This installment is a continuation of the previous installment, which began to describe the Exodus from Egypt allegorically, as the spiritual dimensions of birth.

It is known that the twelve signs of the Zodiac subdivide into [four categories corresponding to] the four elements, three [signs] associated with each element.

According to Rabbi Moshe Cordevero (known by his intials as "the Ramak"), in Pardes Rimonim (21:16), these correspondences are as follows:

Month

Sign

Element

Nisan

Aries

fire

Iyar

Taurus

earth

Sivan

Gemini

air

Tamuz

Cancer

water

Av

Leo

fire

Elul

Virgo

earth

Tishrei

Libra

air

Cheshvan

Scorpio

water

Kislev

Sagittarius

fire

Tevet

Capricorn

earth

Shevat

Aquarius

air

Adar

Pices

water

The sign of Aries is associated with the element of fire, and Scorpio is associated with the element of water, for a scorpion only kills someone if he is extremely cold.

Each of the seven planets is associated with two signs, except for the sun and the moon, which are associated with only one each (see Tikunei Zohar 18, p. 36a).

In Talmudic astronomy, the seven "planets" are the Sun, Mercury, Venus, the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. (5 x 2) + (2 x 1) = 12.

The two signs of Aries and Scorpio rule over Mars. This is why they slaughtered the Passover sacrifice on the 14th of Nisan, when the sign [of Aries] was in its strength.

Aries is a lamb, and the Passover sacrifice was a lamb. They slaughtered a lamb in order to weaken the power of the celestial lamb, Aries.

Purgatory of Fire is associated with Aries…Purgatory of Snow…is associated with Scorpio….

There are two facets of Purgatory, corresponding to these two signs. The Purgatory of Fire is associated with Aries, and is used [to purify] anyone who transgresses any of the Torah's prohibitions. Such a person actively performed a transgression.

The idiom for "actively" here is literally, "warmed himself up in order to." In order to purge this person of his fiery enthusiasm for whatever transgression(s) he did, he must endure the Purgatory of Fire. Holy enthusiasm must burn his enthusiasm for evil out of him.

There is also a Purgatory of Snow, which is associated with Scorpio, corresponding to a person who lacks enthusiasm and therefore transgresses an active commandment out of laziness, preferring to sit and do nothing.

The idiom for "lacking enthusiasm" is literally, "being cold." In order to purge this person of his indifference and coldness to G‑d's calling, he must endure the Purgatory of Snow, which freezes this coldness off of him.

Our sages state that the wicked do not repent even at the entrance to Purgatory, but rather steal the snow they find in the Purgatory of Snow, in order to cool themselves off with it when they are placed in the Purgatory of Fire.1 Thus, it is written, "Drought and heat snatch away snow waters, and Sheol, those who have sinned." (Job 24:19)

"Sheol" is the Scriptural term for "Purgatory". In the present context, this verse is understood to read: "To assuage the drought and heat of the Purgatory of Fire, those who have sinned snatch away snow waters from the Purgatory of Snow."

How is it possible to steal there? Since, when a person repents [out of love of G‑d] his intentional sins are transformed into merits, [these sinners] try to repent once they reach the Purgatory of Snow. They hope that their repentance will spare them having to undergo the Purgatory of Fire. This is the "theft" that they commit there, for they don't realize that repentance is effective only in this world.

They try to co-opt the coldness of the snow of Purgatory, i.e. the attribute of indifference, to repent for having enthusiastically committed transgressions. They hope that by now being cold toward these transgressions and uninterested in them, their former transgressions will be accounted as merits. This is "theft", since they are appropriating something that is not theirs to use for what they want to do.

Having concluded his digression about the zodiac, the Arizal returns to how the child emerges from the womb.

For all these reasons, the evil inclination is called "ruddy".

"They called him Esau." (Gen. 25:25)

This refers to the Evil Inclination, for with regard to every mention of Esau and Jacob in this passage, Esau is [allegorically] the Evil Inclination and Jacob is the Good Inclination. This is why it is stated, "They called him Esau," for his father and mother realize that [the newborn] has an Evil Inclination.

Only G‑d is aware of the full entrance of the Good Inclination into the child's consciousness….

Both the Exodus from Egypt and the birth of the twins Jacob and Esau serve as metaphors for birth. The first of the twins to be born was Esau, who allegorically refers to the Evil Inclination. The fact that Esau was born first reflects the fact that the Evil Inclination is the first fully-developed consciousness to emerge with the birth of the child.

It is essential that the parents realize this in order for them to approach the child's moral education properly.

The Arizal continues explaining the verse just quoted:

"Afterwards…" - this always means after a long time, in this case, after thirteen years and a day.

There are two words in Hebrew for "afterwards": "achar" and "acharei". There is a difference of opinion in the Midrash over which of these means "immediately afterwards" and which means "a long time afterwards". (Bereishit Rabbah 44:5) The Arizal here adopts the opinion of Rabbi Yudan against that of Rabbi Huna.

"…His brother came out."

This refers to the inclination to do good, which is fully manifest in the child when he or she reaches maturity at the age of thirteen or twelve, respectively.

It is not apparent to everyone when [the Good Inclination] enters [the child's consciousness]. Only G‑d is aware of this. Scripture therefore continues,

"And he named him 'Jacob'," meaning that "He", the one who knows, called him "Jacob".

In contrast to Esau, who was named by both parents ("they called him Esau"), Jacob was named only by his father, Isaac. But the Torah refers to Isaac not by name but just using the pronoun "he", so it may be interpreted allegorically to refer to G‑d ("He"). This reflects the fact that only G‑d is aware of the full entrance of the Good Inclination into the child's consciousness. Indeed, we see no apparent difference in the child's way of thinking from the day before his bar-mitzvah and the day after.

"And the boys grew" - This means that after they grew they became two; until this point they had been one.

"And Esau" - that is, the Evil Inclination - "was a man of the field", loving the affairs of this world. The "field" in this verse refers to This World.

"But Jacob was a sincere man, sitting in the tents", studying the Torah.

"Jacob was cooking some porridge." The "porridge" here refers to the thoughts he always entertained regarding how he could serve his G‑d. The word for "porridge" [in Hebrew, 'nezid'] means "thinking", as in the verse, "…which they planned [in Hebrew, 'zadu'] against them" (Ex. 18:11), understood according to the Aramaic translation: "…they were sentenced to the same affliction that they intended to perpetrate on them." This therefore refers to someone who is always thinking up ways to afflict himself in order to earn the life of the World to Come.

Before the advent of the Chasidic movement, the Kabbalistic conception of righteousness involved afflicting the body in various ways in order to weaken its stranglehold over the person's consciousness. As is well known, the Baal Shem Tov decreed that from his time on, this method of serving G‑d was largely outdated, and that from then on righteousness entails educating the body and focusing it on doing good rather than afflicting it.

One way or another, the Evil Inclination is subdued, since it sees that the person is focused on the World to Come [rather than this world]. This is the meaning of:

"And Esau…" - the Evil Inclination…

"…came in from the field…" - the delights of this world…

"…and was tired" - of all the thoughts of the Good Inclination.

"And Esau…" - the Evil Inclination…

"…said to Jacob" - the Good Inclination…

"'Please stuff me…'" - for you have been afflicting me for days with your good thoughts and fasts, so now, stuff my mouth with all I was deprived of all these days… "'…for I am tired.'"

"Jacob replied, 'Sell me today your birthright…'" - for on the first day the Good Inclination enters the individual's body (when he is thirteen years and one day old) it takes charge by force and the Evil Inclination is subdued before it.

Therefore, "on the eve of the fourteenth, we search for chametz [leavened bread] by the light of a candle." (Pesachim 1:1)

This quote from the Mishnah refers to the search for chametz conducted on the eve of the fourteenth of Nisan. Here, it is interpreted allegorically to refer to the day before a boy's fourteenth year begins, i.e. the day before his thirteenth birthday, when he becomes bar-mitzvah.

The intentions the parents have when conceiving a child determine the nature of the child's spiritual garment….

For on the first day of the [boy's] fourteenth year, [his Good Inclination] enters [his body fully], in the merit of the Torah he learned in his youth - which is called "light", as in the verse, "…and the Torah is light" (Proverbs 6:23) - and in the merit of the commandments he was trained to perform as part of his education, which are called "a candle", as in the [same] verse, "For the commandment is a candle…."

The divine soul and the Good Inclination enter the individual's consciousness gradually, as the parents educate their child in its youth to accept the "yoke of the kingdom of heaven", i.e. to fulfill G‑d's commandments, study His Torah, and adopt the Torah's values. Ideally, by the time a child has reached the age of maturity, he or she has been fully inculcated into the Torah's lifestyle and is ready to accept his or her obligations. The divine soul and Good Inclination can then fully manifest themselves in his or her active consciousness.

In the merit of both of these, "we search for chametz", which is the Evil Inclination, and expel it and subdue it, and his [divine] soul and Good Inclination enter [his body fully].

Now, every person possesses [spiritual] leaven [in Hebrew, "se'or"], which comes from the seminal drop of his father. This is alluded to by the verse, "Behold, I was conceived in sin"(Psalms 51:7); [in which King David meant to say:] "My father Jesse had only his own pleasure in mind [when he conceived me]." (See Shaar HaGilgulim, introduction #38; Yalkut HaMachiri to Psalms 118:28)

Leaven, the agent that causes dough to rise, is a metaphor for the Evil Inclination, the source of ego and haughtiness in a person. (Berachot 17a )

Although Judaism does not believe in Original Sin, we are taught that the intentions the parents have when conceiving a child determine the nature of the child's spiritual "garment," through which he or she experiences life.2 The more selfish the parents' intentions, the more spiritual work the child must do in order to refine his or her spiritual perceptions.

Since King David aspired to the highest levels of divine consciousness, he regarded even the slight amount of selfish orientation his righteous father presumably entertained while conceiving him as an obstacle in his spiritual development that he had to overcome.

Chametz, [in contrast,] comes from the mother's seed, and is therefore called "machmetzet" ["fermenting agent"], in the feminine.

During these seven years, a person must be extremely on guard against his Evil Inclination….

The Torah commands us to remove all "leaven" and "fermenting agent" from our possession before Passover.(Ex. 12:15-20) Rashi understands these two terms to be synonymous: leaven is also referred to as "fermenting agent" in order to indicate that even though it is inedible, it is still prohibited to possess it, just as it is prohibited to possess chametz.

All this is expelled, and we eat matzah, which signifies the Good Inclination. We eat matzah, in order to expel the chametz, for seven days, corresponding to the seven years that are left before the person turns 20. At that age, he is judged by the heavenly court.

For certain sins, a person can be tried and punished by an "earthly," i.e. rabbinic, court. For such sins, a person becomes liable for punishment at the age of maturity - 12 for a girl and 13 for a boy.

For other sins, a person cannot be tried and punished by an earthly court but only by the heavenly court. For such sins, he or she becomes liable for punishment only at the age of 20. (See Bamidbar Rabbah 18:4; Midrash Tanchuma, Korach 3)

For during these seven years, a person must be extremely on guard against his Evil Inclination, inasmuch as he had become used to [being ruled by] it until he became thirteen years and one day old. He is therefore [during these seven years] like a sick person who is being healed of his infirmity, who, during the first few days, has to eat only light foods that will not harm him. We are therefore commanded to eat [only] matzah for the seven days of Passover.

[This is what] Rabbi Shimon [bar Yochai] responded to his son, Rabbi Elazar, who asked him if chametz embodies the Evil Inclination and matzah the Good Inclination why we are not prohibited from eating chametz the whole year; the response was that in the days [of Passover], we were like sick people who came out of Egypt, and therefore had to eat [only] matzah. Afterwards, when we were healed and healthy, eating chametz would not harm us. (See Zohar II:40a)

So, too, the young man must be very watchful against the Evil Inclination until he reaches the age of 20.

…to be continued.


Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim and Likutei Torah; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Reprinted with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, without permission, in writing, from Chabad of California, Inc.