Printed from kabbalaonline.org
A Kabbalistic meditation by the Ari for the month of Elul

Elul: Pathway Upon the Sea

Elul: Pathway Upon the Sea

Advanced Advanced
 Email
Elul: Pathway Upon the Sea
A Kabbalistic meditation by the Ari for the month of Elul

On Rosh Chodesh Elul, in the year 5331 [1571 A.D.], my teacher [the Arizal], of blessed memory, told me that I [Rabbi Chaim Vital] should fast on the two subsequent days after Rosh Chodesh Elul itself, and that, through this, I would attain a certain level of [elevated] consciousness. The intention one should have regarding these fasts is that during the month of Elul, the thirteen sources of the Thirteen Rectifications of the Beard [Tikunei Dikna] of Atika are opened, and they are revealed and shine below into the Makif of the brains [mochin] of the partzufim of Abba and Imma. This is as we have clarified in the beginning of the "Idra [Zuta]" in the Zohar, parashat HaAzinu, that from outside the brains of Abba and Imma, their light breaks forth and shines [outside], in the secret of the "surrounding light" ["Or Makif"]; it is there that these Thirteen Rectifications of the [Supernal] Beard of Atika become revealed.

First, a person should have in mind that, generally, the entire month of Elul is the secret of the name Sag [the Tetragrammaton spelled out to equal the numerical value of 63] and the name Kasa [Eh-yeh spelled out with yuds to equal the numerical value of 161; kuf=100, samech=60, alef=1].

The name Sag (63) is spelled out as follows: yud (10) vav (6) dalet (4), hei (5) yud (10), vav (6) alef (1) vav (6), hei (5) yud (10).

The name Eh-yeh known by it numerical value 161, or "Kasa", is spelled out as follows: alef (1) lamed (30) pei (80), hei( 5) yud (10), yud (10) vav (6) dalet (4), hei (5) yud (10). The entire month one should meditate upon these two divine names…

Commenting on this meditation, Rabbi Nachman of Breslev teaches that proper repentance necessitates the vibrant vigor of both "running and returning" (Ezekiel 1:14). "Running", a forward motion, is associated with "Kasa" (kuf=100, samech=60, alef=1); this is related to the phrase "When I ascend to [in Hebrew, "asak", from the same letters as 'Kasa'] the heavens, You are there" (Psalms 139:8). "Returning" is associated with Sag, related to the Hebrew word for "move back" or "remove", as in the verse "Do not set back/remove [in Hebrew, "tasag"] the ancient landmark which your fathers have made" (Proverbs 22:28); here, even after a spiritual fall, one must be ready to spring back onto the track of holy service to G‑d. (Likutei Moharan 6:7)

These [above two] names are hinted at in the name of the month, "Elul" [spelled alef, lamed, vav, lamed]: the [first] two letters, alef, lamed are related to the three yuds and one alef of the name Sag, as is known. It is from these letters that the name E-l emanates, as is mentioned in the Zohar, parashat Pinchas.

The [last] two letters, vav, lamed, are related to the name E-l which emanates from the three yuds and one alef of the name Kasa. The three yuds [of this name] relate to the [last] lamed [of the word "Elul"], and the alef [of Kasa] is replaced with the letter vav, because this alef is hidden within this letter vav [of the meditation] as such: vav, alef, vav.

Yud=10, therefore three yuds equal 30, the numerical value of the letter lamed.

It is for this reason this month is called "Elul", because the entire month one should meditate upon these two divine names. Now, these two names (Sag, 63 and Kasa, 161) add up to the numerical value of the Hebrew word for "pathway" ["derech" = 224], which is the secret of the verse "…Who provides a pathway upon the sea" (Isaiah 43:16), for the Hebrew word for "upon the sea" ["b'yam" = 52] is related to the name Ban [Havayah spelled out to equal 52]. And [the mystical significance of the verse in Isaiah is that] the two above names [Sag and Kasa], which equal the Hebrew word for "pathway" shine into the name Ban, which equals the Hebrew word for "upon the sea". It is this pathway which opens for the entire month of Elul…

Here we witness the phenomenon of supernal consciousness, represented by the names Sag and Kasa, both generally associated with the sefira of bina and the partzuf of Imma, reaching the lower spheres, i.e. Malchut, represented by the name Ban.

And it is this pathway which opens for the entire month of Elul.

And after you have meditated upon this general idea regarding the whole month of Elul, you should then focus on these first two days [after Rosh Chodesh] in the following manner: Within these two days are 48 hours, which are the secret of [the simple form of] the two above names Havayah and Eh-yeh, which together equal 48, with the Kolel.

Havayah =26
Eh-yeh ..=21
Kolel .....= 1

..= 48

At the end of the first day, have in mind that half of this "pathway" [= 224] has already been completed; and this is the numerical value of the word "[the River] Yabok" [= 112]. This is the secret of the verse "May G‑d answer you and the day of trouble" (Psalms 20:2), whose initials equal the numerical value for "Yabok".

Psalms 20:2 in Hebrew is: "Y'ancha Havayah b'yom tzara". Yud (10), yud (10), beit (2), tzadi (90) = 112.

It is interesting to note a Midrash which relates that G‑d wished to divide between Jacob and Esau dominion over the twelve months of the year. Beginning with the month of Tishrei, Jacob demanded that, due to the holiness vested in the holidays, it should be apportioned to him, and G‑d agreed. Throughout the following eight months, Jacob successfully pleaded his case, winning dominion over each month. When the tragic months of Tammuz and Av were to be apportioned, they were given into the hands of Esau due to the future transgressions that the Jewish People were to commit during those times. The sweetening of judgmental forces…must be directed towards the holy supernal root of those forces…

Finally, the last month, Elul, was to be decided upon. Due to the uneven division of the months, G‑d decided to award Esau the month of Elul, as well. Then, as the Midrash relates, Jacob, aware of the importance of this period immediately preceding Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment, in a daring feat, "snatched" the portion of Elul from Esau's clutches.

"Yabok" is the name of the river where Jacob, representing the forces of holiness, encountered and successfully battled his archenemy, Esau. Certainly the Ari alludes to the necessity for this kind of courage when facing the "Esau" of our own negative personality traits during the month of repentance.

The Zohar teaches that, as opposed to the waste products of a grain mill, associated with the masculine (i.e. Zeir Anpin), the waste from a winery, in Hebrew, "yekev", spelled with the same letters as those of the river "Yabok", is associated with the feminine (i.e. Malchut). The sweetening of judgmental forces, an integral element of the process of repentance so emphasized during the month of Elul, must be directed towards the holy supernal root of those forces - the partzuf of Imma and the sefira of bina, both from the left, "feminine" side of the Tree of Life. Interestingly, the Zohar also mentions that the manifestation of Zeir Anpin in Malchut (i.e. Nukva) is hinted at by the initials of the words "The Holy Blessed One", in Hebrew, "Ha Kadosh Baruch Hu", which equal the numerical value of "Yabok". In addition, the letters of "Yabok" also spell "baki", referring to one who is an "expert" in practical Jewish law, also associated with the rectification of our deeds here, in the lowest of the worlds. (Zohar, Mishpatim p.116a) He will answer us on the day we call…

Also, the initials of the verse "He will answer us on the day we call" (Psalms 20:10), add up to the numerical value of "Yabok".

The above phrase in Hebrew is: "Y'aneinu b'yom kareinu". Yud (10), beit (2), kuf (100) = 112.

And at the end of the second day, have in mind the two times "Yabok" [2 X 112], which is "pathway" ["derech"= 224], which are Sag and Eh-yeh spelled out to equal 161…

Here is another meditation: The two above names, Havayah and Eh-yeh, in their simple forms, together have 8 letters, and their spelled out forms have 20 letters [10 each], totaling 28 letters; each one of these two days [following Rosh Chodesh Elul], one should have them all in mind. How? During the first 10 hours of the first day, meditate upon the 10 letters of the spelling out of the name Eh-yeh [with yuds], one letter for each hour, like this: the first hour, alef; the second hour, lamed; the third hour, peh; etc. Each letter should be punctuated by the vowel segol.

The next ten hours, meditate on the divine name Havayah spelled out [with yuds] to equal 72, one letter for each hour. [Here]each letter should be punctuated by the vowel chirik.

The next four hours of the first day, meditate on the letters of the simple spelling of the name Eh-yeh, each letter punctuated by the vowel segol. Here is the [meditation for the] first day.

Afterwards, the first 10 hours of the second day, meditate on the ten letters of the name Havayah spelled with yuds, one letter for each hour, as mentioned above, punctuated by the vowel chirik.

The next ten hours of the second day, meditate on the ten letters of the name Eh-yeh spelled out with yuds, punctuated by the vowel segol.

Afterwards, the last four hours of the second day, meditate on the four letters of the simple spelling of the name Havayah, punctuated by the vowel chirik.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslev comments that the classic verse stating G‑d's desire for our repentance, "G‑d's right hand is outstretched to receive penitents", hints at the Arizal's Elul meditation in the following manner: The spelling out of the Hebrew word for "right hand", "yamin" (plus 1 for the kolel) has the same numerical value as the word for "pathway", "derech", mentioned above, plus 3 for the three letters of the word "derech".

"Yamin" spelled out is:

yud (10) - vav (6) - dalet (4),
mem (40) - mem (40),
yud (10) - vav (6) - dalet (4),
nun (50) - vav (6) - nun (50),
plus one for the kolel, totaling 227.

"Derech", spelled dalet (4) reish (200) chaf (20), plus its three letters also equals 227, demonstrating these two words' conceptual congruence.

In addition, the Hebrew word for "outstretched", "peshuta", has the same numerical value of the Hebrew vowels involved in this basic meditation.

"Peshuta" is spelled pei (80) shin (300) vav (6) tet (9) hei (5), equaling 400.

The ten letters of the spelling out of Eh-yeh are each punctuated with a segol, which has a numerical value of 30; the ten letters of our spelling out of Havayah is punctuated with a chirik, which has a numerical value of 10. Thus 10X30 plus 10X10 also 400. (Likutei Moharan, ibid.)

There is another awesome meditation, which is as follows: In the head of Atika, there are thirteen strands of hair, and, corresponding to them below, are the thirteen Rectifications [of the Beard, "Tikunei Dikna"] of Atika. Now, these thirteen strands of hair can be understood as twelve strands plus one, which includes them all; and there are twelve other strands of hair, which [when you add the first twelve with the second twelve,] is a total of 24 strands.

In the same manner [we can understand] the Rectifications of the Beard [of Atika]: twelve rectifications [tikunim] plus one, which includes them all, and twelve other rectifications, together totaling 24 rectifications of the Beard [of Atika].

All together, the sum total of these strands [of the hair of the Head and those of the Beard] is 48. And these correspond to the 48 hours of these two days which you should fast, as well as [the two divine names] Havayah and Eh-yeh, which together have a numerical value of 48, as mentioned above.

[Based on Shaar Ruach HaKodesh, pg. 44a; translated and edited by Baruch Emanuel Erdstein]

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 Eloki Rabbi Yitzchak, the G-dly Rabbi Isaac. No other master or sage ever had this extra letter Aleph, standing for Eloki [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].
Baruch Emanuel Erdstein was an associate editor of KabbalaOnline.org for five of the ten years he resided in the Old City of Safed, intensely studying Kabbalah He currently resides in Emmanuel, Israel. Originally from Detroit, he has an honors degree in anthropology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and has worked in cross-cultural and Jewish education for over a decade.
 Email
Start a Discussion
1000 characters remaining

The larger, bold text is the direct translation of the classic text source.

The smaller, plain text is the explanation of the translator/editor.
Text with broken underline will provide a popup explanation when rolled over with a mouse.