This portion of the Torah discusses the Tabernacle. The inner chamber of the Tabernacle housed the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Tablets of the Covenant, on which were engraved the Ten Commandments.

There were actually three arks, one inside the other. (Ex. 25:11, Rashi) This reflects the fact that there are three names Elokim in Zeir Anpin of Atzilut, corresponding to [its] bina, gevura, and malchut. The numerical value of these is 258, the numerical value of "Haran". Bezalel made three arks corresponding to these three names.

Elokim: alef-lamed-hei-yud-mem = 1 + 30 + 5 + 10 + 40 = 86. 3 x 86 = 258.

Haran: chet-reish-nun = 8 + 200 + 50 = 258.

The name Elokim signifies contraction, restriction [tzimtzum], judgment [din], and severity [gevura]. It can therefore be seen to signify any sefira that exhibits these properties.

As we have explained previously, bina is the faculty of the intellect whose function it is to analyze and evalute the insight of chochma, thereby purifying it from any admixtures of subjectivism it might contain. It is thus functions with judgement and severity. Gevura is the sefira whose task it is to limit the indiscriminate beneficence of chesed, in order that goodness is bestowed only upon recipients who deserve it. The three arks…were intended to counterbalance these names Elokim

Finally, malchut is the funnel through which the consciousness of one world passes to the next lower one, and thus becomes the ruling principle of that lower world. Since it functions in this context as the definer of the lower world, it is also clearly a principle of contraction and limitation.

Haran was the city in Mesopotamia where Abraham's family settled after leaving Ur of Chaldea. Abraham himself continued on to the land of Israel, leaving his extended family behind. Haran thus thematically represents the idea of opting out of answering the divine call to perfect the world and the preference to remain behind in order to indulge in the world's ungodly enticements. The last sentence (Gen. 11:31) of parashat Noach, which as a whole describes G‑d's displeasure with mankind's choice of the lawless life over divine discipline, which immediately precedes G‑d's call "go forth" to Abraham at the beginning of parashat Lech Lecha, is "and Terah (Abraham's father) died in Haran". (Gen. 11:32) Significantly, the word "haran" means "anger", signifying G‑d's frustration with mankind's rejection of Him prior to Abraham. (See Rashi on these verses.)

Thus, these three names Elokim constitute the full manifestation of G‑d's attributes of severity. The three arks that made up the Ark of the Covenant were intended to counterbalance these names Elokim.

Since the top of the supernal tree is bina and its bottom is malchut, the inner and outer arks were made of gold, whereas the middle ark, corresponding to gevura, was made of wood.

Since chochma in a way transcends human intellect and rationality, being a revelation of some insight from "beyond," it is, in contexts like this one, excluded from the full structure (or "tree") of consciousness. In such contexts, bina is the highest sefira and malchut the lowest. It thus follows that this model of consciousness is framed top and bottom by elements of gevura. This is because this structure is limited by the parameters of human rationality and intellect. Gold, a reddish color, signifies gevura.

Know also, that the Shechinah in Atzilut becomes vested in keter [of Beriya], and these are the three arks: Akatriel in Beriya, Metatron in Yetzira, and Sandalfon in Asiya.

These three names are names of angels. It is customary not to pronounce names of angels unless these names are also used for people, e.g., Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, etc.

In a famous passage of the Zohar, it is stated that bina of Atzilut "nests" in Beriya, Zeir Anpin "nests" in Yetzira, and Nukva "nests" in Asiya. This means that the levels of consciousness denoted by the three lower worlds derives from these partzufim in Atzilut. Bina is intellect; thus, the divine consciousness that defines the world of Beriya is intellectual consciousness of G‑d. Zeir Anpin is the partzuf of the emotions; thus, the divine consciousness that defines the world of Yetzira is emotional relationship to G‑d. Nukva is expression; thus, the divine consciousness that defines the world of Asiya is active, "practical" consciousness or relationship to G‑d.

Thus, the three names Elokim of Atzilut manifest themselves as the defining principles of the three lower worlds. This occurs first through the Shechina [malchut of Atzilut, the expression of divine consciousness in the lower worlds] being vested in the keter of Beriya, since keter is synonymous with will and, specifically, the will to become manifest throughout the world. The word for "ark"…produces the numerical value of Akatriel plus that of Metatron plus that of Sandalfon…

Therefore, when the word for "ark" [in Hebrew, "aron"] produces the numerical value of "Akatriel" plus that of "Metatron" plus that of "Sandalfon".

Aron: alef-reish-vav-nun. Taking alef to refer to the number 1000, this creates 1000 + 200 + 6 + 50 = 1256.

Akatriel: alef-kaf-tav-reish-yud-alef-lamed = 1 + 20 + 400 + 200 + 10 + 1 + 30 = 662.

Metatron: mem-tet-tet-reish-vav-nun = 40 + 9 + 9 + 200 + 6 + 50 = 314

Sandalfon: samech-nun-dalet-pei-vav-nun = 60 + 50 + 4 + 30 + 80 + 6 + 50 = 280

Hence: 662 + 314 + 280 = 1256

Now, even though we said that the ark embodies three names Elokim, nonetheless, in times of divine favor the name Havayah and its spellings-out shine into these names, transforming G‑d's attribute of justice into that of mercy.

As we have explained previously, there are four principle methods of spelling out the name Havayah, the numerical values of which are 72, 63, 45, and 52. When these numbers are added to the numerical value of the name Havayah as it is normally spelled, 26, we have 72 + 63 + 45 + 52 + 26 = 258, the same numerical value of the three names Elokim mentioned above. Thus, the 258 of Elokim is exchanged for the 258 of Havayah. This is how the ark counteracts, or "sweetens," the three names Elokim.

Know as well that the ark is the secret of yesod of Abba.

Yesod of Abba is the drive within the initial insight of chochma toward self-actualization. It becomes the mochin, or divine consciousness, of Zeir Anpin, the emotional partzuf which is the principle partzuf of Atzilut. Housing the Tablets of the Covenant, which encapsulated the entire Torah, the ark can be seen as the vehicle through which G‑d's plan for creation is transmitted to the world. This, too, is how the ark transforms the world of Elokim, the ruthless and unrelenting laws of nature, into Havayah, the mercy and goodness of G‑d's presence.

As you know, yesod possesses three shells: the foreskin, the mucous membrane, and the blood. To counteract these, the gulgalta of Nukva issued as the ark, the word for "ark" ["aron"] having the same numerical value as a synonym for "crown" [in Hebrew, "nezer"].

Aron: alef-reish-vuv-nun = 1 + 200 + 6 + 50 = 257.

Nezer: nun-zayin-reish = 50 + 7 + 200 = 257.

The commandment of circumcision is designed to remove the shells surrounding the procreative organ (which is the bodily manifestation of the sefira of yesod), since these shells obstruct the full exposure of this sefira and thereby limit the divine beneficence that can issue from it. "Shells" in Kabbala are an appellation for "evil". The act of ritual circumcision consists of three separate procedures: removing the outer foreskin [mila], peeling back the mucous membrane [periya], and sucking off the blood produced by the operation [metzitza].

In order for the divine message embodied in yesod of Abba to penetrate the world, malchut reveals its will, i.e., its will to manifest divinity in the lower worlds. The skull [gulgalta] of any partzuf is the keter of that partzuf, and keter is synonymous with will, as we have explained. The skull is the ark-cover, and the skin is the veil that separates between the holy and the mundane…

[Bezalel] therefore made three arks, one within the other, for the brain also possesses three shells: the thick membrane, the thin membrane, and the skull, above which is the skin.

Just as yesod possesses three "shells," so does chochma, or the brain in general.

The skull is the ark-cover [in Hebrew, "kaporet"], and the skin is the veil that separates between the holy and the mundane, i.e., the head from the body.

Here, the Holy of Holies is the "head" of Creation, while the outer chamber of the Tabernacle is the "body." The Holy of Holies measured three cubits long, while the outer chamber measured seven. This is a clear indication that the inner chamber [the Holy of Holies] is to be associated with the intellect [or "head"], comprising three sefirot, and the outer chamber with the emotions [or "body"], comprising seven sefirot.

The Torah [i.e., the Tablets of the Covenant] alludes to the brain within [the head], alluded to by the yud [of the name Havayah]. For the [Tablets] were initially one tablet, as indicated by the fact that the word for "tablets" ["luchot"] is written such that it can be read "tablet" [in Hebrew, "luchat"]. Because of the sin of the Golden Calf they were made into two.

"And He gave to Moses when He finished speaking with him on Mt. Sinai, the two Tablets of the Covenant, tablets of stone, written with the finger of G‑d." (Ex. 31:18) In this verse, describing how G‑d gave Moses the Tablets of the Covenant and Moses descended with them from Mt. Sinai (only to find the Jewish people engaged in the sin of the Golden Calf), the word for "tablets of…" [luchot] appears twice. Both times it is written without a vav before the final tav, the usual indication of feminine plural. Thus, the word can be vocalized also [as luchat] to mean "the tablet (in the singular) of…." The original intention was for mankind to be…conscious of G‑d's unity much more directly…

Evidently, the original intention was for mankind to be aware and conscious of G‑d's unity much more directly than it is now. At the sin of the Golden Calf, the Jewish people insisted on an intermediary between them and G‑d; they originally thought of Moses as this intermediary, and in his absence demanded a substitute. Since this unfortunate development, the human mind functions on the principle of duality and balance, contrast and juxtaposition represented by the twin Tablets of the Covenant.

This most likely ties in with the teaching of the sages that had the first Tablets not been shattered, there would have been no need for the Oral Torah. This obviously is not referring to the part of the Oral Torah that explicates the written Torah, for that would have had to have been in any case. Rather, it is referring to the dialectic process of Talmudic logic and exegesis through which the teachings of the Torah are derived from the written text. This is a painstaking process of logic and argumentation, through which the truth emerges gradually as all other possibilities are examined and contraverted by opposing logic. When the first tablet(s) were/was shattered, the direct perception of G‑d's will and wisdom was shattered with them; the divine consciousness of Israel went down a notch. Since then and until the dawn of the Final Redemption, divine will is perceived through the indirect veil of human logic and dialectic.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim and Likutei Torah; 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.