Adapted from writings of the Chabad Rabbis
by Rabbi Yossi Marcus
came from Sinai—He shone forth to them from Seir, He appeared from Mount
and approached from the holy ten thousands—from His right hand He presented the fiery Torah to
them. —Deuteronomy 33:2
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.
Alef, Yud, Kuf—Bet, 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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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
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
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.)
the supernal will is beyond intellect and Chochmah and contains two levels: Will
Will contains neither “taste” nor delight. It is expressed
in the saying, “Be silent—so it has arisen in the supernal Thought.”
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.”
Thus the Garden of Eden is infinite pleasure, while it is common knowledge that
the Garden of Eden is a mere reflection of higher
(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.)
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.”
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,
See also our essay on Haazinu regarding the revivim, rain drops, which
Rabbi Schneur Zalman relates to rivavah.
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.
revelation of the inner secrets will take place in the future.
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.