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Beit Hamidrash

Shabbat ֠Kegavna (II)

By: Rav Itamar Eldar

  In our previous lecture, we started to analyze the wonderful words of the Zohar onparashat Teruma that are recited on Friday night between Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma'ariv – theKegavna passageFor the sake of convenience, we will cite that passage once again:[1]


As they are united above in One, so she is unified below in the mystery of One, to correspond to them above. The Holy One, blessed be He, who is One above, does not take His seat upon the Throne of Glory, until She has entered within the mystery of the One in accordance with His very essence of Oneness, to be the One in One. This, as we have said, is the significance of the words: "The Lord is One, and His Name is One."

It is the mystery of Shabbat, which is united with the mystery of the One so that it may be the organ of this Oneness. In the prayer before the entrance of Shabbat the Throne of Glory is prepared for the Holy Heavenly King. And when Shabbat arrives the Shekhina is in perfect union with Him and is separated from the "other side," and all the potencies of severe judgment are severed from Her, She being in closest union with the Holy Light and crowned with many crowns by the Holy King, and all the principalities of severity and all the lords of judgment flee from Her, and no other domination reigns in any of the worlds.

And her countenance is illumined by the supernal light, and she is crowned here below by the holy people, all of whom are invested with new souls. Then is the time for the commencement of prayer, when the worshippers bless Her with joy and an illumined countenance. (ZoharTeruma)


            In the previous lecture we dealt with the first section that speaks of the mystery of God is One and His Name is One. We saw that the unity created by Shabbat brings to unity up above, and therefore, God, as it were, anxiously waits for unity to rest upon the lower worlds through the power of Shabbat, so that it may rest upon the upper worlds as well.


            In the next section, the Zohar relates to another aspect, stating as follows: When Shabbatis united with the mystery of the One (as we saw in the previous lecture), it merits at the time of the prayer before the entrance of Shabbat that the mystery of the One - which is the mystery of the Throne of Glory - should rest upon it, and then Shabbat is prepared that the Holy Heavenly King should rest upon it. At this time, when Shabbat enters, the Shekhina is separated from "the other side" (sitra achra) and from all the severe judgments surrounding it, and it unites with the Holy Light, and is adorned with many adornments by the Holy King.


            Already upon initial analysis, we are impressed by the fact that the images used in this passage are images taken from the world of a bride and groom.            The union with the Holy King, upon whose arrival the Shabbat adorns itself, and for whose sake it separates from all others – "the other side"[2] – creates an image of a wedding night, the time when the bride enters the bridal chamber. This is the moment of the prayer of the entrance of Shabbat in which the bride is invited into the bridal chamber: "Come, o bride, come o bride, the Shabbat queen."


            In order to understand this matter, we must bring another important concept into the discussion: the sefira of Malkhut.


            The sefira of Malkhut is the tenth sefira, the last of the ten sefirot, the sefira which "receives" the other nine higher sefirot. It is said about this sefira: "It has nothing of itself" – it is nothing but what it receives from others. This is the "feminine" aspect, which when connected to the "masculine" aspect is the receiver, while the masculine aspect gives and bestows.[3]


            When Shabbat enters on Friday afternoon it is the sefira of Malkhut which receives from the Holy One, blessed be He, the Holy King.


For on Shabbat eve, the Shekhina is called a bride, as it says: "Come, my beloved, to meet the bride." And from there it begins to rise to the sefira of Malkhut until the Musaf service, the aspect of Keter. Therefore, we say in the Kedusha of the Musaf service: "From His abode may He turn with compassion." Understand this. (Tif'eret Shelomo al ha-Mo'adim –Rimzei Purim)


            The emphasis in the Zohar and in the words of R. Shelomo of Radomsk is on Shabbateve: in the Zohar – "in the prayer before the entrance of Shabbat," "and when Shabbat arrives"; and in the Tif'eret Shelomo – "on Shabbat eve." This is because on the day of Shabbat itself,Shabbat assumes another aspect, one of bestower and giver, as we will see below.[4]


            At this time when Shabbat enters, at the very moment that the world stops moving, when all of a sudden a person desists from all his activities, from all his preparations, when he separates himself from "the other things" referred to in this context as "the other side" – a great vacuum is created which for both the individual and the entire world gives rise to a feeling of anticipation and waiting for something; something that we have prepared for, something for which we have ceased all our activities. This is the feeling that accompanies us at the moment thatShabbat enters, during the prayer through which we usher Shabbat in – Kabbalat Shabbat. At this moment Shabbat waits for the Holy King so that He may rest within it.


            The rabbi of Apta explains the piyyut that we recite on Shabbat morning after El Adon:


Now there is no mitzva that is performed through repair in the upper worlds without stirring from below, except for the mitzva of Shabbat which involves no doing. The entire mitzvainvolves sitting back and doing nothing, like all thirty-nine forbidden labors, which neither they nor their offshoots may be performed on Shabbat. The entire positive precept of "And on the seventh day you shall rest" is also sitting back and doing nothing. This indicates that the repair and union of the upper worlds is performed by His essence, blessed be He, with no help or assistance from below… This is the meaning of: "The seventh day itself utters praise, saying: 'A song of the Shabbat day, etc.' Therefore, let all God's creatures glorify." At first glance, the word "therefore" is incomprehensible. But according to our approach, it can be properly explained. For "the seventh day utters praises, saying" means that the seventh day itself without any stirring from below performs the repair and union in the holy upper worlds. And because of this, all of His creatures can easily glorify their Creator. For even one who is not at the level to connect and unite with His essence, blessed be He…, nevertheless through the mystery of Shabbat and its high level, that the all the worlds rise then on their own and unite with His essence, blessed be He, he too can be included among them to efface himself and unite with His essence, blessed be He. This is what is written in the Holy Zohar: "It is the mystery of Shabbat, which" by itself, without any stirring from below, "is united with the mystery of the One," that is, with His essence, blessed be He. (Ohev Yisra'elShabbat)


            The author of Ohev Yisra'el explains that the uniqueness of Shabbat lies in the fact that it rises up without any stirring from below, and that merely through desisting from work on Shabbat, sitting back and doing nothing, the worlds are repaired and perfect unity is achieved.


            The emphasis placed on "sitting back and doing nothing" on Shabbat is connected to itsmida of Malkhut that allows the King to rest upon it and constitutes a gate to His essence. Malkhutis the gate to the King's Keter, and Shabbat eve is the gate in as much as it "sits back and does nothing," and thus clears space for awaits the resting of the Shekhina.


The Zohar concludes with a description of Shabbat adorning itself with the Holy King. Since Shabbat is void of any action, in as much as "it has nothing of itself," all of its adornments, all of its praises, all of its contents lie in what fills it, namely, the Holy King that rests upon it.


The content of Shabbat does not stem from human action, but rather from man desisting from activity, and from his readiness to receive something from above. Shabbat is Divine lovingkindness that rests the extra soul of Shabbat upon the world, and it is precisely the rest from work, the Malkhut, that allows that Divine light to shine. To the extent that a person succeeds in severing himself from his active life, in forgetting all mundane matters, and in desisting both physically and spiritually from his work, so will more room be cleared for God to rest on that person's Shabbat.


To the extent that Shabbat succeeds to separate from "the other side," to sever itself from all the judgments that surround it, to reach the bridal chamber clean and pure, so will the union between it and its groom be enhanced. When a bride goes to her bridal chamber, it is customary for her to remove all her adornments, for her groom is her adornment. So too, says the Zohar, when Shabbat enters, when it separates from all mundane existence, it is left without adornments, and then it can adorn itself with the Holy King. At that time, "all the principalities of severity and all the lords of judgment flee from Her, and no other domination reigns in any of the worlds." The Sefat Emet explains the matter as follows:


On these days, purity and holiness descend from heaven, as it is written: "And let them wash their clothes" (Shemot 19:10) – this is the garment. For the body is the soul's garment. Since during the giving of the Torah, a new soul and vitality descend upon each man of Israel, they must first wash their clothes and purify their bodies. And in the midrashon Nasa regarding "And they put them outside the camp" (Bamidbar 5:4) - "Take away the dross from the silver" (Mishlei 25:4). The camp represents the two hundred and forty eight organs in the person himself. In accordance with the removal of the dross, so too the Lord your God walks among you. As it is the case with the community, when the people of Israel gather as one and are called a "camp," then it is within their power to send out every leper and person with an issue. And similarly regarding the holy Shabbat, "which is united with the mystery of the One… and is separated from the "other side." And similarly was the preparation at Mount Sinai like one man. And so too regarding an individual himself, when he gathers himself in one will directed to God, blessed be He, he merits purity. (Sefat Emet,Shavu'ot, 5643)


The Sefat Emet notes a most fundamental point that repeats itself throughout God's governance relating to Israel and the world. When the world is disjoined, all types of negative forces can take control. It is well known that thieves and robbers exploit times of disorder and chaos to further their own goals. Unity and association for the sake of realizing common ideals and objectives create an atmosphere in which the forces of evil are cast out, or else they are carried away by the flow of the movement toward the desired ideal. The Sefat Emet explains: When all of Israel gathered at Sinai, the dross found in each and every person was removed from the assembly. When the entire nation gathered in one camp, all those suffering with leprosy and or having an issue were sent out. And similarly when all actions are gathered together onShabbat in total unity, all judgments and all negative modes of governance are severed from it. The Sefat Emet adds that the same is true of the individual; when he gathers himself in one will directed to God, the impure spirit leaves him and he merits purity.


When the days of the week are disjoined, as we saw in the words of R. Nachman of Breslov in the previous lecture, the world is ruled by impulses, lusts, and other bad things that exploit the world of disjunction in order to rule and provide everything with false external meaning. This is a world in which the golem rises up against his creator. In a world of disjunction, a paycheck is liable to be seen as the most important thing in the world, and the question whether or not my neighbor parked in my parking spot may be viewed as a matter of survival. This is the place where the "other side," the principalities of severity and the lords of judgment rule.


In a world of unity, in a world of Shabbat, when a person unites his will toward God, when all his yearnings are directed toward seeking the resting of the Shekhina, when a person turns into a bride who removes her ornaments and steps forward toward her groom, all the principalities of severity and all the lords of judgment disappear on their own.


This is the way to understand the rest of the psalm of Shabbat, the beginning of which we analyzed in the previous lecture. After we have merited to see the entire world in its unified mode and to thank God for all His works, in a manner that "a brutish man does not know, nor does a fool understand this," the Psalmist continues:


When the wicked spring like grass, and when all the workers of iniquity flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed forever. But You, Lord, are most high for evermore. For, lo, Your enemies, O Lord, for lo, Your enemies shall perish; all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered. (Tehilim 92:8-10)


            The perishing of God's enemies and the scattering of all the workers of iniquity directly follow from the communion which we merit on Shabbat. This is the royal resting that causes the removal of all the principalities of severity that had ruled over us while we lived in the world of disjunction, the place that they control. When we merit the union of Shabbat with its groom - the Holy One, blessed be He – all the workers of iniquity are removed from us, "and no other domination reigns in any of the worlds."


Come, my beloved, to meet the bride


            The third section of the Zohar passage contains the amazing words that follow:


And her countenance is illumined by the supernal light, and she is crowned here below by the holy people, all of whom are invested with new souls. Then is the time for the commencement of prayer, when the worshippers bless Her with joy and illumined countenance. (ZoharTeruma)


            Thus far, we have seen how Shabbat adorns itself with the Holy King, and how it constitutes the aspect of Malkhut with respect to the Holy One, blessed be He, who rests within it and illumines it with Divine light. In these lines, the Zohar describes another "adornment" whichShabbat merits, so that now it is directed not only upwards as we have seen thus far, but also downwards, towards the holy nation of Israel. Directing the face of Shabbat downwards has two ramifications: On the one hand, Shabbat merits to be adorned with a holy nation, while on the other hand, it allows Israel to be adorned with new souls and joy and an illumined countenance.


            With these words, the three-fold picture is complete: the Holy King, the holy Shabbat, and the holy people.


For the essence is the holiness of Shabbat, when Keneset Israel joins with its beloved, which is the aspect of "Come, my beloved, to meet the bride." Then all three points are joined together, and the aspect of man is perfected to sit on the throne, as stated above. (Likutei HalakhotShabbat 7)


            The refrain of the wonderful piyyut which we sing every Friday night creates the triad that R. Natan, the disciple of R. Nachman of Breslov, is talking about: "Come, my beloved, to meet the bride; let us welcome Shabbat."


            The kabbalist, R. Shelomo Alkabetz, author of this piyyut, refers to Shabbat with an appropriate designation: "bride." But who is inviting the beloved to meet the bride? And who is the beloved?


            According to what we have seen in the Zohar, the face of the bride/Shabbat is directed both toward the beloved – the Holy One, blessed be He, and toward His love – the people ofIsrael. The joint walking of God toward Shabbat like a groom toward his bride, and of Israeltoward Shabbat as one who seeks out the bride, constitutes the bridge that will eventually connect the beloved to His love, God to Israel.


Only in order to understand the manner of communion and comprehension, for surely the Creator, blessed be he, has no end or limit, and man has a limit and an end. How, then, can these two opposite draw close to each other? Therefore, the Creator, blessed be He, gave Shabbat to Israel, it being midway between Israel and their Father in heaven, uniting and connecting them to the Creator, blessed be He. This is because it has two parts and is similar to both Israel and the Holy One, blessed be He. As it is known that anything that is midway between two opposites must be similar to both aspects. For well-known are the words of the Zohar that Shabbat, the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, is perfect from all sides, for Shabbat is the vitality of the upper world and the vitality of this world. (Me'or EinayimKi Tetze)


            R. Menachem Nachum of Czernobel, disciple of the Besht and the Maggid, explains howShabbat, by way of its being akin to both the Holy One, blessed be He, and to Israel, bridges the abyss between the infinite God and finite, limited, material man.


            Shabbat amazingly and incomprehensibly brings together the material and spiritual in a harmonious and non-contradictory manner. Shabbat relates in its entirety to the world of spirit and to the extra soul by way of communion with the hidden, in a manner similar to the world-to-come. On the other hand, the primary mitzva of Shabbat is material eating. Thus writes R. Natan on the matter of eating on Shabbat:


For the primary grasp of good and evil is through the different actions, as stated above. This is the aspect of death. For the primary vitality is through the revelation of simple unity… But when the different actions grow in strength and the aspect of simple unity is not revealed, God forbid, this is the aspect of death, God forbid. Therefore, we must recite a blessing over each and every thing, so that the food be included in the simple One, blessed be He, through the blessing, in order that it be revealed through this food that He is the vitality of man, the aspect of simple unity out of different actions, as stated above. This is the aspect of eating on Shabbat, for through the holiness of Shabbat the simple unity is revealed out of the different actions, as stated above. Therefore, it is then a great mitzva to eat, and the primary honor of Shabbat is eating, for through the eating of the holy Shabbat, which is an eating of holiness, having the aspect of "Then you shall delight in God" - through that the simple unity is revealed out of the different actions, as stated above. Therefore, we must always eat, even on weekdays, in honor of Shabbat, as our Rabbis, of blessed memory, have said, for the primary revelation of the simple unity, etc. is through drawing the holiness of Shabbat to the days of the week, as stated above. Therefore, we must eat on weekdays in honor of Shabbat, for through eating, the aspect of the simple unity out of different actions is revealed, for eating is the vitality of man, the connection between the soul and the body, as stated above. (Likutei HalakhotHilkhot Shutafim be-Karka, 2)


            R. Natan, following his master, R. Nachman of Breslov, speaks of the unity that Shabbatbestows upon the "different actions" of the weekdays (as we saw in the previous lecture). Here, however, R. Natan focuses not only on retrospective understanding, but also on the consciousness that must accompany man in all his actions.


            Eating, according to R. Natan, is the bridge that connects the material and spiritual worlds. Were Shabbat itself and its mitzvot absolutely spiritual, it would be impossible to draw their sanctity to the days of the week. The eating of Shabbat pours of its sanctity onto the material world, and it is also the bridge which allows us to touch the material world during the days of the week and gather its "different actions" to the One. When a person recites a blessing over his eating so that the eating is accompanied by spiritual consciousness, the eating and all that surrounds it are gathered into the "one will" to serve God and rise up to Him, and thus the unity spreads throughout the week.


            Shabbat, according to this, is the meeting point between the finite and the Infinite, between the people of Israel and God, between the loved and the beloved. It shines its face, which is in the mystery of the One, to the holy people, by coming down to them in eating, drinking, and delight. Through this encounter Israel merits to receive new souls. Thus writes R. Shelomo of Radomsk:


"Therefore, the children of Israel shall keep Shabbat throughout their generations" (Shabbat 31:16) In the holy Zohar, parashat Teruma 136b: "R. Hamnuna Saba when he would come out of the river… and every Friday afternoon a person sits in the world of the souls." It is well known that the primary service of the righteous in this world is through Torah and mitzvot, except for the wonderful yichuddim that they perform in the upper worlds and bring down good bounty into this world. But they also bring down new souls into the world. As we say: "To make new souls and spirits" (Azamer bi-Shevachin, song for Friday night). From the time of the creation of the world, it was His will, blessed be His name, that the righteous man of the generation should be the foundation of the world, and he should be the conduit of bounty, as it is written (Tehilim 112:4): "Gracious, merciful, and righteous." And so too the righteous man in all generations. Therefore, every man of understanding must have in mind during the Kiddush of Shabbat eve during the "bore peri ha-gefen" blessing to bring down new souls, for the souls of the people of Israel are called "fruit of the vine"; see the holy Zohar (I, Vayechi, 238). And the root of the souls of the people of Israel is from the world of understanding (bina), as it is written (Iyyov 32:8): "The breath (nishmat) of the Almighty gives them understanding (tevinem)." Understand this. And the souls that come into this world on the holy Shabbat eve are very elevated, above the world of understanding. (Tif'eret ShelomoRimzei Purim).


            R. Shelomo of Radomsk argues that the time of kiddush on Friday night is a propitious hour for new souls. Thus, if the six days of the week are characterized by creativity in the material world, Shabbat is a time of creativity in the spiritual world. It is the most fertile time to bring down new souls into the world.[5]


            It is also possible, however, to understand the matter of "new souls" in the sense of a renewal of the souls of the people of Israel. Israel's encounter with the Holy One, blessed be He, on Shabbat leads to a renewal of their souls. To understand this idea it may be helpful to consider the wonderful piyyut that was composed for the time of rising in the morning and reciting the morning blessings:


I thank God who searches the heart…

Pay attention to the soul…

Hewn from the Throne of Glory,

To live in a dry land…

Wake up, for every night,

Your soul rises heavenward,

To give an accounting of its actions,

To the Creator of night and day.

He finds it sullied from sin and addition,

Like a maidservant,

Each and every morning.

He finds it adorned in a talit and tefilin,

Like an adorned bride,

Each and every morning.

He who is faithful regarding His deposit

Will return it to him as He pleases,

The man has not died on account of his sin.

And it was night and it was day.


            The supernal soul hewn out of the Throne of Glory which is the root of all the souls ofIsrael comes "to live in dry land." The fact that it is found in this world and cast in a body that deals with the world of matter will lead to its being sullied "by sins and addition like a maidservant" who is subject to the body and its needs. And then it will be found "adorned with talit and tefilinlike an adorned bride." This is the lot of the soul who is bound by the chains of this world, when it goes up and then comes back down. Back and forth between cleanliness and filth, between conjunction and distance, between unity and disjunction.


            Shabbat renews the soul over and beyond the ordinary renewal that takes place every day. On Shabbat, the soul is liberated from its chains – the chains of this world. It ceases to be a maidservant, and in a moment it turns into a queen, a bride. The release from the chains of this world, the liberation from the pressure of the workdays, which a person merits with the entry ofShabbat, allow the soul once again to blossom, to rise up and to be renewed. When a person feels that all of his obligations in this world – the world of action and the world of matter[6] - have been removed from him, he suddenly reveals the intensity of life concealed within him, which was waiting from the moment of liberation when it could burst forth, renew itself, live and make an appearance – this is the renewal of the soul which Israel merit at the moment that Shabbatenters, which has joy and an illumined countenance. This illumined countenance testifies to the renewal of the soul. At that moment, a person turns from receiver to giver, from the recipient of bounty to the provider thereof, and thus he illuminates Shabbat with his shining countenance.


            The Zohar compares the process that Shabbat undergoes when it enters - "at the time of prayer" – with respect to God, to the process that the people of Israel undergo at that very same time – at the time of "the beginning of prayer" – with respect to Shabbat. At dusk, the time of the beginning of prayer, the time when the day becomes sanctified, Shabbat shines its double countenance, toward God and toward Israel, and with this shining countenance Shabbat effects others and is effected by others.


            Shabbat effects God, as it were, with its unity that spreads through all the worlds, which allows God to sit on His throne in the mystery of One. And it effects the people of Israel in that they receive through it new souls.


            As a bride, Shabbat is effected by God in that it adorns itself with the adornments of the Holy King and wraps itself in His Shekhina. And it is effected by the people of Israel in that it adorns itself with their adornments, with the splendor of their faces, with joy and with shining countenance.


            We complete this three-fold connection between the Holy One, blessed be He, Shabbatand Israel, during the third Shabbat meal, in whose prayer – the Mincha service, we say: "You are One, and Your Name is One, and who is like Your people, Israel, a unique nation on earth."


            "You are One" – "The Holy One, blessed be He, who is One."


            "And Your Name is One" – "Until She has entered within the mystery of the One in accordance with His very essence of Oneness, to be the One in One. This, as we have said, is the significance of the words: 'The Lord is One, and His Name is One.'"


            "And who is like Your people, Israel, a unique nation on earth" – "And her countenance is illumined by the supernal light, and she is crowned here below by the holy people."


            The unity of the Holy One, blessed be He, the unity of Shabbat, and the unity of Israel, are intertwined, and all the wonderful light – the light of the mystery of the One – that illuminates the faces of Israel, of Shabbat and of the Throne of Glory, each and every Shabbat, lifts up the entire world and causes a new light to shine upon Zion.[7]




[1] We have divided the passage into sections in order to make it easier for the reader to identify the portion under discussion.


[2] Similarly, the blessing recited at the time of betrothal deals not only with the union of bride and groom, but also with their separation and withdrawal from others: "Who has disallowed unto us those that are betrothed to us, but has sanctioned unto us such as are wedded to us by the rite of the nuptial canopy and the sacred covenant of wedlock." The decision to marry involves not only the selection of one, but the negation of all others. The union of Shabbat involves the selection of the Holy King, and at the same time separation from all others.


[3] Anyone who is interested in a deeper understanding of the the sefira of Malkhut is advised to consult the lecture series, "Introduction to the Ten Sefirot," that was published on this web-site.


[4] The wording of the blessing found in the Amida prayer of Shabbat alludes to this idea. The blessing recited on Friday night reads: "yanuchu va," whereas the blessing recited on Shabbatmorning reads: "yanuchu vo," the Shabbat undergoing a change from the feminine-receiver to the masculine-giver.


[5] As is well-known, special importance is attached to marital relations conducted on Friday night.


[6] The Acharonim write that on Shabbat a person must feel that all his affairs are done and complete.


[7] Anyone who is interested in achieving a deeper understanding of these matters from the kabbalistic perspective is invited to consult the lecture series, "Introduction to the Ten Sefirot," published on this web-site, lectures 7-8, which deal with the sefira of Yesod and Shabbat.


(Translated by David Strauss)