very important to understand these laws and to know what a true Jewish king is meant to be like, especially if we want to actually perform it. This is the first commandment that is meant to ensure our presence in the Land of Israel—without it, our presence in the Land is not ensured.
But, in fact, there are not even many yeshivot that are tuned in to the fact that the laws pertaining to Jewish monarchy are the most important topic to contemplate, discuss, and write about today. For the Jewish people as a whole, this is the most important topic to delve into. For the individual, all the laws of the Torah are important: kashrut, Shabbat, etc. But for us as a people, the Laws of Kings are the single most important set of laws that need to be studied and implemented. As far as we know the only yeshivah that seriously studies this topic is our yeshivah that used to be in Shechem, and which now is in Yitzhar.
What is the point of this? After all is said and done, when we know all the laws of the king, what rights he has, what his responsibility to the people is, etc., then we can go one stage further and ask what is his inner character like? The answer to that is given by the inner experience of kingdom, which is lowliness. This was the character of King David and is the inner experience of a person who is fit to be the king of Israel. But still, you can ask another deeper question. How can we recognize who has true lowliness? Is there a simple way to recognize the person that Hashem wants us to appoint as a king? The answer is—and this connects to what we are now describing here with this partzuf of the foundation of the sefirot—that the king is the person who simply and truly enjoys looking at all the people and all the people simply and truly enjoy looking at him.
There is one person who loves all the faces of all the people, and all the people love looking at his face. The verse that describes this in the Bible is: “The beauty of a king your eyes shall perceive.”10 That is the way to identify the king. This is an important example of what the Zohar means when it says that there is an opportunity to perceive the king. Whoever is a truly connected soul will run to see the king (and the King), and he does not want anything else but the opportunity to see the king in all of his beauty. The same is true of the king, who also does not demand anything; he also just enjoys looking at his people. This is the principle of psychological complementarity stated in the verse: “As water mirrors a face, so the heart of a man reflects his fellow’s heart.”11 The king is he who loves to look at everyone.
In our generation we were privileged to see an example of such an individual. The Lubavitcher Rebbe passed out dollars every week. He was old, yet stood up for 6 or 7 hours straight to pass out the dollars. Why did he do this? He himself said that he enjoyed looking at the faces of the people. Once when he was asked about coming to the Land of Israel, he said that it is his greatest desire to come, but he had many reasons why he could not and he was always waiting for a sign from Heaven that it was time to come. But why did he want to come? There could be many really good reasons (from Halachic reasons to personal passion). But, the one that he stated was that he really wants to go to the Land of Israel because then he would see many new faces, many new Jewish faces that he had never seen.
All of this is the description of a contact point between inner and external reality. This is wisdom and this is what we mean by the power of perception.
Let’s go to the next sefirah: understanding. Earlier we said that when a person gets it, he smiles. The word chosen here is achievement, which can mean intellectual achievement, like a person who studied for an entire year and then passed an exam. But, it can also be a physical achievement. In general, achievement means that you are pursuing something and you caught it, you reached your goal. The word used in this context is very reality based. It is taking a spiritual concept like understanding and describing the way it touches reality.
To achieve is exactly the opposite of perception. In order to perceive we only need to face each other. But to achieve I have to pursue you and catch (take hold of) you.
Next we have the sefirah of knowledge. The word for knowledge is the most potent contact point with reality: recognition. Wisdom is perception. Why do I enjoy looking at everyone? Because I know that every Jew has a Divine soul and every non-Jew has a spark of Divinity that creates it! By looking at a person I can enjoy seeing this aspect of Divinity that is revealed in him.
Last night someone said that they love animals and asked if there is anything wrong with that. We replied that loving animals is great because you are supposed to learn something about your relationship with God from all animals. But, if you love your dog at the expense of other people, that might be a problem. But, just loving animals is a good thing. There is something good to see and love in every one of God’s creations.
To recognize, in Hebrew, is found in the Book of Ruth. After Ruth converted, she was sent to gather food in the field of Boaz, who was a prince of the Jewish people. For some reason, Boaz had great compassion for Ruth and he made sure that she could gather the poor people’s produce from his field without interruption. Ruth was astonished at Boaz’s special interest in her, especially as she was just a new convert to the Jewish people. And she says the verse: “Why have I found favor by you, that you recognize me, while I am a foreigner.”12 The sages say that she was Divinely inspired when she said this verse. Indeed there is also a play on two words here, “recognize” (להכירני ) and “foreigner” (נכריה ), which share the same Hebrew root. But, this word “recognize” was a prophecy that Boaz was going to marry her. Why is recognition connected with marriage? Because recognition is even more than knowledge, in the Biblical sense! To recognize is to be able to identify your beshert. To recognize implies a very special unique personal relationship with what is being recognized.
Let’s go back for a moment to the example of the Rebbe passing out dollars on Sundays. When people were passing by the Rebbe, why did he also give them a dollar fortzedakah? The simple answer is that if he wouldn’t give anything nobody would come. You have to do something to justify the whole thing. But that is only the external reason. The inner reason is that there are two stages involved in every such meeting between the Rebbe and someone at the dollars. The first stage is simply perception. At that stage everyone is equal, everyone is perceived equally and as one. But, the second stage involves recognition. Giving something is like a spiritual marriage. When he was giving a dollar he was giving you a blessing as an individual. To do that, he had to recognize each soul individually, that is create a unification with each person as an individual.
So far we have seen the origin of this whole partzuf as it already appears in the deepest Chassidic literature of the Mittler Rebbe and hisstudents. Now there is a very important point that we have not yet made. Usually the intellectual realm of the soul (the sefirot of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge) are described as self-illuminating light, implying that it does not have a natural impact on the external surroundings. This is in contrast to the emotional faculties of the soul, which are called light that illuminates others, implying that by nature all the emotional faculties are directed to have an external impression. But, here the emphasis is on the foundation of each sefirah, which represents its point of contact with reality.
So now, we need to follow the lead of the Mittler Rebbe and his students and expand this terminology to the rest of the sefirot. Each of them is alluded to in different Chassidic writings, but none are as explicit as these three.
So let us begin with the sefirah of crown, the supernatural (i.e., super-rational, for reason addresses empirical reality or phenomena, nature) faculty of the soul. What type of experience could be similar in respect to the supernatural? What is the experience of the crown vis a vis reality? It is explained in Chassidut that it is an experience of wonder, called hafla’ah (הפלאה ) in Hebrew. It is an experience that is above the power of my rational mind to perceive or achieve or recognize.
There is a verse that states that one can, and should, meditate on wonder: “Stand and meditate on the wonders of God.”13 Though in Chabad literature, meditation is an intellectual exercise, it can also be a gateway to meditating on something that is not intellectual but super-rational. As is clear in the context of this verse, the purpose of the contemplation of the wonders of nature it is not contemplation in order to understand, but to touch the wonder in nature. This certainly is an experience that makes contact with reality, but from the reference point of the sefirah of crown.
The cultivation of the intellectual faculties is an essential part of education. But, teaching a child how to be receptive to experiences of wonder is an even more essential part of education. A child has to be taught how to experience wonder. This is the exercise of the super-rational part of the soul.
Maimonides speaks about this when he says that the way to come to love and fear God is through the contemplation of the wonders of God in nature. How would Maimonides’ statement be explained in Chassidic language? We might think that love and fear, because they appear under the intellectual faculties, emanate from them. But, this is not the case. The true source of love and fear is in the crown. They only pass through the mind.14 Love and fear come from pure will (the lowest aspect of the crown). This is what Maimonides’ statement translates to in Chassidic language. The ability of the soul to experience wonder is the first and highest contact of the soul with reality. Sometimes, you could say that standing in wonder is standing in awe, which is another way to translate the word “fear” (יראה ) in Hebrew. Standing in awe is like standing back. But there can also be standing in love, meaning that I am attracted to the thing that I am looking at in wonder.
The Rebbe used to say that to bring the redemption to the world we have to bring the letter aleph (א ) into the Hebrew word for “exile” (גולה ), which then transforms it into the word for “redemption” (גאולה ). The Rebbe also explained that the letter aleph has three different meanings.15 Its highest meaning is wonder. So by bringing the aleph into the exile, into the as yet not rectified aspects of reality, we are bringing wonder into the world and thereby redeeming it.
Attraction and Repulsion
Now let us turn to the first pair of the sefirot of the emotive realm: loving-kindness and might. There is a well known saying of the sages that states that a person has to have a balanced relationship with reality: “the left hand pushes away and the right hand brings near.”16 The order is first left and then right implying that in order to attract something and bring it closer to us, we first have to have a measure of rejection, specifically you first have to isolate and reject that which is not proper. This is a classic example of the Ba’al Shem Tov’s principle process of submission, separation, and sweetening, where submission and separation are achieved through the left rejecting and sweetening is achieved by the right bringing near. For the bringing near to be a rectified and true experience, there first has to be a separation of the good from the bad. This is perhaps the most essential balance in the soul.
Clearly the two words that describe this balance are attraction (משיכה ) and repulsion (דחיה ). These are clearly the foundation aspects of loving-kindness and might, respectively. If the right hand is actively embracing another in order to bring him near that is the power of the foundation of the right arm. If the left hand is pushing something away, that is the foundation of the might. In order to reject one needs more intelligence. If you know what to push away, then everything else is automatically there to be drawn near. Innately, you want to bring everything near, but you have to be weary of those things that will hurt you. So, first figure out what to reject and then apply your native power of attraction.
As a pair, the correct terminology for loving-kindness and might is more or less obvious, since it is based on the sages saying. The next one is a little more subtle. In Hebrew, the foundation of beauty is the power of devotion (התמסרות ).
It is difficult to find the right word for this in English, but in Yiddish it is a very well known word: ibergegebenkeit, meaning that you are “given over to someone.” Devotion has a lot of religious connotations, which we do not mean to imply. We mean instead the empathy aspect of devotion, for example you are devoted to someone because of your empathy and compassion for them. You can also feel devoted to God, not as a mystical state, but as a commitment to do God’s will. In man-made religions that do not have commandments from God, to be religiously devoted is meaningless. But if there is something to do because someone needs you (one of the secrets of the initial contraction of God's Infinite light is that He made Himself, as it were, in need of our service of Him in the performance of His commandments), that allows you to devote yourself to them.
[Note that above we used the word devotion to describe the inner experience of thesefirah of foundation. Here we are using the same word (for lack of a better word in English; the Hebrew term here for devotion is hitmasrut, there it was another word altogether, emet) to describe the foundation (contact-with-reality point) of the sefirah of beauty. There it meant the vital, immediate drive toward self-fulfillment (the most essential example of which is to marry and give birth), here it means to be given over to the other and care for his needs (even to the extent of forgetting or disregarding one's own personal needs). It is not by coincidence, however, that the same word that relates to the sefirahof foundation in general relate as well to the aspect of foundation within the sefirah of beauty. This reflects the essential relationship of the brit (the sign of the covenant, the circumcised organ of procreation in the body) to the torso of the body (the brit, foundation, is a natural extension of the torso, beauty, to the extent that they are considered one), of Joseph to Jacob, as explained in Kabbalah.]
Again, the inner experience of beauty is compassion, which comes from a place of pure empathy. Obviously I have empathy, I will go out of my way to do something for someone else. Beauty is on the middle axis, so the middle path is to be devoted, to go out of my way (not as one might have thought that it means to stay mildly involved—because it is the “middle path”). Devotion means going out of my comfort zone!
Beauty is also described as the essential son of the intellectual sefirot, wisdom and understanding. A very important part of beauty’s devotion can therefore be learnt from the commandment that a son has to respect his father and mother, the fifth of the Ten Commandments. Devotion to one’s parents is the best example of ibergegebenkeit in the Ten Commandments.
[Kingdom is considered the essential daughter of the intellectual sefirot. She is also commanded to honor and respect her parents, but when a woman is married then Halachically she must first devote herself to her husband and then to her parents. Nonetheless, if she has a good husband, he will encourage her to continue to show her devotion to her parents.]
This example works in the other direction as well, showing us that out of all the sefirot, beauty (the son) is the most devotion oriented. So there is devotion above—an outwardly directed experience, by going above beauty—to one’s parents. And there is also devotion flowing downward to everyone else in my range of experience. Of course, first and foremost I should be devoted to the Jewish people.
As an example of these two directions of devotion, we can bring a beautiful story about my father-in-law, Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Segal, who began the revolution against the British mandate in the Land of Israel. Before he got married he told his wife-to-be that she would have to agree to some conditions (similar to tna’im, the conditions of marriage made before every Jewish wedding). His condition was that (with his wife's full approval and support) he would be completely devoted to three things in the following order: the Jewish people, his parents, and only then to her needs. She agreed and later said that it was because of his setting this condition that she decided to marry him in the first place. A person’s spouse represents the gateway to every other individual. As explained in Chassidut, the mitzvah of loving every Jew begins with one’s spouse.
Now we turn to victory and acknowledgment. The Hebrew words describing the foundation of these sefirot are: the power to invigorate (התחזקות , hitchazkoot) and the power to persevere (התמדה , hatmadah). These were the two most difficult Hebrew words to translate and we will have to explain what we mean by each.
These two sefirot and the sefirah of foundation are the emotive powers that come into play when a person is acting. Clearly their foundation, their connection with reality is going to be very pronounced. The sefirah of victory in Hebrew is called netzach (נצח ). In Hebrew, the word hitchazkoot means that I never give up. I gather my strength time and again in order to be victorious. If I fall, I have to get up. The Jewish people have to win. I am a Jew and therefore I have to be a winner. If it does not seem that I am winning then I have to strengthen myself. I have to add this invigorating power.
In any case, you might be able find a better translation for this word hitchazkoot, which again means that you can always pick yourself up, you can always strengthen yourself never falling down.
To get a further sense of what is going on in victory, we should add that the inner experience of victory is confidence or trust, but unlike acknowledgment’s trust, in victory the confidence is active, meaning that a person is getting up and doing something based on this confidence that God is always there to help me achieve my goals.
This word—hitchazkoot—strengthening oneself and picking oneself up all the time, is the word around which all of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s life and teachings revolve. Rebbe Nachman taught that you should never despair. You should never give up. Always invigorate yourself. What Rebbe Nachman is coming to counter is that due to the difficulties of life (especially for the Jewish people in the time of exile) one is always on the verge of despair. Victory in Kabbalah is the right foot and both feet are always on the verge of falling down.
Parenthetically, we need to be careful, because not all that seems invigorating is really invigorating. There are unfortunately some would be Breslov ba’alei teshuvah in the Land of Israel today that act in a way that is most inappropriate for a ba’al teshuvah. They claim that Rebbe Nachman, in order to reach his high level of consciousness and remain “high” used drugs (particularly some type of marijuana). They justify their own use of drugs with this idea, because they claim that using drugs is what helps them avoid despair. We mention this only in order to say that God forbid that a person would imagine that Rebbe Nachman used drugs of any kind. Rebbe Nachman is particularly related to the sefirah of victory as he stated about himself: “I have been victorious and I will continue to be victorious.” You can also translate this as “I am a winner!” His name, Nachman (נחמן ), has the same numerical value as the Hebrew name of victory: נצח ! The Arizal says that every Jew has a particular day in the counting of the omer to which he is particularly related. For instance, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s day is the acknowledgment of acknowledgment (the 33rd day of the omer, lag ba’omer). The fourth Rebbe of Chabad, the Rebbe Moharash’s day, is the beauty of beauty (the 2nd day of Iyar). Rebbe Nachman’s day is of course the day that corresponds to the victory of victory, the middle day of the counting of the omer.
Just recently there was a new manuscript from the Alter Rebbe discovered and published over the Internet. In it the Alter Rebbe is recorded to have said that at the end of the generations, many lowly souls will be drawn to Rebbe Nachman. Some Lubavitchers thought that this was an insult, but when we heard this we said that this was not an insult at all but rather very uplifting.
All this is to explain the inner drive and power of victory as invigoration. Many adages from Rebbe Nachman are also stated in a Chabad style. Rebbe Nachman used to encourage people not to despair by saying: “There is altogether nothing to despair about.” In other words, despair is an allusion. In Chabad it is stated as: “There is never a lost case.” His statement: “I have been victorious and I will be victorious” is stated in Chabad as “Didan natzach,” which means “Ours is victorious.” This is a statement from the sages that the Lubavitcher Rebbe adopted.
Another, maybe better word that can be used to translate hitchazkoot is revitalization, so you can use whichever conveys to you the meaning best, revitalization or invigoration.
So now let us turn to the sefirah of acknowledgment. The person who never stops learning Torah is called a matmid, a person who perseveres. Nothing can distract him and he is always on the way to attaining his goal, using every possible moment to learn more and more. Indeed, his goal is to always learn more and more, for with regard to the Torah itself there is no end or achievable goal, the Torah is infinite, and all that I will ever know is as naught. This in Hebrew is called hatmadah (התמדה ). It is an on-going endeavor, which the person never stops engaging. For example, if someone wants to bring Mashiach, all day long he thinks about it, talks about it, acts on it, nothing can distract him from the task at hand (this goal, of course, is achievable).
To make things more clear. Victory is like invigorating yourself continuously. When you feel that you are falling down you pick yourself up. It is like shots of energy that a person gives himself. But, acknowledgment is always simply being on track. The inner experience of acknowledgment is simplicity and sincerity. Like a person who heard from the Rebbe that our task is to bring Mashiach, so from that moment and on that is all that he thinks about and that is all that he does. Another way of expressing the meaning of hatmadah is that the person is always committed and always dedicated to his task. It comes from simplicity. It also comes from happiness, because the source of acknowledgment is in the joy of understanding.
Again, the example brought in classic Torah literature is of a student who is always learning—a matmid, as we said.
Now let us turn to foundation. The Hebrew word used here is hitkashroot (התקשרות ), which means connection. In Tanya this word is associated with the sefirah of knowledge in the sense of connecting all of one's mental energies, concentrating or focusing them all on that which one wishes to know. Knowledge is the power in the mind that corresponds to the sefirah of foundation in the heart, and so the term hitkashrut is also used in Kabbalah and Chasidut with regard to the special power of the sefirah of foundation to connect to (or “know“) external reality. The term is also used in the particular sense of connecting to a tzadik (an archetypal “foundation“ figure).
We said that ibergegenkeit, devotion, manifests in particular in respect to a person’s relationship with his parents. Hitkashroot, connection, manifests in particular with respect to a person’s finding a tzadik with whom to be connected. A person has to connect himself to the tzadik. He has to be connected enough to become one of the tzadik’s inner crew, just as Moshe Rabbeinu had people that were called “Moshe’s men” (אנשי משה ).
So not only does a person have to develop a caring relationship with other people because of empathy, as in devotion, he also has to establish an essential connection with other people. What is the difference between the two? If we go back to the relationship of children and parents, the Arizal says that though we have a commandment to honor and respect our parents this does not necessarily imply that we also have an essential connection with them. The Arizal explains that in our generations, a child is not necessarily spiritually related to (descended from) his parents. Biological parenthood does not necessarily mean spiritual parenthood. The soul root of the children may be very different from their parents’. We find this very commonly in our generation where often we feel no inner connection or soul-link between ourselves and our parents. But, not having a connection does not mean that you should not be devoted to them (for having brought you, body and soul, into the world). These are two different things entirely.
Remember that in reference to knowledge we explained that recognition is the ability to recognize souls, and particularly one’s soul mate. Why do people find it hard to find theirbeshert? Because of the blemish of the covenant (foundation) that occurs throughout their lives. As explained in many books, including the Tanya, all different types of sexual offences injure one’s faculty of knowledge. In respect to the emotive faculties, the sefirahof foundation serves the same function as the sefirah of knowledge does in respect to the intellect. For example, in Tanya it is said that Joseph (the archetypal soul of foundation) was exemplary in his power of connection. He was truly connected to his brothers even though they hated him. Obviously, it is not ideal that you are connected to someone but they hate you—still, this is what we learn from Joseph.
Grammatically, the word hitkashroot is in the reflective form. We had this twice before in regard to devotion (hitmasroot) and invigoration (hitchazkoot), in beauty and victory, which is why we were also thinking of words like re-energize or revitalize, since the “re” is the reflective form in English. What this means is that these words reflect going out and then coming back into your self. For example with devotion there is a cycle of going out but then coming back in to go back out even more (from a deeper place in one's soul), and so on.
Finally we come to kingdom. The Hebrew word used here is haba’ah (הבעה ), which means expression. It can be verbal expression, it can be visual expression—in short, every type of expression that we are familiar with. Expressing yourself outwardly gives people a sense of who you are and where you are at. A facial expression for instance is sometimes much more candid than a verbal expression because words can lie. Unless you are a really good actor, it is very difficult to lie with your body language. In Kabbalah, thesefirah of kingdom is also called the revealed world (עלמא דאתגליא ), so this is where you are revealing yourself.
1. Likutei Sichot vol. 6 (Hebrew), pp. 113ff.
2. Igeret Hakodesh 15.
3. Michah 7:20.
4. Isaiah 41:8.
5. Genesis 31:42.
6. Psalms 113:9.
7. Most notably, Rabbi Israel Srug, whose tradition of study from the Arizal is found inEmek Hamelech.
8. Isaiah 33:17.
9. Proverbs 27:19.
10. Ruth 2:10.
11. Job 37:14.
12 Called בדרך מעבר in Hebrew.
13. Discussed in length in our Hebrew volume, Mooda’oot Tiv’it (Natural Consciousness).
14. Sotah 47a.