The Saba now begins a long discourse regarding the descent and reincarnation of certain types of souls, called here "bat Kohen," the daughter of a Kohen. "Kohen" alludes to the sefira of chesed,1 the manifestation of G‑d's loving kindness, whether in the World of Atzilut, Beriya, Yetzira or Asiya. Therefore, the section below mentions several types of Kohanim, corresponding to the chesed of each of the four worlds. Out of G‑d's kindness (chesed) the soul is drawn from above, so that it can be rectified in this world and thus merit the World to Come. In this sense the soul is called the "daughter of a Kohen," or the daughter of Abraham, who himself embodied the aspect of chesed of Atzilut, and fathered these souls, as will be explained. However, souls that come into gilgul in order to effect a rectification are from Beriya, Yetzira and Asiya. Souls from Atzilut need no rectification but may be incarnated in order to help others. (Rabbi Chaim Vital in Zohar HaRakiah.)

The old man wrapped himself in his garment and began: "If the daughter of a Kohen is married to a stranger, she may not eat sanctified teruma." (Lev. 22:12)

Anyone not of the Priestly family is obligated to separate a portion of his crops and give it to a Kohen. This is called teruma. The family of a Kohen partakes of this teruma, but a Kohen's daughter who marries a stranger - i.e., one who is not a Kohen - forfeits this privilege.

This verse is contingent on another, "But if the daughter of a Kohen becomes a widow or a divorcee, and has no children, she may return to her father's home, as in her youth; she may eat of her father's food, but no stranger shall eat of it" (Lev. 22:12-13). These verses may be understood literally. But the Torah also includes concealed interpretations. How profound is the wisdom hidden within each and every word of Torah, known to sages who understand the ways of Torah! Torah is not like a dream. For the interpretations of dreams are given over to whoever can decipher them, so that they unfold according to the interpretation. Nevertheless, even dreams must be interpreted in a way that is appropriate to the dream. And if this is true of dreams (that they must be interpreted properly), how much more must one take care to follow the path of truth regarding words of Torah, which are the delight of the Holy King! This is the meaning of what is written, "The ways of G‑d are forthright…" (Hosea 14:10).

The 'daughter of a Kohen' is the supernal soul

Now we can say this: "The daughter of a Kohen" is the supernal soul, the daughter of Abraham our forefather, patron of the converts,2 who drew forth that soul from on high. What is the difference between the verse that states, "If the daughter of an ish kohen [a man who is a Kohen]" (Lev. 21:9) and our verse, which states, "the daughter of a Kohen," but does not state, "ish kohen?" There is a Kohen, however, who is referred to as "ish Kohen," but is not fully a Kohen, just as there is a [regular] Kohen and a segan [deputy] kohen, a Kohen Gadol [High Priest] and one who is not a Kohen Gadol. The unqualified term "kohen" indicates a greater and loftier level than "ish kohen." And for this reason there are also several terms for the soul: neshama, ruach andnefesh, each corresponding to a different level of Kohen."If the daughter of a Kohen is married to a stranger" refers to the level of soul called the holy neshama, which is drawn down from a lofty level and enters the hidden Tree of Life. Now when the spirit of the supernal Kohen is aroused and imbues the Tree with souls, then those neshamot fly out of there at the time of marital union and enter a certain storehouse - the "womb" of malchut (Zohar HaRakiah; Mikdash Melech). Woe to the world that men do not know that they must be vigilant. During intercourse they draw down seed imbued with the yetzer hara, which is called a 'stranger,' for they have intercourse only for physical pleasure, and not in a state of purity and holiness. That Kohen's daughter [the holy soul] flies down and finds a structure belonging to the stranger the yetzer hara - the soul becomes married to a stranger. But since this is the will of her Master, she enters it the fertilized embryo and becomes enslaved. She is unable to rule over the yetzer hara and does not complete her task in this world. Thus when she leaves him when the person dies and the soul returns "to her father's house", 'she may not eat sanctified teruma' as do other holy neshamot who completed their tasks in this world. Here the Zohar interprets the commandment of teruma in a spiritual sense: Teruma also alludes to the food of souls in Gan Eden. Once the soul (the daughter of a Kohen) has left its abode in Gan Eden it can no longer partake of teruma.3

Furthermore, if it became enslaved to the yetzer hara, the soul cannot partake of sanctified teruma. However, it follows that if a person occupies himself with Torah and mitzvot in this world, and does not submit to the "stranger" [the yetzer hara], but instead manages to expel him - she "becomes a widow or a divorcee" from the yetzer hara and she has no evil deeds restraining her ["she has no children"] then "she may return to her father's home, as in her youth; she may eat of her father's food" - she partakes of teruma in Gan Eden. [A person's deeds are called "his children". See Bereishit Rabba]

[Note: Teruma(h) can be divided into two words: Torah and the letter mem (which has a numerical value of 40, alluding to the Torah that was given to the Jewish People after Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai) See Zohar III, 179a; Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 17, p. 31b. Torah is the "food" of the soul in the Garden of Eden (see Zohar II, p. 209-210; Etz Chaim sha'ar 44 chap. 3).]

The daughter of a Kohen … flies down to him from the Garden of Eden in hidden ways

An alternate interpretation of the verse, pertaining to converts, now follows:

"There is more to say about this verse: "If the daughter of a Kohen [the soul] is married to a stranger': how unfortunate is the holy soul when she must marry a stranger, meaning here a convert. She flies down to him from the Garden of Eden in hidden ways, to a structure built from impure orlah [the foreskin of an uncircumcised man, the father of the convert] (Sulam). This is the meaning of "is married to a stranger." The reason for this is as explained above - when the nefesh has been perfected and returns to perfect the ruach, even though the person sins in the new gilgul in a way that affects his ruach, the level of nefesh that has already been perfected is not harmed and will not have to return in order to be rectified. Similarly, if the person has already perfected his nefesh and ruach, neither will be affected if he should fail to rectify the level of neshama.

(When) the neshama is perfected… the soul no longer comes into gilgul

Also, after the nefesh has been perfected, it does not necessarily have to return in gilgul at all, and only the level of ruach will descend. But since nefesh is the life force of the body, how can the ruach alone descend? The answer is that the level of ruach will descend into the body of a convert. Because the nefesh of the convert was the vehicle for ruach, and in fact aided the person in perfecting the level of ruach, the nefesh of the convert is rewarded. After death it rises and permanently joins the ruach and its original nefesh in the World to Come.

Now once ruach has been perfected, the person dies and then again returns in gilgul. This time, however, the perfected nefesh and ruach will transmigrate together in order to acquire the level of neshama that belongs to them (although it can happen that only the level of ruach will descend). This process continues until the neshama is perfected. After this task has been completed, the soul no longer comes into gilgul. (Sha'ar Hagilgulim, hakdamah 2). [Here the Arizal does not clarify whether or not the ruach will descend into the body of a convert.]

A third interpretation of the same verse now follows. When lofty souls are about to descend via certain paths guarded by the Angel Taharie-l, to be born to holy parents, it can happen that some of these souls are captured by powerful forces of evil (kelipot) through no fault of their own. (Or HaChamah)

"Furthermore, here is a mystery that transcends all the previous ones: the central pillar upon which the scales balance where the air blows where the living soul is "blown" into the body, as in the verse regarding the creation of Adam, "He blew into his nostrils a living soul" (Gen. 2:7) comprise one scale on one side the side of holiness, and another scale on the other side, the side of kelipat noga. On one side, is the scale of truth, and on the other- the scale of deception. Those scales are never at rest, for souls are always going up when the person is asleep, or when he dies, and his soul ascends on high; and going down when the person wakes up or when a baby is born, entering and returning in another gilgul. As the souls descend into a body, there are souls that are captured, so that one man the embodiment of evil rules over another a pure soul as it is written, "At a time when one man rules over another to his detriment." (Ecclesiastes 8:9) It is certainly "to his detriment" to the detriment of the holy soul because the soul that came into the possession of the sitra achra, called "the stranger" in the verse, "if the daughter of a Kohen [the soul] is married to a stranger" and was captured by it, this is to his [the soul's] detriment. However, when the soul is captured by the other side, by "the stranger," it is also to his, the stranger's, detriment as will be explained below. Nevertheless she [the soul] "may not eat sanctified teruma" until the Holy One does whatever He does with it i.e., until He rectifies and cleanses it. (Sulam) Thus the verse states, "If the daughter of a Kohen is married to a stranger."

[Translation and commentary by Moshe Miller]