Moses' farewell blessing to the Jewish people begins:

G‑d came [in Hebrew, 'ba'] from Sinai, and shone forth from Seir to them,
He appeared from Mt. Paran, and came
[in Hebrew, 'atah'] from amongst the holy ten-thousands,
He gave them a fiery law from His right hand.
(Deut. 33:2)

The [second instance of the] word "came" ['atah'] in this verse is in Aramaic.

The first "came" is in the usual Hebrew ('ba'). The angels…know only Hebrew...

It is explained on the verse "After these things, the word of G‑d came to Abram in a vision…" (Gen. 15:1) that the word used for "vision" here [machazeh] is in Aramaic since Abraham was still uncircumcised at this point. G‑d therefore revealed Himself to him in Aramaic, so the ministering angels would not be jealous. (Zohar 1:88b)

Aramaic is considered an intermediary language, not possessing the absolute holiness of Hebrew but holier than the other languages of the world. Its occasional use in the Bible testifies to its secondary holiness. The angels, who are absolute pure beings, know only Hebrew, and so when G‑d does not want them to "eavesdrop" on what He is saying, He uses Aramaic. (Shabbat 12b; Sotah 33a) Once Abraham was circumcised, he was holy enough that the angels would not be jealous when G‑d revealed Himself to him in Hebrew.

The same idea applies here. The verse is informing us that when the Holy One, Blessed Be He, came to give the Torah to Israel, His coming was camouflaged in Aramaic. The word "came" is therefore in Aramaic.

The reason He had to do this was [due to], as the verse continues, "the holy ten-thousands," i.e. the angels, that they not make accusations against them and prevent the giving of the Torah.

We are taught that when Moses ascended to heaven to receive the Torah from G‑d and bring it to the Jewish People, the angels argued that mortal man was not holy enough to receive the holy Torah. Moses therefore had to plead the case of humanity in order that the angels "accept" G‑d's giving of the Torah to the Jewish People. The argument Moses used was that the Torah speaks of refining the animal nature of man, etc. and therefore rightfully belongs to beings that possess an animal nature and an evil inclination, i.e. humans, and not angels.

Of course angels, being created by G‑d, cannot "prevent" G‑d from doing anything He wishes. This account simply means that, from one perspective, the holiness of the Torah and the mundane nature of man are incompatible. This perspective was personified as the angels that argued against the giving of the Torah to man. Although correct, this perspective is overridden by Moses' argument that it is precisely the mundane nature of man that renders him most in need of the sanctifying influence of the Torah.The Torah speaks of refining the animal nature of man...and therefore rightfully belongs to... humans, and not angels

Since the Torah was in fact given to the Jewish people in Hebrew — not in Aramaic — it is evidently to the above idea that the Arizal is referring to in this passage. The Torah as we read, know, and experience it is merely a "translation" of the pristine, holy, spiritual Torah known in heaven. "Up there," the Torah discusses the dynamics and topology of holiness and the holy realms, and speaks nothing of sin, non-kosher animals, murder, and the like. It is only when the Torah descends earthward that the Torah speaks of these things.

More precisely, the Torah is the same both "up there" and "down here," but "up there," the words we identify as referring to all these mundane concepts are naturally read and interpreted to refer to sublime, spiritual concepts. Only in the context of this world do the words of the Torah take on their familiar, mundane meanings.

In this fashion we can also understand the verse: "[One calls to me out of Seir: 'Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?' The watchman said: 'The morning comes, and also the night.] If you will inquire, inquire, return, come.'" The word "come" [as above] is in Aramaic. (Isaiah 21:11-12)

In fact, a number of words in this verse are in Aramaic.

The reason for this is that "a tunnel is carved out under the throne of glory for the penitent" in order that the ministering angels not voice accusations against him. (Y. Sanhedrin 10:2)

This was done specifically in the case of Menasheh, the evil king. The ministering angels protested, saying, "How can you accept the penitence of someone who served idols and set up a graven image in the Temple?" G‑d replied, "if I do not accept his penitence, I am closing the door to all penitents." He then carved out the tunnel, etc. In any case, we have here the same idea of G‑d using tricks to bypass the angelic order. This is because the angels are the "cogs" and "gears" in the orderly functioning of creation, each angel signifying a different aspect of the created order G‑d set up as the way the world should run. Teshuva, or repentance, is in essence an overriding of this order, since in the natural order, crime results in punishment. As the saying goes, "nature is unforgiving." In order for G‑d to forgive, He must act "supernaturally," i.e. circumvent His own created order. ...the Torah...'s inner dimension is the mechanism of teshuvah...

Therefore, the prophet said "come" [eitayu] in Aramaic.

"Come" here means "come back to Me." Since teshuvah overrides the created order, the word referring to it is here said in Aramaic, using the same root as the word atah, in our verse above from parashat V'Zot HaBerachah.

The fact that the giving of the Torah was also couched in Aramaic, therefore indicates as well that although the Torah appears to be a strict compendium of laws and punishments, its inner dimension is the mechanism of teshuvah. And teshuvah overrides the strict laws of nature and enables man to return to G‑d despite all "rules" of creation.

Two verses later (Deut. 33:4), Moses says that the Jewish people are worthy of being blessed because they say:

The Torah that Moses commanded us is an inheritance for the community of Jacob.

Our sages have said in Bereishit Rabba (17:5) that "the imperfect version of the supernal wisdom is the Torah."

The full quote reads: "Rabbi Chaninah bar Yitzchak said, 'There are three unripe fruits: the unripe fruit of death is sleep; the unripe fruit of prophecy is the dream; the unripe fruit of the world to come is the Sabbath.' Rabbi Avin added two more (saying), 'The unripe fruit of the supernal light is the orb of the sun; the unripe fruit of the supernal wisdom is the Torah." The idiom of "unripe fruits" obviously means "imperfect versions," not "something that will develop into its full version."

Know that the Torah is the yesod of Abba present inside Zeir Anpin, and is derived from its [i.e. yesod of Abba's] power.

Abba, the partzuf of chochma, is the "supernal wisdom" referred to in the above statement of our sages. It is the seminal insight of creation, the distilled essence of G‑d's creation and its purpose. Yesod of Abba is the drive within Abba for self-actualization, i.e. the drive that the point of Creation possesses to actualize itself, to make itself known and manifest in Creation itself. Obviously, this is the essence and purpose of the Torah, which is both the blueprint and user's manual for creation. Zeir Anpin is the spiritual precursor of man, and as we saw above, the Torah can be truly fulfilled only when given to mankind.

From that which falls out of it [i.e. of Abba] and goes outside of it, to Zeir Anpin, issues [the partzuf of] Jacob, who is synonymous with the Torah.

The partzuf of Yaakov ("Jacob") is one of the ten secondary partzufim that develop out of the primary array of six partzufim. [See, inter alia, R. Yitzchak Ginsburgh, The Mystery of Marriage, p. 436.] We are taught (Avot 1:2) that "the world stands on three things: on the Torah, on the [sacrificial or prayer] service, and on deeds of loving-kindness." The three pillars of the world are personified by the three patriarchs: Abraham was famous for his deeds of loving-kindness, as evidenced by his hospitality and pleas to save the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Isaac was known for his fervent prayer. Jacob was characterized as: "a sincere man, sitting in tents" (Gen. 25:27) which, we are taught, refers to the tents of Torah study. Moses...successfully rebutted the arguments of the angels against it being given to mankind altogether

This is the mystical meaning of the verse: "The Torah that the Moses commanded us," for Moses is an appellate for yesod of Abba.

Moses was the individual through whom the Torah was given to the Jewish people, and as we saw above, is even described as being the one who successfully rebutted the arguments of the angels against it being given to mankind altogether. He thus personifies the drive within Abba for actualization, or yesod of Abba.

It is he who brought forth the Torah, which is "the community of Jacob," i.e. the lights collected in [the partzuf of] Jacob.

In the course of his blessing, Moses blesses each tribe individually. Part of his blessing to his own tribe, that of Levi, reads:

They will teach Your judgments to Jacob
and Your Torah to Israel.
They will place incense in Your nostril
and the burnt offering on Your altar.
Bless, O G‑d, his legions… (Deut. 33:10-11)

The initials of the words, "They will place incense in Your nostril" [yasimu ketorah b'apecha] spell Yabok.

As we have mentioned previously, the Yabok (or "Jabbok") river was where Jacob wrestled with the angel of Esau and thus represents the struggle between good and evil.

Also, the sum of the numerical values of the initials of the words for "On Your altar; bless…" [al mizbechecha bareich] is the same as the numerical value of Yabok.

The numerical value of Yabok (yud-beit-kuf, 10 + 2 + 100) is 112; the numerical value of these initials (ayin-mem-beit, 70 + 40 + 2) is also 112.

Furthermore, the numerical value of the word for incense [ketorah] with the kolel is the same as that of the name Ekyeh plus that of the word for "in mercy."

Ketorah (kuf-tet-vav-reish-hei, 100 + 9 + 6 + 200 + 5) = 320, adding one for the word as a whole (the kolel) gives 321. The numerical value of the Name Ekyeh (alef-hei-yud-hei, 1+5+10+5) is 21; that of "in mercy" (berachamim, beit-reish-chet-mem-yud-mem, 2 + 200 + 8 + 40 + 10 + 40) is 300; together, 21 + 300 = 321.

To explain: The name Havayah signifies G‑d's attribute of mercy. This name in atbash [explanation immediately below] is mem-tzadik-pei-tzadik, the numerical value of which is 300, which is the numerical value of the word for "in mercy." The name Ekyeh signifies G‑d's attribute of strict judgment, since it is associated with the partzuf of Ima, the source of judgment.

The name Havayah, being G‑d's "proper" name, is in many cases devoid of any association with any of G‑d's attributes. When it is associated with G‑d's attributes, it signifies the attribute of mercy, the inner dimension of the sefira of tiferet.

Atbash is the letter-substitution system in which the first letter of the alphabet is substituted for the last, the second for the second-to-last, and so on. (Alef thus is replaced by tav and beit by shin, hence the abbreviation A-T-B-Sh or atbash.) Thus, the fact that the atbash of the name Havayah is numerically equivalent to the words for "in mercy" indicates that this name signifies complete mercy, "inside and out." Burning the incense caused the name Havayah to combine with the attribute of judgment

We have explained previously that the name Ekyeh is associated with bina. In its role as the analyzer of the insight of chochma, bina must make use of the attribute of judgment in order to weigh the validity of the various associations that suggest themselves between the new insight and the existing mental structure before the insight.

Burning the incense caused the name Havayah to combine with the attribute of judgment. This is alluded to in the word for "incense," as mentioned above.

The word for "incense" used in this verse (ketorah) is numerically the sum of the name Ekyeh (21) plus "in mercy" (300), alluding to the union of the names Ekyeh and Havayah (the latter being numerically included in this equation by virtue of its numerical value in atbash, which equals that of "in mercy").

At any point in the struggle between good and evil (signified by the confrontation between Jacob and the angel of Esau at the Jabbok river), the goal is to "sweeten" the severe judgments, in order that evil (or negativity) be subdued and subsumed within holiness.

In accordance with the above teaching, Rabbi Shmuel Vital (son of Rabbi Chaim Vital) explains why the word ketorah is used in this verse rather than the more usual ketoret: obviously, the numerical equivalencies would not exist if the usual form of the word were used.

[Burning the incense] also caused the name Havayah, which signifies G‑d's attribute of mercy, to combine with another [name that indicates G‑d's] attribute of judgment, Elokim, in order to mitigate its power. This union is alluded to in the word Yabok, whose numerical value [112] is the same as that of the names Havayah [26] and Elokim [86] combined.

We have already been shown that when G‑d got angry at the Jewish people, the incense stayed His wrath. (see Num. 17:6-15) Thus, we have here another indication of the power of the incense to sweeten the attribute of judgment.

This is the mystical meaning of the word "…in Your nostril..." for, as we have noted, the incense sweetened the power of strict judgment.

This is because the Hebrew word for "nostril" (af) also means "anger."

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