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Parashat Bo: Aliyah by Aliyah

First Reading: The War of the Reptiles

“God said to Moses, ‘Come to Pharaoh”

 

The Zohar[1] on Parashat Bo offers a mysterious and most profound explanation of why God told Moses “Come to Pharaoh” instead of “Go to Pharaoh.” In a mystical allegory, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai describes how the Almighty brought Moses through rooms within rooms until he reached the most formidable spiritual reptile, “the upper tanin (תַּנִין).” This was Pharaoh’s soul root, as the Prophet Ezekiel states, “Here am I upon you, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the great tanin that lies in its rivers.”[2] When Moses saw that Pharaoh had such a profound spiritual source, he was afraid to approach it, instead, God took upon Himself the task of fighting the great reptile. Then God said to Moses, “Come [with Me] to Pharaoh.”[3]

Moses was afraid to approach Pharaoh because he saw that Pharaoh’s soul root was higher than his own. Whereas Moses corresponds to the level of chochmah (wisdom), Pharaoh’s spiritual source is above chochmah, at the level of keter (the supernal crown).

Chasidut explains that chochmah (the sefirah of wisdom) is the first of the three intellectual powers of the psyche. It is the initial spark of consciousness that enters the psyche. In contrast, keter (the sefirah of crown) represents the unfathomable superconscious. It rests above the conscious mind like a crown that rests above the head.

Keter contains an inner dimension and an outer dimension, both of which sustain the conscious sefirot. Allegorically, keter is the underground source that sustains chochmah, which is like a spring flowing with water. The inner dimension of the crown gently nourishes the spring of wisdom drop by drop.

The outer dimension of keter is a chaotic powerhouse of energy. Accessing these energies is liable to bring down a deluge of destructive forces that one would do better to avoid.

Pharaoh drew his powers from the outer dimension of keter. Before God promised him special assistance, Moses was afraid to access this treacherous torrent. Once we are aware that God is with us, we need not fear even the most powerful forces, even those that lie un-accessed in the innermost depths of our souls.

A Meeting of Reptiles

The Egyptian riverside is infested with a multitude of reptiles: turtles, lizards, snakes, and crocodiles. In the two Torah portions that precede Parashat Bo, on one occasion Moses’ staff turned into a serpent (and Moses fled from it)[4] and on a second occasion, Aaron’s staff became a tanin reptile.[5] In the Torah account of creation, Rashi associates the great taninim with the leviathan.[6] These reptiles are thus interchangeable. By meditating on these different creatures, we can develop our understanding of Pharaoh’s power and comprehend why Moses feared it.

“On that day God will visit with His harsh and great and strong sword upon the leviathan lock-serpent and upon the leviathan warped-serpent and He shall kill the tanin in the ocean.”[7] The “leviathan lock-serpent” is straight, like a lock that passes from one side through the other. The “leviathan warped-serpent” is coiled around until its tail is in its mouth.[8] This pair of reptiles is associated with the basic Kabbalistic pair of igulim (“circles”) and yosher (“straightness”). The circles represent the cyclic world of nature as a closed system that never produces new energy, as dictated by the law of energy conservation. The line represents the light of Torah and mitzvot, which constantly generate new energy.

The ancient nations of the world were well-versed in mathematics, and the Egyptian wise men were particularly renowned for their knowledge of the natural world.[9] Pharaoh represents the cyclical form of natural philosophy. He is the “leviathan warped-serpent,” the great reptile of Egypt. He worships the powers of nature and attempts to identify himself with them, claiming, “Mine is my river and I have made myself.”[10] Pharaoh recognizes the power of nature as God. This is reflected in the numerical value of the Divine Name, Elokim (אֱ־לֹהִים), which is 86, the numerical value of “nature” (הַטֶבַע). He is not prepared to acknowledge God’s Essential Name, Havayah. This Name relates to God’s power to override the laws of nature and control it as He wills.

Although Pharaoh’s perception is false, it is rooted in a high spiritual level at which the Almighty appears to the world by the power of the circle. Within the sefirot, this corresponds to the keter (the sefirah of crown), which circumscribes the head.

Moses represents the Torah, which is the straight line that runs directly through the cycles of nature. Unlike a circle, on which every point is identical, a line has a distinct beginning and an end. Philosophically, a line is a progressive scale that begins at one extreme and ends at another. The two extremes can be good or evil, permitted or forbidden, holy or secular, pure or profane. The top of the line and the bottom represent two contradictory options. This is where freedom of choice comes into play.

The line begins with chochmah (the sefirah of wisdom) and descends through all the sefirot that follow. Moses thus represents the “leviathan lock-serpent”—the initial ray of Divine revelation that descends level by level to penetrate the lowest levels of reality.

A Geometry Lesson

When God told Moses to come to Pharaoh, He told him to pierce through the circle with his line and draw the diameter of the circle. The ratio between the diameter and the circumference of the circle is pi (π), as we know. Pi is a transcendental number, meaning that it cannot be expressed as a fraction. It is approximately equal to 3.14. Mathematicians today try to outdo each other in calculating miles and miles (literally!) of digits after the decimal point. So, as easy as it is to draw the diameter through a circle, the greatest mathematicians have found no simple formula to describe the exact ratio between the circle, the warped serpent, and the line, the lock-serpent.

This mathematical phenomenon reflects a profound truth that underlies all of creation. On the one hand, the world is cyclic, and on the other hand, there is a direct path that cuts through the circles. Despite their proximity, we can never quite fathom the quantum leap required to connect the laws of the natural world with the Torah and Divine revelation. This is the secret of pi. It is this mystery that God transmitted to Moses when He accompanied him to Pharaoh.

It all began with the first sign that God showed Moses as he set out on his mission. His staff turned into a serpent and Moses fled from it. God told him to grab it by its tail and the serpent became a staff once more.[11] The cyclic nature of reality seems intimidating at first, but to defeat its suffocating clasp, we can and must take hold of it to reveal how it too is a revelation of God’s direct light.

Moses was apprehensive about a head-on collision with Pharaoh. He was afraid of being captured in the suffocating cyclic figure of the “warped serpent.” Once he knew that Divine assistance accompanied him, he successfully infiltrated Pharaoh’s domain. He penetrated the cyclic forces of nature with his straight line until Pharaoh’s circular crown rested snugly upon Moses’ upright head.[12]

 

Second Reading: Seeing in the Dark

“They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days; and for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings.”

 

The ten plagues of Egypt came to subdue those soul forces that are incapable of recognizing the inner reality of Havayah, God’s essential Name. Kabbalah explains that the plagues correspond to the order of the sefirot from the bottom up: The first plague, blood, corresponds to the sefirah of kingdom of the kelipah—the realm of the impure. The second plague, frogs, corresponds to the sefirah of foundation of the kelipah, and so on. The ninth plague, darkness, corresponds to the sefirah of wisdom of the kelipah.

Each plague is a reproof and serves a double purpose—both to reproach the Egyptians and to make them admit or acknowledge the truth. Whenever we speak of reproof or moral judgment, we are also aiming for intellectual proof to convince the one we are reproving. However, at least initially, there is a kelipah that prevents the truth from penetrating, therefore it is necessary to first criticize and enter the kelipah, before it can be cracked and subdued.

Following this strategy, Pharaoh is struck with Ten Plagues that subdue the ten faculties of his soul, which in their present state, prevent the truth from penetrating his mind and prove to him the reality of the inner and essential Name, the Name Havayah, and as we saw at the beginning of the parashah “Egypt will know that I am Havayah.”[13]

The Dark Wisdom of Egypt

We still want to know what the darkness was all about. During the time that the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, there indeed was wisdom in Egypt. In fact, in those times, Egypt possessed the pinnacle of all human wisdom—the science of the times. The purpose of the plague of Darkness was to demonstrate to the Egyptians (and to the Israelites) that all of Egypt’s scientific wisdom was nothing but complete darkness.

In fact, it was such heavy and tangible darkness that the sages say: If you were sitting, you could not stand up, and if you were standing, you could not sit; the darkness completely binds you. It was impossible to move because of the darkness, “there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days: they did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days.”[14]

The sages state that one should “believe that there is wisdom among the nations”[15] (חָכְמָה בַּגּוֹיִם תַּאֲמִין), but there is no Torah. God wanted to show the Israelites that even though the Egyptians possessed wisdom, living according to this wisdom was like living in darkness. While the wisdom of Egypt is actually darkness, double and redoubled darkness, “for all the children of Israel there was light in their dwellings.”[16] What does this mean?

Borrowing From Science to Serve God

The sages explain that not only did the Israelites have light in the land of Goshen—“their dwellings”—they had light everywhere in Egypt. Furthermore, and most importantly, the midrash writes that during the plague of darkness, “An Israelite would enter the home of an Egyptian and could search and see all his belongings.” The Egyptians could not move because of the darkness and certainly could not see the Israelites. The Israelites then took advantage of their knowledge of the Egyptian’s possessions and before being freed from their slavery in Egypt, they asked the Egyptians to borrow their belongings. If the Egyptian would say, “I do not have it,” the Israelite would reply, “I know that you have it, and it is hidden inside your box,” or “it is in such and such a place, I saw it in your hand.” The Egyptians had no choice but to lend the Israelites their belongings which they then took as payment for their years of slavery.

Symbolically, this teaches us that even though Egyptian wisdom was dark, a Jew can illuminate it from within. We learn that we must indeed delve into science, seriously delve. We cannot be satisfied with the light in our own home—the light in the Torah study hall. We must wander among the wise Egyptians and there see all the treasures of “wisdom among the nations.” They themselves are paralyzed by the darkness of their science, but we can wander freely and see all the treasures and ask them to borrow these treasures. From them, from the scientific truths, we subsequently learn how to serve the Almighty.

Taking principles from the impure that can aid in serving God is alluded to in the aftermath of the plague of darkness (already in the third reading of our parashah). There Moses tells Pharaoh, “You yourself must also provide us with sacrifices and burnt offerings to offer up to our God…. for from them we will take what we need to serve Havayah our God”[17] (גַּם־אַתָּה תִּתֵּן בְּיָדֵנוּ זְבָחִים וְעֹלוֹת…. כִּי מִמֶּנּוּ נִקַּח לַעֲבֹד אֶת הוי' אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ). The value of this phrase, “for from them we will take what we need to serve Havayah our God” (כִּי מִמֶּנּוּ נִקַּח לַעֲבֹד אֶת הוי' אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ) is 959, or 7 times 137, which means that the average value of each word (in Hebrew) is 137, the value of “Kabbalah” (or “reception”). From the nations we take the secret of learning how to be receivers, since the nations of the world, relative to the Jewish people are quintessential receivers meant to receive the light of the Torah’s wisdom from the Torah scholars. 959 is also the primordial value of “Abraham” (א אב אבגדהוזחטיכלמנסעפצקר אבגדה אבגדהוזחטיכלמ) who is known as “the father of many nations.”[18] Just the value of the final 5 words in this phrase, “we will take what we need to serve Havayah our God” (נִקַּח לַעֲבֹד אֶת הוי' אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ) is 793, known as “the remainder of the month” (שְׁאֵרִית חֹדֶשׁ),[19] the secret of the intercalation of the months of the year.

Illuminating Modern Science

Today the situation is the same. In the hands of the world, science, for all its success is darkness—it conceals the Almighty, it can be used as a tool to advance atheism. But when a Jew delves into science for the sake of extracting the “wisdom of the nations” and using it to serve God, even the paralyzing darkness of science can be illuminated. The Alter Rebbe writes in the Tanya[20] that we must learn how to use the wisdom of the nations “like a pickaxe to cut with them, that is, to earn a livelihood from them so that we may comfortably serve God, or to know how to use them for the service of God or His Torah.” This was, he writes, the intent of Maimonides and Nachmanides in their pursuit of the sciences of their time and this should be our intent when pursuing modern science.

 

(from Mivchar She’urei Hitbonenut, vol. 11, pp. 155-157)

 

 

Third Reading: Evil is the Seat of Good

“You yourself must also provide us with sacrifices and burnt offerings to offer up to our God…. for from them we will take what we need to serve Havayah our God.”

 

Our master, the Baal Shem Tov taught that “Evil is the seat of the good” (הָרַע כִּסֵּא לַטּוֹב). The deep purpose of evil is to elevate the good. But how exactly does this happen? We will now see three ways in which evil can elevate the good. Each of these ways corresponds to one of the three stages of true transformation also taught by the Ba’al Shem Tov: submission, separation, and sweetening.[21]

The first possibility is that when evil threatens us, it motivates us to repent. As the sages said, if the Jewish people do not repent, the Almighty places them under the rule of a wicked king like Haman until they repent. Thus, evil is used to bring us to submission before God, and once evil has fulfilled its role, there is no longer any need for it.

A second possibility is that evil sharpens our appreciation of the good. When we see wickedness at the height of its ugliness, we say with a whole heart, “Happy are we, for how good is our portion”[22] (אַשְׁרֵינוּ מַה טּוֹב חֶלְקֵנוּ). When everything is coasting along nicely, we usually cannot feel the joy and novelty that can be found in goodness. But when evil serves as a dark background, then the good shines and is emphasized, suggesting the adage from King Solomon, “the advantage of light derives from [i.e., can be appreciated when it is contrasted with] darkness”[23] (יתְרוֹן הָאוֹר מִן הַחֹשֶׁךְ). In this case, evil emphasizes how different the good is and so we say that it encourages our sense of separation—separating the good from the evil and embracing the good as Divine.

Yet, a third possibility is what Moses says to Pharaoh: “You yourself must also provide us with sacrifices and burnt offerings to offer up to our God…. for from them we will take what we need to serve Havayah our God.” Even from the most wicked, something can be taken for the service of God. For example, we learn from them how to act with desire and pleasure. Thus, it turns out that there is some sweetening of the evil that taught us how to be good.

(from Kumi Ori, pp. 236-238)

 

Fourth Reading: Identifying As a Ba’al Teshuvah

“And he left Pharaoh’s presence in hot anger”

 

Bo: A Slap in the Face

After Moses informed Pharaoh of the upcoming plague of the firstborn and the exodus from Egypt that would follow on its heels, the Torah says, “And he left Pharaoh’s presence in hot anger.”[24] In the Talmud,[25] Reish Lakish explains this verse in an extraordinary manner: “He slapped him and left.” Moses did not simply leave angrily. He drew near to Pharaoh, slapped him in the face, turned around, and left. Can you imagine that? Reish Lakish imagined it well enough, and apparently imagined himself doing it; otherwise, the source of his comment is not clear.

According to this explanation, Moses gradually gained more and more confidence and daring in the face of the evil Pharaoh until the grand finale—a stinging, categorical slap in the face. Now that Moses is free of the remnants of his apprehension of Pharaoh, Israel can leave Egypt.

In the Talmud, Rabbi Yochanan seems to disagree with Reish Lakish, saying that Moses should have shown “respect for the kingdom” from start to finish. But in our generation, a generation of ba’alei teshuvah, returnees to God, we can certainly identify with Reish Lakish, who was also a ba’al teshuvah. Reish Lakish understands that to defeat evil, we sometimes must give it a resounding slap in the face.

One of the most interesting and thought-provoking principles of gematria that we use is that in every Torah portion, there is a phrase whose numerical value is 913, the value of the Torah’s first word, “in the beginning” (בְּרֵאשִׁית). In parashat Bo, this phrase is “And he left Pharaoh’s presence in hot anger” (וַיֵּצֵא מֵעִם פַּרְעֹה בׇּחֳרִי אָף). We may surmise that the resounding slap to Pharaoh’s face signaled the beginning of the redemption.

Beyond Identity

An encounter with a gentile king does not touch on issues of identity. Moses’ identity as an Egyptian subject did not compete with his identity as a Jew. Nonetheless, it was difficult to ignore Pharaoh’s power. “If a king declares that he will uproot a mountain, he will uproot the mountain. He will never retract [his word]!”[26]

In the face of a king’s threats, we must summon up infinite willpower and defy him against all odds. This should be to such an extent that we are prepared for self-sacrifice. Having reached this level, we have already defeated our adversary. If he has no option but to carry out his threat, he becomes powerless over us. Even a simple Jew can tap into this infinite power of will. The despotic king can do nothing more than gnash his teeth.

 

(excerpted from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class of 21 Tevet, 5772)

 

 

Fifth Reading: A New World Order on Seder Night

“When your children ask you: What is the nature of this service…”

 

The Psychological Origin of the Four Sons’ Questions

When performing the mitzvah of, “You shall tell your son on that day”—the mitzvah that prompts us to sit together on the Seder night and retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt—the father must hone his message so that it will enter the hearts of all four sons described in the Haggadah. Each son asks his question in a different style, as it wells up from a different place in his psyche. In Hebrew, the word for 'question' (שְׁאֵלָה) does not refer only to a query. It also means a wish or desire.[27] The Four Sons of the Seder are expressing the depths of their souls with their questions. The father must open his own heart and receive their questions with sensitivity so that he can truly understand them both on the intellectual plane and connect to the existential stance concealed behind them. And then he must answer each of his children accordingly.

The wise son asks abstract, intellectual questions. Behind them lies an apprehension of the threats abounding in our material reality. The wise son is also requesting that his father guide him out of his abstract, spiritual world and into action to rectify the lower worlds.

The tam, the earnest/simpleton son expresses general wonder. Behind it is a desire for direct, simple guidance appropriate for him. He wants his father to help him negotiate the world, which is always full of surprises for him.

The wicked son asks with insolence, “What is this service to you?” Behind his question lies an aspiration for others to recognize his personal reality. More deeply, his question expresses his need to belong. He is asking his father to help him emerge from his egocentric, lonely, and conflicted existence and connect to the Congregation of Israel and its supernal source.

But what is concealed behind the silence of the son who does not know how to ask questions?

The Beinoni at the Seder

To understand the son who does not know how to ask, we need to place him in context. The Arizal explains that the son who does not know how to ask belongs to the World of Formation. This is the place of the beinoni, the intermediate individual described in Tanya, who is always in the throes of battle between his good and evil inclinations—his animal and Divine souls. The Alter Rebbe says that the “state of the beinoni is the state of every person.”[28] In that case, we are all the son who does not know how to ask.

A person who attempts to avoid conflict in his inner battle between his two inclinations is liable to enter a state of paralysis. He knows the limits of his intellect and therefore does not allow himself to ask intellectual questions out of a latent fear that a new insight will also require him to see things in a new light and will require him to commit to new things). On the other hand, he fears that all his desires are nothing more than an expression of his evil inclination. Deep down, he doesn’t even know what he truly wants.

The Ba’al Teshuvah

In our generation, the beinoni is also the ba’al teshuvah, the returnee to religious observance, who does not know where to begin to ask. He wants to come closer to God, but he doesn’t even know what he is missing, what he should be searching for, and what he needs to rectify.

The Haggadah directs us to “open up” this child who does not know how to ask questions. The hardening of the heart, the apathy, or the confusion that result in a lack of questions leave him stuck in his place.  The entire Exodus from Egypt depends upon a process of questions and answers. Even the insolent question of the wicked son is better than no question at all. The father must open his son’s heart, arouse his interest and his willingness to ask questions. After he has managed to arouse him to ask, he will be able to answer each specific question.

Inter-inclusion

From a narrow perspective, all four sons are inter-included in each of them. This can be seen by noting that the Haggadah enumerates the sons as one who is wise, one who is wicked, one who is earnest, and one who does not know how to ask. The value of the word “one” (אֶחָד) is 13 and 4 times “one” equals 52, the value of “son” (בֵּן). Four sons in each son. Four sons in every one of us. From a wider perspective, the four sons reflect all of humanity—from the wise and sincerely earnest to the wicked and the apathetic. With the questions and answers of the Seder (Seder means ‘order’) night, we are creating a new world order in our souls and in the entire world.

(from Wonders Issue 20, Pesach 5782)

 

Sixth Reading: God’s Name – “Hosts”

“On this very day, all the hosts of God departed the land of Egypt”

 

A new generation, a new Name

“On this very day, all the hosts of God departed the land of Egypt.”[29] Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi explains[30] that this is the first time the word “hosts” (צִבְאוֹת) appears in the Torah. A few centuries later, this word would become a Name of God used extensively by the Prophets, most notably by the last prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The first individual that used this word as a sacred Name for the Almighty was Channah,[31] the mother of Samuel the prophet. In her famous prayer, she addressed God with the title, “Havayah of Hosts” (הוי' צְבָאוֹת), conjoining God’s essential four-letter Name, the Tetragrammaton, with this Name. From a halachic point of view, the Name “Hosts” is one of the seven sacred Names of God that may not be erased.[32]

Rabbi Shneur Zalman writes[33] that the Name “Hosts” acts to reveal the infinite aspect of God that is prevalent in the World of Emanation within the spiritual entities—souls and angels—who possess the type of consciousness found in the three lower worlds, Creation, Formation, and Action. As such, we learn that the Name Hosts is what the Maggid of Mezritch was referring to when he famously stated, “Atizlut [Emanation] is also here.” The difference between the consciousness of Emanation and that of the three lower worlds is in the degree to which consciousness is separate from Divinity. In Emanation there is no separate consciousness, and all consciousness is Divine. In the three lower worlds, there are increasing degrees of separation.

The sages explain that the Name Hosts is related to letters.[34] Indeed, the reduced number value of Hosts (צְבָאוֹת) is 22, the number of letters in the Hebrew aleph-bet.

Havayah of Hosts, Elokim of Hosts

In Kabbalah, the Name “Hosts” is associated with the sefirot victory (netzach) and acknowledgment (hod), which in Chasidut are identified as the seat of active and passive confidence in God, respectively. Victory is on the right and is considered a relatively masculine faculty (“He is in victory”[35]), while acknowledgment is on the left and relatively feminine (“She is in acknowledgment”). These two sefirot are described in the Zohar as being “outside the body,” an allusion to Rabbi Shneur Zalman’s explanation that this Name extends from the World of Emanation and enters the three lower Worlds.

In particular, the conjunction “Havayah of Hosts” (הוי' צְבָאוֹת) relates to the relatively masculine faculty of victory, whereas the conjunction “Elokim of Hosts” (א-להים צְבָאוֹת) relates to the relatively feminine faculty of acknowledgment. In our mathematical analysis for parashat Shemot we spoke of the concept of pairs of terms or personas in Torah whose values are multiples of 13 and 7, indicating a masculine-feminine relationship. And yet, here we have an opposite example:

The value of “Havayah of Hosts” (הוי' צְבָאוֹת), associated with the masculine victory, is 525, which is the product of 7 and 75, indicating that it is the feminine side of the pair. The value of “Elokim of Hosts” (אֱ־לֹהִים צְבָאוֹת) is 585 (the value of Shifrah, whom we saw in parashat Shemot), which is the product of 13 and 45, indicating that is the masculine half of the pair. This is an example of what is known in Kabbalah as, “Trading Places” (אחליפו דוכתייהו), where the right and left exchange locations (a similar phenomenon is known to occur in genetics, where genes are exchanged between chromosomes).

The Complete Name of Hosts

There are four instances (all in Psalms) in which both Havayah and Elokim are conjoined with the Name Hosts. The first instance is in the phrase, “And You, O’ Havayah Elokim of Hosts, bestir Yourself [to bring all nations to account; have no compassion on any treacherous villains, forever]“[36] (וְאַתָּה הוי' אֱ־לֹהִים צְבָאוֹת אֱ־לֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הָקִיצָה [לִפְקֹד כָּל הַגּוֹיִם אַל תָּחֹן כָּל בֹּגְדֵי אָוֶן סֶלָה]). The value of this phrase is 1820, the number of instances the Name Havayah appears in the Pentateuch and the product of 70 [faces of Torah interpretation] and 26 [the value of Havayah, הוי'].

The words in this phrase can be divided into two multiples of Havayah by skipping words. The first skip which consists of the four words, וְאַתָּה אֱ־לֹהִים אֱ־לֹהֵי הָקִיצָה, equals 754, or 26 times 29. The second skip which consists of the three words, הוי' צְבָאוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל, equals 1066, or 26 times 41. Looking at this division, we might notice that the square of 29 is the midpoint of the square of 41. The reason for this is that the square of 29, or 841, is also the interface number of 21, which is the sum of the two squares of 21 and 20, but, 21 plus 20 equals 41.

Pairs of 7 and 13 in God’s Names

Let us return to the interesting case of “Trading Places” we saw above between the two conjoinings of Hosts with Havayah and Elokim. Among the Names of God, the two that form a masculine-feminine or 13-7 pair, the most straightforward are Havayah (הוי') and Ekyeh (אֶ־הְיֶה). Havayah is 26, or 13 times 2 and Ekyeh is 21, or 7 times 3. We have already seen that the value when Havayah conjoins with Hosts is 525, which thereby turns Havayah from a multiple of 13 into a multiple of 7 (thus, trading places). What happens when we do the same for Ekyeh? We find that the value of “Ekyeh of Hosts” (אֶ־הְיֶה צְבָאוֹת) is 520, the product of 13 and 40. And so, here too, the masculine and feminine have traded places.

To generalize this phenomenon, we need to ask, what other numbers (apart from 499, the value of “Hosts”), when added to Havayah and to Ekyeh, will yield a multiple of 7 and a multiple of 13, respectively. The answer is that beginning with 44, every 91st number will repeat this phenomenon. So, for instance, 44 plus 26 (Havayah) is 70—a multiple of 7; and, 44 plus 21 (Ekyeh) is 65—a multiple of 13. The numbers are thus:

44, 135, 226, 317, 408, 499, …

Recall once again that 499 is the value of “Hosts” (צְבָאוֹת), which is why we have chosen to end the series here. The first number in the series, 44, is in Kabbalah the number that unifies the two Names, Havayah and Ekyeh. This is because the lowest possible value for a letter-filling of Havayah is יוד הא וו הא, which equals 44 and the “backside” of Ekyeh is א אה אהי אהיה, which also equals 44. In the Arizal’s writings, this is known as the mystery of blood (דם), whose value is also 44.

Another point we can glean from this series is that specific symmetric pairs of numbers are equal to “I will be what I will be”[37] (אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה), the full phrase and Name consisting of the Name Ekyeh, whose value is 543. 44 and 499 equal 543; 135 and 408 equal 543; and, 226 and 317 equal 543. We thus find that the sum of these first six numbers in the series is 3 times “I will be what I will be” (אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה).

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[1]. Zohar 2:34a.

[2]. Ezekiel 29:3.

[3]. Exodus 9:1.

[4]. Exodus 4:3.

[5]. Exodus 7:9.

[6]. Rashi, Genesis 1:21.

[7]. Isaiah 27:1.

[8]. See Baba Batra 74b and Rashbam ad loc.

[9]. Metzudat David on 1 Kings 5:10.

[10]. Ezekiel 29:3.

[11]       Exodus 4:3-4.

[12]       For more about pi and its relationship to time, see our book, 137: The Riddle of Creation, pp. 296-300.

[13]. Exodus 7:5.

[14]. Ibid. 10:23

[15]. Eichah Rabbah 2:13. See in length in our volume, Wisdom: Integrating Torah and Science.

[16]. Ibid.

[17]. Ibid. vv. 25-26.

[18]. Genesis 17:5.

[19]. Hilchot Kiddush HaChodesh 6:5.

[20]. Ch. 8.

[21]. Keter Shem Tov (Kehot edition), §28.

[22]. Morning prayers.

[23]. Ecclesiastes 2:13.

[24]. Exodus 11:8.

[25]. Zevachim 102a.

[26]. Bava Batra 3b.

[27]. See for instance Esther 5:6.

[28]. Tanya, ch. 14.

[29]. Exodus 12:41.

[30]. Torah Or, Bo, s.v. Be’etzem HaYom HaZeh (60a). See also the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s essay, “Bati Legani,” ch. 10.

[31]. Berachot 31a: “From the day God created the world, there was no one who called the Almighty “Hosts” until Channah….”

[32]. Shavu’ot 35a-b. Shulchan aruch Yoreh dei’ah 276:9.

[33]. In his essay, Bati Legani from 10 Shevat 5740 (§7), the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, in the name of the Tzemach Tzedek, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, that this is Rabbi Shneur Zalman’s innovation, as it does not appear in the Arizal’s teachings.

[34]. See Chagigah 16a and Tikkunei Zohar, 70, “He is a sign [אות, which also means 'letter'] in His myriads.” See also Torah or Vayeishev s.v. Veshavti.

[35]. Zohar.

[36]. Psalms 59:6.

[37]. Exodus 3:14.

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