YESOD - PART 2
In this section we will focus on Yesod's relationship to the Sephirot of Tipheret, which lies above Yesod in the Tree of Life, and Malkut, which lies below it. We will examine similarities and complementary differences, as well as the role Yesod plays in linking the other two.
YESOD AND TIPHERET
In kabbalistic literature, both Tipheret and Yesod are seen as the male accompaniment to the female Sephirah of Malkut (the Shekinah). In the arrangement of the Sephirot, Yesod lies directly between Tipheret and Malkut. (Recall that the central column of the "Tree of Life," decends from Keter, through the "non-Sephirah" of Da'at, then to Tipheret, Yesod and finally Malkut.)
As a leading modern kabbalist, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, writes:
The above quotation refers to Tipheret as "the body" and Yesod (below it) as the "covenant" ("brit"), stating that the two are considered as one -- although they function differently.
Yesod is most commonly seen as the ninth Sephirah (counting from Keter at the top). It is a complex attribute as it contains all that came "before it," (of the previous eight Sephirot). Looking from "below," Yesod is generative, in that it is the source of God's blessings (as has been mentioned). Regarding it from "above," it is reflective of what came before it.
This is especially true in its relationship with Tipheret, which lies directly above Yesod in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Yesod is considered an "image of the image" or "mirror within the mirror," with regard to Tipheret. As it maintains the complementary functions of giving and receiving, the foundation of Yesod must be sound, hence it has an association with purity.2
YESOD - FOUNDATION OF SOULS
Included in the generative aspect of Yesod is its being the foundation of souls:
Yesod is also called the "Foundation of all souls," because souls are said to be born through the union of Yesod-Foundation to Malkut-Kingship.3
The Zohar speaks to the same theme of the soul (in this case, specifically the Neshemah - see previous study on levels of the soul), coming from the union of Yesod to Malkut.
As we discuss in detail further in this section, a function of Yesod regarding Malkut is for the purpose of unifying the latter to Tipheret. As mentioned in an earlier study, Tipheret is considered to be the "originator" of the Neshemah (the higher soul):
Within the hands of Yesod/Tzaddik are the souls of all living things. Because of this it is also called Hei ha-olamim (the "eternally living one," or, "Living God").5 This is reflected in Paul's usage of the term, assembly of the Living God, found in 1 Timothy 3:15 (see below).
YESOD - TREE OF LIFE
In Paul's first letter to Timothy, he refers to this pillar (foundation), and "ground of truth," represented by the souls who make up the "assembly of the Living God." He also implores the wise not to trust in earthy riches, but in this "Living God" who provides (i.e., El Shaddai, a name of God associated with Yesod):
The concepts Paul is teaching Timothy, are also found in the following Talmud tractate:
The "Tree of Life," is often mentioned in discussions surrounding Yesod, and is associated with Tzaddik (the Righteous One) and Torah, as well as the month of Shevat, when Moses (the Tzaddik) recounted the Torah to the Children of Israel.
As stated by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh:
The "Tree of Life," carries with it very deep esoteric meaning, particularly that of the essence of the Tzaddik (his soul), being "hidden" like the roots of a tree.
As also related by Ginsburgh:
Paul spoke in the same terms regarding the life of the Tzaddik (in this case, the righteous followers of Yeshua), being "hidden with Messiah." (i.e., existing, "in the world and outside it at one and the same time," as mentioned by Ginsburgh above.) His prescription for continuing in this state, was obedience to the commandments of Torah:
TIPHERET AND YESOD - JACOB AND JOSEPH
The similarity between Tipheret and Yesod is reflected in the relationship between Jacob and his son, Joseph. Before approaching this subject, we will review how the seven lower Sephirah correspond to the patriarchs: 9
Thus, when speaking of Jacob, the correlation is to Tipheret, with Joseph, it is to Yesod.
Jewish literature draws great comparisons between Jacob and Joseph, and therefore between Tipheret and Yesod, considering one as the image of the other. (As mentioned earlier, Yesod is the "image of the image" of Tipheret):
A modern book on kabbalistic symbolism reveals the following between Jacob and Joseph:
The idea that Joseph is in the chariot like Jacob, shows that the unity of God is more prevalent at a "higher level" of prophetic vision. (We will address this in chapter 5 of our study, were both "Father" and "Son" are seen to be in the "throne.")
The following two texts from the Zohar points to the likeness of Jacob and Joseph, mentioning how what happened to one, also occured to the other, and that how (although they are the same), one (Joseph) is "near," and the other (Jacob) is "far." This is interesting when we think of Jacob as representing Tipheret in the heavenlies, and Joseph as the earthly Tzaddik, with divine qualities.
This concept parallels how Yeshua's work here on earth as Tzaddik, is done (outside of time) in the heavenly realm as Tipheret (i.e., He was crucified in the flesh, but is also the "Lamb slain since the foundation of the world.") Having performed His role in all worlds, He makes peace in all places:
Esoterically speaking, benediction does not abide save where male and female are together, and since at that time the male was not with her, all the souls that issued then were not the same as they had been when the sun was in union with the moon, as already said. This union is symbolized by the relation of Joseph to Jacob, as expressed in the verse, "These are the generations of Jacob: Joseph." This form of expression implies that Jacob's image was completely reproduced in Joseph, and that whatever happened to the one happened to the other also, the two being parallel and having the same esoteric symbolism.
DISTINCTIONS WITH TIPHERET
Although there is similarity between Tipheret/Jacob and Yesod/Joseph, we can also see distinction between the two. The former is associated with God as creator, seen in "maleness" as an active principle (YHWH), and the latter as God as sustainer (El Shaddai), and seen as "maleness" transposed into procreative power.11
This procreative function of a Tzaddik is to bring people to God, (i.e., "he who wins souls is wise." - Proverbs 11:30).
As eloquently stated by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh:
Yesod, as the "righteous one," does not represent God as judge (John 12:47). This role is ultimately associated with Tipheret (i.e., John 5:22). As Gershom Scholem states, Tipheret and Yesod represent, "two different sides of the Godhead." 13
Yesod is also seen as the "crossover" point from the first heaven (Asiyah/Making) to the second heaven (Yezirah/Formation), Tipheret represents that from the second to the third heaven (Beriah/Creation).14
(This relationship between the heavens will be discussed at length later in this Revelation study. For now, refer to background material on the "Four Worlds" from Part 2 of our Ezekiel study, and notes to the Names and Arrangement of the Sephirot.)
We can now see more clearly how Yeshua is reflected in both Tipheret, (in the roles and functions he performs above, such as the heavenly Kohen Gadol, in the order of Melchizadek), and in Yesod, as the righteous suffering servant who lowers Himself from a heavenly status to redeem His kinsmen. (We will address this theme of the Tzaddik "lowering himself" in a later section of our study.)
As mentioned earlier in this study, such a distinction between Tipheret and Yesod is found in a passage of scripture where God tells Moses that He will be speaking to him at the (higher) level of YHWH (associated with Tipheret) and not at the level of El Shaddai (associated with Yesod), as He had spoken to the forefathers:
YESOD - UNIFYING TIPHERET AND MALKUT
With Tipheret (the groom) being united to Malkut (the bride) and Yesod lying "between" them, it would seem sensible that the latter must play an important role with the other two. This is indeed the case. The role of the "heavenly Tzaddik" is emulated in the physical realm by the righteous on earth.
The Zohar commentary on Exodus further explains the situation with Moses (the earthly Tzaddik), and how Tipheret and Malkut were united through him:
The Zohar's commentary on Song of Songs (Song of Solomon), also refers to this union of Tipheret and Malkut via Moses:
The role of joining Malkut to Tipheret belongs to the one in the place of Yesod-Tzaddik:
The term "walking" (halakha) in the above citation, is used kabbalistically to refer to the arousal of the union of the masculine [Tipheret] and feminine [Malkut] aspects of God. This is associated with the concept of tikkun (repair of creation and unification of the Godhead), accomplished through works of Torah.
This "look ahead" to the eternal tikkun (when Tipheret and Malkut finally come together), was foreshadowed in the sacrificial system instituted by God. The Zohar explains how the "heave offering" played a mystical role, along with the righteous person, in this unification of Tipheret (representing the heavenly realm) and Malkut (representing the earthly realm):
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 133b - "They shall take Me a heave offering." Here we have displayed an inclusive union of the above with the below, for it does not say "They shall take a heave offering", but "They shall take Me a heave offering", which denotes a fusion of the upper with the lower spheres. [Tr. note: i.e. Tifereth with Malkuth.] "On the part of everyone whose heart is willing ye should take my heave offering." The words "on the part of" seem at first sight to be superfluous, but in reality they contain a deep lesson for the masters of the esoteric lore. Blessed are the righteous who have learnt how to centre all their thoughts and desires on the Heavenly King, and whose aspirations are directed, not towards the vain and foolish toys of this world and its lusts, but to attaching themselves wholeheartedly to the world above in order to draw down the favour of the Lord Himself from heaven to earth.
King David was another Tzaddik who was able to unify Malkut and Tipheret. Note that David's praise was directed to Tipheret, (in essence Yeshua in the heavenlies):
Because Yesod plays this active role in uniting the heavenly groom (Tipheret) and bride (Malkut), is is referred to also as ha-teshukah, "the light of desire" -- a term used for the desire of the male for the female.17
When the soul (Neshamah) of the Tzaddik is involved in religious activity, it affects the Sephirot, specifically uniting Malkut to Tipheret:
As mentioned in our earlier studies, the Sephirah of Malkut (the bride), when kept apart from its groom (Tipheret) becomes the source of harsh judgment on the world. The Bahir uses a great deal of bodily and sexual allegory to explain such concepts.
As stated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan:
As mentioned earlier, Tipheret (or Zer Anpin, the six Sephirot represented by Tipheret - see previous study on Names and Arrangement of the Sephirot), represents the main trunk of the (male) body. Yesod, being beneath the body, is the "phallus" (as this is the Sephirah that generates souls and sustains life). Malkut represents the female counterpart to this.
Keeping these allegorical concepts in mind, note the following commentary to the Bahir, explaining the relationship between these three Sephirot. The function of Yesod is in bringing them together, thus playing a key role in bringing "peace" to the world:
FEMALE CHARACTERISTICS OF YESOD
In Kabbalah, that which is intermediate between two extremes possesses aspects of both those extremes. Therefore, Yesod has characteristics of both the "masculine" Tipheret and the "feminine" Malkut.
The Zohar associates the Tzaddik (Yesod) with the "Angel of the Lord," from the book of Exodus. This angel is said to manifest itself in both male and female forms. (Note also the relationship between the colors of the rainbow and aspects of God. This will be addressed in our text analysis):
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 232a - While they were sitting midnight arrived, and R. Judah said to R. Jose: Now the north wind awakes and the night is divided, and now is the time when the Holy One, blessed be He, longs for the voice of the righteous in this world, the voice of those who study the Torah. Now God is listening to us in this place; therefore let us not cease from discoursing on the Torah. He then commenced: THE ANGEL WHO DELIVERED ME FROM ALL EVIL . This is the same as the one mentioned in the verse: "Behold I send an angel before thee, etc." (Ex. XXIII, 20), who, as we have laid down, is the deliverer of the world, the protector of mankind, and the one who procures blessings for all the world, he himself receiving them first. This angel is sometimes male, sometimes female. When he procures blessings for the world, he is male, resembling the male who provides blessings for the female. But when he comes to bring chastisement on the world he is called female, being, as it were, pregnant with the judgement. Similarly, in the words, "the flame of the sword which turned every way" (Gen III, 24), there is a reference to the angels who are God's messengers, and who turn themselves into different shapes, being sometimes female and sometimes male, sometimes messengers of judgement and sometimes of mercy. In the same way, this angel can take all colours like the rainbow, and treats the world correspondingly.
An example of a Tzaddik taking on "female" characteristics is found in Luke's Gospel. Here we find Yeshua (the Divine Tzaddik), referring to Himself in terms of the Kingdom (Malkut), which is feminine. Interestingly, the various versions of the "New Testament" translate this verse in one of two ways:
Both translations are legitimate, as the Hebrew preposition "be" means "with" as well as "in." Thus, the Kingdom can be found by looking for God within oneself (i.e., where the Sephirot may be "found," as we are made in His image), in the manner of humility and repentance - defined as turning away from the flesh to following Torah. 21
Tzaddik-Yesod (as represented by Yeshua) therefore contains elements of the Kingdom (as He was [potentially] the Kingdom in their midst), giving Tzaddik-Yesod (and thus Yeshua), "female" characteristics as well. (Malkut-Kingdom is identified as having primarily female characteristics.)
This is true, as Yeshua is the image of God, which is both male and female.
It also helps explain why Yeshua speaks of Himself using a female analogy:
The Sephirah of Yesod is said to "include the female," through its being bound to it:
This is also reflected in the Bahir, (which bases this theme on Genesis 2:24, where a man and wife become "one flesh"):
This linking of the male and female is mirrored in the Olam Haba, (World to Come), where the righteous (Tzaddik) in heaven are seen as being bound to the Shekinah. This is represented in the form of being given "crowns on their heads." (It is also associated with "white garments," as mentioned several places in Revelation):
The gift of these crowns, and thus eternal life, is directly related to Torah observance. (This will be discussed in detail in our text analysis.) John made it quite clear that those who will one day "be like him," (in the "radiance of the Shekinah" - see above), are those who have purified themselves, which is done by turning from sin (as defined by Torah), and following the "path" of the Tzaddik - one who is a "hearer" and a "doer" of Torah.
Note that John makes it a point to define sin as "lawlessness" (going against the Torah):
An example of John's admonition (above) for the servant of the Lord to be "pure" is seen in Daniel. His righteousness resulted in an amazing proclamation regarding the "kingdom" of Darius, who declared that the God of Daniel (note: "the Living God" - Yesod), would be the God of his (Darius) kingdom.
Thus, Daniel brought God's shalom to the kingdom of Darius, just as the Divine Tzaddik brings peace to God's Kingdom:
THE FEMALE TZADDIK
The earthly tzaddik, may of course, be male or female. One of the more significant righteous women of the Bible, from a kabbalistic viewpoint, is Miryam, the sister of Moses and Aaron. As we have earlier discussed, Moses is associated with the Sephirah of Netzah, and Aaron with Hod. These Sephirah are concerned with the "management" or "filtering" of what comes from above to the world below. The children of Israel, with the Shekinah among them, are represented by the Sephirah of Malkut.
So what about Yesod-Tzaddik in this relationship? This role was played by the righteous Miryam. As the tzaddik, it was she that acted as "mediator" between the people and her two brothers, who (especially Moses) were very close to God and involved with His instruction, that they distanced themselves from the people.
Two related episodes confirm her role. One involved the time that she spoke against Moses and received the punishement of Tzaraat (incorrectly called "leprosy" in most Bibles) - in fact having her skin turn completely white (Numbers, chapter 12). When a person was striken with Tzaraat (a punishment of mercy from God) they had to stay away from the camp for at least seven days. Normally, this person would follow the main group of people as they continued their journey. In Miryam's case however, the people did not move at all until she was brought back to the camp.
Why did they wait? The common explanation is out of respect, but if we examine the text closely, we will see that it may have been out of necessity -- due to her role as the Tzaddik, who brings forth the flow of God's blessings from the heavens above to the people below.
We know that the blessings that followed the children of Israel were directly linked to a mysterious rock/well that followed them in their journey. We see in Numbers, chapter 20, that when Miryam died, the rock/well that supplied their water (which also represents God's blessings), was not to be found. As we will discuss in the next section, the rock/well is directly associated with Yesod-Tzaddik.
Thus we have Moses, Miryam and Aaron representing the "lower triad" of Netzah, Yesod, Hod, placed between the higher heavenly realm and the people.
Two interesting articles on Miryam's role may be found at:
1. The Mystical Signficance of the Hebrew Letters: Tzadik, The Faith of the Righteous One, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, http://www.inner.org/HEBLETER/tzadik.htm, (Gal Einai Institute, Kfar Chabad, Israel.)
2. Kabbalah, Tradition of Hidden Knowledge, Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi, Thames and Hudson, 1979, p.7.
3. The Bahir: Translation, Introduction and Commentary, Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach Maine, 1979, p.175.
4. The Divine Emanations--The Ten Sefirot: Yesod "Foundation," Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, http://www.inner.org/sefirot/sefyesod.htm
5. Along the Path: Studies in Kabbalistic Myth, Symbolism, and Hermeneutics, Elliot R. Wolfson, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1995, p. 86.
6. It should be noted that souls are also said to emanate from Binah, in its union with Chokmah. In each case there is a "male" Sephirah (Chokmah, Yesod) uniting with a "female" Sephirah (Binah, Malkut), that is the cause for this. It would also seem that Binah is concerned with the origin of the soul at the Supernal level, whereas Yesod is at the "human" level.
7. Kabbalah and Modern Life - Living with the Times: A Torah Message for the Month of Shevat, Tu B'Shevat, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, http://www.inner.org/times/shevat/shevat57.htm
9. The Way of Kabbalah, Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi, Samuel Weiser, Inc. York Beach, Maine, 1976, p.134.
10. Along the Path: Studies in Kabbalistic Myth, Symbolism, and Hermeneutics, Elliot R. Wolfson, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1995,, pp. 121-122.
11. On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead: Basic Concepts in the Kabbalah, Gershom Scholem, Schocken Books, New York, 1991, p.106.
12. The Divine Emanations--The Ten Sefirot: Yesod "Foundation," Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, http://www.inner.org/sefirot/sefyesod.htm
13. On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead: Basic Concepts in the Kabbalah, Gershom Scholem, Schocken Books, New York, 1991, p.92.
14. See: The Way of Kabbalah, Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi, Samuel Weiser, Inc. York Beach, Maine, 1976, for a complete explanation of the "overlapping" of the four worlds.
15. Along the Path: Studies in Kabbalistic Myth, Symbolism, and Hermeneutics, Elliot R. Wolfson, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1995, p. 240, citation from Toledot, 28a-b.
16. ibid, pp. 105-107.
17. On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead: Basic Concepts in the Kabbalah, Gershom Scholem, Schocken Books, New York, 1991, p. 108.
18. The Mystic Quest, An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism, David S. Ariel, Jason Aronson Publishers, London, 1988, p. 123, Citation from the Zohar.
19. The Bahir: Translation, Introduction and Commentary, Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach Maine, 1979, p.145.
20. ibid, p.137.
21. Also see; On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism, (Gershom Scholem, Schocken Books, New York, 1965, p. 15), where Scholem cites the Zohar's mystical interpretation of God's words to Abraham in Genesis 12:1, "Lech Lecha" ("Get thee out"), as also meaning, "Go to Thee," that being Abraham's own self.
22.The Bahir: Translation, Introduction and Commentary, Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach Maine, 1979, p.126.
23. ibid, p.30.
24. ibid, p.132.
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