Rectifying the Sin of the Spies

Moses sent twelve spies to spy out the land of Israel prior to the expected entry of the Jewish nation into the land. Instead of praising the  land of Israel and instilling hope and ready anticipation for their entry into the land, ten of the twelve spies brought back a disheartening report of what they saw and relayed their conclusion that entering the land of Israel was an impossible feat. Their report totally disrupted the morale of the people, causing them to fall into despair and weep as if some disastrous calamity had befallen them. The spies were punished for their sin and the fallen morale of the people was also considered a sin.

When Moses prayed that God forgive the sin of the spies, he said, “And now, may the strength of God please increase, as You spoke.” The Name of God used in this verse is Adni (אדנ-י), whose literal meaning is “my Master.” The Name Adni is rare in the Torah. Whereas the Name Havayah appears 1820 times, the Name Adni appears only 14 times in the Pentateuch. The use of this specific Name in this verse arouses our attention to the fact that to bring about God’s forgiveness for the spies’ deed, it is necessary to increase, or reinforce, the strength of the Name Adni in particular.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe, explains in his Likutei Torah that the sin of the spies blemished the emanation of the Name Adni. In contrast, the sin of the Golden Calf blemished the emanation of God’s Essential Name, Havayah. In Kabbalah, the Name Havayah corresponds to the sefirah of beauty, which is associated with the Torah and Moses (the giver of the Torah), whereas the Name Adni corresponds to the sefirah of kingdom which is related to the Land of Israel.

This is clearly illustrated by even the literal meaning of the Name Adni, from adon, master, often associated in the Torah with the land, as in the phrase “Master of all the land.” It is now clear that since sinning against theland ofIsrael blemishes this Name in particular, it subsequently needs to be reinforced in order to rectify the sin.

Reinforcement through letter filling

The way we reinforce a word in Hebrew is by revealing its complete potential. This is achieved by filling its letters. The first filling of the Name Adni (אדנ-י) is אלף דלת נון יוד. In comparison to the Name Havayah, which when filled has no more than 10 letters, we see that the Name Adni, when filled, has a total of 12 letters. To find the second filling, we fill each of these 12 letters with their spelling giving us, אלף למד פא דלת למד תו נון ויו נון יוד ויו דלת, which has a total of 34 letters.

The total number of letters of the root word (4), plus its filling (12) plus the filling of its filling (34) is now 50, which is a very nice round number that also corresponds to the fifty gates of understanding. However, the Arizal teaches us that in order for the Name Adni (relating to the sefirah of kingdom, as above) to be complete it needs to be rectified by bringing down into it the light of the supernal crown, the highest sefirah. This achieves the ultimate union of “the crown of kingdom,” when the super-conscious light of the crown shines upon the head of the appointed king. Bringing down the light of the crown is symbolized by including another letter in the second filling – the optional yud that is added to the filling of the letter tav (תיו) that appears in the second filling of the letter dalet (ד) in Adni. The yud symbolizes the supernal wisdom in the crown (the super-conscious source of intellect) that enters from above, bringing the total number of letters in the second filling to 35 and the total number of letters of all three stages to 51.[1]

The Arizal pointed out that in fact, this is also the numerical value of the word נא, meaning, “may,” which appears in the above mentioned verse, “And now, may the strength of God increase, as You spoke.” The two letters of the word נא, are also two of the letters in the Name Adni (אדנ-י) itself.

So, the Arizal explains that נא alludes to the root, the filling and the second filling of Adni, when the yud (י) is added to the tav (ת) of the letter דלת. However, the light of the supernal crown in this letter is so intense that although the yud itself is in the second filling, in fact it combines with the 12 letters of the first filling, bringing the number of letters to 13.

Now, let’s contemplate the word יגדל in the verse, meaning “increase.” The first two letters of the word are יג, which have a numerical value of 13, which we now consider to be the number of letters in the first filling. The remaining letters, דל, have a numerical value of 34, which is the number of letters in the second filling.[2]

In this way, we see that the words יגדל and נא that appear in the verse, both allude to the rectification of the spies’ sin by filling the Name Adni with its filling and the filling of its filling letters.

Now that we realize that the light of the crown must be introduced into the Name Adni in order to rectify it, we need to aspire to the source of the crown in the Name Havayah.

Just as the letter tav (ת) can either be filled simply with a vav (תו) or more completely with a yud and a vav (תיו), so too, there are other letters that have alternative spellings. In the Name Havayah (spelled י-ה-ו-ה) in which the vav (ו) and the two letters hei (ה) both have a variety of possible fillings, this produces numerous options for spelling the filled Name. In fact there are 27 different possible fillings of the Name Havayah,[3] four of which are identified as the most central as they themselves correspond to the four letters of Havayah (corresponding to wisdom, understanding, the emotive attributes of the soul, and the sefirah of kingdom). These fillings are referred to by their numerical values, Ab (72), Sag (63), Mah (45) and Ban (52), respectively. Since as mentioned above, the Name Adni itself corresponds to kingdom, represented here by Ban, the way we draw the three higher levels down into kingdom is by filling (a second time) each of the first three fillings of Havayah (Ab, Sag and Mah), each of which contains ten letters.

The second fillings of Ab, Sag, and Mah, contain 28 letters each, which clearly represents the כח, “power,” of Adni, which we are intending to reinforce, since כח has a numerical value of 28.  The entire array of these three spellings, i.e., the root (4 letters), plus the filling (10 letters), plus the filling of the filling (28 letters) thus totals 42 letters each. Multiplying this by 3 to include each of the different spellings, we arrive at a grand total of 126 letters.

Let’s now see how this corresponds to the Name Adni:

One of the ways of contemplating a Hebrew word is by constructing it, letter by letter, first taking the first letter then the first letter with the second letter and then the first three letters and so on. In Kabbalah, this method is called “the backside,” or achorayim of a word. Developing the Name Adni by this process yields א אד אדנ א-דני, which has a numerical value of 126. This, says the Arizal, was Moses’ intention when he prayed, ועתה יגדל נא כח א-דני, “And now, may the strength of God please increase.” He took the 126 letters of the root, filling and second filling of Ab, Sag and Mah and brought them down into the Name Adni from the “back.” In this way, he reconstructed the Name Adni that had been blemished by the sin of “rejecting the charming land” (Psalms, 106:24).

Although Rabbi Chaim Vital, who authored the teachings of the Arizal, does not mention it, there is a very beautiful allusion to this idea in the phrase יגדל נא כח, “may the strength [of God] please increase”, which has a numerical value of 126!

So, from the above meditation on the phrase, יגדל נא כח א-דני, “may the strength of God please increase,” we see how Moses “reincarnated” the Name Adni that had been blemished (to the extent of disappearance) by introducing the paternal attribute (of wisdom, the secret of the filling Ab) and returning it to a fetal stage (in understanding, the secret of the filling Sag) until it was “born” once again (in the emotive attributes of the soul, the secret of the filling Mah) as a complete reflection (in malchut, kingdom, the secret of the Name Adni) of God’s Essential Name, Havayah.


[1] Both 35 and 51 are in the series of chashmal (pentagonal) numbers. For more on chashmal numbers, see here:

[2] The Arizal usually explains that the number 13 is 12 plus the kolel, the additional unit, which symbolizes the all-inclusive “one.” One example of this explanation is that there are 12 months in a Jewish year, but in a leap year, a second Adar is added, bringing the total to 13. Indeed, 13 is the numerical value of the word אחד, meaning “one.”

[3] See our book, What you Need to Know About Kabbalah, pp. 141-143.

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