Why The Pshat Is Not Sufficient – A Quick Exploration On Some Kabbalah Insights

In this article, I present a few Kabbalah insights of mine. I’m not going to say they are earth-shattering revelations, but B”H I’m happy I received them.

I’m often amazed at how many Rabbis often take the Pshat at face value, without any regard for the fact that it makes no sense if you compare it to the spirit of the Torah. Never mind it also doesn’t conform to simple Kabbalistic principles.

It might sound like pettiness, but I will give you a great example below.

The Gaon of Vilna said, “Without the Sod, the Pshat is simply false”.

The reason is that like a tree nourishes the leaves, so too the Sod (Kabbalah) nourishes the Pshat (Simple Meaning). This has tremendous implications, one of which is that Halacha and (real) Kabbalah can never contradict themselves. Another is that we begin to appreciate the stories of Tanach in a much better light once we understand what they actually allude. And this, of course, we learn mainly from the writings of the Arizal, Rebbe Nachman and other Kabbalists.

Either way, by now we should all be aware of the incredible importance of the study of Kabbalah, because the entire reality works according to it.

Kabbalah insights

Kabbalah insights from the Gemara

This is a little chiddush of mine.

I haven’t found it anywhere else but feel free to prove otherwise. I will attempt to prove with this how misguided people can be when not taking into consideration the Sod aspect of a Midrash.

For the record: every word of our sages in the Talmud, Midrash and even Halacha is filled with secrets. It’s just that they are not revealed, and are sometimes difficult to grasp. I don’t need to tell you that the Zohar is filled with open secrets, but they are difficult to interpret.

Our Rabbis teach in Massechet Rosh Hashanah 34a that Sisera, the great Assyrian commander, set out on a campaign to conquer Jerusalem. Long story short, his exploit was a disaster, thanks to the efforts of Prophetess Devorah and General Barak. Sisera tried to run away and entered Yael’s tent to hide. There, she gave him cheese, wine and, when he was asleep, kind of killed him with a nail to his temple.

So far so good.

Now, Sisera’s mommy was getting worried, because he had promised to come back with great spoils (i.e. women) and it was getting late. Where could little Sisera have gone?

Mommy realized that her cootchie-coo of a son was killed in battle and cried 100 cries. The sages teach that, because of that, we sound 100 times the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, and this is the part where I get annoyed.

So many Rabbis take that to mean that we “sympathize” with Sisera’s mommy. They say that “she was still a mother” and we must never forget a “mother’s pain”.

Never mind that she lamented that Junior was supposed to bring back “two uteri for each man’s head [i.e. the manhood]” (Meaning: she considered female captives to be just that, recreational tools for soldiers). Never mind she gave birth to one of the most horrible, wicked pieces of Tumah in all of Jewish History, making her clearly a horrible woman herself.

She was, at the end of the day… still a mom.

Ah.

It’s funny that the Gemara never says that we “sympathize” with Sissy’s mom.

Let’s try to understand what’s going on here:

We have millions of honorable, holy Jewish women to honor. Women who gave their lives for Torah, who suffered for the Jewish people, who withstood so many challenges, who brought up Tzadikim and enabled them to be great. We have women who themselves were awesome prophetesses like Dvorah, Chuldah, Miriam, Avigail who delivered salvation to the Jews. These were honorable women who have indeed so much we can learn from, not least because their lives have been recorded in Scripture and as we saw, Scripture is filled with secrets.

No, we MUST honor Sisera’s mother and make the most important Mitzvah (blowing the Shofar) of arguably the most influential day of the Jewish year revolve around her!

And hey, why stop at Sisera’s mother?

If we think the other way around, there are actually millions of other horrible mothers we could honor! Why not Haman’s mother? Or Vespasian’s? Surely these wicked women were worthy of having a few Mitzvot and minhagim going on for them!

Now, I don’t mean to scorn people for not questioning this line of thinking but…

We don’t sympathize with evil, ever

If we go back even further we see that Esav cried 3 tears when he saw that Yaakov took the blessings from Yitzhak. Does anyone pity him?

In fact, the Zohar writes that had Esav taken the blessings, he’d have been so powerful that Creation would’ve been obliterated. Yaakov, in fact, saved the world by “stealing the blessings”!

However, thanks to these 3 tears, Esav dominated the world through his offspring “Rome”. Why would Esav get such a magnanimous gift?

storm

The reason Esav was indemnified is that it was “indelicate” for Yaakov, being the paradigm of Truth (Sephira of Tiferet), to use such a “scheme” to take the blessings. In the end, even though of course Yitzhak knew it was Yaakov, and of course, they all knew the Zohar beforehand, and of course, nobody could care less about Esav, there was a minuscule form of “accusation” possible. This accusation was magnified because of Yaakov’s righteousness to the point that Esav received dominion over the physical world as compensation.

I venture to say that Hashem used Esav’s contrived argument to bring forth all the evil in the world. Had it not happened, we’d probably not have come to the world to work and be rewarded. Like a doctor who squeezes snake venom from a wound, so too, Hashem squeezes the Sitra Achra to come about mainly through Esav (and Yishmael). This is part of Avodat Hashem and Tikkun Olam, but I digress.

The Chiddush

The Zohar teaches there are Partzufim of Kedusha and Partzufim of the Sitra Achra. The Arizal elaborates more on this topic and teaches in Etz Chaim that the dark side follows almost the same configuration as the good side. The 5 Partzufim are:

  • Atik Yomin and Arich Yomin (Keter – often grouped as one)
  • Abba (Chochmah)
  • Imma (Binah)
  • Zeir Anpin (6 Sephirot)
  • Nukva (Malchut)

Each Partzuf is present in different characters of the Tanach and knowing this helps us understand it more deeply. But it can be complicated because it depends on which angle we take.

For example, the Matriarchs are all considered in their own right the Nukva. When they are relating to their offspring, they then assume the Partzuf of Imma (mother) while their sons are considered Zeir Anpin (in the case of Yitzhak and Yaakov) or parts of Zeir Anpin (in the case of the 12 Tribes).

As I wrote, this pattern follows throughout Tanach but it gets more difficult as we move forward in time and indeed there are many ways of analyzing any one interaction.

My chiddush comes when we view Sisera’s mother the Partzuf of Binah (of the Sitra Achra), and Sisera himself Zeir Anpin (also of the Sitra Achra).

This appears a bit obvious now since we have a mother and a son.

But, out of all mothers, why would we consider Sisera’s to be the most influential in the Mitzvah of Tekyat HaShofar?

The real chiddush is that up until that point in history, the Binah of Sitra Achra did not emit these 100 kolot (voices), which could’ve been harmful to the Jewish Nation. And so, our sages decreed that we blow the Shofar 100 times as well. Not in order to honor her, but in order to counteract her influence. In other words, we “shut her up”.

The most convincing explanation for why we play 100 Tekyot on Rosh Hashanah comes from the Aruch which I found. He writes that Sisera’s mother’s cries were so powerful they brought forth a lot of Dinim (judgments) against the Jewish People throughout the generations.

Keep in mind another thing: one most “surprising fact” is that Rabbi Shalom Sharabi (the Rashash) organizes the Kavanot of Rosh Hashanah to beautifully fit these 100 Tekyot. Anyone who studies the Kavanah of the Shofar and of the Seder of Rosh Hashanah can see that only through the Rashash can we have an idea of what the Arizal meant. This, by the way, comes from Rav Yitzhak Kaduri the Zaken HaMekubalim.

The Rashash revealed that contrary to all other days of the year and all other Mitzvot, the two days of Rosh Hashanah comprise not only 1, or 2, or 3, but 6 (SIX!) Partzufim that must be fixed. These are interwoven in the entire service and every Tekyah is different that the other.

Concluding remarks

Clearly, nobody could care less for Sisera’s pain. Why should we?

When we were in Egypt, millions of Egyptian firstborns died in the Makat Bechorot. Presumably, their mothers also felt a lot of pain. So what?

These women were also happy for the enslavement of the Hebrew Nation and arguably heaped abuse upon them. Why would they deserve any compassion on our part?

These were a few kabbalah insights, I hope you enjoyed them. Remember: the sages never appealed to what is politically correct or woke ideology. Their main concern was in finding the truth and bringing it to the future generations.

The Pshat often gets clouded with murky thinking, especially if you want to be particularly emotional. But the Sod (Kabbalah) cannot be that way.

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Chaim Apsan

Chaim is a teacher and Kabbalah enthusiast. He loves helping Jews connect with true Torah teaching and enhancing their spiritual growth. With a focus on meditation, he guides individuals on transformative journeys of prayer, contemplation, and connection with Hashem. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and kids, and is committed to sharing the wisdom and power of Kabbalah in a genuine way.

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