The interpretation of the Torah falls under four broad categories known as "peshat" (plain meaning), "remez" (hints), "drush" (application and deduction of new laws and facts from within the Torah), and "sod" (secret). (See Pardes) The Zohar consistently deals with the secret meanings hidden in the verses. A classic example of this is the way Rebbe Shimon interprets the verse dealing with the manner of the spies set out to spy [in Hebrew, "latour"] the land; yes, "latour" means to travel around in Hebrew, and that word may be the root for "tour", "tourist" and "route" in English. He uses these verses as a meditation by which to understand how to draw closer to the spiritual world.

Rebbe Shimon said: From this Torah portion [about the spies] I learned secret wisdom and heard regarding it precious higher secrets.

Even within the level of the secrets of the Torah there are different levels. Secret wisdom relating to the inner meaning of the verse and precious higher secrets relating to the way the partzufim of the sefirot interact.

Walk in My paths…and I will bring you to worlds of goodness…

In this commentary, Rebbe Shimon explains Numbers 13:17-25. Our translation will finish at verse 22. In brief these verses read: And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan and said to them, "Go up this way through the Negev, and go up into the mountain; and see the Land and what it is and the people who dwell in it, whether they are strong or weak, few or many…the cities they live in…whether there is wood in it or not…." And they ascended by the Negev and came to Hebron, where the giants Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai lived. And Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.

Come and see. The Holy One, blessed be He, is praised in the Torah and said [to Israel], "Walk in My paths and engage yourselves in My service, and I will bring you to worlds of goodness and higher worlds. Those people that don't believe [in G‑d], don't know [Torah] and don't look [into it] - the Holy One blessed be He says to them [as hinted in the instruction to the spies], 'Go and spy out that good world, that higher desirable land'. They say to him, 'How can we possibly go up there and find out about all that [which is in the Torah]?'"

The first step towards entering the world of the Torah is to subdue one's animal soul to the demands of G‑d

The average person coming to the Torah for the first time may be overwhelmed by the intricacies of the Written and Oral Law. G‑d says to first understand the principle of reward and punishment. The Ramak explains that the Land of Israel itself is called "Canaan" from the Hebrew word for "subdue", "nichna", because the first step towards entering the world of the Torah is to subdue one's animal soul to the demands of G‑d. This is the secret of "entering the land". Next follows a series of instructions as to how to behave when in it.

What is written? "Go up through the Negev." (Num. 13:17) Strive in learning Torah. Then you will see. She stands before you, and through her you will understand [the spiritual truths].

The Negev is the South of Israel where Abraham, who represents the sefira of chesed, lived. Following the subjugation of oneself to G‑d's will, one should strive to attain the attribute of chesed, which enables one to be worthy to succeed in understanding the Torah. In addition, the South is associated with wisdom, as in the Talmudic idiom, "He who desires wisdom, (should face/go) south…". The word "Negev" also means to wipe dry and is an instruction to clear oneself of the limitations of the physical world in order to merit experiencing the spiritual world through the Torah.

"And see the land and what it is...." (Num. 13:18) See through her [the eyes of the Torah] that [spiritual] world which is the land you will inherit and go up to [after you leave the physical world].

There are many who merit the Garden of Eden…

"…and the people who dwell in it…" (Ibid.) These are the righteous in the Garden of Eden [that receive their reward for fulfilling the Torah]. They stand, row after row, in higher honor and in ever-higher levels, [each receiving the reward for the Torah they learned and the good deeds they did while in the world].

"…whether [the people that dwell in the land] are strong or weak." (Ibid.) Through seeing them you [should understand] if they merited all this [reward] because they struggled mightily with their evil inclination or not, or whether it is because they strived in their learning Torah day and night - or didn't have the strength.

Some strove hard to overcome their passions and others did not find it so difficult, some studied day and night, others did not have the strength. All receive their just reward.

"…[See whether they are] few or many." (Ibid.) [This refers to the] many that strove in My service and strengthened themselves in learning Torah and merited all this [reward] - or not.

Even though it seems hard to enter this land, when you learn Torah you will see that there are many who merit the Garden of Eden.

"…whether there is wood in it or not." (Ibid. 13:20) [This means] whether the Tree of Life that gives life to all of the worlds forever is in it or whether there is the "bundle of life".

The Tree of Life refers to the light of the sefira of tiferet.

There is…a higher level called nothing

There is an influence from this level, but also a higher level called "nothing" (in Hebrew, "ayin"). This level of "nothing" refers to the higher sefirot of chochma and bina and, particularly, their source in keter. This idea that that emptiness contains G‑d is a deep secret that may be demonstrated by meditating on the letters that spell "nothing" - ayin; these very letters can be rearrangedto spell "ani", the Hebrew word for "I". In addition, "Ani" is one of G‑d's names, as in the verse "I am the first and I am the last". (Isaiah 44:6) "The bundle of life" is the sefira of yesod, because it contains the influence of all the sefirot above it. Rebbe Shimon is telling us to meditate on these different aspects of the Divine.

"And they ascended by the Negev and came to Hebron". (Ibid. 13:21) To ascend via the Negev [dryness] comes to teach that there are people who ascend to her [the Torah] in a lazy manner, like someone learning in a dry [staid] manner and working for nothing. They think that there is no reward for studying and see that one forgoes wealth in this world for her. They think that it is all dry [without the rich abundance of the physical world]. This is as said in the verse [after the flood] "The waters were dried up from the earth" (Gen. 8:13). This is translated [in the Aramaic] as "negivu" [which is the same as "Negev" in Hebrew].

…there are seventy faces of Torah…

After this [is written] "…and came to Hebron". (Ibid. 13:22) [This refers] to the point where a person comes to connect [in Hebrew, "lehitchaber"] with her [the Torah], reading and reviewing her.

The word "Hebron" contains the idea of "friend" (in Hebrew "chaver") and connection. The point of Torah study is to connect with it, not regard it as dry material that has to be learned by rote. The sages of the Zohar always referred to each other as "chaver".

"Where the giants Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai lived". (Ibid.) There [in the Torah] you will find many different opinions, pure and impure, forbidden and allowed, kosher and unfit, punishment and reward and also the grammar of Torah, that comes from the side of gevura [because it limits and restricts the use of language].

The Midrash states that these three giants were half man and half angel, and this duality is reflected in the manner in which the Torah separates reality into different categories, reflecting the duality of the spiritual versus the physical world.

"And Hebron was built seven years..." (Ibid.) These are the "seventy faces", because there are seventy faces of Torah. Each side composed of ten.

The vessels to comprehend Torah are the seven sefirot from chesed to malchut. Each of these aspects is composed of ten sefirot - so there are 10 X 7 = 70 "faces", or aspects, by which the Torah can be grasped or "built". Each person comprehends from the place or sefira that is dominant for him.

…Hebron is the Torah…

And Hebron is the Torah, and one who makes it his main business in life is called a "friend" [in Hebrew, "chaver", since "cHaVeR" shares the same root as "HeBRon"].

There is a Torah that is a vessel to receive Torah. This is the Written Torah and the Oral Torah [Zeir Anpin and Malchut]. And "Hebron" [referring to the Oral Torah and malchut] issues forth from the Written Torah, as is written in the verse: "Say to wisdom, You are my sister." (Prov. 7:4) And this [lower wisdom] was built in seven years which is the reason it is called "Bat Sheva" - the "daughter of seven".

The higher wisdom of the Written Torah is reflected in its "daughter", the Oral Torah, malchut.

"…before Zoan in Egypt." (Ibid.) This is as in the verse, "And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the people's of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt." (Kings I 5:10)

The wisdom of the King of Kings is "before Zoan in Egypt" and higher than the wisdom of those masters of magic and illusion. It is the source of all true wisdom.

[Zohar, parashat Shelach p.159; translation and commentary by Simcha-Shmuel Treister]

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