The cherubs should extend their wings upward, covering over the kaporet with their wings, and their faces should be toward one another.(Ex. 25:20)

It is written in the Zohar, "Three times a day … [the cherubs] spread their wings by themselves." (Zohar, Acharei Mot, p.59a and Vayechi, p.228b) This is explained to mean at the times of the three daily prayers, when the cherubs rise up and reach the higher level of "great face".

Torah…elicits from G‑d the desire to manifest Himself within the Torah….

This will be understood in light of the teaching that love of G‑d and fear of G‑d are like wings, in that the love and fear of G‑d which motivate a person to study Torah and perform mitzvot serve to elevate those activities to a higher spiritual plane. To be sure, it is praiseworthy to serve G‑d in any event, but the greater a person's love and fear when doing so, the higher that service "soars". The wings of the cherubs represent this ability to reach the level of "greater Man" and "great face", since they elevate the Jewish worship out of the realms of Beriya, Yetzira and Asiya and into the realm of Atzilut, in which G‑d's manifestation, through chochma and the other sefirot, is so thorough that all is united with Him. We can attain this level during the three daily prayers, which is why the Hebrew word for "prayer", "tefilla", implies "connection" with G‑d.

That is why it is written, "…their faces should be toward one another." When the cherubs have extended their wings on high - when Jewish love and fear of G‑d have elevated our worship up to the spiritual level of Atzilut - they are described as face to face, an indication of unity. Likewise, we find this expression as an indication of the closeness between the Jews and G‑d during the Decalogue at Mount Sinai, as it says, "Face to face G‑d spoke to you." (Deut. 5:4) It is on this level that the Jews are referred to by the term "brothers", because from their elevated place in the realm of Atzilut they receive their spiritual life-force directly from the supernal chochma and bina - the same source which provides this life-force to the Torah. Like two brothers which nurture from a common source, the Jews are the "brothers" of the G‑dliness expressed in Torah. This was the situation when the Holy Temple stood, and the direct revelations we enjoyed from the supernal levels of chochma and bina explains why great scholarship, prophecy and Divine Inspiration were then common among the Jews.

However, after the destruction of the Temple and the disappearance of the cherubs, we cry, "If only You were like my brother [again]." Nevertheless, we can still reach that exalted level - this is possible through Torah study, as the Talmud states, "Once the Temple was destroyed, the Holy One, may He be blessed, has no [place in which to manifest His Presence] but the four cubits of Jewish law." (Berachot 8a)

The details of Jewish law are nothing but the pure and simple will of G‑d….

This is the meaning of the phrase "that nurtures from the breasts of my mother". First, because "my mother" is a reference to the Oral Torah, in which the wisdom and will of G‑d are revealed openly in the form of practical specific requirements of Jewish law. The details of Jewish law are nothing but the pure and simple will of G‑d, in that no reason exists for the requirement that the law be carried out one way instead of another except that it is G‑d's will. One who knows halacha so thoroughly that his knowledge is truly a part of him has thus united with the wisdom and will of G‑d Himself - which, as explained above, is the same source that nurtures his "brother", the Torah generally.

Second, because the Torah is called "milk", as it says referring to the Torah, "Go buy wine and milk" (Isaiah 55:1) As explained in detail in the synopsis of the discourse Chachlili Einayim Miyayin on the Torah portion Vayechi, just as milk nourishes the body and promotes growth, the spiritual qualities of the Torah "nourish" the soul and promote the development of one's spiritual attributes. Before being born into this world, the soul was in a relatively undeveloped state, similar to that of a fetus; on being born, the soul needs to engage in Torah study - the milk that promotes its spiritual growth. That is why, when the soul ascends back on high at the appointed time, it is said of it, "Happy is the one who has arrived here with their study in hand," (Pesachim 50a) i.e. because they have profitably used their time on earth to grow spiritually.

Now, Torah study does more than simply raise our souls up; it actually elicits from G‑d the desire to manifest Himself within the Torah in the first place. For, as noted, G‑d Himself transcends all manifestation, even through Torah, and it is a form of "descent" for Him to "compress" Himself into even the heavenly spiritual form of the Torah. However, the ability to bring about this inconceivable result is not limited to Torah scholars. Even sincere but unlearned Jews can accomplish it, and that is the significance of the phrase "I would find You outside": "outside" refers to working people who are unable to devote all their time to Torah study.

A kiss represents an expression of love which is so profound it cannot be expressed in words….

G‑d's conduct of the world may be compared to a commercial transaction, a purchase, and we find Him referred to as "possessor of [literally 'who purchases or acquires'] heaven and earth" (Gen. 14:19). This is because G‑d's creation of the world in six days is a metaphor for His having invested within it a different sefira - one of the six "emotional" sefirot for each day of creation - each day. The statement that "on the seventh day He rested" alludes to the fact that the seventh sefira, that of malchut [G‑d's attribute of sovereignty] was manifest after the first six sefirot, and elevated them all - and everything that had been created with them - back up to their spiritual source within G‑d. (This is called "rest" because it is comparable to the feeling of satisfaction one gets after having concentrated one's mind on something to the point of thorough preoccupation, and then finishing that task. It is though one's attention has been "liberated" from investment within the concept and is free to return to a state of repose.)

The same dynamic occurs on an ongoing basis each week: during the first six days, G‑d channels His life-force into the universe through the six sefirot (technically, these are the sefirot from chesed through yesod), and then on the seventh day, Shabbat, they and everything in the universe are elevated up to their spiritual source. This is compared to "acquisition", since when purchases something, one first "puts out" money and thereafter is able to "pick up" the object and make it one's own.

Those who work for a living do something similar, spiritually. All week long they toil and invest their energy into worldly affairs. However, the result is that by doing so they are enabled to provide sustenance for themselves and their families, who then use the life and energy gained from that food and sustenance to pray and yearn for true union with G‑d. Furthermore, on Shabbat, the labor ceases and all the energy one was compelled to invest in work during the week - which was all for the sake of serving G‑d - is elevated up to its spiritual source in holiness, as are all the prayers of the week elevated through the prayers of Shabbat.

The sincere longing to unite with none other than G‑d Himself which comes about through the labor of working people rises to the level of "brothers", just as does the service of Torah scholars. As a matter of fact, it is an even higher form of service, and is referred to by the phrase "I would kiss You". A kiss represents an expression of love which is so profound it cannot be expressed in words; for that reason the breath which would otherwise have formed words is simply transmitted directly to the person kissed.

The study of Jewish law…raises one up to the level at which one is united with the very wisdom and will of G‑d….

Indeed, the degree to which working people are "brothers" of G‑dliness is also higher than the degree to which Torah scholars attain this distinction. This is because, as explained above, Torah study - and the study of Jewish law in particular - raises one up to the level at which one is united with the very wisdom and will of G‑d, the level which is the source of the rest of the Torah. However, working people achieve something higher than this: through their involvement with physical reality and its transformation into holiness at their hands, they achieve the restoration of the state of G‑dliness prior to Creation. At that time (all allegorically speaking, of course), there was "nothing" but G‑d Himself; G‑d then created the world, bringing into being "something" from "nothing". When someone works with the physical "something" of the world and uses it for G‑dly purposes, they reconvert it back into the "nothing" that was pure G‑dliness without anything else.

This is a higher level than even the supernal wisdom, and by rising to that spiritual level, the service of working people is on the same plane, nurturing from the same source, as - "brothers" with - not the Torah generally, but the very source of the Torah (the supernal wisdom) itself.

Regarding the verse "I would lead You and bring You into the house of my mother", we said above that "my mother" is a reference to the Oral Torah, and this quote refers to the times set aside by working people to engage in Torah study - for, although they cannot devote their full time to Torah, everyone is obligated to set aside at least some time each day for Torah study. That explains why, in discussing the level of Torah scholars, the verse uses the present tense ("nurtures") - for Torah scholars must spend all their available time in study. The service of working people, on the other hand, is referred to as something not occurring constantly ("I would…").

"I would cause You to drink of spiced wine": continuing the praises of those who serve G‑d within the context of the need to work for a livelihood, "wine" refers to Torah (as pointed out above with respect to wine and milk). This aspect of the Torah is said to "gladden G‑d", in which phrase the name of G‑d is "Elo-him". This divine name represents G‑d's concealment, and the concept of "drinking wine", in our verse, means that Torah study is so precious that it gladdens "Elo-him", i.e. brings about revelation of what had previously been concealed.

…spiced wine has the additional characteristic of fragrance….

"Spiced wine", however, goes even further than that. Wine is a drink, and as such, it enters within the person; indeed, Torah study generally is compared to "nourishment". By contrast, spiced wine has the additional characteristic of fragrance, which symbolizes a level so lofty that it cannot be contained within. Scent is a transcendent level which encompasses one from above. Thus, spiced wine is used as an allegory for the Torah study of workers in particular, for whom such study may be especially difficult, because by their self-sacrifice in subjugating themselves and engaging in study despite the hardships, they elicit a revelation from the transcendent level of "fragrance" - in addition to "nourishment".

"The juice of my pomegranate": there are those for whom, unfortunately, it is not possible to study any Torah at all. Such people, who are sincere and good Jews despite this handicap, also delight G‑d by their mitzvah observance - for, it goes without saying that, although unlearned, they perform all the mitzvot they know to the best of their ability. These people are compared to pomegranates, fruits literally filled with seeds, since every single Jew, no matter what their background, is simply overflowing with mitzvot like a pomegranate with seeds, as stated in the Talmud (Eruvin 19a). This is also a reason why the robe of the High, worn while ministering to G‑d as an advocate of the Jewish People (see Ex. 28:33-35), was hemmed about with ornamental pomegranates.

Translator's disclaimer: The Hebrew original contains much more than could possibly be presented here. Thus, for those with the ability to learn in Hebrew, this synopsis should not be considered a substitute for the original discourse.

[Copyright 2001 Yitzchok D. Wagshul /; adapted from a discourse in Torah Or]