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The Soul #3 - Ten Sefirot

May 9, 2009 | by Rabbi Noson Weisz

Understanding the building blocks of spiritual entities.

Physical reality is composite in nature. The fundamental unit of physical structure is the hydrogen atom. We cannot come to any sort of understanding about the reality in which we live without understanding how units of great complexity can be constructed out of such simple building blocks.

Spiritual entities, including the soul, have a complexity of their own. Understanding how they are put together requires a basic knowledge of the fundamental Kabalistic concept of the Ten Sefirot. What are they? What do they mean? How do they work? This present essay will be devoted to this subject.

Every spiritual entity is divided into ten parts, from Keter to Malchut, or 'Crown' to 'Kingdom.' Not only are the parts of the soul that we have described in a previous essay [hyperlink to soul part2 what do souls look like] -- Knesset Yisrael, Neshama, Ruach and Nefesh -- themselves subdivided into ten parts parallel to the Sefirot, the entire composite entity is also often described in terms of the Ten Sefirot. Therefore we must begin our study of soul dynamics by briefly describing each of these Ten Sefirot and the manner in which they connect with each other. To bring the ideas down to earth, let us consider the Sefirot in the context of a major building project, the erection of a complex that would replace the loss of the World Trade Center.


I am the mayor of New York City and I find that not only is my city emotionally depressed by the lingering after-shock of Sept. 11, it is also suffering economically from the loss of major business relocating out of the city center to the suburbs. I discuss the problem with my advisors and after giving the matter considerable thought, we decide to undertake a very massive, highly visible project to stimulate the city's economy and revive its spirit. The desire to heal the emotional wounds and to stimulate the economy is the guiding purpose behind any project we choose to undertake.

The will to do something to lift New York out of its depression is called Keter.

The will to do something to lift New York out of its depression is called Keter, Crown. All subsequent decisions and actions that are undertaken will be an expression of this will. The strength of this desire to do something will determine the size of the commitment of energy and resources. The strength and focus of this will is the first variable and the top Sefirah.


Having made the decision to do something, we next require some good ideas. As the mayor of New York, I command enough prestige to organize a conference of gifted psychologists and economists and I challenge them to come up with a practical solution to the problem of reviving the city's spirit and optimism as well as restoring its economy. They come back to me with the following idea. The best way to restore confidence and stimulate the economy is to bring the World Trade Center back in spirit. If New York managed to build something that could credibly replace the World Trade Center without offending anyone's sensibility by attempting to restore the physical actuality of what was so tragically lost, this would restore the city's ebullient optimism and bring all those who had relocated back to the city center.

The idea: construct the world's very first extra-terrestrial exchange center. Employing the most advanced state-of-the-art technology, build an underground complex beneath the site of the destroyed World Trade Center that would have the feeling of an office located on the moon. The novelty and ingenuity of such a project would revive confidence in American know-how and restore the city's joy. The technological innovations and conveniences would prove irresistible to forward looking/thinking companies.

Our overall purpose has now crystallized into a plan. The plan is called Chachma, or Wisdom, and all the subsequent energy and resources poured into the project will be allocated in terms of the contribution it can make to the task of bringing this plan to life. The word Chachma, wisdom, and the word Chaim, life, both add up to the numerical value of 68 in Hebrew, an expression of the intimate connection that exists between life and its plan.

Chachma, is also an area that presents options. The economists could have recommended the lowering of municipal taxes, the building of a new airport or subway, the establishment of new tourist attractions and so on. Each of these ideas would have refashioned New York in its own way. All of life is the expression of a complex abstract program. Chachma is life's program.


The next step is figuring out how to actualize the idea of an Extra-terrestrial Trade Exchange. This step is called Binah, or Understanding. The word Chachma, wisdom, concerns the question 'what'; thus Chachma is a contraction of the Hebrew term "koach mah," the power of what, whereas Binah deals with translating this 'what' into a 'how.'

In Kabbalistic literature, Chachma is considered male, whereas Binah is female.

Kabbalah recognizes two sorts of genius.

The father supplies the seed out of which the child is fashioned, but it is the mother who takes the seed and organizes it and arranges the energy it contains and shapes it into a child. The word Binah contains the word ben, which means 'child' in Hebrew.

Kabbalah recognizes two sorts of genius. One sort comes up with the idea that E=MC2, but it takes another sort of genius altogether to render this idea useful by inventing the technology of the nuclear reactor. This second sort of genius is called Binah; the understanding of how to make use of the wisdom of Chachma.

On the level of Chachma, the decision was taken to build a massive underground complex in lower Manhattan and name it the Extra-terrestrial Trade Complex. The building would contain a major trading exchange, and would be designed in a way that projects the idea of an extra-terrestrial environment taken from the pages of science fiction and actualized in the here and now.

It is on the level of Binah that the details of how to accomplish this are fleshed out. Publicists, architects, engineers and space scientists are called in at this point. They are told to work together and design a project that could be credibly described as an extra-terrestrial space.

Binah is variable as well. Individual architects will have different sorts of ideas about how to translate the idea of an extra-terrestrial space complex into reality.

Success and failure enter the picture as real possibilities for the first time at the level of Binah. Keter is concerned with the amount of desire and will, and Chachma offers different options which could all theoretically succeed in different ways, but Binah must optimize one particular idea backed by one particular level of will. If the personnel in the Binah office are not good at their jobs, the project is doomed altogether.


The next step is the organization of the energy required to erect the project. In our example, this would involve arranging the advertising and financing. This step is called Chesed or benevolence -- the Divine energy that is the bases of all reality [see The Soul: Who Needs It? [hyperlink] is donated to the universe by God without prior obligation, out of a sense of pure benevolence. In the same way, the money and imagination that will be organized to erect the Extra-terrestrial Exchange Complex will be spent out of an overall desire to improve the well being of New York's population. The aim is to expand and improve, not to fix or repair what is broken.

Suppose that we decide that it will take 15 billion dollars to build the sort of Exchange we have conceptualized. Through a consortium of banks, the city decides to issue and sell a sufficient amount of municipal bonds to finance the project. All those employed on this aspect of the project are working in the Chesed office.

Chesed is also a variable like Binah. The energy or money allocated to a project will determine its overall size. If we only raised ten billion dollars through our efforts, we would have to downsize or relocate the project. Chesed also requires special efforts and decisions that are associated ly with it. But it is size limiting rather than success failure oriented.


All the money made available by Chesed needs to be organized. If the entire 15 billion dollars were to become available in cash instantaneously, it would drown the entire project. Such an enormous sum of money needs an entire bureaucratic structure to handle it. The money is only useful if it becomes available as needed. Although the entire sum needs to be organized in advance since you cannot begin the project without the assurance of reaching completion, nevertheless the actual cash can only be inserted with restraint according to a predetermined schedule of payments. This restraint power is called Gevurah, or strength, judgment.

Gevurah is the dam that holds back the flood of the 15 billion dollars.

Gevurah is primarily negative energy. It is the dam that holds back the flood of the 15 billion dollars so that it does not arrive in an overwhelming fashion. Gevurah is regarded as female whereas Chesed is defined as male. Just as Binah is the wisdom that organized the Chachma making it useful, Gevurah is the energy that restrains the Chesed so that its power is supplied in a useful way.

Gevurah is another junction where crucial decisions are made. Too little Gevurah results in a sloppy mismanaged project where many valuable resources will go to waste. Too much Gevurah will shut down the project at crucial points for the lack of available funds.

Success/failure issues are involved with Gevurah as well. Overall size and potential is the province of males, but success or failure is in the hands of females. We shall return to this point again in future essays.


If we consider our Extra-terrestrial Trade Exchange at this point, we will notice that after all the inputs to date have been made, not a stone or girder has been purchased, no construction equipment has appeared at the site, and there is no outward indication that the enormous project is well under way. We have done all this work to organize the plan and the energy for our project. Only now are we ready to begin the process of actualization.

The next level is known as Tiferet, glory. It is the Sefirah where the plan, the energy and actual implementation come together. At this level we translate the plan and begin applying it to the real world. The people who would be working in the Tiferet office in our Extra-terrestrial project, would be those responsible for the co-ordination of all the blue prints, the financial resources and their application to the real world. These are the people at the very heart of the project. Unless everything is properly adjusted and coordinated, the reality will not match the plan. Physical life will not conform to its spiritual program. Choices and decisions are again called for.

Tiferet in the Sefirot is located at the point of impact between the inner world of thought and energy and the outer reality to which the plan and energy must be applied. The remaining Sefirot all deal with the interaction with the outside world.

Netzach and Hod

The next two levels are known as Netzach, victory or eternity, and Hod, flexibility or harmony. Placing the Extra-terrestrial Exchange Complex into the actuality of Manhattan requires changing the character of the city in a permanent way. Structures must be demolished, a giant hole must be excavated etc. In short, Manhattan as it is presently constituted must be overcome and forced to adapt itself to accommodate the proposed change in its character. Forcing Manhattan into its new shape is called Netzach.

But we must take care when we impose these changes. We do not want to destroy the life and flavor of New York in our attempt to improve it. We must be willing to conform to its overall personality and exercise flexibility regarding the size and character of the underground complex we erect. We must provide the changes in infrastructure in transport, energy etc. that will allow our Extra-terrestrial Complex to blend harmoniously into the whole and alter it to just the desired degree in a positive way, so that the changes we bring still harmonize with the overall spirit of the place. This step is known as Hod.

If we upset the delicate balance between Netzach and Hod, our project will fail. If we place too much emphasis on Netzach we will destroy the very Manhattan we are out to improve; if we are too careful and focus too much attention on Hod, we will not bring about the desired changes at all. There is a need for careful thought and decision-making again even at this advanced level.


Next comes Yesod, or the basic reality. Massive amounts of cement, steel girders, glass, construction workers, trucks and bulldozers are involved in erecting a 15 billion dollar project. There are all sorts of tenders that must be offered at the right time, there is advertising and publicity to organize along with a billion other details. All the inputs have to arrive in the proper time and sequence to prevent them from getting into each other's way and snarling up the works. The people working in the Yesod department would be employed in the site management office.

Routing resources to the correct destination in the proper sequence is just as important a skill as any of the others that have preceded this stage of development. The success of all the prior investment depends on the proper management of Yesod. This penultimate ninth stage also involves crucial decisions essential to the entire enterprise.


When everything is finished and the complex is functioning productively, we have arrived at Malchut, Kingdom. If everything has been done properly in the right proportions, then the Malchut reflects the original will of Keter perfectly.

The spirit of New York is revived, and the depression and pessimism caused by the tragic events of Sept.11 have been transformed into a proper sense of mourning. The city's economy has revived and the city pulses with a new sense of life.

No other creature on our planet actualizes its will through these ten steps because only we are spiritual.

But even Malchut isn't danger-free. We now have an Extra-terrestrial Trade Complex that actualizes the original will of Keter perfectly. But it can be detached and stolen. New York might have municipal elections and bring to office a mayor with a totally different agenda. He might take our wonderful complex and transform it into an alternate government site in case of nuclear attack. It will never be efficiently used in another way as it was perfectly designed through ten steps to serve as an Extra-terrestrial Exchange Complex and nothing else, but it can nevertheless be stolen. Malchut has to be loyal to Keter, the original purpose, in order for the plan to work.

Spiritual reality

We now have some understanding of the steps involved in the actualization of all spiritual reality. This is also an accurate reflection of the methodology that we employ to actualize our ideas. We can clearly relate to each level as a separate step and comprehend that there are different sorts of skills and decisions at each level. This should hardly surprise us. The mark of our humanity is the fact that we are spiritual beings. No other creature on our planet actualizes its will through these ten steps because only we are spiritual. The Ten Sefirot in our own lives represents the actualization of ourselves as beings cast in God's image. We also employ the Divine Operating System.

The next article in this series will examine in detail how these components of the Sefirot are employed to assemble our souls. We shall examine the Sefirot of the Nefesh, Ruach and Neshama individually, and we shall also describe how all these spiritual parts considered together are subdivided into ten Sefirot. We shall finally begin to unravel the laws of dynamics as they apply to our souls.




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