The 10 Sefirot
In this week’s Parsha we find 7 of the 10 Plagues with which God punished the land of Egypt in order to deliver the people of Israel.
Why the reading portion was set in this way? Why do we read of 7 of the 10 plagues and leave the other 3 for the next portion? Well, as we know concerning Holy things, the Divine Providence is always working, so there’s a reason and a meaning for this.
The secret is in the numbers: 10, 7 and 3. These Numbers are totally connected and interrelated to each other. 10 is not a coincidental number.
The creation of the World consists of ten utterances by which the status of “Nothingness” turns into our “natural reality” (cf. Avot 5:1). In Kabbalah these are called the 10 Sefirot – or the 10 emanations or 10 attributes of God’s immanence (cf. Bamidbar Rabbah 14:12). – There are ten times in which the text says that God spoke. If we only count the expression: “And God said” – ‘Vayomer Elokim’, then we will count only 9. But apart of these 9, there are another two accounts where it’s written: “God blessed them saying” – ‘Vayibarekh otam Elokim L’mor’, if we count them all, then we will get 11 utterances (Gn 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, , 24, 26, , 29).
So, with how many utterances God created the world? with 9 or with 11? Sefer Yetzirah answers:
“There are Ten Sefirot; not nine, nor eleven” (cf. Yetzirah 1:4).
Later Kabbalists would explain that it seems to the untrained mind that there are 11 Sefirot; but there are actually 10, because one of them is actually the same as the first one. Of these 11 utterances in creation, only 9 are commandments; the other two are Blessings. So it seems that the world was created by 9 commandments, but there’s a point which is the basis for the other 9, which origin is so primary that ‘utterances’ were not conceived as such, and this is the primary point of creation; God’s Will (the Sefirah of Keter) in the phrase: “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth” (cf. Zohar 1:15a; Megillah 21a-b; Rosh haShana 32a).
So the next clue the Sefer Yetzirah gives is: “Ten Ineffable Sefirot… in the number of fingers – five oppose five” (cf. Yetzirah 1:2-3).
Obviously this speaks of two hands, left and right, with 5 fingers each one. How do we know that God created the world with 10 fingers? Because it’s written:
“My [left] hand laid the foundations of the Earth, and my right hand spread out the Heaven” (Is 48:13). And then we read: “I consider your Heavens, work of your fingers” (Psal 8:4 ). These are, the 10 fingers of Creation, or the 10 utterances by which the world was made, or in Kabbalistic terminology: the 10 Sefirot.
“Through the Ten Sefirot, God created, from absolute nothingness, the prime matter of the heavens and all it would contain and the prime matter of the earth and all that it would contain” (Ramban Gn 1:1).
Everything within creation works in a system of balance of 10 Sefirot.
Number 7 and The Concealed Hands
The first verse in the Bible, which can be considered the prelude to the 10 commands with which the world was made, consists of 7 words. This sentence is made of 28 letters.
בראשית ברא אלקים את השמים ואת הארץ
There are also 7 luminaries which can be seen with the naked eye, which according to astrology affect the Earth in one way or another (cf. Gn 1:14). Their Hebrew name sums a total of 28 letters too (cf. sefer Raziel).
לבנה, כוכב, נוגה, חמה, מאדים, צדק, שבתאי
And the prologue to the Decalogue (the 10 commandments) which God gave to Israel in order to create a holy nation and rectify the Earth (ie. Ex 20:1) is also made of 7 words and 28 letters. Coincidence?
וידבר אלקים את כל הדברים האלה לאמר…
As you’ll see this follows a pattern. The number 28 is 14 + 14.
In Hebrew, the number 14 is represented with the word: Yad (יד); which means: ‘hand’.
Therefore the 28 alludes to the two hands of creation.
In our Portion we are going to deal with another set of 10. The 10 plagues of Egypt, which of course, resemble the Sefirot.
4 Cups and 10 Utterances of Redemption
To express Israel’s deliverance, there are clearly 4 sentences [linked to the 4 letters of the Sacred Name] which God uses when talking to Moses. These are (Ex 6:6-7):
– I will bring you out of Egypt – this is Sanctification (set apart)
– I will rescue you from slavery – this is Deliverance
– I will redeem you – this is Redemption
– I will take you to me for a people – this is Restoration
These allude to the 4 exiles that Israel experienced: (1) the Egyptian (whose redeemer was Moses), (2) the Babylonian, (3) the Greek and (4) the actual one, the Roman/Edom (whose redeemer is Messiah). These 4 statements and these 4 redemptions are commemorated during the feast of Pesakh (Passover), where we traditionally drink 4 cups of Wine.
Each one of the four verbs follows the same pattern. They start with the letter Vav (meaning: ‘and’), end with the article Ti (meaning: ‘I’) and is followed by the pronoun Etkhem (meaning: ‘to You’).
I will bring you out – ve’hotzeti etkhem – והוצאתי אתכם
I will rescue you – ve’hitzalti etkhem – והצלתי אתכם
I will redeem you – ve’gaalti etkhem – וגאלתי אתכם
I will take you – ve’lakakhti etkhem – ולקחתי אתכם
However, the Maharal of Prague and others mention that there should be 5 cups of Redemption instead of 4, because after these, there’s another verse (6:8) in which God says:
I will bring you – ve’Heveity etkhem – והבאתי אתכם, again with the same pattern as the other 4.
And examining the phrases, we find two more in which the term “To You” is written: “Lakhem” instead of “Etkhem”.
The sentence: “And I will be to you a God” (6:7). And: “I will give her [the Land] to you” (6:8).
I will be to you – ve’Hayiti Lakhem – והייתי לכם
I will give her to you – ve’Natati Otah lakhem – ונתתי אתה לכם
So in a full meditation, there are not only 4 phrases of Redemption. There are actually Seven from verses 6 to 8!!
But apart, in a more concealed manner, there are 3 additional sentences above these 7 which do not start with the letter Vav, but God speaks of himself, ending the verb with ‘Ti’ – which means “I” and addresses ‘Lahem’ – (ie. ‘Them’) as the receivers of the verb.
In the verse that gives name to this week’s portion (6:3) there’s the sentence:
I was not known to them – Lo Nodaati Lahem – לא נודעתי להם
Then It says (6:4): I set my covenant with them to give them – hakimoti et Briti itam latet lahem – הקמתי את בריתי אתם לתת להם
And then (6:5):
I have heard their moaning – Shamati et Naakat – שמעתי את נאקת
So the structure in which God answers Moses is made of 10 utterances with a division of 3 and 7. In the upper Three, God speaks of Himself and addresses a third party (they – meaning God’s covenant with the 3 Patriarchs) as the receivers of the verb. In the lower 7, God speaks of Himself and addresses the plural of YOU as the receivers, starting each verb with a Vav.
This follows the pattern of the plagues of Egypt, a first group of 7 plagues and a second group of 3 plagues. These 10 verbs which in order correspond to the Sefirot, showing God’s purpose with Israel:
The Upper 3:
(1) – Nodaati (6:3) – I have made known = Da’at
(2) – Hakimoti (6:4) – I raise (uphold) [ie. resurrection] = Hokhmah
(3) – Shamati (6:5) – I heard = Binah (connected with Hokhmah by the words: Gam (also).
The VaV 7:
(4) – veHotzeti (6:6) – I bring forth …(5) – veHitzalti – I rescue
(6) – veGaalti (6:6) – I redeem
(7) – veLakakhti (6:7) – I will take ….(8) veHayiti – I will be
(9) – veHeveiti (6:8) – I will bring
(10) – veNatati (6:8)– I will give her [the land – the Shekhinah].
And these 10 utterances are finally unified with a last sentence: “I am HaShem [Ani Havaya]” (Ex 6:8).
There are 7 emotive Sefirot and 3 Intellectual Sefirot.
So God created the World with 10 utterances, according to the 10 fingers of the hands, and gave the people of Israel 10 utterances at mount Sinai, and now God refers Himself 10 times in a conversation that has to do with Israel’s redemption, and Now God is going to execute 10 plagues to Egypt.
When Moses went to Pharaoh and he asked a sign from his God, Aaron’s staff became a Snake. Aaron and Moses’ staff was constantly in the likeness of a snake. The text says: ‘Aaron’s staff swallowed up their rods’ (Ex 7:12). It doesn’t say: Aaron’s snake, but Aaron’s staff. This is, because this is a holy snake who doesn’t have poison.
But why did God choose to introduce Himself to Pharaoh with a Snake, when the magicians of Egypt could also turn rods into serpents?
Precisely, because God started judging from the beginning. The Source of Pharaoh’s dominion comes from the side of The Wicked Snake, as it’s written: “I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, great dragon that lies in the midst of his rivers” (Ex 29:3); therefore his judgment started with a Snake (cf. Zohar Vaera).
It was through the poison (spiritual impurity) of a Wicked Snake that Samael brought “Death to humankind” (cf. Zohar I:35b). Just like humanity fell because of a Snake, it must be restored by another Snake. Measure for Measure. And this ‘Holy Snake’ is Messiah.
The phrase “And Aaron’s rod swallowed יבלע their rods” means that Messiah, ie. the Holy Snake that comes from the side of Yakov, which is the power of Redemption operating in the Rod, swallows the dragons of Mitzrayim [[Mitzrayim is Egypt, but its meaning can be used as a metaphor for this world’s rulership]].
This teaches us that unlike some beliefs, Samael (ie. the Satan) is not an alter ego of God; is not one angel alone, and is not almighty, neither all knowing. There is more than one Samael – more than one Satan (cf. Zohar Bereshit 29a) and Messiah swallows them all. Our sages teach that Satan, the Evil Inclination and the Angel of Death are all one (Bava Bathra 16a).
So the fact that Messiah swallows the dragons of Egypt alludes to the verse “Death is swallowed up into victory” (Is 25:8) (cf. Shemot Rabbah 30:3). This teaches us that in the era of Messiah, the evil Inclination will be fettered, and the dead will rise up from the dust (which by the way is the Wicked Snakes’s food; Gn 3:14), as stated: ‘at that time your people will be delivered… and many who sleep in the dust of the Earth will awake: some to everlasting life’ (Dn 12:2).
And why is Aaron’s rod the one that swallows these idolatric powers? Because the nations governed by the force of the Wicked Snake (Nakhash) in the Messianic era will be considered high priests of the True God. This is taught in the words of our sages with the proverb: “A Gentile who keeps Torah is like a high priest” (Baba Kama 38a). That means, when they keep the ethical commandments (cf. Sanhedrin 59a), which Messiah will cause them to obey, as stated: “I will give you for a Light to the nations” (Is 49:6) and “many nations will go and say: Come, let’s go up to the mount of HaShem… he will teach us his ways… for out of Zion the Torah will go forth” (Is 2:3).
In Gematria, Snake (Nakhash) equals ‘Hoshen’ (the high priest’s breastplate) and ‘Messiah’ (Mashiakh).
נחש = חשן = משיח = 358
So this is how God introduces himself to Pharaoh, and as stated by our sages, the beginning is rooted in the end and the end in the beginning.
“The Holy One began from the lowest grade, smiting each one in succession with every finger of His hand; and when He reached the highest He Himself passed through Egypt and slew all the first born of the land, as the firstborn represented the highest and choicest grade of all” (Zohar II:29a).
This means that the plagues correspond to the Sefirot, which are God’s fingers, as explained above.
To give you an idea of how retribution works, I’ll explain a few areas fixed by the first plague.
Just like Pharaoh desecrated the River with the blood of the righteous of Israel who were drowned there, as retribution, in the first plague the water of the River became Blood. Besides the Nile was one of the major gods worshipped in Egypt (cf. Shemot Rabbah), and the place where Pharaoh purified himself. The River is the life force of the land, just like the Blood in the body. Thus is stated that by this miracle the fish died.
The River being the Life Force of the Land is an aspect of “Malkhut” – the lowest Sefirah; which is feminine – in Hebrew: Nukvah. It’s represented in Eve, “the mother of the Living”. Thus the river becoming Blood is an aspect of the Niddah (the ritual separation because of menstruation).
The Gematria of Blood (Dom) is 44 = דם. The Gematria of Eve (Hava) is 19 = חוה
19 times 44 (or ‘Eve’ times’ Blood’) = 836, which is the value of the sentence: ‘In the garment of the kingdom’ (Esth 8:15) – Bilbush Malkhut – בלבוש מלכות
The other figure which embodies the Sefirah of Malkhut (Kingdom) is King David, of whom it is said: “You are a man of war and have shed Blood” (1Chr 28:3). The Gematria of “Blood” equals: “LeDavid” (to David).
At this point the people is still exiled and it is taught that the Divine Presence is exiled together with the people (an aspect of Malkhut/Nukva). But with this plague the Redemption of Israel begins. Incidentally, the Gematria for Exiled – ‘Goleh’ and for The Redemption – ‘haGeulah’ are both the same as ‘Blood’ = 44.
44 is also the shortest expansion of God’s Name ‘Havaya’ [in Milui].
יוד הא וו הא = 44 = גולה = דם = הגאלה
One of the aspects of Messiah ben David is that his clothed are dyed Red (adom) with blood, because the lifeblood of Edom (the seed of the Snake) is dashed against his garments (Is 63:1-3) (Zohar Bereshit 238a). While the reason of the red-garment is judgment, and Judgment belongs to the Sefirah of Gevurah (ie. the plague of boils), the mere presence of King Messiah belongs to Malkhut.
For all these reasons (and many more), the first plague, the plague of Blood corresponds to the first Sefirah, and each plague ascends the path of the Sefirot, until the 10th one, which is the plague of the first born sons, which belongs to the next week portion.