from the Writings of the Arizal, parashat Beshalach, by Rabbi Moshe Wisnefsky
the Jewish people left Egypt,] Moses took the bones of Joseph with
him, for [Joseph] had adjured the children of Israel, saying: "G-d
will deliver you, and you will bring up my bones from here with you."
you know, our sages tell us that when Pharaoh told the Egyptians,
"Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you," Joseph
required them to circumcise themselves.
storing up food during the seven years of plenty, the Egyptians found that when
the years of famine began, it had all rotted. They went to Pharaoh, who advised
them to go to Joseph and ask him for food. Joseph told them that he would distribute
food to them only if they circumcised themselves. Pharaoh advised the Egyptians
to comply with his demand, for "he [evidently] decreed that the produce should
rot; what happens if he decrees that we should die?
so doing,] he converted a number of souls and [therefore] circumcised
them. These were the "mixed multitude" that left Egypt with the Jewish
the Jews left Egypt, "a mixed multitude also left with them" (Ex. 12:38).
These were converts from a number of peoples - including Egyptians. (See Rashi's
commentary on this verse.)
also wanted to accept them and take them in under the wings of the Shechina.
Rashi's commentary on Ex. 32:7.
since Joseph began this deed and was the first one to convert them to Judaism,
[it is appropriate that] Moses took him [Joseph] with him [personally].
the Talmud Sota (13a), the Sages point out, "Whereas all the [other] Jews
were occupied with the spoil [of Egypt], Moses occupied himself with the commandments,"
i.e. with fulfilling Joseph's wish to be exhumed and taken to the holy land. The
Arizal gives a thematic explanation of why this was so.
Further on (Ex. 14:7),
we are told that Pharaoh regretted that he had let the people go, "and Pharaoh
took six hundred choice chariots and all the chariots of Egypt, manned by militia."
this means that] the patron angel of Egypt summoned his entire chariot to prosecute
[the Jewish people].
the king of Egypt, was the earthly manifestation of the "guardian angel"
of Egypt, the spiritual distillation of the evil(s) embodied in Egypt. The imagery
of the chariot (in Hebrew, "rechev") evokes that of the celestial Chariot
("merkava", from the same root, reish-kaf-beit) Ezekiel saw in his famous
prophetic vision. There, the "chariot" depicts the array of spiritual
forces of holiness that were departing from the world as the Divine Presence was
being banished from Earth with the destruction of the Temple. Here, the earthly
chariots of Egypt that Pharaoh summoned represent the array of evil forces the
patron angel of Egypt summoned to do battle with the Jewish people.
were] six hundred [angels] in order to oppose the six extremities.
six hundred "choice chariots" correspond to the evil angels (or forces)
that opposed the six holy middot (i.e. chesed to yesod). These inter-include all
ten sefirot, and these sub-sefirot again inter-include, giving 6 x 10 x 10 = 600
the chariots of Egypt" opposed malchut.
the chariots of Egypt", Rashi says, means all the other, non-choice chariots.
Perhaps the words "of Egypt" are taken to mean "contracted",
indicating a lower-grade evil force. Since malchut, as we know, does not possess
its own intrinsic content, the force evil had to muster to battle it did not need
to be as intense. Still, "all the [other] chariots of Egypt" presumably
numbered more than the "six hundred choice chariots", in which case
we could infer that although malchut embodies less qualitative intensity, it does
embody more quantitative power.
by militia" opposed the first three sefirot, i.e. the intellect, which is
subdivided into thirty [aspects].
Hebrew for "militia", "shalishim", can be understood
to mean "thirty", in Hebrew, "sheloshim"; this is especially
because there is no yud between the lamed and the second shin,
allowing the word to be vocalized as the word for "thirty". The words
for "manned by" ("al kulo") literally mean "over
all of them". Thus, this phrase refers to the thirty that govern the midot
and malchut, which are obviously the intellect. As we know, intellect comprises
the three sefirot of chochma- bina- daat, which by virtue of their inter-inclusion
comprise in turn thirty sub-sefirot.
have seen previously that higher levels of inter-inclusion (by tens, hundreds,
etc.) are associated with higher orders in the schema of sefirot. Here, the opposite
is the case.
the Holy One, blessed be He, "removed the wheels of his chariots". (Ex.
lured the Egyptians into the sea, and they were followed by the pillar of fire
which boiled the sea water, causing the wheels of the Egyptian's chariots to fall
off. (See Rashi on Ex. 14:24 -25.)
interpretation: Pharaoh deducted the number 6 from the numerical value of the
word for "chariot" [in Hebrew, "rechev", 222] leaving
the numerical value of the word for "choice" ["bachur",
216] in holiness.
phrase "Pharaoh took six hundred choice chariots" can be read, "And
Pharaoh took six from the letter[-s of the word] 'chariot', leaving 'choice'".
This is because the word for "hundred" ("mei'ot") can be read
"from the letter" (in Hebrew, "mei-ot").
is spelled: reish-chaf-beit = 200 + 20 + 2 = 222.
is spelled: beit-chet- vav-reish = 2 + 8 + 6 + 200 = 216.
then subtracted another 1, leaving the numerical value of "cast" (in
Hebrew, "215), which became: "He cast the horse and its rider into the
sea." (Ex. 15:4)
" By subtracting 1 from the power Pharaoh left in holiness, G-d caused his
The word for "cast" is "yarah",
spelled yud-reish- hei = 10 + 200 + 5 = 215.
phrase quoted is from the first verse of the Song of the Sea, which the Jew people
sang upon seeing the miraculous destruction of the Egyptians (and the evil they
embodied) at the sea. By subtracting 1 from the power Pharaoh left in holiness,
G-d caused his downfall, beating him, so to speak, at his own game.
significance of the number 216 will become apparent presently.
initials of the words for "G-d will fight for you" (Ex.14:14.) are
yud-lamed-yud. This is the holy seal of the face of the ox in the [Divine]
Chariot, the second of the 72 names derived from the three verses "He moved...,"
"He came...," and "He stretched...."
will fight for you" in Hebrew is "Y-H-V-H yilachem lachem".
three consecutive verses from Exodus 14:19-21 each contain 72 letters, an obviously
rare phenomenon. The letters of these three verses can be arranged as 72 triplets
of letters. But we are taught in Kabbala that if we reverse the order of the letters
in the middle set, the 72 triplets become 72 "names" of G-d.
We have explained
this previously (in our comments on parashat Nitzavim) as follows:
the story of the exodus from Egypt, three consecutive verses describe G-d's power
as manifest just before He split the Sea of Reeds, which the Jewish people passed
through on dry land while the Egyptians were drowned:
the angel of G-d who had been going ahead of the camp of Israel now moved and
went behind them, and the pillar of cloud went from in front of them and stood
behind them. Thus [the pillar of cloud] came between the camp of Egypt and the
camp of Israel, making it cloud and darkness [to the Egyptians], but it gave light
by night [to the Jews], so that the one came not near the other all the night.
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and G-d drove the sea back with
a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land; thus the waters
were divided." (Ex. 14:14)
Hebrew, these three verses each contain 72 letters. In the Zohar (II:51b) it is
stated that these three verses refer in sequence to the divine attributes of chesed,
gevura, and tiferet. The harmonious blending of these three principle emotive
attributes forms the basic paradigm of how G-d relates to the world. Thus, they
together form a composite name of G-d, since a name is a means by which one is
made known to others, i.e. manifests his attributes.
fact that each verse contains 72 letters means that they can be aligned in parallel,
forming 72 triplets of letters. In this configuration, the Zohar states, the first
verse is to be written in its proper order, since it represents G-d's loving-kindness,
or a direct revelation of G-d's goodness. The second verse is to be written in
reverse order, from the last letter to the first, since it represents G-d's severity,
which is an indirect revelation of His goodness. Although tiferet is a blend of
both chesed and gevura, the third verse is not to be written half in the proper
order and half in reverse order, as one might expect. There are two reasons for
this: (1) in tiferet, chesed dominates over gevura, and (2) as the ideal blend
of chesed and gevura, tiferet is a direct revelation of G-d's goodness and glory
rather than an indirect one. (This array may be seen inter alia in the standard
editions of the Zohar, volume 2, p. 270a.)
name we are concerned with is the second of the 72. It presumably is associated
with gevura since it is the second. The four faces of the beasts that carried
the divine throne in Ezekiel's vision were that of a man, a lion, an ox, and an
eagle. The lion-face signified chesed, the ox-face gevura, the eagle-face tiferet
(and the midot below it), and the man-face malchut. Thus, this name (yud-lamed-yud)
and the ox-face are related by virtue of their mutual association with gevura.
difference is that in [the initials from] this verse, the yud's are ascendant.
They indicate the force of chesed. The lamed is left to be last. It indicates
Imma, the source of judgment that battles with Egypt.
the verse from which these initials are taken, the order of the initials is yud-yud-lamed.
Thus, although this name indicates gevura, it is a gevura motivated by chesed.
Yud is associated with chesed because when the name Havayah is spelled out with
yud's, its numerical value is 72, the numerical value of "chesed"(spelled:
chet-samech-dalet = 8 + 60 + 4 = 72).
lamed originally was in the middle verse (and column), which as we said, is associated
with gevura. The lamed is associated with Imma since in its form it towers above
the other letters, just as bina, embodying the intellect in general - presides
over the midot. (See Tikunei Zohar 55, 89a). The intellect is represented by the
three sefirot of chochma-bina-daat, which inter-include to produce 30 sub-sefirot,
as we mentioned above. 30 is the numerical value of the letter lamed.
[manifestation of gevura] is followed by [a manifestation of] mercy,
as it is written, "...smiting Egypt and healing Israel." (Zohar
II:36a, on Isaiah 19:22.)
"...and you will be silent." G-d told them to be silent since it was
not proper that they awaken the face of the ox, inasmuch as they would later sin
the [golden] calf.
They thereby unhitched one of the four animals of the chariot.
( Shemot Rabba 43:8)
would not be proper for the Jewish people to invoke the power signified by the
ox when they themselves would misuse this manifestation later on. In the zodiac,
the Bull (Taurus) follows the Ram (Aries). The Exodus took place in the month
of Nisan, the zodiacal sign of which is Aries. The Passover sacrifice was a ram;
by sacrificing it, the Jewish people subdued the astrological power ascendent
at that time. The Mixed Multitude, seeing that the sign of Aries had been overcome,
thought to invoke the next icon, the Bull.
abusing the ox, the Jewish people neutralized, so to speak, its power. The Midrash
uses the imagery of a four-horsed chariot, one of whose horses has been unhitched.
Since they weakened G-d's power through their sin, it was not proper that they
try to invoke that very power, G-d's gevura, to judge the Egyptians.
[G-d] acted with mercy at the sea, and judged [the Jews] only according
to their deeds at that time.
the word for "will be silent" is written without [an
so that it may be read, "the ox descended," i.e. in order to assist
in their salvation.
fact, in our text of the Bible, the word for "will be silent", "tacharishun",
is written with a yud. Ignoring the yud, however, the word can be seen as a permutation
of the two words for "ox" (in Hebrew, "shor") and "descended"
is spelled: tav-chet-reish-(yud)-shin-vav-nun.
is spelled: shin-vav-reish.
is spelled: nun-chet-tav.
with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California,
Yitzchak Luria [...Ashkenazi ben Shlomo] (5294-5332 = 1534-1572 c.e.) Yahrtzeit
(anniversary of death): 5th of Av. Buried in the Old Cemetery of Tzfat. Commonly
known as the Ari, an acronym standing for Elohi Rabbi Yitzchak, the G-dly Rabbi
Isaac. No other master or sage ever had this extra letter Aleph, standing for
Elohi [G-dly], prefaced to his name. This was a sign of what his contemporaries
thought of him. Later generations, fearful that this appellation might be misunderstood,
said that this Aleph stood for Ashkenazi, indicating that his family had originated
in Germany, as indeed it had. But the original meaning is the correct one, and
to this day among Kabbalists, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria is only referred to as Rabbenu
HaAri, HaAri HaKadosh [the holy Ari] or Arizal [the Ari of blessed memory].
Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky is a scholar, writer, editor and anthologist. Originally
from Los Angeles, he moved to Israel in 1977, and currently lives in Jerusalem.
While living in Tsfat, he was one of the three founders of ASCENT in 1983.