from the book by Ohad Ezrachi and Marc Gafni
According to Lurianic Kabbalah, the holy sparks that exist inside every one of us are almost invisible to the naked eye. One ventures upon the spiritual path only in order to liberate those sacred sparks that the Ari claims are trapped inside everyday reality. Consistent with the belief in monotheism, the negative forces at work in the universe – even demonic entities – must have the sacred buried within them. These beings are in exile, or in captivity, and their divine life force inhabits a protective shell that appears to us as evil, but cannot, ultimately, be evil.
The Ari suggests how the sparks concealed in our everyday reality can be liberated by means of the 613 commandments. When, for example, someone gives a destitute person a shirt, we can say that she is revealing the divine aspect of her soul through this action. As a result, the sacred spark of the divine in the shirt is also liberated. It is no longer a simple piece of clothing; it has become a means by which godliness and holiness are expressed in the world.1
While mitzvot can lift up objects that we think of as neutral, sacred sparks trapped within seemingly negative confines are liberated through long-term historical processes. We all can think of many examples of religious or social ideas that were denounced when they first appeared, but were later integrated by the very same society that had initially rejected them.2 A revolutionary thinker risks ostracization, even excommunication, in following his heart, which may lead him down paths unacceptable to his social milieu and even to himself.3 In its turn, society needs to experience significant shifts before it is capable of being nourished by the unsuspected good the revolutionary is prescribing. Until social conditions change, both the messenger and the message are doomed to ridicule, disdain, and persecution.
One of the great Hasidic works, the Mei HaShiloah, formulates a spiritual rule of thumb describing this phenomenon. The author claims that, the greater a person’s soul, the greater his need to tread the untrodden paths. “Whenever a person places himself in places of doubt in the service of God, or in places that demand clarification – if (he is successful) at clarifying (the matter at hand) in a positive way, he is greater than someone who steers clear of uncertainty and doubt.”4 He carries a unique message against which the old world endeavors to defend itself.
We can identify Lilith in these terms as a soul requiring “clarification.” Lilith, who fled from the realm of the sacred at the dawn of culture, is identified by the Midrash as a demon in Eden. Her return is therefore contingent upon two complementary processes: 1) Masculine self-images, represented by Adam in the Ben Sira legend, and by Jacob in the Zohar, must be transformed in order to reclaim Lilith; 2) Lilith, who is presently perceived as a kelippah (shell), i.e. a demonic, negative figure, also needs to be transformed in order to redeem her holiness from these trappings. Ideally, these two processes should happen simultaneously. As both men and women undergo profound transformations, that which has been dormant and repressed will be spiritually vivified, so that men and women can finally reveal their true faces to one another.
According to the Ari, Lilith needs to go through many trials from the time she leaves Eden and marries the Great Demon, to the time when she is ready to re-enter the sacred realm. It is a long and tedious journey. Lilith, for example, appears in the Ari’s imagination as an incarnation of both Leah and her daughter Dinah. Lilith is Moses’s wife, described as “the Cushite woman he had married” (Num. 12:1). She is also identified with Orpah, Ruth’s sister-in-law; and then Ruth after she parts ways with Orpah. Then, many generations later, we encounter her as “the wife of Turnus Rufus, the Wicked,” who converted and became Rabbi Akiva’s second wife.
Every time Lilith appears in a new incarnation, her rehabilitation progresses and more of her complex nature is revealed in the world. Tragically, however, it seems that the Lilith figure in Lurianic Kabbalah never completes the cycle of return.
In his work, “Treatise on the Steps of our Father Abraham,” R. Hayyim Vital analyzes the soul of Leah through an exploration of her relationship with her daughter, Dinah. After the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge, Vital explains, good and evil become mixed up in one another. Adam’s soul contained all potential human souls, so it follows that they too, contain this strange interfusion of good and evil that he first tasted. A “sifting” needs to take place, and this is the central movement in the book of Genesis. This process occurs within Abraham’s own family: not only does Lot have to separate from him, but even his seed needs to purify itself. Abraham’s soul likewise is composed of good and evil. His two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, reflect these opposites. Isaac remains, while Ishmael goes east, leaving his family. Abraham represents hesed, love, so we can say that holy hesed was separated from the hesed of the kelippah, represented by Ishmael. But the process is incomplete. Isaac, who represents the side of din, strict judgment, also has good and evil in his make-up. Again, the clarification process is realized through his two sons – Jacob and Esau. Jacob continues the family line, whereas Esau eventually5 heads east, to the land of Edom.
A similar process occurs among the biblical women. Dinah manifests the ambiguity of her mother Leah:
This, too, is part of the mystery of Dinah, the daughter of Leah. When the snake planted the seeds of uncleanness in Eve, all souls became mixed with good and evil. Even the patriarchs needed to (undergo) a separation process, as they too, had this mixture of good and evil. This is why Ishmael came out of Abraham and why Esau came out of Isaac. They were then purified, and separated from the dregs of the kelippah which had clung to them.6
The Ari maintains that the original blurring of good and evil occurred when the snake, Samael, copulated with Eve. When good and evil are mixed in this way, it is not at all easy to differentiate between them. By mentioning Ishmael and Esau, the Ari reminds us that evil is embodied in those biblical characters who are expelled from the central narrative in order to go their own way, a process which could be seen as refining the character of Abraham’s family. And in mentioning Dinah and Leah, he hints that a similar sifting process is at work in their destinies.
In the beginning, all that was good and holy in Lilith was embodied in Leah, whereas Lilith’s evil remained as a dangerous, dark and demonic force at large in the world.
The first Eve (Lilith) was the kelippah of Leah. Leah was not given to Adam, as she was not yet ready. Therefore Jacob, whose appearance was similar to that of Adam, was only satisfied with Rachel, who is the second Eve. Just like Adam, who said “This one shall be called Woman” (Gen. 2:23) – this one, and not Leah, the first (wife).7
The Ari goes on to explain that Leah, too, had both softer and harsher sides, and her daughter, Dinah, the Bible’s first rape victim, acted as the filtering process between them.
YOU NEED ANOTHER SENTENCE OR TWO HERE.
Leah gave birth to six sons, after which her seventh and final child was a daughter.8 When Jacob and his family return to Canaan, they settle in the area of Shechem. Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, goes out in search of friends. Shechem ben Hamor, the Hivvite, was the son of the local chief. He sees the girl, desires her, and assaults her in the field. Dinah is taken to his house in the township – named after its prince – Shechem. Jacob hears about the rape, but does not react. He waits for his sons to return with the sheep from the pasture. When they hear what has happened they are duly enraged. In vengeance, two of his sons, Shimon and Levi, deceive the city’s inhabitants by telling them that, if all the males in Shechem circumcise themselves, they will give them Dinah and others of their women as wives. On the third day, when the males of the township are recuperating from the painful circumcision, Shimon and Levi take their swords, kill all the city’s inhabitants, and bring Dinah victoriously home. When Jacob hears about this slaughter, he is so incensed that he does not forgive his sons until the day he dies.
The rabbis of the Midrash, although they do not underplay the seriousness of the rape, react in a way typical of patriarchs vis-a-vis victims of rape. They accuse Dinah of making the first move. Where else, they ask, can such provocative behavior be expected to lead? Why ever did she “go out” in the first place? We have already seen how, for the rabbis, this “going out” is fraught with hints of harlotry.
However, for R. Hayyim Vital, Dinah embodies the harsh dinnim of Leah. Leah brazenly “went out” to her husband and bought his sexual favors, but Dinah “went out” into the public domain which, in the Kabbalah, is known as the abode of the kelippot:
“‘And Dinah went out’ (Gen. 34:1) – for if she had remained in a place of holiness, the snake would not have been able to touch her. But after she went out to the place of the kelippah, which is the secret meaning of “to see the daughters of the land” (v.1), she was bitten by the snake, and this is the mystery of ‘Shechem ben Hamor the Hivite’ (v. 2): (Hivvite comes) from the word hivya (snake in Aramaic).9
The rabbis see Dinah’s leaving the protective boundaries of Jacob’s house, as eventually leading to her rape. She goes out to an abandoned place, as if to indicate that she too is abandoned, loose, at liberty. Consequently, for the rabbis, Dinah symbolizes everything that they had already found problematic in Leah:
And even though Leah was mended, and her kelippah, who was the first Eve (Lilith) was removed from her, and she remained holy and pure, even so, because of the dross that clung to her, Dinah, who (represents) severe din (judgment), came from her. This is why her name was Dinah – because of the din.10
When Leah was born, most of the Lilithian aspects of her personality had already been filtered out from her, although there was still some “dross.” In Lurianic Kabbalah, dross refers to unrefined matter, such as the trace metals left in unrefined gold. The goal of history, is to refine Leah, so that she becomes like pure gold, free from dross. Dinah, in other words, is the “waste material” that has been purged from her mother’s complexity. The further Dinah strays from home, the more she attracts those impure elements that had previously sullied her mother.
Ultimately, though, Dinah is not to be apprehended as a negative figure. Like Leah, she is left with no choice other than to “go out” in search of herself, imperiling herself in the process. Behind this act of rebellion, Dinah contributes toward the historical disclosure of female sensuality. For the Ari, her personal tragedy also has its part to play in the greater story of Lilith’s redemption.
When the Bible introduces Dinah in Chapter 34, it refers to her as “the daughter of Leah,” rather than the daughter of Jacob.11 The narrative in Genesis adopts Jacob’s perspective. Jacob would prefer to disassociate himself from Dinah’s provocative behavior. From the very beginning, Jacob was not attracted to Leah. Her daughter is likewise foreign to him, a burden for which he has no patience. To emphasize exactly how powerful was Jacob’s desire to be rid of Dinah, we can compare the story of how she was held prisoner in the house of Shechem to the story of Benjamin’s descent into Egypt.
When Shimon and Levi risk their lives in order to rescue their sister from Shechem’s house, Jacob is angry at them, claiming that they had no right to risk the well being of his entire household for the sake of one individual. By comparison, a few years later when Joseph, disguised as the Egyptian viceroy, commands that Benjamin, Rachel’s son, be brought to him, Jacob will not hear of it, even though his entire household is in grave danger of dying of hunger in Canaan. In this case, Jacob is willing to risk everyone’s life in order to save Benjamin, who is the only living memento of his beloved Rachel.
Shimon and Levi understand their father all too well. They know that Dinah repels him because she reminds him of Leah. It might even be construed that Shimon and Levi’s revenge on Shechem was fueled by Jacob’s holding their sister responsible for her own rape. When Jacob chastises them for risking the entire family’s safety, Shimon and Levi answer in one short sentence: “Will he make our sister into a whore? (Gen. 34:31). The usual interpretation of the text is “Will he – Shechem – make our sister into a whore?” It is possible, however, that the two vengeful brothers did not utter these words directly to their father, but heard his rebuke, left the tent, and then said to themselves: “Will he – i.e. our father – make our sister into a whore – as he made our mother?” The brothers feel that, when Jacob says he is only concerned for his family’s welfare, he is not telling the whole truth. In their opinion, the real reason for his estrangement from his only daughter is that he does not respect her; for him, she was a whore even from before this episode with Shehem.
From this point of view, it would appear that Jacob views an assertive woman who “goes out” into the world as a perversion of the feminine. In fact, both the rabbis and the biblical text view Dinah as a woman who, in certain respects, behaves as though she were a man. There are two instances in which the written text of the Bible refers to Dinah as na’ar, a “lad,” while the masoretic tradition revocalizes it as na’arah, meaning “girl.” (Gen. 34:2-3). Likewise, the Midrash Tanhuma uses the story of Dinah’s “going out” to strongly advise women against leaving their homes:
Let the masters teach us: Should a woman go out wearing gold jewelry on Shabbat?12 The Rabbis said: Even on a weekday a woman should not go out in public, because people look at her and this affects her adversely. Jewelry was given to women so that they may adorn themselves in their own houses. One should not leave things unguarded around a decent person, (all the more so) around a thief. A woman should therefore stay at home and not go out into the street, so that she will not sin, and so that she will not cause others to sin by gazing at married women.13
Rather than making men responsible for their indecent glances that objectify women, the midrash makes women responsible for upholding patriarchy’s gendered norms. It explains that going out in public is a male privilege:
R. Yehudah bar Shalom said: This is in fact the case, as it says, ‘God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fertile and increase fill the earth and master it” (v’kivshuha) (Gen.1: 28). It actually states vekovsha – a man conquers a woman, a woman does not conquer a man. Man conquers the earth, woman does not conquer the earth, so that she should not cause herself misfortune. (She should not be like) Dinah the daughter of Jacob, who was used to going out,14 and caused herself misfortune. How do we know this? By our reading of “And Dinah went out.”15
In this reading of Dinah’s story, her “going out” implies something masculine about her, echoed in the rabbis’ comment that Dinah was originally meant to be a boy, but that Leah’s prayers caused the embryo to change from male into female:
Leah stood remonstrating with the Holy One, blessed be he. Master of the Universe!, she said, Twelve tribes will be established from Jacob. I have already given birth to six and I am pregnant with the seventh. The handmaidens have already given birth to two each, making ten. If this one is (also) a male, my sister Rachel will not (even) be equal to the handmaidens! God immediately heard her prayer, and the baby in her womb became a female, as it says, ‘And afterwards she bore him a daughter, and named her Dinah (Gen. 30:21).16
In the Lurianic writings, these various biblical and midrashic texts are joined together to prove Dinah’s gender ambiguity:
You must already know of the rabbis’ comment on the verse: ‘And afterwards she bore him a daughter,’ that she was (meant to be) a son, and through Leah’s prayers, she was changed into a daughter … this is also the secret meaning of Dinah being called a na’ar, a lad, because at first she was a young man, and then became a young girl.17
When Dinah “goes out,” she is “going out” from the stay-at-home fate that the patriarchal world had in store for her. She refuses to accept the suppression of her desires, as other women have done.
Given the patriarchal bias of the texts, it is surprising indeed that the rabbis point their finger at Jacob’s responsibity for Dinah’s rape. The rabbis point out that, when Jacob was preparing himself for his encounter with Esau, he moved his entire family to the opposite bank of the river. The Bible tells how he removed Leah, Rachel, the midwives and their eleven children, but where, the midrash asks, was Dinah? The surprising answer: Jacob was afraid that, if Esau would set his eyes on Dinah, then he would desire her and take her for his wife, so he hid her in a box and closes it with a lock and key.18 The rabbis know that, whenever a person avoids facing the truth, it will eventually explode in his face. Even God would have preferred that Dinah marry Esau, but Jacob is terrified by the thought. At this point in his life, Jacob is still trying to run away from his brother. Therefore, he cannot accept that anything connected to him may be intended for Esau. He represses his shadow twin, and he refuses to enter into any kind of dialogue with him. Jacob chooses to deny that there can be any kind of match between himself and Esau, and the price of his repression is very dear:
R. Huna in the name of R. Abba Hacohen Bardala said: The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: …You prevented grace from your brother, for if she had been married, she would not have prostituted herself. You would not agree to her marrying a circumcised man – and she married someone not circumcised! You would not agree to her marrying legally – so she got married in a forbidden way! As it says, “Now Dinah the daughter of Leah…went out.”19
According to this Midrash, Dinah prostitutes herself by “going out” from the harsh jurisdiction of her father’s domain. Had she been married, even to Esau, she would not have had to prostitute herself in this fashion. In this way, Jacob is held responsible for the tragedy that ensues.
In the Second Gate we defined prostitution as a situation in which a person loses touch with his or her own sense of self. Such a person chooses to participate in a story that is both inauthentic and forced. It was Jacob who compelled Dinah to leave her own story. Is it not, then, viable to assume that, when Dinah’s brothers said “Will he make our sister into a whore?” They were in fact seeing their father, Jacob, as her procurer.
In Lurianic Kabbalah, the missed match of Esau and Dinah is perceived as an opportunity for a tikkun, a fixing, which was unfortunately neglected. Dinah was well suited to facilitate Esau’s tikkun, since she both belongs the sacred and is connected to the kelippah of Lilith:
(Dinah) too, was holy, although she was still somewhat connected (to the kelippah), because (her holiness) had not yet been completely clarified. Dinah was intended for Esau, but Jacob hid her in a chest. We find that the rabbis, quoted by Rashi, specifically say that Jacob was punished for this,20 for she was fitting for him (Esau), and he could have had his fixing through her, because there were still holy sparks within him.21
Remember also the midrash suggesting that family members thought that Leah, Dinah’s mother, was intended for Esau. Her assertive sexuality seemed fitting for a man of the field who knew the ways of nature. Dinah inherited these characteristics from her mother.
In rabbinic thought, Esau is connected to the dark angel Samael, Lilith’s soul-mate.22 In the Alphabet of Ben Sira, Lilith runs away from Adam straight into the arms of the Great Demon. The Kabbalah sometimes identifies the Great Demon as Ashmodai, the king of demons, and sometimes as Samael, the dark angel. Esau, as we will see, represents Jacob’s dark angel. As the prophet reports, “After all – declares the LORD – Esau is Jacob’s brother” (Mal. 1:2). These two brothers are not really the separate persons they believe themselves to be. They are twins, though they find it almost impossible to face one another. In Jungian psychology, Esau would be understood as Jacob’s shadow side. This is why it is so difficult for Jacob to accept that Dinah should marry his own shadow – his brother Esau.
The Kabbalah insinuates that whatever does not come about directly will materialize in a devious way. Jacob, whose very name comes from the Hebrew root aqov – crooked – does not allow things to take place in a straightforward manner, so instead his stubbornness forces the relationship between his daughter and the snake to materialize in a forbidden, partial, and crooked manner. Dinah “goes out,” and another incarnation of the snake, Shechem son of Hamar, bites her: “‘And he that breaks boundaries will be bitten by a snake'” (REF) – this refers to Dinah. While her father and her brothers were sitting in the study hall, she went out to see the daughters of the land. She caused Shechem ben Hamor the Hivvite who is called Snake (Aram. hivvya) to “bite” her.23
Lurianic Kabbalah develops this motif of a destined demonic attraction. The dark world contains both male and female entities, which are ruled over by Samael and Lilith. Samael is the mythological snake from the Garden of Eden, the evil inclination, the angel of death and so on. Lilith is his wife. Esau is controlled by the Snake, so anyone resembling Lilith is naturally attracted to Esau. The snake, however, is not represented by only one agency. Other figures also stem from the coupling of Samael and Lilith. When the high road to the consummation of this marriage is blocked by Jacob, the mutual attraction between Lilith and Samael finds other ways to materialize:
And Esau is part of the mystery of the snake, and Dinah was fitting for him, but since Jacob hid her, she was saved from him. And when she went out like a prostitute, according to the hidden meaning of ‘Now Dinah… went out,’ then the snake bit her, being the secret of Shechem ben Hamor the Hivite, like the word hivya, which is the snake. He is also called Hivi, because he came from the first Eve (Hava), who is called Lilith, which is how he had the power to take her. This is why it says ‘being strongly drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob’ (Gen. 34:3), because from the very beginning this kelippah (shell) was attached to this holiness, and now, when it materialized in the concrete world, it clung to her again.24
Dinah is endangered by the “dross” clinging to her soul. As long as she dwells in Jacob’s sacred camp, she is protected from the kelippah’s hold on her. But when she goes out to the Canaanites, she is exposed to the deep bond that she (as Lilith) shares with the snake, Samael, now incarnated in the figure of Shechem.
It is difficult for Dinah’s brothers to accept these circumstances. They know their sister well, and they recognize her connections to Esau, to the snake, to Lilith. They, however, believe that Dinah has already been healed, so there is no good reason for the snake to possess her:
And this is the matter of ‘Should our sister be treated like a whore?’: Lilith, the first Eve, is called ‘the wife of harlotry’… and the explanation of this is that any given prostitute is Lilith, because she was originally in Adam’s household, and then went out, and always abides in the desert, as is well known. This is why, in Aramaic, prostitutes are called n’fakat bra – she who goes out, because she was Adam’s wife, and then carried on an illicit relationship with Samael.
This is the meaning of the words ‘like a whore:’ Is our sister still like a whore? See, she has already been purified, and the snake in her no longer has power over her.25
The brothers cannot accept the marriage of Dinah and Shehem, just as their father Jacob could not accept the marriage of Dinah and Esau. Jacob, however, seems to have learned his lesson. The Midrash has God tell Jacob, “You would not give her willingly to your brother Esau, so Shechem will come and take her against your will.”26 Earlier, Jacob had tried to deny the spirit of Lilith in his daughter, but this time he resigns himself to it. Between the time that Jacob saved Dinah from Esau by hiding her in a chest, and the rape by Shechem, he had undergone a life-transforming experience. He had struggled with the angel, perhaps Esau’s angel, and he had defeated him. Between these two episodes, Jacob had successfully contended with the dark and repressed shadow-side of his psyche. He had also received a new name – Israel. This, then, is really why Jacob does not interfere in the Dinah episode. He has allowed the dark to enter his light.
Jacob’s sons, however, did not metamorphose like their father. They are still captives of the old, traditional world in which they grew up. They are outraged by Jacob’s seeming indifference, and when they cry out, “Will he then make our sister like a whore?” they are protesting against the marriage of Dinah to Shechem. How can her own father accept such a thing? Does he think of Dinah as Lilith? Shimon and Levi do not yet understand the profound change which transformed their father on that fateful night when he wrestled alone with his dark side.
The Ari goes on to say that, although Dinah and Shechem’s encounter was not successful in this incarnation, some good came of it nonetheless. We will consider what possible good can be said to have come out of the heinous crime of rape – in the following chapter.
In Dinah, the Ari tells us, there is a reincarnation of the soul of her paternal great grandmother – that is, Abraham’s mother, Amitlai, the daughter of Carnebo.27 We are told in midrash that Abraham was conceived when Terah, Abraham’s father, slept with Amitlai when she had her monthly period, an act of strictly proscribed sexual intercourse.28 The Kabbalists maintain that holy souls often descend into the world through disreputable circumstances, but those souls that ascend must undergo a purification process to cleanse them of their impurities.29 The children of Israel cannot evolve from Abraham until this impurity has been refined, just as the body must reject food that it cannot digest.
According to the mystical theories of the Ari, Dinah had inherited the menstrual impurity that Abraham had absorbed from his parents. This is how he explains the fact that her name, Dinah, is composed of the same letters as niddah,30 the Hebrew word for a woman during her menstruation. But, when Shechem ben Hamor had sexual intercourse with Dinah, her ritual impurity was transferred to him:
And this is the matter of Dinah-Niddah before she was purified, when Shechem ben Hamor slept with her. She was then purified, as it says “her impurity is communicated to him” (Lev. 15:24), as it says in the Zohar, that she then became pure (ZOHAR REF.) (The name) Dinah is therefore composed of the same letters as niddah.
In Leviticus, the transfer of ritual impurity through sexual relations is very similar to how a disease is transmitted: the woman stays impure, and the man who lays with her also becomes impure. By contrast, in the Lurianic view as expressed by R. Hayyim Vital, we are dealing not with technical but with metaphysical impurity. In this case, the man becomes impure from their sexual contact, while the woman is purified through this deed. While this may seem counter-intuitive, especially in the case of a rape, for the Ari, Dinah’s name signified menstrual impurity (niddah) until she was purged of that impurity by being raped by Shechem ben Hamor. The rape is thus powerfully re-imagined through the Ari’s reincarnational reading of Scripture as an act of healing. The taint from Amitlai and Terah’s forbidden intercourse was eradicated and the future nation of Israel was cleansed of this metaphysical stain. We recall that, according to the Ari’s reincarnational teachings, Dinah is a reincarnation of Amitlai, meaning that Amitlai returns to this world as her own granddaughter so she can experience the purification of her own flesh:
And Amitlai, Terah’s wife, Abraham’s mother, was also reincarnated in Dinah the daughter of Leah…because she slept with Terah when she was ritually impure. The same event re- occurred to her when she had sexual intercourse with Shechem ben Hamor the Hivite, since a non-Jew does not keep the niddah restrictions, and she was punished this way. Another advantage of this was, as the biblical verse says “her impurity is communicated to him” (Lev. 15:24). Someone who has intercourse with a woman during her menstrual period absorbs that impurity, so Shechem ben Hamor took on himself all of Dinah’s uncleanness when he had sex with her, leaving her pure and healed.31
In her present incarnation as Dinah, Amitlai had been born Jewish (could Abraham’s mother not be Jewish?), so she certainly kept the menstrual impurity laws. The non-Jew, Shechem, however, did not need to keep these laws, so he did not need this reason to keep away from her. By having sex with her, he unintentionally absorbed her inherited metaphysical impurity into his own soul, and thereby becoming an unwitting accomplice in the redemption of Lilith.
It is no surprise that the hated figure of Lilith is associated with women’s ritual impurity. In the following analysis, the Zohar refers to both higher woman – the Shekhina – and to earthly woman, who both effects and is a symbol for what takes place “above.” The earthly woman, who is impure, symbolizes the situation in which the snake has power over the Shekhina and defiles her. Lilithian traits are attributed to the ritually impure woman – unkempt hair, long and dirty nails. Any man who dares approach such a woman causes serious injury to the masculine aspect of the divinity:
“Do not come near a woman during her menstrual impurity” (Lev. 18:19). – concerning this matter it says ‘The secret of the LORD is for those that fear Him” (Ps. 25:14)…as we learned: When the powerful supernal snake is awakened, because of the people of the world’s sins, and begins to connect with the woman and defiles her, the man should separate from her. She has become impure, she is called the impure one, and it is not fitting that the man approach her.32
Until this point, the Zohar is referring to the supernal male and female, but after this to a menstrually impure woman of our world and a man who approaches her:
Whosoever approaches her causes damage above, since this sin arouses the powerful supernal snake, who defiles a place that should not be defiled, and attaches himself to the woman. (As a result) the man becomes hairy, and the woman becomes impure… her hair and her nails grow long – and then harsh judgment prevails…When the woman wants to purify herself she needs to cut off the hair that grew from the day she was defiled, and to cut her nails, along with all the filth they contain.33
In the Zohar, menstrual impurity is the classic example of a woman’s curse. The Zohar goes on to identify menstrual impurity with the cycle of the moon. This reading is based on a talmudic legend in which the sun and moon were originally the same size, but when the moon complained, God diminished the size of the moon. In further dialogue with the moon, God promises that the people of Israel will bring an offering every new lunar month, so that God can atone for this unfairness to the moon.34
R. Shimon said: The Holy One, blessed be He said, “Bring for Me an atonement-offering on the New Moon” (REF) ‘for Me,’ explicitly, in order that the snake be removed…and why? Because I lessened the moon, and it is now ruled over by someone who should not rule over it. This it why it says “Do not come near a woman during her menstrual impurity” (Lev. 18:19).35
The linkage between the two biblical verses could suggest that, just as God begs forgiveness for discriminating against the moon, so too God will one day seek forgiveness for social and religious discrimination against women. Since the waxing and waning moon is associated with women’s cycles, the Bible hints toward a change in women’s status, in the verse, “And the light of the moon shall become like the light of the sun (Isaiah30:26). So too in the case of menstrual impurity, there is a midrash claiming that a time will come when this type of impurity will disappear. We will then say “Blessed is He who makes that which was forbidden permissible:”
“And what is meant by ‘releases that which was imprisoned’ [in the morning blessings Heb. assurim means prisoners, but it can also be interpreted as ‘that which is forbidden’). There is no greater prohibition than that of niddah, when a woman sees blood, and God forbids her to her husband. And in the future she will be permitted…(as it says) “And I will cause…the spirit of impurity to pass from the land” (Zechariah 13:2). ‘Impurity’ means that of the niddah, as it says “Do not come near a woman during her menstrual impurity” (Lev. 18:19).36
In the messianic future, menstrual impurity, as one of the curses upon Eve, will be rescinded.
For the Ari, this shift in orientation occurred as a result of the tragic encounter between Shechem and Dinah. Dinah, conscious of her mother’s humiliation, decided to transform the insecurities that caused such insult to her mother into a means of self-empowerment. Allying herself with the rejected (m’nudim) aspects of her mother Leah, Dinah is identified with niddah, because she chooses to use these subversive elements as a model for her own feminine identity. She actively becomes everything man fears. She realizes that, if men are so terrified by Lilith, and need to exorcise her from all social intercourse, then she must be a source of great strength and power, so she becomes a Lilith. When Jacob’s family settles in Canaan, Dinah reveals this other side of herself. Dinah “goes out” of the accepted boundaries to empower herself in spite of masculine fears of assertive women. The fact that her father hides her in a chest during the encounter with her wild uncle Esau only reinforces her attitude. She knows that her father is repulsed by her, as he was by her mother. Even without his saying so, Dinah senses her father’s terror that her uncle, the “man of the field” will desire her. She understands that, in her father’s mind, she really should belong to Esau.
In Lurianic thought, Dinah turns her status as a niddah into a source of strength. In taking this stance, the Ari was going against a powerful misogynist tendency in medieval Jewish thought. Popular superstitions about the ties between a woman in her menstrual period and occult, nefarious powers abounded in the middle ages. Some very startling examples can be found in the Ramban’s commentary on the Torah, from the generation before the Zohar.37 The Zohar also sees the niddah as a threatening figure38 that should not be allowed into the proximity of mother-Shekhinah, any more than “the alien fire” offered by the sons of Aaron in Leviticus.39 Lurianic Kabbalah was aware of these ideas when describing Dinah as the symbol of metaphysical niddah, but with its mode of reincarnational reading and its myth of tikkun, the Ari pushed Dinah’s image in a new direction.
To understand this move, it is helpful to compare Dinah’s rape by Shechem to the rape of Tamar, the daughter of King David, who is assaulted by her brother Amnon. These two rapes differ from one another in one very important way: Amnon’s great love of Tamar turns into hate the moment the rape is over. His first words were sexually inviting (“Come lie with me, sister”), then insensitive (“he would not listen to her ,”) then physically abusive (“He overpowered her and lay with her by force”), and finally hateful (“Amnon felt a very great loathing for her;” II Sam. 13:11-15). The moment he realized that he had lost his self-control, he decides that there is something demonic in the woman that brought him to this state, and he becomes terrified of her. He casts her from him in disgust, despite her plea that she at least be allowed to remain in his house. For her, his throwing her into the street and leaving her to a life of shame and humiliation is worse than the rape itself, so she begs him not to cast her away.
Shechem, on the other hand, loves Dinah more with every passing moment. At first, he was so sexually aroused by her that he took hold of her by force and raped her. Afterwards he has a change of heart, and his feelings toward her grow tender. It is only after abusing her that he falls in love. In stark contrast to Amnon, Shehem ben Hamor’s words go in exactly the opposite direction: from violence, to tenderness, to love, a movement which has not been lost on traditional interpreters.40
These two paired, yet opposing stories continue our quest for integration. Tamar wanted to be chaste and modest. She identified herself with the Eve archetype: the beautiful, comely housewife, and she suggests that her brother ask to marry her. She tried to be the type of woman that men could appreciate and love, but in the end she was humiliated, brutally abused, and disgraced.
Dinah, on the other hand, accepted the Lilith in herself, and, though she does not imagine herself worthy of love, in the end it is she who is both loved and desired. Dinah became the nidah woman. Men will desire her precisely because she behaves scandalously, and they will also be threatened by her, just as her father Jacob was threatened by her mother Leah’s expressed sexuality. She realizes that brutal men (like her uncle Esau) may become inflamed with lust and force themselves on her. But Shechem ben Hamor showed Dinah that she could be loved – that there are men who are not afraid of their desire. The encounter with Shechem transforms Dinah. She is no longer the quintessential niddah because she has learned that the Lilith inside her need not be ostracized. Her father had tried to convince her that Lilith can never be loved. But Shechem learns to love Lilith; he loves her so passionately that he is willing to circumcise himself for her, and to convince all of his kinsmen to do likewise.
The Shechem to whom we have borne witness has two sides – one, brutal and one, loving. His kelippah side, like a porous shell, absorbed Dinah’s niddah state, so that she might dispose of it. In the Ari’s reincarnational scheme, Shechem’s inner nature is said to have evolved over many incarnations into a great scholar from the age of the Mishnah, Rabbi Hananyah ben Teradion. The Ari makes this connection based on a verse describing how Shechem and his father Hamor persuade their kinsmen to circumcise themselves. Shechem and Hamor say to the people of their town that the land is rahavat yadayim – large enough for all of them (Gen. 34: 22). The initials of R. Hananyah ben Teradion’s name are r’h’b’t which form the Hebrew word rahavat; this rahavat, or largesse, hints at R. Hananyah’s soul, which was already present in Shechem. As R. Hayyim Vital puts it: “And it is possible that the soul of R. Hananyah was mixed in the kelippah of the soul of Shechem ben Hamor the Hivite, which is why he had the power to take Dinah the daughter of Jacob.”41
R. Hananyah ben Tradion is numbered among the “Ten Martyrs” in Jewish tradition, one of the mishnaic sages burned at the stake by the Romans. Risking his life for the study of Torah, he defied the law, even though one of his teachers demanded that he refrain from doing so.42 Caught performing the outlawed act of teaching Torah – sitting with the Torah scroll in his lap – the Romans wrapped him up in the Torah scroll, tied him to the stake, and, embraced by its letters, he goes up in flames. There is no doubt that R. Hananyah ben Teradion – R’h’v’t’ – has a certain largesse, or expansion of his soul.
The Ari teaches us that R. Hananyah ben Teradion is an incarnation of Shechem ben Hamor who raped Dinah when she was in her metaphysical niddah state. “And he (R. Hananyah) was therefore killed, in order that he be purged.”43 We recall the Zohar’s teaching: “Concerning those who have relations with a menstruating woman, it says, ‘And they offered before the LORD alien fire, which He had not enjoined upon them. And fire came forth from the LORD, and consumed them; thus they died’ (Lev 10:1-2).44 The two halves of this verse from Leviticus describe different parts of R. Hananyah’s fate. In his previous incarnation as Shechem ben Hamor, he lay with Dinah during her period, sinning by symbolically bringing a strange fire. Now he must be purged in fire and burned at the stake in order to fix his soul. R. Hananyah was a man whose passionate soul was on fire with love – either love for a woman, as in his previous incarnation, or love for God. Thus, his meta-historical image takes shape in the Ari’s mind.
In his last conversation with his students and his daughter, we see how he relates to what is happening:
His daughter said to him: ‘Father, must I see you thus?’ He said to her: ‘If I was being burnt alone, it would be very difficult for me. Now that I am being burnt together with a Torah scroll – He who will avenge the disgrace of the Torah will avenge my disgrace also.’ His students said to him: ‘Our master, what do you see?’He said to them: ‘The parchment is burning, and the letters are flying in the air.45
While R. Hananyah was incensed at his fate, he nevertheless finds comfort in the fact that the Torah is being burned together with him. Furthermore, he knows that the Torah can never really be burned – it is only the parchment that is burning – the letters are being released, ascending like a sacrificial offering to heaven. In other words, only his body was being burnt, while the letters of his soul were also flying high. This image reminds us of the Lurianic process of clarification of the soul, in which the external aspect is purged, allowing the sacred, spiritual essence to unfold. Thus, R. Hananyah’s soul is freed of the impurities that encased it in his previous incarnation.
R. Hananyah’s tragic saga is also involved in Lilith’s clarification process, which began with Leah, continued with Dinah, and passed via Shechem to R. Hananyah’s two daughters.46 The Talmud tells us that as an additional punishment for R. Hananyah, the Romans executed his wife and sent a daughter of his to a brothel in Rome. A second daughter was Beruriah, R. Meir’s wife. After this edict, Beruriah persuaded her husband to travel to Rome to save her sister from this predicament. R. Meir disguises himself as a Roman cavalryman, goes to the brothel, and tries to convince his sister-in-law to sleep with him, in order to determine whether she has remained a virgin.
She answered him, “I am ritually unclean” (niddah). He said to her, “I will wait for you.” She said to him, “There are many others here, more beautiful than me.” He said to himself: It appears that she has not sinned. She says the same to everyone.47
R. Meir was successful in his getting his sister-in-law out of the brothel, but that is neither the end of the story, nor the end of R. Meir’s affairs with prostitutes. When the Romans heard about R. Meir’s deed, they hung his picture on the gate of the city and put out a warrant for his arrest:
They put R. Meir’s picture on the gate of the city and said: Anyone who sees this man should turn him in. One day he was identified by some people, who pursued him. He ran away from them, and entered a brothel…Elijah came disguised as a prostitute and embraced him. His pursuers said to themselves. This man could not, God forbid, have been R. Meir. He would never have done such a thing.48
There are conflicting opinions in the Talmud as to whether this was the reason that R. Meir left Israel and moved to Babylon, or whether it was because of “the story of Beruriah,” which we analyzed at length above.
In this extended story, R. Meir appears as a master of deception. Not every rabbi could masquerade as a Roman cavalryman, who is well versed in the ways and manners of whorehouses, nor would Elijah reveal himself to just any sage in the form of a prostitute who identifies him as a regular customer. Three times, R. Meir assumes false identities, and each time the borrowed identity has overtones of harlotry. What does this tell us about R. Meir? Is he attracted to the “other side?” Are role-playing and masquerading his means of facing it?
R. Meir’s double-edged personality appears to have caused some consternation among his colleagues. The Talmud relates that, although R. Meir was regarded as the most learned man in his generation, yet his opinions were not always accepted as halakhah.
R. Ahah bar Hanina said: It is revealed and known before the One who created the world that no one in his generation could compare to R. Meir. Then why are not all halachic rulings according to him? Because his colleagues could not always fathom his intentions, since he called pure impure, and proved it, or impure pure, and proved it.49
The Ari maintains that R. Meir is linked to partzuf Leah, which is why his colleagues could not understand him.50 Our reading of Beruriah was that she also came from partzuf Leah, but was not able to integrate the sexual aspects of her personality or to have her intellectual side accepted by her male peers. The Ari takes what we might characterize as a long view. He sees the tragic saga of Beruriah’s family as making a tikkun for that incarnation in which R. Hananyah was present in the soul of Shechem who raped Dinah, the daughter of Leah:
Therefore he (R. Hananyah ben Teradion) was killed, in order that he be purged. This is also why a decree that his wife be sent to a house of prostitution was issued, as it says, “And Dinah the daughter of Leah “went out.” It was because she went out that Shechem raped her.51
For some reason, R. Hayyim Vital writes that R. Hananyah’s wife was forced to become a prostitute rather than his daughter, as our edition of the Talmud states. It is possible that, just as Dinah continued in her mother’s footsteps, so, too, in R. Hayyim’s mind, the images of R. Hananyah’s wife and daughter became interchangeable. It may also be because Lurianic thought identifies a man’s wife with her husband. The women in R. Hananyah’ s life are thus understood as an expression of his own female side. Just as in another incarnation he raped Dinah, so too, his own feminine side must have suffered rape. This is the real significance of the tikkun that occurs when his daughter ends up in a house of prostitution.52
R. Hananyah participated in the integration of Lilith, not only in death, but also in life. There are a few halakhic rulings brought in his name in the Talmud. One of them has to do with the relationship between the appreciation of beauty and the importance of forgiveness:
Both the king and the bride should not wash their faces (on Yom Kippur). R. Hananyah ben Teradion said in the name of R. Eliezer: The king and the bride should wash their faces…
Based on what reasoning did R. Hananyah ben Teradion permit kings and brides to wash their faces? Because it says, “When your eyes behold a king in his beauty” (Isa. 33:17). And for what reason did he permit a bride to wash her face? So that she should not be displeasing to her husband.53
R. Hananyah has enormous respect for regal beauty. He argues that it takes precedence over the injunction against washing on Yom Kippur. This is also the case with a bride: it is more important that she be beautiful than that she keep all the laws of the fast. From a religious standpoint, this is clearly a controversial approach.
We too, have been highly controversial in this chapter. By following the lineage of Shechem ben Hamor, we have shown how the Ari understands the tikkun of the negative energy present at Dinah’s rape. Such a reading of such a heinous act is undoubtedly provocative. In the following chapters, we will continue along the same lines to trace the saga of these two figures as they have been presented in Lurianic Kabbalah.
What was Dinah’s fate after the rape, after her brothers killed all the inhabitants of Shechem, including her would-be bridegroom? The Bible tells us nothing about the rest of her life, but the midrash offers three alternative scenarios:
Scenario 1: Dinah refuses to return home because of her shame and fear for her future. In order to set things straight, Shimon, her brother, promises to marry her. This is the version of Midrash Bereshit Rabbah.54 According to this version, Dinah had a son from Shechem, whom Shimon raised as if he were one of his own.
Scenario 2. An opinion in Baba Batra claims that, after the rape, Dinah married Job, who was a rich and successful non-Jew. According to this opinion, it was Dinah, Job’s wife, who said to him, “Bless (that is, curse) God and die” (Job 2:9).
“…and there are those who say that Job lived at the time of Jacob, and he married Dinah the daughter of Jacob. Here (when Job speaks to his wife) it says “You talk as any shameless woman would talk” (Job 2:10) (Heb. n’vailot), and there (in the story of Dinah and Shechem) it says, “because he had committed a shameless act (n’vaila) in Israel.”55
Scenario 3. The version of Pirke d’Rabbi Eliezer claims that Dinah had a child from her encounter with Shechem. Her brothers almost killed the baby because of the offense to the family’s honor:
…”Dinah went out”…and got pregnant and gave birth to Asnat. Israel’s sons thought to kill her, saying: Now all the inhabitants of the land will say that a daughter of harlotry dwells in the tents of Jacob. What did Jacob do? He brought a golden corolla with the holy name written on it, hung it on her neck, and sent her away.
Everything is known to the Holy One, blessed be He. The angel Michael descended from heaven and took her to Egypt to the house of Poti-phera. Asnat was worthy of being Joseph’s wife, and Potifar’s wife was barren, so she raised her like her own daughter. When Joseph went down to Egypt, he married her, as it says,” And he gave him Asnat, the daughter of Poti-phera, the priest of On” (Gen. 41: 45).56
R. Hayyim Vital comments, “All the events that took place for our ancestors, and all the Biblical stories, cannot be understand in their simple sense, and they are certainly not coincidences.”57 In our chapter “Dinah/Niddah,” we quoted the Lurianic view that all of Dinah’s impurity was transferred to Shechem. In the reincarnational approach that we develop in this chapter, purification happens across generations and in different marriages and sexual liaisons. This means that we have to tease out Dinah’s destiny in each of these three marriages to witness how the process of tikkun takes place.
The midrash in Pirke d’Rebbi Eliezer links together the stories of Dinah, Joseph and Asnat, the daughter of Poti-phera, his wife. According to this midrash, each of Jacob’s sons was born with a twin sister who was intended to be his wife. Dinah’s birth was something of a surprise, since she had no twin brother. This is why she was given the name Dinah, which indicates judgment and separation.
Dinah was the first to be born without a twin. Later, Joseph was born to Rachel, also without his twin wife. This was because Asnat, Dinah’s daughter, was his destined soul-mate.58 According to the midrash, Jacob’s children are a unique breed who should not intermarry with the daughters of Canaan.
In this respect, they are similar to Cain and Abel. Other than their parents, who were they to marry? The rabbis maintained that Cain and Abel had twin sisters who became their wives.59 In other words, the entire human race stems from incest. The rabbis derived divine dispensation for what we might regard as an unnatural practice from a juxtaposition of two biblical verses: 1.) “I declare, “the world is built on loving-kindness (hesed)” (Ps. 89:3) and 2.) “If a man marries his sister, the daughter of either his father or his mother, so that he sees her nakedness and she sees his nakedness, it is hesed,” a word which we can suppose was used euphemistically instead of the normal word for disgrace. The Talmud understands that what became shameful to us after the Torah was given was not prior to its revelation
If the situation in which a brother marries his sister, like that of Cain and Abel or the sons of Jacob, is called hesed, then it makes perfect sense to call the first daughter to be born without a twin Dinah. The midrash also claims that Dinah’s being born alone is what caused Shechem’s attraction for her. Dinah is a solitary player, independent and open to change: “What did Shechem ben Hamor do? He brought girls that played on drums and Dinah went out to see these daughters of the land playing. He abducted her and laid with her. She became pregnant, and gave birth to Asnat.”60
When the Talmud lists the children who were born from improper sexual encounters, it calls them “the children of Asnat M’shaga’at” (meaning, “the Crazy”) The initials of Asnat’s name are an acronym created by the first letters of the words “the children of rape” (just as Asnat was born of rape), the “children of the hated one” (Leah, Asnat’s grandmother, the wife Jacob despised), the “children of excommunication,” and the “children of the one who was replaced.”61 Asnat was the daughter of a woman who was raped, and the granddaughter’s of a woman despised. As a result, she was regarded as an outsider. The midrash brings her back, by marrying her to Joseph. These two lost and hated children find each other when exiled in Egypt, wed, and have their own children.62
This is a match that promises integration – a representative of the sexually assertive family of Leah marries someone who epitomizes the sexual abstinence so characteristic of her sister Rachel – Joseph “the righteous.” The Rabbis view Joseph as a repetition of the Jacob figure, while Lurianic Kabbalah identifies Asnat with Leah.63 The children born to the couple, Menashe and Ephraim, become virtual members of the tribes of Israel. Yet only half the tribe of Menashe enters the land, preferring instead to inherit the land of Og, king of Bashan. The Ari claims this is on account of the inherited stain: “Menashe was the son of Asnat the daughter of Dinah from Shehem, and because of this impurity he chose to stay outside of the land of Israel.”64 By the same token, the Ari claims Asnat as a “holy soul.” The rest of her children (75%) were an integral part of Israel, together with the descendants of Rachel’s beloved son Joseph.
The fact that R. Hayyim Vital adopts Pirke d’Rebbi Eliezer’s version of the story of Asnat does not prevent his also adopting the midrashic version of the story in which Dinah gives birth to a son rather than a daughter – Shaul “the son of the Canaanite woman,” who appears in the list of Shimon’s sons. And Lurianic Kabbalah also adopts the version of the story in which Dinah becomes the wife of Job rather than of her brother Simon:
Know that Job and his wife are reincarnations of Terah and his wife, who were the parents of our father Abraham, of blessed memory. Amitlai, the daughter of Carnebo, who was mentioned by the Rabbis, was reincarnated in Dinah the daughter of Leah, and married Job…(Terah) slept with his wife during her menstrual impurity. You must know what the Zohar says, that a leper refers to he who has slept with a niddah.65 This is why Job was smitten with boils, because boils is one of the types of leprosy. His (Terah’s) wife was reincarnated as Dinah the daughter of Leah (the wife of Job), since the same evil fate befell her – a Canaanite had intercourse with her (during her period), since they do not keep the laws of niddah. This is also the secret of how her impurity66 was transferred to Shechem ben Hamor, as it says, “her impurity is communicated to him” (Lev. 15:24), for one who lays with a niddah absorbs all her impurity and uncleanness. Dinah was healed, but Job was smitten with boils. It seems to me that we also heard that Terah laid with a menstruating woman against her will. He was therefore smitten by boils, whereas she was not. She had to have sexual relations with a Canaanite in order to be purged of that impurity.
In the Zohar, as we have previously mentioned, burning fire symbolizes the niddah. We have suggested that if Dinah saw herself through her father Jacob’s eyes, she must have felt herself to be a sort of meta-nidah. This self-image perpetuated an ancient saga which began at the time of Terah and his wife. The Talmudic story in which Dinah marries Job fits in well with such an approach, because boils are purported to result from an imbalance of fire. Job, according to the Ari, was a tikkun of Terah, Abraham’s father. He was plagued with a fire which ravaged his body in order to compensate for the excess fire which caused him to lie with Amitlai, his wife in a previous incarnation. It must be that R. Hananyah ben Teradion, who was burnt at the stake by the Romans, was a reincarnation of Terah and Job in order to complete this cycle of tikkun. ????
(THERE WAS NOTHING ABOUT THIS IN THE HANANYAH BEN TERADYON CHAPTER. IS THERE A LURIA/VITAL SOURCE MISSING?)
What was Dinah’s psychological state when she became Job’s wife? Job’s wife is characterized by her inability to deal with uncertainty. Her world has collapsed: her children have died, her house has been destroyed, her property has been looted, and her husband is smitten with boils. For Job’s wife, a God who could act in such a way could only be an evil god, a god who deserves to be cursed, even though the punishment for such a curse might be life itself:
His wife said to him, “You still keep your integrity! Blaspheme God and die!” But he said to her, “You talk as any shameless woman might talk! Should we accept only good from God and not accept evil?” For all that, Job said nothing sinful. (Job 2: 9-10)
Unlike his wife, Job is capable of containing uncertainty. His fate is indeed bitter, but that in itself does not lead him astray. His wife and his three friends are tormented by questions that remain open, because they fear that any doubt is a negation of their religious stance.67
If we consider Job’s wife through rabbinic eyes, and identify her with Dinah, then we can better understand the story of a woman who knows only too much humiliation and suffering. Dinah was hated by her father, she knew a short-lived, brutal romance (beginning in rape) which was then severed by her hot-headed brothers, she was expelled from her family, and finally got married to a good hearted, successful man – Job. After years of living the good life, everything in her world collapses again, (with the Targum blaming Lilith).68 Who can blame her for collapsing with it?
The book of Job, however, purports to have a happy ending. The unfortunate couple have new children and they acquire great riches. Dinah’s last days with Job are pleasant and fulfilling, and the daughters to whom she gives birth after the catastrophe are the most beautiful in the world:
Thus the LORD blessed the latter years of Job’s life more than the former. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand she- asses. He also had seven sons and three daughters. The first he named Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren- happuch. Nowhere in the land were women as beautiful as Job’s daughters to be found. He gave them estates together with their brothers” (Job 42:12-15).
Unlike many women in the world of the Bible, including their unnamed mother, Job’s daughters do have names. Furthermore, we cannot ignore the fact that, in contrast to the norms of the society in which he lived, Job bequeathed lands to his daughters as well as to his sons. If Job’s wife is Dinah, the daughter of Leah, then her influence is likely to have been felt in ensuring her daughters’ equal rights. We remember, of course, that Lilith had already demanded equality in the Garden of Eden. Her fighting spirit thus asserted itself first through Leah’s relationship with Jacob, then through Dinah, who was independent (“born without a twin”), and eventually through Dinah’s daughters who each received that which their contemporaries could only dream of – an inheritance equal to that of their brothers.69
We now turn to the third scenario, in which Dinah refused to leave Shechem’s house until her brother Shimon promised to marry her. According to this approach, Shimon married her and raised the son she bore from her liaison with Shechem as if he were his own son.
“They took Dinah” – R. Yudin said: They dragged her out…R. Huna said: She said: Where will I hide my shame? Then Shimon swore that he would marry her. As the bible says (when numbering the sons of Shimon): “And Shaul the son of the Canaanite woman” (Gen46:10) – the son of Dinah who was impregnated by a Canaanite…R. Yehuda said: That he (Shimon) behaved like a Canaanite.70
Lurianic Kabbalah also adopts this version of Dinah’s story. In the view of the Ari, it is only fitting that Shimon marry Dinah, because he is linked to din and g’vurah, which are the sources of evil and the kelippot. This trait enables him to successfully contend with Dinah’s problematic nature – the Lilithian side – which must be weaned of its addiction to evil and gradually nurtured back into Adam’s arms. The sitra ahra, the demonic, “other side,” is linked to the sefirah of din and gevurah. Shimon is rooted in this sefirah, and is thus a natural partner for Dinah. As R. Hayyim Vital puts it:
Afterwards, Shimon married her, as we know, because Reuben is hesed and Shmon is gvurah, from where all the kelippot come…Shimon is sham avon (sin is there), because that is where sin, which is the sitra ahra, clings.71
Whoever enters upon a quest that leads him or her into questionable situations is in grave spititual danger. Only greatness of soul can enable such a person to take these risks. Shimon was such a person. The greatness of his soul allowed him to marry his sister Dinah, an act which affected his descendants throughout the course of Jewish history.72
In the book of Numbers we are told that, during their wanderings in the desert, Israel camped at Shittim. They were accosted by the Midianites, with whom they began to develop sexual and ritual ties, which were unacceptable to Israel’s spiritual leadership. The rebels were led by the prince of the tribe of Shimon, Zimri ben Salu. Zimri is attracted to Cozbi bat Zur, a Midianite princess, and he is not willing to leave her, even though Moses, Aaron, and the elders demand that he do so. Pinhas, Aaron’s grandson, takes his sword and, with one fell blow, he kills them both as they defiantly make love in the Tent of Meeting.73 This action marks the end of a plague that was afflicting the Israelites (Num. 25:1-9).
As always, in order to better understand the way in which Lurianic Kabbalah relates to the biblical narrative, we first need to see how this particular story was discussed in rabbinic literature. The Rabbis maintained that Israel’s fatal attraction to the Moabite and Midianite women resulted from seduction:
A (Moabite) girl would go out, adorned and perfumed, and seduce him (the Israelite man), and say to him: “Why do we love you when you despise us? Take this tool without paying! We are all the children of one father, Terah the father of Abraham! You say that you will not eat from our sacrifices and our cooking? Take these young calves and chickens – slaughter them according to your rules and eat!” She would then give him wine to drink, and the devil would burn in him, and he would err after her.74
According to this midrash, the Moabite and Midianite women are professional seductresses. The one mentioned by name – Cozbi bat Zur – is the paradigm of a seductive women. Brazen seduction is also Lilith’s primary weapon in her war against men. She takes advantage of men’s weakness, and they succumb to her, becoming her bonded servants. It therefore is not surprising that the Ari reads Cozbi as one of Lilith’s incarnations.
According to the rabbis, Cozbi had actually set her sights on Moses, but Zimri ben Salu, the prince of Shimon, desired her:
The tribe of Shimon approached Zimri ben Salu, and said to him: “They [Moses, Aaron and the elders] are sitting in judgment on capital offenses (see Num. 25: 4-5) and you sit in silence?” What did he do? He gathered twenty four thousand Israelites [the same number of Shimonites as died in the plague] and went to Cozbi.
He said to her, “Listen to me!”
She said to him, “I am a princess, and my father said to me, ‘You must listen only to their leader.’ He grabbed her by her hair and brought her to Moses.
He said to him, “Son of Amram, is she forbidden or permitted? If you say she is forbidden, who permitted the daughter of Jethro [Tzipporah, Moses’s wife] to you?
Moses could not remember the halakha. As it says, “[the whole Israelite community] were weeping at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting'” (Num. 25: 6).75
The Rabbis describe Zimri as brutal and violent. He grabs Cozbi by her hair and drags her against her will to Moses. The Rabbis view him as a rapist, since Cozbi is not interested in him, but rather in Moses. In Lurianic Kabbalah, Zimri is associated with another rapist, Shechem ben Hamor the Hivite, while Cozbi is identified with Dinah. The story of the rape thus repeats itself in a new incarnation.
Says the Ari, this act of Zimri’s is directly related to the marriage of Shimon and Dinah. In order to substantiate the link between Zimri and Shechem the son of Hamor, the Ari quotes the rabbis, who state that Zimri ben Salu, the prince of the tribe of Simon, is in fact Shaul, Dinah’s son from the rape by Shechem.76 As the son of that relationship, Zimri(=Shaul) would naturally enter into a similarly illicit sexual relationship, according to the Ari’s reincarnational thinking. This is how Lurianic Kabbalah represents the working out of the process of defilement and purification over several generations:
“Dinah’s roots can be traced to the sefirah of gevurah – dina kashya (harsh judgment) – and this is why Shimon married her. Since she had not yet completed her purification process, the offspring of her sexual relationship with the Canaanite man – who is identified with the snake image, and who is cursed, as it says “Cursed be Canaan” (Gen. 9: 25) – was “Shaul, the son of the Canaanite woman” (Gen. 46:10). The rabbis explained that this means the son of Dinah who slept with a Canaanite. He is also known as Shlomiel ben Zurishadai, and also as Zimri ben Salu, as the rabbis have explained.77
One would think that, by marrying Dinah, Shimon would be completely disassociating her from whatever had transpired between her and Shechem, but in the Ari’s understanding of things, events are cyclical. In this intergenerational web, one of the descendants of Shimon is a reincarnation of the soul of Shechem himself. On the surface, Shimon does, of course, remove Dinah from Shechem’s household and enable her to begin life anew. But she also brings all her past experiences with her – everything that occurred between her and the man who raped (and learned to love) her is still there. The story of Dinah and Shechem thus becomes Shimon’s personal story.
When a person enters into a relationship with somebody who has experienced personal trauma in a previous relationship, he/she takes on the difficult role of becoming the screen upon which the image of the previous partner is projected. When Dinah is intimate with Shimon, she must certainly be reminded of her rape experience. There will almost certainly be times when all of her rage and her sense of humiliation will therefore erupt on Shimon. Shimon thus gets to be seen as the archetypal image of her original trauma. In Lurianic reincarnation theory, whenever real personalities and archetypal images overlap, there must necessarily be at least a partial connection. If the male image in Dinah’s psyche contains both Shimon and Shechem, this implies that there is a profound empathy between them. Through the mythological expression of reincarnation, Shimon (in certain respects) becomes Shechem ben Hamor the moment he marries Dinah, the victim of rape. And Shimon’s son finds expression in the personage of “the prince of the house of Shimon,” Zimri ben Salu.
By the same token, Cozbi bat Zur embodies that Lilithness originally personified in Leah, and later inherited by Dinah. Zimri ben Salu who, in the eyes of the Rabbis and the Ari, is the spiritual son of Dinah, feels an erotic attraction to Cozbi, who represents an aspect of his mother. We have already discussed at length the Zoharic characterization of Leah as the embodiment of partzuf Leah and how, because Leah reminds him of his mother’s nakedness, Jacob feels repulsed by her.78 Here, on the other hand, in the Lurianic view, Zimri is drawn to Cozbi precisely because she reminds him of his mother. As R. Hayyim Vital puts it:
And due to the force of defilement [that of Shechem which was in Zimri’s soul] he [Zimri] was drawn to Cozbi… because she too possessed residual kelippah traces from Dinah, the mother of Shaul [ben Hacanaanit, who was Zimri]. She was his true soul-mate, except that the time was not yet ripe, so she was not yet ready.79
Zimri and Cozbi were heavenly soul-mates. These two souls are trying to put things together, but unsuccessfully. The first time around, he was a non-Jewish prince and she was Jacob’s daughter; the second time around she was a non-Jewish princess, while he was already a chief of the tribe of Shimon.80 From the point of view of Lurianic Kabbalah, Zimri’s fatal attraction to Cozbi was both authentic and sincere, only untimely. This means to say that, in her non-Jewish state, Cozbi was like an unripe fruit. Zimri needed to wait until she would feel an urge to become part of the Jewish people; only then could their relationship be fully realized.
On the surface, the Torah praises Pinhas for acting forcefully, stilling the confusion by a swift blow of his sword. Pinhas was a zealot, and in return for his zeal to protect Israel’s sanctity he was rewarded with eternal priesthood. Again, this is the obvious meaning of the text. If, however, the Ari is correct, and Zimri and Cozbi were in fact two unhappy souls who had been unsuccessfully attempting to become legitimately bonded for generations, how is it possible that they deserved the death sentence Pinhas meted out to them?
This question occupied R. Mordechai Yoseph of Izbetza in Mei Hashiloah. In his opinion, the deep connection between Zimri and Cozbi was that neither Moses nor Aharon did anything to stop them. The elders and the wise men saw this long-term tragedy in the making, and did not really know how to respond to it. Moses and Aharon watched and wept – “weeping at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting” (Num. 25:6). Only Pinhas, who, according to the Mei Hashiloah, was an impetuous youth, incapable of understanding deep things, could act in such a violent manner:
Pinhas…judged Zimri to be an adulterer…and he was totally unaware of Zimri’s deep inner nature, for she (Cozbi) was his soul-mate since the time of creation, as it was explained in the writings of the Ari. Even Moses, of blessed memory, did not want to intervene and decide that Zimri was deserving of the death sentence. Pinhas was therefore in this case like a youth, in that he could not comprehend the true depth of this matter. He was motivated by limited human intelligence. Even so, God loved him and could sanction his deed, since according to his limited understanding he had acted rightly in his zealotry, risking his life.81
Pinhas represents religious fundamentalism, which is often characterized by people who are incapable of seeing reality in a profound way. The more subtly you scan reality, the more you understand its multi-faceted nature. The zealot cannot. Precisely because of its superficiality, zealotry also cannot affect the deeper layers of reality. Pinhas can kill Zimri and Cozbi’s bodies, but their souls, incomprehensible to him, are not injured by his violent deed.
Zimri and Cozbi’s souls, which are actually the souls of Shechem and Dinah, descend into this plane of existence once again, in one of the most remarkable and little known stories of the Talmud: the story of Rabbi Akiva and the wife of Turnus Rufus the Wicked, discussed in the following chapter.
The story of Rabbi Akiva and his wife Rachel, the daughter of Calba Savua, is quite well known; her devotion and patience during the twenty-four years he spent apart from her are legendary.82 What is less widely known is that, according to Talmudic tradition, Rabbi Akiva also had another wife.83 Since R. Akiva became a legend in his own time, it is difficult to sort out fact from fabrication in the talmudic stories about him. For our purposes, the mythic figure who emerges from the midrashic sources more than suffices to help us understand the place he assumed in Lurianic thought.
R. Akiva’s relationship with the nameless wife of the Roman commissioner Turnus Rufus84 (the same man who would later condemn him to death),85 appears in a talmudic discussion concerning the legitimacy of admiring the beauty of a non-Jewish woman. The discussion begins, categorically, by stating that a Jew must never praise the beauty of a non-Jew:
‘Do not show them grace’ (Deut. 7: 2) – do not impart grace to them. This supports Rav, who said “It is forbidden for a person to say ‘How beautiful is this idol worshipper.'”86
The Talmud, however, does not immediately accept Rav’s opinion. Two stories of how great sages admired the beauty of Roman women are brought to contest it. The first story is about an encounter that occurred by the ruins of the Temple between Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel (who lived in the second generation after the destruction of the Temple) and a beautiful non-Jewish girl:
There is a story about Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel who was on a step on the Temple Mount, and saw a very beautiful non-Jewish woman. He said: “How great are Your works, O LORD” (Ps. 92:6).
R. Akiva also saw the wife of Turnus Rufus the Wicked. He spat, laughed, and cried: He spat – since she was created out of a foul drop. He laughed – since in the future she would convert, and he would marry her. He cried – at such beauty that would one day be buried in the earth.87
In response to these two stories, the Talmud says that even Rav would agree with Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Akiva, for Rav was the author of another law stating that whoever sees beautiful people should say the blessing: “Who has created such in His world.” The stories are brought to resolve the contradiction between Rav’s two statements. Beauty, whether non-Jewish or Jewish, should be acknowledged and blessed.
The enigmatic meeting between R. Akiva and the wife of the Roman commissioner has garnered very detailed talmudic commentary, possibly on the basis of a midrash that has been lost to us. One of the standard commentaries tells us that Turnus Rufus used to debate philosophical questions with R. Akiva from time to time, as was customary for Roman nobles. R. Akiva always won these debates:
He once came home angry and in a bad humor. His wife said to him, Why are you in such a bad mood? He said to her, because of R. Akiva, who argues with me about all manner of things daily. She said to him, Their (the Jews’) God hates sexual impropriety. Give me permission, and I will cause him to sin.
He gave her permission, she adorned herself, and went to R. Akiva.88
One wants to penetrate this terseness and ask how a Roman matron could arrange for a situation in which she and R. Akiva would find themselves alone in a secluded spot, and once there, how she might have gone about seducing him. She was obviously quite certain that no man – not even the most esteemed among the rabbis – could resist her charms. All we get is R. Akiva’s reaction, which, presumably, has been abridged by the Talmud. “When R. Akiva saw her, he spat, he laughed, and he cried.” The commentary amplifies the scene:
She said to him: What are these three things?He said to her: Two I will explain, the third I will not…I spat because you were created from an odious drop. I cried because of this beauty that will be swallowed in the earth. And he laughed, because he knew that in the future she would convert and marry him, and this he did not want to tell her.89
Even with the two explanations he gave, R. Akiba’s behavior must have been extremely confusing – spitting in disgust, laughing in secret expectation, crying in despair. At this moment she undergoes what we can only call a break-through moment. Akiba has challenged her sense of self challenge her sense of self, of men, and of the Jewish sages:
She said to him: Is there repentance? He said to her, Yes!
She went and converted, married R. Akiva, and brought him many riches.90
R. Akiva thus redeems the Lilithian aspect of Turnus Rufus’s wife.91 She approaches him illicitly, to seduce, and he causes her instead to come towards him in a way that is permitted by law, by means of conversion. It is no simple matter for the wife of a Roman commissioner to leave her people in order to become part of a persecuted nation. Her conversion is an emphatic expression of the spiritual metamorphosis she has undergone during this encounter with the great sage.
According to Lurianic Kabbalah, the wife of Turnus Rufus is an incarnation of the soul of Cozbi bat Zur, whereas R. Akiva is an incarnation of Zimri ben Salu: “Zimri is R. Akiva, who is his tikkun. And Cozbi’s tikkun is the matron (i.e. the wife of Turnus Rufus).”92
One of the threads to tie the story of Zimri and Cozbi to the story of R. Akiva and the wife of Turnus Rufus is the number 24,000. Twenty four thousand descendants of Shimon93 died in the plague which came as a punishment for Zimri and Cozbi’s illicit relationship. And 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiba died in a plague because, the Talmud says, they had no respect for each other.94 Lurianic Kabbalah connects these two facts and the larger stories within which they are embedded:
…And Zimri was Dinah’s son from before Shimon married her…and the 24,000 that were killed from the tribe of Shimon…are the 24,000 students of R. Akiva that died because they did not respect one another, since they remembered the sin of Shittim from which they were not yet purified, until all died a second death together.95
In light of this, the18th century Polish kabbalist, R. Yonatan Eibeshutz, provides an alternative explanation of R. Akiva’s behavior towards the wife of Turnus Rufus. In his opinion, R. Akiva was not weeping only for the Roman matron’s beauty which would one day disappear, but also because the meeting between them would lead to the death of 24,000 people:
We know what the Ari said, that Zimri was reincarnated in R. Akiva, and Cozbi in the wife of Turnus Rufus the Wicked. This is the reason that she converted and R. Akiva married her, because she was worthy of Zimri, except that she was unripe. This is why when he saw her, he cried and laughed. He laughed because he would marry her, and cried because of the previous incarnation, when there was a plague in Israel, which caused the deaths of twenty four thousand people, who were the students of R. Akiva.96
R. Akiva is in no hurry to get anywhere. He realizes that, though certain things may seem right at first glance, they often need to go through a lengthy process before they can be realized. This is something that Zimri ben Salu could not understand. He instinctively felt the connection between himself and Cozbi bat Zur, but he did not have the patience to clarify the nature of their relationship. In rabbinic and kabbalistic language, this over-hastiness to partake of something not yet sanctified is compared to eating unripe fruit. As R. Eibeshtzsaid, she was “worthy” of Zimri, but “unripe.”
Among the issues debated by R. Akiva and Turnus Rufus was a discussion, quoted by the Ari, which also sheds light on the nature of the ties between R. Akiva and the commissioner’s wife.
Once Turnus Rufus the Wicked asked R. Akiva whose acts are more perfect, those of humanity or those of God. He (R. Akiva) answered him; Those of humanity are more beautiful.
Turnus Rufus said to him: Behold the heavens and the earth. Can humanity create anything that compares to them?
R. Akiva said to him: Do not talk to me about things which are beyond (the reach of) created beings, over which they have no control. Talk rather about things that are accessible to people.
He said to him: Why do you circumcise?
He answered him: I knew you were going to ask me that, which is why I answered that human being’s deeds are more beautiful than God’s. R. Akiva brought him oats and loaves of bread. He said to him: This is God’s work, and this is humanity’s work. He said to him – are these not better than the oats?
Turnus Rufus said to him: If God desires circumcision, why are babies born uncircumcised?
R. Akiva said to him: And why does the umbilical cord come out attached to the infant’s stomach, so that his mother must cut it? And as for what you asked, why a baby is not born circumcised, that is because God gave the commandments to Israel in order to refine them. This is why David said “The word of the LORD is pure” (Ps.18:31)97
The Roman is in favor of things just as they are, whereas R. Akiva advocates upgrading nature for human usage. He therefore explains that the natural state of creation does not always express the most desirable situation for humanity: Wheat is only edible when it has been ground into flour, mixed with water and yeast, and baked. This is also how the Ari understands this issue:
And behold, on week-days one works, because work implies that things need to be fixed through actions. For, if the Holy One, blessed be He, had already created His world as it will be in the future…people would not have to do any work in order to eat. Now, however, we must plow and sow, etc., and separate the chaff and the straw and the bran which are all husks, and then expose it to fire, i.e. baking and cooking, and only then is it complete and fixed. And so it is with all work. As R. Akiva said to Turnus Rufus the Wicked about the tormouses that needed to be sweetened, and the wheat, etc.98
According to the Ari, the quintessential Jewish sage is defined by his ability to understand that things are not necessarily all they they appear to be on the surface. Rather than succumb to Lilith and be seduced by her charms, R. Akiva saw immediately that she was his soul-mate, but his extraordinary patience99 enabled him to restrain himself from acting on his impulses, as Zimri had with Cozbi. R. Akiva’s self-overcoming enabled him to help her overcome herself. At first she had believed herself capable of any nefarious seduction, like Lilith – little caring for true love. Her intention had been to deploy her sexuality as a weapon with which to destroy the Jewish sage. But R. Akiva’s great wisdom and patience turned her plans on their head. R. Akiva initiated Rufina into her spiritual quest.
According to the Ari, through his marriage to Turnus Rufus’s wife, R. Akiva fixed all of the previous unsuccessful relationships connected to his soul-root. He was not, however, only an incarnation of Zimri. Just as every woman who has Lilith in her soul is also said to have Leah in her soul, so too, every man who has relations with such a woman has an aspect of Jacob, especially R. Akiva, whose name is composed of the same letters as Jacob’s name, with the addition of only one letter:100
Know that R. Akiva is similar to our father Jacob, of blessed memory. This is why Akiva is composed of the same letters as Jacob, (with the addition of) an aleph. Just as Jacob shepherded his father-in-law’s sheep, so too did R. Akiva. And just as Jacob had two wives, so R. Akiva had two wives, the daughter of Calba Savua and the wife of Turnus Rufus the Wicked.
The daughter of Calba Savua parallels Rachel, while the wife of Tornosrufus parallels Leah.101
In Kabbalistic thought, Moses and Jacob are identified with each other. The Tikkuney Zohar explains that Moses represents the internal side of the Great Shepherd, while Jacob represents the external side.102 Continuing in this vein, Lurianic Kabbalah identifies R. Akiva with both Moses and Jacob.103 Moses, too, according to this approach, had two wives, Tzipporah the daughter of Jethro the priest of Midian, and “the Ethiopian woman that he took” (Num. 12:1):
R. Akiva was a spark of Moses’s soul. He was Calba Savua’s shepherd, and what happened to him, (was like what happened to) our teacher Moses, of blessed memory, (who would shepherd) the sheep of Jethro, and (like what happened to) Jacob, who (shepherded) the sheep of Laban. He also married the daughter (of Calba Savua), who was parallel to Rachel and Tzipporah, and then the wife of Turnus Rufus, just like Moses married the Queen of Ethiopia.104
The Bible does not go into detail about the nature of the relationship between Moses and the Ethiopian woman. Among the Rabbis there is a difference of opinion as to whether this refers to a second wife taken by Moses, or whether it actually means his wife Tzipporah, who is called an “Ethiopian woman.”105
A midrashic tradition exists to explain what happened to Moses between the time he ran away from Pharoah’s palace up until the time when he reappeared to redeem Israel. This tradition tells us that Moses became an African king who married the previous king’s wife, although he never had sexual contact with her.106 The Ari sees the Ethiopian woman as Moses’s first wife, who, as in the case of Adam and Jacob, was also the problematical woman, characterized as Lilith. The second woman, Tzipporah, is the legitimate wife, who parallels Eve and Rachel. For R. Akiva, who was the tikkun of both Moses and Jacob, Rachel, the daughter of Calba Savua, was Rachel-Tzipporah-Eve, while the wife of Turnus Rufus was Leah, the Ethiopian woman, and Lilith. In the Ari’s opinion, the fact that Moses refrained from sexual relations with the Ethiopian woman implied his own lack of perfection. Until R. Akiva’s time, there were either men who rejected Lilith – such as Jacob, who rejected Leah or Moses, who abstained from being with the Ethiopian woman – and there were men who wanted her immediately, such as Shechem ben Hamor or Zimri ben Salu. R. Akiva was the first to give Lilith a place in his world without taking immediate (sexual) advantage of her, thereby allowing her to first shed her negative kelippot.
Lilith’s greatest kelippah is her own self-image, imposed on her by an hostile and oppressive male-dominated society. She internalized the view that she could only be an evil woman, and this self-image was one of the tools by which that society buttressed itself against her. As long as Lilith identifies herself as Lilith, she reinforces the basic cultural assumptions of the patriarchate. R. Akiva, however respected Rufina’s Lilithian beauty, and was moved to tears by it. His tears come to prove that feminine beauty is both sacred and divine.
When martyred by Turnus Rufus’s brutal soldiers, R. Akiva said the Shma, and his soul departed when he said the word ehad – one.107 Lurianic Kabbalah views this moment as R. Akiva’s final attempt to unify the two sides of the feminine within God, partzuf Rachel with partzuf Leah, Lilith with Eve. “The reason R. Akiva’s soul left his body as he said the word ehad was that his intention was to unify the secret of the higher kisses.”108 In addition to Zimri ben Salu, who redeems the soul of Dinah/Cozbi bat Zur, R. Akiva had other reincarnations. In Lurianic Kabbalah, no one has only one incarnation. The Ari sees R. Akiva not only as a reincarnation of Zimri ben Salu, but also as the patriarch, Jacob, and as his son, Issachar. He is also part of the constellation of souls to descend from Cain, such as Esau, Jacob’s brother.109 The focus on R. Akiba as a climax of previous reincarnations and tikkunim had special significance in Lurianic Kabbalah, because a spark of Akiba’s soul, according to the Ari, was contained in that of his chief disciple, R. Hayyim Vital.110
In Lurianic Kabbalah, then, each person is invited to see himself or herself as an accumulation of various souls – which we can see as psychological processes bound together in a unique pattern at a specific point in time and space. A variety of different attributes of souls are involved in any one individual. In the example of R. Akiva, every aspect of his personality is a continuation of a different narrative line, a different incarnation, combined in the one-time conglomeration known as R. Akiva. Below, we summarize this part of our investigation by listing those aspects of R. Akiva that are related to Lilith’s clarification process:
1.) R. Akiva, an extremely influential leader of rabbinic Judaism, is considered the father of the Oral Torah.111 In this role he is an incarnation of the patriarch Jacob. His first wife, Rachel, is a reincarnation of the matriarch Rachel,112 while Rufina, his second wife, is a reincarnation of Leah-Lilith.
2) As a great and wise sage, he is capable of penetrating to the core of any specific issue. This is symbolized by Issachar, the son of Jacob, whose tribe was peopled by “possessors of understanding.”113 If R. Akiva is Issachar, the son of Jacob and Leah, and Rufina his wife is a reincarnation of his mother Leah, then their marriage is a clear case of the oedipal motif, in which the son marries his mother.114
3.) R. Akiva successfully encounters a foreign seductress115 and heals the soul of Zimri ben Salu.
4.) The courageous, assertive din aspect of R. Akiva’s personality is associated with the fact that he also descends from Cain, the son of Adam and Eve. Cain, the first murderer, is considered by the Zohar to express the shadow side of Adam and Eve’s marriage.116
5.) Since he descended from converts,117 R. Akiva is also identified with Esau, Jacob’s brother, the quintessential non-Jew for rabbinic Judaism. Using our Lurianic understanding, we can say that he is associated with the sacred in Esau, which, by virtue of his being the first-born, was considered qualitatively greater than that of his twin.
Despite being so intimately involved in Lilith’s long-term clarification process, R. Akiva alone could not complete her tikkun. He was still one man with two wives – Rachel and the wife of Turnus Rufus. Redemption would require one man with one wife, who could uni in herself these two opposing faces of women. In Lurianic Kabbalah, this ideally unified figure is best represented by Ruth the Moabite, whom we treat in the final section of this work.
1. In technical Kabbalistic terminology, the realm of the secular is known as kelippat noga. This is a thin shell located between the fruit and the outer peel, like the white skin of an orange. It can be related to as part of the fruit, or it can be peeled off as part of the rind. In his famous work, Tanya, R. Shneur Zalman of Lyady went to great lengths in order to emphasize that, whenever the “elevation of sacred sparks” is discussed in Hasidut, it refers to those sparks hidden from the secular world. The hard outer shell, which symbolizes evil and sin, cannot be “eaten,” i.e. liberated by man. He thus distinguishes between Hasidic theory and the Sabbatean Kabbalistic thought of Nathan of Azza and Frankist ideas that were current around the same time that Hasidism was developing in Poland. Sabbateanism explicitly sought to elevate those sacred sparks held captive in the realms of evil, sin, and unholiness. Hasidism, according to R. Shneur Zalman, gives no sway to such ideas. Man can only elevate to the realm of the sacred “that which was originally under the influence of kelippat noga and received its life-force from her. By this we mean all things that are pure and permissible, and which may be used for the performance of the mitzvot, like animal skins which are made into parchment in order to write tefillin, mezuzot, and Torah scrolls. As the Rabbis said, ‘Only those things which are pure and permissible for you to eat may be used for the heavenly work’ (REF.) The etrog fruit (used on Sukkot) also falls into this category, as long as it is not orla (orla – fruit which is less than three years old and therefore forbidden by the Torah – comes from those three kelippot that are totally unclean and can never be elevated, as it says in Etz Hayyim. This is also the case with a mitzvah that is observed through sin, God forbid). (Another example would be) money given for charity, etc., etc. When a person uses them to do God’s will, their essential life-force is released and becomes a part of the Infinite Light” (Tanya, section 1, chap. 37).
2. Take, for example, today’s mitnagdim (those who oppose/d the Hasidic movement), who have already taken on many of the basic precepts of Hasidism. They cannot really understand why the Baal Shem Tov and his vision were so problematical for their precursors. Another example is the fate of the teachings of Jesus within Judaism. R. Nahman of Breslov may have consciously decided to adapt certain aspects of Christianity, writing, for example, that “by telling everything to a wise man one is forgiven for all of one’s sins” (Liqutei Etzot, Tzaddik, 7), a comment that is clearly reminiscent of Christian theology.
3. In psychological terms, we could say that cultural mores compose the superego of a revolutionary, but his greatness is expressed by the fact that he does not identify God’s voice with his superego. There is therefore an inner conflict between the religion of the masses, whose spokesperson is the super-ego, and the religion of the heart, which speaks in the still small voice of the innermost self. A person’s ability to integrate these two opposites determines how difficult it will be for society to assimilate his message. If he successfully expresses his inner vision through the conceptual tools of the super-ego, society can hear his voice, and he can heal his own inner schism. If, on the other hand, he is incapable of doing so, his own conflict will intensify. The gap between the cultural language of his time and the radical new concepts he presents grows to the point wherein he may even be perceived as an “enemy of the state.” He becomes his own worst enemy, torn by intense inner turmoil. (See the article “Souls from the world of Chaos” by Rabbi A. Y. Kook, in his book Orot. He understands the tension between the way Jewish tradition evolved in the Diaspora on the one hand, and the need to “renew the people’s spirit” in modern times on the other). For more on the Self as the source of authentic religious experience, see Ezrahi, Two Cherubs, p. 100.
4. R. Mordehai Yoseph of Ishbetz, Mei Hashiloah, parshat Toldot, entry beginning with the words “And Isaac loved Jacob.”
5. “Eventually,” because this is not how things began. At first, Esau remained at home with his parents, while Jacob went east, to Padan Aram, to the house of Laban of Aram.
6. R. Hayyim Vital, Ma’amar P’siyotav shel Avraham Avinu
7. SAME REFERENCE?
8. This is another one of the symbolic motifs linking Leah to partzuf Imma in the Kabbalah. Leah has six sons and one daughter, exactly like those sefirot born of the womb of mother Binah. They are the six male sefirot (from hesed to yesod) and one female sefirah, malhut (see for example R. Haim Vital, Sha’ar Ma’amarei Razal on tractate Shabbat, 34/a).
9. R. Hayyim Vital, Ma’amar P’siyotav shel Avraham Avinu
10. R. Haim Vital, Ma’amar P’siyotav shel Avraham Avinu.
11. The midrash asks “Is she not the daughter of Jacob,” and goes on to say that the biblical verse links her to her mother to emphasize their similar behavior as “prostitutes.” See Tanhuma Vayishlach, Ch. 7, quoted above. See also Y.Sanhedrin 13b (free translation from the Aramaic): “What is the meaning of the verse (Ez. 16:44). ‘Behold, anyone that uses proverbs shall use this proverb against you, saying, Like mother, like daughter?’ Was our mother Leah considered a prostitute?, as it says, ‘And Dinah went out’? He answered him: Since it also says ‘And Leah went out’, we derive one ‘going out’ from the other.”
12. Lit. “a city of gold,”which was a very expensive piece of gold jewelry, worn by women during Mishnaic times, as we find mentioned at numerous points in the mishna (Shabbat 6:1; Eduyot 2:7; Kelim 11:8). R. Akiva, for example, said to his wife Rachel: “If I were able, I would buy you a Jerusalem of Gold” (B. Nedarim 50a.) See also Ezrahi, Two Cherubs, pp. 66-67.
13. Midrash Tanhuma, Vayishlach, Ch. 8.
14. The word used here is padranit. This appears to be similar to pazranit, which implies dispersion.
15. Midrash Tanhuma, Vayishlach, Ch. 8.
16. Midrash Tanhuma, Vayetze, chap. 8. Note that the JPS translation, “Last, she bore him a daughter,” provides no occasion for the midrash. See R. David Luria (Radal), in his commentary on Pirke d’Rebbi Eliezer (chap. 38,4), who maintains that a trace of masculinity was left in Dinah’s soul, which is why she ‘went out’ like a man: “Because she should have been a male, and through Leah’s prayers she became a woman…there was a man’s nature in her, that is why she went out to the marketplace.”
17. Sha’ar HaPesukim – parshat Vayetze, with a comment that this quotation comes from someone other than the Ari.
18. “‘He (Jacob) arose and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children…’ (Gen 32:23): Where was Dinah? He put her in a box and locked it. He said: This wicked man has a sharp eye (for women). He may see her and want to take her away from me.” (Bereishit Rabba, 76, 9). The rabbis (in B. Sanhedrin 64a and also in B. Yoma 69b) offer a similar description of the attempt made by the men of the Great Assembly to weaken the power of the evil inclination – they describe the corralled inclination as a young lion made of fire who is put in a leaden barrel”(see Ezrahi, Two Cherubs, pp. 2-3).
19.Bereishit Rabba, 76, 9.
20. See Rashi on Gen. 32:23, based on the previously quoted midrash: “‘And his eleven children’ – where was Dinah? He put her in a chest and locked it, so that Esau would not see her. Jacob was therefore punished for withholding her from his brother, because she might have caused him to repent. Instead, she fell into the hands of Shechem.” Note that the rape of Dinah is regarded as a punishment for Jacob, and not for Dinah, the victim of the rape.
21. Sha’ar HaPesukim – parshat Vayetze. “And this is the reason for ‘Isaac favored Esau because he had a taste for game’ (Gen. 25:28) – a side of him had holy sparks of gevurah from his father Isaac, which were in his mouth and ‘digested’ by him. Isaac’s intention was to mend these sparks, which were parts of his own soul, and were only in Esau’s head, not in the rest of his body. This is why Esau’s head was buried in the cave of Machpela together with Isaac. Understand this well.”
22. See Tanhuma, Vayishlah, chap. 8. Sefer Habahir, 60, and Rashi on tractate Sotah, 29a, entry beginning with the words “ein leha.” See also Margoliot, Malahei Elyon, p. 259, and I. Pintel, REF.
23. Kohelet Rabba, 10, 9. There are erotic undertones here, as in the story of the Snake and Eve in the Garden of Eden – “the serpent duped (hisiani) me, and I ate” ( Gen.3:13; the word hisiani can also be translated as “married me,” like the word nisu’in. As the Rabbis said in B. Shabbat “the snake copulated with Eve” REFERENCE
24. Sha’ar HaPesukim – parshat Vayetze.
25. Sha’ar HaPesukim – parshat Vayetze. For “The wife of harlotry,” see Zohar, Parshat Vayetze, 148a, based on Hosea 1:2; the idea that “any given prostitute is Lilith” underpins the identification of the two prostitutes who came to Solomon to be judged (I Kings 3:16: ‘Later two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him’) as Lilith and her good friend Mahlat. In the book Kehillat Yaakov, in the entry on ‘two women prostitutes,” it says that: “Mahlat is responsible for joy, laughter, and dance…and Lilith wails (m’yalelat)…in the days of Solomon these two female prostitutes were subdued.” Prostitution has two faces: that of hilula (partying) and y’lala (wailing). Hilula is externally focused, while y’lala is a broken-hearted cry. Lilith represents the inner face, the hidden side, the prostitute who cries alone in her bed at night.
27. “R. Hanan bar Rava said in the name of Rav: Amitlai the daughter of Carnebo was the mother of Abraham. Amitlai the daughter of Orvati was the mother of Haman, which is hinted at in the words ‘Impure, impure, pure, pure'” (B. Baba Batra, 91a). Rashbam explains these associations: Since the mothers of Isaac and Jacob are mentioned, we should also know the name of Abraham’s mother. Since their names are similar, the Rabbis also tell us Haman’s mother’s name. Carnebo comes from the word karim (pillows) made of lamb’s wool which are pure, just as Abraham is pure. Ravens (orev, like Orvati) are impure, just as Haman was impure. REFERENCE FOR RASHBAM.
28. NEED REFERENCE.
29. The secret of this matter is explained by R. Haim Vital in his book Likutei Torah, where he explicitly relates to Abraham’s soul and the time of his conception: “When a very holy soul is in captivity amongst the external powers, they receive life-force through it, and do not allow it to leave. Only when they see a very damaged place do they allow that soul to enter it, so that it will become even more damaged due to its stay there, and return to them in even worse shape than it was, so that it will remain with them for a long time. Guard this secret, as it says ‘It is glory for God to conceal matters’ (REF). Terah had sexual intercourse with Amitlai during her period. When the kelippot saw such an impure situation – Terah, an idol worshipper and his wife, an idol worshipper too – and as if this was not enough, he also slept with her during her period, the kelippah said, I will certainly find no better place and it then allowed Abraham’s soul to leave its domain, and it entered there (into Amitlai’s womb). For Abraham’s soul was originally in their power, which is why he is called a righteous convert, since his roots are in the kelippah and impurity… This is the explanation for the fact that there are very great people who are children of wicked people…” (VITAL REF.) We were told by the Rebbe of Belz in 1984 that Jews who returned to their religion were great souls that had been conceived while their mothers were menstrually impure.
30. R. Haim Vital, Likutei Torah, parshat Vayishlah.
31. R. Haim Vital, Sha’ar HaPesukim, the book of Job.
32. Zohar III, 79a.
33. Zohar, III, 79a cont.
34. See B. Hullin 60b
35. Zohar III, 79a.
36. Midrash Tehillim, psalm 146.
37. The Ramban writes in his commentary on the Torah (Lev. 18:19), that the offensive attitude caused by a nidah was the opinion of the non-Jewish scholars of his era: “Menstrual blood…is poisonous; it will kill any animal that eats or drinks it…and true experience was described, and this is a natural phenomenon, because a menstruating woman, at the beginning of her period, if she looks into a mirror for an extended period of time, red drops of blood will appear on the mirror, because the damaging, evil forces of nature in her are negative, and the evil air gets stuck to the mirror, and she is like a viper who kills solely by virtue of his gaze. It goes without saying that she causes damage to a person who sleeps with her, when both her body and mind cling to his. This is why the Torah states ‘And her menstrual impurity shall be on him’ (Lev. 15), because this evilness is a contagious evilness … And she is forbidden to the holy seed (of Israel) all the days of her ritual uncleanness, until she bathes in water, when even her mind will be purified, and she becomes completely cleansed.” In the Ramban’s opinion, (in his commentary on Gen. 31:35), these facts were known to the ancient masters, which is why they ostracized the menstruating woman: “It appears to me that in former times menstruating woman were sent very far away, as they are called niddah which means distanced (or ostracized), so that they will not come close to any man or speak to him. The ancients knew that their breath is injurious, their gaze is also dangerous, and leaves a negative impression, as the philosophers have explained… and they would sit alone in a tent into which no man enters. Just as the Rabbis said in a breita in tractate Niddah: ‘A wise man should not inquire as to the health of a menstruating woman. R. Nehemia said: Even the words that come out of her mouth are unclean. R. Yohanan said: A man should not walk after a menstruating woman and step on the ground she walked on, as it is unclean, just like a dead person. It is also forbidden to derive any benefit from anything she does.'” (REF).
38. “A man should be wary of a woman during her menstrual flow, because she is connected to the spirit of impurity. If she performs sorcery during that time, it will be very successful, since the spirit of impurity dwells within her, and therefore anything or anyone that approaches her becomes unclean” (1 126b.)
39. Since concerning the matron (the Shehina) it says “You are entirely beautiful, my beloved, and have no blemish,” (REF) someone with a defect should not approach her … This is the reason for the commandment “Do not come near a woman during her menstrual impurity” (Lev. 18:19). And concerning those who do approach her then it says “And they offered before the LORD alien fire, which He had not enjoined upon them. And fire came forth from the LORD, and consumed them; thus they died (Lev 10:1-2). Raya Mehemna, Zohar III parshat Tzav, 33b. The author goes on to describe man and woman’s sexual energies as descending fire and ascending fire that meet in the temple on the altar: “Man and woman are ascending and descending fire. The holy fire of the altar wood, which is holy wood and holy limbs. And the heavenly fire descends, which is the holy of holies. And because of these two fires it says ‘We will bring God’s glory with brands of flame’ (REF), which refers to the fire of the shekhinah.”
40. In order to appreciate the degree of intimacy expressed in the words “he spoke to the young maiden tenderly (lit. “spoke to the heart”), it is worthwhile to compare them to the words of the prophet Hosea: “Assuredly,/ I will speak coaxingly to her/ And lead her through the wilderness/ And speak to her tenderly (“speak to her heart”… And in that day/ declares the LORD, you will call me Ishi, my husband, and no more will you call Me Baali, “my Baal,” punning on the word for husband and the name of a prominent Canaanite deity (Hos 2: 16, 18). A midrash describes Shechem’s relationship to Dinah as an example of God’s loving relationship to Israel: “MY son Shechem longs for your daughter… R. Simon ben Lakish said: God expressed His love of Israel through three expressions of love: d’veikut, hashika, hafitza (attachment, desire/longing, want). D’veikut as it says “And you that cling (d’veikim) to the Lord your God” (Deut. REF),. Hashika as it says “God desired (hashak) you’ (REF), Hafitza as it says “And you will be to Me the land I want” (hafetz; REF). And we also derive this principle from the section which deals with that wicked man. D’veikut as it says “and his soul clung to the soul of Dinah bat Yaakov. Hashika as it says “Shehem my son longs for your daughter.” Hafitza as it says, “For he wanted the daughter of Jacob.” R. Aba ben Elisha added on two more (expressions of love): ahavah (love) and dibbur (speech). Ahava as it says, I have loved you, says the Lord. Dibbur as it says, Speak to the heart of Jerusalem. And we derive this, also, from the section dealing with that wicked man. Ahava – “And he loved the young girl.” Dibbur – “And he spoke to the young girl’s heart” – words that comfort the heart (Yalqut Shimonei Gen. chap. 34, remez 134).
41. The passage begins: “I heard from my teacher of blessed memory, that the letters of the word rahavat – are the initials of R. Hananyah ben Tradion. VITAL REFERENCE.
42. “The Rabbis said: When R. Yossi ben Kisma was sick, R. Hananyah ben Teradion went to visit him. He said to him: Hananyah my brother, do you not know that this nation (Rome) was appointed by heaven to rule? It destroyed His house, burned His temple, killed His followers, destroyed His possessions, and it still exists! And I have heard say that you sit and study Torah in public with a Torah scroll in your lap! He answered him: Heaven will have mercy on me. He said to him: I speak logically with you and you answer me that heaven will have mercy? I wonder if in the end they will not burn you together with the Torah” (B. Avodah Zarah 18b).
43. R. Haim Vital, Sha’ar HaPesukim, parshat Vayetze.
44. See citation above, from Raya Mehemna, Zohar III parshat Tzav, 33b.
45. B. Avodah Zarah 18a
46. See Goodblatt, “The Beruriah Traditions,” cited above, who argues that the Beruriah traditions and the traditions of a daughter of R, Hananyah ben Teradyon were originally separate and combined together in the Babylonian Talmud.
47. B. Avodah Zarah 18a
48. B. Avodah Zarah 18a, cont. Contrary to this sanctimonious opinion of R. Meir, see the story of R. Meir in Midrash Aseret Ha-Dibrot, which portrays him as putting himself in a suggestive situation, where he was made drunk and then raped by a married female admirer, a story which functions as the tradition’s “answer” to the misogynist fable of the “Beruriah incident.” It has been translated in Rabbinic Fantasies: Imaginative Narratives from Classical Hebrew Literature, ed. David Stern and Mark Jay Mirsky (JPS, 1990), 107-10.
49. B. Eruvin 53a; The fact that R. Meir was a student of Elisha ben Avuya, a Talmudic sage and mystic who left conventional religion, must have also affected the opinions of his colleagues as to the acceptability of his halachic rulings. See the talmudic saying that encapsulates R. Meir’s attitude to his teacher – “R. Meir found a pomegranate. He ate the fruit, and threw out the shell” (B. Hagigah 15b).
50. “Know that R. Meir’s soul was from the back of the neck of partzuf Leah … which is the place of attachment at the end of Ze’eir Anpin’s neck… This is what is meant by the statement that the Rabbis did not understand R. Meir (lit. “did not descend to the end of his knowledge”)…This means…the back of the da’at of Leah.” R. Hayyim Vital, Likutei HaShas – tractate Eruvin, in the Ari’s name. Partzuf Leah is located in the back of the partzuf of Ze’eir Anpin, parallel to his upper torso, from the top of his head until his navel. From that point down, Rachel is located. The soul of R. Meir emerges from the spot where Leah and Ze’eir Anpin meet. The back of Leah’s neck connects to the bottom of Ze’eir Anpin’s neck. This is how the Ari understands the talmudic tale about R. Meir, in which R. Judah the Prince said that he achieved his high level because once, as a child, he saw R. Meir’s back: “Rabbi said – The reason that I am more dignified than my colleagues is because I saw R. Meir’s back. Had I seen his face, I would have been even more dignified” (Eruvin, 53a). A person’s face is a reflection of his innermost soul, while his back symbolizes his disguise. Thus, R. Judah saw R. Meir’s back.
51. R. Hayyim VItal, Sha’ar HaPesukim, Parshat Vayetze.
52. In this Lurianic reading of the legend, it seems, that R. Meir’s verbal test of his sister-in-law was not conclusive and that he saw her as indeed a fallen woman.
53. B. Yoma 78b. If we were to read this section from a Kabbalistic perspective, we would say that the king and the bride in this instance are the Holy One, blessed be He, and His Shekhina.
54. Bereshit Rabbah, 80,11.
55. B. Baba Batra, 15a.
56. Pirke d’Rebbi Eliezer, chap. 37; We have used the wording chosen by the Radal in his commentary on Pirke d’Rebbe Eliezer, and also by the Yalkut Shimoni, Gen. 34,134.
57. R. Hayyim Vital, Ma’amar P’siyotov shel Avraham Avinu.
58. Pirke d’Rebbi Eliezer, chap. 37. A similar opinion is expressed in Bereshit Rabbah (82,8) in the name of R. Yehoshua, who lived at the same time as R. Eliezer: He (a Roman officer to R. Yehoshua’s two students) said to them: This is not what your teacher R. Yehoshua taught. Each and every son was born together with a twin, as Abba Halfoi ben Koria said: An extra twin was born together with Benjamin.
59. B. Sanhedrin 58b. See also Pirke d’Rebbi Eliezer (chap. 21): R. Miasha said: Cain was born with a twin sister, and Abel was born with a twin sister. R. Ishmael said to him: But it says “The nakedness of your sister – your father’s daughter or your mother’s, whether born into the household or outside – do not uncover their nakedness” (Lev. 18:9). However, know that there were no other women to marry, so they were permitted, as it says “For I declare, the world is built on hesed. Until the Torah was given, the world was built on hesed.” In B.Yevamot the Rabbis relate this verse to the disagreement between the house of Shammai and the house of Hillel concerning the minimal amount of children a person should have in order to fulfill the commandment of procreation.
60. Pirke d’Rebbi Eliezer, chap. 37, see also Radal’s commentary.
61. See B. Nadarim 20b: “‘I will remove from you those who rebel and transgress against Me’ (Ezek. 20:38) – R. Levi said: These are those born of nine qualities – the children of Asenath M’shaga’at – b’nei Aima (children of terror), b’nei anusah (children of rape), b’nei s’nuah (children of the hated one), b’nei n’dui (children of excommunication), b’nei t’murah (children of the one who was replaced), b’nei merivah (children of strife), b’nei shikrut (children of drunkenness), b’nei gerushat halev (children of she who was divorced from the heart), b’nei eerbuvia (children of confusion), b’nei hatzufa (children of the brazen one).”The acronym includes the word “m’shagaat.”
62. We have noted above that in the Kabbalah, Leah is identified with the sefirah of Binah, which gives birth to the six male sefirot and one female sefirah, just as Leah gave birth to six sons and one daughter. This is played out in R. Nahman’s story “The Lost Princess,” “a king who had six sons and one daughter. That daughter was very precious to him, He loved her very much and was delighted by her. Once he was angry with her, and he yelled, “The no-good should take you”…The viceroy, who saw that the king was very upset…went and looked for her.” If Dinah is the one daughter, whom the no-good took and raped, we wonder if the king in the story is Jacob, who causes Dinah, his seventh daughter, to be raped by Shechem. Additionally, the “viceroy” who goes to redeem the lost princess could be Joseph (“the righteous”), who was a viceroy in Egypt, and married Asenath, Dinah’s daughter. Asenath continues the story of the lost princess, taking over the role of the problematic child from Dinah. She is lost to her family until Joseph comes and brings her back to Jacob’s family.
63. “Understand also the reason why Joseph married Asenath, the daughter of Poti-phera, because Asenath was a holy soul, the soul-mate of Joseph, and she is the aspect of the second Leah of katnut” (R. Hayyim Vital, Sha’ar HaPesukim, parshat Vayeshev). The difference between “Leah d’gadlut” and “Leah d’qatnut” is also explained there.
64. R. Hayyim Vital, Sha’ar HaPesukim, parshat Matot. See there concerning the other tribes.
65. Zohar III, 33b, in the Raya Mehimna: “A leper is one who was conceived during the menstrual period.” For the Raya Mehimna, both menstruation and the plague of leprosy are a result of the element of fire in the human body (see also Raya Mehimna, Bamidbar, Zohar III, 152b).
66. R. Haim Vital, Likutei Torah, the book of Job.
67. For a detailed analysis of five spiritual positions relating to uncertainty and faith in Job, see O. Ezrahi, “Worlds in Doubt” (Hebrew, 5754).
68. According to the Targum Yerushalmi, it was Lilith who caused the destruction of Job’s world. The messenger who comes to Job to tell him that his children were killed says that “Shva” came, plundered his property, and killed his children (Job 1:15): “A messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the she-asses were grazing alongside them when Sabeans attacked them and carried them off, and put the boys to the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.” The usual explanation is that soldiers from the land of Sabea, which is Ethiopia, came and wrecked this havoc. The targum, however, suggests that the army of Sabea refers to Lilith: “And Lilith the queen of Zamargad attacked them by force and destroyed them.” For the targum, Lilith is the Queen of Sheba or Sabea. Here again we see that Lilith finds her way into the story of Job. Lilith, the killer of infants, also kills Job’s children.
69. The parallel to this is of course the story of the five daughters of Zelophehad ben Hefer – Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Tirzah, and Milcah, who ask for an inheritance in Israel from Moses. Zelophehad had no sons, only daughters. Job’s move is therefore even more radical, even by present day halakhic standards, which still prefer a son to a daughter in matters related to inheritances. It would be quite fitting for the Ari to view Zelophehad’s daughters as reincarnations of Job’s three daughters, since their stories appear to be mirror images of one another. Zelophehad’s five daughters are divided into two distinct categories (Sha’ar HaPesukim, parshat Pinhas): Three daughters are the “sweetened gevurot” (Hoglah means hag la – (she has a holiday) – because she is sweet; Milcah’s name also reflects her nature, and Tirzah is from ratzon, good will and kindness). The remaining two daughters are “the unsweetened gevurot”) (Mahlah and Noah are not sweetened, Mahla is mach la – like “All existence on earth was blotted out (vayemach; Gen. 7:23), Noah, as it says “The earth is swaying (noa) like a drunkard” (Isa. 24:20) Hence, the “three sweetened gevurot” could be linked to the three daughters of Job and Dinah.
70. Bereishit Rabbah, 80, 11; the final line suggests that marrying his sister was frowned upon, buy see above Pirke d’Rebbi Eliezer (chap. 21) on brother-sister incest, which claims that the other sons of Jacob also married their twin sisters.
71. R. Hayyim Vital, Ma’amar P’siyotav shel Avraham Avinu.
72. The Mei haShiloah, parshat Toldot, contrasts the descendants of Shimon with those of Levi, known for their purity and holiness as “a tribe of priests,” while the tribe of Shimon was required to experience many tribulations over the course of history before its sacred spark could be fully realized and redeemed: “The tribe of Levi (represents) fear and evading doubt… and this is the reason why the priests come from this tribe… and this is why their lives were clarified immediately… But Shimon entered into doubt… and married Dinah, thereby putting himself in a place that would need to be clarified… This is why the entire tribe of Shimon needs clarification process in these matters, like Zimri… In the future, when the tribe of Shimon is fully clarified, his level will be higher than that of Levi.”
73. Rashi on Num. 25: 8 – “He aimed for Zimri’s sexual organs and her sexual organs, so everyone saw that he killed them for good reason.”
74. Bamidbar Rabbah, 20, 23.
75. B. Sanhedrin 82a.
76. The talmudic sage, Rabbi Yohanan, explains that we are talking about one person called by different names. “Rabbi Yohanan said: He had five names: Zimri, ben Salu, Shaul, ben HaCanaanit, and Shlomiel ben Tzurishadai. He was known as Zimri because his seed was like a scrambled (m’z”r”) egg. Ben Salu, because he caused his family to be measured (salu) by its sins. Shaul, since he lent (sha’al) himself to iniquity. Ben HaCanaanit, since he acted like a Canaanite. And what was his real name? His real name was Shlomiel ben Tzurishadai. (B. Sanhedrin 82b).
77. R. Hayyim Vital, Ma’amar P’siyotav shel Avraham Avinu, ??? commenting on R. Yohanan in B. Sanhedrin 82b. Compare R. Hayyim Vital, Likutei Torah, parshat Vayishlach: “Dinah had an unclean side to her, as in the mystery of the snake who copulated with Eve. This is the reason that the Hivite Hamor had relations with her (“Hivi” is like the Aramaic word for snake, hivya). As a result of their liaison, all of her uncleanness was transferred to him, as it says ‘her impurity is communicated to him’ (Lev. 15:24). She was then purified from the source of defilement. For this reason Simon could marry her, as she was already pure.”
78. Both as Rebecca and as partzuf Imma.
79. “Unripe” is also a talmudic expression used by R. Ishmael to describe the marriage of David and Batsheba: “It is taught from the house of R. Ishmael: Bat Sheva bat Eliam was fitting for David, but unripe” (B. Sanhedrin 107a). On the matter of destined “soul-mates,” See Mei Hashiloah, parshat Pinhas, beginning with the words “Behold I give him my covenant of peace.”
80. In the Book of Numbers, Zimri is one of two chieftains from the tribe of Shimon who are mentioned. The other is Shelumiel ben Zurishaddai (Num. 7: 36) R. Hayyim Vital goes on to draw the web of Shimonite connections even tighter by claiming Zimri and Shelumiel are the same person and then showing the deep associations between their names and ancestry and that of Cozbi’s father, Zur. “For this reason he was known as Shelumiel ben Zurishaddai, and her name was Cozbi bat Tzur. Tzur [i shaddai], Shlomiel’s father, was in fact Shimon, who was Tzuri-Shaddai, from the word shod, he who robs the kelippot of their power and subdues them. This is the meaning of bat Tzur – the sitra ahra (other side), Cozbi’s father.
81. Mei HaShiloah, vol. 1, parshat Pinhas, beginning with the words “and Pinhas saw.” He goes on to say that, since Pinhas saw things in a superficial manner, the damage he caused to Cozbi and Zimri was equally superficial. He hurt their bodies, not their souls. Were Moses to have acted in a like fashion, he would have deeply injured their souls. So, Moses did not intervene. The Mei HaShiloah claims that this is why God said: “Therefore I grant him My pact of friendship” (Num. 25: 12). He was rewarded for not perpetrating deep damage.
82. See B. Ketubot 63b, B. Nedarim 50a, Avot de Rabbi Natan, Version A, Ch. 6. For a comparison of R. Akiva and Rachel’s relationship to the marital relationships of the three other men who entered the Secret Garden, see Ezrahi, Two Cherubs, pp. 62-66.
83. In addition to the story treated below, see the legend about R. Akiva’s second wife in Haggadot Ketu’ot (HaGoren, ed. S. A. Horodezky, 1922), 34-38.
84. Her husband Rufus may have called her Rufina, as indicated in the following story. “Turnus Rufus asked R. Akiva: Why does God hate us, as it says “And I loathed Esau?” He (R. Akiva) answered him: I will answer you tomorrow. The next day he said to him: R. Akiva! What did you dream about tonight? He said to him: In my dream I had two dogs. One was named Rufus and the other was named Rufina. He immediately became very angry. He said: You named your dogs after me and my wife! You are condemned to die! R. Akiva said to him: What is the difference between you and them? You eat and drink, and they eat and drink. You procreate and they procreate. You die and they die. Since I named them for you, you became angry. God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, gives life and takes it away. You take a piece of wood and call it “god” just like His name. Is it any wonder that He hates you? This is why it says “And I loathed Esau” (Tanhuma, Terumah, 3).
85. Kohelet Rabbah, 3, 21.
86. B. Avodah Zarah 20a; The injunction against appreciating the beauty of someone connected to idol worship is expressed in later halakhic literature; “‘Do not impart grace to them’ – To the point where it is forbidden for us to say about an idol worshipper that he is beautiful, or his face is beautiful…” (Rambam, Sefer HaMitzvot, negative commandments, commandment 3). See also Sefer HaHinuch (mitzvah 426, “not to show grace towards idol worshippers”): “We should not have compassion towards idol worshippers, and nothing about them should be pleasing to us. We should distance any thought and not speak about (the possibility) that any good could come from an idol worshipper, and they should not find favor in our eyes in any way. The Rabbis of blessed memory said (B. Avoda Zara 20a) that it is forbidden to say how beautiful this non-Jew is, or how nice and pleasant he is, as it says (Deut. 7:2): ‘Do not show them grace,’ which means, do not impart grace to them, as we have already explained. Some of the roots of this mitzvah: By avoiding finding good or beauty in idol worshippers either in thought or speech, we avoid contact with them, and do not pursue their love, and do not learn their evil behavior… This applies only to an idol worshipper, not to someone who does not worship idols even though he is not Jewish… and a person who violates this prohibition, and praises either idol worshippers or their deeds….will receive a great punishment, for he is the cause of a catastrophe which cannot be remedied, because sometimes such talk penetrates into the gut of those who hear it, and anyone with any sense understands this.”
87. B. Avodah Zarah 20a; The Temple Mount even after the Temple was destroyed was apparently preferred by many sages for meditative contemplation and ascension to the supernal realms – since the earthly tabernacle parallels the heavenly one, even if the physical edifice had been destroyed. If Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel was engaged in such practices as he walked amongst the ruins of the temple, it is significant that this is when he chose to praise the divine beauty of “that extremely beautiful idol worshipper;” see discussion of the Temple Mount and sacred eros in Ezrahi, “The Two Cherubs.”
88. The commentary of the Ran on B. Nedarim 50b.
89. The commentary of the Ran on B. Nedarim 50b.
90. The commentary of the Ran on B. Nedarim 50b.
91. The Kabbalistic literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries brings this tradition in the name of the Ari, although we did not find any explicit sources for it in the Lurianic writings we presently possess. R. Hayyim Vital identifies Turnus Rufus’s wife as one of the incarnations of Lilith, who is the kelippah of Leah and R. Akiva as an incarnation of both Jacob and his son Issachar. In the writings of students of the Ari, we find that R. Akiva is an incarnation of Zimri, while the Roman matron is an incarnation of Dinah. In the book Hesed L’Avraham by R. Abraham Azulai (5, 25), this tradition is quoted in the name of his teacher, R. Hayyim Vital.
92. R. Menahem Azaria of Fano, Sefer Gilgulei Neshamot, the letter kaf. See also his book Asarah Ma’amarot, ma’amar hikur hadin.
93. See Rashi on Num. 26:13.
94. B. Yevamot 62b.
95. The Talmud maintains that Pinhas, who killed Cozbi and Zimri, is the prophet Elijah, who was known as a great zealot in the book of Kings (Talmud REF). R. Menahem Azariah of Fano (the Rama) adds another detail in the Ari’s name to this matrix: “Cozbi is Jezebel. And her tikkun was the wife of Turnus Rufus, who became the wife of R. Akiva. And it is known that Jezebel persecuted Elijah, who was Pinhas, wanting to take revenge on him.” In other words, because of her connection to Cozbi, Jezebel, King Achav of Israel’s foreign wife, persecuted Elijah and sought to kill him. She wanted vengeance on him for killing her in their previous incarnation. (RAMA REF).
96. R. Yonatan Eibeshutz, Ya’arot D’vash, vol. 1 – discourse 2 (continuation). For useful background on this controversial figure, see M. A. Perlmutter, R. Yonatan Eibeshutz and his Relationship to Sabbateanism (Hebrew), Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, 5707. As for the Kabbalistic writings themselves, see Y. Liebes, “New Sabbatean Kabbalistic Writings from the Circle of R. Yonatan Eibeshutz,” in The Secret of the Sabbatean Faith (Hebrew, 1995, pp. 103-193).
97. (NEED TO CHECK IF THIS IS THE PS. QUOTED) Midrash Tanhuma, Tazria chap. 5. They also debated socio-economic issues. Turnus Rufus held that, if God had not desired class division in the world, He would not have created poverty. The fact that poverty does exist reflects divine will, so the Jewish commandment to give charity undermines God’s intention. R. Akiva, on the other hand, maintains that people are poor in order to enable our giving charity: “Turnus Rufus the Wicked asked R. Akiva a question: If God loves poor people, why doesn’t He take care of them? R. Akiva answered him, So that we, in their merit, be saved from hell” (B. Baba Batra 10a).
98. Sefer Ta’amei Hamitzvot, parshat Behar. The tormous fruit is extremely bitter and needs to be cooked for a long time in order to become edible. In Kabbalistic literature it represents a person’s hard shell. The ability to sweeten the tormous is one of the traits of King Solomon, the master of esoteric wisdom.
99. The secret behind R. Akiva’s ability to penetrate to the essence of things is patience. It is a secret that R. Yehoshua ben Hananiah, R. Akiva’s teacher, learned from a young boy:
R. Yehoshua ben Hananiah said…I was once walking down the road and I saw a young boy sitting at the crossroads. I asked him which way leads to the city. He answered me, This way is short, but long, while this way is long but short. I took the short but long route. As I approached the city, I found that it was surrounded by gardens and orchards. I had to turn back. I said to him, My son, you said this way was short. He said, Did I not say long (also)? I kissed him on his head, and said to him, “Happy are you, o Israel, that you are all wise, both the old and the young” (B. Eruvin 53b).
The city in this story symbolizes any personal goal. An aim can be reached in one of two ways: by the short, long path, or by the long, short path. The short, long path seems the easiest at first, but it only leads to the surface of the goal. It takes us as far as the gardens and the orchards that surround the city, that which envelops whatever it is we seek. The long way goes by a more circuitous route, but is the only way to get inside. R. Akiva, who knew this secret, we remember, was the one who “entered the (mystical) garden in peace, and came out in peace” (T. Hagigah 2: 4). He thus understood that the path to Rufina’s heart demanded patience. An unripe fruit is bad for you. If he would have been tempted to go the short way – i.e straight to bed – he would have missed the opportunity for a long-lasting, real marriage. He therefore chose to ignore his immediate desires and go laughing down the long way because, paradoxically, it is only through his pushing away the object of his desire that he eventually attains it. Similarly, R. Akiva taught his son not to enter his house suddenly” (B. Pesahim 112a). See O. Ezrahi, “Two Cherubs,” for discussion on the connection between the ability to gradually enter a house, a woman’s heart, and the secret mystical garden. See, by contrast, the story of R. Akiva’s student, R. Hanina Ben Hakinai, who entered his house suddenly and caused his wife to die of a heart attack (B. Pesahim 112a; B. Ketubot 63a).
100. In greater detail, his full name, “Rabbi Akiva” is an exact rearrangement of the biblical words abir Ya’akov (“the Mighty One of Jacob;” Isa. 1:24, 49:26 etc.). As R. Hayyim Vital said: “Abir Ya’akov is the same letters as Rabbi Akiva. This is the meaning of what the rabbis commented on “the Mighty One of Jacob:” ‘When R. Akiva died, the Arms of the World were no more,’ (RABBINIC REF) since R. Akiva was the left arm of Ze’eir Anpin. Understand this well” (Likutei Torah – parshat Vayehi).
101. R. Hayyim Vital, Likutei Hashas, tractate Yevamot. Also see Sha’ar HaPesukim parshat Vayetze, LiKutei Torah, parshat Vayehi, and others.
102. Tikkuney Zohar, tikkun 13, 29b: “Moses from the inside, Jacob from the outside.”
103. And the case of R. Akiva was similar to that of Moses of blessed memory.
104. Likkutei HaShas, tractate Yevamot.
105. For example, the opinion in Midrash Tanhuma, (parshat Tzav, 13) is that “Ethiopian woman” (cushit) has the same numerical value as yefat mareh, beautiful. Thus, “‘Ethiopian woman’ means that everyone recognizes her beauty just as they recognize the blackness of an Ethiopian.”
106. “And it came to pass, that when there was a siege against Ethiopia, Moses ran away from Egypt and came to the encampment of Kokanos the king of Ethiopia. Moses was eighteen years old when he ran away…And the king and his ministers and the entire army loved this young man because he was dignified and impressive, tall like a cedar, face radiant as the sun, strong as a lion, and he became an advisor to the king. At the end of nine years the king grew ill with a fatal disease. On the seventh day of his sickness he died…And everyone said…Let us inaugurate a new king…And they hastily took off their garments and threw them on the ground, making a great pile, and they sat Moses on it, blew trumpets and proclaimed, Long live the King! Long live the King! And all the ministers and all the people swore to give him the Ethiopian queen who was the wife of Kokanos for his wife. and they declared him king. Moses was twenty-seven years old when he became king of Ethiopia… And they sat him on the throne and put a crown on his head and gave him the Ethiopian queen for a wife. But Moses feared the God of his fathers, and did not come to her, for he remembered the oath which Abraham caused his servant Eliezer to take, saying ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of Canaan.’…And he reigned over Ethiopia for forty years…In the fortieth year of his reign, he was sitting on his throne and the queen was to his right, and the queen said to the ministers and the people, Behold, he has been king over Ethiopia for forty years, and has never come close to me and he does not worship the gods of Ethiopia…And they rose the next morning and made Monahem, the son of Kokanos, king. And the people of Ethiopia feared to do any harm to Moses for they remembered the oath they had taken to him, so they gave him many presents and sent him away with great honors, and he left there and was no longer king of Ethiopia. Moses was sixty-seven years old when he left Ethiopia. This was God’s plan, for the time that had been promised in days of old to redeem Israel had now arrived.” Yalkut Shimoni, Ex. 168. See also Sefer Yashar Shemot 132-36, 138, Shemot Rabbah 1:27, 31; Devarim Rabbah 2:29, Divrei HaYamim l’Moshe Rabbeinu (Beit HaMidrash, ed. Jellinek II), 5-7.
107. B. Berakhot 61b. In general, the Sh’ma expresses the Higher Unity – that of partzuf Leah – while the verse which is not a verse – “Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom forever and ever” – expresses the Lower Unity, that of partzuf Rachel: “This is how you should understand the unification of Sh’ma and Baruch Shem – they are the unity of the two women. The unification of the Sh’ma is the mystery of Leah, paralleling the verse “Timna was a concubine of Esau’s son Eliphaz” (Gen. 36:12) and Baruch Shem parallels Rachel. Understand this well” (Liqutei HaShas, REF.). The reason that R. Hayyim Vital mentions the verse, “Timna was a concubine of Esau’s son Eliphaz,” has to do with another midrashic/kabbalistic description: “Timna was a princess….and wanted to convert. She came to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and they would not accept her. She then became the concubine of Elifaz the son of Esau…and gave birth to Amalek, the enemy of Israel. Why? Because they should not have sent her away” (B. Sanhedrin 99b). In Lurianic terms, the verse “Timna was a concubine” expresses the rejection of Lilith by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Timna is therefore associated with Leah, who was also rejected. Since the “Shm” is identified with the kabbalistic unification of partzuf Leah, it follows that the verses “and Timna was a concubine” and Shma Yisrael must express the inner connection between Leah and Timna. There is such a connection. When the halakhah wants to express the idea that the entire Torah is sacred it uses these two verses – “Timna was a concubine” and Shma Yisrael. The Rambam, for example (Commentary on the Mishna, Sanhedrin 10) writes: “And there is no difference between…’And Timna was a concubine’ and ‘I am the Lord your God’ or ‘Shma Yisrael,’ because they are all divine, and all God’s perfect, holy, true, and pure Torah.” In the Ari’s opinion, this is the reason that R. Akiva, who was a reincarnation of Jacob, was happy to be reciting the Shma at the moment of his death. By reciting the Shma, R. Akiva was fixing the spiritual imbalance he had caused when, as Jacob, he had rejected Timna, along with the entire Lilithian caste of woman: “And his (R. Akiva’s) saying of this verse (Shma Yisrael, as a martyr), and his saying ‘When this mitzvah presents itself to me, should I not fulfill it?’ (is connected to what) the rabbis said, that the verse concerning Timna has as many secrets in it as the Shma’. For he sinned in his incarnation as Jacob by not wanting to take her, as the Rabbis said (Liqutei HaShas, REF).
108. Sha’ar Hakavanot, D’rushei N’filat Apa’im, drush 5. we find that in the Zohar and in the Lurianic writings the secret of kissing is linked to the connection between the two female archetypes of Leah and Rachel/ Eve and Lilith: “R. Shimon opened up and said: ‘Who is she that looks out like the dawn, beautiful as the moon, clear as the sun, terrible as an army with banners: ‘Who’ and ‘this’ – the mystery of two worlds that are connected as one …]that looks out – (nishkafa – nashak pe – the kiss of the mouth) when they are united as one …]Jacob, who was complete, spread love in both worlds […] Other people who do likewise are causing spiritual incest above and below, and cause dissension between the two worlds. They cause separation, as it says, ‘Do not marry a woman as a rival to her sister’ (Lev. 18:18) – because they will become enemies of each other (Zohar, II, 126b). And as R. Hayyim Vital writes: “The unity of the Sh’ma and Baruch Shem is the mystery of kissing… and he (R. Akiva) wanted to perform the unification of kissing at the moment of his death (Sha’ar HaKavanot, REF.). This implies that, according to R. Hayyim Vital, even in his last moments, R. Akiva attempted to heal the schism between the two faces of woman – Leah and Rachel – and to unify them.
110. SY. Liebes, “The Two Ewes of the Doe,” on the Ari’s final and secret discourse to his students, maintains that Lurianic Kabbalah is a profound, introspective discussion about the mysteries of the souls of the Ari and his circle. When R. Hayyim describes the trials and tribulations of R. Akiva, he is actually talking about himself. In fact, the problems created by the Eve/Lilith duality affect his own relationships with his wives: “Concerning my wife, he (the Ari) told me that in all of the sparks of my soul, there is none so close to me as that of R. Akiva. He is closer to me than anyone else. Everything that happened to him happened to me. He said to me that my wife Chana is a reincarnation of Calba Savua, R. Akiva’s father-in-law. Because he was lain with like a woman, he was reincarnated as a woman…and later as my wife Chana. Since she is the reincarnation of a man, I can only have girls from her, not male children. She cannot even give birth to girls (since she is a male) unless another female soul is spiritually impregnated in her. He said to me that she was spiritually impregnated with the soul of Turnus Rufus’s wife, who eventually married R. Akiva. This is all because of the close relationship R. Akiva has with my wife, who is a reincarnation of my father-in-law, as I have already mentioned. Then she became pregnant with my daughter Angela, and when she (Angela) was born, Turnus Rufus’s wife was incarnated in her, and departed from my wife. And after my daughter Angela died, this soul will have to enter my wife again, and she will give birth to another daughter, who will be an actual reincarnation of Turnus Rufus’s wife. And if that daughter lives, she will need another female soul to spiritually impregnate her, and she will give birth to another daughter, and the soul will be incarnated in that daughter. And if that soul remains with my wife as an ibbur (spiritual impregnation) and does not leave her, then it is possible that she will give birth to a male child. And he said to me that this one (his wife Chana) will die, and I will marry another woman, someone very rich, just like R. Akiva and the wife of Turnus Rufus. Riches will come to me through a woman just as they did for him. Another time he said to me that, after I merit the completion of my nefesh (first level of soul), I will receive my ruah (spirit, second level), and just as I shared my nefesh with R. Akiva, so I share my ruah with him, and then I will merit to receive my true soul-mate. And just as my nefesh and ruah are shared with R. Akiva’s nefesh and ruah, so, too the nefesh of my true soul-mate will come, sharing the nefesh of R. Akiva’s true wife, the daughter of Calba Savua. And since the daughter of Calba Savua has an advantage, since she waited for twenty four years for her husband to learn Torah, so my wife who shares a common root with her, is on a very high level, and I cannot merit her, until I complete my nefesh, and my ruah comes to me.” (Footnote by R. Shumel, R. Hayyim Vital’s son): Shumel said: “My father of blessed memory said to me that his true soul-mate is my master, my mother.”
111. In B. Sanhedrin 86a, the entire halakhic tradition of the Oral Torah is attributed to R. Akiva’s students – “R. Yohanan said: An unattributed mishna is R. Meir, an unattributed Tosefta is R. Nehemiah, an unattributed sifra is R. Yehudah, an unattributed sifri is R. Shimon, and they all go according to R. Akiva.”
112. “He (R. Akiva) had another wife (parallel to Rachel, Jacob’s wife), the daughter of Calba Savua, who was also named Rachel, as is mentioned in Avot d’R. Natan. Her daughter, the wife of Ben Azzai, was also named Rachel, like her mother. As the Rabbis said, “this is what people say, ‘one Rachel takes after the other,’ and understand this well” (Sha’ar HaPesukim, parshat Vayetse, the entry beginning with the words “And he lay with her that night.”
113. When identifying R. Akiva’s soul with that of Issachar, the Ari bases himself on a Zoharic source (Zohar Hadash, Midrash Hane’elam Ruth, the discourse on the Ten Martyrs), but he develops the motif more extensively: “Because Issachar was spiritually impregnated into R. Akiva himself… it was then that he merited wisdom… as it says ‘so he ascended in thought.’ And know that all the souls of the twelve tribes are (soul) branches of Jacob. This was not the case with Issachar, for he was the very essence of his father Jacob, not one of the branches that emerged from him. This is why Akiva and Yaakov are composed of the same letters …” (Sha’ar HaPesukim (REF). Concerning the tribe of Issachar, the talmudic sage, Rava, said: “You will not find a sage that teaches Torah that does not come either from the tribe of Levi or from the tribe of Issachar. Levi, as it says, “They shall teach your laws to Jacob” (Deut. 33:10), Issachar, as it says, “And from the children of Issachar, possessors of understanding of the times, to know what Israel should do” B. Yoma 26a, based on (REF in CHRON.)
114. “Just as the birth of Issachar was caused by a woman(‘s intervention), his mother Leah, as the Torah says, ‘for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes’ (Gen. 30: 16), so also all of R. Akiva’s riches came to him through a woman, the wife of Turnus Rufus, the Wicked. The matter can be understood through the case of Adam … Adam had two wives. The first Eve, who was Lilith, and the second Eve … Jacob, too, had Leah and Rachel. Leah is all din, and from her dregs the first Eve, Lilith, came out … Among those dregs was a holy soul, from the root of Leah, Jacob’s wife, who was married by Turnus Rufus the Wicked, who was descended from Esau. R. Akiva saw by virtue of his holy spirit that she would convert, and he married her, for just as R. Akiva was Issachar, who was the essence of his father Jacob, so too the wife of Turnus Rufus, the Wicked, when she converted, the soul of Leah, Jacob’s wife, Issachar’s mother, entered her. And it was through her that she merited all this honor. It therefore follows that Jacob and Leah entered into R. Akiva and his wife, the wife of Turnus Rufus, the Wicked” (Sha’ar HaPesukim, REF.)
115. Concerning Akiva’s connection to the soul of another foreign seductress, Potiphar’s wife, consider the following: “The reason that R. Akiva was an ignoramus for forty years is because he came from a drop of semen that was spilled in vain, which came out from under Joseph’s nails, as is mentioned in Tikkuney Zohar, tikkun 70″ (Sha’ar HaPesukim, parshat Vayetze). R. Akiva, as one of the Ten Martyrs, is considered to be one of the ten souls that came out of the ten drops of semen that were expelled from Joseph’s fingers when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him.” See the following footnotes from Sha’ar HaGilgulim, introduction 36.
116. See Zohar I, 19b, 28b, etc. Also Sha’ar Hagilgulim, introduction 36.
117. “This is also a reason why such a holy and excellent soul entered R. Akiva, who was descended from converts, and not from Israel: It is because his soul emerged from a drop of semen that was spilled in vain by Joseph, when he was tempted by the wife of Potiphar, who was not Jewish. And the truth is, that R. Akiva’s soul is not like those of other converts … It is in fact a very great soul, but because of the sin of Adam and his son Cain, it fell into the depths of the kelippot … It therefore needed to enter a foreign body when it descended into this world.” R. Haim Vital, Sha’ar HaGilgulim, introduction 36.
118. “When Jacob and Esau were born, they were like Cain and Abel, as it says ‘And his hand held the heel of Esau, ‘meaning that the firstborn part of good that was in Cain, which was mixed with evil, as we already said, and was now in Esau, was taken from him by Jacob, and because of that heel that he took from him, he is called Jacob. In the previous discourse we explained how it happened that the firstborn of the good fell into the heel of the kelippot, and understand this well. And when Jacob begat Issachar, he gave him the good part of Cain’s birthright that he had taken from Esau, which is the secret of the verse “And he lay with her that night” (Gen. 30: 16) concerning Issachar. It says balaila hu (on his night) , rather than balaila hahu (on that night) to hint to us that it was Jacob himself, who was so named because of the heel he took, and he gave that heel to Leah when he slept with her, and that is where Issachar emerged from. And this is the secret of what it says in the Zohar on Ruth, that R. Akiva came from Issachar. The secret of the matter is that he is the mystery of the heel, as we have already explained.” Sha’ar HaGilgulim, introduction 36; see also 33.
presented by Marc Gafni