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Kabbala #22: Yesod: Foundation

May 9, 2009 | by Rabbi Shimon Leiberman

The sefirah of yesod anchors the world to its spiritual bedrock.

The word yesod means "foundation." Why, indeed, is the term yesod used to describe this attribute?

Let us first describe what is a foundation in the realm of construction. A person builds a big and imposing building. It may be made of the finest material and most advanced building techniques, yet it will sink into the ground and disappear unless it is anchored to solid bedrock. The foundation is what allows the building to exist atop of a firm reality.

The created universe is the same as that big building. It is imposing and beautiful, but what does it "rest" on?

It is described in the verse "God hangs the earth on nothingness." This "nothingness" does not refer merely to the vacuum of space, but rather it refers to the purpose of existence.

What is the cause of the original cause?

Although we can trace cause and effect to the umpteenth degree in the physical world, we can never trace it to its ultimate. Where do the very laws that organize this sequence of events come from? What is the cause of the original cause? There is no logical root cause that caused everything else -- it itself is causeless!

The answer to this seeming paradox is the attribute of yesod. It is the pillar upon which the world ultimately sits.


But what exactly is this Divine pillar? It is the Divine will to bestow upon others.

Were there not such a Divine will, then there could not exist a universe that senses itself independent of God, as does our universe. It is only because God "wished to bestow" that He created a universe that has its own self-contained laws, and humans that perceive themselves as totally independent beings.

This is the "pillar" that extends from the bedrock of reality (which is God Himself) and then becomes the foundation for our world.

Consider this analogy:

A human being develops from a single cell. (While conception requires two cells -- the mother's cell and the father's cell -- the action of childbearing is initiated by the father.) What is the source of that single cell? The father's desire to beget a child. Why did the father desire to have a child? To that question there is no answer that is discernible from the simple existence of the child.

The same is true of this world and the attribute of yesod. We ask ourselves why this world exists. We answer: Because God chose to bestow existence upon us. That answer is definitely discernible from the fact that we exist. Why God chose to bestow existence upon us is not answered from within the existence of the world.

Imagine a person getting walloped by a stranger out of the blue. The only thing the victim can conclusively state is that "so-and-so intends to hurt me." The why of that act is "pre-interactive" and falls under the category of "conjecture," albeit that deduction may be blatantly obvious.

The reasons why God created the world belong to human "pre-history."

So, too, "the desire of God to create" is the first interactive contact with God; the reasons why He created the world belong to human "pre-history" and are on the level of deductions, albeit obvious and true.

Thus, yesod is the bridge that connects God to mankind.


Let us apply and extend the concept of yesod to another area: The seven days of creation are parallel to the seven lower sefirot starting with chesed and working its way down to malchut. (Why the first three sefirot are not represented is another issue.) The sixth day of the week, Friday, is parallel to this sixth sefirah of yesod.

There are two points to be observed about Friday that demonstrate this concept.

The first is the area of preparing for Saturday. The first six days of the week are workdays in which we work hard to produce food and other necessities. On Shabbat we consume that which we produced the first six days. But not everything produced during that time may be used on Shabbat. The Torah mandates "They shall prepare that which they will eat." Thus, Friday is the day that the transition of food from weekday to Shabbat takes place.

Friday is the pillar that supports Shabbat and allows it to rest upon the bedrock of the workdays.

In the desert, the Jews did not collect manna from all the week for the Shabbat. Rather, on Friday a double portion of manna fell which was to become the food for Shabbat. Thus, Friday was the funnel into Shabbat.

Friday is the pillar that supports Shabbat and allows it to rest upon the bedrock of the workdays. It is like a precious statue standing high on a pedestal that serves to connect the statue to the ground. In this way, Friday is compared to yesod, "foundation."

The second point concerning Friday relates to the creature created on Friday: the Human Being.

We explained in the previous article (See Kabbala #21) that yesod is the attribute that "unites heaven with earth." It allows for the transition of the spiritual and Divine onto a material world.

Within the realm of beings there are three kinds:

  1. There is the material world -- such as minerals, plants and animals -- which within itself has no ability to transfer spirituality onto itself.
  2. There is a spiritual world of angels and the likes, which cannot translate its values into the material world.
  3. There is the human being who has a soul that is spiritual and a body that is physical that can transmit the values from one world to another. This is the most fitting example of the attribute of yesod.

Thus, Friday is the sixth day of creation, which embodies yesod. It is a day that funnels the produce of the other days and channels it into Shabbat. The human being was created on Friday, and he/she is that being that gathers in all of the spiritual produce of the higher realms and shapes the world thereby.

This is because yesod is the Divine attribute that funnels all of the Divine activities into the material existence.


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