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
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
or creative intellect;
bina, understanding or developmental intellect;
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
daat elyon (higher daat), which generally remains in a
state of concealment. As such it is identified with
keter. On the other
daat serves as the bridge between the opposing domains of the
intellect and the emotional attributes of the soul. In this capacity it is
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
also represents the
tzadik (saintly person), regarding whom it is said:
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.
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
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,