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Parashat Va’eira: Aliyah by Aliyah

First Reading: Four and Seven Idioms of Redemption

“I will therefore free you… I will save you… I will redeem you… I will take you… I will be your God… You shall know… I will bring you to the land…”

 

One of the foundations of the Seder is the four Idioms of Redemption: “I will free you… I will save you… I will redeem you… I will take you”[1] (וְהוֹצֵאתִי וְהִצַּלְתִּי וְגָאַלְתִּי וְלָקַחְתִּי). These four idioms are all verbs and are represented by the four cups of wine we drink during the Seder. There is an opinion in the Talmud that there is a fifth idiom, “I will bring you to the land”[2] (וְהֵבֵאתִי), which was the reason for the Maharal (and others) to drink a fifth cup of wine at the Seder.

Now let us look at the structure. The first three idioms appear together in the same verse (v. 6), while the fourth and fifth idioms are in two separate verses (7 and 8). But in the fourth idiom’s verse, there appear two additional verbs related to the goal of the Exodus: “I will be your God” (וְהָיִיתִי לָכֶם לֵא-לֹהִים) and “You shall know that I am Havayah your God” (וִידַעְתֶּם כִּי אֲנִי הוי' אֱ-לֹהֵיכֶם). The most important goal appears in the final verse of this group: “I will give it [the land] to you as a heritage, I am God” (וְנָתַתִּי אֹתָהּ לָכֶם לְמוֹרָשָׁה אֲנִי הוי'). Incidentally, the value of these words is exactly 2000, alluding to the Torah’s first letter—a large letter beit—whose value is said to be 2000, indicating that the purpose of creation is giving the Land of Israel to the Jewish people.[3]

The First Commandment

The Ra’aya Mehemna, the part of the Zohar that focuses on the Torah’s commandments, learns from this that the first commandment we received, even before leaving Egypt, is to know God, “You shall know that I am Havayah your God.”[4] The Zohar explains that there are two aspects to knowing God, knowing God in general and knowing God specifically.[5] Without knowing God in a general manner, i.e., knowing that God is supreme above all creation and controls all, there is no point for Moses to perform miracles, because one might think that it is either a natural phenomenon or an act of sorcery.

This is very relevant in our age. Even though we have experienced so many miracles in the Land of Israel, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe would say, literally a miracle every moment, still they have not made the impact they should because they are not recognized as miracles. We are lacking even this general knowledge of God.

Still, the final goal is to know God not in this general sense, but in a particular and specific manner. The Zohar says that this last stage of knowing God was only attained at the end of the 40 years in the wilderness, when God gave us a knowing heart. It learns this from the verse, “You shall know today and insert into your heart that Havayah is God in the heavens above and on the earth below, there is none other.”[6] Bringing knowledge of God into the heart in this manner constitutes the particular aspect of the commandment to know God. The purpose of the entire Torah and the commandments is to bring a person to this particular knowledge.

Knowing God According to the Rambam

In his commentary on the Zohar, the Rebbe’s father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneersohn, writes that this verse we are studying, “You shall know that I am Havayah your God” constitutes a nearly explicit source for the Rambam’s understanding of Torah. The Rambam begins his book with the words, “The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a Primary Being who brought into being all existence.”[7] This, as we said, is the commandment to have general knowledge of God. Then comes the entire Mishneh Torah, his central corpus detailing all the Torah’s laws. But it all leads up to the closing words describing the Messianic era:

In that era, there will be neither famine or war, envy, or competition for good will flow in abundance and all the delights will be freely available as dust. The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know God.

Therefore, the Jews will be great sages and know the hidden matters, grasping the knowledge of their Creator according to the full extent of human potential, as Isaiah 11:9 states: “The world will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the ocean bed.”[8]

The description he ends with is knowledge of God in a particular manner. The book begins with knowledge and ends with knowledge, but the opening refers to the mitzvot in the book that are in between these two aspects of knowing God.

Rebbe Levik dwells on the following point. The Raaya Meheimna says a few words about what it means to know God in general and from these words we can understand some of what it means to know God in particular. Just as the Rambam, after the first chapter where he acknowledges the need to know God in general,  adds a few words about the workings of nature, which are still general, but allow us to understand how God appears in some of the particulars.

Seven Idioms of Redemption

Now, returning to the verses we have been discussing from the first reading of Va’eira, since they contain altogether 7 verbs or “idioms” of redemption, we can say that there are 7 stages to the redemption (not just 4 or 5, as normally enumerated). When only 4 or 5 stages are identified, they are corresponded to the letters of Havayah from below to above.[9] But now if we consider 7 stages of redemption, we should correspond them to the emotive powers, from above to below.

 

might

“I will save” (וְהִצַּלְתִּי)

loving-kindness

“I will free” (וְהוֹצֵאתִי)

 

beauty

“I will redeem” (וְגָאַלְתִּי)

acknowledgement

“I will be” (וְהָיִיתִי)

victory

“I will take” (וְלָקַחְתִּי)

 

foundation

“You will know” (וִידַעְתֶּם)

 

kingdom

“I will bring” (וְהֵבֵאתִי)

 

Let us spend a few moments explaining this model. “I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians” is the essence of the Exodus and demonstrates God’s loving kindness towards us. God says “I will save you”—“with an outstretched arm and with great chastisements” clearly demonstrate a rectified power of might. Next, “I will redeem you,” which corresponds to the sefirah of beauty (tiferet) exemplifies the principle that the mother principle, i.e., the sefirah of understanding associated with redemption, extends (through its foundation) down to beauty and is there revealed.

The next two idioms both describe the relationship that will form between the Almighty and the people and thus correspond nicely to victory and acknowledgement which are considered two sides of one body. “I will take you” is the active verb, thus corresponding to victory (netzach) and “I will be your God,” which is passive, corresponds to acknowledgment (hod).

The idiom, “You shall know that I am Havayah your God” corresponds to the sefirah of foundation. Foundation is known as the “general principle”[10] (כֹּל). This beautifully corresponds with the Zohar’s explanation that these words refer to the general principle of faith in God. Finally, the correspondence between “I will bring you to the land [of Israel]” and kingdom is very clear since the land is always associated with the sefirah of kingdom.

(from a class given on the 22nd of Tevet 5772)

 

Second Reading: The Origins of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe

“The sons of Shimon were… and Saul the son of the Canaanite woman”

 

Who Is Saul the Son of the Canaanite Woman?

In the Book of Numbers, we read about the incident of the Midianite women who were sent to seduce the Israelites. The worst atrocity was performed by the chieftain of the Tribe of Shimon, Zimri ben Salu, who communed with a Midianite princess by the name of Cozbi bat Tzur. Zimri in his insolence, made a public spectacle of his sin. It took the zealotry of Pinchas, the grandson of Aharon the High Priest, to end Zimri and Cozbi’s life and discontinue God’s anger at the people.

Who exactly was Zimri ben Salu the chieftain? Surprisingly, his name is not mentioned among the chieftains of the tribes appearing several times earlier. The sages tell us that he actually had 5 (or 6) different names,[11] many of them connotations. His real name was Shlumiel ben Tzurishadai (שְׁלֻמִיאֵל בֶּן צוּרִישַׁדָּי), the chieftain of the Tribe of Shimon.[12] His other names are Zimri, ben Salu, Saul, and the son of the Canaanite woman.

Notice that his father’s name, Tzurishadai (צוּרִישַׁדָּי) begins exactly like the name of Cozbi’s father, Tzur, one of the five princes of Midian; Tzur was the prince of impurity.

Now, according to the sages, that he is Saul, the son of the Canaanite woman and the son of Jacob’s son, Shimon, he must have been about 250 years old when the incident with the Midianite women occurred. A very energetic old man

The Reincarnations of Cozbi

The sages also reveal that Cozbi was not the Midianite princess’s real name. It was Shevilnai (שֶׁוִּילְנָאִי). The Arizal writes that Cozbi came to rectify the first Eve, Adam’s first wife, who is not mentioned explicitly in the Torah. The first Eve was not from Adam’s body—from his bone—so he could not say about her that “this one is a bone from my bones” (זֹאת הַפַּעַם עֶצֶם מֵעֲצָמַי). In fact, she was created independently of Adam. Ultimately, she became Lili[th],[13] who was banished to live outside places of human settlement, in the fields, between the rods on the banks of lakes. Cozbi is identified with Lilith herself, she lives on the banks of lakes. Lilith (לילית) is equal to “tambourine” (תֹּף). There are women who play the tambourine. The woman most associated with a tambourine is Miriam, Moses’ sister, as it says, “Miriam took the tambourine in her hand and led all the women in song.”[14] She held the tambourine and made it into an instrument of holiness. With her tambourine, she rectified Cozbi fully. In fact, all the women mentioned in parashat Pinchas contributed something to the rectification of Cozbi.

According to the Arizal, Cozbi’s rectification passes through several incarnations. The first incarnation was Lili-th, the first Eve. It then proceeds to Amatlai, Abraham’s mother. Then it continues with Dinah, the daughter of Leah (and Jacob). Like her mother, Dinah was “outgoing,” but not in as completely a holy way as her mother. She has some blemishes that still remained from the first Eve and from Amatlai, Terach’s wife, who was not holy.[15] It is from Dinah that Saul, the son of the Canaanite, was born.

Zimri and Cozbi as Archetypes

All discussion of reincarnations views figures as archetypal principles. This is true of the reincarnation lineages we have seen, as well as Zimri and Cozbi as individuals. Zimri’s name clearly relates to singing. In fact, we recognize Zimri as the archetype of all the rock singers in the world, especially the most famous one, whom we won’t mention fully by name. Let us say though that only recently it was discovered that he was Jewish. In fact, only recently his 35th yahrzeit was noted; he died at the age of 42. His connotation, Salu, reminds us of a solo performance. And so, Zimri reaches our generation in this particular reincarnation.

If Zimri is the most famous of all rock singers, then who is Cozbi bat Tzur in our generation? She is the most famous woman in the modern world, the one who died at the age of 36, and towards the end of her life she converted. This woman became the archetype of all the famous women—models and actresses. It seems that this couple has not yet completed their rectification. But we now know that he was Jewish from birth, and she converted (though a Reform conversion, which doesn’t really have any halachic validity). Still, after divorcing her Jewish husband, she continued to identify herself with Judaism.

About her we find the verse, “And I find more bitter (מַר) than death the woman who is snares, whose heart is traps, whose arms are chains. He who is pleasing to God escapes her, but the sinner is caught by her.”[16] The two main letters of both her first and second names is Mar (מַר), like “bitter.” These are also the middle letters of Zimri (זִמְרִי). The final letters of “Zimri ben Salu” (זִמְרִי בֶּן סָלוּא), spell the word “I,” or “ego” (אֲנִי). The final letters of Cozbi bat Tzur (כָּזְבִּי בַּת צוֹר) equal 10 times “I” (אֲנִי).

Incredibly, the Arizal goes on to state that the most important historical rectification of Zimri and Cozbi were Rabbi Akiva and the wife of Tineius Rufus (טוֹרְנוּסְרוּפוּס), who after her Roman husband died, converted and ended up marrying Rabbi Akiva.[17]

(from a class given on the 19th of Tammuz 5773)

 

Third Reading: Creation, the Plagues, and Torah

“I will then stretch forth My arm over Egypt… bringing great chastisements. The Egyptians will recognize that I am God, when I raise My hand over Egypt”

 

Parashat Va’eira describes the first 7 of the 10 plagues with which the Almighty smote the Egyptians. The number 10 is well-known to be linked with some of the most important concepts in the Torah. The number 10 is associated with holiness, as the verse states in reference to the commandment of tithing one’s flocks, “The tenth will be sanctified.”[18] Based on two other verses that mention the word “congregation” (עֵדָה), the sages learn that a gathering of 10 Jews constitutes a quorum for holiness.

So, when searching for the most important (or well-known) 10’s in the Torah we find that there are 3 such sets of 10 items.

The 10 Commandments, the 10 Sayings of Creation, the 10 Plagues

Undoubtedly, the most important set of 10 in the Torah are the Ten Commandments, given to the Jewish people at the climax of the Exodus of Egypt and first described in parashat Yitro (they are enumerated a second time in parashat Va’etchanan in the Book of Deuteronomy)

Another most important set of 10 in the Torah is the Ten Sayings of creation. God created the world by speech, as it were. Describing creation as an act of Divine speech is a very powerful image discussed in length in various commentaries and especially in Kabbalistic and Chassidic writings, but even before explaining what exactly Divine speech might be, the sages note that there are 10 instances in Genesis where God is found to speak; verses that contain the words, “God said” (וַיֹּאמֶר אֱ־לֹהִים).  The first explicit saying (or utterance, as it is sometimes called) is found in the very first act of creation, “God said, ‘Let there be light.’”[19]

Even though there are 10 sayings, the first one, according to the sages is the very first word of the Torah, “Bereishit” (בְּרֵאשִׁית). Obviously, unlike the next 9 sayings, this one is not explicit. Still, the first word is considered a saying adding another dimension to the notion of what God’s speech might be. In any case, the world was created with 10 sayings.

The third set of 10 in the Torah, which plays a central role as an intermediate between creation and the giving of the Torah, are the plagues with which God smote the Egyptians. One of the principles of the realm of holiness is that whenever two concepts are opposite, connecting them requires an intermediate. In the case of Creation and the Giving of the Torah, both in terms of narrative and in conceptual terms (as we shall see), it is the 10 plagues that act as an intermediate between them. Let us see how.

With the 10 sayings of Creation, God created nature. The Ba’al Shem Tov teaches us that one of the purposes of meditating or contemplating the wonders of nature is to help us reach a state of equality with all that was created. The sages divide all creation into four kingdoms: the mineral kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, the animal kingdom, and the human beings. But, even though human beings are the highest kingdom of creation, as part of nature, we are merely another type of creature created by God, and relative to God Himself, we are just as important as anything else that was created. Upon contemplating God’s wonders revealed in Creation, a human being is meant to reach a state of existential equality with everything else. The Ba’al Shem Tov would say that I, the human being, and the ant, or the plant or whatever else exists in creation, we are all equal. We are all God’s creatures, and all enjoy the same reason for our being. In this sense, we are all at the same level and were created with a single purpose, a universal purpose that is true of everything created: to serve God.

Every creature, every part of creation serves God to the best of its ability. In this sense not only is man not higher than any other creature, but because we have free choice, we can be worse than the ant, or the plant, or the rock, because they would never act contrary to the will of the Creator, but it is no secret that man does do so.

To put it more experientially, meditating upon the 10 sayings of creation helps us attain a state of complete humility. This state can also be described as an experience of submission, (הַכְנָעָה) before the Creator and all of creation. Humility and submission are experienced when we realize that the one, common denominator of everything that God created, is to glorify or honor the Creator. In this sense, we are all equal. In fact, the sages add that since man was created last, in a certain sense, he is the lowest level of creation. The simple reasoning is that if we see creation as following a course of causality then whatever is created first is a cause for that which comes after it and the cause is always higher than that which is caused. So even though we usually view the six days of creation as related to one another like rungs on the ladder of complexity, with the simplest parts coming first and the most complex last, when viewing it as a series of causal events, man being the last creature to be created owes his existence to everything that preceded him.[20]

The 10 Commandments stand on the opposite side of creation. If creation served to conceal the Almighty, then the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, beginning with the 10 Commandments, serves as the absolute revelation of God. Before God spoke the 10 Commandments, there was a heavenly decree that the spiritual and mundane realities should not mix. More importantly, physical reality could not be rectified permanently without the medium of Divine commandments. So even though the Patriarchs had dedicated their lives to serving God and seemed to make tremendous headway in rectifying their surroundings, the change was temporary, most of it becoming inconsequential after a short period, with people and reality falling back to their negative behavior and habits.

But, all that changed with the giving of the Torah. The 10 Commandments begin with the word, Anochi [I], “I am God your God, who has taken you out of the Land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” As such the 10 Commandments are entirely a revelation of “Anochi,” which the sages read as, “Anochi mee she’anochi,” “I am that which I am,” the essence of God. In all 10 Commandments, God Himself is revealing His prescription for healing the world. When the Torah was given to Israel, the heavens opened and it was God’s very essence that was revealed.

How do the 10 plagues act as an intermediary between the 10 sayings of creation and God’s revelation at Mt. Sinai with the 10 Commandments? The 10 plagues create a separation, a distinction. We said that by meditating on the secrets of creation, we come to the realization that everything in the world is equal. Everything is standing on an equal base. But the 10 plagues are the first time in history that God reveals to the world that there is an inherent distinction between souls; that it is a good thing to take an Egyptian soul, which represents negativity in the world and smite that negativity in order to heal the positive Divine soul of Israel and to create a Jewish entity.

On the face of it, the 10 plagues were merely the Almighty’s instrument that allowed us to leave Egypt. But actually, they acted on many levels at the same time. When Isaiah describes the plagues, he says, “And God smote Egypt; He smote and He healed, and they returned to God, and He answered their prayers and healed them.”[21] The plagues not only smote the Egyptian preparing them to release the Jewish people, they also healed the Jewish people themselves, bringing them closer to God, convincing them that God hears prayers, and most importantly perhaps, they made the souls of the Jewish people ready and able to leave their slave mentality to become a free and liberated nation. Most importantly, they acted to separate the Jewish people from the Egyptians. Throughout the description of the plagues, the Jews are constantly being segregated from their Egyptian masters, the plagues at one and the same time smiting the masters and healing the slaves.

Thus, the 10 plagues are a stage of “separation” that follows “submission” [the 10 sayings of creation] and is followed by a stage of “sweetening” [the absolute revelation of God with the 10 Commandments]. The Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of Chasidut taught that any true process, be it spiritual or psychological, must pass through these three stages: submission, separation, and sweetening.

The separation stage is always an intermediate stage between the submission stage and the sweetening stage. When God is revealed, all of reality becomes sweet. The message in the Torah relating how God created the world, is that we are all equal. There is no difference between any of God's creatures as everything was created by the same Creator and everything’s common purpose is to fulfill His will, equally.

But, the fact that there is a separation between souls, as revealed by the plagues, is a novelty, that is something new. The separation is necessary in order to ultimately achieve the sweetening of the 10 Commandments, the giving of the Torah to Israel.

 

(from a class given on 19th of Tevet, 5771)

 

Fourth Reading: The Ten Plagues and the Morning Blessings

 

In Chassidic thought[22] it is explained that every day we are entrusted with the task of afflicting our evil inclination with the same Ten Plagues that God afflicted the Egyptians with. From the moment we wake up, when we recite the Modeh Ani and with the washing of our hands, getting ready for davening (the morning prayers) all the way to the Amidah and then to Nefilat Apayim we are elevating and drawing closer to Hashem.

Thus, the morning is the time of day during which we are in a sense coming out of our own personal Egypt, every day and in each generation. Each stage of prayer is like another plague upon our evil inclination that sets us more and more free and lets us grow nearer and nearer to Hashem. So let us see how our prayer service every morning corresponds with the 10 plagues, allowing us to free ourselves from our own inner Pharaoh and cling to God. We should note that it is very fitting to deal with this topic at the end of the month of Tevet whose sense is the sense of anger (at the evil inclination).

The Ten Plagues parallel ten stages of the Morning Prayer. The more that we truly serve God, the more that these parallel plagues descend upon the heads of the malevolent husks. Let us review them very briefly:

First, Aaron’s staff swallowed up the staffs of the magicians. A staff, mateh, shares a root with netiyah, “propensity.” When we get up in the morning, we must exert our initial propensity (netiyah) for holiness over our propensity for other things. This is what we do when we recite the Modeh Ani prayer.

The plague of blood parallels preparation for prayer, beginning with the Tikun Chatzot prayer at midnight and through the recital of the Offerings. One should feel that he is spilling his blood before God, experiencing bitterness over his sins and distance from God. Then we repent and return to Him.

The plague of frogs parallels the verses of praise in which we sing to God like frogs, which never stop croaking.

The plague of lice parallels the blessing of “Yotzer Or.” When we direct our thoughts to how the angels praise God, it clears our minds (cleans our heads of lice) of all the foolishness that digs into our brains like lice.

The plague of wild animals (arov) parallels the “Shema Yisrael” prayer. When we declare the Unity of God, it nullifies the evil intermixing (irbuvyah, same root as arov) in the world. Everything becomes nullified and included in God’s Unity.

The plague of livestock disease parallels “And you shall love God…with all your soul (nafshecha).” The meaning of nefesh (soul), is will. When we give all our will to God, nullifying our will to His will, this becomes a positive strike upon all of our mikneh, which means livestock and also shares a root with kinyanim, our possessions.

The plague of boils corresponds to “with all your soul” (nafshecha). “Soul” also means oneg, or pleasure. We give all our sense of pleasure to God because the nega (an affliction) of boils is the opposite of oneg (pleasure, written with the same letters as nega).

The plague of hail parallels “with all of your might” (me’odecha). When we said “with all your soul” we gave all our will and pleasure and nullified them before God. We still remain however, with the essential will to live. True, there is willingness to sacrifice one’s life, if necessary, but we desire life. When we say “With all of your might” we give the essence of the feeling of our lives and existence to God. This creates a true storm, thunder, lightning and hail.

Locusts parallel the blessing after the Shema: Emet veyatziv (“true and steadfast”), which ends with ga’al Yisrael (“Blessed are You… Who Redeemed Israel”). The content of this blessing is the verification (emet) of what was said in the Shema prayer. Everything becomes revealed in the redemption from Egypt. The word emet, meaning “truth” appears eight times in this blessing, and the word for “locusts” (arbeh), is eight times God’s Name, Havayah.

The plague of Darkness parallels the Silent Prayer, the Amidah. In Kabbalah we learn that when we pray the Amidah, we enter the Divine World of Emanation, where there is only light and goodness and there is no consciousness separate from God. This is the feeling that the Israelites had during the plague of Darkness, “And all the Children of Israel had light in their dwelling places” (activating the darkness to descend upon the heads of the wicked).

The plague of the First-Born parallels the Tachanun (Supplication) prayer, which is recited immediately following the Amidah. In the Shema, we expressed our willingness to sacrifice our souls to God. But the Tachanun prayer is actual self-sacrifice, “To You, God, I will lift my self.” When we sacrifice our selves to God, the plague of the first-born is activated and descends upon Egypt and the redemption arrives.

 

 

Fifth and Sixth Readings: The Torah’s Kabbalistic Structure

“The magicians said to Pharaoh: ‘This is the finger of God.’”

 

The seven readings in every Torah portion correspond to the seven sefirot (known as the measures of the heart) from loving-kindness to kingdom. The fifth and sixth readings correspond to acknowledgment (hod) and foundation (yesod). Let us see how this correspondence unfolds in our parashah.

The Plague of Honesty

The fifth reading opens with the removal of the plague of frogs thus connecting the fourth reading with the fifth, illustrating the principle that “victory (netzach) and acknowledgment (hod) are two halves of one body.” The first new plague is that of lice. Kabbalah correlates the ten plagues to the ten sefirot from bottom to top—thus the third plague of lice corresponds with acknowledgment (hod), the sefirah that the fifth reading corresponds to. In addition, the Hebrew word for “lice” (כנים) is cognate with the word meaning “honesty” (כנות), the inner quality of the sefirah of acknowledgment.

Following the plague of lice, the Egyptian magicians were forced to acknowledge for the first time that the plague was “the finger of God.” Even though in the previous plagues, the Egyptians and their magicians were already beaten, and God was victorious, they were not willing to admit their defeat. Only now is the effect of both victory (netzach) and acknowledgment (hod) felt. Interestingly, the value of “finger of God” (אֶצְבַּע אֱ-לֹהִים), 163, is the sum of 80 and 83, the ages of Moses and Aaron respectively, when they first stood before Pharaoh to free the Israelites. Moses and Aaron themselves are the archetypal souls of victory and acknowledgment.

The sages explain that the Egyptian magicians had to admit that sorcery cannot control anything smaller than a barley grain. The kidneys, which are the bodily organs that represent victory and acknowledgment break down the physical effluence into small parts. In more abstract terms, the right—victory—takes a general principle and breaks it down into details. That is why the plague of frogs began with a single large frog that was then broken down into many smaller-sized frogs. The left—acknowledgment takes details and breaks them further down into tiny particles; in modern language, the left side breaks matter down into quantum realm particles—where there is uncertainty, and human vessels cannot control things in these dimensions.

At the end of the fifth reading Moses warns Pharaoh of the impending plague of wild beasts, which will decimate the land. This corresponds with the tendency of acknowledgment (hod) to turn into a decimating force, as in the verse, “My splendor (hod) has turned against me to decimate me.”[23]

Affirmative Discrimination

In all the plagues described in the sixth reading—wild beasts, pestilence, boils, and the warning of hail—there appears a distinct separation between the Israelites and the Egyptians. This illustrates the principle that foundation (yesod) measures and discerns between the righteous and the wicked.

Enlightening Pharaoh

The role of the sefirah of foundation is to reveal, with force, the influence of the sefirah of beauty (tiferet). We see this when comparing the purpose of the plagues as spoken by Moses to Pharaoh. In the previous readings discussing the earlier plagues, the goal is that Pharaoh become aware of God. But in the sixth reading we see that this knowledge is directly linked to the earth in general. As Moses says, “so that you will know that there is none like Me in all the earth… and you would have been obliterated from the earth… so that My Name may resound throughout the earth.”[24] This is the role of foundation—to draw recognition of the Divine all the way to the ends of the earth.

Plagues of Boils and Pestilence

The plague of boils is a skin disease, and in the ten systems of the body,[25] the skin corresponds to foundation. A skin disease is a result of a blemish to the procreative organ’s covenant.[26]

(from Sha’ashu’im Yom Yom)

Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay

[1]. Exodus 6:6-7.

[2]. Ibid. v. 8.

[3]. Additionally, the filling of the filling of the word “earth” (אֶרֶץ) אלף למד פא ריש יוד שין צדיק דלת יוד קוף, also equals 2000.

[4]. The Zohar’s words are:

“I will take you to be My people and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am Havayah your God.” This commandment, the first of all commandments, the initial first of all commandments, [is] to know the Holy, blessed one in general. What does in general mean? To know that there is a supreme sovereign, who is the Master of the world, who created all worlds, the heavens and the earth and all their hosts. And that is in general. But the goal of all is the particular, to know him particularly.

[5]. See in length Derech Mitzvotecha, Mitzvat Ha’amanat Elokut, introduction.

[6]. Deuteronomy 4:39.

[7]. Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 1:1.

[8]. Hilchot Melachim 12:5

[9]. “I will bring” (וְהֵבֵאתִי) to the tip of the yud, “I will take” (וְלָקַחְתִּי) to the yud, “I will redeem” (וְגָאַלְתִּי) to the first hei, “I will save” (וְהִצַּלְתִּי) to the vav, and “I will free” (וְהוֹצֵאתִי) to the final hei. See in depth in Sod HaShem LiYerei’av, pp. 296ff.

[10]. 1 Chronicles 29:11. Foundation is described as “for all in the heavens and the earth” (כִּי כֹל בַּשָּׁמַיִם וּבָאָרֶץ), the value of the first two words “for all” (כִּי כֹל) is the same as “foundation” (יְסוֹד). The tzaddik—the foundation of the world (וְצַדִּיק יְסוֹד עוֹלָם, Proverbs 10:25)— is known as the one who unites the heavens and the earth.

[11]. Sanhedrin 82b. Bamidbar Rabbah 21:3.

[12]. Numbers 1:6.

[13]. Traditionally, we do not pronounce her name.

[14]. Exodus 15:20.

[15]. Terach forced communion with his wife Amatlai.

[16]. Ecclesiastes 7:26.

[17]. See Rashi and Ran to Nedarim 50b.

[18]. Leviticus 27:32.

[19]. Genesis 1:3.

[20]. In all there are 5 different criteria for determining precedence [see in length Sod HaShem LiYerei’av, p. 340]. Precedence determined by causality corresponds to the sefirah of crown and is the highest order of causality. Precedence determined by complexity (i.e., the simple precedes the complex) corresponds to the sefirah of understanding. The remaining 3 criteria are intrinsic [i.e., the wise man precedes the fool—the sefirah of wisdom], temporal [i.e., Reuven’s birth precedes Shimon’s birth—the sefirah of beauty], and hierarchic [the king precedes the viceroy—the sefirah of kingdom].

[21]. Isaiah 19:22.

[22]. Rebbe Aharon Halevi of Staroselye in Avodat Halevi s.v. Hu Aharon Umoshe (second essay).

[23]. Daniel 10:8.

[24]. Exodus 9:14-16.

[25]. See Body, Mind, and Soul, p. 74.

[26]. In the Book of Formation, the procreative organ is referred to with a word derived from “skin”: מעור.

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