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Vezot Habracha

Mystic Math

Adapted from writings of the Chabad Rabbis by Rabbi Yossi Marcus[1]


G-d came from Sinai—He shone forth to them from Seir, He appeared from Mount Paran, and approached from the holy ten thousands—from His right hand He presented the fiery Torah to them. —Deuteronomy 33:2

The simple meaning of the verse speaks of the manner in which G-d gave the Torah to Israel at Sinai. He first “shone forth to Seir,” i.e., offered the Torah to the descendants of Esau, and “appeared from Mount Paran,” offered it to the Ishmaelites, but only Israel chose to receive it. The following is a mystical explanation of the words attah me’riviviot kodesh, usually translated as “approached with some of the holy myriads.” For the purpose of this essay, riviviot is better translated in its literal sense, namely, “ten thousands.”

There are ones, tens, hundreds etc. or E.Y.K. Be.Khe.R, as it is written in the book Gates of Light by Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla 13th century Spanish kabbalist in his discussion of tithing and tithing the tithe.

Or Alef, Yud, KufBet, Khaf, Reish, the numeric significance of which is 1, 10, 100—2, 20 200.

The greatest number is rivavah, ten thousand. There is no greater number in the Holy Tongue. Anything over ten thousand is not given a specific name in the Torah, but rather is referred to as x amount of thousands or x amount of rivavot.

To explain the significance of these units, we will introduce the following verse:

It is written, And the life of Sarah was 100 year, 20 year, and 7 years (Genesis 23:1).

In Hebrew, the singular can often be used in place of the plural. Rabbi Schneur Zalman, however, interprets the use of the singular, year (shanah), in a literal sense to derive a mystical truth.   

Ones and Tens

The number seven of this verse corresponds to the seven supernal emotions—Kindness, Severity etc. They are therefore referred to in the plural, seven years, since the emotions are individualistic (kindness and severity, for example, are conflicting emotions) and create a plurality—seven years.

The number twenty in the verse corresponds to Chochmah and Binah, Conception and Understanding. Each one is ten. These are referred to in the singular—20 year—since Chochmah and Binah are “two friends that never part.”[1] For example, when a person understands a Torah law with his intellect, the experience involves both Chochmah and Binah.

In any event, we can derive from here that the emotions are ones, whereas the attributes of the intellect are tens. Thus the seven emotions are referred to as seven years—each one considered a single unit—while the intellect, Chochmah and Binah, are called twenty, each one being a unit of ten.

This is because in order for the intellect to be expressed in emotion, only a tenth of the intellect’s light can be revealed. As is common knowledge, there is no comparison between intellect in its capacity as a reason for an emotion, to the essence of intellect, which does not relate to emotion at all. The intellect’s essence is entirely beyond any interaction with emotion. The lower aspects of intellect do relate to emotion in the capacity of being a reason or a cause for a particular emotion—when you understand intellectually the virtue of a given thing, you develop an emotion of love toward it; when you understand the negativity of a given thing you develop an emotion of disgust or fear toward it. Here the intellect is acting as a reason for the emotion—and this is not the true essence of the intellect, which is beyond any interaction with emotion.

Thus each emotion is a tenth of the intellect.

Similarly it is said of the Name Kail, which represents the Divine attribute of Kindness, that it is “the light or reflection of Chochmah.”[2]

Kail (Alef, Lamed=31) is therefore numerically equivalent to one tenth of yesh (Yud, Shin=310), yesh being the numeric equivalent of two times k’nay (Kuf, Nun, Hey=155), as in the verse (Proverbs 4:5): “K’nay Chochmah, k’nay Binah…—Acquire wisdom, acquire understanding…”

Will and Desire

Now intellect, Chochmah and Binah, is also a tenth of what is above it, which is called me’ah, one hundred. Thus our sages of blessed memory say of Adam that he was one hundred cubits tall[3] alluding to the fact that he was on the level of one hundred, i.e., beyond intellect.

(The five levels of the soul—Nefesh, Ruach, Neshamah, Chayah, Yechidah—correspond to these five units: 1 / 10 / 100 / 1,000 / 10,000. Nefesh is one and receives only a tenth of Ruach, which is ten and derives from Neshahma, etc.)

Now the supernal will is beyond intellect and Chochmah and contains two levels: Will and Desire.

Will contains neither “taste” nor delight. It is expressed in the saying, “Be silent—so it has arisen in the supernal Thought.”[4]

Desire, on the other hand, involves “taste” and delight.

We see on the human level that delight is the most expansive and far-reaching of all the powers of the soul. Delight is experienced by each of the senses—such as sight and hearing, as well as by intellect and emotions. And the nature of the delight of sight is different than the way it is experienced in hearing, such as in song or music. Similarly, the delight of intellect is of a different character. There are many varieties of delight.

Furthermore, it is common knowledge that all the delight that is experienced on the terrestrial level is only from what fell from “the shattering of the vessels.”[5] Thus the Garden of Eden is infinite pleasure, while it is common knowledge that the Garden of Eden is a mere reflection of higher worlds.  

(Thus Will corresponds to one thousand, while Desire corresponds to ten thousand, since Desire contains delight which is more abundant and more sublime, so that Will is only a tenth of Desire. Tzemach Tzedek’s gloss.)

Torah and Revavah

Now the source of Torah is rivavot, ten thousands as in our verse, which describes the giving of the Torah as G-d approaching “from the holy rivavot.” For it is specifically such a lofty source that can be drawn and lowered even below into physical reality—a sukkah, tefillin etc.

See our comments regarding the hey of Abraham in the discourse “Behold Abram.”

Rabbi Schneur Zalman refers us to his discourse on Abraham who was made father of all nations, i.e., given the power to elevate all of nature, through the extra letter hey added to his name. Again the idea that descent requires connection to a lofty energy, in Abraham’s case this is signified by the extra letter hey added to his name. The above discourse is translated in our essay on Lech Lecha, Travels.[6] See also our essay on Haazinu regarding the revivim, rain drops, which Rabbi Schneur Zalman relates to rivavah.

Nevertheless, the revelation through Torah from the rivivot that takes place now is external, i.e., the reasons of the Torah, its inner dimension, are not yet revealed. Now we experience only an external revelation of Torah. This is signified by the use of an Aramaic word in our verse, v’attah (He approached). The use of a non-Hebrew word signifies the fact that it is only an external revelation.

The revelation of the inner secrets will take place in the future.

This is what is meant by the verse Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth—kissing achieves the attachment of one breath to another, an allusion to the revelation of the inner reasons of the Torah. May we experience it soon.


[1] Zohar 2:56a, 3:4a, et al.

[2] Zohar 1:94a et al.

[3] See Chagigah 12a, Sanhedrin 100a, et al.

[4] Menachot 29b. This was the response G-d gave to Moses to the question of “why do the righteous suffer.” (Moses had seen prophetically the torture of Rabbi Akiba at the hands of the Romans.)

[5] The cosmic explosion of the world of the spiritual world of Tohu—world of abundant light and scant vessels—the shards of which fell and created physical reality. See our essay on Vayeishev, Silent Bundles.

[6] The above discourse provides the following metaphor: We see that a wise person must prepare himself before he imparts the profundity of his wisdom. An idea may be clear to him in his mind but for him to communicate to others he must think deeply to develop a method through which to clothe his wisdom in language that his listener can relate to. He must be able to find the truth of his idea as it is expressed even in much lower phenomena.



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