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Kabbala #21: Yesod: The Translator

May 8, 2009 | by Rabbi Shimon Leiberman

The sefirah of yesod, "foundation," translates spiritual concepts into actions that unite us with God.

All of the sefirot are compared to human organs, which are seen as counterparts to these sefirot. According to Kabbalah, the counterpart of yesod, "foundation," is the male reproductive ability. And as such, all of the laws of sanctity governing male desire and passion are termed kedushas midas yesod, "the sanctity of the attribute of yesod."

Therefore, by analyzing the primary characteristics of this human organ, we can get a through understanding of the attribute of yesod.

1. We find that while the cells of every organ are very specific in their function and structure, the cells of reproduction include (in an active way) the entirety of a person's components.

A translator who must be fluent in both the language of the speaker and the language of the listener.

2. We also find that the male reproductive organ has the ability to act as a bridge to transfer material to another person. A bridge has in itself a "dual capacity" -- it is compatible with both the source and the goal.This is similar to a translator who must be fluent in both the language of the speaker and the language of the listener.

3. A broker or middleman is deemed more efficient when he takes as little "commission" as possible. An interpreter is expected to interject as little of his personality or feelings as possible, and on the other hand, to lose as little as possible of the original when translating.

Let us now relate these ideas to the attribute of yesod.


"For onto you God is greatness, strength, majesty, victory, awe, for everything in heaven and earth" (1 Chronicles 29:11)

This verse lists a number of the sefirot and we are taught that for everything in heaven and earth refers to yesod.

The Targum, the traditional Aramaic translation of the Bible, explains this phrase as meaning "the One Who unites heaven and earth."

This phrase describes the phenomenon that God is able to transpose spirituality into physical realities and earthly beings.

All of the lofty transcendental concepts that are in the higher worlds are meant to become a part of our experience and cognizance.

All of those tangible commandments -- such as those pertaining to tefillin, matzahs, charity and mourning -- all started as lofty transcendental concepts, which the attribute of yesod carefully translated into the corresponding action.

For instance, rational communication with God finds its manifestation in vocal prayer, whereas the communication of pure emotion may find its realization in the sound of the shofar.

Lofty concepts of "justice" are translated into law -- what to do when oxens gore and people steal.

The soul's innermost yearning to be freed of its earthly shackles, and return to the purity of God, realizes itself in the trans-physicality of Yom Kippur. The bond between husband and wife is somehow contained under the chuppah, while the ability to abrogate this bond is concretized in the divorce document.

Lofty concepts of "justice" were given shape and form until they came to us in the details of the Divine laws -- what to do when oxen gore and people steal.


Now we see that the attribute of yesod, in its perfection, carries all of the characteristics of the male reproductive organ.

1. All of the Divine Wisdom (that was intended for interaction with humans) was indeed incorporated into the Torah. Some of it is open, some of it implied, some of it alluded to, but all of it finds a place in the Torah.

Maimonides explains that the verse "for it is not in heavens" tells us that all of Torah was given to us, and none was held back.

2. Torah is a bridge between God and man and contains elements of both. Thus Torah contains "the words of a living God" and yet it speaks in "the language of man." In it, God's deeds are described in terms of human attributes (i.e. the Hand of God, God saw, etc.). This is all possible because Torah is perfectly compatible with the Divine Truth and with human language.

Torah is a bridge between God and man and contains elements of both.

3. The "middleman" through whom Torah was given to us was Moses, who is described by God as "My faithful servant, trusted in My entire House." Not only was there no conscious distortion or perversion of the Torah that Moses passed on to us, but his perception and understanding of the Torah was crystal clear. We are taught that "all of the prophets perceived God as if through a clouded looking glass, whereas Moses perceived God as if through a clear looking glass."

Thus, in one sense, yesod (the ninth sefirah) is the final attribute. It sums up and includes within itself the entirety of God's proposed interactions with man. It translates these purported interactions into a mode perceivable and tangible to man. And this translation takes place with no addition or subtraction to the original message, and with no distortion or aberration.


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