The portion of the Torah read this week begins:

The life of Sarah was one hundred twenty seven years [long], the years of the life of Sarah. Sarah died in Kiryat Arba, which is Hebron, in the land of Canaan. Abraham came to eulogize Sarah and weep for her. (Gen. 23:1-2)

The numerical value of the word for "was" in [i.e., the first word of] this verse [va-yih'yu, vav-yud-hei-yud-vav] is 37. The mystical significance of this is that since Sarah personified the divine attribute of gevura, all her life-force was derived solely from the spelling-out of the name [Havayah, whose numerical value when spelled out] SaG, which is 37. Sarah was the first matriarch of the holy Jewish people, …associated with the partzuf of Imma

As we have explained previously, there are four principle ways the name Havayah (yud-hei-vav-hei) is spelled out in Kabbala, giving the four numerical values of 72, 63, 45, and 52 (abbreviated Ab, SaG, MaH, and BaN). To arrive at the value 63, the name is spelled out as follows: yud-vav-dalet, hei-yud, vav-alef-vav, hei-yud (10+6+4 + 5+10 + 6+1+6 + 5+10 = 63). If we consider only the letters used to spell out the four main letters (i.e., the letters that are not in boldface here), we see that their numerical value is 37.

These four ways of spelling the name Havayah correspond to the four main partzufim, Abba, Imma, Zeir Anpin, and Nukva, respectively. Thus, SaG is associated with the Imma, strongly associated with the sefira of bina, which is on the left side of the sefira-tree, and on the gevura-axis of the sefirot.

Sarah was the first matriarch of the holy Jewish people, and is thus naturally associated with the partzuf of Imma (the mother).

The life-force of Sarah [is revealed] when the light of yesod of Imma is revealed in the first third of its tiferet, for it is there that the states of gevura begin to become revealed.

The yesod of any partzuf is the drive of that partzuf for self-actualization. The self-actualization of Imma occurs when the mentality it embodies is transferred to the central, pivotal partzuf, Zeir Anpin. However, the mental brilliance and intensity of Abba or Imma is beyond the capacity of either Zeir Anpin or Nukva to assimilate, since the latter two partzufim are constructed out of the divine emotional attributes (chesed to malchut) rather than the intellectual ones (chochma and bina). Thus, it is the middot of the higher partzufim that become the intellect of the lower partzufim.

The general analogy for this in everyday life is based on the idea that Zeir Anpin and Nukva are considered the "offspring" or children of Abba and Imma. When someone wants to transmit his value-system or ideals to his children (or students, which are his children in the educational sense), it is a mistake to think that all he needs to do is educate them to intellectually appreciate the value of his philosophy. Rather, common-sense wisdom and experience asserts that serving as a role-model for one's pupils or children is not only the best way to educate them but the only way of educating them. Preaching will almost surely fail if the preacher does not practice what he preaches. Thus, the teacher's behavior (his netzach-hod-yesod) becomes the driving intellect (chochma-bina-daat) of his charges.

Furthermore, the teacher's emotional involvement and excitement with the subject he is teaching will ignite in his students their will to dedicate themselves to the cause and pursue its ends. In other words, his middot (chesed-gevura-tiferet) will become the will (keter) of his charges.

Thus, since tiferet is the central sefira of the emotions and is the combination of chesed and gevura, we are taught that the tiferet of Imma becomes the keter of Zeir Anpin.

Sarah thus becomes the keter [of Zeir Anpin]. This is alluded to in her name, since Sarah [shin-reish-hei, 505] is the same numerical value as the word for "the head" [ha-rosh, hei-reish-alef-shin, 506] with the kolel. The higher an entity is the greater its numerical value…

[As an expression of keter,] she lived as follows:

One-hundred years [were an expression] of the keter of keter, since the higher an entity is the greater its numerical value. Thus keter expresses the numerical idea of hundreds, inasmuch as all its ten aspects [sub-sefirot] are further subdivided into ten [sub-sub-sefirot].

Twenty-years [were an expression] of chochma and bina of keter, since these only express the numerical idea of tens.

Seven years [were an expression] of the seven lower sefirot of keter [i.e., from chesed to malchut], these expression only the numerical idea of units.

The relative intensity of the sefirot is thus divided into three levels, that of the super-intellect, the intellect, and the midot. This relative intensity is reflected in the fact that the first level is represented numerically by hundreds, the second by tens, and the third by units. So we have (1 x 100) + (2 x 10) + (7 x 1) = 127.

This number thus was the number of years she was destined to live. Once she lived them out, they became the years of her life.

This explains the seemingly redundant phrase at the end of the first verse: "…the years of the life of Sarah."

[In addition,] Sarah embodied the divine attribute of malchut.

Bina and malchut are of course related, since bina is the feminine correlate of chochma and malchut is the feminine correlate of the middot. Bina is called "the higher mother," i.e., the mother of the middot, while malchut is called "the lower mother", i.e., the mother of the subsequent worlds that are created out of it.

The word "sarah" itself, moreover, means "ruler" or "prince", and is thus thematically related to malchut, which means "kingdom".

The keter of malchut is the fourfold expansion of the name Ado-nai. This is why Kiryat Arba is also known as Hebron…

The name Ado-nai is usually associated with the sefira of malchut, since it means "my lord" or "my master". Specifically, however, the most complete iteration of this name, its fourfold expansion, signifies the highest level of malchut, the will to rule or keter of malchut.

The fourfold expansion of Ado-nai (alef-dalet-nun-yud) is how this name is spelled in a series of steps, the first step being its first letter and each subsequent step being the addition of another of its letters. Thus: alef, alef-dalet, alef-dalet-nun, alef-dalet-nun-yud.

This fourfold expansion comprises four states: alef, alef-dalet, alef-dalet-nun, alef-dalet-nun-yud. This is why Sarah died in Kiryat Arba.

"Kiryat Arba" literally means "the town of the four".

Yet, these four states all compose one unity and combination. This is [why Kiryat Arba is also known as] Hebron.

"Hebron" (in Hebrew, "chevron") literally means "combination" or "joining". The iteration of this expansion expresses the unity of the first letter with the subsequent letters, and so forth.

This is [another] reason why Sarah lived 127 years, as an expression of this name [Ado-nai], for this number is the same as its numerical value [i.e., that of its fourfold expansion, 126] plus the kolel.

(1) + (1+4) + (1+4+50) + (1+4+50+10) = 126.

* * *

Days for weeping are less than those allotted for eulogizing…

A small number of letters in the Torah scroll are to be written either larger or smaller than usual, according to traditions going back to the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. The word for "to weep for her" at the end of the second verse in our parasha ("likvota", lamed-beit-chaf-tav-hei) is written with a small chaf.

The reason why the letter chaf [in "to weep for her," livkota] is written small is because, as our sages say, "three days for weeping and seven days for eulogizing". (Moed Katan 27b) [The small chaf indicates that] the days for weeping are less than those allotted for eulogizing.

The seven days of mourning are thus divided into two periods: during the first three days the mourner is to both weep for and eulogize his lost relative, while in the four last days he is to eulogize him but not weep for him. Although, of course, feelings and emotional reactions cannot be legislated per se, the point is that there is a progression of stages in mourning, and Jewish practice is designed to help the mourner along these stages and encourage him to progress from stage to stage, thus making the mourning process into a transformational, spiritual growth process.

[As to why specifically the letter chaf is diminished,] the esoteric reason is because she [Sarah] was from the lower world, which is alluded to by a small chaf. In contrast, the final chaf always alludes to Imma, for she extends into Zeir Anpin, while the regular chaf refers to [the partzuf of] Rachel.

As we said above, Sarah in her essence personifies Imma, but in this world she also plays the role of Nukva, i.e., malchut. Relative to each other, these two feminine archetypes are called "the upper world" and "the lower world", just as we said above that they are also called "the higher mother" and "the lower mother". The death of righteous individuals, serves to elevate…malchut from this exile…

Now, chaf is the first letter of the word keter, and is also shaped like a crown (on its side). It thus typically indicates this sefira. The two forms of the letter chaf allude to two crowns: the general form alludes to malchut, while the final form alludes to Imma. The difference between these two forms is that in the final form the bottom, flat base has been bent down to extend below the normative base line of the letters. Thus, in Hebrew, the two forms of the letter chaf are often referred to as the "bent" chaf and the "extended" chaf. The extended chaf, which extends below the base line, signifies a descent of a keter into a lower realm. Here, this refers to the extension of Imma into Zeir Anpin, which we described somewhat above. In contrast, the bent chaf refers to malchut, or as it is called her, the partzuf of Rachel. (Sarah is thus here playing the role that will, as an archetype, be most fully embodied in Rachel and therefore known after her.)

The chaf of Rachel is bent because she folds her legs upwards so as not [to extend them to the point where] the external forces can grab onto them.

Nowadays, during the exile, when she is (due to our sins) below, the departure of the righteous from this world causes their souls to elevate her. This is the esoteric meaning of the verse, "And he gathered his feet into the bed." (Gen. 49:33)

The condition of exile is that malchut is "caught" amongst the kelipot and prevented from returning home into Atzilut to couple with her husband, Zeir Anpin. In Chassidic terms, this means that our means of expression (thought, speech, and action) exist unnaturally within non-holy contexts, and are deprived of the true holy inspiration that is native to them. However, the death of righteous individuals, serves to elevate and at least partially extricate malchut from this exile.

When Jacob had finished blessing and commanding his sons on his deathbed, "he gathered his feet into the bed, and he expired, and was gathered unto his people."

Furthermore, [the chaf here is small] because [the letter chaf signifies keter, and since with her death] the attribute of keter was removed and lacking [from the world], it is written small.


Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim, Likutei Torah, and Shaar HaPesukim; 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.