From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky
The portion of the Torah read this week describes the famous story of the flood.
We must understand three points:
First, why did G-d have to save Noah by means of an ark?
Next, why [did He command Noah to bring] seven each of the ritually pure animals and of the ritually impure only two each?
And finally, who exactly were the Generation of the Flood and the generation of the dispersion?
The end of the portion describes the events of the Tower of Babel, the aftermath of which was the dispersion of mankind. Adam, before he sinned, was not physical…
[To answer these questions,] know that Adam, before he sinned, was not physical. His was clothed in light, and he encompassed all [the spiritual] worlds. His head was in Atzilut; his [torso, corresponding to the] middle triad [of sefirot, chesed-gevura-tiferet] was in Beriya; his [lower extremities, corresponding to the] final triad [of sefirot, netzach-hod-yesod] was in Yetzira; and the crown [of his sexual organ] was in Asiya.
As we have explained previously, the sefirot in the world of Tikun are positioned as triads. The upper triad is chochma-bina-daat, the intellect, corresponding to the three lobes of the brain. The middle triad, chesed-gevura-tiferet, corresponds to the right and left arms and torso, respectively. The lower triad, netzach-hod-yesod, corresponds to the right and left legs and sexual organ, respectively. The final sefira, malchut, corresponds to the glans of the male sexual organ (or in other contexts, to the female).
All souls were included in his. When he sinned, his stature was diminished and he became physical, and this caused a blemish in all the souls [he encompassed].
“His stature was diminished” obviously does not mean that he physically shrank, and that being spiritual is just being giant. Rather, this is simply the way the Kabbalists describe Adam’s transformation from a totally spiritual to partly physical being.
However, he [originally] encompassed souls of Arich Anpin, and when he sinned, these souls ascended on high.
The four worlds correspond to the four lower partzufim, while the higher partzufim correspond to the higher world, Adam Kadmon:
partzuf sefira world body
Arich Anpin keter Adam Kadmon skull
Abba chochma Atzilut right lobe of brain
Imma bina Beriya left lobe of brain
Zeir Anpin the middot Yetzira arms, torso, legs, sexual organ
Nukva d’Zeir Anpin malchut Asiya glans or female
In addition to encompassing souls whose level of consciousness reflected the four principle worlds as detailed above, Adam’s soul also encompassed souls whose consciousness was higher than that of the world of Atzilut proper. These souls were evidently too sublime to be affected by the sin, and when Adam’s being was diminished and therefore no longer spiritual enough to encompass them, they simply flew away from him.
The rest of the souls were eventually rectified, however, as we will [now] explain, please G-d.
These souls left [the diminished being of Adam] by way of seminal emissions, for [as we are taught, Adam] sired evil spirits. This happens when the drop of seminal emission impregnates a female demon. The soul [that has thus become entrapped in evil] must be reincarnated afterwards in order to be rectified.
We are taught in the Talmud (Eiruvin 18a, based on Gen. 5:3) that during the 130 years Adam separated from Eve (after the sin and until he fathered Seth), he suffered from seminal emissions. The Hebrew term for “seminal emission”,”keri”, applies both to intentional and involuntary seminal emissions. Although voluntary emission is considered a more serious sin than involuntary emission, the individual is considered responsible for involuntary emission as well, since dreams are in most cases the way the mind sorts out the thoughts the individual entertained during his waking hours. One’s wife…arouses her husband to transmit his creative flow to her…
Any seminal emission implies a recipient of the vital seed. Normally, this is one’s wife, who inspires or arouses her husband to transmit his creative flow to her, the result of this being holy spiritual offspring (in the form of increased holy energy in the world) and, ideally, physical offspring as well. However, evil can also entice or trick a man to transmit his creative flow to it, by deceiving him into thinking that some holy purpose (or some cheap imitation of the exhilaration and excitement of holiness, i.e., ephemeral excitement or fulfillment) will come of this. In this case, the recipient of his vital seed is a “female demon”, whether that be an actual human being, a mental fantasy, or in the most general, philosophical sense, any false ideal or substitute for holiness that man may fall prey to dedicating his energies to.
The result of this unholy union is that, temporarily, vital energy has been added to the side of unholiness, and unholy energy has been propagated. The mechanism G-d set up to rectify this is for this “soul” to transmigrate into an incarnation in which it feels the horror of being unfulfilled, as we have explained previously.
Although the Midrash describes a situation that persisted for 130 years and the Arizal describes a process that occurred simultaneously with the sin, this is simply because spiritual processes that occur outside the context of time require time when manifested in the physical plane.
In addition, [Adam] blemished souls that were associated with his own, personal soul-root. These were [intended to be] rectified in the souls of Cain and Abel, Abel rectifying the aspect of chochma and Cain the aspect of bina.
All [the souls that originate in the left side,] from bina downward, became “shells” [i.e., evil]. In contrast, even the gevura-aspects [of the right side, that] which descends from chochma, did not become “shells”, although they did become their life-force.
Bina is the aspect of the intellect that exercises judgment and evaluates the insight of chochma. Therefore, it is essentially a judgmental force, and as such can serve as the source for unholy judgment and vengeance.
Therefore, when Cain attempted to rectify [reality by offering his sacrifice], he made it worse instead.
Cain exercised the attribute of bina incorrectly, and misjudged how G-d would react to his offering. Adam ate the fruit prematurely, assuming incorrectly that G-d wanted him to “take the initiative” and forcefully bring about the perfection of the world on his own, before the appointed time (it would have been permitted to him on Shabbat). Cain, understanding this, felt that to rectify this miscalculation, it was necessary to disavow the human side of the equation altogether and live life submersed in the experience of G-d’s absolute unity, leaving no room for self-awareness or initiative from man’s side. This was reflected in his offering, flax, which grows as a single seed on a stalk. Of course, since this perspective precludes man’s purpose on earth, to make the lower realms a home for G-d, it was rejected.
Abel also made things worse. This is the implication of the verse, “And Abel brought, he also…,” (Gen. 4:4) meaning that he sinned as well.
The fact that Abel’s offering is compared to Cain’s implies that it, too, was defective in some way. Also, the fact that Abel was murdered means that he must have been deserving of death in some way (although this in no was exonerates Cain, of course). Elsewhere, the Arizal states that Abel’s sin was that he “gazed” at the Divine presence.
[The situation remained unrectified] until Moses came and rectified the hei of [Abel’s name in Hebrew,] Hevel and the shin of [Seth’s name in Hebrew,] Shet.
Moses in Hebrew is Moshe, spelled mem-shin-hei. He is thus seen as the rectification of Seth and Abel. In other words, the ultimate tool for rectifying the sin of Adam is the Torah (which was given through Moses).
Some of the souls that went out [of Adam] were rectified [by being reincarnated] in converts. When an individual converts to Judaism…he draws down into his being a Jewish soul that he did not possess previously…
When an individual converts to Judaism (in accordance with Jewish law), he draws down into his being a Jewish soul that he did not possess previously. Existentially, then, his conversion process represents the transformation of the mundane into the holy.
To explain further: The [original] garment of Adam was the light that corresponds to the [aspect of the soul known as] Nefesh. This [light] was like the fourth “shell,” which is attached to holiness and is called Noga [“glow”], half of which is from holiness and half of which is from evil. When evil prevails [over it], it becomes wholly evil; when holiness [prevails], the opposite happens.
There are four levels of non-holiness: three levels of absolute evil and one level of neutrality. These are referred to in the vision of Ezekiel (1:4) as “a stormy wind,” “a huge cloud,” “a flashing fire,” and “a glow.” The three levels of evil are envisioned as three “shells” surrounding the edible fruit, or holiness. In between the shells and the fruit is a fourth, softer “shell” or “peel” (e.g., the rind of an orange) that in some cases is edible. This signifies the level of neutrality, which can be subsumed into either evil or holiness, depending on how it is used. Into this category of reality fall all those things that are neither expressly forbidden nor are used for an particular mitzvah.
There are five levels of the soul, signifying five levels of holiness. These stand in opposition to the four levels of non-holiness as follows:
level of the soul opposite level of non-holiness
Chaya third level of evil
Neshama second level of evil
Ruach first level of evil
Nefesh neutrality (Noga)
There is no level of evil corresponding to the Yechida, since Yechida is the soul’s total identification with divinity, and there obviously can be no type of evil that expresses the same quality in the opposite direction, since there is no “evil deity” to compromise G-d’s absolute oneness.
The soul of Onkelos, the convert, was from this aspect [of reality].
Onkelos was a Roman who converted to Judaism and is the author of the standard Aramaic translation of the Torah. We have discussed the significance of Aramaic in this context previously.
This is the mystical significance of [the custom of reading the Torah] “twice as in Scripture and once in translation.”
The Talmud enjoins us to review the weekly portion of the Torah each week by reading it aloud, each verse twice in the original Hebrew followed by once in the translation of Onkelos. (Berachot 8b) By reading the Hebrew together with the Aramaic, we are subsuming the mundane, Noga-shell into holiness.
The Noga-principle encloses the light of holiness after midnight.
As we said, the realm of the “fruit” or kernel of holiness is envisioned as existing within the four shells. In this depiction, we may consider the Noga-shell as protecting the holiness from the evil shells. (This is true, of course, to the extent that the individual or society has endeavored to consecrate the Noga-shell by subsuming their mundane activities into the realm of holiness. Otherwise, the Noga-shell comes under the rule of evil and there is no protective layer separating evil from holiness.) Marital relations are preferably conducted at this time of the night…
Since this protection is said here to be operative specifically after midnight, we are taught that marital relations are preferably conducted at this time of the night. Thus the couple is assured that their union will be unhampered by the attacks of evil thoughts or confusion.
The sin of Adam was that he caused this [protective] covering to be opened up, and at that opening the forces of evil benefited from the light of holiness.
Adam’s sin “punctured” the Noga-shell, allowing the forces of evil to invade (like a worm enters a fruit) and “suck” from holiness.
This is the mystical significance of the statement of our sages that Enoch was a cobbler, meaning that he closed that which Adam opened up, and was able to cover the light of Beriya. (Midrash Talpiot, s.v. Chanoch)
Enoch was the sixth generation from Adam, and was something of a saint or ascetic who renounced the evil ways of his rapidly degenerating society (Gen. 5). In the Midrash it is stated that the phrase describing the end of his life on earth “and he was no more, for G-d took him”, implies that G-d made him into an angel (specifically, the angel Metatron). Metatron occupies a pivotal position in the hierarchy of angels, and serves, among other things, to protect the realms of holiness from the forces of evil. Thus Enoch was able to protect the light of the world of Beriya from exposure to evil, but not any lower level.
But about the world of Yetzira it says: “And Abimelech looked in through the window.” (Gen. 27:8) When he was staying in the land of the Philistines, Isaac told the ruler, Abimelech, that Rebecca was his sister, for he feared that if he told him the truth that Rebecca was his wife, Abimelech would kill him in order to take her. But, we are told, Abimelech looked in to their tent through the window and saw them engaging in marital intercourse, and thus discovered that they were husband and wife.
Abimelech signifies the evil of the Philistines; the fact that he was able to observe the union between Isaac and Rebecca means that their level of intercourse was in some way exposed or vulnerable to intrusion by evil.
Isaac engaged in marital relations on the level of Asiya, where there is not intended to be any such intercourse, for that is the level of lesbianism. This is why the snake envied them, for he is on the level of Asiya. Marital relations are intended to be a sublime intertwining of the physical and spiritual aspects of the couple’s union…
Isaac here was evidently engaging in marital relations in a relatively exclusively physical way, after the manner of the Philistines, known for their excessive sensual indulgence. (This is why the king of the Philistines was able to intrude on their union; he was there anyway, so to speak.) Obviously, marital relations are intended to be a sublime intertwining of the physical and spiritual aspects of the couple’s union, not a mere exercise in physical gratification. When there is no sublime, spiritual union between male and female, with all this implies in terms of the union of the male and female principles in Creation, the sexual act is reduced to the pursuit of raw sensual pleasure. In this way, it is like homosexuality, where the sensual pleasure is paramount and considered the justification for the intercourse and the indication of its “rightness”. The spiritual union between the partners (if there is any) is subordinate to the physical, instead of the reverse situation, as is the case in proper marital relations.
Once intercourse occurs on this level, the snake, like Abimelech (who was simply playing the role of the snake further along in history) can rightfully argue that he is as fit a consort for Eve as Adam.
Now, Adam is considered to have committed [in the sin of the Tree of Knowledge] three cardinal sins: idolatry, sexual aberration, and murder. (Zohar 1:27b)
Murder: referring to the souls that left him as seminal emissions.
The sages compare intentional seminal emission to murder, since the individual is squandering his potential to bring life into the world.
Idolatry: for he caused the sparks of holiness to cling to the forces of evil.
Giving power to the forces of evil is serving them, which is idolatry.
Those souls who left him as seminal emissions returned as the generation of the flood, and made things even worse.
G-d sought to wipe out the generation of the flood “for all flesh had corrupted its way on earth”, meaning that they engaged in all kinds of sexual aberrations.
Therefore the floodwaters were required, in order to wipe out all those [corrupted] bodies. The earth, also, was washed away to a depth of three handbreadths. This refers to the sefira of malchut, which is called “the earth”. The three “handbreadths” of malchut in which intercourse is not to take place were “wiped out”.
Malchut, the lowest sefira, is manifest as the ground or earth, while Zeir Anpin is manifest as the “heavens”. Just as the heavens rain upon the earth, enabling it to grow fruit, Zeir Anpin (the male) fertilizes Nukva (the female).
The three “handbreadths” are presumably the upper three sub-sefirot of malchut; as was stated above, intercourse is not to supposed to take place only on the level of mere Asiya. These three handbreadths therefore had to be reconstituted after the flood.
Noah was [a manifestation of the sefira of] yesod, and [his three sons,] Shem, Ham, and Japheth corresponded to chochma, bina, and daat respectively. They issued by way of yesod and were thus rectified because they originated in a high level; the light therefore had to be concealed.
Noah was said to be “a righteous man, perfect in his generation….”(Gen. 6:9) The appellation “righteous” (tzadik) is associated specifically with the sefira of yesod and indicates sexual purity. In contrast to the rest of his depraved and degenerate generation, Noah was holy and guarded his sexuality properly. He was therefore able to elicit proper, rectified consciousness (chochma-bina-daat, or intellect), as opposed to Adam and his sons, each of whom erred in some way regarding proper G-d-consciousness.
As we said above, holiness has to be guarded and protected from the attacks of evil; therefore, until the world was purified, Noah and his sons had to be concealed inside the ark.
Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky