A L M O N D S A N D R O A D B L O C K S
from a discourse of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi by Rabbi Yossi Marcus
behold the staff of Aaron blossomed…and almonds ripened (Numbers
Almonds ripen faster than any
other fruit or produce, such as olives, wine, figs, etc. All of them tarry longer
than almonds, which ripen in twenty-one days. Their Hebrew name is therefore shaked,
which connotes swiftness.
We see this use of the word in Jeremiah
(1:11-2), where G-d explains to Jeremiah that his vision of an almond branch signified
G-d’s intention to fulfill His word swiftly—shoked ani
al d’vari la’soto.
The almond is therefore a symbol for the priesthood.
For it is through Aaron that all the revelations, influxes and lights are drawn
from on high to the lower worlds swiftly. Through Aaron, these influxes
are drawn from the highest heights to the lower realm very quickly, without any
It is written in the Blessing after Meals,
Blessed are You…who sustains the entire world with His goodness, grace and
kindness…. In order for His supernal goodness and kindness to evolve into
physical sustenance, it must descend through the chain of myriad levels until
it is coarsened into the form of physical kindness.
And it is through Aaron
that this journey is expedited and cleared of all obstacles that might have occurred
along the chain of worlds.
To explain further:
question is well known: why do we ask G-d each day to heal us and to bless us
when judgment has already been passed on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?
Indeed the Tosafot ask this question.
The answer is that on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur a certain amount of
kindness is allotted to the person’s soul. However, this kindness, which derives
from the Infinite remains above within Malchut of Atzilut, which is the source
for the lower worlds, Bi’ya.
This is what is meant by He sustains
the world with His goodness, grace and kindness—referring
to the supernal kindness, whose form is far, far loftier than that of physical
beneficence. Abraham expressed this disparity when he said of his attribute of
kindness and great love (Genesis 18:27), “I am dirt and ashes,” i.e., that they
had no comparison to the kindness of Atzilut and were like dirt and ashes, etc.
his fifteenth epistle, Rabbi Schneur Zalman cites his master, Rabbi Dovber of
Mezrich, who explains Abraham’s words as follows:
possessed a great love of G-d. Indeed one might have thought that his attribute
of kindness and love was similar in nature to the same attributes as they exist
in the supernal spheres. One might have assumed that the only difference between
them was that in the supernal spheres these attributes are infinite and that in
Abraham they were limited.
the words I am dirt and ashes Abraham is articulating the qualitative distance
between his attributes and the supernal spheres, as we shall explain.
are ashes? The ashes of burned wood, for example, are the essence and substance
of the wood, which was previously made up of the four elements—fire, air, water,
and earth. The first three elements dissipate through the smoke, while the fourth
element, earth, remains intact, impervious to the fire.
earth is the primary element of the tree. It is the only element that contains
length, width and depth. It is the most material of all. So the ash that remains
was formerly the essence of the tree in all its glory. Yet there is no comparison
at all between the great tree before it was burned and its current form, even
though the ash is made up of the very essence of the tree.
Abraham said of his attribute of love and kindness that although it is the same
as the supernal variety, nevertheless, after its descent below to enter a body
through the evolution of many worlds and concealments, there is no longer any
comparison between his love and its form in Atzilut—no more than the comparison
between the element of earth in ash form and its original state as a tree that
was “pleasant to the sight and good for food.” In fact, the degree of separation
between the earthly and supernal attributes exceeds the separation between the
ash and the tree by thousands of degrees of separation.]
order for physical, bodily sustenance to emerge from Chessed of Atzilut, the Chessed
must descend through the myriad stages of the spiritual worlds, through the many
chambers of the four worlds, from chamber to chamber until it is coarsened enough
to become kindness in physical form to heal the sick and bless the years.
is the journey it must make.
Of this our sages
say that man is judged each day (Rosh Hashanah 16a). Man is judged according to
his actions each day as to whether the Chessed that has already been drawn upon
his soul on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur should descend from level to level and
from chamber to chamber so that it may migrate from spirit to matter. Or perhaps
he is not fitting for this and the Chessed will be obstructed and will not descend
below but rather remain above in a spiritual state. In the latter case, he receives
this kindness in spiritual form as an increase of pleasure for his soul in Gan
Eden, since the Chessed has already been evoked for him. But he will receive nothing
of it at all below.
(Tzemach Tzedek’s gloss: Although the opinion
that man is judged each day is only that of Rabbi Yose and Rabbi Nathan, nevertheless,
we must say that they would agree that the primary judgment takes place on Rosh
Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Otherwise, how would they explain the verse, “It is a
statue for Israel, a judgment for the G-d of Jacob,” which refers to Rosh Hashanah?
[The Tzemach Tzedek cites other proofs as well.]
the other sages would agree that there is some type of judgment each day, since
we make requests of G-d in the Shemone Esrei every day. This is
not the place to explain what the argument then is between them. It has already
been elaborated upon in Asarah Maamarot, maamar Chikur Din,
2:1 and 26.)
So the Chessed is held up and tarries until it descends below,
since at each level it must undergo judgment to decide whether the person is worthy.
On each level there are prosecuting forces who say that he has sinned and lacks
But when the light and influx is brought forth through Aaron and
his descendants—the priests who raise their hands and bless the nation with the
priestly blessings—the influx is drawn forth swiftly through all the worlds unimpeded
and there is no looking into the justice of the matter.
Two Types of
The reason for this is because there are two types of Chessed—chessed
olam and and rav chessed, everlasting kindness and abundant kindness.
Aaron draws forth rav chessed. This variety is without limit; there is
no attribute of judgment that can impede it at all. Chessed olam, by contrast,
can be impeded by judgment.
A metaphor. A great river, whose waters flow
with great intensity, cannot be stopped. But rivers whose waters are not as abundant
can be impeded by trees, dirt and the like. Bridges and mills can be erected in
such rivers. But a great river cannot be stopped by impediments since it will
continue to flow as is its custom and wash away the wood and dirt that stands
in its way. So too the influx from rav chessed flows swiftly and all the
strict judgments are severed and nullified in its path….