In this parasha, we read how an alliance of five kings rebelled against an alliance of four kings, which then waged war against the alliance of five kings. During this process, they abducted Abraham's nephew, Lot, and Abraham pursued and routed the first alliance in order rescue Lot. (Gen. 14)

As is known, the kings that ruled in the land of Edom and died (ibid. 36:31-39) were manifestations of Arich Anpin, Abba, Imma, Zeir Anpin, and Nukva. (Etz Chaim 8:4-5, 9:1-2, 5, 17:3)

These are the partzufim of Atzilut, while the kings that died allude to the seven sefirot that collapsed in the world of Tohu, the version of Atzilut that precedes its rectified version, Tikun. Also, there were seven kings that died, but only six partzufim are enumerated here.

They were all the feminine aspect [of these partzufim], which is known as the malchut [of each partzuf]. That is why they are alluded to by the "kings", being named after it.

Since the kings that died were the malchut of these partzufim, they are called "kings", since malchut means "kingship".

It is known that malchut is expressed by the name Havayah spelled out such that its numerical value is 52, i.e. with the letter hei.

Yud-vav-dalet hei-hei vav-vav hei-hei = (10 + 6 + 4) + (5 + 5) + (6 + 6) + (5 + 5) = 52.
This name is known as "Ban", spelled beit nun, the number 52.

The four spellings out of the name Havayah (72, 63, 45, and 52) are aligned with the four letters of the name Havayah and the sefirot/partzufim they signify.

Thus, even though there are seven kings that died, they are really nine, corresponding to the nine letters of Ban. (ibid. 8:3)

The seven kings expressed or embodied the malchut's of these partzufim in Tohu and, at the same time, the nine letters of the name Ban.

Only when the vessels of Tohu break…do they exist as…pockets of fallen consciousness possessing no holiness….

As is known, the dross and shells [i.e. evil] were separated out of these [fallen] kings. Therefore, there are nine other kings corresponding to them, which are composed totally of the shells and dross of the nine aforementioned holy kings.

The nine kings (i.e. the nine malchuts of Tohu) are extremely volatile, as is everything in that world because the amount of light is out of proportion with the capacity of the vessels to hold it. But everything in Tohu is still in the realm of holiness. Only when the vessels of Tohu break and their "shards" descend into the lower worlds do they exist as almost lifeless "shells" - pockets of fallen consciousness possessing no holiness other than a tiny spark of Tohu-light embedded deep with each one to keep it in existence. Other than that deep kernel of holiness, the whole essence of the fallen "shell" is evil, i.e. selfhood and antithesis to divinity. (This is what led to the Shattering of the Vessels in the first place.)

These are the kings [mentioned in this episode of the parasha], Amrafel and his allies plus the king of Sodom and his allies. This is why they are divided into two groups: the four kings of Amrafel's alliance are the dross of the four root-letters of the aforementioned name Havayah, while the five kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, etc. are the dross of the five letters used to spell out this name Havayah, i.e. Ban, spelled out with the letter hei. This is the mystical meaning of the verse, "…four kings against the five".

The four letters of the name Havayah are thus depicted as waging war against the letters used to spell them out.

Abraham personified the light of the states of chesed in Zeir Anpin….

The reason for this war and why it was waged specifically at this point in history will be understood via our sages' statement that their intention was actually to capture Abraham himself (Zohar I:86b; Bereishit Rabba 42). By capturing his nephew, Lot, Abraham would come to his rescue, and they would then capture him, too. The mystical significance of this is based on what we have explained in Shaar Ruach Hakodesh regarding the mystical significance of Lot and Abraham.

In short: Abraham personified the light of the states of chesed in Zeir Anpin, which are represented by the name Havayah spelled out with the letter alef, and whose numerical value is 45.

Yud-vav-dalet hei-alef vav-alef-vav hei-alef = (10 + 6 + 4) + (5 + 1) + (6 + 1 + 6) + (5 + 1) = 45.

In order to exist, every form of evil must 'suck' from some form of good….

Lot is positioned opposite the back of Zeir Anpin, being the evil that sucks from [Zeir Anpin's] back. The numerical value of Lot is thus also 45.

"Lot" is spelled: Lamed-vav-tet = 30 + 6 + 9 = 45.

In order to exist, every form of evil must "suck" (i.e. derive its sustenance) from some form of good, of which it is a fallen, corrupt version.

In Aramaic, "Lot means" "cursed", referring to this manifestation of evil.

Aramaic, being closely related to Hebrew, is an intermediary between the Holy Language and the other languages of the world. It thus sometimes expresses a fallen version of the allied word in Hebrew, or is seen to "reveal" the meaning of the Hebrew (in that Aramaic is used for the Sages' vernacular translations of the Bible). Here, it seems to be understood in both senses.

Lot was therefore Abraham's close relative, earning his livelihood from him, always traveling with him, as it is written, "And Lot went with him". (Gen. 12:4).

This was when G‑d told Abraham to leave Haran and travel to the Land of Israel.

Lot signifies…the evil inclination within people….

As is explained in the Zohar, Lot signifies evil and the evil inclination within people. (I:79a, 80b)

When Abraham was outside the Land of Israel, there was no coupling between Zeir Anpin and Nukva, as we have explained before. Therefore, the evil "shell" clung to the holiness and sucked from it, for Zeir Anpin was then in a state of constricted consciousness, signified by the name Elokim.

The Land of Israel is an appellate for malchut, as we have seen previously, so if Abraham personified Zeir Anpin, it means that there was no union between Zeir Anpin and Nukva until Abraham entered the Land. The reason why there is no union between Zeir Anpin and Nukva is because they are not ready, i.e. mature enough, for it yet. Abraham - Zeir Anpin - still had a "diaspora"-consciousness, an incomplete mentality vis-à-vis divinity. This consciousness is expressed by the name Elokim, which signifies divinity as it is vested and hidden in the forces of nature (the word for "the nature", "hateva", having the same numerical value as the name Elokim, 86).

In the absence of this union, Zeir Anpin is exposed to false union with the powers of evil.

The kings and the evil [they personified] were thus sucking their plenty [from Abraham/Zeir Anpin], and there was no war between them.

Abraham went to the Land of Israel…to arouse the supernal union between Zeir Anpin and Nukva….

But when Abraham went to the Land of Israel - which was in order to arouse the supernal union between Zeir Anpin and Nukva, the latter manifest as the land, as we have said - expanded consciousness entered [Zeir Anpin], and Lot, i.e. this evil, separated from him, as it is written, "Separate now from upon me". (Gen. 13:9).

This was after Abraham returned from a temporary sojourn in Egypt; he and Lot possessed too many herds and flocks to stay together.

It does not say, "from me" [in Hebrew, "mi-meni"] but "from upon me" ["mei-alai"], because [Lot] was literally clinging to the back of Zeir Anpin, as mentioned. It was thus as if a heavy burden was on [Abraham's] back.

The unusual choice of words thus alludes to the upper reality.

It is [therefore] then written, "And they separated, each one from upon the other" (ibid. 13:11) rather than "from each other".

At this point, the forces of evil and the aforementioned kings lost their [material] bounty. This is why they made war with each other, as we will describe.

Since material bounty is derived from spiritual beneficence, when the latter was cut off, there was a lack of the former, and this occasioned dispute, jealousy, etc.

To explain: Know that in Abraham's time, these nine kings began to be rectified, that is, to metamorphose into partzufim with proper vessels to clothe their lights, as we have explained in our exposition on the rectification of these kings. (Etz Chaim 11:7, 19:1)

Brilliant, blinding inspiration…only fulfills its purpose when it is contextualized within reality….

The rectification of the world of Tohu consists of constructing vessels for the sefirot's lights. There is an advantage to brilliant, blinding inspiration, but it only fulfills its purpose when it is contextualized within reality, where it can serve to change things and make the world a better place. True, some of the original brilliance and sense of infinity is lost, for by being expressed through specific vessels, the light is ipso facto deprived of the potential to express itself through other vessels, in other ways. But that is the price paid for maturity and fulfillment.

But, at this stage, they were not all rectified yet; only the four root-kings, who manifested the four root-letters of the name Ban. But the five kings that manifested the five letters used to spell out this name were not rectified yet.

When they all received [material] abundance, they were at peace. But when it became scarce, the five kings wanted to overpower and ascend above the level of the four kings in order to get closer to holiness and procure sustenance from there [directly]. Even though [the five] were derived from [the four], they rebelled against them; this was because the four kings, who were somewhat rectified - such that their vessels clothed their lights - could not ascend higher than their intrinsic level, whereas the five kings who were as yet unrectified were unrestricted by their "clothes" and were therefore able to ascend above the level of the others.

The vessels "hold on" to the lights they clothe, just as expressing an idea "solidifies" it and concretizes it, depriving it of being expressed in other ways.

Therefore the five kings, even though they were branches [of the four], rebelled and overcame the four root-kings.

But in the end, since [the four] were the roots, they overcame [the five] and subjugated them under their rule.

Now, since the whole dispute was over the lack of abundance for all of them, they therefore "took Lot and all his possessions" (Gen. 14:12) because he was the closest person to Abraham, who personified Zeir Anpin, as mentioned. By capturing [Lot], [they felt that Lot] would take his sustenance from Abraham and they would in turn take theirs from [Lot]. This is what the Sages meant when they said that the [four] kings wanted to capture Abraham, too. Understand this well.

In this context, the four kings did not want to actually capture Abraham; they just wanted a way to siphon off divine beneficence from him, a way to "plug into" him. This they saw in Lot.

Psychologically, this episode thus presumably depicts the conflict between the rectified and unrectified aspects of a person's animal nature. When we are young and our consciousness is devoted primarily to constructing our own sense of self, there is no conflict between these two; in fact, this is because our animal consciousness has either not yet begun to be rectified (i.e. educated for morality and altruism) or is only in the very beginning stages of this process.

But as we approach maturity and develop an awareness of the fact that there is a G‑d, and that G‑d has charged us with rectifying the world, i.e. performing His commandments and sanctifying mundane life so that His beneficence can flow properly into the world, our animal nature begins to mature as well, realizing it cannot always get what it wants and do what it wants to do. At this point, the unrectified aspects of the animal soul begin to rebel, and the person is plunged into the conflict of adolescence, when his selfish nature goes to war against his rising adult consciousness and tries to bypass it and assert itself. Since it is unfettered by the constraints of adulthood, it initially appears to win, dazzling the more reasoned adult with its youthful energy and power, flying above and appearing to be able to express more holy vitality than the adult nature. But because the adult nature is more careful, more logical, more patient, etc., it eventually wins, and subdues the unrectified aspect of the animal nature.

But animal nature is still animal nature, and even its rectified aspect - especially now that it has absorbed the unrectified aspect within it - wants what it considers is its due. It therefore enlists the Evil Inclination to make sure that the Divine Soul does not neglect it. In the end, the Divine Soul recaptures the Evil Inclination and uses it for its own purposes, rather than letting it serve the Animal Soul.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Shaar HaPesukim and Sefer HaLikutim, parashat Lech Lecha; 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.