(The holy Ari chose this section of the Zohar as appropriate for the days we read parshat Nitzavim, as appears in his compilation "Chok LeYisrael").

The day of Rosh Hashanah is the day that is the pinnacle of Isaac, the symbol of the sefira of gevura. On that day he is elevated to become the head of the "forefathers"; the others being Abraham, who represents the sefira of chesed, and Jacob, who represents tiferet [the combination of strict judgment with kindness]. Referring to that day and its connection to fear, it is written: "The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness has surprised the flatterers." (Isaiah 33:14)

The arousal of strict judgment is only in order that it be sweetened at its source….

The day of Rosh Hashanah is the day that Isaac was elevated and bound on the altar to be offered as a sacrifice. [This is because it is the day of strict judgment, which is elevated to its highest level on that day when all pass before the King in judgment]. On that day all the nations of the world are judged and Sarah [who represents the Shechina] howls in fear because of the harshness of the judgment and the blasts of the shofar, which also arouse great fear. Happy is the lot of the person who understands how to steer through all this and is saved from the harshness of that day, realizing that the arousal of strict judgment is only in order that it be sweetened at its source.

Rabbi Abba said the reason we read the portion from the Torah relating to the sacrifice of Isaac on that day is because that is the day he was offered up as a sacrifice in this physical world and also bound in the spiritual world. It wasn't until that day that Isaac became elevated to the sefira of gevura [as a result of the fear generated by his being bound up on the altar to be sacrificed]. When was Isaac bound on the altar? At the time when it was written: "Abraham built an altar there and set the wood properly, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood." (Gen. 22:9)

Rabbi Elazar said that is the day that Isaac crowned Abraham, as it is written: "Elo-him raised up Abraham" (Gen. 22:1). The meaning of the words "raised up" can be derived from the verses: "I will lift up my hands to the nations, I will raise up my flag for the peoples to see" (Isaiah 49:22); also, Moses called an altar, "G‑d is raised up as my standard" (Ex. 17:15). From this we can learn that the sefira of chesed was raised up and completed on that day, because it was Abraham, representing chesed, who had the power over Isaac and bound him to the altar.

Zohar, Vayikra, p. 18a; translation and commentary by Simcha-Shmuel Treister

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