The Beginning of Wisdom – Chapter 1

 (Within which the matter of the Sefirot, the conducts and their names are explained.)

1. Since G_d is not confined to time and space or any other limitations, Kabbalah refers to Him as Ayn Sof – The Infinite.  As He is infinite and boundless, so is the power of His will.[1]

2. The prohibition against the contemplation of G_d’s essence is widely known.  Whatever is related about G_d pertains only to His will and providence, which are manifest by His actions.  This general rule applies to all Kabbalah,[2] as stated by Rabbeinu Moshe Chaim Luzzatto in his book Adir Bamarom[3], “It is self evident that any expression regarding the Emanator, Blessed be He, refers only to His actions, rather than His essence.”[4]

3. There are ten Sefirot by which G_d, Blessed be He, creates and conducts the worlds. They Are:

1. Keter – Crown,

2. Chochmah – Wisdom,

3. Binah – Understanding,

4. Chessed – Kindness,

5. Gevurah – Might,

6. Tiferet – Beauty,

7. Netzach – Victory,

8. Hod – Majesty,

9. Yesod – Foundation,

10. Malchut – Kingdom.

4. The Sefirot are those Divine faculties which G_d utilizes to create and conduct the worlds.[5]

5. G_d governs the world with three general modes of conduct; Pure Kindness – Chessed, Pure Judgment – Din, and the median conduct of Mercy – Rachamim.[6]

6. Keter influences great and unbounded kindness and mercy without discerning the merit of the recipient.  This is because Keter represents G_d’s ultimate intention in Creation, that is, to benefit all, as the Talmud states[7] on the verse, “I will be gracious to whomever I will be gracious,” – even to the unworthy.

7. Chochmah, too, is free of Judgment, influencing the world with great kindness including the unworthy, but, not to the extent of Keter.

The quality of Binah is kindness as well, yet to a lesser degree. This is because judgments begin to arise in Binah, [as mentioned in the blessing: “Who gives the rooster the understanding (Binah) to discern (Judgment) between day and night,”] – For sometimes, in order to prevent anarchy, G_d exercises judgment upon the world, so that evil, though a necessary component in Creation for the purpose of choice, not be left unchecked.  This judgment, in truth, is a kindness to the world.  Moreover, kindness may be the motivating factor of severity, as scripture states,[8] “For whom the L-rd loves, He corrects,” and,[9] “As a man chastens his son so does the L-rd your G_d chasten you.”

8.  Keter, Chochmah, and Binah are called the first or upper three Sefirot.  When any of these are revealed, it is a time of great mercy and goodwill toward the world.  They reflect G_d’s ultimate intention in the world, unobstructed by the deeds of man.

9.  Chesed is pure kindness, though only to the meritorious, as is the reward of the righteous in Gan Eden[10].  Gevurah is pure judgment and retribution to the guilty, as is the punishment of the wicked in Gehenom[11].  Tiferet is the median conduct of mercy, between Chesed and Gevurah, but inclines more toward kindness than judgment.

10.   Netzach is kindness tempered with judgment; for example, sometimes the righteous suffer in this world for their few errors, to ultimately be rewarded in the world to come – the seemingly negative being ultimately positive.[12]

11.  Hod is judgment tempered with kindness; for example, sometimes the wicked prosper in this world for their few virtues, to ultimately be destroyed in the world to come, as scripture states[13], “He pays his enemy up front to destroy him,” – the seemingly positive being ultimately negative.  Yesod is the median conduct between Netzach and Hod, tempered by both, but inclining more toward judgment than kindness[14].  The world is generally conducted through this faculty.

12.  The six sefirot (Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, and Yesod) are collectively called the “System of Justice” in that they are responsive to human deeds, for even Chesed, which is pure kindness, applies only to the meritorious[15].

13.  Keter is called Arich Anpin – “Patient”, because it represents unqualified mercy, which will only be fully realized in the world to come.  (This gives the righteous the opportunity to acquire greater merit, and the wicked the chance to repent.)[16] The six [above mentioned] sefirot are called Zeir Anpin – “Short Tempered”, because they represent the qualified system of justice by which the world is presently being conducted.[17]

14.  Malchut is the medium for Divine providence through which the kingdom of G_d and His presence – Shechinah, will be realized and accepted by all.  This sefirah has a dual function; it is a conduit that accepts man’s good deeds and prayers, and responds by transmitting Divine influence upon them.[18]

15.  The term Sefirot means numbers – Mispar[19].  The concept of sefirot can therefore be applied to many matters.  Everything that exists can be divided into ten sefirot.

16.  Scripture states[20]: “All the hosts of heaven stand by Him to His right and to His left.”  The sages asked, “And are there right and left above?  Rather, the right is for virtue and the left is for guilt.”  Therefore, a sefirah which influences kindness to the worthy is allegorically considered to be “right” and one which influences judgment upon the guilty is allegorically considered to be “left”.

17.  A diagram of the sefirot conveying this concept would therefore appear thus:  Keter in the top center position, since it is the root of all.  Under it, Chochmah to the right and Binah to the left, since in Binah discernments begin to arise. Under them, Chesed to the Right and Gevurah to the left, with the median conduct of Tiferet centered below. Below them, Netzach to the right and Hod to the left, with the median conduct of Yesod centered below. Under Yesod, in the center, is Malchut which receives from them all.

18.  This diagram is allegorically called the Ten Upright Sefirot – Esser Sefirot D’Yosher.

19.  There is also a diagram of concentric circles in which Keter encompasses Chochmah, which in turn encompasses Binah, etc., with Malchut at its center.  This diagram is called the Ten Sefirot of Circles – Esser Sefirot D’Igulim. It conveys principles in the development of the worlds, one from the other, and indicates that the more essential the conduct, the more all encompassing it is[21].  But, when the subject is the Divine system of conduct, the quality of its various modes and their interrelationships, the diagram of the ten upright sefirot is used[22]. (The GR”A states that the circular sefirot indicate general providence while the upright sefirot, indicate individual providence[23].)

20.  Malchut is more severe than the six sefirot of Zeir Anpin, which represent the system of justice, for since Malchut is called “Righteous Judgment”, it is more exacting.  Only at times, through the merit of mankind does Malchut join Chesed (Kindness) resulting in Rachamim (Mercy)[24].

21.  A general conduct which is an expression of judgment, such as Malchut, is allegorically considered to be female.  This is one reason that Malchut is often called Nukvah (Female)[25].

22.  Binah is somewhat severe relative to Chochmah, since discernments begin to arise in it.  Therefore, it too, is considered to be female.  Accordingly, in kabbalistic terminology, when the judgmental aspect of a particular sefirah is mentioned, the feminine gender is used.  For example, “Arich Anpin and his Female”, refers to Keter, which is the quality of absolute mercy, and the potential judgment dormant in it.

Gevurah and Hod, though they are expressions of judgment, are not generally considered to be female.  This is because they are integral components in the reward and punishment of the System of Judgment – Zeir Anpin, and do not function independently of it.

23. The sefirot have both revealed and concealed aspects.  The revealed is considered external, and the concealed, internal.  An example of a concealed aspect is a kindness done in secrecy in which the kindness or goodness is not recognized, as stated in Proverbs:[26] “Good is a revealed rebuke coming from a hidden love,” and as stated in Talmud,[27] “The recipient of a miracle does not recognize it as such.”

24.  Sometimes instead of Keter, Daat is enumerated amongst the sefirot[28].  The GR”A explained that the inclusion of Keter reflects the inner aspect, while the inclusion of Daat, reflects the external aspect.

25.  This is because the quality of Keter – “Great Mercy”, is not presently revealed.  It will only be fully realized in the world to come.  This is indicated by the Divine name E-H-E-Y-E-H – “I will be,” in the future tense, meaning, “I am destined to be” – after the six thousandth year of Creation.  Since the conduct toward the world is preparatory to G_d’s ultimate intent of benefiting all, Keter, though concealed, is its underlying and motivating force, as stated in the Talmud, “Everything that the Merciful One does is for the good.”

For this reason, Keter is only counted in respect to the hidden inner aspect but regarding the external aspect, Daat is counted instead, since it represents that tiny revelation of Keter in this world, on a lesser level.  It is, therefore, centered under Chochmah (which is free of Judgment) and Binah (in which discernments begin to arise) being a median conduct between them.

26.  All that is revealed and known to us of Keter is that this world is preparatory to its revelation in the world to come.  Accordingly, Keter is the root of all present conducts, since it was G_d’s original intent to reveal Keter through them[29] – “The last deed being first in thought[30].”

27.  This explains the above statement that Keter is counted regarding the inner aspect, but regarding the external aspect, Daat is counted instead and Keter is only considered to be the root.  Keter is therefore called Ayn – Nothingness and Raysha D’Ayn – The Primal Nothingness, because we comprehend almost nothing of it.  Accordingly, the GR”A[31] states that, “revelation begins with Chochmah.”  The order of the sefirot would then be: Chochmah, Binah, Daat, Chesed, etc.

28.  Thus, since the revealed aspect begins with Chochmah and Binah, they are called Father and Mother – Abba V’Ima, for since discernments begin to arise in Binah, it is considered to be female.[32]

29.  The sefirot can therefore be categorized into five general modes of conduct (Partzufim):

Arich Anpin – Patient, for Keter,

Abba – Father, for Chochmah,

Ima – Mother, for Binah,

Zeir Anpin – Short Tempered, for the six sefirot Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, and Yesod (which collectively constitute the System of Justice)

and, Nukvah – The Female, for Malchut.

30.  Sometimes the ten sefirot are categorized as the five kindnesses and the five severities.  The five kindnesses are:

Keter,

Chochmah,

Chesed,

Tiferet, (since it inclines toward kindness),

and, Netzach.

The five severities are:

Binah,

Gevurah,

Hod,

Yesod (since it inclines toward judgment),

and Malchut.

31.  The six sefirot of Zeir Anpin are called Vav Kitzvot (The Six Corners), corresponding to the six directions in the world:

Chesed – corresponds to the south,

Gevurah – to the north,

Tiferet – to the east,

Netzach – to up,

Hod – to down,

and Yesod – to the west.[33]

32.  G_d formed all the limbs and organs of man corresponding to the supernal conducts.  Each of man’s limbs hints at a Divine conduct.  Since there are ten general sefirot, so too, in man, there are ten general corresponding parts:

The Head – corresponds to the first three sefirot:

The Skull and Membrane – to Keter,

The Right Hemisphere of the Brain – to Chochmah,

The Left Hemisphere of the Brain – to Binah,

(The Cerebellum – to Daat)

The Right Arm and Hand – to Chesed,

The Left Arm and Hand – to Gevurah,

The Torso – to Tiferet,

The Right Leg and Foot, to Netzach,

The Left Leg and Foot, to Hod,

The Male Organ (which carries the sign of the Holy Covenant – Brit Kodesh) – To Yesod

and the Glans (Ateret Habrit) – to Malchut.

33.  Kabbalah sometimes refers to the sefirot by the names of their corresponding limbs in man.  For example, Keter is called Gulgalta – Skull; Chochmah and Binah are called Mochin – The Brains; Chesed is called The Right Arm, etc.  Obviously, these names are allegorical.  It should not, G_d Forbid, enter one’s mind that any image or form exists, for this would certainly be an absolute error, constituting a complete denial of Torah.[34]



[1] See part 8, #21 and 22.

[2] See GRA, Likkutim, toward the end of Sifra D’Tzniutah.

[3] Adir BaMarom, pg. 59a.

[4] See beginning of Choker U’Mekubal, by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto.

[5] See Klach Pitchei Chochmah, part 8:6. Also see Likkutei HaGRA. Also see toward the beginning of Choker U’Mekubal and toward the beginning of Kinat HaShem Tzvaot.

[6] See Sefer Yetzirah, part 3.

[7] Brachot 7a. Also see GRA there.

[8] Proverbs 3:12.

[9] Deuteronomy 8:5.

[10]Paradise

[11] Pergatory

[12] Kiddushin 39b, Yoma 86a, Derech HaShem 2:23

[13] Deuteronomy 7:10, Yoma 86, Kiddushin 49-50

[14] Likutei HaGra, Sifra D’Tzniuta-Sod HaTzimtzum p.38-39

[15] Klach Pitchey Chochmah, Petach 92

[16] Baba Kama 50b

[17] Klach Pitchey Chochmah 92-95

[18] Commentary of the Gra on Raaya Mehemna, end of Part One of Zohar, second edition, starting with the word Vayachalom. Also see Sefer Kinat HaShem Tzvaot-Ramchal, Part One, which explains the reason for ten sefirot.

[19] Commentary of the Gra in Yahel Ohr concerning Zohar Bereshit, Page 15a.

[20] Kings I 22:19 (See Rashi there)

[21] See Chapter 5:2-4

[22] Klach Pitchey Chochmah 13

[23] Likutei HaGra, Sifra D’Tzniuta, Mesora edition, Jerusalem 5746, Sod HaTzimtzum p.38-39

[24] See Zohar, Idra Zutra, Parashat HaAzinu p.291b, 292a. Also see Chapter 7:4-7:6 of this book.

[25] Numbers 11:15. Also see Rashi there.

[26] Proverbs 27:5

[27] Niddah 31a

[28] Beginning os Sefer Mishnat Chassidim. Also see the Gra on Sefer Yetzirah, Part 1, Mishnah 1, Ofan 3.

[29] Klach Pitchay Chochmah, Chapter 8, # 92-93

[30] Lecha Dodi, Shabbat evening liturgy, written by Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz.

[31] Commenting on beginning of Sifra D’Tznuta page1.

[32] See Chapter 5:3-4

[33] Sefer Yetzirah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5 and 13. See Gra there.

[34] See Sefer Etz Chayim Chaddashim, Sefer HaIlan HaGadol, Sefer Mikdash Melech, Sefer Shaarei Kedusha  of Rabbi Chaim Vital and second introduction to Tikkunei Zohar.

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