In this week's translation we see how the Zohar analyses the soul-roots of mankind to teach about the effects of intermarriage. It starts with the instruction to take slaves from the local non-Jewish population. It should be borne in mind that the Biblical slave is more like an indentured servant with clear rights, not at all like the inhuman slavery witnessed in modern times.

"And you shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, who may inherit them like a possession; they shall be your slaves forever [in Hebrew, 'leolam']." (Lev. 25:46). This instruction, to work with the Canaanite slave forever [that is without letting them go free on the 50th year of the Sabbatical cycle, called "Olam"] is based on them stemming from the side of Ham who engaged in forbidden marital relations.

Ham, the son of Noah, literally means "hot" in Hebrew. Heat, like fire, is associated with the sefira of gevura, or harsh judgment. In modern parlance, Ham was "hot" in that he had relations with his wife on the Ark when it was forbidden by divine commandment to do so. He just couldn't resist. So too, when the family of Noah emerged from the Ark, Ham revealed his father's nakedness to his brothers Shem and Yafet. The Midrash says that that Ham used a knife to make his father a eunuch. Noah was a tzadik and represented the sefira of yesod. Certainly, here we are seeing the secret of reincarnation…

He got drunk after coming out of the ark and "rolled in his tent". In the text, the word "his tent" [in Hebrew, "ohalo"] is spelt with a final letter hei, which is equivalent to the final letter hei in the name of G‑d. This is the place of harsh judgment and is where the kelipot have their foothold. Ham had pleasure from this place, which is connected to his sefira (gevura) and then revealed what he had seen to his brothers. This spreading of the heat of the forbidden to others resulted in Ham's descendent, Canaan, being diminished in power.

As is said, "Cursed be Canaan, a slave of slaves will he be to his brothers." (Gen. 9:25). Now why is the terminology "a slave of slaves" used? It is because he is to be slave to that slave called "forever" ["leolam"], which means a slave to that slave who goes free at the "Olam" of the 50th year.

The term "slave forever" also refers to the angel Metatron, since he is a slave to G‑d and carries out His will in the world. Canaan's descendants are ruled at this level since he is connected with the powers outside of the domain of the Holy.

Now if you say that he was the brother of Shem and Yafet [who were holy], then why wasn't he like them? [Noah was also righteous so how did Ham fall from this holy level?] You could also ask about Eliezer [who was a descendant of Ham], the slave of Abraham. Why wasn't he wicked? He came out righteous, and the Holy One Blessed be He endorsed the blessing that Laban gave him.

The first time the word "blessed" [in Hebrew, "baruch"] is used in the Torah is directly after Canaan is cursed. The next verse reads, "Blessed be the Lord G‑d of Shem, and Canaan shall be his slave." (Gen. 9:26). Laban called Eliezer "Blessed of the Lord" (Gen. 24:31), when he greeted him, and the fact that this is recorded in the Torah attests to the truth of this. The Zohar asks how it can be that Eliezer is blessed, when blessing relates to the side of Shem, even though he is a descendant of Canaan who was cursed!

Certainly, here we are seeing the secret of reincarnation.

Ham, as explained above, came from the side of the Holy. Because of sins connected to sexuality, he was reincarnated at a level removed from holiness and required to be a slave under the control of descendants of his brother Shem. This enabled Eliezer the opportunity to repent and return to his spiritual roots…

Abraham, who was a descendant of Shem, therefore became entitled to hold a Canaanite slave. This enabled Eliezer the opportunity to repent and return to his spiritual roots by aligning himself with the spiritual level of Abraham. This repentance cleansed him of the sexual sins of his forefather Ham, and, in so doing, he got back the higher level of the soul of Ham that had deserted him when he sinned. The extent of his rectifying his soul is proved in two ways. First, he is called "blessed" instead of "cursed", and second, he successfully chaperones a betrothed maiden (Rebecca) to his master's son.

[This is the meaning of the verse in the Evening Prayer:] "You roll [in Hebrew, "golel"] light away from the darkness [and the darkness from before the light]."

The word "roll", "golel", is here related to the word for "reincarnation", "gilgul". The holy soul is called "light", and G‑d causes it to be reincarnated away from the side of the wicked, called "darkness".

This is like the servant of Abraham who was taken out from the darkness. That was [Eliezer] from the seed of Ham. It is enough for a slave that he becomes like his master, like Abraham who issued from Terah who worshipped idols [and yet elevated himself into the realm of the Holy].

The same applies in the opposite direction where the devolution away from the realm of the Holy caused by wicked deeds draws the soul into the realm of the kelipot. This is like the second part of the verse:

And "…darkness from before the light" applies to [the likes of] Ishmael who issued from Abraham and Esau who issued from Isaac.

Now the Zohar analyses what it is that causes people like Ham, Ishmael and Esau to remove themselves from the realm of the Holy into the world of external ego gratification and spiritual darkness.

And the secret of what causes this is the intermingling of [holy] drops of seed in a place that is not meant for them. One who mixes his seed with…the daughters of a strange god…mixes good and bad…

One who mixes his seed with that maidservant, Machala [literally "sickness"], the daughter of Ishmael, or the daughters of a strange god [the daughters of Esau - non Jewish], who [represent the forces of] wickedness and darkness, while his drop is from the side of good and light, as is written, "G‑d looked at the light and called it good" (Gen. 1:4), mixes good and bad.

He transgresses the word of his Master, who said, "Do not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil" (Gen. 2:17). The Holy One Blessed be He, assembles [and reincarnates] a person from the same place as he mixes himself and brings him back to receive his punishment. If he repents and studies Torah, which separates out good from bad [e.g. the laws of forbidden from permitted, impure from pure, kosher and unfit], he separates good from evil [and so fixes the blemish he caused originally by mixing good with evil in the forbidden relationship].

Zohar, parashat Behar, p.111a; translation and commentary by Simcha Treister

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