Vayishlach: Born Three Times

We will begin by looking at the verb form of “to send,” שלח , the root of the name of ourparshahVayishlach. The numerical value of this verb is 338, which is the product of “Havayah” י־הוה and “one” אחד . These two words are the foundation of the essential statement of Jewish faith: “Hear O’ Israel: Havayah is God, Havayah is One.” How does this mathematical relationship shed light on the essence of the missions we have discussed in previous articles?

In Chassidic teachings it is explained that the word “one,” אחד , which is comprised of the three letters, alef (א ), chet (ח ), and dalet (ד ), should be meditated upon as referring to the three stages of the descent of the soul from its source in the Almighty to its life on earth in order to fulfill its mission. Specifically, the א refers to the soul’s state as unified with the Almighty (א = 1);1 the ח refers to the souls descent through the seven firmaments to the earth (ח = 8); finally, the ד refers to the soul extending itself on earth in all four compass directions, west, east, north, and south (ד = 4) in order to fulfill its earthly mission.2

Chassidut reveals that if it were not for God’s constant empowerment the soul would fear to descend into the body, for risk of losing its connection with the Almighty. Thus, the multiplication of “one” by God’s essential name, “Havayah” symbolizes the essence of the Almighty Himself which is constantly multiplying, i.e., empowering the descent of the soul through these three stages in order to help it fulfill its worldly mission.

Three Births

The first time that the soul descends from heaven in order to fulfill its mission on earth is at birth. Indeed, the gematria of the word “birth” (לדה ) is “Havayah” (י־הוה ) plus “one” (אחד). But, Chassidut teaches that ideally a person experiences three births during his life. The first time is of course the birth of the physical body, when the soul is enclothed in the body for the duration of life. The second birth is experienced when a person get married. The Torah tells us that marriage is the unification of a man and a woman as one body: “And he will cling to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Therefore, the soul must descend from the man’s body in order to be enclothed in the unified body of the husband and wife.3 Finally, if a person merits, then the third experience of birth is when he connects himself to the truetzadik, the leader of the generation.

Clearly, since each birth is a descent of the soul further into the world, at each birth the soul is entrusted with another, more profound and extended aspect of its original mission. Since there are three such births and we have seen that there are three Torah portions that are named for a mission, it is only natural that we now contemplate the one to one correspondence of the two threes.

Jacob's Mission: Physical Birth

Jacob’s mission corresponds to physical birth. About Jacob the sages say that his bed was perfect, meaning that his procreative energy was never blemished in any way whatsoever as all of his acts of procreation produced righteous children, souls in bodies, literally, which form the foundation of the House of Israel. Rashi writes that the emissaries (malachim) that Jacob sent to his brother Esau were actual emissaries, i.e., angels. In Kabbalah it is explained that these angels were the souls of all of Jacob’s offspring, which he sent, in order that in the future they enter physical bodies (symbolized by Esau, to whom Jacob sent the angels).

Pharoah's Mission: Wedding

The exodus from Egypt is considered the birth of the Jewish people. But, when analyzed more closely, we can see that the day of the exodus is also the day that the congregation of Israel, kneset Yisra’el, was wed to the Almighty, thus corresponding the second mission-parshah in the Torah with the second birth of the individual. Jeremiah describes the exodus from Egypt with the following words: “I recall the loving-kindness of your youth, the love of your bridal day, when you followed Me in the desert in a desolate land.”

There is a verse in the Song of Songs that seems to indicate that the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai was the day on which the wedding between the congregation of Israel and the Almighty took place. However, we have already mentioned that Pharaoh-below is a placeholder for the will of the Almighty, who is the Pharaoh-above. More specifically, Pharaoh above alludes to the mother principle, the sefirah of understanding, which is the source of the Oral Torah.4 Thus, we may say that the opening verse of parshat Beshalach, “It came to pass that when Pharaoh sent the people…” alludes to the revelation of the Oral Torah, while the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai was the revelation of the Written Torah. That the lights that relate to the Oral Torah were revealed before the lights of the Written Torah echoes the verse: “Then the maiden shall enjoy dancing in a circle…,”5 which the Ba’al Shem Tov explained as referring to the Grand Circle (God's infinite light, before the initial contraction)—the source of the mother principle and the Oral Torah that precedes the source of the Written Torah.

The sages tell us that had we not sinned in the desert (both at the Golden Calf and the sin of the spies), the Oral Torah would not have been revealed (i.e., in its present form), because the Oral Torah is needed only by someone who sins. As mentioned, the source of the Oral Torah is in the mother principle, the sefirah of understanding, which is also the source ofteshuvah, the power to return to God.

Indeed, the sin of the Golden Calf is attributed to Aaron, Moshe’s brother. The Torah describes that when Moshe Rabbeinu descended from the mountain, he “saw that the people were out of control, for Aaron had made them lose control…,”6 the original Hebrew words of the last phrase being כי פרעה אהרן . The word פרעה (pronounced p’ra’oh) is spelled exactly the same as Pharaoh, פרעה , and here it means literally “had revealed them.” Thus, Aaron’s act of forging the Golden Calf, when interpreted in holiness, was the moment of the actual revelation of the Oral Torah.7 Indeed, the numerical value of the words פרעה אהרן , “Aaron had revealed them” is equal to the numerical value of the word תורה , “Torah,” specifically alluding to the Oral Torah, since the value of תורה is also the value of the phrase “run and return,”8 רצוא ושוב , which describes the consciousness of a person engaged inteshuvah and in the tradition of the Oral Torah.

Returning to parshat Beshalach, after Pharaoh sent the Jewish people out of Egypt, theparshah describes the parting of the Red Sea and the Song of the Sea. The inherent difficulty of parting the Red Sea (and saving Israel, while drowning the Egyptians) is likened by the sages to the difficulties of finding one’s soul-mate. The Song of the Sea, the song of praise sung by Moshe and the Jewish people after they emerged from the water, is thus a segulah, a charm, for finding one’s soul-mate as quickly and as easily as possible, as explained elsewhere.

Moshe's Mission: Connecting with the Tzadik

Finally, parshat Shlach, which describes Moshe’s sending the spies on a mission to the Land of Israel clearly corresponds to the third birth experienced when one bonds and connects fully with the leader of the generation. As already explained, the reason that this mission failed was because the spies were not able to unite, without reservations, with the level of consciousness, knowledge, of Moshe Rabbeinu. As a result, they were not able to intuit Moshe’s true intent in sending them to see the land, which is why they came back with the wrong report in hand and caused the rest of the people to lose faith in Moshe’s leadership and his ability to guide them into the land. Only when the Jewish people as a whole are able to bond, as in matrimony, with the leader of the generation out of love and respect, will we merit to fully conquer the Land of Israel and settle it. This point is made clear by one of the most moving verses in the entire Bible: “They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their grandchildren, forever; and David My servant will be their leader forever.”9 Indeed, in Hebrew, the word for “leader” used here is נשיא , which stems from the same root as does “matrimony,” נישואין !

(Based on the Daily Dvar Torah from Wednesday, 11 Kislev 5768 – November 21, 2007)

1. This state was most strongly exemplified by Abraham, about whom the prophet says: “Abraham was one.” Abraham’s greatness was his ability to alter people’s understanding of God from God as the Master of the heavens, to God the Master of the heavens and the earth.

2. The extension of the soul in all four directions was exemplified by Jacob, whom God blesses: “Your will extend out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south.

3. There are two different opinions as to the meaning of “and they shall become one flesh.” According to the first, “one flesh” designates the coming together of husband and wife during procreation. According to the second, “one flesh” refers to the couple’s offspring.

4Eitz Chayim 31:7.

5. Jeremiah 31:12.

6. Exodus 32:25.

7. See Alter Rebbe’s Likutei Torah on Song of Songs 6d.

8. Ezekiel 1:

9. Ibid. 37:25.

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