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Kabbalah emphasizes the need to look at the mystical root of everything in our lives.

4:20 Old Wine in a New Vessel

4:20 Old Wine in a New Vessel

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4:20 Old Wine in a New Vessel
Kabbalah emphasizes the need to look at the mystical root of everything in our lives.

"Rabbi Meir said: Do not look at the vessel, but rather at what it contains; there may be a new vessel filled with aged wine, or an old vessel in which there is not even new [wine]." (Avot 4:20)

The "vessel" [mentioned in the above Mishna] refers to the divine name Ado-nai, which acts as a "container" for the blessed name Havayah. This means that when the Mishna says, "Do not look at the vessel, rather at what it contains…," [the word "what" - in Hebrew, "Mah"] hints at Zeir Anpin, which is the aspect of Mah [the numerical value of the name Havayah spelled out with the letter alef, 45] which is in the vessel (i.e. the name Ado-nai).

The name Ado-nai is generally associated with the concept of the partzuf of Nukva (and the world of Asiya), which serves to enclothe the divine sustenance "descending" from above, related to Zeir Anpin. Of the four basic ways of spelling out the name Havayah used in the Kabbalah - Ab (72), Sag (63), Mah (45) and Ban (52) - the name Mah is associated with the partzuf of the six intermediate sefirot, Zeir Anpin; another way of understanding Zeir Anpin is like the role of the letter vav of the name Havayah (spelled yud, hei, vav, hei), which can be seen as channeling even higher divine sustenance, i.e. consciousness, from the "brains" of the yud and upper hei of the Divine Name.

The Ben Ish Chai intimates that the above Mishna is encouraging us to concentrate on the inner mystical meaning of everything we encounter. By focusing on the underlying message or meaning, we are better able to interface with the ultimate Source of all, rectifying our own souls as well as the entire Creation.

And it is well-known that the numerical value of the name Ado-nai equals 65, and when added to 45 ["Mah"], equal the numerical value of the word "nes" [meaning "miracle", = 110], which is the secret of the letters mem and samech of the Tablets which were miraculously suspended [in mid-air]….

The original Tablets were carved out of sapphire stone. The circular form of the two Hebrew letters mem and samech both include a hollow space in the middle, and according to the rules of gravity the center piece should have fallen, not being supported by any side. Tradition tells us that the middle pieces of these two unique Hebrew letters amazingly hovered in mid-air, maintaining their form.

[Translated by Baruch Emanuel Erdstein from Zecut Avot by the Ben Ish Chai]

Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad is best known by the name of his most famous work, "Ben Ish Chai". 5594-5669 (1834-1909 CE) Prolific leader of Persian Jewry and an important kabbalist. In addition to many works on Jewish law and Talmud, he authored many kabbalistic commentaries.
Baruch Emanuel Erdstein was an associate editor of for five of the ten years he resided in the Old City of Safed, intensely studying Kabbalah He currently resides in Emmanuel, Israel. Originally from Detroit, he has an honors degree in anthropology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and has worked in cross-cultural and Jewish education for over a decade.
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