In this week's Torah reading, the commandment to appoint a king is given. Among the laws concerning kings, is the prohibition that "he should not have many wives" (Deut. 17:17).

As is known, our sages state that [this means that] a king is permitted to have [up to] eighteen wives. (Sanhedrin 21)

This is based on the fact that when King David had six wives, and G‑d told him, "I would add to these similarly and similarly again." (Samuel II 12:8)

I would like to explain this number.

Know that the [facet of the] intellect that Zeir Anpin receives from Abba is vested first in netzach-hod-yesod of Abba.

In order to be transmitted to Zeir Anpin, the intellect or mentality of Abba must first be vested in Abba's own netzach-hod-yesod, or triad of actualization.

[Similarly,] the intellect it [Zeir Anpin] receives from Imma is first vested in netzach-hod-yesod of Imma.

Netzach-hod-yesod of Abba or Imma…are present in Zeir vessels for his three aspects of mentality….

Then, the netzach-hod-yesod of Abba are vested in the netzach-hod-yesod of Imma. After this, the netzach-hod-yesod of Imma - together with all the aspects [of divine light] that we have said are vested in them - enter Zeir Anpin.

These [mentalities derived from Abba and Imma] are called the "Image" [in Hebrew, "tzelem"] of Abba and the Image of Imma, respectively.

The two [sub-sefirot of] malchut within Abba and Imma must perforce enter [Zeir Anpin] with them, since they are lower than netzach-hod-yesod.

Thus, they are "forced" into Zeir Anpin by the descending triads of netzach-hod-yesod of Abba and Imma. Thematically, this means that expression (malchut) is intrinsically tied to the drive toward self-actualization (netzach-hod-yesod).

These two [sub-sefirot of] malchut are actually the two "crowns" of the two [sub-sefirot] of yesod of Abba and Imma, as is known.

Now, the [sub-sefirot of] netzach-hod-yesod of Abba or Imma are masculine sefirot. They are present in Zeir Anpin for its own purposes, in order to act as vessels for his three aspects of mentality, as we said.

The netzach-hod-yesod of Abba or Imma clothe the intellect of these partzufim, acting as vessels that transmit these intellects to Zeir Anpin.

But the two [sub-sefirot of] malchut [of Abba and Imma] are feminine, and are not present in Zeir Anpin for its own purposes. Rather, they cause [the partzuf of] Leah to egress [from Zeir Anpin], which is situated behind the daat of Zeir Anpin. Since malchut is connected to yesod, Leah is therefore connected [to Zeir Anpin at the point] behind its daat.

Generally, Leah is identified with thought and Rachel with speech….

Leah is the higher partzuf of malchut. The netzach-hod-yesod-triads of the higher partzufim are vested in the chochma-bina-daat of Zeir Anpin in a one-to-one correspondence. Thus, yesod (of Abba and Imma) is vested in daat (of Zeir Anpin). This is why Leah is situated behind the daat of Zeir Anpin.

Generally, Leah is identified with thought and Rachel with speech. Thought is the highest of the three forms of expression (thought, speech, action) and is most closely connected with intellect.

We have already explained…that four aspects of Leah issue from these two malchuts, as follows: The first Leah is connected to yesod of Abba. The second and third are connected to yesod of Imma, which clothes yesod of Abba. The fourth is situated behind Zeir Anpin.

Now, the first and third are radiances of Abba; the second and fourth are radiances of Imma. Thus, their order is Abba, Imma, Abba, Imma, for of the two that are connected to yesod of Imma, the first is a radiance of Imma and the second is a radiance of Abba that simply emerges at that point.

Now, there are four aspects of intellect in Abba: chochma, bina, and [the sources of] chesed and gevura [within daat].

Even though we normally speak of three aspects of intellect, daat includes within in the sources of chesed and gevura, meaning the propensity to accept or reject (since the purpose of daat is distinguishing and choosing). This is why the head tefillin have four compartments.

All of these four radiances emerge as the first Leah; the latter three emerge as the second Leah; the latter two as the third Leah; and final one by itself - i.e. the [states of] gevura [within daat] of Abba - emerges as the fourth Leah, which is the most external of all of them.

First, all four aspects of Abba's intellect shine together; then only the lower three; then only the lower two; and finally only the lowest one by itself.

Abel…was therefore born together with two twin sisters, who embodied the first and third partzufim of Leah….

Furthermore, malchut of Abba becomes the partzuf we have called here the first Leah. Malchut of Imma becomes the partzuf of the second Leah. Then, the first Leah, of Abba, shines outward, breaking through to the position of the second Leah, i.e. malchut of Imma, emerging there and becoming the third Leah. Similarly, the second Leah, [malchut] of Imma, shines outward, breaking through the daat of Zeir Anpin, emerging behind Zeir Anpin's neck and becoming the fourth Leah; this is known as the knot of the head-tefillin, as is known.

Now know, that since this [fourth,] most external Leah is situated outside Zeir Anpin, it couples only with Israel - which is Zeir Anpin itself - or with Yaakov, which, as we know, emerges also from the radiance of yesod of Abba that shines outside of Zeir Anpin, exactly analogous to this fourth Leah. (The difference [between Yaakov and the fourth Leah] is that the former is male, originating in the yesod of Abba and the latter is female, originating in malchut of Imma.) This is why they can couple.

The first and third Leah, which are malchut of Abba and the radiance emanating from it, couple with the yesod - the male - of Abba. The second Leah - which is malchut of Imma, couples with the yesod of Imma.

Now, yesod of Abba was embodied in Abel, the son of Adam. He was therefore born together with two twin sisters, who embodied the first and third [partzufim of Leah]. Yesod of Imma was embodied in Cain, who was born with only one twin sister, who embodied the malchut of Imma [i.e. the second Leah].

[What would have been his] second twin sister - i.e. the radiance [of malchut of Imma] that shines forth outside of Zeir Anpin, [becoming] the fourth Leah - is not situated inside [Zeir Anpin], close to yesod of Imma, but rather on the outside. It therefore does not couple at all with yesod of Imma, i.e. Cain.

Cain and Abel married their twin sisters.

Keep in mind that all these four [partzufim] are called "Leah", even though they also have individual names, as we will explain.

We must also tell you that these four aspects of Leah derive from the inner mentalities of Zeir Anpin, which is known as the tzadik of the tzelem, which has been explained elsewhere [and will be explained presently].

Let us return to this matter, in brief. Know that there are three aspects of the mentalities of Zeir Anpin, alluded to in the three letters of the word "tzelem" [Hebrew for "image"].

"Tzelem" is spelled: tzadik-lamed-mem.

The letter tzadik indicates the inner mentalities while the lamed-mem indicates the aspects that surround them.

The "inner mentalities" refers to the nine sub-sefirot from keter to yesod, each compounded of ten sub-sub-sefirot, giving 9 x 10 = 90, the numerical value of tzadik. The numerical values of lamed and mem are 30 and 40, respectively, referring to the triad of keter-chochma-bina and the four sub-sefirot of keter-chochma-bina-da'at considered collectively and compounded of ten sub-sub-sefirot each, giving 3 x 10 = 30 and 4 x 10 = 40. These two ways of considering the intellect and super-intellect are relatively "surrounding" (makif), since they do not consider how the intellect is manifest in the emotions. In contrast, the full array represented by the tzadik does consider the intellect manifest in the emotions, and is therefore considered "inner" (penimi), referring to how the intellect has entered "into" the emotions.

This is true of the tzelem of the mentalities of Zeir Anpin derived from Imma, and the same is true of the mentalities of Zeir Anpin derived from Abba. Thus, there is tzelem derived from Abba and a tzelem derived from Imma.

Nonetheless, know that the term "tzelem" refers mainly to garments of the mentalities, i.e. netzach-hod-yesod of Imma. This is seen in the fact that the numerical value of "tzelem" [plus the kolel] is the same as that of the name Eh-yeh spelled out with the letter yud, which signifies Imma.

"Eh-yeh" is spelled: alef-hei-yud-hei.



1 + 30 + 80




5 + 10




10 + 6 + 4




5 + 10


total =


"Tzelem" is spelled: tzadik-lamed-mem = 90 + 30 + 40 = 160.

Thus, netzach-hod-yesod of Imma are termed the "tzelem", but the mentalities themselves, i.e. the lights, are not termed "tzelem".

Relative to each other, the chochma-bina-daat of the partzuf are "lights" while the netzach-hod-yesod are the "vessels", as stated above.

Netzach-hod-yesod of Abba, which also serve as vessels for other mentalities, are also termed "tzelem", for when netzach-hod-yesod of Abba enter netzach-hod-yesod of Imma and are vested in them - as we mentioned in the beginning of this exposition - and their radiance shines forth outside, it must pass through netzach-hod-yesod of Imma. It is therefore also termed "tzelem". There is thus a tzelem of Abba and a tzelem of Imma, both of which are vessels, i.e. netzach-hod-yesod, but their respective mentalities are not termed tzelem.

To return to our subject: the tzadik of "tzelem" refers to netzach-hod-yesod of Imma or Abba; the lamed of tzelem refers to chesed-gevura-tiferet; and the mem of tzelem refers to chochma-bina-daat. For the three letters of tzelem comprise all ten [sub-]sefirot of Imma, alluded to in the name Eh-yeh spelled out with the letter yud, this having the numerical value of tzelem [as above].

It is also known that the mem of "tzelem" signifies the higher surrounding mentalities, these being the mentalities that are not vested in garments or vessels of Imma. But the lamed of "tzelem" signifies the secondary surrounding mentalities, these being the mentalities that are vested in the vessels of chesed-gevura-tiferet of Imma. Similarly, the tzadik of "tzelem" signifies the inner mentalities, these being the mentalities vested in the vessels of netzach-hod-yesod of Imma.


inner mentalities

vested in netzach-hod-yesod of Imma


secondary surrounding mentalities

vested in chesed-gevura-tiferet of Imma


higher surrounding mentalities

not vested

According to this, it follows that just as four aspects of Leah issue from the inner mentalities alluded to by the tzadik of "tzelem", so do four other aspects [of Leah] issue from the secondary surrounding mentalities, alluded to by the lamed of "tzelem". For they also possess vessels of Imma. But no aspect of Leah issues from the higher surrounding mentalities alluded to by the mem of "tzelem". This is because [the partzuf of] Leah is not produced from [unvested] mentalities, but rather from the malchut's of the vessels of Imma or Abba, as stated above. These higher surrounding mentalities possess no vessels at all, as we said, and therefore they produce no aspect of Leah whatsoever.

Nonetheless, know that the four aspects of Leah produced from the secondary surrounding mentalities alluded to by the lamed of tzelem are termed "tent", rather than "Leah".

"Leah" is spelled lamed-alef-hei, and the word for "tent", "ohel", is spelled alef-hei-lamed. These two words are thus permutations of each other.

This is appropriate, for a tent surrounds and encompasses a person. Similarly, the Leahs produced by the [secondary] surrounding mentalities are like a tent that surrounds the Leahs produced by the inner mentalities. It is to these surrounding Leahs that the Torah alludes when it says, "And he went…into the tent of Leah." (Gen. 31:33)

These are also termed "the heavenly Jerusalem", meaning: it is known that [the partzuf] Rachel is termed "Zion", which is the merciful [aspect of Jerusalem], while Leah is termed "Jerusalem", which is the severe [aspect of Jerusalem]. The higher Leahs, produced by the surrounding mentalities, are called "the heavenly Jerusalem".

In Shaar HaMitzvot, the Ari continues his dissertation, detailing the 18 aspects/stages of conveyance of supernal consciousness unto Zeir Anpin. To be continued….

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sha'ar HaMitzvot; 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.