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By Moshe Miller

Meet the sefirot in their relation to the soul.

From the ten sefirot the soul derives its corresponding ten soul-powers, all of which have names identical to the sefirot. The soul is expressed and manifested through its powers, of which there are two general categories -- the transcendent or encompassing powers, and the particular, or immanent powers (corresponding to the transcendent keter and the remaining immanent sefirot, respectively). The transcendent or super-conscious powers of the soul are called delight ( oneg) and will (ratzon), corresponding to the inner and outer dimensions of keter mentioned above.

The particular or immanent powers are subdivided into intellect and emotions. The three intellectual powers are chochma, wisdom or creative intellect; bina, understanding or developmental intellect; and daat, which is knowledge or conclusive, synthesizing intellect.

Chochma is the creative and generally unpredictable power of the soul which is manifested in spontaneous insights or inspiration -- an intuitive flash of intellectual illumination which has not yet been processed or developed by the understanding power of bina.

The creative power which illuminates chochma derives from the concealed level of keter -- "and chochma emerges from nothingness" (Job 28:12), that is, from the hidden keter. The reason that chochma is able to act as a receptacle for the flash of divine revelation is that in its inner essence is also "nothingness". That is, the inner essence of chochma is self-nullification (bitul).

This is why the Zohar characterizes the nature of chochma by one of the permutations of the word chochma itself -- koach ma -- the "potential to be 'what' (i.e. undefined and therefore boundless)". In this state of bitul, a person will not experience his own being as an independent creation. Rather, his consciousness is focused on G-d's omnipresence.

Bina, usually translated as "understanding", is the cognitive faculty that develops and articulates the seminal energy of chochma so that the latter becomes known, in a detailed conceptual way, through bina. Bina is also the inductive and deductive faculty of understanding (or deducing) one thing from another, thus expanding the point of chochma into a multi-dimensional conceptual system. The Zohar therefore symbolizes chochma and bina and their relationship as "the supernal point ( chochma) within its palace (bina)" (Zohar 1, 6A). However, bina is not merely an adjunct to chochma, it involves as well the ability to intuit a more inclusive reality that than encoded within chochma itself.

Bina is also the ability to explain the concept to another person, thus "reproducing" it. In this sense bina is referred to as "the mother of children" (Psalms 113:9).

Daat is the … ability to integrate and harmonize diametrically opposed views

Daat (knowledge) is the third faculty of the intellect. It is the ability to integrate and harmonize diametrically opposed views or states of being. As mentioned above, when keter is counted, daat is not, and vice versa. In terms of the soul powers, daat in fact plays a dual role: On the one hand, daat is the power which binds together the powers of chochma and bina. In this capacity it is called daat elyon (higher daat), which generally remains in a state of concealment. As such it is identified with keter. On the other hand, daat serves as the bridge between the opposing domains of the intellect and the emotional attributes of the soul. In this capacity it is called daat tachton (lower daat). Daat is not merely another stage of intellect; it enables one to convert understanding into the vitality and inspiration of the emotions and actions. In this sense, the Zohar, refers to daat as "the key to the six [emotions]" (Zohar 3, 22a).

A person who possesses daat will therefore exhibit rational, mature behavior, whereas one who lacks daat is emotionally immature and will probably be plagued by inner emotional conflict.

Chesed (love, kindness) is the first emotional attribute of the soul. Its motivating force is love and benevolence. Chesed is also sometimes called gedula (largesse), for it nurtures the other attributes of the soul into full development and maturity. The Zohar therefore refers to it as "the first day [i.e. the first attribute] which accompanies all the other days [of Creation]" ( Zohar 1, 46a).

Of the three Patriarchs, Abraham embodied the quality of chesed, as the verse states, "Give….chesed to Abraham" (Micah 7:20). He is also referred to as "Abraham, My loving one" (Isaiah 41:8)

Gevura (fortitude, restrictive power), associated with the force of din (severe divine judgment) restricts the benevolent expansiveness of chesed. As a soul-power it represents the emotional attribute of awe or fear. Whereas chesed dictates that one give generously and unconditionally, without concern for the intended recipient's worthiness to receive, gevura argues against doing so, for fear that the recipient is not worthy, or will misuse what he has been given. Accordingly, every opportunity to shower goodness upon someone is assessed in terms of the recipient's merit.

On the other hand, gevura is just as influential in motivating one courageously to uphold another's rights to the rewards which are legitimately his, even in the face of stiff opposition. Should divine justice dictate that someone be extended a particular benefit, the fear of Heaven impels one to do everything within one's power to facilitate it. Since gevura is concerned with maintaining proper measure and proportion within Creation, it works to defend the boundaries of the law, be they to one's advantage or disadvantage, requiring courage or trepidation.

As complimentary forces, chesed and gevura actually work together, establishing the rigorous standard of merit that endows subsequent overtures of chesed with genuine value and meaning for the recipient.

Gevura corresponds to the Patriarch Isaac, as in the verse "The One whom Isaac fears…." (Genesis 31:42, 53).

Tiferet (compassion) is the attribute of the soul which blends and harmonizes the two polar opposites of chesed and gevura. Tiferet is also referred to as the attribute of truth, for it depends to some extent on the merit of the recipient. Nevertheless, ideally, tiferet tends towards chesed, and is therefore known as rachamim (mercy).

Tiferet corresponds to the Patriarch Jacob.

Netzach has many meanings, referring to different aspects in the soul. It implies "victory" ( nitzachon), "eternity" (nitzchiyut) and "orchestration" ( nitzuach). Common to all these ideas is a sense of the initiative and persistence necessary in order to

overcome the resistance to bringing thought and feeling into positive action. "Victory" assumes initiative; "eternity" implies persistence; and "orchestration" indicates a creative plan that deploys the other qualities in an intelligent way.

The quality of netzach in the soul is dependent upon the degree of confidence one has that he is doing what G-d wants of him.

Hod (surrender, acknowledgment) is the complementary soul-power to netzach. Whereas netzach thrusts forward, overcoming the barriers between the outflow of benevolence (from chesed) and the intended recipient; hod (a quality derived from gevura) ensures that the person's success is predicated on his acknowledging the divine source of his power and might. Hod therefore represents sincerity and innocence. The Zohar refers to this complementary relationship as "two halves of one body, like twins" ( Zohar 3, 236a).

Yesod is the quality which combines all the qualities which precede it into a single creative act binding the giver and the recipient into a single unit. In technical terms, yesod binds the higher sefirot to malchut, or heaven to earth.[1] In the soul this represents a person's ability to bind himself to G-d's will and thus bring about the implementation of G-d's plan for Creation. Yesod also represents the tzadik (saintly person), regarding whom it is said: "The tzadik is the foundation (yesod) of the world" (Proverbs 10:25), for it is he who dedicates himself to fulfilling G-d's will and actualizing His plan for Creation.

Malchut represents receiving upon oneself the yoke of G-d's sovereignty

In terms of the powers of the soul, malchut represents receiving upon oneself the yoke of G-d's sovereignty, and acting in accordance with it, as a slave towards his master. Malchut thus experiences itself as a state of lowliness, for it possesses nothing of its own; it is aware that it receives all of its qualities form the other powers of the soul. At the same time, malchut also represents royalty and sovereignty. Only when a king humbly takes upon himself the yoke of Heaven, is he able to find the strength and wisdom to rule properly.

When man does good, his soul disseminates G-d's abundant goodness and reveals His greatness. Through man's good deeds, certain sefirot prevail. For instance, if a person displays compassion towards others, he causes tiferet to prevail. Thus, for example, Abraham represents kindness and love, which derive from the sefira of chesed, as explained above, for his deeds were concentrated in this direction.

[From the "Fiftieth Gate" edition of the Zohar, Introduction]



[1] As in the verse (I Chronicles 29:7): To You, O G-d, is the gedula and the gevura… for all that is in the heavens and the earth is Yours." The words "for all" (ki kol) have the numerical value of yesod (80).