Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto ("RaMChaL"):

First Stage: The Temple Mount ­­ Survival of the Creatures

Let me now explain some great secrets relating to the sustenance given to all the creatures of this world from the greatest to the smallest. All are ultimately rooted in the twenty-two letters of the Aleph Beit, for everything in creation derives from these letters and their various combinations and permutations. These twenty-two letters sit at the helm of the government [Malchut] generating infinite numbers of permutations.

The basic letter-combinations are the "two hundred and thirty-one gates" forwards and backwards. These in turn generate countless more complex combinations. Three ciphers appeared at first, and they head all the others: אבג"ד [Aleph-Beit-Gimel-Dalet in order] to the right, תשר"ק [Tav-Shin-Resh-Kuf  backwards] to the left, and אתב"ש [Aleph-Tav, Beit-Shin or ATBaSh] in the center.

When the light from the holy union [Zivug] shone in this place, the abundant light and radiance gave new strength and power to the twenty-two letters standing there. One light in particular welled up with very great power. This light is composed of all twenty-two letters of the Aleph Beit as well as five others: MaNTzPaCh [ם' ן' ץ' ף' ך', these being the five letters that take a different form when at the end of a word]. This light is called Ochazah, אוחז"ה, as in the verse: "I said I will climb up into the palm tree, I will take hold [אוחזה] of its branches" (Song of Songs 7:9). The numerical value of the letters of this word is twenty-seven [corresponding to the twenty-seven letters].

After the union [Zivug], this light shines forth so strongly that it overshadows all the others. It is therefore very holy and has tremendous power to bring holiness into a person, together with the other names connected with it, which are embedded in the very same verse. Since this name arises out of connection and unity [Zivug], the verse says: "I will climb up into the palm tree." For as you already know, the palm tree always indicates connection and unity. It is then that this name Ochazah, which includes all the letters of Aleph Beit, gains power. The idea of the "branches" alludes to permutations generated by the letters.

This is the source of all the sustenance given to all those who need it. It therefore says: "And let your breasts be as clusters of the vine." (ibid.). "Breasts" is the name given to the supreme lights that give sustenance to the beings in the lower worlds. Why are they compared to "clusters of the vine"? For when the creatures of the lower worlds ascend to receive at the gates, they connect with and cling to the letters shining at the gate, as I discussed above, for these letters are their very roots. When attached there, they are like grapes attached to a cluster. As to the continuation of the verse, "The smell of your countenance [lit. nose] is like apples" (ibid.), this alludes to the odor of the sacrifice that rises up into the nose to sweeten the severity [Gevurah] found there.

Let me now complete my explanation of the subject of the sustenance. When Tiferet and Malchut joined together, three great lights emerged from the head of Tiferet and came down via Yesod to Malchut, where they reached these three ciphers. When they did so, who can describe the great splendor and radiance with which they shone? The light goes up and down each one of them repeatedly with tremendous force, spreading to all their derivative generations at once, and this is what gives every creature in the world the power it needs.

Second Stage: The Soreg - Renewal of the Creatures

After this, another light radiated from the head [of Tiferet] and shone down to the three ciphers and all their derivative generations. Through this great radiance, all the derivative generations were able to reconnect with their roots, making everything tightly bound together and deeply interconnected. As a result they all shone with a very great new light that gave them regenerative power for themselves as well as the power to produce new generations. However, these new generations came forth only through the mutual joining and interconnection of these lights.

As these lights embraced and combined with one another, a structure appeared in this place in the form of a partition of interlaced wood known as the Soreg. This encompasses the entire Temple Mount inside the outer wall. The outermost area [between the Soreg and the outer wall] contains the basic sustenance required to enable all the different species to survive. This sustenance comes from the first light that shone down to the twenty-two letters, as I explained above. This area surrounds all the others because it includes everything in creation, and everything else is located within it. The height of this partition is exactly ten handbreadths, neither more nor less. You already know the significance of the handbreadth and the measure of ten. This measure is sufficient to provide for all the creatures in the world.

Third Stage: The Cheil - Perfection of the Creatures

Finally a third light radiated from the head [of Tiferet] and reached the ciphers. This light encompassed all the lights and all the letters in their entirety, joining them all together in a single bond. This bond is expressed in the glorious, awesome name of YHVH blessed-be-He. This gave everything in creation the power to attain perfection through the mystery of Adam. This great secret is known to those versed in the ways of wisdom, who understand the actual process through which the world comes to be rectified.

The name to which I am referring is Adam, i.e. the expansion of YHVH with Aleph's: יוד הא ואו הא [= 45, sum of the numerical value of the letters of ADaM]. All God's works came into being through Binah, associated with the name EHYH. When the latter name is "expanded" as אלף הא יוד הא, it enters the middle Aleph of the expanded YHVH I mentioned, so that everything - YHVH, EHYH and everything else - is included in Adam.

Surrounding the area in which the light that I have been discussing spread out stands a wall ten cubits high known as the Cheil. The sum of the numerical values of the letters of Cheil [48] is equivalent to that of YHVH (26) and EHYH (21) [plus 1 for the kolel]. Thus all the measurements of the House are duly complete.

Steps leading up from the Cheil to the Courtyard

It remains for me to explain to you the meaning of the steps between the various areas of the Temple. These steps involve great secrets, for they are literally the steps upon which the worlds and their inhabitants ascend from world to world. Thus all the gates have steps leading up to them, though they differ in number in each case depending on their respective secrets.

Leading up from the Cheil to the Outer Courtyard on the eastern side there are twelve most imposing steps, while on the north and south sides there are seven steps each. Let me explain this matter. The lights are arranged in two different ways, which is why there are two different paths for their ascent, each path corresponding to one of these different arrangements. For the lights are divided into ten and seven. They are seven when arranged in the order of the Palaces [Heichalot] but ten when arranged in the order of the ten levels [Sefirot] themselves. Both need to ascend. How do they do so? They always start from the bottom. Each lower light joins and merges with the light above it until all are bound together in a single unity. For this reason there are as many steps as there are levels, in order to elevate them, step after step, to the top. That is why there are seven steps to the north and south corresponding to the seven Heichalot.

On the eastern side, however, there are twelve steps. Let me tell you why they are twelve. This is a very deep secret, and you must apply your powers of understanding. The Malchut of the level of the Chayot [angels of Yetzirah] remained on the level of the Ofanim [angels of Asiyah, for Malchut of the higher level becomes Keter of the lower level]. There on the level of the Ofanim this Malchut divided into two, completing the number of steps. [It would appear that the reference is to the steps leading from the Cheil (corresponding to Asiyah) to the Outer Courtyard (corresponding to Yetzirah).]

A new Malchut then came forth on the level of the Chayot and from this Malchut were formed two great heads over all the Ofanim. They stand over them in the form of a male and female. Thus there are ten levels with two heads over them. Since some of these heads were already in the world [of the Ofanim] itself, i.e. the first Malchut that I mentioned [which remained on the level of the Ofanim and divided into two], there had to be two more steps corresponding to these heads themselves [i.e. the two heads formed from the new Malchut of the Chayot, which stand over the Ofanim].

Steps from the Women's Courtyard to the Israelite Courtyard

From the Outer Courtyard to the Inner Courtyard are eight steps on all three sides. They occupy part of the vestibules leading up to the gates of the Inner Courtyard in between the cells of the gates. Let me explain to you the secret of these eight steps. They have known names of their own. These are two names containing a total of eight letters out of which these steps were formed.

For when the worlds need to ascend, power and energy go forth from the higher worlds to give the lower worlds the strength to ascend. When the Chayot [angels of Yetzirah, corresponding to the Outer Courtyard] want to come up to the Throne [World of Beriyah, corresponding to the Inner Courtyard], two most powerful lights shine forth to them from the throne, giving them the strength to ascend. As they go up, the power of these lights makes them sing a most pleasant song, for it is these lights that give them the strength to rise up. For this reason the angels will not leave them so as not to lose their strength.

These two lights come out from the Wisdom [Chochmah] and Understanding [Binah] in the Throne. The name of the first light is Kadosh while the name of the second is Baruch. Their roots are respectively YHVH and EHYH. When these lights shine on the Chayot, who can describe the thunderous surge of agitation and trembling and the roar the Chayot send back as they receive them in awe and fear, holiness and purity. From these lights the Chayot gain the strength to ascend. This is what is written: "And one called to another and said, 'Holy, holy, holy [Kadosh] is YHVH of hosts'" (Isaiah 6:3), while Ezekiel said: "And a wind lifted me up, and I heard behind me the sound of a great noise: 'Blessed [Baruch] be the glory of YHVH from His place'" (Ezekiel 3:12).

It is through these two names that the angels go up, and this is why the People of Israel rise on their toes when saying these two verses in their prayers. For when the Chayot move forward to ascend, they too say these words. At first it says: "And I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of abundant waters." (Ezekiel 1:24). But when they stand at the higher level to which they rise, it says of them: "When they stood, they let down their wings" (ibid. vv. 24, 25).

Understand how the steps came to be in front of the gates. It was when the light burst through the walls and spread forth outside that these lights [which brought the steps into being] were revealed to the creatures of the lower worlds.

Steps between the Altar and the Vestibule of the Sanctuary

Twelve steps lead up from the Inner Courtyard to the Vestibule of the Sanctuary. They are twelve because they correspond to the Palaces [Heichalot] of the Throne [Beriyah, i.e. the Inner Courtyard], of which there are six in the Palace of Desire [Heichal Haratzon] and another six, making a total of twelve. The highest of all, "Holy of Holies", is the one that goes up to the World of Atzilut [i.e. it is the "top step" leading into the Sanctuary and its Vestibule, which correspond to the world of Atzilut].

"The gate facing east shall be shut"
(Ezekiel 46:1)

Let me now explain to you a secret relating to the instructions given to Ezekiel as to "the Gate of the Inner Court facing east" (Ezekiel 46:1). The East Gate is a place of the most intense light and power, and cannot be opened for the creatures of the lower worlds except on Shabbat and the New Moon. This is because it is in direct alignment with the Great Gate [the center column], and must therefore be kept closed. It can only be opened for the Prince, namely the Messianic King. Because of his great strength and paramount importance, this gate will be open for him, but no-one else will be able to enter except on those two days.

Let me explain to you what is special about these two days. On these days the Shechinah receives a very great light indeed from Tiferet. Now let me tell you the difference between Shabbat and the New Moon. The New Moon is "down below" in the sense that the Shechinah [does not rise from her place but stays below and there] receives power from Tiferet - a new power to govern all her armies for her entire thirty-day circuit. Shabbat, on the other hand, rises to far higher levels. For these reasons this gate will be opened on these two days and the people will come to prostrate themselves and share its great light.

Pilgrims' exit route from the Temple

However, the obligation to appear in the Temple on festivals is bound up with a different secret. The purpose is to reconnect the branches with their roots three times a year. The roots are divided into two, one to the right and one to the left. The pilgrims [branches] must enter by one gate, proceed across the Temple and leave by the opposite gate in order for all the roots to be joined to one another and thus become interconnected and unified. When this happens, it is said, "And who is like your People Israel, one nation in the earth!" (II Samuel 7:23).

Water flowing from the Holy of Holies

By the entrance to the Inner House is a small path where the sweetest waters flow. Let me tell you where these waters come from and where they are going. These waters come from the innermost place of delight, a place of the most powerful Mercy [Rachamim]. For that reason, as these waters come out, their direction of flow is to the south [Chesed]. They then flow out of the Temple.

Where to? This is explained in the verse: ". And they will come into the sea, into the sea of the putrid waters, and the waters shall be healed" (Ezekiel 47:8). For their mission is to heal all gatherings of water from their saltiness by means of the tremendous mercy they contain. These waters are not the same as the basic sustenance given to enable all things to subsist, but rather a most precious light that shines from the Holy of Holies in order to temper the severity of Gevurah in any place that it is strong.

Even so, it says: "But its swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will serve to supply salt" (ibid. v. 11). For some Gevurah is needed in the world, and this is the significance of the salt required with all sacrifices. For this reason "they will serve to supply salt", and this is why some was left. If it were not so, Mercy would spread out on every side and all the powers of Gevurah would disappear.

In the time of the Mashiach mercy will spread throughout the world, and all things will be rectified and brought to perfection. All the lights will shine with a radiance unlike anything ever known. Holiness will spread without bounds, and all the worlds will be filled with serenity, bliss and joy, as it says: "This is the day that God made, we will rejoice and be glad on it" (Psalms 118:24).

And may it be the will of our Father in Heaven to quickly bring about His redemption in kindness and mercy, "And the city will be built on its hill and the palace will sit in its appointed place" (Jeremiah 30:18) speedily in our days. Amen!





Translated by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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