Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto ("RaMChaL"):

The Flow of Blessing: Shefa

Ascent and descent of the ranks

Let me now complete my explanation of the Temple service in order to give you a proper understanding of how the flow of sustenance and blessing descends and spreads throughout the world. The lower ranks of creation rise and become merged with those above them. The Ofanim become merged with the Chayot, which in turn become merged with the Serafim. Their place in the upper world is in this Inner Courtyard. It is therefore here that the Altar is located and from here they rise to higher levels. The souls, on the other hand, ascend from within the Sanctuary [where the incense is offered].

In this way the roots [Sefirot] and branches [souls and angels] join together and complete one another inside and outside. Who can describe the joy of this moment of connection and the radiance of the light that shines on all levels? Through this awesomely holy connection [Chibur], blessing and sustenance flow to all who share in the gift rising to the King.

Distribution of sustenance

The flow of blessing and sustenance first emerges in the Sanctuary, and this is where the souls receive their sustenance. You must understand that it is from the gates that all the recipients receive their due from the the places from which they receive. Blessing and sustenance well up in each place and then go forth to their recipients through the gates. The walls of a given place set bounds to the blessing in that place, enabling sustenance to flow out in a measured way to its various recipients. The boundaries formed by the walls of any given place determine how the light emerges, for the light always shines within bounds and limits.

When the souls join and merge together, all are included in the twelve Tribes of YaH, these being the roots of all the souls. The Tribes merge under the Patriarchs, all of whom are then included in Abraham, the first father. He is the High Priest, who is permitted to enter the Holy of Holies once each year.

The service of the High Priest elicits a flow of blessing from the supreme Chesed. As blessing and sustenance descend, they come first to the patriarchs and then to their children, flowing from level to level until they reach every individual creature.

From the Inner Courtyard shines the light fit for the angels of the world of Beriyah (Creation), who receive it at the Courtyard gates. From the Outer Courtyard shines the light fit for the angels of the world of Yetzirah (Formation), while the light fit for the officers of the world of Asiyah (Action) and its creatures shines from the Temple Mount.

Thirty-three cells surrounding the Temple building

Surrounding the Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies are structures in the form of rooms or cells built one on top of the other. Everything that comes forth from the Holy of Holies divides into three [columns]. Thus there are [three rows of] five cells along the south wall, [three rows of] five along the north wall, and three cells [on top of one another] along the west wall. Thus the Sanctuary is surrounded by cells on three sides except for the last five cubits at the eastern end of its north and south walls, where the cells do not reach.

Let me explain the purpose of these cells. Besides the sustenance that the armies of angels receive from the gates of the Inner Courtyard and beyond, they also receive a share from behind the walls of the Sanctuary itself. Later I will explain how they receive it. This is extra sustenance. Even though it comes to them from outside [the Sanctuary], it is on the highest level, as opposed to the sustenance they receive from the gates, which is already on a lower level even though it comes from inside.

The Recess

[Outside the north and south walls of the Sanctuary at the east end is a five cubit Recess (Munach) since the cells stop short five cubits from the end of the walls.] Through the five cubits of the Recess the light emerging from the Sanctuary is able to go out to the right and the left. The entrance to the outermost cell is from the Recess while all the other cells open into one another. Through this entrance the light from the Sanctuary enters the cells.

Altogether there are thirty-three cells arranged in three levels of eleven cells each. This is because they derive from the union of the Vav [=6] and Heh [=5] in the Holy of Holies [6 + 5 = 11]. Thus the light that brought the cells into being existed from before.

Understand that the power of these cells is not enormous. It derives only from the Heh, which is why the Recess from which the cells receive is five cubits wide. This Heh created the boundary of the cells in the form of a wall five cubits thick. Inside the cells the light shone only through the four letters of her name ADNY [and the cells are therefore four cubits wide]. The Vav displayed only a small fraction of its power, forming only the foundation upon which the cells are built [which is six cubits thick]. From this you can appreciate how the intensity of the light is diminished before it reaches its recipients.

The Winding Staircase

Consider some other important factors. The angelic hosts are unable to receive even from the cells. Accordingly there are two other places to the right and left [i.e. along the south and north walls, outside the cells] ten cubits wide in each case. Unlike the cells that I have been discussing, these two areas are not divided into five. They are undivided spaces in which all the light emerging from the cells gathers. Why are they ten cubits wide? The reason is that ten groups [of angels] receive from them. It is from here that this extra sustenance goes out to them, as I will explain. Corresponding to this place in the lower Temple is the Winding Staircase [Mesibah].

On the subject of the cells: those on each successive tier are wider than the ones beneath them. This is because the wall of the Sanctuary [which is the inside wall of the cells] becomes narrower in steps as it rises. Since the wall forming the boundary of the light becomes successively thinner, the light itself becomes more abundant, so that the radiance of the upper chambers is greater than that of the lower chambers.

The abundance of light depends on the ceiling for, as you already know, it is the beams of any structure that draw the light into the space beneath them. However, these beams do not penetrate the actual wall of the Sanctuary but rest on these steps, for it is from the outside that they receive and not from the inside. Stairs lead up from cell to cell: all the lights have these steps to make it possible to rise from level to level.

The north-east cell opens to the Sanctuary and side gate

It is through the small gates at the side of the Great Gate of the Sanctuary that sustenance flows into these cells via the Recess. Let me explain some great secrets. The first cell [at the eastern end] of the north wall of the Sanctuary opens into the Sanctuary, while access to the cell [from the outside] is through the side gate.

Why is this the case? The reason is that when the flow of sustenance emerges from the Sanctuary it must spread out into these cells. In addition, repairs effected in the lower worlds can only rise through this access route. It is through this opening that the rectification ascends. However, the descending flow of sustenance is received not from there but only from the recess [Munach], as I stated earlier.

The northern side gate is open at all times in order to give access to the cell, for here are the "Lower Waters", which are female. However, the southern side gate is closed, for there are the Upper Waters, which are male. For this reason, it is said of the southern side gate: "For YHVH the God of Israel comes through it" (Ezekiel 44:2), and only the High Priest, who is on the south side [Chesed], may come there.

Let me now complete my discussion of the Inner Courtyard. I will come to the Outer Courtyard later. The Inner Courtyard is one hundred cubits long and one hundred cubits wide for, as you already know, when all the levels are included in one another they number one hundred [for each of the ten Sefirot contains all ten Sefirot: 10 x 10 = 100].





Translated by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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