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Parshas Ki Sisa #11
Rabbi Avraham Brandwein of Yerushalayim
Our Parsha begins, “When you will take a census (literally: lift up the head) of the Children of Israel, according to their counts, every man shall give Hashem an atonement for his soul… This is what they shall give… (a coin equal to) half of the shekel… as a portion to Hashem… The wealthy shall not give more and the poor shall not give less, than half of the shekel.”
These Shekels were brought on Rosh Chodesh Adar, so that from the (next) month of Nissan, they would be able to bring the daily sacrifices, from the new shekels. We see that the entire Nation of Israel needed to (financially) participate in these sacrifices. Moreover, there was an absolute equality between the wealthy and the poor.
We need to understand, why specifically a half, and what is the idea of a “shekel”?
The inner (kabbalistical) meaning of the matter is as follows: It is written in the Midrash Rabbah on Devarim, that the soul (light) has five names. [Names means levels, so that each higher level has its own unique name.] The five names of the soul (lights) are 1) Nefesh (soul), 2) Ruach (spirit), 3) Neshama (breath soul), 4) Chaya (life soul), and 5) Yechida (singular soul). For each (of the soul) lights (Oros), there are individual vessels (Kelim), within which the light shines. The vessels of the head are called 1) Gulgalta (cranium) or Metzach (forehead), 2) Ainayim (eyes), 3) Ozen (ears), 4) Chotem (nose), and 5) Peh (mouth). When it is the light of Yechida, its vessel is called Gulgalta or Metzach; Chaya - Ainayim; Neshama – Ozen; Ruach – Chotem; Nefesh – Peh. (Notice the inverted order of lights and vessels).
It is written in the Midrash on Bereishis, that in the beginning, Hakadosh Baruch Hu created the world with the attribute of Din (stern judgment, represented by the Sefirah of Malchus). The meaning is as follows: The Sefirah of Malchus is called Din, (representing precise limitations and boundaries). Therefore, each level was by itself. The reason being is that when Malchus is in its place, in the mouth, each light is in its place (in its vessel).
But Hashem saw that the world could not be maintained, (for man to have the opportunity to develop from a selfish being to an altruistic one). This means that the world cannot continue to exist, when each one is by itself. This is just as we see in physical life, which is natural (life), which comes out as branches from the spiritual roots (mirroring what is occurring above), that one person cannot exist alone. Each person desires to complete their needs through many people. For example, to obtain one’s daily bread, one needs a framer to grow the wheat, a miller, a baker, and a storekeeper; so too with all things.
Therefore, Hashem combined (to the stern limitation) the attribute of Rachamim (mercy), (the Sefirah of Binah). This means that Hashem elevated Malchus (limitation) to under the eyes, (to the eye sockets), (and prevented the lights for Binah and below from descending) and thereby, the vessels of Binah, Tiferes, and Malchus of the upper level, fell to the vessels of Kesser and Chochmah of the lower level. Furthermore, in every level, only the lights of Nefesh and Ruach remained in the vessels of Gulgalta and Ainayim, (since Malchus was below the eyes, it did not interfere with the soul lights above Binah).
The cause of the matter is as follows: in every place where the Sefirah of Malchus is found, it arouses the power of Tzimtzum (limitation and restriction) in it, so from Malchus and below, the vessels cannot receive the light. As to why specifically these lower lights (of Nefesh and Ruach) remain (at the high vessels of Gulgalta and Ainayim), there is a reason, which is called “an inverted value between the vessels and lights,” and this is not the place to explain it, for it is very lengthy. From this action, a situation was created, where no level would be complete by itself, so there would be a mixing of all levels. Thereby, even the Upper would need the Lower and the Lower would need the Upper, since the vessels of Binah, Tiferes, and Malchus of the upper, fell to the Gulgalta and Ainayim of the lower.
There are two aspects; one is called the “Issarusa Diliayla” (the arousal of above), and the second “Issarusa Dilisata” (the arousal from below). The Issarusa Diliayla is when the “upper” elevates the vessels of Ozen Chotem Peh (AChaP), which fell to the Gulgalta and Ainayim of the “lower.” Since the (vessels AChaP) were at one level (with Gulgalta and Ainayim, even though the Gulgalta and Ainayim were of a lower world), therefore there is a definite equality between the upper and the lower. Thereby, the opportunity is given for the lower to ascend to the upper (and be reunited). There is also the aspect of Issarusa Dilisata, where the lower arouses the lack within itself, relative to the upper (which is also lacking in the same way); (so due to their similarity of lack,) they are now at one level (and can be reunited).
According to this, we can explain the above Parsha of, “When you will take a census (literally: raise up the head) of the Children of Israel.” It is known that the soul of Moshe Rabbeinu included all of the souls of Israel. Therefore, from the aspect of the Issarusa Diliayla, Moshe (at the upper level) needed to raise up the head of the Bnai Yisroel, as we said above, that the vessels of the upper, fell to the head of the lower. And so too, the Bnai Yisroel (at the lower level), from the aspect of Issarusa Dilisata, needed to arouse the levels of Nefesh and Ruach, which remained by them, to arouse the upper.
This is the idea of the half shekel, since shekel is Gematria Nefesh - 430. And since only half of the level remained here, therefore a half a shekel was given. This word Vinahsinu (and give) (Vav, Nun, Tav, Nun, Vav) can be read both forwards and backwards, since just as the upper arouses half of its level, so does the lower. Therefore, all are equal, both the wealthy and the poor, to show that each one needs the other. (The word Korban (sacrifice) means to bring near.) Since all of the arousal comes from the bringing near (of levels), that the lower wants to come near to the upper, therefore the shekels were for the needs of the sacrifices (bringing people near to Hashem).
Through this we can understand what Chazal say that the Bnai Yisroel preceded their shekels to the shekels of Haman. The complaint of Haman was that there was a single Nation that was scattered and separated. However, the giving of the half shekel represents the unity between the parts of the Nation. And this is what is written (in the Book of Esther), “Go and gather all of the Jews… to form a group and to stand up for their souls… And the Jews grouped together.” The unity binds them together and does not allow for any enemy to be victorious over Israel. See this topic, which we have discussed above, in the Zohar Parshas Vayakhel, section 131, in the commentary of the Sulam. This too ties together to the Haftora, with regard to Eliyahu.