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The ten martyrs were the ten seed-drops that left Joseph.

Rabbi Yishmael the High Priest

Rabbi Yishmael the High Priest

Gate of Reincarnations: Chapter Thirty-Four, Section 5c


It might come as a surprise that there was no one in the entire generation of Ben Azzai who could create souls of converts. After all, what about Rebbi Yishmael ben Elisha Kohen Gadol, who we said was a spark from the soul of Joseph Hatsadik/Joseph - why did he not possess such an ability?

...the punishment of Rebbi Yishmael was the most difficult of all...

The answer has to do with what we spoke about earlier regarding the ten martyrs, that they were the ten seed-drops that left Joseph. Since Joseph himself sinned (and came back as) Rebbi Yishmael, for those seeds went to the depths of the kelipot. Therefore he lacked the ability to make souls of converts. Hence we find that the punishment of Rebbi Yishmael was the most difficult of all the ten martyrs, since he was the cause of their deaths, through the seed that was emitted.

Thus, that which is written with respect to Joseph, "they removed Joseph’s coat from him" (Gen. 37:23) is similar to what it says about Rebbi Yishmael, that the skin of his face was removed. Also, Rebbi Yishmael is compared to Joseph, in as much as they were both very handsome (Gen. 39:6) as it says in Pirkei Heichalot.

In addition, just as Joseph was held captive among the Egyptians, so too was Rebbi Yishmael held captive. It says that when Rebbi Yehoshua ben Chananyah asked, "Who gave Jacob up for spoil?" (Isaiah 42:24) he (Rebbi Yishmael) answered him, "Was it not God, against lo [He] Whom we sinned?" (Ibid, Gittin 58a)

...the sparks of the seed-drops of Joseph which fell down to the kelipot in the place of the legs...

In saying "lo" [he], he was making an allusion: Because of the sin of the sparks of the seed-drops of Joseph which fell down to the kelipot in the place of the legs,1 he himself was exiled among the gentiles. This is what he meant by, "Who gave Ya’akov up for spoil" - that is the drops. He answered him, "Was it not God, against He Whom we sinned?" (including himself).

"Lo"/LV is gematria 36, which is 6 squared. Yesod is the sefira of the covenant. From it comes male/female connection. It is the soul root of Joseph, therefore was he tested in such issues. Primarily he withstood the test and is so called ‘tsadik’ par excellance because of it. Nonetheless, there still was as if some slight defect that happened at the time of his test with the wife of Potifar. (Gen. 39:7-13) Because of his colossal spiritual plateau, it had to undergo rectification.

Yesod is the sixth sefira. It binds the six directions/days and reveals them as one unified arena through which Divinity to manifest. Six squared represents the spreading out of yesod in all glory to all of its facets. Joseph, the king of yesod, was required to fix it to the fullest. Hence Rebbe Yishmael,2 the one through whom the repair took place, voiced this through "lo"/36.

[Translation and commentary by Perets Auerbach.]

The yesod organ rests between the legs. When used improperly, its energies fall a step down the kelipot, in captivity. Measure for measure, the one who caused this is himself exiled.
Joseph was a king (Zohar I, Vayigash), Rebbe Yishmael was the Kohen Gadol. A unification happened in Rebbi Yishmael between kingship and priesthood. (See above at length.) This empowered him to awaken and make a unification above for all generations to draw from.
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria […Ashkenazi ben Shlomo] (5294-5332 = 1534-1572 c.e.); Yahrtzeit (anniversary of death): 5th of Av. Buried in the Old Cemetery of Tzfat. Commonly known as the Ari, an acronym standing for Elohi Rabbi Yitzchak, the
G-dly Rabbi Isaac. No other master or sage ever had this extra letter Aleph, standing for Elohi [G-dly], prefaced to his name. This was a sign of what his contemporaries thought of him. Later generations, fearful that this appellation might be misunderstood, said that this Aleph stood for Ashkenazi, indicating that his family had originated in Germany, as indeed it had. But the original meaning is the correct one, and to this day among Kabbalists, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria is only referred to as Rabbenu HaAri, HaAri HaKadosh [the holy Ari] or Arizal [the Ari of blessed memory].
Yitzchok bar Chaim is the pseudonym of the translator, an American-born Jerusalem scholar who has studied and taught Kabbala for many years. He may be contacted through: He translated the Ari's work, "Shaar HaGilgulim;" his translation into English (but with much less extensive commentary than offered here). Information about his translation in book form may be obtained through
Rabbi Chaim Vital c. 5303-5380 (c. 1543-1620 CE), major disciple of R. Isaac (Yitzchak) Luria, and responsible for publication of most of his works.
Rabbi Peretz Auerbach, originally from New York, has been living and learning Torah and kabbala in Jerusalem for 18 years. He teaches at Shvu Ami beit medrash, lectures in Kabbalah and chassidut at the Jerusalem Connection and Heritage House and to private groups. Rabbi Auerbach is also a talented musician. He is currently working on an all new translation of the Zohar into English with extensive commentary as well as a disc entitled "Music, Meditation and Mysticism."
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