This Torah reading opens with the commandment:

Take for you [Moses] pure olive oil, ground for [use in] the candelabrum, in order to kindle the eternal lamp. (Ex. 27:20)

The Menorah manifests [the partzuf of] Nukva of Zeir Anpin, which is [initially] postured back-to-back with it. [Nukva] is rectified and constructed chiefly through the two sub-sefirot of chesed within netzach and hod of Zeir Anpin, which are revealed lights.

Nukva must be reconstituted out of its original back-to-back state in order to be able to face Zeir Anpin face-to-face and couple with it. Although we have mentioned previously that Nukva is constructed from the sub-sefirot of gevura of the preceding sefirot, here we are discussing a further rectification process.

We have explained the difference between the male and female principles previously in terms of the difference between the drives for abstraction and concretization. The male principle seeks re-inspiration from the spiritual levels higher than it, while the female principle seeks to manifest divinity in the levels below it, this being G‑d's directive to make the lower worlds into His home.

In order for the female principle to exhibit this consciousness, the male abstraction-drive must be subdued, or hidden. Only then can the female principle assert itself and become an equal partner with the male principle.

Nukva is built only through reflected light….

This female drive or consciousness is derived from the netzach and hod of the male principle, inasmuch as netzach and hod are the two sefirot that on the one hand possess their own content and on the other hand are oriented and extend outward from the sefirotic body. (Yesod, in contrast, is oriented outward, but its content is essential the coalescence of the preceding sefirot.) Thus, they already exhibit something of the female consciousness (albeit not enough to enable Zeir Anpin, the male principle, to act in a female way on its own, hence the need for a female partzuf).

As we have explained elsewhere (Etz Chaim 25:2, etc.) these states of chesed descend quickly when they issue from the yesod of Imma, which is situated level with the chest [of Zeir Anpin]. When they strike the yesod [of Zeir Anpin], they reflect [off of it] and ascend. A glimmer of this reflected light shines outside [Zeir Anpin], behind netzach and hod, and thus reaches Nukva.

This is the way this process is described in Shaar HaMitzvot. In the parallel passages in Taamei HaMitzvot and Sefer HaLikutim, it is stated that this glimmer of the reflected light shines outside Zeir Anpin behind its chest (i.e. at the level of tiferet, not netzach and hod), and reaches Nukva from there.

As is known, Nukva is built only through reflected light, not through direct light. Thus, if [these lights would not descend] as described, Nukva could not be constructed at all.

The idea that Nukva is built only through reflected light expresses what we said earlier, that the male principle cannot directly create female principle, since their respective orientations are opposite.

These two sub-sefirot of chesed within netzach and hod [of Zeir Anpin] are manifest as two olive trees, as it is written, …There were two olive [trees] above it. (Zachariah 4:3)

This verse is part of Zechariah's prophetic vision of the return of the Babylonian exile, in which he is shown a golden Menorah. The two olive trees seem to be the source of the oil burning in the lamps of the Menorah.

When these two [sub-sefirot] descend to yesod [of Zeir Anpin], they are crushed there by the force of their impact and are thus ground [to produce oil]. As is mentioned in the Zohar (III:247a), the grinding [of the oil] occurs at the level of the tzadik [i.e. yesod].

By the force of their impact there, they become pulverized…producing pure olive oil, i.e. the light that is given to Nukva….

By the force of their impact there, they become pulverized and made into fine particles, and are then ground up, producing pure olive oil, i.e. the light that is given to Nukva.

According to Kabbala, the male seed originates spiritually in the male brain and then becomes progressively more "physical" as it descends via the spinal cord to the reproductive organs. This is the "grinding" or "pulverizing" process referred to here. Nowadays, we might imagine this as the process of the nerve impulses in the brain stem stimulating the production of semen in the scrotum. In any case, one of the physiological analogs for netzach and hod is the two testicles, and we may note the semantic connection between the Hebrew word for "oil" ("shemen") and the English word "semen", based on the fact that the implication of the word "shemen" is the distilled essence of any entity. Thus, these two olives may be seen as the spiritual "testicles" that produce the male seed, or oil, that is then spiritually transferred to the Menorah, or female principle. In the present context, the "seed" is the conceptual insight originating in chochma that is processed by the sefirotic array, eventually being brought to fulfillment as it is applied to the real world. This seed must be pulverized, i.e. reduced to its constituent elements, in order to create female consciousness, as we said. This is similar to how physically, the male seed must be "reduced" and made physical (i.e. descend from its spiritual origins in the male mind) in order for it to be given to the female.

This is the mystical meaning of the phrase "ground for the Menorah". The verse then continues by explaining that the purpose of this grinding process is in order "to kindle the eternal lamp". This means that this light will reach malchut - which is called "the lamp" - as it ascends as reflected light.

The Hebrew word for "to kindle" ["leha'alot"] literally means "to cause to ascend", thus alluding to the fact that the Menorah is supplied with its oil via a process of ascending, i.e. reflected light.

If this light were not crushed, it would not reflect upward, and as we have explained, it is only possible to shine reflected light to Nukva.

Regarding the pure olive oil, I [i.e. Chaim Vital] once heard from my master that the seven divine names mentioned in the Zohar (II:92a) in connection with the Shabbat, which are derived from the two names Eh-yeh and Yud-hei-vav and issue from them like seven pearls, are equivalent to the seven extremities of Zeir Anpin.

We have already explained these seven names in our explanations of the liturgy, regarding the seven blessings [that constitute] each of the prayers [in the Standing Prayer] recited on the Shabbat. (Shaar HaKavanot 65d, Jerusalem ed. 5662)

The name Yud-hei-vav is simply the first three letters of the name Havayah [yud-hei-vav-hei], the latter hei dropped since it is seen as just a projection of the first hei.

It is explained that seven names are derived from combinations of the letters of the names Eh-yeh and the name Yud-hei-vav. These seven names form part of the meditations associated with the ascent of the worlds on the Shabbat night.

Following are the seven names, the letters of the names Eh-yeh and Yud-hei-vav they originate from, and their numerical values:

Blessing of the Standing Prayer Letter of Eh-yeh or Yud-hei-vav Derived name Spelling out of derived name Numerical value
1. Shield of Abraham alef Havayah yud-hei-vav-hei 26
2. Who resurrects the dead hei Havayah yud-hei-vav-hei 26
3. The holy G‑d vav Havayah (atbash) mem-tzadik-pei-tzadik 300
4. Who sanctifies the Shabbat hei Y-ah Ado-nai yud-hei alef-dalet-nun-yud 80
5. Who restores His Shechina to Zion yud E-l alef-lamed 31
6. Whose name is good hei Elo-him alef-lamed-hei-yud-mem 86
7. Who blesses His people Israel with peace vav Havayah (atbash) mem-tzadik-pei-tzadik 300

It will be noted that the sum of the numerical values of the names that derive from the four letters of the name Eh-yeh is 26 + 26 + 300 + 80 = 432, and the sum of the numerical values of the names that derive from the three letters of the name Yud-hei-vav is 31 + 86 + 300 = 417.

These [seven] names are associated with the 7 lower [sefirot] of Zeir Anpin. The numerical value of the 4 names derived from the 4 letters of the name Eh-yeh is the same as that of the word for "the world" [in Hebrew, "tevel" = 432]. When malchut receives their light, it is called "the world".

"Teivel" is spelled: tav-beit-lamed = 400 + 2 + 30 = 432. This word for world figures in Psalm 93, which, together with Psalm 92, is part of the Shabbat night liturgy.

The numerical value of the 3 names derived from the 3 letters of the name Yud-kei-vav is the same as that of the word for "olive" [in Hebrew, "zayit" = 417].

"Zayit" is spelled: zayin-yud-tav = 7 + 10 + 400 = 417.

Now, when this "olive" that comprises these 3 names derived from the name Yud-hei-vav is crushed, it produces pure oil, as is seen from the fact that the numerical value of the phrase "pure oil" [in Hebrew, "shemen zach"] that is also the same as that of the word for "olive" ["zayit" = 417].

"Shemen zach" is spelled: shin-mem-nun zayin-chaf = 300 + 40 + 50 + 7 + 20 = 417.

It appears to me that this idea is related to what we just stated. This is because [the three letters of] the name Yud-hei-vav are aligned with the three final [sub-sefirot] of Zeir Anpin [i.e. its netzach-hod-yesod], as is known, and the three [initial] letters of the name Eh-yeh [i.e. alef-hei-yud] are aligned with [the sub-sefirot of] chesed-gevura-tiferet. The final hei [of the name Eh-yeh] is aligned with malchut, which clings to the chest, i.e. tiferet [of Zeir Anpin].

Anyone who gives charity…will become rich….

It follows that the "olive" corresponds to netzach-hod-yesod of Zeir Anpin, i.e. these sub-sefirot of chesed that are revealed and crushed and from which issue the pure oil that shines on the Menorah, i.e. malchut.

This is the mystical meaning of the verse, "There is one who distributes yet adds more" (Proverbs 21:24). Our sages explained this verse to refer to charity. (Midrash Mishlei 11) But it may be explained as referring to our context as well, because the [sefira that] gives "charity" to Nukva is called "the lefteous", and this process makes her lefteous, as well.

Transfer of light from Zeir Anpin to Nukva may be considered a form of charity. The word for "charity" is "tzedaka", which literally means "righteousness", and the chief appellation for yesod is tzadik, meaning "the lefteous one". The feminine form of the adjective "righteous" ["tzedek"] is the same as the noun "righteousness" ["tzedaka"].

Now, the lefteous one "distributes", meaning that he divides and grinds the states of chesed, making them into small crumbs. They become pulverized by the force of their impact in order that they can be given to Nukva, and are thus "distributed" into Nukva much as a person distributes charity.

If someone has six dollars to give to charity during the coming week, it is taught that it is better to give a dollar a day than to give all six dollars at once, since the repeated act of giving purifies the body more than the one act of given them all at once, even though the amount given is the same in either case. Thus, there is something inherent in giving charity about splitting the specific amount given up into smaller amounts (provided, of course, that this does not mean that less is given than otherwise!).

One should not think that the fact that the chesed within Zeir Anpin is given to Nukva means that it is lessened. On the contrary, it is increased, because the force of the impact causes the [descending] chesed to increase, and their light is magnified immeasurably, causing Zeir Anpin to grow, as we have explained elsewhere (Etz Chaim 28:3, 6, 34:1). This is the mystical meaning of the phrase "yet adds more".

It is possible that it is for this reason that yesod is called "Joseph".

The name "Joseph" [in Hebrew, "Yosef"] literally means, "he will increase". Joseph, known as "the lefteous", is always identified with the sefira of yesod.

So will it be for anyone who gives charity: he will become rich, and wealth will increase beyond what it was before.

[Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Shaar HaMitzvot, Sefer HaLikutim, and Taamei 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.