"And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt for seventeen years." (Gen. 47:28)

As we know, Jacob was also known by another name, "Israel". These names - particularly the latter - eventually became the names of the collective entity of the Jewish people. The phrase "the children of Israel" is first applied to the direct sons of Jacob, but gradually comes to mean "the Israelites", i.e., the whole nation, and later the term "Israel" (without "the children of") is also used. Abraham and Isaac…each contained an element of imbalance…

Jacob is also referred to as "the choicest of the forefathers", indicating that his way of serving G‑d was in some way superior to that of Abraham and Isaac. As holy as Abraham and Isaac (and their respective ways of relating to and serving G‑d) were, they each contained an element of imbalance that eventually surfaces as an imperfection. Unrestrained love can overflow into love of the wrong things; unrestrained fear can overflow into fear of the wrong things. This is indicated by the fact that although Abraham produced Isaac, he also produce Ishmael, and that although Isaac produced Jacob, he also produced Esau. Only Jacob's sons were all righteous; only mercy, which tempers love and fear, is relatively immune to improper application.

In the following passage, the Arizal analyzes the names of Jacob/Israel and shows how they reflect perfected divine consciousness.

Know that there are three aspects to Jacob. The first is indicated by the name "Yaakov" ["Jacob" in Hebrew] written [as it usually is,] without a vav. The second [is indicated by the name] "Yaakov" written with a vav, as in the verse, "And I will remember My covenant with Jacob" (Lev. 26:42). The third is indicated by [Jacob's other name,] "Israel" [in Hebrew, "Yisrael"].

"Yaakov" is usually written yud-ayin-kuf-beit. In rare cases, a vav is inserted between the last two letters to indicated the "o"-vowel.

[These three names] allude to the three aspects of his soul, Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshama. The Neshama is indicated by the name Yisrael

The Nefesh is the vital, animating soul, the life-force of the body. The Ruach is the emotional aspect of the soul, and the Neshama is the intellectual aspect of the soul.

The Nefesh is indicated by the name "Yaakov" written without the vav. The Ruach is indicated by the name "Yaakov" written with the vav. The Neshama is indicated by the name "Yisrael".

As you already know, these three are considered one collective entity.

We do not normally experience three entities operating within our consciousness; the division into three aspects reflects the way the soul develops and manifests itself within us.

Similarly, the forefathers are [considered] one, as indicated by our sages' statement that Jacob was called Abraham, etc. (Bereishit Rabba 63:3)

The Midrash shows how the Torah refers to each of the patriarchs by the others' names.

We will now see how the three aspects of the soul are connected numerically to the names of Jacob.

You will also find that the numerical value of "Nefesh" is the same as that of the two names Abraham and Jacob together.

Nefesh: nun-pei-shin = 50 + 80 + 300 = 430.

Abraham: alef-beit-reish-hei-mem = 1 + 2 + 200 + 5 + 40 = 248

Jacob (in Hebrew, "Yaakov"): yud-ayin-kuf-beit = 10 + 70 + 100 + 2 = 182.

248 + 182 = 430.

The numerical value of "Ruach" is that of the two words "and Jacob lived" (Gen. 47:28) together with the unit values for each word.

Ruach: reish-vav-chet = 200 + 6 + 8 = 214.

"And Jacob lived" (in Hebrew, "Vayechi Yaakov", the first words of this parasha:

vav-yud-chet-yud yud-ayin-kuf-beit = (6 + 10 + 8 + 10) + (10 + 70 + 100 + 2) = 34 + 182 = 216.

The Neshama is [numerically] associated with the name "Israel" as follows: The numerical value of "the Neshama" is 400, and that of Israel [Yisrael] is 541.

"The Neshama" (ha-neshama):

hei-nun-shin-mem-hei = 5 + 50 + 300 + 40 + 5 = 400.

Yisrael: yud-sin-reish-alef-lamed = 10 + 300 + 200 + 1 + 30 = 541.

Subtract 400 [from 541], i.e., "the Neshama," and 141 is left. Subtract 41 from this remainder and add it to the 400 [of "the Neshama"], and the result is the numerical value of the word for "truth" [in Hebrew, "emet"]. This is the mystical significance of the verse, "Give truth to Jacob" (Micah 7:20).

541 – 400 = 141.

400 + 41 = 441.

Emet: alef-mem-tav = 1 + 40 + 400 = 441.

100 remains [from the 141 left] when Neshama is subtracted from Yisrael. [100 is the numerical value of the letter kuf]. The numerical value of the letter kuf spelled out is the same as that of Yaakov [Jacob] with [the four unit-values of] its four letters.

Kuf: kuf-vav-pei = 100 + 6 + 80 = 186.

Yaakov (Jacob): yud-ayin-kuf-beit = 10 + 70 + 100 + 2 = 182.

182 + 4 = 186.

The result of this arithmetic exercise can thus be summarized as follows:

Israel = ("the Neshama" + 41) + 100

Israel = truth + 100


100 ==> 186 (i.e., "Jacob" spelled out plus its four letters' unit values)


Israel = truth + Jacob.

Now, the numerical value of the letter kuf spelled out [186] also equals the numerical value of the word for "place" [in Hebrew, "makom"].

"Makom": mem-kuf-vav-mem = 40 + 100 + 6 + 40 = 186.

It is also the numerical value of the square of the name Havayah, as follows: yud squared [102] equals 100; hei squared [52] equals 25; vav squared [62] equals 36; hei squared [52] equals 25. The total equals 186.

100 + 25 + 36 + 25 = 186.

This is the mystical meaning of the verse, "Behold there is a place with Me." (Ex. 36:21)

Based on this verse, the sages stated, "He is the place of the world, but the world is not His place" (Pesikta Rabati 21), meaning that space exists as a created entity within G‑d. G‑d is not circumscribed by (i.e., exist entirely within) the parameters of space. In this connection, "the Place" (or "the Omnipresent") is one of the appellations of G‑d. This connection of G‑d and "place" is given mystically by the numerical association we have just seen.

Thus, we have here a connection between Jacob (182 ==> 186) and the names of G‑d.

Now, Rabbi Akiva said that the letter kuf alludes to the Holy One, blessed be He. (Otiot d'Rabbi Akiva) [Mystically, this means that] the numerical value of the [three] name[s] of G‑d is the same as that of "Yabok" [Hebrew for the river "Jabok"], i.e. the combined numerical value of the names Eh-yeh, Havayah, and Ado-nai. Only Jacob personifies the divine power to extend to all levels, from the highest to the lowest…

In the Midrash Otiot d'Rabbi Akiva, in which Rabbi Akiva expounds on the Midrashic significance of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, he states that the letter kuf alludes to G‑d, since it is the first letter of the word "kadosh" (meaning, "holy"), used to describe G‑d in the verse, "Holy, holy, holy is G‑d of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory" (Isaiah 6:3).

"Yabok" is the name of the river that Jacob crossed on his way back to the land of Israel after spending twenty years with Laban, and was where he wrestled with the angel of Esau. As we have seen previously, it thus signifies the struggle between good and evil, or between mercy and judgment.

Yabok: yud-beit-kuf = 10 + 2 + 100 = 112.

Eh-yeh: alef-hei-yud-hei = 1 + 5 + 10 + 5 = 21.

Havayah: yud-hei-vav-hei = 10 + 5 + 6 + 5 = 26.

Ado-nai: alef-dalet-nun-yud = 1 + 4 + 50 + 10 = 65.

21 + 26 + 65 = 112.

It is also the combined numerical value of the two names Havayah and Elo-him.

Elo-him: alef-lamed-hei-yud-mem = 1 + 30 + 5 + 10 + 40 = 86; 86 + 26 = 112.

If we subtract [the numerical value of] "Yabok" [112] from [the numerical value of] Jacob's name Yaakov [182], the remainder is 70, alluding G‑d's seventy names. (Bamidbar Rabba 14:11; Midrash Zuta, Shir HaShirim 1; Peskita d'Rav Kahana 3:1; Pardes Rimonim 23:13)

Thus, "Yaakov" = "Yabok" + 70 = Eh-yeh - Havayah - Ado-nai + G‑d's 70 names.

We have now two additional connections between Jacob and G‑d's names.

The three names just mentioned - Eh-yeh, Havayah, and Ado-nai - allude to the three sefirot of keter, tiferet, and malchut, respectively.

These three Names are associated with these three sefirot. When G‑d is referred to by a particular Name, it means that He is acting through the associated sefira, i.e., manifesting the Divine attribute associated with that sefira.

Tiferet is associated with Jacob.

Tiferet is the central and pivotal sefira of the six midot that metamorphose into Zeir Anpin, who, as we have seen previously, is personified by Jacob.

It is the [heart of] the central axis, which extends from one extreme [of the sefirotic tree] to the other.

The left and right axes of the sefirotic tree do not extend all the way up or down. Only the middle axis extends to the top (keter) and bottom (malchut).

Abraham is associated with the right axis, that which is centered on chesed, and Isaac is associated with the left axis, centered on gevura. Thus, only Jacob personifies the divine power to extend to all levels, from the highest to the lowest.

An allusion to this may be found in the word "Esther", when spelled backwards.

Esther is spelled alef-samech-tav-reish.

I.e., [the initials of the words for] "head" [in Hebrew, "rosh"], "middle" [in Hebrew, "toch"], and "end" [in Hebrew, "sof"], together with the letter alef, spell "Esther" [backwards].

The initials of the words "rosh", "toch", and "sof" are reish, tav, and samech, respectively. Thus, the word "Esther" also alludes to the divine power to extend from the highest to the lowest levels.

This is the mystical meaning of the verse, "I shall hide [in Hebrew, 'haster'], yes, hide [in Hebrew, 'astir'] My face on that day" (Deut. 31:18). G‑d's presence is hidden during the exile…

The root of the words for "hide" and "yes, hide" is the same as that of the word "Esther". The classic interpretation of this phenomenon is that G‑d's presence (or "face") is hidden during the exile, the context in which the story of Esther takes place. G‑d's name is not mentioned once in the entire Book of Esther.

Here, the emphasis is on the fact that G‑d's face or presence is specifically found in ("hidden" or ensconced within) G‑d's ability to extend from the highest to the lowest levels, as alluded to in the word "Esther".

This is also indicated by the fact that the word "Yisrael" may be permuted to spell "a head for Me" [in Hebrew, "li rosh"].

Yisrael: yud-sin-reish-alef-lamed.

Li rosh: lamed-yud reish-alef-shin.

This indicates that Yisrael embodies the ability to reach the highest levels (i.e. the "head") of holiness.

[As the sages state:] "Israel arose in [G‑d's] thought." (Bereishit Rabba 1:4)

This also implies that Israel embodies the ability to reach the highest levels of holiness.

The seat of the Neshama is in the head, i.e., the brain; the seat of the Ruach is in the heart; and the seat of the Nefesh is in the liver.

The allusion to this is in the word for "king" [in Hebrew, "melech"], whose letters are the initials of the words for "brain" [in Hebrew, "moach"], "heart" [in Hebrew, "lev"], and "liver" [in Hebrew, "kaved"].

"Melech" is spelled mem-lamed-kaf. A person whose consciousness descends from his brain to his heart and then to his liver, i.e., whose intellect rules his emotions, which in turn determine the way he acts, is a "king", i.e., in charge of himself and his body. If the order is reversed, i.e., fulfillment of bodily functions inspires the emotions, which then enlist the intellect to satisfy them, the word spelled is "kelem", meaning "embarrassment". All the worlds are dependent upon the names 'Jacob' and 'Israel'…

It thus follows that all the worlds are dependent upon the name[s] "Jacob" and "Israel". As the sages said: "In the beginning…" (Gen. 1:1) implies "for the sake of Israel, who are termed 'the beginning". (Tanchuma, ed. Buber 3, Vayikra Rabba 36:4)

The Torah begins: "In the beginning, G‑d created heaven and earth". The prefix letter beit in the word for "in the beginning" [in Hebrew, "be-reishit"], besides meaning "in", can also mean "by means of". The verse can thus be read, "By means of [that which is called] 'the beginning', G‑d created heaven and earth". The Jewish people are called "the beginning", as it is written: "Israel is holy to G‑d; [they are] the beginning of His produce" (Jeremiah 2:3).

They are the soul of all creatures, and are termed "Israel is holy".

The Jewish people, being the reason for Creation and the means by which G‑d created the world, are the "inner soul" of all Creation. All Creation finds meaning and purpose only in reference to the Jewish people, who are charged with fulfilling the Divine purpose of Creation, making the world into G‑d's home.

This then is the mystical meaning of the verse, "And Jacob lived…" All the life-force and sustenance of the world is [dependent upon] Jacob.

The word "and he lived" is interpreted here as if it was vocalized to read "and he gives life-force" in the causative.

And he [alone] is destined to remain in the world. He is therefore called "Yaakov", related to the word "he will follow" [in Hebrew, "ya'akeiv"].

The divine consciousness personified by Jacob incorporates that personified by Abraham and Isaac - but balances them. In this way, life-force is prevented from being siphoned off by the forces of evil, and thus Jacob-consciousness can safely descend to the lowest levels of reality and successfully transform them, together with the rest of the world, into G‑d's home.

[Thus,] he was the "a head for Me" [see above], i.e., the beginning of [G‑d's] thought, and he is also the final product of [G‑d's] action, and "that which was is that which will be [in the end]" (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

This type of divine consciousness owes its ability to descend so low to the fact that it is rooted so high.

"The matter is ancient" (Chronicles 4:22), but the wise will understand. May G‑d enlighten our eyes with the inner light of His Torah. Amen, so may it be His will.

[Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."]