[This article is a continuation from Part 1: (click here).]

In this week's parasha, we are told:
"The son of an Israelite woman and an Egyptian man went outside amongst the children of Israel. And that son of an Israelite woman contended with an Israelite man in the camp. So the son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the name [of G‑d] and cursed, and they brought him to Moses. His mother's name was Shelomit, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. They put him in jail until [Moses] could tell them what G‑d said to do [with him]. And G‑d spoke to Moses, saying, Bring the curser outside the camp and all those who heard [him curse] should place their hands upon his head, and then all the congregation should stone him." (Lev. 24:10-14)

Now, you know that there is a screen separating [the worlds of] Yetzira and Asiya that acts as a veil [shielding Asiya from the light of Yetzira]. This [veil] is the malchut of that world [i.e. Yetzira]. That malchut is called the [letter] dalet and is the significance of the dalet of the word for "one" [in Hebrew, "echad"].

The malchut of any world is the interface between that world and the world below it on the chain of spiritual development. The "light" (i.e. consciousness) of the higher world is translated into, or projected onto, terms meaningful in the lower world, which is in fact defined by this lower level of divine consciousness.

According to Jewish law, when we recite the Shema, "Hear, O Israel, G‑d is our G‑d; G‑d is one", we are to meditate on certain allusions in the spelling of the word for "one", echad. This word is spelled alef-chet-dalet; the word "alef" means "chief" ("aluf"); the numerical values of chet and dalet are 8, and 4, respectively. We are to consider how the "chief of the world", i.e. G‑d, is master of the 8, i.e. the seven heavens and earth, and the 4, i.e. the four directions.

The letter dalet signifies G‑d's mastery over the horizontal dimension of space…

Thus, the chet signifies G‑d's mastery over the "vertical" dimension (including the spiritual realms "above" the physical universe), and the letter dalet signifies G‑d's mastery over the horizontal dimension of space.

The dalet thus represents the spatial expanse at the bottom of the spiritual/physical hierarchy of the world. As such, it correlates to malchut, the lowest level of any world.

It is further known that chesed and gevura correspond to the name Ah-vah.

The divine name Ah-vah (alef-hei-vav-hei) does not appear explicitly in the Bible, but is "encoded" as the initials of many phrases. In most contexts, it is associated with the sefira of daat, which contains the sources of chesed and gevura (which is why there are four compartments in the tefillin instead of the three we would expect, being that the intellect comprises three sefirot, chochma, bina, and daat).

Now, this son of the Egyptian [taskmaster] was [meant to rectify the sin of] Cain and Abel, who personified chesed and gevura. With the power of this name, from which he was sustained - as is alluded to in the initials of the words for "And the son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name and they brought him…" as well as in the initials of the words for "the soothsayers and the wizards" (Kings II 23:24) - he sought to puncture this veil, and thereby draw down [divine] beneficence on his mother, who was in Asiya.

Since the son of the taskmaster was intended to rectify the sin of Cain and Abel, he derived spiritually from their spiritual source, chesed and gevura. He therefore was able to manipulate the name of G‑d associated with these two sefirot, the name Ah-vah.

The most basic initials that form the name Ah-vah are those of the words from the first verse of the Torah, "…the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1 - "…et ha-shamayim v'et ha-aretz"). This name thus represents the power to join heaven and earth, to unite, which is why it is associated with the sefira of daat, the power to unite chochma and bina and produce "offspring" from them, the midot. This is also why the word daat is used to describe marital union, as in "And Adam knew his wife, Eve." (Ibid. 4:1)

The son of the taskmaster thus wanted to misuse this divine name…

The son of the taskmaster thus wanted to misuse this divine name in order to unite that which is not meant to be normally united. He wanted to draw down divine beneficence from the world of Yetzira into the world of Asiya, i.e., a level of holiness onto a realm that cannot (normally) lay claim to such a level. In this way, he thought that he could "purify" his mother and rid her of the scourge of her immodesty.

The italicized words in the phrase "And the son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name and they brought him…" are consecutive: va-yikov ben ha-ishah ha-yisra'eilit et ha-shem va-yavi'u oto….

"The soothsayers and the wizards": et ha-ovot ve-et ha-yidonim.

Shelomit was considered to be in the world of Asiya, in this world the power of evil is greater than the power of holiness. In Yetzira, the powers of evil and holiness are on equal footing, and in the world of Beriya, the power of holiness is greater than the power of evil.

This is the meaning of "he blasphemed the Name", [taking the word for "blasphemed" to be] cognate to the word "and he bored a hole in its door", alluding to malchut of Yetzira, which is called the "door".

Thus, the proof-text from the Book of Kings does not only provide us with the literal meaning of the word for "blasphemy" but also with the imagery associated with blasphemy: making a hole in a door. The name of the letter dalet, which we said above signifies malchut, literally means "door". This is appropriate, since malchut is the door from the lower world to its own world and vice versa.

The reason "all the congregation" - i.e. the Sanhedrin and the Torah scholars - were the ones who had to stone him is because only they can receive the additional ray of Shabbat [consciousness] during the week as well, as is known.

It is, of course, impossible for the whole people of Israel to stone anybody, so this verse is interpreted to mean that the representatives of the people, i.e. the Sanhedrin, or high court of justice, were to do the stoning.

All processes of spiritual growth must pass through the three stages of ego-submission…

The Torah scholar, by virtue of his consciousness being fully imbued with the Torah he studies, is able to sustain something of the divine consciousness we normally attain only on Shabbat throughout the week. For this reason, the Zohar states that a Torah scholar is likened to Shabbat. (Zohar III:29a; see Shabbat 119a)

Rabbi Shalom Sharabi points out that on Shabbat, the world of Atzilut shines into the world of Beriya, meaning that the intellect is imbued with divine consciousness that transcends intellect. By invoking the name Ah-vah and thereby improperly opening the world of Asiya to the world of Yetzira, the blasphemer was also causing the consciousness of the higher worlds, Beriya and Atzilut, to descend unnaturally. This had to be rectified by those who personify those worlds, the Torah scholars and the Sanhedrin.

This explanation dovetails with another reason given why the blasphemer blasphemed:

According to the Sages, when he heard the law of the showbread (which immediately precedes the account of his blasphemy), he scoffed at the fact that the Torah requires the showbread to remain in the Temple for nine days and only then eaten by the priests. (Menachot 100b) "A king should be served fresh bread every day, not stale, nine-day-old bread!" (In fact, the showbread miraculously remained fresh for nine days).

According to this, his scoffing at Shabbat made him blaspheme. It was therefore proper that the Sanhedrin and the scholars, who are likened to Shabbat, be the ones to stone him.

From all this we see the importance of being fit to receive divine consciousness, and the seriousness of the error of trying to "reform" evil by shining divine consciousness on it before it has been made ready for it. The Baal Shem Tov taught that all processes of spiritual growth must pass through the three stages of ego-submission, separation between good and evil, and finally sweetening of evil through good.

The mistake…is being reluctant to slay the evil context before trying to sweeten the good…

We see here, it seems, an instance of trying to skip the second stage, of trying to sweeten evil without first "separating" it out, i.e. destroying its evil context. Sweetening evil is possible only because of the inner core of good that is present within it, and this can be revealed only if we crush the outer shell or context of evil within which the inner good is trapped.

The mistake of all would-be but misguided spiritualists, says the Baal Shem Tov, is being reluctant to slay the evil context before trying to sweeten the good, inner core. Instead, they try to sweeten the outer reality, but this outer reality is not ready to be sweetened; in fact, it exists only to be resisted, rejected, and destroyed by being identified for what it is. Only when this is done can we proceed to sweeten reality by revealing the inner good that truly lies within everything.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Taamei HaMitzvot and Shaar HaPesukim, parashat Emor; 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.