[The Shelah comments on a central Jewish prayer, the Shema, found in this week's Torah portion. Ed.]

I have found amongst the various writings of the Arizal that he describes the differences in the levels of the Hereafter as follows: "Know that the righteous enters into a marriage (union) both in this world and after his death. Every tzadik does so in accordance with his individual spiritual powers. There are also tzadikim, such as Benyahu ben Yehoyada (King David's chief body-guard, as mentioned in Samuel II, chapter 23), who enter into a union (embracing the Hereafter) in this world.

Some enter into a union with the Celestial partner, i.e. Abba and Imma, already while in this world, since in those regions unions can be consecrated only through what we know as martyrdom by glorifying the name of G‑d. An example of this kind of union (zivug) with ones partner in the Hereafter, were the Ten Martyrs tortured to death by the Romans including Rabbi Akiva. The same rule applies during any period Jews suffer religious persecution and defiantly go to their death as Jews. When the Holy Temple was standing, G‑d's majesty consisted of twenty-four letters…

When we recite the Shema prayer we experience a faint echo of such an affinity to the Hereafter. The name of Benyahu ben Yehoyada also alludes to the emanation of bina [and the divine names] yud-hei-vav and yud-hei above. This is the deeper meaning of Benyahu being described in Samuel II (23:20) as "ben ish chai", literally "son of the [aspect of] the living man", i.e. someone who had established his claim to life in the Hereafter. Benyahu is reported as having killed the lion (in Hebrew "ha'ari"), the numerical value of which is 216, equal to three times the fully spelled Ineffable Name (72 or Ab). The prophet describes this encounter with the lion as having occurred on "Day of the Snow", which has its own mystical dimension.

When our Sages say in Talmud, "Each Jew has a part in the World to Come", (Sanhedrin 90) they mean that the soul of every Jew has access to the Hereafter. When the sages use the expression that someone is "invited", they refer to the future when the light of the moon will become as brilliant as the light of the sun. This is the future we have in mind when we add to the words of the Shema Yisrael the twenty-four letters (in Hebrew) of the formula, "May the Majesty of His glorious kingdom be blessed forever".

[The number twenty-four is written in Hebrew as the letters kaf (= 20) dalet (= 4).]

Nowadays, when we are in exile, the twenty-four in that formula are reversed i.e. have become "dach" [spelled "dalet-kaf", as opposed to the normal way of describing the number twenty-four, "kaf-dalet"]. This is the mystical dimension of the verse "Let not the downtrodden (in Hebrew, "dach") turn away disappointed." (Psalms 74:21)

When the Holy Temple was standing, G‑d's majesty consisted of 24 letters; when it will be rebuilt it will again consist of 24 letters. This is what is meant in the verse "I shall make your battlements of rubies [in Hebrew, "kadkod ", which can be understood as meaning 'twice 24']." (Isaiah 54:12) ...the Jewish people, whose fate is compared to the fate of the moon

During King Solomon's reign the moon was considered as having reached its zenith, i.e. in the history of the Jewish people, whose fate is compared to the fate of the moon. This is what is alluded to by the twenty-four letters in the formula we recite in the Shema, when we express our absolute faith in this future display of G‑d's majesty. This number twenty-four equals one third of the possible amount of light. In the messianic future the full extent of the light, i.e. the other two thirds, alluded to in Isaiah (54:12) as "kadkod" (= 48) will be revealed. When combining the three times 24 we have the number 72, i.e. the Ineffable Name spelled fully as words. In other words, G‑d's name will be whole when this light will be displayed in all its power.

[Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]