Parshas Lech Lecha
The Perfect Covenant
When Avram was ninety-nine years old, G-d appeared to Avram and said to
him, "I am E"l Shadd"ai; walk before Me and be perfect." (Bereishis 17:1)
On the heels of the perfect storm comes the perfect covenant, for what
follows next is the Bris, the covenant between G-d and man that changed
history. Not only Avraham's history, but the history of the whole world
and of all of the generations that would ever be, including our own. For
the covenant described at the beginning of Jewish history is really for
the reality at the end of Jewish history, of which we are now a part of.
To understand the end we must first understand the beginning. Why was Bris
Milah so important to history? As the following reveals, it is the source
of Malchus (of kingship), and therefore, the Final Redemption.
And Yosef said to his brothers, " 'Please come near to me,' and they came
near to him and he said . . ." (Bereishis 45:4). Why did he call them if
they were already next to him? Because when he told them, "I am Yosef your
brother" (Ibid.), they were in shock to see his royal position. He told
them that his royalty was a direct result of this. (Zohar 1:93b)
What was Yosef referring to? The Zohar explains:
" 'Please come near to me,' and they came near to him": He showed them
that he upheld Bris Milah, saying, "By keeping this intact, I was able to
attain royal status." From here we learn that whomever keeps this sign
intact will merit royalty. (Ibid.)
In other words, Yosef was saying that his royal status had been conferred
upon him by Heaven for having resisted the advances of his master's wife,
Aishes Potiphar. Such intimacy would have been forbidden to him, and
though he had been tempted at the time, in the end he had overcome his
yetzer hara and had run out of the house, risking her vicious retribution
However, the Zohar is not finished yet, and backs up its statement with
>From where else do we know this? From Boaz, as it says, "As Hashem lives,
lie down until the morning" (Rus 3:13). His evil inclination was enticing
him, so he made this oath to keep his bris intact. (Ibid.)
In other words, while he was secluded with Rus, he desired her then.
However, intimacy with her then was improper, and therefore he made the
oath to safeguard himself against a sinful relationship. If she was to be
his wife, Boaz reasoned with himself, it had to be after all the halachic
conditions had been satisfied. Thus the Zohar concludes:
It was because of this that he merited to become the progenitor of kings
who rule over all other kings, and ultimately the progenitor of Melech
HaMoshiach, whose name is linked with The Holy One, Blessed is He. (Ibid.)
Thus, we learn from the Zohar, that Bris Milah is really a two-part
process: the actual physical procedure on the eighth day after birth, and
physical intimacy based upon the guidelines of Torah. And, both are
necessary to bring the redemption and to be a part of it.
And He delivered them into the hands of Sisera. (I Shmuel 12:9)
He, as in G-d, them, as in the Jewish people, and Sisera, as in the
general of the army of Chatzor.
Then they cried out to Hashem, "We have sinned! For we have forsaken
Hashem . . ." (Ibid. 10)
Explains the Zohar:
They had literally abandoned G-d until Devorah came and made it obligatory
upon all of Israel to keep this vow. It was only then that they were able
to defeat their enemies. (Zohar 1:93b)
In other words, the Zohar is explaining that it is the proper execution of
Bris Milah that affects Israel's military capabilities. At that time, the
Jews had only performed the first stage of Milah, removing the foreskin
but not performing Periah, the subsequent removal of the mucous membrane
underneath the foreskin.
According to the Zohar, to not perform Periah causes the Four-Letter Name
of G-d to divide into two parts, and this is what the Jews meant when they
said they had sinned and abandoned G-d. It was therefore, this negligence
that gave strength to the enemies of Israel until Devorah made the Jewish
people fulfill the obligation of Periah and complete the Milah.
How can such a small technical detail make such a major military
difference? Because everything that happens down here in our physical
world is just a reflection of what is happening up in the spiritual world,
in the realm of the Sefiros. Simply put, when Periah is not performed, the
flow of Divine light is prevented, and this gives strength to our enemies.
Indeed, regarding Bris Milah the Zohar teaches:
Come and see: Until Avraham was circumcised, he was spoken to [by G-d]
only through a vision (machazeh), as it says, "The word of G-d came to
Avram in a vision" (Bereishis 15:1). (Zohar 1:91a)
What is a machazeh? Basically, when Malchus is in its proper position, it
reveals the six sefiros of Zehr Anpin (Chesed, Gevurah, Tifferes, Netzach,
Hod, and Yesod), which in turn reveals the Divine light. However, as long
as the orlah (foreskin) remains, it blocks the flow of light, and it
therefore blocks prophecy as it makes its way from the level of Yesod to
Malchus. Consequently, the amount of Divine revelation that makes its way
into the world is very limited, and therefore the reality of G-d is felt
The sod of the Bris, explains the Zohar, is that it is associated with the
sixth sefirah of Zehr Anpin (Yesod), which also corresponds to Yosef, the
channel for the light of the sefiros that are above it. This is the
connection of Yosef to Avraham Avinu, though historically he was only a
great-grandson, and why it is Moshiach Ben Yosef who clears the way for
the Final Redemption, and why the Final Redemption is described in terms
of Bris Milah:
G-d, your G-d, will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your
descendants, so you may love G-d . . . (Devarim 30:6)
And also why Moshiach did not come in the first five millennia, but will
come in the sixth millennium:
The [ninth sefirah called] Yesod divided into two "kings" (that is,
sefiros), Yesod and Atarah (Crown). The Atarah is relevant to [the tenth
sefirah] Malchus, since it is her crown, which is why it is called Atarah.
Therefore, the Yesod and the Atarah became two; however, after the tikun
(i.e., Creation), Yesod and the Atarah became one in order to join Zehr
Anpin and the Nukveh (Malchus) together forever. This is the sod of Yemos
HaMoshiach being at the end of the sixth millennium, the time when the
Atarah governs and gives off light for Yemos HaMoshiach; Yesod governs the
time of exile until Yemos HaMoshiach. Since the Atarah is rooted in an
independent "king" and the Yesod divided into two, the sixth millennium,
which corresponds to Yesod, is also divided into two. During the time that
corresponds to the Yesod, there will still be destruction and exile.
However, the time that corresponds to the Atarah will be Yemos HaMoshiach.
(Hakdamos v'Sha'arim, p. 172)
He [G-d] has said, "Because the hand is upon the Throne of G-d it is a
war for G-d with Amalek in each generation." (Shemos 17:16)
A fundamental of Kabbalah is how the four letters of G-d's Four-Letter
Ineffable Name correspond to the Ten Sefiros. Everything in the physical
world is just a function of what exists in the spiritual world, and the
entire spiritual world is made up of various names of G-d, each one
describing a different sefirah, or system of sefiros, and therefore, a
different level of revelation of Divine Light.
The Yud corresponds to the sefirah called Chochmah (Wisdom), while the
first Heh corresponds to the sefirah after it, Binah (Understanding). The
Vav is associated with the six sefiros of Chesed through Yesod, and the
final Heh corresponds to Malchus. Keser, the first and most esoteric of
the Ten Sefiros, can only be hinted to, and in this case only by the crown
of the Yud.
In general, though we talk about the potential division between the first
two letters of G-d's Holy Name, G-d forbid, and the final two letters, the
real division is between the first three and the final Heh, or between the
top nine sefiros and the tenth sefirah, Malchus. Thus, the Arizal
explains, the word for repentance, teshuvah, really means "teshuv-HEH,"
return the Heh. For, a sin causes the final Heh to become separate from
the upper three letters, whereas teshuvah causes it to return to its
rightful place (Sha'ar HaGilgulim, Ch. 21).
Thus, the letter Heh was added to Avram's name to make it Avraham, and
thus it was Amalek about whom it is said:
He [G-d] has said, "Because the hand is upon the Throne (Chof-Samech) of G-
d (Yud-Heh) it is a war for G-d with Amalek in each generation." (Shemos
Why is "Throne" written Chof-Samech and not Chof-Samech-ALEPH? And why is
G-d's [Four-Letter Ineffable] Name divided in half? The Holy One, Blessed
is He, swears that neither His Name nor His Throne will be whole until the
name of Amalek is completely eradicated. (Rashi)
The army of Amalek threw the Bris Milah heavenward of the Jews they
attacked, mocking G-d and the relationship with the Jewish people that it
represented. The Four-Letter Name of G-d goes hand-in-hand with Bris
Milah, which is why it was E"l Shadd"ai Who commanded the mitzvah to be
performed, but it was Y-H-V-H Who appeared to Avraham after it was
performed (Bereishis 17:1).
Thus, the Final Redemption is described the prophet Zechariah in terms of
the reunification of the Name of G-d:
On that day, Y-H-V-H will be One, and His Name One. (Zechariah 14:9)
For, G-d will circumcise the hearts of the Jewish people, remove the orlah
that prevents the flow of Divine light from Yesod to Malchus, and prophecy
will once again return. Amalek will be destroyed, promiscuity will end,
holiness will return, and G-d will be known to all - to all those who
survive the transition, that is.
And all Your people are righteous; they shall inherit the land forever;
they shall be the branch of My planting, the work of My hands that I may
be glorified. (Yeshayahu 60:21)
Thus, everything in life and history, in general, comes down to unifying
the Malchus with the Yesod, the tenth sefirah with the ninth, and also to
the eight above it. Bris Milah is both, the process that achieves this and
represents this on a larger scale. That is why in both words, Milah and
Periah, the letters Yud-Heh are present, to allude to the upper level of
light to which both provide access.
Says the Zohar:
Why does the posuk say, "And all Your people are righteous" (Yeshayahu
60:21)? Is all of Israel really righteous? See how many transgressors are
among Israel! See how many sinners and evildoers who transgress the
mitzvos of the Torah! Rather, it is learned in the secret Mishnah: Happy
are Israel who bring a favorable sacrifice before The Holy One, Blessed is
He . . . who offer their sons on the eighth day. (Zohar 1:93a)
Thus, the performance of Bris Milah as a mitzvah with all the joy it
entails, counts before G-d as if the father has in fact, brought a
sacrifice. There is never permission to knowingly transgress the Torah in
a rebellious manner, but even when one has transgressed, the Zohar says,
the mitzvah of Bris Milah has tremendous weight in Heaven to mitigate the
judgment of sinners. They can even be called "righteous," if you can
imagine that, for "the righteous one is the foundation (Yesod) of the
world" (Mishlei 10:25).
"Therefore, they shall inherit the earth" . . . that is, Malchus, which is
also called "earth," and through the performance of Periah, we gain access
to Yesod, and achieve the status of "Tzaddik." "The branch of My
planting" . . . Those who circumcise their children merit access to
Malchus and Zehr Anpin via Yesod. A branch from that planting which The
Holy One, Blessed is He, planted in the Garden of Eden. (Ibid.)
There is another name associated with the sefirah of Yesod in Kabbalah:
Tzion. Thus, when the posuk says:
You will arise and show Tzion mercy, for the time to favor her, for the
appointed time will have come. (Tehillim 102:14)
It means on a Sod-level, that G-d will show mercy to the sefirah of Yesod,
which yearns to give its light over to the Malchus. It also means that He
will let Moshiach Ben Yosef come (Yesod), so that he can open the gate for
Moshiach Ben Dovid (Malchus).
No wonder that G-d, in this week's parshah, makes Eretz Yisroel an
integral part of the Bris:
"I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and with your
descendants after you throughout the generations . . . I will give to you
and to your descendants after you the land in which you now live - the
entire land of Canaan, as an eternal possession. I will be their G-d."
Like the sefirah of Yesod, Eretz Yisroel is the conduit for the light of G-
d. Like the sefirah of Yesod, it requires a real Malchus to receive and
project its light. Thus, when the posuk concludes:
For your servants have CHERISHED HER STONES and FAVOR HER DUST.
Stones and dust must refer to the Divine light being channeled through the
Yesod and through Eretz Yisroel, and more specifically through what
Ya'akov Avinu referred to as the "Gates of Heaven", and what we refer to
today as the Temple Mount.
No wonder it was Yishmael who received the mitzvah of Milah instead of
Eisav, who captured and built upon Har HaBayis. And, no wonder Har HaBayis
is in the hands of Israel, who received the mitzvah of Periah, and not in
the hands of Yishmael who did not receive that mitzvah, so that Har
HaBayis will fall (perhaps literally) eternally.
Have a great Shabbos,
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.