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Vayeitzei

Parshat Vayeitzei: Worlds, Souls, and Divinity in the Parshah

Worlds, Souls, and Divinity

The second word of the second verse is “in the place,” במקום . We have already mentioned that this place was where Isaac was bound and placed on the altar and where the Holy Temple would eventually be built by King Solomon. This place was Mt. Moriah.

This word במקום appears three times around the beginning of our parshah:

“He arrived in the place,”1 ויפגע במקום
“He slept in that place,”2 וישכב במקום
“Indeed, God is in this place,”3 אכן יש הוי' במקום הזה

These three instances of the word “in the place” can be seen to correspond to one of the most important models taught by the Ba’al Shem Tov: Worlds, Souls, and Divinity.4 The simplest way to understand this model is to think of it as describing three different levels of the revelation of God in reality. “Worlds” denotes a state in which nature and physical dimensions alone are apparent. At the level of Worlds there is little or no revelation of God. Souls already reveal God but to a large degree the experience of this revelation is still subjective and cannot be shared by everyone equally. Divinity is a complete revelation of God, which can be objectively experienced by all.

In the first instance that the word appears, there is no real connection yet formed between Jacob and the place. In fact the opposite is true. The verb meaning “He arrived” ויפגעindicates a sudden arrival. The Midrash explains that Jacob experienced a space-time shift similar to what today is referred to as a fold in the fabric of space; he left Be’er Sheba and arrived at Mt. Moriah (the place) that same day.5 This is clearly an experience in the dimension of Worlds (space and time), an experience that does not involve the soul, the subjective intellect and emotions of the one experiencing it.

In the second instance that the word appears, Jacob is found lying down on the place to sleep. To prepare for his sleep there, Jacob takes from the stones of the place and he places them around his head. There is planning and intent in these actions indicating a higher level of contact with the place. The exact wording of the Torah in this second instance is “He lay down in that place.” The relative pronoun “that” preceding “place” indicates a familiarity with the place. The first time that the word “in the place” appears, Rashi writes:

Scripture does not mention which place, but [it means] the place mentioned elsewhere, which is Mount Moriah, concerning which it is said: “And he saw the place from afar.”6,7

The initial sighting of Mt. Moriah—the place—was from afar. But Jacob is already aware of this location and consciously prepares to sleep on it. Jacob’s knowledge of the place indicates a relationship at the level of Souls and the revelation of this place—God’s house to be—to Jacob’s soul.

The third and final instance of this word appearing is in the verse: “Jacob awakened from his sleep, and said: ‘Indeed, God is in this place, and I did not know.’” This is a simple and clear revelation of Godliness, indicating a revelation of the dimension of Divinity. That Jacob states “and I did not know” indicates that this revelation affects him at a super-conscious level, relative to a conscious level, which would indicate a revelation that can be contained by a soul. Now Jacob calls the place “this place,” not merely “the place” or “that place.”8 Thisplace alludes to Moshe Rabbeinu’s prophecies that start with the word “this [is what God commanded], which the sages describe as the highest level likened to looking through a clear pane of glass; once more, the highest level of Godly revelation. Jacob proceeds to use the pronoun “this” two more times: “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”9

At this highest dimension of Divinity the physical dimension’s normal opacity that veils its inner essence dissolves and the physical becomes translucent allowing its inner spiritual aspect to be observed—like looking through a pane of clear glass. The sages relate that the relationship between God and space-time is such that “He is the world’s space, but the world is not His space.” Thus, when the physical becomes translucent, God can be seen as its underlying reality [its space]. Yet, still one cannot identify physical reality with God, because God cannot be contained in the physical alone.

Mathematically, the value of “He is the space” הוא מקומו is equal to “a tzadik” צדיק , or “He”הוא (12) times “good” טוב (17). “Of the world” של עולם is equal to 2 times “Rachel” רחל , or “the power” כח (28) times “good” טוב !

Revelation

We have already mentioned that the sages interpret the word “He arrived,” ויפגע , as intimating prayer. We have also noted that prayer in Kabbalah, prayer is considered to be the most important example of the work of unification creating a union between man and God, and between various partzufim, that can only be likened to the union between a husband and wife. Until now we have described how together the three instances of the word “place” form a progression in the revelation of God’s holiness, from Worlds, to Souls, to Divinity, relating this revelation to the individual. Now, let us see how this progression can be seen in the context of the relationship between husband and wife. This will set the stage for our upcoming exploration of Jacob’s establishment of the evening prayer.

Three Stages of Procreation

From a wider perspective the three dimensions of World, Souls, and Divinity, correspond to the three stages of procreation between husband and wife described in Kabbalah. The first stage involves the wife committing to her husband. The Talmud states that a woman does not form a covenant, that is commit to a man unless she “has been made into a vessel,” a euphemism to describe the first intercourse, which fulfills a commandment from the Torah.10The second stage is the second intercourse. The sages state that a woman cannot become pregnant from the first intercourse. The Arizal explains that this is because its purpose is to manifest the covenant between her and her husband. Thus, only during the second stage is there usually a chance of pregnancy. The third stage involves the impregnation itself, when the ovum can be inseminated and the fetus formed. Clearly, these three stages are described in Kabbalah from their spiritual perspective; as such, they correspond one-to-one with the three dimensions of Worlds, Souls, and Divinity. Now let us see how they are alluded to in the verses.

As mentioned above Jacob experienced the folding of space-time, which in Hebrew is calledקפיצת הארץ , literally: a leap of the earth. The earth [Mt. Moriah], as it were, leaped towards him allowing him to complete his journey in miraculous time. This is an example of the initial bond being formed between the wife, symbolized by the earth, who needs to take a leap of faith to create a covenant with her husband, symbolized by Jacob. The covenantal bond is best described as a habitual, in the sense of non-conscious decision because a covenant is not an expression of one’s intellect or one’s emotions. It is described in Chassidut as a bond that is beyond reason and consciousness and which is therefore independent of all circumstances. In a certain sense, the first stage of the relationship of a healthy couple cannot be consciously experienced.

Then Jacob consciously prepares to sleep in the place. This corresponds to the second stage of the relationship between a couple where the couple can engage in the different spiritual preparations that increase the holiness and presence of God between them. As explained in Kabbalah, the intent and meaning that the couple has in their procreative act defines the type of soul that will be drawn down (thus corresponding to the dimension of Souls, as above).

At the third stage, Jacob comes to complete consciousness of God, particularly God’s essential Name, Havayah. The meaning of Havayah stems from the word “becoming.” In our everyday experience the strongest example of becoming/Havayah is the insemination of the ovum and the formation of a child in the womb. Jacob’s exclamation “there is Havayah,” alludes to the third partner, God, who consummates the union of ovum and sperm. Jacob starts his exclamation with the word “indeed” אכן whose numerical value in Hebrew is 71. This word thus hints at the forthcoming descent of Jacob and 70 of his future offspring to Egypt into the pit of the earth also called the pit of iron, which in Hebrew is ברזל , also an acronym for the names of Jacob’s 4 wives: Bilhah בלהה , Rachel רחל , Zilpah זלפה , and Leahלאה . The letters of “indeed” אכן are also the primary letters of the holy Name, אנכי , which means “I” that appears in the verse promising Jacob that God (אנכי ) will escort him to and redeem him safely from Egypt: “I will descend with you into Egypt and I will also take you out….” The Name Havayah and Jacob’s 70 progeny are also hinted to in the first two letters of “Jacob” יעקב . The first letter, י (yud) is the first letter of Havayah, God’s essential Name. The second letter is ע (ayin) whose numerical value is 70!

The gematria of the entire phrase, “There is God in this place” יש יהוה במקום הזה is 541, which is also the numerical value of “Israel,” ישראל —the name indicating the revelation of God in Jacob himself and in his offspring, the Jewish people. “Indeed there is God in this place” אכן יש יהוה במקום הזה is exactly equal to the word “covenant,” ברית and to the phrase “and I did not know,” ואנכי לא ידעתי !

Based on the Daily Dvar Torah from Monday, 2 Kislev 5768 – November 12, 2007

1. Genesis 28:11.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid. 28:16.

4. For an in depth discussion, see the introduction to The Hebrew Letters.

5Chulin 91b.

6Rashi to Genesis 28:11.

7. Genesis 22:4.

8. This, even though the numerical value of “this place,” הזה , and “that place,” ההוא , are equal!

9. Genesis 28:17.

10. In principle, all the covenants, i.e., true commitments that can be formed by human beings are manifest through the performance of the physical mitzvot. This is hinted at by the word “covenant” in Hebrew, ברית , whose numerical value is 612, which with the covenant of the flesh (the circumcision) equals 613, the number of prohibitive and proscriptive commandments.

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