Saturday, November 9, 2013

Vayetze - Growing up

"Jacob left Beer-sheba and headed toward Charan."

This Torah phrase is a code for many events that happened in the spiritual worlds. Here is how the Arizal explains the progression. God leads the world through ten Sefirot that combine and interact. The perfect world does not exist, and in our imperfect world the spirituality is not final and constant, but rather it grows. Zeir Anpin, the Cosmic Man, who represents this spiritual progress – which is achieved not by the whole humanity but by a few select individuals – starts his life with immature consciousness. At this stage, his mind consists of the name of God "Elohim" taken three times. The gematria, or numerical value of this mind is 86 * 3 = 258.

The next stage of the Zeir Anpin development is to grow. For this, he must make space in his head for the higher levels of Names of God to enter - these names representing the adult consciousness. The three "Elohim" have to descend through his throat and enter his body. Throat represents the narrow passage through which this development takes place. The gematria of the word throat ("garon") is also 258 (with 1 added for the word itself).

How is this all hinted to by the above phrase of the Torah? - Jacob leaving Beer-sheba is talking about the early conciseness of Zeir Anpin leaving his head and going into his body. Jacob is going to Charan - that is the hint, since the gematria of Charan is 258.

Jacob, who was able to combine conflicting opinions and balance them, originates from Wisdom. He was also righteous, which is connected to the Sefirah of Foundation. The last letters of the words "Jacob left Beer" are aleph-beth-resh, which represent "ever," or member, sexual organ. That is because controlling one's sexual urges is both a prerequisite and a means of obtaining righteousness.

Art: Landscape with Jacob, Rachel, and Leah by Nicolaes Berchem

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

After finishing one’s prayer

After one finishes his prayer with the goodwill from his Master (that is, after one says, “May it be Your goodwill to accept it”), one needs to imagine that he is giving up his life, with perfect love – and that is called “Tachanun”, or “Supplication.”

Once he does this, he is forgiven all the mistakes he had made, and if he did things that are not befitting a Jew, and did them in public – which amounts to the profanation of the Name of God – even that is forgiven. That is why initially it was called “Falling on one’s face on the ground” – because ground and land are connected to Rulership, the lowest spiritual level, from which there is no way but up.

He thus falls into the kingdom of Evil, with the goal of finding the small particles of goodness there, to bring them up when he straightens. He then goes together with them to the level of Rulership again, but this time in the highest world of Nearness.

The source for this is the Zohar at the top of
this post. But how exactly does one imagine it? By giving up his life in four different ways, corresponding to the four methods of capital punishment as they existed when there was such thing as Jewish capital punishment, with Sanhedrin. This is explained in the second picture in this post, from the Siddur HaRashash by Rabbi Asher Anshil Braun.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Matot – Long steps take away man’s eyesight

The Torah describes dividing the spoils of the war with Midianites, giving a full account of the numbers of human captives and animals, as well as the division. The account is almost thirty phrases long, and seemingly gives the numbers which will never be needed again.

First all of the spoils are divided in two. Then 1/500 is taken of the first half, and 1/50 of the second half. All the numbers of all groups of animals are spelled out, and it can serve as an exercise in integer division.

The Arizal, however, asks two sorts of questions. First, the practical ones: why were the numbers specified in this order and why the word “tax” is mentioned about the first one and not the second division. He answers that when they were anyway dividing by 500, they did not have to be so precise in counting, and only cared about the final tax outcome. With the division by 50 they counted every animal like for tithe and like mentioned on Rosh Hashana, when every one goes “under the rod.”

Second, there is a mystical hidden meaning, the key to which is the statement of the Talmud that “long steps take away 1/500 of man’s eyesight, but the Kiddush on Shabbat restores it.”

There are multiple connecting steps here: first, the secret of Bilam’s prophecy about the end of history, “I see it but not here, I perceive not, but it is not close,” which is related to the concept of stepping outside of time. This, in turn, talks about the Cosmic Female who was together with her Man (Zeir Anpin) in the womb of their mother (Supernal Mother). These are not physical bodies, however, but the letters of Hey and the Vav which is part of Hey in the name of God. This “coming out” is Judgment and Strength, and it is called “division of spoils” in our physical world. These division is represented by “those who went to war” and “the part of the congregation that stayed.”

Art: Balaam blessing Israel by William Brassey Hole

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Acharei Mot – Fire, woman and wine

"Two sons of Aaron brought an unauthorized offering of fire before God and died."

The two sons of Aharon who died were called Nadav and Avihu. The name Nadav (נדב) can be understood as “four sons” (ד-בן) - just as when the Pesach Aggadah says, “The Torah spoke of four sons,” it means these four sons, and they are: Adam, Cain, Abel and Seth. A further hint to this is in the name of Avihu (אביהוא), which means father (אבי) he is (הוא) - that is, Adam.

Thus, the two sons of Aharon were born to rectify whatever Adam and his three sons did not do correctly in their lifetimes, as their names hint to: Nadav means four sons, and Avihu means the father. They came to rectify Adam's faults, but instead they were steadfast in them.

The first one was fire. Before Adam married Eve, he was together with another woman, called Lilith. This is hinted to in the words of Adam about Eve, "This one will be called a woman, because of her connection to man." This one, but not the previous one. However, Lilith was not his true soul-mate, and this represented the wrong fire. As is known, a man (איש) and a woman (אשה) have a common element of fire (אש) between them. The additional letters, yud (י) in case of a man, and hei (ה) in case of a woman, constitute the name of God Yah (יה) . If there is presence of God (יה) in their union, and it is a true union, then this fire warms them, but if not, it burns them. Nadav and Avihu, too, brought an unauthorized offering of fire.

The second problem was wine. When Eve went to the tree of knowledge of good and evil – which was a grapevine – she squeezed out the juice of grapes and gave it to Adam in this form, so that he would not know that it came from the forbidden tree. He should have understood this and stop himself, but he did not.

Nadav and Avihu, too, were drunk on wine when they brought their offering. This is hinted to in the very first phrase in this Torah portion, “Two sons of Aaron” (שני בני אהרן). If you take the last letters of the words, you get wine (יין). The first letters of the words "after... two sons" constitute “from fire” (מאש).

Later Moses told to Aharon that his sons were great, higher than Moses and Aharon themselves. He meant that they came from a higher source – Adam, while Moses came from Adam's son, Abel. They therefore had greater potential.

Art: Dutch School - A young boy holding a giant roemer of wine

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Yitro – Here I come!

He sent word to Moses: 'I, your father-in-law Jethro, am on my way to you...'

Jethro came to Moses after he “heard about all that God had done for Moses and His people Israel when He brought Israel out of Egypt.” Why didn't he come before, on his own accord? After all, Moses was his son-in-law, and the leader of the Jewish people; besides, Jethro was bringing with him his daughter Tzippora, who was Moses' wife?

The answer is that Jethro was the reincarnation of Cain, and his life had a purpose: correction of the destruction that Cain had committed. There are two theories of when Jethro arrived: before the giving of the Torah (as the sequence of events seems to indicate), or after (which could also work, since the Torah does not always follow the timeline in retelling the events). Both theories have a common point of view, that the essential correction of a person is through Torah. That is the meaning of the phrase in the psalms, “All God's teaching are pure” – that is, they purify the person – and the word “purify” implies strenuous hard work.

According to the first theory, he came to be purified by the Torah which was given shortly afterward, and according to the second, all events and miracles meant nothing to him, but once the Torah was given – he had no doubt that now he had to go. The Torah purified the Jews from the mistake that Adam had made in the first place, and gave them a second chance and a clean slate.

In fact, Abel has exacerbated the mistake of his father Adam by looking at Divine Presence. This happened when he brought his offering, and God “accepted it.” This acceptance meant that Abel was given a chance to experience the Divine Presence, which he misused. Cain, on the other hand, did not have this chance. This “looking” was what made Abel to be liable to be killed by Cain.

At the time of the giving of the Torah, everybody, including Moses, were connected in their soul root to Abel. Jethro was the only exception, for he was the reincarnation of Cain. The continuation of Cain's correction happened through the sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu. They tried to use the incense for this, but were also involved in “looking” and thus only partially succeeded – for they died in the attempt – until the final correction came through Pinchas.

Art: Jan Victors - Moses' Parting Of Jethro

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Shemot – Aries and Scorpius

The twelve constellations are divided into four groups, or Foundations, and the constellation of Aries is from the Foundation of Fire, whereas Scorpius is from the Foundation of Water. In fact, a scorpion kills a man only because of the cold that it feels internally. The constellation themselves represent spiritual influences in the world, called “Mazal,” or luck.

Each of the seven planets, except for sun and moon, has two constellations assigned to it. The two “mazal” constellations assigned to Mars are Aries and Scorpius. This is why the Jews in Egypt and later on Passover were slaughtering a sheep on the fourteenth of the month of Nissan – because then the Aries is at its strongest.

According to these two constellations, there are two kinds of unpleasant feelings (gehinnom) that a person experiences after death. The first one is of fire, born of desire to do a wrong thing, corresponding to Aries; the other is of ice, born of coldly missing on the opportunity to do a good deed, and this corresponds to Scorpius. However, some people transgress even at this time, and they steal ice while they are in the gehinnom of ice, to cool themselves later, and it is about them that Job said “Drought and heat consume (literally, steal) snow water.”

Art: Maria Falconetto Giovanni - Sign of Scorpio