A Kabbalistic Quest Into Unseen Layers of Torah Wisdom

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“Decoding Divine Secrets and Insight through the Kabbalah of the Torah”.

The divine names found within the Torah, such as the 72-letter name, the 42-letter name, and the Tetragrammaton, offer profound insight into the nature of the Creator, His attributes, and His relationship with creation. These names are not simply labels or identifiers, but carry deep mystical and Kabbalistic significance. They are keys that unlock hidden layers of understanding within the Torah and the world it describes.

One of the most well-known divine names is the Tetragrammaton, the four-letter name of God, י-ה-ו-ה, often referred to as Hashem. This name, pronounced only in the context of the Temple and otherwise replaced by the substitute name ‘Adonai’, is derived from the root הוה, which means ‘to be’. This name signifies Hashem as the eternal, unchanging, and omnipresent reality, the foundation of all existence.

This name appears over 6,800 times in the Torah and is the most frequently used of God’s names. An examination of its use across the Torah shows it associated primarily with God’s mercy and kindness. For example, in Exodus 34:6-7 (Shemot 34:6-7), when Hashem reveals Himself to Moshe, He uses the Tetragrammaton and elucidates its meaning by associating it with mercy, compassion, patience, love, and truth.

A deeper layer of meaning within the Tetragrammaton can be found in Kabbalistic tradition, particularly through the concept of Sefirot, the divine emanations. Each letter of the Tetragrammaton corresponds to a different Sefirah: The upper Yud (י) represents Chochmah (wisdom), the first Heh (ה) corresponds to Binah (understanding), the Vav (ו) symbolizes the six emotional Sefirot from Chesed (loving-kindness) to Yesod (foundation), and the final Heh (ה) embodies Malchut (sovereignty).

Moving on to the 42-letter name, known as the Ana B’koach prayer, it is found within a piyyut (liturgical poem) traditionally recited during the counting of the Omer and in other prayers. The prayer is composed of seven lines, each containing six words. The initial letters of each word when taken together form the 42-letter name. This name is traditionally derived from the first 42 letters of the Book of Genesis (Bereishit), from 1:1 to 2:3.

The 42-letter name represents a bridge between the divine and the earthly realms. Each line of the Ana B’koach prayer corresponds to one of the seven lower Sefirot, from Chesed to Malchut. Just as these Sefirot serve as conduits for divine energy to enter the world, the 42-letter name serves as a way in which we can draw divine blessing and protection. When recited with the proper intention (Kavannah), it is said to have a transformative spiritual power.

In addition to the Tetragrammaton and the 42-letter name, there is the 72-letter name of God. This is derived from three verses in Exodus (Shemot 14:19-21) describing the splitting of the Red Sea. Each verse contains 72 letters in the original Hebrew. When arranged in a particular order, these form the 72 triplets that make up the 72-letter name.

Each of these triplets represents a different aspect of divine energy, and they are often used in Kabbalistic meditations and practices. The 72-letter name represents the totality of the divine manifestation in the universe and contains the power of all of God’s actions and attributes. Like the other names, it is not meant to be spoken, but to be contemplated and meditated upon, thereby drawing divine light into the world and one’s own life.

Let’s now delve into the gematria, the numerical value of Hebrew words, specifically focusing on the value of 70, which represents the concept of “sod” or secret in Kabbalistic teachings. The number 70 has profound significance throughout the Torah, denoting completeness, multiplicity, and the diversity of human experience.

One such example can be found in Genesis 46:27 (Bereishit 46:27), where it states that 70 souls of Jacob’s family went down to Egypt. In a literal sense, this refers to the 70 descendants of Jacob. However, according to Kabbalistic interpretation, these 70 souls also signify the 70 spiritual root souls from which all Jewish souls derive. Each soul reflects a unique aspect of divine service and understanding, thereby reflecting the multifaceted nature of the divine and the Torah.

The number 70 is also related to the 70 nations of the world, found in Genesis 10 (Bereishit 10). Just as the 70 descendants of Jacob signify the diversity within the Jewish people, the 70 nations signify the diversity within humanity. This shows that Torah, while given to the Jewish people, has a universal relevance and message, speaking to all aspects of human experience.

Another reference is in Exodus 24:1 (Shemot 24:1) where Moses, Aaron, Nadav, Avihu, and 70 elders ascend Mount Sinai to worship from a distance. These 70 elders, selected from the tribes of Israel, symbolize the complete representation of the Jewish people. They embody the full spectrum of spiritual and practical life experience, demonstrating that Torah is not the sole province of a spiritual elite but belongs to every Jew.

Furthermore, these references are not isolated examples. We find the number 70 recurrent in various scenarios throughout the Torah: 70 years of Babylonian exile, 70 weeks prophesied by Daniel, 70 palm trees at Elim during the Israelites’ journey in the wilderness (Exodus 15:27, Shemot 15:27), and many others.

The number 70, represented in Hebrew by the letter ‘ע’, also carries profound implications in Kabbalistic thought. In the study of the Sefirot, the divine attributes or emanations, the number 70 corresponds to the Sefirah of Yesod. Yesod, meaning “foundation,” serves as the conduit through which the divine energy of the higher Sefirot is transmitted to Malchut, the final Sefirah, representing the tangible, physical world. This relates to the role of “sod,” the secret or hidden aspect of Torah, serving as a conduit for transmitting the deepest spiritual truths into our tangible understanding and practice.

The Zohar, a foundational work of Kabbalah, further expounds on the theme of 70 as representative of secrets within the Torah. It describes the Torah as having “seventy faces,” indicating the myriad ways in which the divine wisdom can be interpreted and understood. Each “face” or interpretation represents another aspect of the divine wisdom, and collectively they reflect the totality of divine truth.

The study of gematria, and specifically the value of 70, unveils layers of meaning within the Torah, and guides us towards the understanding of its deeper messages. As we explore the Torah through the lens of “sod,” we discover its infinite depth and diversity. We see that each word, each letter, and even each numerical value is an integral part of the divine wisdom, revealing another facet of the eternal truth.

To appreciate the depth of the Torah’s wisdom, one must approach it with humility and a genuine desire for understanding. The sages teach us in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers, 5:26): “The more Torah, the more life; the more study, the more wisdom.” This is the path of the Torah scholar, the passionate Kabbalist, who continually seeks to deepen his understanding, to uncover the “sod” within the sod, and to live according to the divine wisdom revealed therein.

Our sages tell us in the Talmud, Tractate Shabbat, 88b, that when the Jewish people received the Torah at Mount Sinai, they didn’t just accept it passively. They actively took it upon themselves, proclaiming “Na’aseh v’Nishma” – “We will do and we will hear.” This encapsulates the approach of the passionate Torah scholar. First, we commit to observe the Torah and its commandments. Then, we commit to delve into its depths, to hear and understand its profound wisdom and teachings.

This journey of exploration and discovery is not a linear one. It is a spiral that keeps returning to the same themes but at higher and deeper levels. As we revisit texts and concepts, armed with our growing understanding, we uncover new layers of meaning. The 70 ‘faces’ of Torah reveal themselves to us, one by one, as we persist in our study and our service of HaShem.

In this exploration of the divine names within the Torah, the underlying essence within the verses, and the gematria of the Torah’s words, we see the infinite depth and interconnectedness of God’s creation. Through gematria, we recognize that every detail in the Torah is a part of a grand, divine design. The divine names offer us a glimpse into the nature of HaShem and His relationship with the world. Together, these elements of study enrich our understanding of HaShem, His Torah, and our role within His world.

Finally, in this exploration, we must also address the essence of “sod.” The exploration of sod, or the secrets of Torah, is an endeavor that seeks to penetrate the deepest layers of divine wisdom. It is not merely the amassing of information or the collection of interesting insights. Rather, it is the relentless pursuit of truth, the striving to touch the Divine.

According to Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, in his fundamental work of Kabbalah and Jewish ethics, “Mesillat Yesharim” (Path of the Just), true wisdom is attained when knowledge becomes internalized, transformed into an essential part of one’s being. In his words, “When this wisdom enters the heart and the soul recognizes and feels the truth that the mind has recognized – this is the completion of wisdom.”

When we search for the Divine Names in the Torah, when we seek the secrets within the pasukim “verses”, when we study the gematria of the words, we are not just engaging in an intellectual exercise. We are on a spiritual journey that shapes our very being.

To conclude, as we immerse ourselves in the study of the Torah, as we delve into the Divine Names, as we explore the layers of meaning through gematria and seek the hidden secrets or “sod” within the words and verses, we draw closer to HaShem. We come to know God not just as a concept, but as the omnipresent reality that pervades all existence. We gain not just knowledge, but wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. We experience not just the richness of Jewish tradition, but the profound interconnectedness of all God’s creation. Through Torah study, we are privileged to participate in the divine dialogue, the divine dance, that is the ongoing revelation of God’s infinite wisdom.

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