The Leviathan and the Wild Bull
Adapted by Rabbi Yossi Marcus
The bracketed comments are the explanatory notes of the translator.]
Liviyoson (Leviathan) You created with which to play…” (Psalms 104:26)
Rabbah on our parsha describes a match that will take place in the Messianic era
between the Liviyoson and the “wild bull,” known as the shor habar.
Midrash describes how the bull will attack and kill the Liviyoson with its horns,
while the Liviyoson will attack and kill the bull with its fins.
is the meaning of all this?
[Our concern with an event that will
occur in the future is twofold: Firstly, our knowledge of the events of the future
lightens (macht gringer) the burden of exile. Secondly, it is a part of
Torah, which is eternally relevant. So the prophecies regarding the future are
relevant to our lives today (Liviyoson 5747).]
Liviyoson and the bull refer to two types of tzadikim (saintly individuals). The
first are the hidden type, who serve G-d through the realm of the spirit.
Shimon bar Yochai is of this group. For thirteen years he lived in a cave and
was certainly unable to fulfill many mitzvos in their physical manifestation.
He and his son subsisted on nothing more than carob and water, which were miraculously
created for them. Obviously, then, he was not able to fulfill the mitzvah of eating
matzah on Pesach or reciting kiddush over wine or using an Esrog or a Sukkah,
[The Talmud (Shabbos 33b) relates that after endangering his
life by criticizing the Romans, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, author of the Zohar,
went into hiding. He hid in a cave for 13 years with his son Rabbi Elazar. A miracle
occurred and a carob tree and stream of water were created outside their cave
for their sustenance.]
The Arizal, too,
was on this level.
[In Maamorei Admur Hazaken (Maamorei
Razal p. 145), the Alter Rebbe says that this type of tzadik includes: “…the
Arzial and his colleagues in his generation, and the Baal Shem Tov and his colleagues
in his generation. And so it is in each generation.”
He also compares these
tzadikim to the Patriarchs, who fulfilled the entire Torah even before it was
given to Israel at Sinai: “This certainly does not mean that they performed the
mitzvos in a physical way. Rather, they achieved whatever is achieved through
physical fulfillment of mitzvos with their spiritual meditations, etc., as is
known regarding Yitzchak’s digging of wells (see Tauber’s The Inside Story,
“Redigging the Wells of Love”) and Yaakov’s actions with the sticks.” (Leviyoson
Their “spiritual” service also
consists of outer body experiences such as described in connection with prophecy,
or as Arizal said, “If I would expound for eighty years…”
Avraham begged the Arizal to reveal just one secret to him, the Arizal laughed
and replied, “I testify by heaven and earth: if I were to live eighty consecutive
years, without exaggeration, and relate what I learned this time on the subject
of Balaam’s donkey, I would not be able to say it all. So how can I reveal one
of the secrets to you, since they are all inseparable….” (Shivchei HaAri,
These tzadikim are called “creatures
of the sea.” Just as fish are completely enveloped and concealed by the sea so
these tzadikim are fully enveloped in Divinity—they are of the world of concealment
(alma d’isgalya). [They are beyond self-awareness and existentially
null (bittul bimitzius) (see 5571 p. 41). On the difference between
land and sea creatures see our essay on Beshalach.]
are actually three types of beings: 1) Fish; 2) Amphibians; and 3) Land animals.
“Fish” are the angels, whose Divine service is entirely spiritual. “Amphibians,”
who live both on land and sea, are the tzadikim such as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai
and Arizal, whose Divine service was fulfilled in both the spiritual and physical
realms. The “land animals” are the tzadikim whose focus is entirely upon the physical
manifestation of the mitzvos. Gloss of the Tzemach Tzedek)
tzadikim, the “creatures of the sea,” unite the worlds with the Infinite Light.
are therefore called “Leviyoson,” which connotes “joining.” After Leah
gives birth to hers and Jacob’s third child, she calls him Levi, since
“now my husband will be joined (yilaveh) to me.”
union signified by Levi is one of great sublimity, since it comes after and is
thus beyond the level of Reuven and Shimon, which connote “seeing” and “hearing”
of Divinity respectively. See our essay on Vayechi. (Liviyoson 5747)]
like the fish of the sea, who glide smoothly from one end to the other with one
movement (mit ein shvim), so too these tzadikim traverse their spiritual
paths with one, unswerving thrust. Theirs is a path free of gaps and inconsistencies.
It is one and smooth.
very high yet without agitation (“hitlahavut”) and the “boiling of the
blood.” They ascend with “cool blood” and calmly. This cannot be explained in
words—how and what it is.
second type of tzadik is one who serves G-d in the revealed sense, within the
physical realm. This tzadik fulfills mitzvos on the physical plane, such as the
mitzvah of rejoicing on a festival, which is fulfilled through the eating of meat
and drinking wine. Indeed the spiritual light of each festival is drawn forth
through the fulfillment of the physical mitzvos associated with that festival—matzah
on Pesach, Lulav on Sukkos, etc.
his stay in the cave, however, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai drew forth this light through
This tzadik is called
shor habar (wild bull), which can also mean “purified bull.” In
other words, this tzadik is involved with the physical—represented by the bull—which
becomes purified through his Divine service. In contrast to the cool and tranquil
service of the “Liviyoson tzadik,” this tzadik’s service is filled with fire and
Nevertheless, this tzadik’s
service is a “small thing” in comparison with the wondrous path of the “Liviyoson
tzadik.” The Liviyoson will therefore “slaughter,” i.e., raise up the shor
habar. It will do this with its fins, since it is with its fins that the Liviyoson
glides smoothly through the water. The fins therefore represent the propeller
of the tzadik’s lofty ascent.
other hand, there is an advantage to the “shor habar tzadikim,” since it
is they who fulfill the mission of making the physical world an abode for G-d.
Thus the shor habar will “slaughter” the Liviyoson and elevate it as well—each
one imbuing the other with the virtue that it lacks.
and shor habar are also present within the Divine service of each person:
1) Our efforts to “attach” ourselves to G-d (Liviyoson); 2) The elevation of the
physical world (shor habar) (Liviyoson 5747).]
[Adapted and summarized by Rabbi
Yosef Marcus from Likutei Torah.]
From a discourse of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, "the
Yossi Marcus is director of Chabad outreach activities in S. Mateo, California.
He is also the editor of the Q&A database at AskMoses.com and is one of the translators
at Kehot Publication Society.