From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky
“The water prevailed fifteen cubits above, and the mountains were covered.” (Gen. 7:20)
Thus, during the Flood, the highest mountaintop was submerged 15 cubits.
Let us understand why [the mountaintops were submerged] fifteen cubits, no more and no less. Furthermore, once [the Torah] says that [“the water prevailed fifteen cubits] above”, why must it say that “the mountains were covered”? This is implied in the word “above”!
It is enough to say simply that the water prevailed fifteen cubits above the mountains. What is gained by saying that they were covered?
The answer: The sin of the Generation of the Flood was wasteful emission of seed. It is known that this act causes above [the same thing, namely,] that the drop [of divine beneficence] issues from the male [i.e. Zeir Anpin] without being posited in the female [i.e. Nukva]. Rather, it is captured by the forces of evil.
This is the mystical meaning of the verse: “And G-d saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted its way on the earth.”(Ibid. 6:12)
Before the Flood…wasting seed was rampant….
The verb “to corrupt” (in Hebrew, “hashcheit”) also means “to waste”. Thus, the phrase “for all flesh had corrupted…” can also mean, “for all flesh had wasted its way on the earth”. This immediately evokes the story of Judah’s son Onan, where we are told, “When he engaged in marital relations with his [dead] brother’s wife, he wasted it on the earth, in order not to give seed to his brother.”(Ibid. 38:9) The verse describing the state of the earth before the Flood thus indicates that wasting seed was rampant.
“The earth” refers to the supernal “earth”, [which was destroyed.] And in what did its destruction consist? “That all flesh had destroyed…”, i.e. that the supernal yesod, which is termed “all”, had “destroyed its way on the earth”, and not in Nukva.
“Earth” is an appellation for Nukva / malchut, which receives the seed of Zeir Anpin and develops into fruition and expression.
In the verse, “To You, O G-d, is the greatness [“gedulah”, a synonym for chesed], and the might [gevura], and the beauty [tiferet], and the victory [netzach], and the majesty [hod], for all [referring to yesod] that is in heaven and earth, to You, O G-d, is the dominion [“mamlacha”, a synonym for malchut]“ (Chronicles I 29:11), yesod is referred to as “all” because all the divine beneficence of the preceding sefirot flows into it and through it to malchut.
In the verse quoted, yesod is described as positing its seed on the earth, i.e. on the surface of the earth, rather than in the earth.
In this way, [Nukva] was “destroyed”, for it could not elevate feminine water at all. Therefore [G-d] brought the flood upon them.
When the masculine water mates with her…the states of gevura are sweetened….
Since the flow from yesod was directed toward the forces of selfishness and evil, rather toward Nukva, Nukva could not elicit the flow of divine beneficence toward it. “Elevating feminine water” is the allegorical term for arousing or eliciting flow from above.
[Normally, Nukva can] elevate her feminine water, which is states of gevura. And when the masculine water mates with her states of gevura [in her feminine water], the states of gevura are sweetened.
As we have seen previously, the feminine principle is constructed out of states of gevura, since it needs to be very judgmental in order to interface with the material world, which is a priori antithetical to G-dliness. In order that these states of gevura not leave her with an entirely negative attitude, she must periodically “mate” with the male principle, in which chesed predominates. This mitigation of Nukva’s gevura-states by Zeir Anpin’s chesed-states is termed “sweetening” the gevura.
This is the meaning of “…to work it”, [which, according to the Sages, refers to] the active commandments, for [by performing the active commandments] we draw down masculine water upon us; “…and to guard it” refers to the passive commandments, which guarded the garden so that evil could not attach itself.
“And G-d took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to guard it” (Gen. 2:15) The Sages comment: “‘To work it’ refers to the active commandments, while ‘to guard it’ refers to the passive commandments.” Here, the active commandments elicit the masculine water while the passive commandments are feminine water. The passive commandments are clearly associated with gevura, the judgmentality that guards the garden from intrusion by forces antithetical to G-d consciousness.
But in the present case, [i.e. that of the world before the Flood] there was no masculine water at all; rather, there were only severe states of judgment.
Unable to be “sweetened” by “mating” with masculine water (which was diverted into the forces of evil by the sin of wasting seed), the feminine gevura states remained in their full force. This predominance of gevura in the world precipitated the Flood.
The five states of judgment are the five letters of the name Elo-him….
It is known that the five states of judgment are the five letters of the name Elo-him, and that they originate in the hei of this name. Each of these states of gevura comprises ten sub-levels. This is the significance of the hei-yud of the name Elo-him, meaning 5 times 10.
The name Elo-him, we know, is associated with the left axis of the sefirot, that of gevura. The chesed-gevura-tiferet-netzach-hod of this name are inter-included of ten sub-sefirot each, giving 50 total sub-states of gevura.
The numerical value of the letters hei and yud are 5 and 10, respectively.
These are the fifteen cubits [of water depth] that ascended [above the highest mountaintop].
The 15 cubits allude to the 5 and the 10 of the name Elo-him.
The water is the feminine water mentioned above, from which the hei-yud had been withdrawn, leaving alef-lamed-mem of Elo-him.
The states of gevura within the feminine water, as stated, could not be “sweetened” by the masculine water and form part of the harmonious functioning of the masculine and feminine principles, so they separated from the feminine water and assumed a life of their own, so to speak. The fifteen cubits of water allude to the absence of these two (hei = 5 and yud = 10) states of gevura from the feminine water.
This is the mystical meaning of the word “above”, for it can be read to mean “above the hei”, [referring to the states of gevura] that were withdrawn above the hei [i.e. above the feminine water].
These states of gevura ascended above her head, i.e. to the level of the upper third of tiferet [of Zeir Anpin].
We have seen previously that Nukva is positioned initially such that the top of her head is level with the line dividing the upper third of Zeir Anpin’s tiferet from its lower two-thirds. This simply means that Nukva expresses directly only the lower midot of Zeir Anpin. Chesed, gevura, and the upper third of tiferet are the “pure” midot; the midot oriented toward external expression are the lower two-thirds of tiferet, netzach, and hod. (Yesod and malchut are technically the drive toward and means of expression of the midot, rather than midot proper.)
The upper third of tiferet is the intellect of tiferet; the lower two thirds of tiferet are the chesed-gevura-tiferet and netzach-hod-yesod of tiferet. The intellect of any sefira is oriented chiefly towards its source in the sefirot above it, while the midot of that sefira are oriented chiefly outwards and downwards, towards expression in the realms below it.
They continued to ascend to the level of chesed and gevura, which are called “the mountains”, as opposed to netzach and hod, which are called “the hills”.
Mountains can be envisioned as protrusions from the earth; the expression of the earth’s “desire” or “tendency” to reach beyond itself. Thus, the midot, oriented outward toward external reality, are “protrusions” of the partzuf outward. Since the intensity of consciousness is greater in chesed and gevura than it is in netzach and hod, the former are called “mountains” relative to the latter, which are called “hills”.
As is known, in the generation of the Flood, Zeir Anpin and Nukva were back to back. This is alluded to by the two words “mountain”, “mountain”, whose numerical values are that of the name Elo-him in regression [plus 5, for the value of the five letters of the name – see Likutei Torah, Shemot, s.v. U-Moshe Hayah Ro’eh Tzon].
Because of the sins of the generation, Zeir Anpin and Nukva could not face each other….
Because of the sins of the generation, Zeir Anpin and Nukva could not face each other; they were not oriented toward mutual cross-fertilization, as we mentioned above.
The word for “mountain” is “har” (spelled hei-reish): 5 + 200 = 205.
The regression of the name Elo-him (spelled alef-lamed-hei-yud-mem) is:
alef, alef-lamed, alef-lamed-hei, alef-lamed-hei-yud, alef-lamed-hei-yud-mem.
The numerical value of this regression is:
1 + (1 + 30) + (1 + 30 + 5) + (1 + 30 + 5 +10) + (1 + 30 + 5 + 10 + 40) =
5(1) + 4(30) + 3(5) + 2(10) + 1(40) =
5 + 120 + 15 + 20 + 40 = 200.
Thus, we see that the back-to-back state of Zeir Anpin and Nukva, alluded to by the “mountains” of chesed and gevura being submerged in the water, alludes in turn to the regression of the name Elo-him, i.e. the withdrawal of the divine beneficence indicated by this name from reality.
Thus, [Nukva’s] states of gevura ascended to this level. It is know that at this level is where yesod of Imma [reaches and stops] and is revealed, and that the source of [Nukva’s] states of gevura is in yesod of Imma.
Yesod of Imma, as we know, is the drive within the intellect for expression. It descends to the level of chesed and gevura of Zeir Anpin, for that is as far as the intellect can descend and act as the motivating force behind the expression of the emotions. That is, chesed and gevura of Zeir Anpin are the lowest levels that sustain any “memory” of the intellect that spawned them. Subsequent levels must take the inspiration of the intellect but “forget” the idea itself in order to concentrate on getting the conclusion of the idea out into the world.
Imma, the partzuf of bina, is associated with the left axis of the sefirot, and thus its drive toward expression is the source of the gevura-aspect of Nukva.
This is the meaning of the Zohar’s statement that in the Flood “the lower waters mixed with the upper waters”. The meaning is also that the states of gevura in her “rain” mixed with the states of gevura in Imma.
The Flood was the immersion of the world in the original intellect, or idea, that gave rise to it….
In the Flood, the gevura-states of Nukva could not, as we saw, be “sweetened” by her “husband”, Zeir Anpin, so they had to return to their source in their “mother”, Imma, to be rectified. Thus, the Flood was the immersion of the world in the original intellect, or idea, that gave rise to it, in order to renew it. True, this was a purification process, just as a return to the original intellectual construct that gave rise to one’s emotional makeup is a purifying experience. However, such a flood of renewing energy can also be destructive, destroying the imperfect, corrupt, degenerate emotional makeup (“world”) that was spawned by that idea but developed along selfish lines.
This is probably why most people tend to avoid facing the real issues in life. Tracing the threads of our existence back to their source offers the promise of renewal, purification, and rejuvenation, but the price is the potential destruction of the “world” or “civilization” we have carefully constructed to serve our own ends.
This is the mystical meaning of the verse, “all the wellsprings of the abyss split open…” (Gen. 7:11), referring to the states of gevura in Rachel [i.e. Nukva], “…and the storehouses of heaven were opened”, referring to yesod of Imma, located in “heaven”, i.e. the top third of tiferet.
In this context, the lower waters, the abyss, are the feminine waters of Nukva, and the upper waters, the storehouses of heaven, are the waters of yesod of Imma. “Heaven” is often associated with tiferet, as contrasted to “earth”, which indicates malchut.
The words for “and the storehouses…” may be seen as 15 + 200, referring to the 200 regressive manifestations of the name Elo-him. The rest of the letters, together with the kolel, are 15; these are the 15 letters of the regression of Elo-him.
The phrase “and the storehouses of heaven were opened” is composed of 15 letters. If we consider the reish of the word for “storehouses” (in Hebrew, “arubot”) separately, this leaves 14 letters. 14 plus the kolel (1) is 15.
We saw above that the numerical value of the regression of the name Elo-him is 200, and if we count the letters used in this regression we see that they are 15 in number. 200 is the numerical value of the letter reish.
This is the mystical significance of the word for “flood” [in Hebrew, “mabul”]. They issue via the back of Zeir Anpin, for that is where the regressions [“backs”] of the names Ab [=72], Sag [=63], and Mah [=45] are situated. These use 26 letters; 3 times 26, gives 78, the numerical value of the word for “flood”.
The word used for “regression” in the text is “achorayim”, which literally means “back”. We are bidden to visualize the name facing away from us, returning upward to its source. We first see the back of the first letter, then the first two, then the first three, and so on.
The name Ab is spelled yud-vav-dalet hei-yud vav-yud-vav hei-yud.
The regression of this name is:
The name Sag is spelled yud-vav-dalet hei-yud vav-alef-vav hei-yud.
The regression of this name is:
The name Mah is spelled yud-vav-dalet hei-alef vav-alef-vav hei-alef.
The regression of this name is:
In each case, it can be seen that 26 letters are used in the regression.
“Mabul”, meaning “flood” is spelled: mem-beit-vav-lamed = 40 + 2 + 6 + 30 = 78.
The word for “flood”, “mabul”, thus alludes to the withdrawal of the divine life-force indicated by these iterations of the name Havayah from the world.
Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky